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Patten: Investment In Kosovo Hinges On Stability

PRISTINA, 11 May 2004 - A senior E.U. official warned Kosovo's leaders Monday to stabilize the province or lose hope of receiving much-needed foreign investment.

Chris Patten, the outgoing E.U. external relations commissioner, encouraged leaders in the troubled province to meet a set of standards on tolerance and reconciliation. The appeal comes nearly two months after ethnic Albanian rioters attacked Serbs in two days of unrest that killed 19 and injured 900.

"I hope that (the riots) could be put behind us," Patten said.

Patten also urged leaders to continue the reconstruction of hundreds of Serb homes and churches so that Kosovo could "build a community in which people are able to live side-by-side."

The mid-March rioting was the worst outbreak of violence since mid-1999, when the province became a U.N. protectorate following a North Atlantic Treaty Organization air war that ended a Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanians seeking independence.

The events were a dramatic setback to the hopes of the international officials intent on reconciling the bitterly divided ethnic Albanian and Serb communities in Kosovo.

Patten said that the creation of "harmonious community" would attract foreign investment.

"Without that ... nobody is going to invest," he said.

Local officials are desperate to attract investment, hoping to create jobs. Unemployment among Kosovo's population of 2 million is estimated at 57%.

ECIKS / Dow Jones Newswires
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