Serbia + 1 more

Summary of Press Briefing by UNMIK Spokesperson 28 Feb 2000

UNMIK Spokeswoman Ms Susan Manuel
Tomorrow in Mitrovica 43 judges, eight prosecutors and 26 lay judges will be sworn in to serve in the Mitrovica region in a ceremony taking place at 10 a.m. in the Cimic Centre in Mitrovica. Press are invited but the judges have asked that no cameras be inside at the ceremony. This is the last part of the phase of judicial appointments we began in January. As part of this phase, we appointed more than 300 judges, prosecutors and lay judges around Kosovo. The people to be appointed tomorrow will serve on the Mitrovica District Court, Mitrovica Court of Minor Offenses, Mitrovica Municipal Court, Leposavic Municipal Court, Leposavic Court of Minor Offences, Skenderaj Minor Offences Court, Vushtrii Municipal Court, Vushtrii Minor Offences Court and Zubin Potok Minor Offences Court. Of the judges, 35 are Albanians and 16 minorities (mainly Serbs and some Bosnians). All prosecutors are Albanian. Of the lay judges, 8 are minorities and the rest are Albanian.

We remind you once again that car registration starts in Prizren on Wednesday. As of today, nearly 8,000 cars have been registered in Pristina.

UNMIK health and other officials from Gnjilane will attend the burial today and express their condolences to the family of Dr. Josip Vasic, who was shot to death on Saturday in the centre of Gnjilane, near the hospital where he worked. Dr. Vasic was one of handful of Serb physicians who had remained in Kosovo, and he was a close collaborator with UNMIK. UNMIK police and KFOR are continuing their investigation into this murder.

The Police Commissioner's briefing today has been cancelled.

On the Boro and Ramiz sports center fire, fire fighters are continuing to damp out spot fires which flare up when parts of the floor collapse onto the rubble below. But the fire in general was brought under control by mid-day on Saturday. It is now the Pristina Fire Department which continues to fight the remainder of the fire, and today they will be joined by the Vushtri Fire Department. All international units have been withdrawn. We have still not determined the cause of the fire, which spread rapidly due to the large amount of flammable materials stored in the basement and the lack of any firewalls or sprinkler systems inside the huge complex. SRSG Bernard Kouchner visited the site twice on Saturday and announced the launch of an international appeal for funds to rebuild the center. German engineers who arrived in Kosovo on other matters will look into what it will take to rebuild the Sports center, which had been built in the 1970s and financed by residents of Pristina, who contributed 2 percent of their monthly salary for several years. Dr. Kouchner praised the efforts of Kosovo and international firefighters who battled the fire throughout Friday night, Saturday and Sunday. UNMIK officials warn that no new building may take place in Kosovo without a permit from UNMIK, which involves a rigorous fire safety inspection.

Over the weekend, UNMIK Police reported an increased level of violence against Serbs around Kosovo, as well as several explosions and grenade attacks in Pristina, Gnjilane and Pec. In Mitrovica at 6:30 a.m. today, an explosion was reported on the road to Zvecan, some 400 meters north of Mitrovcia town, causing damage to a bus traveling on the road, but no injuries to the passengers. Yesterday evening, an explosion, most probably caused by a grenade, was reported at a Serb-owned house in Kosovo Polje.

In Prizren yesterday evening, an unidentified suspect threw a hand grenade at an Albanian owned grocery store in ORAHOVAC, causing extensive damage but no casualties.

In Mitrovica today, we have 518 international police in theatre out of 566 to be deployed there. In all Kosovo, 2341 international police from 44 nations are on the ground.

Yesterday, a team headed by Principal Deputy SRSG Jock Covey went to Mitrovica to meet with UNMIK Regional Administrator Mario Marcone and the pillar Heads in the region to present the latest version of the strategy plan for Mitrovica. They brought this plan to Oliver Ivanovic, a leader of the Serb National Council. The plan will also be presented to Mr. Bajram Rexhepi, local Kosovo Albanian leader.

Finally, the appointment of mid-level KPC leaders ended last week, with a total of 498 people sworn in. This is in addition to the 46 key leaders who were appointed in January. By 1 March, we expect to finalize the appointment of 5,052 KPC members, leaving aside 500 places for minorities, which will probably not be filled by that date. At this point, all members will be hired on the same status. I think you remember that we were going to have 3,000 active members and 2,000 auxiliary members. This distinction will be made later in April after deciding who will be an active member and who will be on an auxiliary status.

KFOR Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Henning Philipp

NATO will deploy its Strategic Response Force (SRF) to conduct a Command Field Exercise in Kosovo in a timetable from 19 March to April 10. This exercise, nicknamed Dynamic Response 2000, will demonstrate NATO's resolve to maintain a secure environment for Kosovo and its inhabitants and to reinforce KFOR if required.

The SRF is designed as a multinational, highly mobile force, with strong firepower, which is supported by air, air-mobile and maritime elements. Over 2,000 troops from Argentina, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania and the United States will participate. They will train and validate operational concepts during exercise Dynamic Response 2000. These participants represent a small fraction of the total number of troops envisioned for the SFR. This exercise contributes to stability and peace in the region. It demonstrates NATO military capabilities outside a specific crisis situation. It therefore underlines NATO's and the international community's resolve and commitment to maintain peace in the region Dynamic Response 2000 is part of an ongoing training programme. The three phases of the exercise include deployment, employment within theatre, and re-deployment. The SRF will demonstrate rapid deployment, interoperability, and high operational readiness. On behalf of Multinational Brigade East, I would like to say that there was an overwhelming number of surprise visits by journalists to facilities in Camp Bondsteel. The MNB (E) welcomes the attention, but they just cannot cope with such a surprise influx of media. So, those of you who wish to visit the facilities, please coordinate it prior to the trip with our liaison officer or with the PAO at Camp Bondsteel. Otherwise, you risk being sent back at the gates.

Questions and answers

Q: Are there plans on the part of KFOR to respond to a certain situation in the Eastern Kosovo? How many policemen do you have in the north of Kosovo? Is the announced military exercise the same as the one previously announced under the name War Game?

HP: Our responsibility covers Kosovo, according to the mandate given by the United Nations, and it doesn't include the part you are talking about, which is Eastern Kosovo as you call it. So, we are monitoring and controlling the boundary in order to prevent, as far as possible, any influx from either side of this border. But the area you are talking about is not our responsibility. We can only react to something that happens in the Ground Safety Zone, that five-kilometre-wide area around the border. So far we have absolutely no indication of any violation of the Military Technical Agreement. As for exercise War Game, I know about it only from the media, I don't know anything about such an exercise.

SM: In northern Kosovo, in Mitrovica, we have 518 policemen. The Mitrovica region includes six municipalities of northern Kosovo.

Q: The Yugoslav authorities say that in the attack on the Serbian policemen on Saturday, a KPC member was killed, and they have given his membership number as well. Was KFOR in contact with the KPC to verify this information?

SM: He was not a KPC member, not one of the 540 people who had been sworn in. More than 20,000 people who applied for the KPC were given provisional cards by the IOM. But I've checked his name and he was not a member of the KPC.

Q: Why there were only three fire-fighting trucks in front of the Boro/Ramez sports complex when the fire was at its peak? There had been an announcement earlier that about 10 fire engines were supposed to be shipped to Kosovo from New York. Why weren't they shipped? Also, are there any facts from the Bondsteel trial on the case which involved the rape and murder of a 11-year-old Albanian girl?

SM: I believe that all the available fire-fighting equipment was called in to that fire. There were trucks on the side of the sports centre as well, though I didn't count them. I am sure that all the equipment available locally and from the international units was used to fight that fire. As for any fire engines due here from the United States, I have to find the answer for you.

HP: As for the Bondsteel trial, I don't know anything about it, but you can go to the American PIO.

Q: Was this Dynamic Response exercise caused by the recent events in Kosovo or is it something which had been planned in advance?

HP: The Dynamic Response is part of a long-term exercise plan. It is not something taken in response to something that has happened recently.