SRSG Bernard Kouchner will travel tomorrow to Djakova where he will meet with local representatives of the Missing Persons Association and members of the municipal administration. There will be several media opportunities for the press during tomorrow's visit. A bus will leave from the press entrance of the government building at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Interested journalists should see me after the briefing for additional details.
The Kosovo Transitional Council is meeting this morning. On the agenda are briefings on private sector development, education and the registration of political parties.
Starting on 31 March, UNMIK Police will conduct traffic controls to check vehicles for their registration papers in Pristina. We would like to call on those drivers who haven't done so to register their vehicles. To date, more than 10,000 vehicles have been registered at centres in Pristina and in Prizren. Three additional registration centres will be opened next month in Ferizaj, Gjakova and Gjilane.
We would like to reiterate that drivers need the following for the registration process: a document verifying the payment of customs fees for recently imported vehicles and proof of insurance coverage for the vehicle. UNMIK has ordered that the fee to obtain customs clearance documents be reduced from 100 to 30 deutsche mark, as of today. With these two documents drivers will be proceed to safety inspection and pay the registration fee after which they will be issued the new license plates and receive vehicle registration papers.
There are now two insurance companies operating in Kosovo which have been authorized by UNMIK. Insurance policies can be purchased at the registration sites. Drivers who registered their vehicles before 5 March must obtain registration papers for their vehicles.
Regarding the power situation, the regime of three hours on and three hours off continues in two groups. The available electricity amounts to total of 434 MWs of which 312 MWs are produced in Kosovo. Unit 1 of Kosovo B is producing 250 MWs. Unit 1 of Kosovo A is producing 45 MWs.
The SRSG has signed regulations on the establishment of the Administrative Department of Public Services, the Central Civil Registry and the Extension of Custody of Persons Held Pending the Petition for Extradition. Copies of the regulations are available outside and from the UNMIK press office.
The regulation on the Administrative Department of Public Services is responsible for the overall management of public services in Kosovo and, in coordination with the Central Fiscal Authority, the development and implementation of the Kosovo Consolidated Budget. The department will implement the policy guidelines formulated by the Interim Administrative Council (IAC).
The Central Civil Registry shall contain a register of all habitual residents of Kosovo.
As for the Extension of Custody regulation, previously a maximum five-month custody was permitted under article 528 of the applicable Criminal Procedure Law. Under the new regulation, an examining District Court judge may extend the custody period up to an additional month.
The UNHCR has asked that we announce that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ms Sadako Ogata, will hold a press conference on Sunday, at 9 a.m., at the Grand Hotel. Peter Kessler is here in the audience if you need some additional details.
Today, there will be a swearing in ceremony for two Deputy Tax Administrators, in addition to other senior level managers, recently recruited to the tax administration of the Central Fiscal Authority. Alan Pearson and Ali Sadriu, Co-Heads for the Central Fiscal Authority, will be delivering congratulatory messages to the new staff members. The ceremony will place at 4 p.m. in the Central Fiscal Authority located at the Dardania Bank Building on Mother Theresa Street.
There were two murders reported by UNMIK Police, one in the Pec Region, another in the Pristina Region. On Monday at 1800 hrs, UNMIK Police and KFOR responded to a shooting in Gjakova where they found the body of an Albanian male inside his Mercedes. The victim had been shot four times with a handgun.
Yesterday at 1500 hrs, witnesses found the body of an Albanian male near Stimlje. The victim was shot with a handgun. The initial investigation revealed that the victim had been shot at another location.
In Mitrovica, a body was discovered near Vucitrn by two KPC members. UNMIK Police are investigating.
KFOR Spokesman Mr. Philip Anido
I have a few media opportunities to announce. Exercise Dynamic Response is being prepared by KFOR and the Rapid Response Reserve Force. Tomorrow, 23 march, there is a media opportunity to see the 24th U.S. Marine Expeditionary Unit coming out of the FYROM into Kosovo, at the Blace border crossing. Lieutenant Lindmeier and Captain Monchotte will be outside to take your registration if you are interested to cover that event. In association with that, there is an opportunity for television and photographers to fly in a helicopter to take aerial pictures of the units crossing at Blace.
On Friday, 24 March, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson and SACEUR, General Wesley Clark, will be at the Mitrovica area. Because of those timings, we plan to not hold this regular press briefing. I am sure most of you would rather see Lord Robertson and General Clark than Angela and me or some other spokespeople, for they may have more to say or even less, I don't know.
In Mitrovica, during their walk in the city, there will be a media opportunity there, in Poklek, where there is a new school that ADRA assisted in restoring. They will be there, and in Pristina, at KFOR Main HQ, at 2 p.m. The media transportation plan will be given tonight.
This evening, at 7:30 p.m., there will be a special media briefing in the press centre right here, on the preparations, media opportunities for Exercise Dynamic Response. Lieutenant Colonel Henning Philipp will brief on that.
At the present time, all units of the Strategic Reserve Force are located outside Kosovo. They will move into their staging areas in Kosovo within the next three days, ready for the employment phase of the Exercise, which starts on Monday, 27 March.
Some of you, I know, have seen troops that you don't recognize, here in Kosovo. There will be advanced small parties preparing for the maneuvers.
An important thing happened this morning. On the main railway line from Mitrovica to Lesac, the was a bridge that was damaged by a set explosion, the rubble fell on to the highway below the main highway going north-south, and KFOR are right now clearing that rubble. We have explosive ordnance disposal experts at the scene and military police, as well as UNMIK Police. They are investigating what the situation was there. Right now there are no further details to pass on. But it has blocked the railway line up north to Lesac.
In Multinational Brigade Centre, KFOR troops have commenced its operation to close Gate 2 which is one of the gates going directly north out of Podujevo. And all other unofficial crossings between Kosovo and Serbia will be closed. The purpose of this operation is to prevent Kosovo being used as a base for the export of violence. KFOR will carry out strict ID checks of people crossing the boundary at Gates 3 and 4. These gates will be the main gates for people crossing between Serbia and Kosovo. Individuals found crossing the boundary at any other point will be turned back, and anyone attempting to conduct illegal activities will be arrested.
There is a media opportunity for that. At 3 p.m. today, please register your wishes to attend that opportunity with Lieutenant Rob Hannam.
There are some interesting incidents and weapons searches over the past 24 hours listed in the press update outside.
Question and answers
Q: Are the troops deployed for this Dynamic Response Exercise under the same tactical deployment regulations and restrictions as KFOR, as dictated by 1244?
PA: Exactly the same. They will be doing some operation close to and in association with KFOR. The whole point is for them to train, to know the area, to know what KFOR does, and to show reinforcement for KFOR operations.
Q: I believe that the Serbs in northern Mitrovica are not going to be happy with the appointment of General Nash, an American, as the Administrator for Mitrovica. How is UNMIK going to deal with this? Are you going to appoint somebody as his deputy, maybe a Russian?
AW: Obviously, there are plans to appoint a deputy here, and discussions are going on. We would like to reiterate that Mr. Nash has the full support of UNMIK, and particularly Dr. Kouchner.
Q: Why are you closing the Podujevo border, where for nine months we didn't have any incidents, except for KFOR troops failing there, instead of closing other borders where violence is exported more?
PA: I don't know where you did get that, about KFOR failing. We are not failing, so let's get that off the record. The closing in Brigade Centre is part of a larger boundary security operation. Similar things will be happening in Brigade East and Brigade South, and again in Brigade Centre and in parts of Brigade North. So, the intent is to make sure that we have a very tight security. We know groups are going back and forth across the border, freedom of movement for those people who have legitimate business, who live there, they should be protected. But because of events and intelligence coming out of the Presevo Valley, that is clearly an area where we have to have a very strict security, to guard against any violence there.
Q: What is Dr. Kouchner's reaction to the KPC report which contains some accusations against the KPC for an alleged involvement in criminal activities? I would like to ask KFOR: Who has the sovereignty in Kosovo? Is it Yugoslavia, Serbia, KFOR, UNMIK? Have you ever planned any operation to control the very northern border of Kosovo, to close it maybe, like you are doing in other parts of Kosovo? Can you organize a trip for us to that area, so that we could see how the border is patrolled?
PA: Linda, I think you do know that the administrative authority in Kosovo is with UNMIK and Dr. Kouchner who is the Head of that. The security and safety of the environment here is the responsibility of KFOR. Criminal activity is the responsibility of UNMIK Police. And I think you know that very well, it is not Yugoslavia. We are here to help the people of Kosovo build their own institutions, so that one day they will take over the running of this province. We are here to assist in that and to work alongside them and to take the leadership role. In terms of control of the boundaries in the north, as you know, we have Belgian and Danish troops in that area. I personally have been to those boundaries and seen tight border control, patrols on the roads and in the villages. So, we are tight on that boundary, as we are everywhere else. And absolutely, we can arrange such a trip for journalists, I will make your point known to our staff, and certainly we can set up that visit. It's an important site to be seen.
AW: Linda, I think that the report that you are referring to is an internal document that was leaked to the press. The SRSG has not issued any statement per se, you will have to ask him that question yourself. But he is giving his full support to the KPC, and we can arrange for you to be able to talk to him.
Q: Does it mean that until now there is no reaction from Dr. Kouchner on that ... internal report, as you say? You are not denying that this report exists? I there any reaction or not, that's what I want to know?
AW: We are not going to comment on an internal report. It is not appropriate that the press should have received that. We don't have any comment at this time.
Q: Do you know of any plans at this point for Lord Robertson and General Clark to visit the north of Mitrovica?
PA: I don't have details on exactly where they are going. But my understanding is that they are going to the northern part as well. I'll have to confirm that for you. There's no reason why they should not go into the northern part.
Q: Wouldn't the fact that that day will be the anniversary of the NATO bombing campaign and that General Clark, the man, probably, most closely associated with it, is in the north of Mitrovica, wouldn't it raise additional security concerns? Wouldn't his presence be viewed as some sort of an incitement?
PA: We are not here to incite anybody. The Serbs live there in large numbers, but they are not in control of the north. The international community is there, it's the people themselves who are in control. We are there fully present, so is UNMIK Police, so are NGOs and the UN organizations. And certainly, General Clark and KFOR are not going to be intimidated by people who have agendas going against the wishes of the international community and against the wishes of the people. No, we are not going to be intimidated. We can go anywhere, into any neighbourhood.
Q: Is it true that a number of trials of Serbs accused of crimes, including murders and war crimes, which were supposed to be held this week and next week, have been cancelled because KFOR is unwilling or unable to provide the security that would be necessary for these trials, including the movements of witnesses, defendants, judges and prosecutors, translators, legal secretaries between the northern and southern parts? If there are security concerns that are sufficient enough to prevent a trial such as that, I would think they would also pertain to the visit by the two high-ranking members of NATO...
PA: To be honest, I don't know about the trials. I have to say that KFOR is robust enough. We will do anything and everything we will need to do to make an important event happen. We are able and willing to make happen what we want to happen, and we will. We want to do that with persuasion, with the support of the people. But we are capable of doing it with more force, if necessary. I can't talk about the trials, I don't have information on that.
AW: With regard to the trials, two trials had been scheduled--the first one for Monday. And the defendant in that first trial was a Serb charged with murder. The defendants in the second trial are two Albanians charged with murder. That trial was scheduled for Thursday, 23 March. The presiding judges in both cases are Albanian. All these trials have not been cancelled, they have been postponed. We are concerned about the security situation. We are addressing that issue at this point. We'll see, if the situation is resolved, we will then give you the dates for these trials.