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Yugoslavia: Kostunica Speaks On Presevo, War Crimes At Davos

  • Breffni O'Rourke

Davos, 29 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica today expressed deepening concern at the situation in the southern Presevo Valley, saying the security situation there is deteriorating.

Speaking to journalists attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kostunica said more Yugoslav soldiers and police are being killed in the valley, where ethnic Albanian guerrillas have become active in recent months. He said:

"We are very deeply concerned about the situation there. We have been following [it]. I must frankly say that it is worse than it was before. Regardless of all the measures that have been taken by Yugoslav and Serbian authorities, politicians, military and police commanders."

He said he realized that KFOR peace troops had taken steps to deal with the situation, but there was still a problem. He said Belgrade would try to intensify its diplomatic and political efforts, within its international obligations. He described the policy of his government as to favors all diplomatic means to solve the problem, plus readiness for dialogue with the ethnic Albanians.

Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic yesterday demanded that the UN Security Council hold an urgent session on the increased violence in the demilitarized zone in southern Serbia.

The demand came after a Yugoslav army soldier died from wounds he received when ethnic Albanians opened fire on a Yugoslav army position outside the demilitarized zone.

Kostunica today told reporters that he had held thoughtful talks at Davos with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the Presevo situation. They had talked about the agreed deployment of European Union monitors in the area, but Kostunica said he did not feel that went far enough:

"We are in need of some more radical solutions and those more radical solutions are not by using violence and force, but by shrinking the safety ground (buffer) zone."

He said the size of the present buffer zone -- about 5 kilometers wide -- between Serbia proper and Kosovo allowed the guerrillas to move around too freely.

Asked about Yugoslav cooperation with the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Kostunica said his country must cooperate with the court. He called it a "life and death" matter in that the survival of the state and people depended on cooperation.

But he said that does not mean such cooperation need be total. He reiterated doubts about the impartiality of the tribunal, and the legality of its methods, and he described it as a politically oriented organization.

However, he also called "political" the Belgrade trials of western NATO leaders for war crimes, following the NATO bombing campaign in the Kosovo conflict. Those trials were held before the Kostunica government came to power.

Returning to the theme of the tribunal, he spoke of step-by-step cooperation and said the recent visit to Belgrade by chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte as, in itself, an example of that cooperation. Asked about why Del Ponte had sharply criticized the visit, he said:

"Expectations should be based on reality. When expectations are not based on reality, one moment, sooner or later, one gets into trouble. And I think that Ms. Carla Del Ponte had that problem -- had expectations or a picture of the realities of Serbia and the way the Hague tribunal works -- they are not real. They are not objective. And when she faced some of the problems in the dialogue that she had with our authorities, she realized that."

Asked whether the authorities were making efforts to pursue two former Bosnian-Serb leaders accused of war crimes, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, he said his government is concerned to find them, if they are in Yugoslavia, but he reminded journalists that his government is newly in power and has other urgent priorities to worry about.

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