THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Aviano, Italy) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 23, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SAMUEL "SANDY" BERGER AND UNMIK PRINCIPAL DEPUTY SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL, JOCK COVEY Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo
12:25 P.M. (L)
MR. LOCKHART: Okay, everybody, let me just bring you up to date on where we are. The pool is running a little bit late, they should be up here soon. If they get delayed any further I may grab some of you and form an ad-hoc pool, just so we keep everything covered.
What we're going to do now is -- Sandy Berger, the President's National Security Advisor is here, along with Jock Covey, who is the Principal Deputy to the Special Representative of UNMIK. They can give you a readout of the two meetings this morning, as well as answer any other questions you may have. This is being recorded in Aviano, so we will have a transcript, but it will take a little while to get it back here. Okay? Thank you.
MR. BERGER: I want you to know that Joe has been given authority by the President of the United States to designate an ad-hoc pool without any further legal recourse. (Laughter.)
We had two very interesting meetings this morning, and I will try to walk through them with you. One was a meeting with the U.N. Special Representative, Bernard Kouchner; his principal deputy, Mr. Covey, is here and I'd like him, when I get done, to talk not so much about what the exchange was at the meeting, but generally his view of what's happening here and obviously the best source of information.
I will go through this more or less as it was presented. Mr. Kouchner began by obviously saying how pleased he was the President had come here. He wanted to give him a report -- and I should say, throughout his report, he was quite candid both with respect to what's been done and in respect to what needs to be done.
On the power issue he said that they're now producing more power in Kosovo than was the case before the war. He said, you have to remember we started from minus-20, not even from zero, and first we had to get back to zero. That's not an energy measurement, it was I think a general statement about the task here. But he said that by -- I think you can check with Mr. Covey -- by mid-December the hope is to have most of the power situation in place. Although, as I say, it's far better than it was before the war.
He said UNMIK's presence, now, is in 29 municipalities; still needed more personnel to fill out and deepen presence in many places. UNMIK has promulgated 23 laws involving a banking system, involving investment. He said the first bank would be opening -- I think he said the first Saturday in December, or the first Saturday before December.
With respect to law and order, he said that 60 percent of the country is under civilian police. There are 1,700 international police. The goal is to have 5,000 international police. And he said it's very important that we try to accelerate the deployment of the international police.
But he did indicate that -- and showed us some charts indicating that the violence rate, the crime rate, has decreased -- although, it obviously still is too high. He said that there were 114 homicides a week at the beginning, right after UNMIK arrived, right after the Kosovars came back. That was down to about seven last week, which is lower than 32, which was the week before.
On the judiciary, 59 judges named --
Q -- murders?
MR. BERGER: I think he was referring to all homicides. Some are common crime; some may have revenge motivations. Is that right?
MR. BERGER: There were 114 a week when UNMIK arrived. It's down to seven, roughly seven, a week in the last week.
He said there have been 59 judges that he has appointed. There is the issue of what law is to be applied, the old Serbian law. He said it's like asking the blacks in South Africa to apply the apartheid law. They will not, obviously, tolerate that, so there's been an issue of what law to apply going back, and a resolution here is to go back to the pre-'89 law -- that is when Kosovo had autonomy.
On winterization, he said it's about 70 percent complete -- complete, I guess, meaning kits that will winterize homes -- Jock can amplify -- some people in community shelters. But he said while it will not be an easy winter, it will certainly be better than last year, as the President said in his remarks, and hopefully there would not be people who would be freezing.
He said, on the money, that is, on the international money, there have been the humanitarian money, which is the first money that was committed in June and July, has been distributed; it has provided the money for winterization of homes, for food, for relocation of the refugees. Now we're moving into a new phase of reconstruction. With the $1 billion that was pledged last week in the donors' conference, the money that's been committed or expended in Kosovo will be $3.2 billion so far. But there is now a need to shift to not only project money, Mr. Kouchner said, but also money that essentially is administrative money and enables them to take salaries for the police, salaries for the teachers. A teacher can make more money driving an UNMIK car than teaching in the schools. And there's an important need to allocate more of the money, have the authority to allocate more of the money to administrative costs.
The schools have been reopened, they're now teaching children in their own language for the first time in 10 years. There are about 200 schools, he indicated, which still need repairs. On public services, I guess I'll let my colleague discuss that.
The television is now broadcasting three hours a day. He said that -- General Reinhardt then said on the ordnance and de-mining, I believe he said 4,700 sites have been cleared -- is that right? And that, in fact, essentially all of the main transit points have been cleared.
There is still a mining problem for people who wander off into uncharted fields, but they've been able to, they've felt, do a quite good job, because most of the mining areas, most of the mines were located in combat, in fighting areas, and they had fairly good information. So the mining problem has not been solved, in the sense that there are pockets of areas out beyond the thoroughfares. But if people stay in the main thoroughfares, there's not a problem.
He said in local administration, one of the biggest challenges that he is trying and my colleague is trying, to essentially have a co-administration with the Kosovar people; and that there had been some resistance from New York, from the U.N., to this kind of empowerment of local citizen,s as opposed to simply U.N. operations. And there is also, obviously, the task of building that at the local level, but he saw that as one of the important challenges going forward.
On the Kosovo police, the indigenous police force is being trained. He said the first graduating class has graduated, another 200 begin next week. The first class had just a few Serbs; the next class will have more Serbs, but they need more police. And that was a problem that he came back to several times, the need for more police.
The Kosovar Protection Corps, which as you know is the conversion from the Kosovar Liberation Army, he said that that was going -- General Reinhardt felt that was going very well. But, again, this is another place where money was needed for salaries, as opposed to project money, which is easier to raise. The Kosovar Protection Corps is rebuilding houses, they're engaged in de-mining. He hoped that some of the countries like France had just invited a bunch of these folks to come for training in France. He urged the President to have other countries do that. He thought the transition was quite smooth.
But he said the frustration that is felt by many people, the frustration simply not being paid -- the local economy is not -- other than the self-sufficient economy, is not up and running and people -- for example, miners have not been paid. And what they need most again is quick disbursing money for administrative expenses. And the President promised he'd go back and work on this problem. It's a problem partly of the U.N. and partly of the donor countries.
And then, again, security -- I think Mr. Kouchner or General Reinhardt said the country is now certainly more secure than it was under Mr. Milosevic.
We then met with the Kosovar Transitional Council. This is a group that has been formed by Mr. Kouchner, my colleague, with both Serb and Kosovars included -- there are two Serbs present of about, I think, 11 -- Bishop Artimije and Mr. Trajkovic.
The President started out by saying that he appreciated this opportunity, and he appreciated seeing them all together. He wanted to know what their continuing difficulties were. He said he understood that the violence had dropped, but it was still too high, and there was still too much focus on ethnic differences. He said to them, the Serbs deserve the same chance to live in peace as you sought when you were here, the Albanians, and that we fought for you to have. That's a quote from the President.
He said, I understand there are differences among you, but it's imperative that you join in a partnership with each other, and with the U.N. -- with UNMIK. He said, NATO became involved; I pushed NATO to become involved not so that we would make decisions for you, but so that you would be able to make decisions for yourself. And that's why it's important that you give vitality to this transitional council, and to local administration. He was grateful for their efforts to put their lives back together, but they need partnership.
Then he heard -- it sort of went around the table -- Mr. Surroi said he was very honored to meet the President. He met him before in the White House. He said, you promised that Bosnia would not be repeated. We met Mr. Surroi -- when was that, do you remember? May '98? Thank you. We met Mr. Surroi in '98. He said, the President promised to them that Bosnia would not be repeated in Kosovo, and you've kept that promise. He said, the responsibility now falls on us.
Three challenges he identified: crisis administration, is how we make this transition to democracy. Kouchner needs all the support, and an adequate budget. We need to create a consensus on the way to Kosovar-ize the U.N. administration. And eventually we need to deal with the status issues. But he said he thought it was right not to try to deal with them now. And he urged the President to have the same energy in building the peace as the United States had -- the same energy and urgency as the United States had in prosecuting the war.
Bishop Artimije noted that he had met the President in Sarajevo during the first Stability Pact conference in July. He spoke about the difficulties being faced by the Serbs. He said that freedom has not been returned for the Serbs, that there still continue to be Serbs being killed, continue to be Serbs being kidnapped. Eighty churches had been destroyed. And he valued the efforts of KFOR and UNMIK, but he said that we needed to see even more results.
Mr. Rugova -- Ibrichim, is his first name -- he's met with the President several times in the White House, met with myself, Secretary Albright. He said, welcome to a free Kosovo, Mr. President, this is an historic event for us. This is happening, thanks to God and thanks to the United States.
Let's see, wait a minute --
Q -- in that order?
MR. BERGER: He said in that order, yes -- I think that's only appropriate. Now, I'm going to have to get my cards together here for a second. Why don't you pick up from here until I get myself back organized.
AMBASSADOR HILL: Dr. Rugova continued by saying our duty now is to build a peace and to create a better future for ourselves in this postwar period. The security is much better, there are incidents, but I want to assure you that there is no organized campaign against any ethnic communities. He noted that some Serbs had left and said that they very much want to see Serbs return.
He said that they will need to begin the rebuilding process, and they will continue to do that and will work to establish a multiethnic society.
The next person to speak was Hashim Thaci. He said many of the same things that Dr. Rugova said. He very warmly thanked the President, especially his role and the role of the United States generally. He talked about how we are moving ahead and working with KFOR and UNMIK.
MR. BERGER: He said that in some ways, the fact that our people came back very soon created additional problems, particularly in terms of getting their housing, but he felt they were making progress on this. He said that the KLA had complied and had reached an agreement on demilitarization, which had achieved success, and he was committed to the transformation of the KLA to the KPC, the Kosovar Protection Corps, and also the formation of a political party.
He said in response to something the President said about the need for -- in his earlier remarks, about the need for clarity with respect to not seeking vengeance. He said that we -- and speaking out against violence, he said that they had put out statements on multiethnic tolerance. They are not happy with the incidents of violence. He believed that a Kosovar police force, once it was fully operational, the local police force, will help stabilize the situation -- we cannot allow anarchy to rule, which is a bit of an oxymoron, but it's interesting.
And the President said, I have a practical question: Bishop Artimije had said -- a number of churches that were burned, he said, if we can get the money to rebuild these churches, will you assure me, all of you, how can you assure me they won't be destroyed again. And Mr. Rugova said he would guarantee that no one will touch them. Thaci said, it's important that we have a tolerant atmosphere and that he believed that many of the churches that had been built had been newer churches built during the Milosevic age, that that was wrong, but they were not the -- they're not the older churches, but even so, they needed to be protected. and General REINHARDT passed me a note saying that all of the Serb churches now and religious sites are being protected by KFOR.
Mr. Kosja, an Albanian intellectual, spoke; then, the Serb, Mr. Trajkovic. He said, we have been working even before. He was certainly no supporter, notwithstanding being a Serb leader here, was not a supporter of Milosevic there. He said that they had been working for democracy in Kosovo for many years, but now it was difficult for the Serb people, and he said that the violence and harassment of Serbs only helps Milosevic.
The President then spoke again, said I want the refugees -- he asked the Serbs whether they will come back and stay in the transitional council -- they've been back and forth -- that they needed to be inside, engaged with one community to another. It's not just, by the way, Serbs and Albanians. There's a Turkish community here. There's a Bosniac community here. They were also represented on the Council. And he said, you have to come together and work together.
Okay. I think that essentially gets it.
Q Well, what was the answer he -- he told him to come back --
MR. BERGER: I think it was unclear.
Q Sandy, what's the hassle over the $2.3 billion not being used for administrative stuff, teachers and that sort of thing?
MR. BERGER: $2.3 billion is the overall amount of money. Do you want to -- okay. Okay. Jock is going to give a briefing after. But as I understand the situation, $2.3 billion is the entire amount of money that has either been spent or committed to Kosovo, including $1 billion that was committed last week for next year.
The first wave of money was humanitarian -- get the refugees back, get them fed, get the winterization. That, I think, is going along pretty rapidly. What he's saying is, now we've got to shift, and not only have money from that $2.3 billion that goes into projects -- rebuilding the water system, rebuilding a new electrical system, getting their factory going. But there had to be money for administrative costs, so you could pay teachers and pay policemen and others. And he was seeking a greater degree of flexibility in terms of how the money is allocated. But Mr. Covey can give you a more precise answer.
Q Sandy, do you think now in Bosnia, it appears in many regions the only thing that keeps the Muslims and the Serbs living apart and in peace is the stabilization force there. Do you get a sense that we're in this for a period of years as opposed to months?
MR. BERGER: Well, first of all, I don't think that's an accurate statement about Bosnia. And I would point out Mr. Covey also is the Deputy high Rep in Bosnia, so can ask him about Bosnia, as well.
The fact is, a lot of refugees have not gone back to Bosnia. They were out of the country for four or five years. But the number of minority refugees going back -- that is, Bosnians to Serb areas, Serbs to Bosnian areas -- is actually increasing, and reached, in the first six months of this year, the highest level that it has been so far. So I don't think that it is quite as black and white as you point out.
In terms of how long we'll be here, well, I think you have to separate out KFOR and the international community. I mean, the international community generally should be involved for the long term, in terms of having to rebuild KFOR. But I can imagine the need for 40,000 soldiers here -- of which we're about 6,000 -- to ramp down over time as the security situation stabilizes, and as a Kosovar police force gets stood up. And we're now putting 200 people into that system -- I don't know, how often, Jock, once a week? Every week. And you need a force of several thousand, and you need to train them.
So we've never set a deadline. We've set benchmarks, and when we meet those benchmarks, the military will be able to withdraw. But it will not be simply all at once. Just as in Bosnia we've come down dramatically, so, too, here we'll be able to come down over time.
Q Was the issue of independence brought up by the Kosovars?
MR. BERGER: No. There was no -- there was only a very, very oblique reference to status. As I said, Mr. Surroi said this is a very important issue. But he thinks it's right not to focus on it now. And it was not a central theme.
Q Did you get any figures of how many Serbs are left in Kosovo?
MR. BERGER: Why don't you ask my Jock.
Q Sandy, did you pick up any tension between Thaci and Rugova? Did they talk at all about the relationship between the military and the political?
MR. BERGER: Well, they sat next to each other. I certainly didn't get any sense of tension between the two of them. On the other hand, they weren't holding hands. I mean, they obviously have different -- come from different experiences and have different political support. But they were certainly working together in the context of this meeting.
Q Sandy, Iran says today that the United -- that they turned down a United States request to have diplomats stationed in the interest section in Teheran. Have we made such a request?
MR. BERGER: No.
Q What was the question? (Laughter.)
MR. BERGER: That we station diplomats in Teheran.
Q Have we made them such -- for anything -- is there anything close to that?
MR. BERGER: We've not made any -- we are represented in Teheran through the Swiss.
Q Sandy, the President got a lot of applause this morning, except when he said that the Kosovars must forgive the Serbs. What did you make of that?
MR. BERGER: Well, I guess -- my honest answer, I made two things of it. I think there is -- there's obviously some receptivity -- I think receptivity to a message of tolerance from the President, and non-vengeance that the President was giving at that school. Don't forget, most Kosovars want to get on with their lives, and they've seen what happens from this violence. And I think to hear that from the President was important.
I also think that there was obviously a great deal of admiration and respect for the President in that room, and in Kosovo. And I think part of that was respect for him. But I do think -- I was pleased that there was a kind of a positive reaction to that message. He certainly conveyed the same message to the leaders in very, I thought, stark terms.
MR. LEAVY: All right, thanks guys. Thank you. We'll have Jock brief after the speech, so in about a half-hour, we'll put my colleague back on.
MR. BERGER: Covey is great. Come back.
Q Did you ever ask the President about the Elgin marbles and raise it with Tony Blair?
MR. BERGER: Before we land, I'll have an answer to that question. The answer is no, I have not asked him.
Q Does the President have --
MR. BERGER: Not as of now. If he's asked -- no, but I wouldn't be surprised at some point if he does it.
Q -- called him, as far as you know?
MR. BERGER: Not as far as I know.
MR. LEAVY: We're going to start Jock now --
MR. HAMMER: Jock Covey is the Deputy to Kouchner here at UNMIK.
MR. COVEY: Okay. The news for us today is that today is the day that the first power plant in Kosovo B comes on line. This may sound mundane, but it's something of a metaphor for what we do. Bear in mind that even with our rickety capacity that everybody complains about, right now we are presently generating more electricity in Kosovo than Kosovo generated itself at this time last year when it pretended to be a functioning entity.
When Kosovo B comes on line today, it will almost triple the amount of electricity that Kosovo has generated for the last few years. This is part of a long campaign. Let me take a minute on it, because this is the way we do our work.
When we arrived here, KFOR and UNMIK, there was nothing functioning -- no utilities, no power. The infrastructure we found had been savagely exploited by the Belgrade regime, cannibalized and big chunks of it had been ripped off by the departing troops. The generators were down and they were physically unsafe. The workers were afraid to fire them up for fear the turbines would disintegrate and explode like a bomb.
We patched together that equipment, we patched together a work force from Kosovars who had been fired from these jobs five and 10 years ago, got the equipment going at one of the complexes -- the so-called "A complex" -- it's five different turbines. But "patched" is the right word.
Let me tell you how tough this is. The mean time to failure for the Kosovo power plants at Complex A is six days. You fire it up, you get the turbine running, it runs for maybe six days before something shuts it down. These things were grossly mistreated in the last decade, and the big generators in the B complex are much the same.
Okay, we pick this up in a minute -- in 30 minutes. Okay.
END 12:55 P.M. (L)