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UN mission in Kosovo and KFOR - 18 August 1999

UN mission in Kosovo and KFOR take extensive measures to protect minorities.

AUGUST 18 -- Condemning as unacceptable the continuing acts of intimidation and murder of minorities in Kosovo, the leaders of the United Nations operation and the KFOR international security force in the territory said Wednesday the UN and KFOR were together taking extensive measures to protect those communities.

In a joint statement issued in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Dr. Bernard Kouchner and KFOR Commander Lt. Gen. Mike Jackson said "the primary aim of the international presence in Kosovo is to provide a secure environment for all Kosovars, whatever their ethnic origin."

"We are not standing still," they said in their statement. "We are continually reviewing the security situation and improving our response."

Describing efforts to protect Serbs and other minorities throughout Kosovo, they said soldiers were living in apartment blocks and at the Roma camp near Kosovo Polje to ensure round the clock protection. Also, KFOR troops were escorting convoys of Serbs returning to work and accompanying doctors on their rounds in high-risk areas.

In addition, the deployment of UN international civilian police continues, as part of the overall effort of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to restore civil order and normalcy in the territory.

Some 700 UN civilian officers are already in Kosovo, with nearly 200 already conducting patrols in the capital.

According to the statement, measures to strengthen the rule of law were already improving the situation. In Pristina alone, 40 individuals had been recently arrested for acts of intimidation. They remained in custody and would be tried and punished appropriately.

The UN and KFOR chiefs emphasized that the international effort to protect all individuals in Kosovo and help build a free and democratic society for all would only succeed with the full cooperation of the local population.

To that end, they welcomed a recent statement issued by General Ceku, of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), condemning the crimes, and instructing all KLA members to respect human rights.

At a press briefing in Pristina Wednesday, during which the joint statement was read out, UNMIK spokeswoman Nadia Younes pointed to actions being taken by the UN and KFOR to respond to continuing tensions in Mitrovicia.

She said the joint strategy in Mitrovicia included measures to marginalize and exclude extremists and to strengthen moderates. It also envisaged creating an environment to facilitate negotiation, to encourage economic life and to enable managed two-way return.

A key to the joint strategy, Ms. Younes said, was the recent UNMIK administrative order -- known officially as Regulation No. 2 -- giving KFOR authority to remove individuals or prevent access to a specified location in Kosovo.

Regulation No. 2, which was signed last week by Dr. Kouchner, authorizes actions in situations where the public peace is jeopardized, including threats to the rule of law or to the human rights of individuals.

United Nations to convene second Kosovo Transitional Council meeting on 21 August.

AUGUST 18 -- The United Nations will bring together Albanian, Serb and other political leaders when it convenes the second meeting of the Kosovo Transitional Council on Saturday, 21 August, a UN spokeswoman said Wednesday.

At a press briefing in Pristina, UN spokeswoman Nadia Younes said the Council's composition will be the same as at its first meeting, which was held on 16 July in Pristina. However, Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo , who was absent in July, will attend the 21 August meeting.

The exact time and place of the Council meeting remains to be determined, Ms. Younes said.

The meeting will be chaired by the head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Dr. Bernard Kouchner. In addition to members of the Democratic League of Kosovo, participants in the Council will include political leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army and the United Democratic Movement. Representatives of the Serb, Bosniac and Turkish communities will also participate in the Council, as will several independents.

The Transitional Council is the highest political consultative body under UNMIK. While the UN, as the interim administrator, holds executive authority over judicial, legislative and other civil activities in the territory, the Council gives the main political parties and ethnic groups an opportunity to have direct input into UNMIK's decision-making process.

It is also a forum for achieving consensus on a broad range of issues related to civil administration, institution-building and essential services.

Other UN officials and the Commander of the KFOR international security force are also expected to attend the meeting.

Kosovar Advisory Council on legal affairs holds first meeting.

AUGUST 18 -- A newly formed group of Kosovar legal experts assisting the United Nations in drafting a legal code for the territory free from discrimination met for the first time Wednesday, the UN operation in Kosovo said.

The Joint Advisory Council on Legislative Matters was set up this week by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and Kosovar legal representatives to review existing legislation in Kosovo and to draft new laws.

Specifically, the Council will advise UNMIK by identifying areas in need of legal reform and identifying discriminatory laws with a view to their immediate suspension. The Council, working in cooperation with UNMIK legal experts, will draft new legislation.

Announcing the meeting during a press briefing in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, UN spokeswoman Nadia Younes said, "the first task is to immediately purge that system of all discriminatory law". The Council would then turn its attention to reviewing the existing legal system as a whole.

During its first meeting, the Council was to elect five Kosovar experts to serve on an Executive Board, along with two international experts.

The Council will constitute itself into five working groups considering: criminal law; property and housing law; administrative law and local administration; and civil law and related matters; and other matters.

The Executive Board will meet weekly. The Council will convene in its entirety every three months.

Serb minorities evacuated from Kosovo only as "last resort" -- UNHCR. AUGUST 18 -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Wednesday said it was evacuating Serb minorities in Kosovo only as a last resort in "urgent life-threatening" situations.

At a press briefing in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, UNHCR Spokesman Ron Redmond said the agency's policy was to provide safe passage, on a case-by-case basis, for people whose lives are in danger. "Though we have no intention of conducting any large-scale evacuation, sometimes we have little or no choice but to take some vulnerable individuals to safety and we will continue to do so when necessary," he said.

Only 13 people have been escorted out of Pristina and the overall number was only about 400, Mr. Redmond said, adding that half of them were Croatian or Bosnian Serb refugees who were settled in Kosovo during the fighting in their countries.

According to Mr. Redmond, the vast majority of the estimated 180,000 Serbs who have left Kosovo departed on their own. "Of the remaining minority population, the UN, KFOR and other organizations are still doing everything we can to provide the necessary conditions to allow them to stay in their homes," he said.

To spur indigenous build-up of public services in Kosovo, UN begins ad hoc payments to local health professionals. AUGUST 17 -- In an effort to spur the indigenous build-up of public services in Kosovo, the United Nations began making payments to healthcare workers in the provincial capital, Pristina, Tuesday.

More than 2,000 health professionals, who have not been paid in months, will receive ad-hoc payments from a UN trust fund established to finance the rebuilding of the civil administration in Kosovo.

Dr. Bernard Kouchner, head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), told health workers gathered at Pristina Hospital for the launching of the initiative: "You are doing this work for the people and we, at the United Nations, want to show you that you are not alone in your efforts."

Dr. Kouchner also said he would begin broad-based consultations with representatives from all sectors of the health system to gain their input on how best to shape the future healthcare system in the province.

"Being a doctor myself, I fully understand how crucial a health system is for a society and how crucial it is that it truly reflects what the people of Kosovo want and that it meets its expectations," he said. "We will work together on this, as we are working together on other issues."

Payments to health workers follow an earlier series of payments made by the UN mission in Kosovo to judges, prosecutors and customs workers. The payment programme for public employees will expand to other parts of Kosovo in the coming days.

Also at the ceremony on Tuesday, Dr. Kouchner officially launched the "I love My City - Pristina" beautification project, which includes garbage collection and cleaning of the city's green areas. Jointly funded by UNMIK and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the project will create more that 300 jobs for people in Pristina.

It will continue until 15 November when a more sustainable, self-financed operation is expected to begin. The international security force, KFOR, will provide logistical support for garbage disposal, including dumping the waste in a landfill on the outskirts of Pristina.

UNHCR voices concern over continuing violent attacks against Serbs in Kosovo. AUGUST 17 -- Extremely concerned over continuing violent attacks on Serbs in Kosovo, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been taking protective measures, including evacuation of some at risk, an agency spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Speaking at a press briefing in Geneva, spokeswoman Judith Kumin said while UNHCR made all efforts to enable people to stay in their homes, measures to assist those at "extreme risk" can include evacuation.

Despite what Ms. Kumin described as "extensive measures" by the UN and the KFOR international security to protect them, violence continues against the shrinking Serb population in the province. She reported, for example, that a 78-year-old woman had been beaten to death in her apartment in the Kosovo capital, Pristina, on Sunday night.

"Tragically, she had been identified by UNHCR protection staff as a vulnerable case for possible evacuation," Ms. Kumin said.

It is estimated that no more than 2,000 Serbs remain in the city of Pristina, which had a Serb population of 20,000 before the end of the NATO bombing and arrival of KFOR in June. During the past two months, nearly 130,000 Serbs have fled Kosovo, mostly for other parts of Serbia and Montenegro.

Last week, the head of the humanitarian "pillar" of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Dennis McNamara, met with high-level government representatives in Belgrade to discuss UNHCR's assistance programme for the displaced from Kosovo.

Also during that trip, Mr. McNamara visited sites in central Serbia where many of the displaced Kosovo Serbs, as well as Roma who have fled the province, have congregated.

UN mission in Kosovo to review province's legal codes; invites participation of local experts. AUGUST 16 -- The United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is to review, in consultation with local experts, the legal codes of the province with a view to excluding both civil and criminal provisions not in line with international law, a UN spokeswoman said Monday.

At a press briefing in Pristina, UN Spokeswoman Nadia Younes said Dr. Bernard Kouchner, who heads UNMIK, met Sunday in Pristina with local judges and prosecutors and invited them to "establish a partnership with UNMIK" for "reviewing the existing legal framework and the laws applicable in Kosovo with a view to purging it of all provisions which are inconsistent with the standards recognized in Europe and the rest of the world."

Following the meeting, a special advisory group -- including 19 Kosovar legal experts -- was established to work in consultation with UNMIK to refine both the criminal code and laws on property, customs, social welfare and the judiciary.

UNMIK, which has been working to restore the judicial and legislative systems in the province, will assign UN legal experts to work with the Kosovo experts for this purpose.

Dr. Kouchner told the 50 members of the local legal community, who had come to voice concerns about the way in which new regulations were being promulgated in the region and raise questions about the laws applicable in Kosovo, that all the people of Kosovo must be shown that the new legal system would be open, democratic, accessible and responsive.

He said the main task of the special advisory group was to review existing legislation and to draft new laws, which would eliminate all elements of discrimination; that is, the notion of apartheid. He noted as an example the present law that prohibits Albanians from participating in property transactions.

In a broader sense, Dr. Kouchner said Sunday's meeting had helped to establish a model for UNMIK's overall effort to restore civil society and develop democracy in Kosovo.

"I also intend to follow this same procedure" -- consulting with Kosovar representatives and experts -- in all administrative areas under the UNMIK mandate, such as health and education," Dr. Kouchner said.

Describing the results of his meeting on Sunday as "a turning point for the people of Kosovo", Dr. Kouchner said he had instructed his advisers and experts that no important decision would be taken without the involvement of the people of Kosovo and its experts.

UN clean-up programme in Kosovo's capital will spur job creation while providing vital public service. AUGUST 16 -- In another step towards restoring normal life to Kosovo, the United Nations began Monday a programme for garbage collection and disposal in the provincial capital of Pristina.

Announcing the start of the programme at a press briefing in Pristina last Friday, UN spokeswoman Nadia Younes said the new operation will meet many of the civil administration goals of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which has been working to re-establish social and municipal services throughout the province.

"It will spur job creation for Kosovar Albanians, Serbs and other minorities; and it will provide a vital public service by cleaning up the town of Pristina and laying the foundation for a self-sustaining system of garbage collection and disposal," Ms. Younes said.

Working under the motto of "I love Pristina" -- which will adorn trash bins in the capital -- some 300 local Kosovars will collect garbage from five zones in the city and dispose of the waste at an ecologically suitable dump, Ms. Younes said.

UNMIK Civil Administration in Pristina will directly oversee the effort, with the initial participation of the KFOR international security force that has been providing some trash collection services in the city.

The programme is being funded by a UN trust fund to support civil administration activities in Kosovo and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which is contributing $200,000 for the first three months.

UN mission in Kosovo issues regulation to deter violence and ensure public security. AUGUST 13 -- In the wake of recent tensions in Mitrovica and in a bid to deter future unrest, the United Nations mission in Kosovo has issued the second regulation of its administration, the UN mission announced on Friday.

Regulation No. 2, which was signed in Pristina Thursday evening by the head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Dr. Bernard Kouchner, authorizes KFOR and UN civilian police to deny access of individuals to a troubled location or to remove people from it.

"The Regulation is a preventive tool -- it's a deterrent mechanism to deter public unrest and violence," Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, one of Dr. Kouchner's legal advisers told a news briefing in Pristina today. "Practically speaking, it allows us to remove people who are instigating, through hate speech or other forms of provocation."

Noting that this was a common practice in many countries, particularly in Europe, Mr. Strohmeyer said that the Regulation meant that a person would be removed beyond the city limits or in certain cases beyond Kosovo. He stressed, however, that it was "a preventive tool, not an enforcement mechanism for criminal action."

The move came after UNMIK determined that the Mitrovica unrest had been stirred up by agitators brought in from the outside, first by the Serbs and then by the Albanian Kosovars. UN officials in Pristina stressed that the Mitrovica events underscored the need for KFOR and UN civilian police to be able to respond adequately to similar siltation throughout Kosovo to secure public peace and order.

Two months after its return to Kosovo, UNHCR says 750,000 refugees have been brought home safely. AUGUST 13 -- Two months since re-entering Kosovo, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has overseen the safe return of nearly three-quarters of a million refugees, a spokeswoman for the agency said on Friday.

All but 50,000 refugees who fled to other countries in the region have now returned to Kosovo, UNHCR spokeswoman Judith Kumin told a press briefing in Geneva. Nearly one third of the some 91,000 evacuated to more distant countries have also returned.

During the same period, however, about 130,000 Serbs and Roma have fled Kosovo, mostly to other parts of Serbia and to Montenegro, Ms. Kumin said. Those newly displaced have joined roughly 50,000 non-Albanians displaced from Kosovo since tensions began to rise in the province in March 1998.

Yesterday, Dennis McNamara of UNHCR, who heads the humanitarian "pillar" of the UN mission in Kosovo, visited displaced Serbs and Roma in the Kralijevo area of southern Serbia, where some 90,000 displaced from Kosovo have congregated.

The purpose of that trip, as well as of Mr. McNamara's scheduled meetings on Friday with Yugoslav authorities in Belgrade, was to evaluate the needs of the displaced and to discuss overall humanitarian situation in Serbia and Montenegro.

Reconciliation and justice must pave way to multiethnic Kosovo, Secretary-General says. AUGUST 12 -- Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday that all citizens of Kosovo, whether Serbian or Albanian, must be encouraged to live together and not to seek revenge.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Mr. Annan said means for reconciliation between the parties must be found to bring about a multi- ethnic Kosovo.

Although the situation in the province remained very difficult, Mr. Annan said the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), along with the KFOR international security force, could not allow those attempting to expel Serbs from Kosovo to succeed.

"Obviously, justice is required, but revenge is not justice," Mr. Annan said.

Mr. Annan said he hoped the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) would continue to work with Dr. Bernard Kouchner, who, as the Secretary- General's Special Representative, leads the efforts of UNMIK to restore civil order and build democracy in Kosovo.

Responding to a question from the press about bringing criminals to justice, Mr. Annan said it was necessary to make it understood by all that there was no escape from justice and that the international community would do its best to see the guilty brought to trial.

Impunity should not be an accepted fact, Mr. Annan said, and it was for that reason the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and the International Criminal Court had been established.

Greater responsibilities demand higher standards for UN civilian police in Kosovo -- UN spokesman. AUGUST 12 -- The tough challenges facing United Nations civilian police in Kosovo place strict demands on the qualifications of candidates who must meet very high professional standards, a UN spokesman said on Thursday.

Speaking at a press briefing at UN Headquarters, Spokesman Fred Eckhard said that the standards were stricter in Kosovo because responsibilities were greater than ever before and the UN civilian police "may have to use their weapons in a situation that would be similar to some of the toughest urban areas in the world."

Responding to a question regarding the recent failure of some international civilian police candidates to meet the entrance standards set by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Mr. Eckhard said the situation in Kosovo necessitated that civilian officers be conversant in English and have full skills with their weapons.

Some candidates who had not met the strict standards set by UNMIK had been let go, Mr. Eckhard said. He noted that this was not the first time international civilian police candidates had been sent home after failing to meet entrance standards. Although the UN specified in writing the standards for UN civilian police contributed by Member States, over the years the UN had often faced difficulties getting police to meet those requirements, he said.

More than 650 UNMIK civilian police are now in Kosovo, with a team of more than 60 UN officers already patrolling the provincial capital, Pristina. Some 80 more have been deployed throughout the province, with others undergoing training and induction.

UN mission in Kosovo beefs up its police presence in provincial capital. AUGUST 11 -- The United Nations mission in Kosovo on Wednesday took another step towards enhancing its law enforcement presence in the province with over 60 international police -- or double yesterday's number -- expected to patrol today the provincial capital of Pristina.

Speaking at a press briefing in Pristina, Nadia Younes, the spokesperson for the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), said 32 UNMIK civilian police were patrolling the Pristina area last night with the KFOR security force and 80 officers were in the regions.

Ms. Younes said that there was a total of "662 UN International Police in the theatre", including the 174 that had come from Bosnia and Herzegovina to perform only monitoring functions. She noted that many members of the police force were in the induction period, while 40 UNMIK civilian police were on hold in Skopje in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Meanwhile UNMIK was taking measures to stem the escalation of violence against Kosovar Serbs and other ethnic minorities, the Spokeswoman said. The UN mission has identified some of the hot spots and has been setting up police substations to be manned around the clock. The substations are expected to be in place by the end of the week, said Ms. Younes.

UN refugee agency reports increasing violence against Kosovo Serbs in Pristina. AUGUST 11 -- With attacks against Serbs in Kosovo's capital on the rise, the situation for some 2,000 Serb Kosovars remaining in Pristina has noticeably worsened over the last few weeks, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Wednesday.

According to UNHCR, there have been at least nine murders and seven serious assaults against Serbs in Pristina during the past week. Meanwhile, the KFOR security force said that bomb attacks had occurred regularly against Serb homes, churches and businesses.

UNHCR has also reported a pattern of intimidation against the remaining Serbs. In many cases of harassment, Serbs are first receiving warning letters ordering them to leave their homes. Then threats are delivered in person, followed, in several days, by physical assault and, in some cases, murder.

Increasing numbers of Serbs still in Pristina are being forced, before fleeing, to sign letters transferring their property rights to Albanians, UNHCR says. These practices are being applied to whole blocks of apartments, triggering the simultaneous departure of tens of Serb families.

During the past two months, the number of Serbs in Pristina has dwindled from an estimated 20,000. Since the end of the NATO bombing and the arrival of KFOR in June, nearly 130,000 Serbs have fled Kosovo, mostly for other parts of Serbia and Montenegro.

The situation in Pristina is particularly disturbing because most Serbs remaining there are vulnerable persons, many of them elderly, disabled or isolated without family support, UNHCR says. As a result, case-by-case assistance is needed involving visits to individual homes.

To address the situation, UN aid workers are delivering humanitarian assistance directly to Serb homes, which proves to be a time-consuming and manpower-intensive process, according to UNHCR. The UN agency has also set up several distribution points for the Serb population, often in the basement of Serb buildings.

Problems mount for displaced non-Albanian Kosovars, UN refugee agency warns. AUGUST 10 -- More than three-quarters of a million Kosovar refugees, almost all ethnic Albanians, have now returned to their homes in Kosovo just as non-Albanians have been leaving the province in large numbers, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Tuesday.

UNHCR spokesperson Judith Kumin told a news conference in Geneva that returns of Kosovars from more than a dozen European host countries were continuing at a rate of about 1,000 a day.

At the same time, an estimated 179,000 people have moved from Kosovo into other parts of Serbia as well as into Montenegro, and the situation of the displaced persons is becoming "increasingly difficult," Ms. Kumin said.

The overall number includes 176,000 Serbs and Roma as well as 3,000 Croatian and Bosnian Serbs who were relocated to Kosovo after fleeing conflicts in their home countries, according to UNHCR. Most of the displaced -- around 130,000 -- have arrived since the end of the NATO airstrikes and the deployment of the KFOR security force in the province.

While most of the newly displaced are staying with host families, many are living in very difficult conditions in tents and collection centers. In southern Serbia, for instance, where there are 3,000 displaced Serbs and Roma from Kosovo, more than 1,000 are taking shelter in tents.

Ms. Kumin said that Dennis McNamara, who heads the humanitarian component of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), would look into the problem of the displaced during his visit to Belgrade later this week.

UN mission in Kosovo reports progress towards reaching its main objectives.

AUGUST 9 -- Exactly eight weeks after the international community arrived in Kosovo to help rebuild the war-torn province, leaders of the main components of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said on Monday that despite formidable challenges, the UN mission was on track towards fulfilling its key tasks.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Pristina, representatives of UNMIK's "four pillars" -- civil administration, humanitarian affairs, institution building and reconstruction -- reported on their efforts to make tangible progress on all four fronts.

Dominique Vian, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary- General for Civil Administration, said the goal of having a UN presence in all municipalities was on its way to being fulfilled, either with UN officials in advisory positions or in direct administrative roles, as in the case of Pristina, Prizren and Pec.

"Now, life has come back to relative normalcy; services are functioning, although in a limited manner," Mr. Vian said.

All UN regional administrators had been in place for a month, guiding efforts to rebuild civil service structures and establish mechanisms for democratization, he said. Some 30 judges had been appointed by the UN and were already working.

Reporting on the growing UN civilian police presence in Kosovo, Mr. Vian said 602 officers were already on the ground. UNMIK civilian police had begun joint patrols with the KFOR international security force over the weekend.

As for the progress in institution building, Deputy Special Representative Daan Everts told the news conference that the opening of a police academy in Vucitrn was one of the main priorities.

The first course for 200 local police cadets was scheduled to begin on 30 August, said Mr. Everts, who as Deputy Special Representative for Institution Building heads the UNMIK component led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Dennis McNamara, Deputy Special Representative for Humanitarian Affairs, said with more than 90 per cent of the Kosovar refugees having returned home, UNMIK was now focusing on providing adequate shelter.

To address the enormous need before the onset of winter, the humanitarian community was providing thousands of tons of shelter material, including nearly 80,000 shelter kits, said Mr. McNamara. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) coordinates the UNMIK humanitarian "pillar."

Joan Pearce of the European Union, said the EU, as coordinator of the UNMIK reconstruction component, was also concerned about ensuring adequate housing, as well as water and power supply before winter. A comprehensive plan had been drafted and efforts were under way to meet short-term reconstruction needs, stressed Ms. Pearce, who spoke on behalf of Joly Dixon, Deputy Special Representative for Reconstruction.

To help rebuild civil structures in Kosovo, UN mission begins paying local civil servants.

AUGUST 9 -- In a continuing effort to rebuild civil structures in Kosovo, the United Nations has begun making ad hoc payments to Kosovar civil servants, a UN spokesman said Monday.

Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan, told the press at UN Headquarters in New York that 39 judges, prosecutors and customs officials would receive payments, in the form of stipends, from the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

"This is just the beginning of what will eventually have to be -- with the financial support of the international community, if we get it -- payments to up to 50,000 civil servants," Mr. Eckhard said.

Under the supervision of UNMIK, local municipal workers, judges and others have been working as part of the newly established civil administration in Kosovo.

The 39 civil servants will receive an initial payment of DM 14,000. A second series of payments, to be disbursed in about a week, will go to health workers, firefighters and teachers.

Responding to questions from the press, Mr. Eckhard said while funds from the international community would be used initially to pay salaries, civil servants would eventually be paid from public revenues generated through such sources as tax collection and customs fees.

"The intention is not to ask the international community to indefinitely pay the Kosovar civil service. But, for an initial period, they are being asked to pay," Mr. Eckhard said. Field deployment of UN civilian police in Kosovo set to start over the weekend.

AUGUST 6 -- The United Nations civilian police will begin patrolling Kosovo's capital over the weekend and commence active duties at other sites of the province, the UN Police Commissioner in Kosovo said Friday.

Speaking to the press in Pristina, Sven Fredericksen said UN civilian officers would first be on the beat in Pristina, where the crime rate remained very high.

There continued to be too many cases of harassment of minority groups and capital crimes in the provincial capital, which could only be contained by a greater law enforcement presence, Commissioner Fredericksen said.

UN civilian officers, operating as part of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), will work out of Pristina's existing police stations and from substations to be set up in "hot spots" in the city.

The UN civilian police force -- which now numbers 474 police and is being enhanced at a rate of 200 additional officers a week -- will continue to work alongside the KFOR international security force, which currently retains responsibility for law and order in Kosovo. UN civilian police will take over law enforcement activities from KFOR on a "step-by-step" basis, Mr. Fredericksen said.

Responding to questions about the task of building an indigenous Kosovo police force, the Commissioner said the plan was to develop a democratic, ethnically mixed indigenous contingent that would be sent into the field to work with UN civilian officers.

All local trainees would be instructed to cooperate with each other and to treat every Kosovar individually. "If they can't handle this, they are not worth being police officers and they will be kicked out," the Commissioner said.

UN mission's Pristina regional administration moves to Municipal Building to join Kosovar civil servants.

AUGUST 6 -- The United Nations mission in Kosovo on Friday moved the offices of its Pristina Regional Civil Administration to the Municipal Building where it joined Kosovar employees who have been reporting for duty under the supervision of UNMIK, the UN Interim Administration Mission in the province, and the KFOR international security force.

According to UNMIK, the move marked a milestone and demonstrated the UN mission's partnership with Kosovar workers performing essential public services.

"This is an important moment in the history of the United Nations mandate in Kosovo and in the history of Pristina," said Dominque Vian, Deputy Representative of the Secretary-General for Civil Administration in Kosovo. "It is a concrete expression of our shared desire to build a democracy in Kosovo founded on human rights."

The Pristina Administration is one of five regional offices established by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) as bases for UN efforts to help rebuild the province's civil infrastructure and economy.

The UN Administrator of the Pristina regional office, Enrique Aguilar, called the move "a unique occasion to bring international community representatives to work alongside their Kosovo Albanian and Kosovo Serb counterparts."

Under UNMIK supervision, Kosovars have been returning to work at the Municipal Building over the past several weeks. By late September, it is expected that some 400 employees will be back in place at the Municipal Building administering health, education and welfare services.

Aid starts flowing into Kosovo through FYR of Macedonia after Skopje government lifts transit fee -- UNHCR.

AUGUST 6 -- Humanitarian assistance began flowing into Kosovo through the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia after the Skopje government announced the lifting of a transit fee it had imposed in mid-July on Kosovo-bound aid, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday.

Convoys of aid trucks started moving to Kosovo after the Skopje government told representatives of UNHCR and major donors this morning that it would waive the customs charge of nearly DM 640 per truckload or train car of goods crossing the border. The fee, which was imposed in mid-July, brought the aid pipeline to a halt and led to a huge backup of supplies.

UNHCR warmly welcomed the move and encouraged the international community to respond favourably to requests from the Skopje government for support to defray the costs of facilities and services the country provided to facilitate the delivery of aid into Kosovo.

UN experts urge action to stem further environmental damage from Kosovo conflict.

AUGUST 5 -- The team of scientists dispatched by the United Nations to Kosovo and Serbia to study the impact of the conflict on the country's ecology has found serious environmental consequences and potential threats to human health, the team's leader said Thursday.

The team from the joint Balkans Task Force of two UN agencies -- the UN Environmental Programme and the UN Centre for Human Settlements (HABITAT) -- concluded a 10-day tour in late July of the industrial sites hardest hit during the NATO bombing campaign.

Speaking at a news conference at UN Headquarters, Pekka Haavisto, said his group had found toxic and hazardous chemicals, including mercury, at several locations in Kosovo and Serbia.

He stressed that immediate protective actions were needed to ensure that the chemicals did not cause further environmental degradation, such as ground water contamination, or threaten the well-being of workers already rebuilding some facilities.

Mr. Haavisto said international humanitarian assistance could be provided to address the pressing environmental concerns at locations inside Serbia, which was not receiving international assistance for reconstruction.

"It's common sense that efforts be made to avoid further environmental or human health problems, which could be totally separate from reconstruction," Mr. Haavisto said.

A second team of scientists will visit the area later this month to assess the condition of the Danube, the impact of the bombing on biodiversity, and long-term health consequences. The teams' official findings and recommendations will be submitted to Secretary-General Kofi Annan in September or October.

Prominent Albanian leaders in Kosovo pledge to participate in UN-administered transitional council.

AUGUST 5 -- The head of the United Nations mission in Kosovo has received assurances from Kosovo's two most prominent ethnic Albanian leaders of their participation in the UN-administered Kosovo Transitional Council, a UN spokesman said on Thursday.

Dr. Bernard Kouchner got the pledges from the two men yesterday during his first joint meeting with Ibrahim Rugova, of the Democratic League of Kosovo, and Hashim Thaci, of the Kosovo Liberation Army. Both of them said they would attend the next meeting of the Transitional Council.

Dr. Kouchner, who as Special Representative of the Secretary-General leads the UN Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), will preside over the forthcoming meeting.

The Transitional Council is open to all groups and parties in Kosovo and will serve as the province's highest political forum.

Meanwhile UNMIK reported today that Jock Covey, Principal Deputy Special Representative, met with the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Mr. Vujovic, to discuss continuing concern over the security of Serbs remaining in Kosovo.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calls for end to continuing violence in Kosovo.

AUGUST 4 -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, called today for an end to the killings, abductions, property destruction and acts of revenge which have continued to afflict Kosovo in recent weeks.

Speaking ahead of the submission next month of a report to the Commission on Human Rights on the situation in Kosovo, the High Commissioner also urged action on behalf of some 5,000 Kosovar Albanians reportedly detained, imprisoned or abducted in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Saying she abhorred the terrible atrocities that have been committed against people living in Kosovo, Ms. Robinson stressed that respect for human rights was a universal obligation.

"My condemnation of violence committed against people living in Kosovo does not change when the ethnic identification or political affiliation of the victims change," Mrs. Robinson said. She noted that her staff on the ground reported kidnappings, forced expulsions, murder, physical abuse and violent appropriation of other people's property.

The High Commissioner also appealed for support for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Bernard Kouchner, in his efforts to restore the rule of law and respect for human rights.

"Member States of the United Nations should give him the personnel and support he needs in his vital work," she said.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today it was providing relief aid and assistance to some 10,000 Serbs in the area of Gnijlane and 3,000 more Serbs near Orahovac, as well as to other non-Albanian populations scattered throughout the region.

However, UN staff in Kosovo have reported that the situation for Serbs in mixed villages in the region is becoming increasingly difficult. A UNHCR spokesman in Pristina said the agency was concerned that towns of mixed populations were being emptied of Serbs, as Serbs fled towns with mixed ethnic populations for areas where only Serbs were congregated.

UN welcomes Human Rights Watch report calling for more protection of minorities in Kosovo.

AUGUST 4 -- A United Nations spokesman on Wednesday welcomed the report of Human Rights Watch on the situation in Kosovo, saying its observations on the need for greater protection of minorities in the province were valid.

The report of the New York-based human rights organization focusing on abuses against Serb and Roma populations in Kosovo was released Tuesday.

Speaking at a press briefing in New York, Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said the protection of the rights of minority groups was a major concern of the UN Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

While UNMIK was addressing a difficult situation in the province, the operation was moving in the right direction, Mr. Eckhard said.

The fact that the international security force KFOR was performing policing duties in Kosovo was an interim measure, until the UNMIK civilian police were fully deployed and until the training of indigenous police could get under way, he said.

UN forensic experts uncover evidence of torture at mass grave site in Kosovo.

AUGUST 4 -- After visiting a Kosovo mass grave where evidence of torture has been uncovered, Special Representative of the Secretary-General Dr. Bernard Kouchner said on Wednesday that international investigation of such sites was absolutely crucial for preventing violence in the future.

Speaking to the press after a visit to the site near Suvido, Mitrovica, Dr. Kouchner, who leads the UN Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), stressed that the investigations carried out by international forensic experts and doctors was vital to the fight for human rights.

Documentation of the site - the largest now being reviewed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) -- would help establish an indispensable historical record of the violent events in Kosovo, Dr. Kouchner said.

Dominique Lecomte, head of the ICTY team of investigators, who joined Dr. Kouchner at the press briefing, said that the probe showed evidence that many of the victims had been tortured.

During the last 10 days, the ICTY team has uncovered 72 graves. According to UNMIK, some 40 to 50 bodies have been exhumed and autopsied. Relatives in the area have already identified some of the victims.

In latest deployment, Russian, US police officers joining 400 UN civilian police already in Kosovo.

AUGUST 4 -- Some 200 police officers from Russia and the United States will be the latest addition to the growing international civilian police contingent in Kosovo, UNMIK, the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in the province, said on Wednesday.

With 404 UNMIK civilian police already on the ground, 69 officers from the Russian Federation were scheduled to arrive in Pristina on Wednesday and 116 from the United States expected to be there the next day, the UN Mission said. Some 20 more officers from Denmark are to arrive over the weekend.

Presently drawn from 21 countries, UN civilian police are being now deployed throughout the province and have been stationed at several border crossing.

As the UNMIK police contingent builds to its full strength of 3,110, UN police are advising the international security force, KFOR, on civilian police functions and establishing contacts with local communities.

When fully deployed, UN police will be charged with providing temporary law enforcement and developing a professional and impartial Kosovo Police Service.

UN efforts to assist Serb population in Kosovo continue, refugee agency reports.

AUGUST 4 -- The United Nations, in coordination with the KFOR international security force, is working to provide assistance to the Serb population in Kosovo, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is now providing relief aid and assistance to some 10,000 Serbs in the area of Gnijlane and 3,000 more Serbs near Orahovac, as well as to other non-Albanian populations scattered throughout the region.

However, UN staff in Kosovo have reported that the situation for Serbs in mixed villages in the region is becoming increasingly difficult, a UNHCR spokesman in Pristina said.

Ron Redmond said UNHCR was concerned that towns of mixed populations were being emptied of Serbs, as Serbs fled towns with mixed ethnic populations for areas where only Serbs were congregated.

Mr. Redmond cited security concerns as the reason for the Serb exodus. People were afraid to work in their field or harvest their crops, he said.

UN refugee agency stresses need for unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to Kosovo. AUGUST 3 -- With nearly 90 per cent of some 850,000 Kosovo refugees having returned home, the need for smooth delivery of humanitarian supplies to the province is becoming ever more acute, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.

Kris Janowski, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that with the large number of returnees in need of assistance, the agency was very concerned about the negative impact of a customs fee on all goods transiting the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Speaking to the press in Geneva, Mr. Janowski said the charge imposed by the Skopje Government since mid-July had brought the UNHCR aid pipeline through that country to a standstill and was contributing to a back-up of supplies.

UNHCR believed the 640 DM inspection fee on all goods transported through the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was disproportionate and penalized humanitarian agencies trying to provide assistance to Kosovo.

Some 85 UNHCR trucks are currently waiting in a parking lot in Skopje to transport nearly 3,500 metric tons of aid to Kosovo. Also stalled are 17 rail cars with some 850 metric tons of timber, mostly to supply the UNHCR effort to rebuild homes before winter.

Prior to the imposition of the fee, UNHCR had been sending an average of 20 to 25 trucks a day from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into Kosovo.

UN mission in Kosovo says reported number of bodies in mass graves based on as yet unconfirmed data.

AUGUST 2 -- A spokesperson for the head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said on Monday that there was no precise information as yet as to the number of victims in mass graves in the province.

The spokeswoman for the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Dr. Bernard Kouchner said that Dr. Kouchner's statement in a Reuters interview on Sunday that mass graves in Kosovo could contain as many as 11,000 bodies reflected what many people believed to be the potential number of victims.

According to the spokeswoman, the estimate mentioned by Dr. Kouchner was based on reports of mass graves in Kosovo received to date from all sources and that most of those reports were, as yet, unconfirmed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

"He did not intend to imply that ICTY itself had provided these figures, or that ICTY had completed its investigations in Kosovo," the spokeswoman said in a statement released in Pristina.

In major step to restore services to Kosovo, UN reopens post and telecommunications building.

AUGUST 2 -- Taking a major step towards restoring services to Kosovo, Dr. Bernard Kouchner, head of the United Nations mission in Kosovo, reopened Monday the doors of the Post and Telecommunication Building (PTT) in Pristina.

Dr. Kouchner, who leads the UN Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), greeted some 400 PTT workers there to begin restoring services that have been largely dysfunctional since the start of NATO bobming campaign.

Welcoming their return in a spirit of reconciliation, Dr. Kouchner said, "with you, we are building democracy." Former PTT employees had been encouraged by UNMIK and the local telecommunication commission to return regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds.

UNMIK and KFOR, the international security force in Kosovo, have already begun drafting plans, with the help of former PTT workers, to quickly restore minimal services. The full restoration of the phone system in Kosovo, estimated by KFOR to cost between $1 and $5 million, will involve the modernization of the largely obsolete mechanisms damaged during NATO airstrikes.

UNMIK, which now maintains civil authority in Kosovo, will chair the Joint Coordinating Commission on Telecommunication and will administer the Kosovo assets of PTT Serbia, 51 per cent of which is State-owned.

UN refugee agency encourages Kosovars to return home before first snow.

AUGUST 2 -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is encouraging as many people as possible to return to their damaged houses to start cleaning and repair work before snow falls in late October, the UN agency said on Monday.

In recent days, UNHCR and its partners distributed shelter kits mostly roofing plastic C to 3,600 families. Another 20,000 kits are expected from the European Community Humanitarian Office and 20,000 from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Around 50,000 more plastic sheets are being urgently released from emergency stockpiles. According to the UN refugee agency, additional materials are needed, such as doors, window frames, glass, roofing timbers and tiles.

As of 31 July, UNHCR had delivered 13,000 tents in Kosovo, where shelter has become a priority for tens of thousands of Kosovars whose houses were damaged during the war.

UN mission in Kosovo takes first step towards restoring fully operational customs service.

AUGUST 1 -- In a first step towards restoring normal customs service in the Kosovo, United Nations international police officers have been deployed at four border crossings with Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) announced on Sunday.

In announcing this development, UNMIK stressed that the restoration of customs services, which was carried out under its overall supervision, is an essential part in the economic recovery process of the province.

Commercial traffic is now being requested to provide relevant information on trade flows into Kosovo, which will eventually serve as a basis for determining how future customs duties will be levied, UNMIK said. The UN mission emphasized that a fully operational customs service would contribute to the generation of revenue and prevent the proliferation of the black market. In addition, customs services will contribute to the protection of public health and safety and ensure the control of hazardous goods, UNMIK said.

Head of UN in Kosovo condemns attack on Serb cathedral in Pristina, appeals for end to violence.

AUGUST 1 -- Condemning the recent bombing of a Serbian Orthodox cathedral in Pristina as unacceptable, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Dr. Bernard Kouchner appealed today for an end to the cycle of violence and revenge.

Dr. Kouchner visited the cathedral on Sunday morning where a bomb had exploded the night before, causing structural damage to the cathedral and shaking buildings in central Pristina.

Also on Sunday, Dr. Kouchner, who heads the UN Interim Administrative Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), met with visiting Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair, at UNMIK's headquarters in Pristina.

Dr. Kouchner and Mr. Blair later met with commanders of KFOR, the international security force in Kosovo, and representatives of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), to review progress in efforts to demilitarize the KLA.

On Saturday, Dr. Kouchner met with Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), who had just returned to Kosovo.

During the meeting, joined by other LDK members, the two men reviewed the situation in Kosovo and discussed the LDK participation in the Kosovo Transitional Council. The Transitional Council is open to all groups in Kosovo and will serve as the highest political body in the province.

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