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UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK): 15 Mar 2000

Developments today, 15 March 2000 - Updated 3:30 p.m. EST
Civilian administration

UNMIK establishes "confidence areas" in Mitrovica: UNMIK today begun securing "confidence zones" in Mitrovica to serve as a buffer area between the northern and southern sides of the ethnically divided city. Assisted KFOR, UNMIK is establishing the "confidence zones", in the centre of Mitrovica on both side of the Ibar River which divides the city, to give freedom of movement and security for the residents there.

UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel said tear gas had to be used when some Serb crowds gathered in the area. Some four people were slightly injured and two UNMIK police vehicles damaged. But the situation is now under control and calm.

The head of UNMIK, Dr. Bernard Dr. Kouchner held "productive" meetings today with Serb leader Oliver Ivanovic and Albanian leader Bajram Rexhepi on the establishment of the "confidence zones".

KTC expresses "deep concern" over continuing insecurity in Mitrovica: KTC today expressed "deep concern" over the continuing difficult security situation affecting all people in Kosovo, particularly members of minority communities. In a statement issued after its regular meeting, it reaffirmed its commitment that all citizens and communities in Kosovo shall enjoy equal rights and called on all citizens in Kosovo to interact in a peaceful and tolerant manner.

KTC also reaffirmed the right of all people to return to their homes in Kosovo and called on the international community and political leaders in Kosovo to facilitate the return of Albanians, Serbs and members of other minority communities to their homes in Kosovo.

It also urgently called on Kosovo Serbs leaders to take their seats in the Joint Interim Administrative Structure so as to work together with representatives of other communities.

UNMIK and KFOR accept findings on Mitrovica by Amnesty International: Both UNMIK and KFOR said today that they accepted the findings of an Amnesty International report on the handling of the recent violence in Mitrovica. UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel said in a press briefing in Pristina that "things have changed" since the night of violence on 3 February in Mitrovica when UNMIK started increasing the number of UNMIK police which has now doubled to more than 560.

She said in February the international peacekeeping force in Kosovo (KFOR) had the role of "police, correctional officers, lawyers" -- roles they were not trained to handle.

Amnesty International said in its report that the continuing wave of ethnic violence that erupted Mitrovica in February underscored the failure of UNMIK and KFOR to halt human rights abuses and find lasting solutions to the problems in Kosovo. KFOR spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Philipp said, "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."

UNMIK to get special police units: UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manual said that by the end of the month UNMIK 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 Commissioner or the commander of the region."

She said UNMIK had also received a letter yesterday 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," she said. Currently UNMIK has 2,547 UNMIK Police in theatre; 2,390 of them are deployed, the rest are in training.

UNMIK Police report cluster bomb explosion: UNMIK Police today reported a cluster bomb explosion in a village called Pozhar, south-east of Decani, which apparently killed two boys aged 12 and 17. Police also reported that yesterday in the Gnjilane area, near the village of Firaja, a crowd of some 70 to 100 Albanians blocked and stoned a Serb convoy. KFOR Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Henning Philipp said that KFOR troops yesterday confiscated a large number of weapons and ammunition in house searches in Orahovac and Prizren.

KPC and KFOR troops work together to clean up polluted canal: The Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC) and French KFOR troops are working side by side to clean up a polluted canal in Mitrovica, UNMIK said in a statement issued in Pristina today. The head of UNMIK, Dr. Bernard Kouchner, and the commander of KFOR, General Klaus Reinhardt, today visited the work site where approximately 50 members of the KPC and French KFOR soldiers were picking up garbage and carting silt out of the Lusta Canal which flows into the Ibar River that runs through the middle of Mitrovica. The site is one of several civic projects in the region and around Kosovo that the KPC has undertaken.

KTC condemns sentencing of student leader: In a separate statement issued after its meeting today, the KTC condemned the sentence by the district court of Nis, Serbia, of Mr. Albin Kurti, Kosovo Albanian student union leader, to 15 years of imprisonment. The Council said it was convinced that the conviction of Mr. Kurti was unfounded and based on political considerations rather than on evidence. It reiterated its demand, expressed in an appeal to the Security Council on 23 February, that all Kosovo prisoners detained in Serbia be immediately released or handed over to UNMIK for their release or trial, as appropriate.

Donor pledges for the Kosovo Budget start to arrive: Donor pledges have started to arrive, with nearly 77 million deutsche marks ($38 million) of pledges for the Kosovo budget either in the bank or on their way, UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel said today. UNMIK has just received 13.7 million deutsche marks ($6.8 million) from Japan. Other pledges include 24.2 million deutsche marks ($12 million) from the United States; 15.9 million ($7.9 million) from the United Kingdom; 3.5 million ($1.7 million) from France; about 2.7 million ($1.3 million) from Canada; and 19.6 million ($9.7 million) from the European Union. "This means, once these pledges are in, that the Kosovo Consolidated Budget can keep functioning until mid-June," Ms. Manuel said. "We are expecting another 35 million euros ($33.9 million) from the European Union, which would make us solvent through September. So things are looking a lot better."

She said that revenue collection has at the same time improved. In the last two weeks, revenue increased by 55 per cent, bringing the total collected to 9.8 million deutsche marks ($4.8 million) including sales and excise taxes.

Payroll-based salary system established: UNMIK has established a structured, payroll-based salary system in which some 70,000 workers in various areas of the public sectors will be paid salaries for the months of January and February. UNMIK spokeswoman Susan Manuel said today that the payment of salaries of public workers began last week, replacing stipends which were paid in informal allotments. The salaries range from about 180 deutsche marks ($89) to a maximum of 900 deutsche marks ($446), depending on qualifications and the position. The Kosovo Budget will be paying about 26 million deutsche marks ($12.89 million) in salaries.

Power plant scheduled to restart today: Unit 12 of Kosovo B, one of the province's power plant, is scheduled to restart today after repairs, UNMIK said. One unit of Kosovo A power plant is running and some 220 megawatts of power are being imported from regional systems. The power-rationing regime is currently three hours on and three hours off. The situation is expected to improve tomorrow, UNMIK said.

For further information, contact the Spokesman's Office: tel (212) 963-7161/2; fax (212) 963-7055.