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Kosovo Report: September 16, 1999

16 September 1999, Number 39, Volume 1

UN INTERVIEWS CANDIDATES FOR KOSOVO CORPS. The UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) on 15 September began interviewing applicants for positions in the Kosovo Corps, a UN spokeswoman told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Prishtina. The IOM has so far registered over 10,700 applicants, most of them former Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) fighters. The Kosovo Corps will have a staff of 5,000, including 2,000 reservists. KFOR spokesman Ole Irgens said the corps will not be a military or defense force, nor will it be in charge of implementing the law or maintaining public order and security.

KFOR GENERAL SAYS KOSOVO IS DEVELOPING 'VERY WELL.' Major-General Pierre Giuseppe Giovanetti, who is the deputy head of KFOR, told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Tirana on 15 September that "the general situation in Kosovo is going very well. Going very well means that the level of incidents have decreased [considerably]. We are sure that we [will see] a big improvement in the near future." Giovanetti added that KFOR expects the UCK to meet its demilitarization deadline of 19 September. Referring to recent threats by Yugoslav Army General Vladimir Lazarevic to retake Kosovo by force, Giovanetti said the Yugoslav Army is "not a threat to NATO" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 September 1999). He explained that the June military-technical agreement between NATO and the Yugoslav authorities envisages the return of several hundred Serbian police to Kosovo, but he pointed out that this is not going to happen until "the atmosphere permits."

KFOR DISCOVER WEAPONS CACHES. A KFOR official said in Prishtina on 15 September that the peacekeeping troops raided homes in various regions of Kosovo that day and confiscated arms, explosives, and ammunition, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. U.S. soldiers arrested three Serbs near Gjilan, who were in possession of "large amounts" of weapons. In Shtrpce, Polish soldiers arrested another Serb in possession of arms and a Serbian paramilitary police uniform. Meanwhile, "The Daily Telegraph" on 16 September quoted an unnamed high-ranking NATO official as saying that UCK commanders are seeking ways of keeping some of the organization intact and are "squirreling away" some of its guns.

BRITISH RAILWAY WORKERS SEND HUMANITARIAN TRAIN TO KOSOVO. The Train of Events charity, a group of still active and retired British railway workers, have loaded a train with humanitarian aid for Kosovo. Representatives of the organization told Reuters on 15 September that it will be "the first time" that a train runs directly from Britain to the former Yugoslavia. The "Train for Life" is scheduled to leave Britain on 17 September. It will carry 800 tons of aid, including supplies to equip a school. The train's three locomotives will be donated to the UN Mission in Kosovo to help deliver winter housing materials.

REFUGEES FROM PRESEVO LAUNCH HUNGER STRIKE IN MACEDONIA. Ethnic Albanian refugees from the Serbian town of Presevo recently began a hunger strike in the refugee camp of Cegrane, near Gostivar, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported on 15 September. The refugees demand that either they transferred to third countries while the UNHCR prepares their return to Presevo or the UNHCR opens a refugee camp for them in Kosovo. UNHCR spokesman Bujar Idrizi said "the UNHCR cannot organize their return to...Presevo, because it cannot guarantee their security there." On 14 September, the Macedonian government ruled that residency permits of all refugees will expire on 28 September. Idrizi, however, said that "the UNHCR will negotiate with the Macedonian government [and demand] that all refugees who cannot return now to their homes will have their residency rights extended."

KOUCHNER IN MOSCOW. Bernard Kouchner told Reuters that at a meeting in Moscow on 15 September, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov "did not mention Russian troops leaving KFOR. On the contrary, he reiterated his support for the operation." Ivanov dismissed earlier warnings by a senior Russian Defense Ministry official that Russia would pull out of KFOR. The official had claimed that the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) would not meet its demilitarization deadline (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 September 1999). Kouchner said: "I hope the man from the Defense Ministry is mistaken and that the disarmament...will be effective as of 19 September."

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that "despite the extremely difficult nature of regulating the situation [in Kosovo], it is possible to move ahead with a political solution." Ivanov said that Kouchner can count on "full cooperation with Russia," AP reported.

Kouchner said that he has convinced Russian officials, as well as the UN Security Council, that the German mark should be adopted as Kosovo's currency, AP reported. He said: "The money that is coming into [Kosovo] is the money of those Kosovars who are working in Germany, Switzerland, America, and other countries. And it is primarily in German marks," according to ITAR-TASS.