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Summary of Press Briefing by UNMIK Spokesperson 15 Mar 2000

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UNMIK Spokeswoman Ms Susan Manuel
IAC and KTC

The Interim Administrative Council met yesterday. They discussed preparations for elections and they had a long discussion on the role of the media in the upcoming electoral campaign. Dr. Kouchner briefed them on his meeting with the United Nations Security Council in New York last week and they named Mr. Zenun Pajaziti of the LBD as co-head of the Administrative Department of Sport.

Right now the Kosovo Transitional Council is meeting. They are discussing municipal boundaries, Dr. Kouchner's visit to the Security Council, a strategy for private-sector development, and the registration of political parties.

Dr. Kouchner will have a brief meeting with Italian Deputy Prime Minister Minniti before going to Mitrovica. I believe the officer just briefed you on the visit to a canal site, where the Kosovo Protection Corps are cleaning a neighbourhood canal. He will also meet with local Albanian and Serb leaders. We have a bus going at 1.45 p.m. from Government Building for any journalists who wish to take that means of transport.

Power

The power situation should get better today. We understand that Kosovo B's Unit 1 is scheduled to restart at 4 o'clock this afternoon. We have one unit of Kosovo A running, plus we are importing another 220 megawatts from regional systems. Today the regime has been 3 hours on and three hours off. Tomorrow should be better.

UNMIK Police update

From the police we have a flash report from the southeast of Decani, a village called Pozhar, where a cluster bomb explosion has apparently killed two young boys, 12 and 17 years old. I would ask you to call the police for further details, at extension 5071.

We would like to express our deep regret and condolences to the families.

Last night people in town reported hearing an explosion around 9 p.m. That was an accident in an UNMIK Police officer's flat. There were no injuries.

Yesterday in the Gnjilane area, near the village of Firaja, a crowd of some 70 to 100 Albanians blocked and stoned a Serb convoy.

This morning there was slight chaos in Mitrovica. KFOR has been trying to widen a security zone at the north end of the eastern bridge. In doing so, they are removing the Serb men who hang out around the end of the bridge. Two UNMIK Police cars were stoned in that incident this morning.

By the end of the month, we will have two special police units, one coming from Pakistan and one from Jordan, each with at least 100 officers, probably to be deployed to Mitrovica. They are trained in riot control and other specialised police work. They come as self-contained units from their countries, but their role is to back up the UNMIK Police, and they work under the command of the UNMIK Police Comissioner or the commander of the region.

We also received a letter last night from European Union Chairman Jaime Gama, pledging another 320 police officers from EU countries to arrive soon. Many of them are specialists in combating organized crime and drug trafficking. Currently we have 2,547 UNMIK Police in theatre; 2,390 of them are deployed, the rest are in training.

Kosovo Budget

I have an update on the Kosovo Budget, which is looking better than it was a few weeks ago.

Donor pledges have started to arrive. Nearly 77 million deutsche mark of pledges for the Kosovo budget are either in the bank account here or they are on their way. We just received 13.7 million deutsche mark from Japan, for which would would like to express our particular thanks. Other pledges include 24.2 million deutsche mark from the US; 15.9 million deutsche mark from the UK; 3.5 million from France; about 2.7 million from Canada; and 19.6 million from the EU. This means, once these pledges are in, that the Kosovo Consolidated Budget can keep functioning until mid-June. We are expecting another 35 million euros from the EU, which would make us solvent through September. So things are looking a lot better.

At the same time, the revenue collections in Kosovo have improved. In the last two weeks, they increased by 55 per cent, so we now have 9.8 million deutsche mark collected locally. Part of this is due to the fact that the sales and excise taxes being collected just inside Kosovo from the Montenegrin Administrative Boundary. Tax collection from trucks coming in from Montenegro have finally started to kick in. In the past two weeks, we collected nearly 757,000 deutsche mark at that tax collection point. Also, the customs collections are slightly higher because when you register your car, you have to prove that you have paid customs duty and you need to pay it, if you haven't paid previously.

Briefing and Conference

The European Union will hold another press briefing tomorrow morning, at 10 a.m., in Room C-301 of the UNMIK Government Building, on the Sharr Cement Factory tender. At this briefing they will announce the name of the investor who received the highest evaluation from the Tender Committee and who will enter into negotiations with UNMIK for a lease on that cement factory.

There is another conference related to development. It will be on the 17th and 18th, held by the Institute for Development Research, called Reinvest. It's a two-day international conference called "Post-war Reconstruction of Kosovo: Strategy and Politics". It will be held at the Grand Hotel. For more information please call (038) 549-321. Journalists are welcome. It begins on the 17th at 9.30 in the morning.

Salaries

Last week we began paying salaries of public workers. Previously, we had been paying stipends in informal allotments, basically since the late fall. Now we have moved to a structured, payroll-based salary system. In the next few days 70,000 people working in various areas of the public sectors will be paid salaries for the months of January and February. These salaries will range from about 180 deutsche mark to a maximum of 900 deutsche mark, according to the qualifications and the position. Altogether the Kosovo budget will be paying about 26 million deutsche mark in salaries. They are paid through the Kosovo Banking System, the BPK.

This is all part of the formal movement of the public sector functions into the Joint Interim Administrative Structures. The Joint Interim Administrative Structure will now handle such aspects of public management as publishing vacancy announcements and job descriptions, and they will bring the staffing levels in line with those authorized under the Kosovo Budget.

KFOR Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Henning Philipp

This morning we will brief you on the upcoming exercise Dynamic Response. The briefing will be delivered by my project officer for the exercise, Flight Lieutenant Neville Clayton.

First I will give you some information about what's going on in Mitrovica. Susan already mentioned it briefly. This morning UNMIK and KFOR began to establish a zone that we call the Confidence Area in the center of Mitrovica on both sides of the river. This Confidence Area will give open access to the residents there and to specially authorized persons. No one will have permanent access there. We will establish an ID card system for those who are entitled to go around in that area. Freedom of movement and security for the people will be enhanced by this measure. We are going to continue to establish this area.

In the beginning we faced some resistance on the northern side by Serbs. KFOR had to use teargas to disperse the crowd. The situation is now under control and calm.

Yesterday again KFOR troops confiscated a large number of weapons and ammunition in two of the Multinational Brigades. On the night of March 14th ten house searches were conducted in different Albanian houses in Orahovac. Four rifles, two hand grenades, three hunting guns, one gun, one pistol, one rocket launcher, several rounds of ammunition and drugs were found and confiscated. Altogether five persons were detained for illegal possession of weapons. At the same time separate house searches were conducted in eight houses in Prizren. One hunting gun and one carbine were found and confiscated. One man was detained. The Multinational Specialised Unit arrested one Kosovo Albanian man after a search operation in Madanaj in Multinational Brigade West yesterday afternoon. Some various calibre ammunition and exploded cases were found. The man was detained on the grounds of illegal detention of war ammunitions. He was taken to the Italian Military Police station in Pec.

Flight Lieutenant Neville Clayton

I am Flight Lieutenant Neville Clayton, the Press and Information Plans Officer, HQ KFOR Main, Film City. I am also the Project Officer for Exercise Dynamic Response 2000.

I will brief you today on the KFOR exercise concept in short outline. Exercise Dynamic Response 2000 is an exercise committing NATO and Non-NATO Combined and Joint Strategic Reserve Forces into the Kosovo area of operations. The Strategic Reserve forces are normally stationed at their peacetime locations, but participate in a varied exercise schedule throughout the year. Exercising the committal of the SRF also provides a clear indication of NATO's capability, commitment and resolve to deploy and employ additional forces in Kosovo. The exercise will practice and validate strategic, operational and tactical concepts for the deployment of the Strategic Reserve Forces. Moreover, it will also demonstrate KFOR's capability and resolve within Kosovo.

Strategic Reserve Force units will be committed throughout Kosovo, but concentrated in the Prizren area for the initial assembly. During the employment phase, the Strategic Reserve Forces will primarily be operating in multi-national brigades North, Centre, and East.

The Strategic Reserve Force participating in Dynamic Response 2000 is comprised of five nations. The broad geographical composition of these forces highlight KFOR's unity of effort between all 34 partner nations. The actual Strategic Reserve Force units participating in this exercise are as follows: a Platoon from the 4th Argentinean Paratrooper Brigade, the 1st Battalion Royal Netherlands Marine Corps, the 10th Polish Mechanised Infantry Battalion, elements of the Romanian 26th Infantry Battalion, the 24th Maritime Expeditionary Unit from the United States of America. The Italian San Marco Battalion will no longer be participating.

The exercise is split into 4 distinct phases:

Preparation, Deployment, Employment and Re-Deployment.

Phase 1 is Preparation. While we are still in this phase at present, the plans for this exercise are have been formulated over the last few months and an intensive period of training and preparation for deployment has occurred in recent weeks.

The Deployment phase will commence on the 19th of March and will involve the deployment of personnel and vehicles from their host nations, bases and ships. A series of aerial, seaborne and overland movements of the Strategic Reserve Forces will see the units travelling through surrounding countries. The Poles and the Romanians, as well as the equipment of the Dutch forces, will deploy by rail through Bulgaria, Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into Kosovo. The 24 United States Maritime Expeditionary Unit will arrive offshore northern Greece on the 18th of March, and a limited amphibious landing operations will take place near Thesaloniki. The Maritime Expeditionary Unit will then move north through FYROM. The Netherlands troops will deploy by air directly to Pristina and then marry up with their equipment. Arrangements for the Argentine contingent are still to be finalized.

Between the 24th and 26th of March the units will then rendezvous in their initial staging areas, which are predominantly located in the Prizren area.

Phase 3 is the main exercise phase, broken down into 4 further sub-phases. The Employment Phase will involve the movement of forces to their forward operating locations in Multinational Brigades North, Centre and East. The main focus of the exercise ground operations phase will take place between the dates of 27 March and 3 April. The Strategic Reserve force will move to their forward locations to carry out a reconnaissance, before re-deploying back to their initial assembly areas. A second movement to their forward operating locations via a mixed land and airborne assault will then take place. The Strategic Reserve Forces will be back in their initial assembly areas by the end of this phase. The final Re-deployment phase will simply be the reverse of the deployment, utilising air, road and rail transport.

Throughout every phase of the exercise, a series of media events will be organised by the Coalition Press Information Centre in conjunction with the multi-national brigade press information centres. A detailed schedule of events will be available on 18 March. In summary, Dynamic Response 2000 allows the Strategic Reserve Force to exercise with KFOR, in order to ensure that all of our forces can train for the most demanding contingencies. Furthermore, it enhances the security of Kosovo, and forms a very public display of KFOR's commitment to provide a safe and secure environment for all ethnic groups. Dynamic Response 2000 is an exercise and provides no change to KFOR's mission or the Kosovo security effort.

Questions

Q: You mentioned that your troops found drugs during the Orahovac house searches. What kind of drugs and how much?

HP: I don't have further information. I will try to find out the amount and get back to you.

Q: What is your response to Amnesty International's report on KFOR and UNMIK failing to support human rights standards in Mitrovica?

SM: I think both KFOR and UNMIK accept the report and find that it is correct. But things have changed since the time that it reports on, which was basically the events in Mitrovica that began on the 3rd of February. There were three major explosive incidents there. Following the night of violence on the 3rd of February, we started increasing the number of UNMIK Police and we have now doubled to more than 560 UNMIK Police. At that time, KFOR had the role of police, correctional officers, lawyers; they were not trained to handle all those different roles. There is a regulation about to be signed on an ombudsman office. That's an office that will basically stand between the international authorities and the people, to assist people who have claims or allegations of human rights violations. We immediately moved to bring in an international judiciary. There was virtually no judiciary in Mitrovica at the time. We've since gotten one international judge and one international prosecutor and there will be more coming. We've also been strictly enforcing the applicable law on detention, which is that a suspect can be held for 72 hours, after which a judge must either order his further detention or charges must be filed. That's probably why we have, I believe, only one suspect in detention from that whole period, because we are waiting for the international judiciary to get in place. We don't want to hold people unnecessarily.

PH: I would like to underline what Susan said. KFOR welcomes the report. We have nothing to hide and that's the reason we gave the representatives of Amnesty International free access to the detention facility. We are now looking into the findings and if we find out that mistakes were really made by soldiers involved, then we will take appropriate measures so that they cannot be repeated.

Q: Could you provide more details on the situation in Mitrovica today? How did it come to the disturbances and what was the resistance you mentioned? How did the Serbs resist? Did you make any arrests? Was anybody injured in these clashes?

PH: The picture is not quite clear at this moment. So far I can tell you that the establishing of the Confidence Area began and KFOR troops to the northern side extended the area. Some 300 Serbs were gathering there, trying to prevent KFOR from moving forward. They moved back after teargas was used. Altogether four people were slightly injured. Now it's calm, as I said. The initial point was that four, as they call themselves, "bridge watchers" were trying to prevent KFOR from going forward and that was immediately stopped. The bridge watchers were not allowed to stay there at the eastern bridge.

Q: Regarding the Dynamic Response, will you deploy any troops in the Serb parts of Kosovo - basically in northern Mitrovica and up?

NC: Certainly the specific locations as to where they will operate I cannot give you directly. I have already described to you that they are operating in MNB North, Centre and MNB East, and indeed they'll be operating in all ethnic areas. I can't give you any specific location. They are operating throughout all of those areas.

Q: I talked to an Albanian family in a village very close to the airport. Unfortunately they got a NATO bomb on their house: father killed, two sons killed, their house destroyed and now they have a huge swimming pool in their garden, 10 metres deep, 15 metres wide. Their question to KFOR and NATO is whether they are eligible for restitution.

PH: I am looking into that since yesterday and I will come up with an answer. It's of course regrettable what happened there to that family. Right now I cannot tell you whether we have any regulations for these cases. I will come back to you with the information as soon as possible.

Q: With regard to the Confidence Area, could you give us more details on how many areas are being established and where?

PH: It will be one area in the centre of Mitrovica, extended to both sides of the river, including both bridges.