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Annan in Kosovo after wrapping up trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Annan in Kosovo after wrapping up trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mr. Annan & wife greeted by SRSG Michael Steiner
Continuing his trip to the Balkans region, Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived in Kosovo today for talks with senior officials from the province and the United Nations.

According to a UN spokesperson in New York, the Secretary-General was briefed by his Special Representative for Kosovo, Michael Steiner, and afterward spoke to the staff of the UN Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK). In the afternoon, Mr. Annan met with President Ibrahim Rugova, Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi and other senior officials.

Earlier today, the Secretary-General wrapped up his official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, meeting with the three members of the Bosnian Presidency: Mirko Sarovic, Dragan Covic and Sulejman Tihic.

During their talks, the Secretary-General welcomed the leaders' common resolve to introduce a series of reforms to bring the country into compliance with European economic and social standards as a prelude for applying to membership in the European Union, spokesperson Hua Jiang told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.

"He urged them to continue these efforts after the UN mission ends its work in Bosnia next month and to work with its neighbours to fight terrorism, human trafficking and organized crime, and he also pledged continued UN support to improve the economy and strengthen the rule of law," Ms. Jiang said.

During a subsequent meeting with the Council of Ministers, Mr. Annan reiterated his offer of UN support for Bosnian reforms. According to Ms. Jiang, he told Council members that, speaking from experience as a reformer, he knew that process would take time. He also suggested that the Government consider demilitarizing the country, as Costa Rica has done, to reduce military spending and free up resources.

Speaking to the press after the meeting, the Secretary-General said that rebuilding is more than bricks and mortar. “We need to reconcile, we need to seek justice, we need to ensure that the returnees are reintegrated peacefully,” he said.

Before leaving Sarajevo, the Secretary-General met with three representatives of the Mothers of Srebrenica, who lost their children during the 1995 massacre there, and told them he could barely imagine the pain they had experienced.

The Secretary-General had arrived in Sarajevo yesterday, and had a working lunch with the heads of the principal international organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the UN, the Office of the High Representative, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the NATO-led stabilization force (SFOR).

Afterwards, he dedicated a monument to UN personnel who lost their lives in the former Yugoslavia. "This memorial will serve to reinforce our own determination - as peacekeepers, citizens and members of the human family - to build better lives for succeeding generations," he said of the monument, which stands outside the UN headquarters in Sarajevo.

The Secretary-General then met with UN staff and the heads of UN agencies. Later he attended a concert at the National Theatre, which is to receive a €50,000 (euro) contribution by the UN Trust Fund to help preserve the building.

While in Sarajevo, Mrs. Annan had a programme of her own, Ms. Jiang said. Today she visited an inclusive kindergarten for Roma children, supported by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and on Sunday, she witnessed an interactive presentation by and for young people on avoiding the dangers of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.