Visiting Kosovo today, United States President George W. Bush endorsed the efforts of the United Nations mission in the province to prepare Kosovars for taking on greater responsibility in "running their own affairs."
During a 40-minute meeting with Hans Haekkerup, the head of the UN Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK), President Bush was briefed on preparations for elections and plans for self-governing institutions to be established after the elections. According to UNMIK, President Bush was eager to know Mr. Haekkerup's ideas on when the international community would be able to reduce its presence in Kosovo.
Mr. Haekkerup underscored that a strong police and judiciary were essential to building democracy and self-government in Kosovo and that by the year 2002 the Kosovo Police Service would number 6,000. He noted, however, that ultimately a police force should total 8,000 to 10,000 - a goal which would require outside support.
Inquiring about efforts by UNMIK and KFOR, the international force in Kosovo, to contain extremism and prevent the export of violence into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, President Bush urged UNMIK to do its utmost to deter and detain extremists. He also expressed interest in UNMIK's efforts to combat organized crime.
Mr. Haekkerup expressed his gratitude for the presence and activities of US troops in Kosovo, and said UNMIK was doing its part to restrain suspected extremists in the region. He added that UNMIK, KFOR and the Kosovo Police Service were working hard to prevent cross-border movement of extremists.
President Bush assured UNMIK and KFOR officials that the US troops had entered Kosovo together and would leave Kosovo together with other NATO forces based there.