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Kouchner describes new measures to restore calm to Mitrovica

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PRISTINA--On his second visit to Mitrovica since the disturbances of last week, Bernard Kouchner, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, outlined new measures to increase security in the divided city.

UNMIK will re-deploy 300 international police to the Mitrovica area, Dr. Kouchner said, so that a total of 550 to 600 will be policing the six municipalities and a population of 381,020. The major concentration will be in urban Mitrovica.

The first 100 officers should arrive next week. This new group of police officers will conduct its operations in tandem with KFOR troops.

Other measures have already begun to be implemented: The safety zone established on either side of the Iber river in urban Mitrovica has been expanded. Both mobile and fixed checkpoints are being increased. KFOR soldiers, who have been supplemented with various new companies during the past week, are conducting joint patrols with UNMIK police, Kouchner added. Monitoring and control of the administrative boundary with Serbia has also been re-enforced.

UNMIK and KFOR have also pledged to re-invigorate UNMIK Regulation 1999/2, promulgated last August, which stipulates that persons posting a threat to public order can be removed from the area or detained.

Kouchner added that the newly signed regulation outlawing hate speech would also help Kosovo's administrators to prosecute public provocations to acts of violence targeting ethnic minorities. A zone in which no demonstrations will be allowed is also being established.

"This is all to re-establish security," Kouchner said. "Security is not enough. But it is a tremendous need in this moment."

"Give security a chance," he told reporters at the end of his visit. "Then we'll give peace a chance and eventually we'll give reconciliation a chance. We will not give up on our goal of a united Mitrovica in a united Kosovo in a peaceful Balkan region."

Earlier Kouchner held meetings with the KFOR Commander of Multinational Brigade North, General Saqui de Sannes and, along with UNMIK Police Commissioner Sven Fredericksen, UNMIK Police commanders, as well as the UNMIK regional administrator for Mitrovica and UNMIK regional pillar heads.

Kouchner also drove to the embattled northern Mitrovica and visited an elderly couple, two of some 4,000 Kosovo Albanians who live in predominantly Serb neighborhoods. He found the couple, who lived in an ethnically mixed apartment building, depressed and terrified.

"People are suffering, on both sides," he said following the visit. "They are desperate. They feel they have no future. It's not true, and we must bring them comfort - In this case, the family was Albanian. But I remember only a few months ago visiting Serb families in Pristina, protected by KFOR, too poor to leave. It was the same sad story, the same tears and words."

Kouchner also re-iterated the unity of purpose between KFOR and UNMIK and said he refused to be drawn into defining or distinguishing KFOR contingents by nationality.

"Don't try to separate us. That would only be to the benefit of extremists," Kouchner warned media at a press briefing at the end of his visit. "We are in the same fight against intolerance."

"I am satisfied that they did their best--both KFOR and the police," he said of the disturbances in northern Mitrovica last week. "I know what happens when a crowd is looking to kill people. It is very difficult to stop."

Kouchner's visit followed the regular meeting of Kosovo's Interim Administrative Council, at which the situation in Mitrovica was the main topic of concern.

Besides discussing the planned measures to increase security, the IAC also talked about the role of the media in the recent disturbances in Mitrovica. On 1 February, UNMIK promulgated a regulation which permits the prosecution of hate speech or other forms of provocations to violence.

"It is very difficult to talk about control of the media without talking about censorship," Kouchner told reporters following the meeting. "But when it comes to the provocation of ethnic hatred, especially in this difficult time, we cannot support it."

The IAC also discussed pending regulations on civil registration and the proposed methodology of creating a voters' list and system of identification of the population.

For information only-not an official record

Contact UNMIK Press and Information Office-(381-38) 500-223, ext. 5719.