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DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OF OFFICE OF SECRETARY-GENERAL

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

10 September 1999

At a Headquarters press briefing this afternoon, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), Bernard Kouchner, said the United Nations operation in the territory was, to his knowledge, “the quickest and fastest” mission the Organization had mounted since its inception.

Despite press criticism of delays, progress was being made in providing for the needs of all the people of Kosovo. Mr. Kouchner met the press after briefing the Security Council in the morning. He said the Secretary-General had also been present and had answered questions from Council members. He had welcomed the support from the Council.

He said 42 judges and prosecutors had been named. By comparison, in Bosnia, after five years, there remained a big area without courts or judges. Appointments to the judiciary had been made in two months in Kosovo, except one area which would be filled next week. As in all fields in the province, he said the appointees were a mix of Serbs and Albanians.

In the field of education, 400 schools with 100,000 children had been opened, although they were officially scheduled to start in October. Classes had begun in some schools because of the months lost. It had not been an easy situation. In the local university, classes were being run alternately for Serbs and Albanians.

Public utilities were being re-established. Garbage collection had just begun all over Pristina, after five months. Post and telecommunications were also being re-established, the process would take months to complete. The Mission hoped to be able to establish by satellite three to four streams of television hours daily before the end of September. Already three to four hour broadcasts were being provided daily in Pristina.

But they still did not have enough access to the Kosovars. It was easier to talk to television channels of the world than to explain the United Nations Mission to the Kosovars. “Just less than five kilometers from Pristina, there is no electricity, no phone, no television, no radio”, he said.

Noting that it had been difficult to recruit police officers, he said 1,000 had now been engaged, with more than 450 deployed in Pristina. The Mission hoped, by the end of the week, to take over full responsibility for police functions, including arrests and prosecution. The level of crimes was decreasing with the appointment of police officers. Murder, arson and looting had fallen within the past month. The Mission was now ready to provide security to all minorities. It was working on new initiatives for the Serbs, offering local protection and civil affairs in their villages.

Mr. Kouchner said it had been discovered that 97,000 Serbs still remained in Kosovo, as against an estimated 1.4 million ethnic Albanians. He said 800,000 refugees had returned. Public service employees were all being paid. There was no banking system. People were living near their destroyed homes. It would be impossible to rebuild the 50,000 destroyed homes before next spring, he said, adding that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) were all working to provide for the people during the coming winter.

Responding to questions, Mr. Kouchner said it could take up to a year for elections to be organized. He said local elections could be organized in the spring and he appealed for more staff to help in a future registration of voters for such elections.

He also told a correspondent that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led security force in Kosovo (KFOR) mission had estimated that there were 130,000 Serb refugees from Kosovo in Serbia. A total of 30,000 others were in the northern part of Serbia. Mr. Kouchner also said that 97,000 Serbs still remained in Kosovo. The UNHCR was organizing support for those Serb refugees, he said, adding that he hoped they would return some day. It would be very difficult to ensure their security, he said.

He also said, in response to further questions, that mass graves were being discovered practically every week, and that it should be remembered that the suffering was very fresh.

The Mission was doing all it could to provide for the people quickly with the approach of winter. The social welfare system was being rebuilt. The Mission had to be effective.

He told a questioner that most of the refugees were returning to Kosovo, including from European countries, by flights under the auspices of the International Migration Organization. Some refugees had remained in Montenegro and very few in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Some Serbs were still leaving the province because of lack of security, and that was why the United Nations mission was doing all it could to recruit more international police. Six thousand and not 3,000 were needed, he said.

By the end of the week, international police officers would be responsible for security in Pristina, he said. He also said that a Kosovo police academy had opened with 200 people, of which 23 were Serbs. Two of the Serbs had been accused of “bad treatment” and new ones had to be recruited. The spirit of revenge had to be broken, he stressed.

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