PRISTINA, Yugoslavia — One day after the triumphant and long-awaited homecoming of Ibrahim Rugova, the influential moderate ethnic Albanian leader failed to show up for the first meeting of a U.N.-backed provincial advisory council Friday. He reportedly felt the number of seats his party was allotted was unfair.
But the United Nations pressed ahead without Rugova or any representatives of his Democratic League of Kosovo, convening the council's first session and promising to try to bring him to the table.
Rugova's absence underscored the difficulties the U.N. will have in bridging Kosovo's ethnic divide. He has twice been chosen president of Kosovo's mainly ethnic Albanian population in unofficial elections.
In a minor victory, two Serbs showed up for the council meeting and sat for three hours with representatives of the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army--which has been struggling with Rugova for control of Kosovo--and other ethnic Albanians. The group worked to hammer out the first steps toward returning political power to Kosovo's population, five weeks after the end of NATO airstrikes against Serbian forces.
The participants agreed to set up a delegation to visit three Kosovo towns that continue to be plagued by ethnic tensions, despite the presence of North Atlantic Treaty Organization soldiers.
The group, which is strictly advisory and has no real powers, also will address the issue of prisoners being held by both sides and evaluate candidates for a new U.N.-run police force, said Bernard Kouchner, the U.N. administrator for Kosovo.
A key goal in the U.N. plan to restore order to Kosovo is the establishment of a multiethnic police force that will function under the direction of international police officers.
Elsewhere in Kosovo, sporadic violence, including a grenade explosion that injured 30 in the sector patrolled by U.S. peacekeepers, further complicated attempts to reestablish normality in the province.