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In Balkans, Annan stresses importance of multi-ethnic Kosovo

In Balkans, Annan stresses importance of multi-ethnic Kosovo

Mr. Annan, wife Nane & SRSG visit Gornji Makres
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrapped up his visit to Kosovo today before heading on to Belgrade for meetings with senior Yugoslav officials, including President Vojislav Kostunica.

The Secretary-General started his day in the northern town of Mitrovica, including the predominantly Serb northern section, where the UN runs a police academy, according to a UN spokesperson in New York.

The Secretary-General was briefed on the training programme there and afterwards, in comments to the press, said, "We have been discussing and reviewing developments which are of key-importance to all of you citizens," including the rule of law and police, and protection of individual property human rights. "That is what our police service and the rule of law we are trying to establish are intended to do."

Mr. Annan and his wife, Nane, then travelled by helicopter to a pair of villages - one Serb and one Albanian - near the Serbian border. While in a schoolyard in Gornji Makres, he was greeted by children, who offered him traditional bread in welcome, as well as by village leaders.

At a press encounter later, the Secretary-General said it was good to see a village where the residents realize they have to live together and put the past behind them. "I think a multi-ethnic Kosovo is what we have all been working on," he said.

Asked about Iraqi activity in the "no-fly" zones, the Secretary-General responded, "I don't think that the [Security] Council will say that it is in contravention of the resolution which was recently passed."

Mr. Annan also spoke to the press as he left Pristina, saying that he had "a brief but full visit" to Kosovo, and that he sees the UN Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK) there as a success, with the province having "come a long way" since he visited two years ago.

He also stressed the importance of the rule of law in Kosovo, adding, "The incidents of last weekend, where bombs were thrown in the churches, is not anything anyone can condone." Two Serbian churches suffered damages in those attacks.

Late yesterday, Mr. and Mrs. Annan met with relatives of missing persons, who had been demonstrating silently outside the UN headquarters in Pristina. He told them that the issue of missing persons was an important one that he would raise with Yugoslav President Kostunica. "We share your need to know," he told them.