UN mission urges calm on fifth anniversary of NATOs intervention in Kosovo

UNMIK and the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) said that while the people of Kosovo “should be able to express themselves freely and openly,” UNMIK Police and KFOR cannot “accept actions which incite violence.”The top UN envoy to the province has also issued an open letter to Kosovars, saying the five-year anniversary should be used to mark a new beginning after last week’s deadly violence.Harri Holkeri, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, called on the people of Kosovo to play their part individually to make sure that the events do not re-occur.Some 28 people were killed and hundreds injured after violence erupted across the province following the drowning of three ethnic Albanian children in the town of Cabra. At least 30 religious sites, mostly churches, were destroyed and more than 300 homes were burnt.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 3,200 people – mostly ethnic Serbs and Roma – fled their homes because of the attacks.A UNHCR spokesman said the agency had distributed mattresses, blankets, jerry cans and food supplies to the evacuees, who are either living with host families or staying temporarily at KFOR bases.Mr. Holkeri visited the towns of Obilic and Gracanica today to inspect the damage caused in the rioting, and also met with Bishop Artemije, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovo.The envoy said the province had experienced “ethnically motivated violence” that may have started spontaneously but was orchestrated by extremist elements.Mr. Holkeri added he would seek international help to re-build churches and other religious sites damaged during the violence.His deputy, Charles Brayshaw, travelled to Prizren to inspect homes and religious sites damaged in that town and to talk to some of the people who had to flee their homes last week.The head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has also condemned the violence, particularly the damage to Kosovo’s cultural and religious heritage.Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, said it is not just the monuments but “a memory and cultural identity that are being destroyed.” read more

Iraq Annan calls for peaceful referendum vote to let peoples voice be

“In particular, I urge those who themselves refuse to participate in the political process not to deprive others of their right to do so, free from fear and intimidation,” he declared in a message to the Iraqi people marking the country’s National Constitution Day.”You will have the opportunity to exercise your democratic right to accept or reject the draft text that is submitted to you. For the second time in less than a year, the future is in your hands,” he added in reference to this January’s national elections.”Today is dedicated to peaceful debate and reflection on the merits of this document, so that you can make an informed decision on referendum day,” he said, calling Saturday’s referendum a “keystone” in the transition to democracy.”This is the time to keep the guns quiet on all sides and to let the voices of the Iraqi people be heard,” he added. “At this critical moment in Iraq’s history, every vote counts.”The Secretary-General pledged that “whatever the outcome,” the United Nations would continue to support the Iraqi people in building a stable, unified and prosperous country.On the ground in Iraq, the UN has helped print 3.2 million copies of the Constitution, in Arabic, Kurdish and Turkmen. The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) is calling on all citizens to read, discuss and debate the constitution.”The goal of all these activities is to get Iraqis to participate in shaping their country’s future by appealing to their sense of citizenship,” the head of the UN’s Constitutional Support team, Nicholas Haysom, said in Baghdad today. “We are hoping that the UN’s assistance will help Iraqis make an informed decision about their Constitution.”Several UN agencies along with the UN Electoral Assistance Division and Department of Political Affairs have been involved in assisting Iraqis to disseminate information about the constitution, explain the referendum process and encourage widespread participation in the referendum.The Division has supported the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq to produce and distribute educational materials such as posters and pamphlets and public service advertisements have been broadcast on 13 Iraqi television stations and printed in 7 major newspapers. read more