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Balkan Report: November 8, 2002


8 November 2002, Volume 6, Number 41

PARTNERS FOR PEACE? The growing scandal regarding Serbian arms sales to Iraq and other unsavory clients has raised more questions than answers. But one thing seems clear: Belgrade is a long way from achieving or deserving its return to full membership in the international community.

Scarcely a day goes by without a new revelation or other development in the scandal over illegal Yugoslav and Bosnian Serb arms sales (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 1, 4, 5, and 6 November 2002 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October 2002). For several reasons, the Council of Europe has made it clear that it is unwilling to talk about Belgrade's membership in that body until May 2003 at the earliest. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic noted that his country's international standing is lower than it was one year ago, and that worse things may be yet to come.

Others are more blunt. London's "The Times" wrote on 2 November that "the revelations have enraged London and Washington...[which] consider Yugoslavia's breaches [of sanctions] so serious that [Belgrade] risks regaining the pariah status that it endured before" the fall of President Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000. In Bosnia, High Representative Paddy Ashdown warned the Bosnian Serbs that they must choose between "Brussels and Baghdad."

There are, of course, reasons for giving the Serbs the benefit of the doubt. Serbia and the Republika Srpska are geographically located at the center of the Balkans, and any attempt at creating regional stability and integration is bound to fail without bringing the Serbs on board at some point.

Some observers accordingly argue that it is better to start integrating the Serbs into Euro-Atlantic structures sooner rather than later, so that Western governments can engage Belgrade and Banja Luka and open their dealings to greater transparency. In short, advocates of this view stress that it is better to have the Serbs inside than out.

There are, however, some problems with this. Two years of engaging the current Belgrade leadership by the West has yielded few concrete results except for the extradition of former President Milosevic -- by the decision of Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and over the objections of Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica -- and an end to aggressive warfare. Carla Del Ponte, who is chief prosecutor at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, has stressed repeatedly that she receives little or no cooperation from Belgrade, and that General Ratko Mladic enjoys official protection from the Yugoslav military.

Even well-meaning attempts to placate both Serbia and the Kosovar Serbs by giving Belgrade a limited role in Kosova's affairs seem to have backfired (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 August 2002). Serbian nationalists on both sides of the border remain stubborn, as was indicated by the boycott of the 26 October local elections by the Serbs of northern Mitrovica, despite some encouragement from Belgrade for them to take part. Michael Steiner, who heads the UN's civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK), said that the Serbs who boycotted had "shot themselves in the foot" politically.

But the arms-sales scandal has raised questions going beyond the wisdom and efficacy of engaging Belgrade in Kosova. Should one believe the official Belgrade line that the arms sales were made out of ignorance of sanctions or by rogue companies out of control? Even if one accepts that October 2000 led to evolutionary rather than revolutionary change, is it too much for the international community to ask that the civilian authorities have their military-industrial complex under control? And regarding the arms sales, what did the civilian authorities know and when did they know it?

Several prominent Western commentators have argued that the scandal is just beginning, and that many surprises are in store. "Jane's Defense Weekly" already pointed out on 6 November that it was efforts from within the "antiterror coalition" that led to the Croatian seizure of the Montenegrin-owned, former Yugoslav Navy ammunition-supply ship, the "Boka Star." It carried more than 200 tons of what appears to be solid rocket fuel, probably destined for Saddam Hussein's Scud missiles.

It seems clear that Serbian arms merchants have been dealing with Libya, Burma, and Liberia as well as with Iraq, and that a variety of services as well as equipment have been provided. Yugoslavia has been "helping Baghdad upgrade aircraft, supplying rocket fuel for Iraqi Scud missiles, and transferring technology for guidance systems," "The Times" reported. Belgrade may also have helped Iraq improve its air-defense systems and provided the skills of professors and other specialists.

The motives underlying this risky business seem to be money for sure, and anti-NATO solidarity in all probability. Might Serbian arms merchants have found some additional customers willing to pay good money and seeking to harm Western interests, other than those clients already publicly identified?

If the Belgrade and Banja Luka political leaderships wish to distance themselves from the illegal arms trading in a convincing manner, they will need to get their military-industrial complex under control and make sure its international dealings meet European standards of legality and transparency. If the political leaders fail to do so, they can expect some much tougher questions from the international community. (Patrick Moore)

THE YUGOSLAV-LIBERIAN CONNECTION. UN experts have detailed another series of illegal arms shipments from Eastern Europe to an African country at war, this time tracing the source to Yugoslavia.

The findings of the UN experts, made public recently, say that a double document trail was used by arms dealers to deliver more than 200 tons of Yugoslav army stocks to the Liberian government from June through August. Liberia is under UN Security Council sanctions for contributing to unrest in West Africa.

Yugoslav authorities have not been accused of authorizing the transfers. But the UN panel of experts said arms dealers took advantage of Belgrade's weak oversight mechanisms to carry out their shipments.

Johan Peleman is the arms expert on the four-member panel and one of the world's top authorities on illicit weapons trading. He told RFE/RL in an interview that two private Yugoslav firms appear to have been involved in a scheme in which false documents were used to carry out six air shipments of Yugoslav arms from Belgrade to Monrovia.

One set of documents showed military equipment was being sold to Nigeria's Defense Ministry. Another set of documents was prepared to convince other authorities that the aircraft were shipping mining equipment to Liberia.

The Yugoslav firm Interjug AS was the freight-forwarding agent that prepared the paperwork for the flights from Yugoslavia. Peleman said Interjug refused to provide any information to the panel, and its involvement in the details of the flights placed it under suspicion. He added, "To us, it seems inexplicable that Interjug could not provide us with any documentation on these flights -- saying that they had given all the documentation to the pilots and the crew and had kept no copies of it -- plus the fact that Interjug would not have known that the real destination for these shipments was Liberia instead of Lagos [Nigeria]."

The other Yugoslav company involved was Belgrade-based Temex, which supplied the arms. The UN panel spoke with the director of Temex, Slobodan Tezic, who insisted his company was involved in a legal transaction between the Yugoslav supplier -- the army -- and the Nigerian Defense Ministry. But Temex refused to provide the panel with documents showing who had paid for the weapons, which Peleman said could have proven the company's innocence.

The panel's report said Yugoslav authorities had followed the normal procedure for the export of military equipment prior to the shipments this summer. It also notes that Yugoslav officials made an effort to obtain extra confirmation over whether Nigeria was the end-user of the military supplies as claimed. But arms brokers were able to provide falsified end-user certificates showing Nigeria was the customer.

Peleman said countries like Yugoslavia need to exercise more vigorous oversight on arms shipments. "We think it's a little weak under internationally accepted standards to just go for a standard paper procedure -- end-user certificate -- but as such we don't see it as involvement in illicit arms trafficking as it were. We're not saying that Yugoslav authorities were aware of the diversions."

Peleman also said authorities in Belgrade need to be more aware of arms moratoriums as well as embargoes. Yugoslav officials, the panel found, did not know of the existence of the moratorium on small arms declared by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which includes Nigeria. He said, "We were surprised to see that [neither] Yugoslav authorities nor the company [Temex] seemed to know that there was any such thing as a moratorium, and that a client state, under terms of the moratorium, has to report to the ECOWAS secretariat to ask for a waiver to import arms."

Peleman said Yugoslav authorities should follow the example of Bulgaria, which toughened arms-export procedures after being named by a different UN panel two years ago as a source of illegal arms sent to Angola.

Since then, UN panels monitoring arms embargoes in Angola, Sierra Leone, and Liberia have repeatedly found an Eastern European source for many of the small weapons trafficked to the continent.

Many of the aircraft and crew of planes transporting arms to Africa originate in former Soviet countries, where there is a large pool of aging aircraft that can be operated more cheaply than Western-produced planes. The plane used in four of the illicit Liberian shipments this summer was an Ilyushin-76, based in Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine, and its crew was Ukrainian. A Ukrainian company, Aerotech, issued flight authorization requests on the same day in June for Ilyushin flights to both Monrovia and Lagos, Peleman said. Peleman said the panel asked Aerotech for further information on the flights but was told no documents could be provided.

Ukrainian brokers have been linked in previous UN reports to arms trafficking to Africa, but Peleman said there was not enough evidence to prove such a link in the latest report. And he said there was no sign of wrongdoing by the Ukrainian authorities. He added: "We're not suggesting that the arms originated in Ukraine or that Ukraine would have been involved in authorizations or licenses, not even for the aircraft, because it started in Belgrade. It would be too far-fetched to say there is Ukrainian involvement here. We just found a private company. The fact that the crew was Ukrainian is the Ukrainian angle."

But he noted that countries throughout the region continue to figure in reports looking into arms trafficking into Africa. The huge arms stockpiles, poor economic conditions, and loose controls in many former communist states are one part of the problem, Peleman said. This combines with the inability of most African states to monitor airspace and screen brokers, creating ideal conditions for traffickers, he said

Peleman observed that "many of these states in Central and Eastern Europe have indeed large excess stocks that can generate foreign currency for them -- badly needed foreign currency, in many cases. And I assume that, as most arms-exporting countries, they have hundreds if not thousands of arms-exports authorizations to deal with every year. [In addition,] there is a real proliferation -- this is both east and west -- of private players in the market-brokering companies, brokers whose sole interest is profit."

The UN panel's report recommends that the arms embargo on Liberia should continue and it urges the United Nations to set up a working group to draft a standardized end-user certificate showing the actual recipient of weapons and ammunition. The report was discussed for two weeks by a UN Security Council committee and will be presented to the full council in mid-November. (Robert McMahon)

WHAT ALBANIANS EXPECT FROM THE NEW MACEDONIAN GOVERNMENT. Macedonia's Albanians harbor high hopes in the new government, especially that the ministers of Democratic Union for Integration (BDI) will not repeat the mistakes Albanian politicians made in the past. But they also hope that Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski and his cabinet members from the Social Democratic Union (SDSM) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) have learned from previous experiences.

Some ethnic Albanian observers believe that the Albanian politicians have made two major mistakes in the past. The first was made by the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PPD), which participated in the government led by Crvenkovski between 1992 and 1998. The PPD ministers allowed him to exclude them from important decisions.

As a result, the Albanian electorate's image of Crvenkovski is still influenced by the memory of his previous government, as Muhamed Halili noted in "Utrinski vesnik" on 2 November. Halili is a former PPD secretary-general and deputy foreign minister.

The other mistake was made by the Democratic Party of the Albanians (PDSH), the junior coalition partner of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization -- Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) led by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski between 1998 and 2002. The PDSH's -- and the VMRO-DPMNE's -- failure was that they believed that they can govern the country by assigning certain regions and state institutions to either the PDSH or the VMRO-DPMNE.

To overcome this situation, Mersel Bilali, a publicist, recommended in the daily "Dnevnik" that "[the new] government has to overcome the provincial [Balkan] philosophy...that governing serves only for enrichment."

As a consequence of the past failures, Mahi Nesime concluded in the Albanian-language weekly "Lobi" of 14 October that someone take on a governing position only if he or she is equal to his or her nominal colleagues, has full access to all necessary information, and is able to make decisions in the general interest of the state.

In fact, the leitmotif of the new government seems to be the general interest of the state, and not the interests of a particular ethnic group, political party, or pressure group.

Deputy Prime Minister Musa Xhaferi underscored the need for close cooperation within the government. Xhaferi is in charge of questions related to the country's political system, which means that he is to coordinate the planned decentralization of power as well as the more effective integration of the Albanian minority into state institutions.

Xhaferi stressed, repeating almost exactly what Crvenkovski recently said in an interview, that the government must function as a unit -- at the level of the ministers as well as at the deputy ministers' level. "Not only the BDI, but also the other parties within the coalition have to be convinced [of this], because one part of the government cannot be successful when the other part is not," he said (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October 2002).

The deputy prime minister argued that the new government has to overcome inequality amongst the citizens from various ethnic groups once and for all. He believes that the low representation of the Albanians in state structures was one of the main reasons for their "not being loyal" to the state.

According to Xhaferi, decentralization and the better integration of the Albanians will have positive effects on the whole country. But he also stressed that the Macedonian government will need the help of the international community to achieve these goals.

As for the fight against corruption, Xhaferi again referred to methods that were successfully applied in other European countries. At the end of the interview, he said that there are plans to transform the Macedonian Army into a small professional army, which will be qualitatively capable of meeting the minimal NATO standards right from the start.

The question remains as to how the new government will achieve all these goals. After analyzing the past mistakes of Albanian politicians of both the PPD and the PDSH, Kim Mehmeti, a well-known writer, concludes that what they have in common is their lack of success.

In his contribution to the trilingual website pressonline.com.mk, Mehmeti recommends: "If the leaders of the BDI have a dilemma on how to act in the future, it may be a good start if they cling to the rule: 'Do the opposite of what the former officials from the PPD and PDSH did!' Without a doubt, this would be better than what [their predecessors] did." (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

THE FINAL PUSH BEFORE THE SLOVENIAN ELECTIONS. Alongside the billboard advertisements for snow tires and mobile phones now lining the thoroughfares of Ljubljana, political advertisements are prominent in the run-up for the 10 November elections. For those who will be away from their polling stations that day, early voting began on 5 November, the daily "Delo" reported. Although the election will also decide the makeup of local government, all eyes are on the presidential race (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 October 2002).

Several billboards feature plays on words, reflecting the Slovenian penchant for puns. For example, the incumbent mayor of Ljubljana, Vika Potocnik, is touted as the "zupanja zaupanja" (the mayor to be trusted) in her ads, in which she flashes a broad grin against the backdrop of the Ljubljanica River.

Prime Minister and presidential candidate Janez Drnovsek appears with a tight-lipped but determined smile in his ads, which portray him as the "response to the future" -- while a variation on the ad reads "Drzavnik" (statesman) for the future.

One of Zmago Jelincic's billboards reads "Zmago za zmago" (Zmago for victory), while the party billboards for his Slovenian National Party (SNS) sport a blue and yellow motif and coat of arms, echoing Jelincic's proposal for a new national flag (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 January 2002). A billboard for Lisca lingerie has playfully joined in, with a candidate-like model revealing the company's product accompanied by the slogan "Izvoljena!" -- that is, "(S)elected!"

Drnovsek's closest rival in the race for president, Barbara Brezigar, displays a gentle smile against a yellow background. An unusually prominent feature of her ad is the phrase "Independent candidate for president of Slovenia." Even though Brezigar enjoys the joint backing of the conservative Social Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi), she is maintaining her independent profile.

Meanwhile, both the SDS and NSi are running their own ads to bolster support for the parties. The SDS has chosen the slogan: "Every person is the most important." The NSi party has taken an unusual approach in its ads, featuring the titles of literary works by classic Slovenian authors such as Ivan Cankar, Josip Jurcic, and Janez Trdina in blue and red text against a stark white background.

The ad for Anton Bebler, of the Democratic Party for Retired Persons of Slovenia (DeSUS), assures passersby that the party is "for all generations," and the independent presidential candidate Gorazd Drevensek appears with his wife and the slogan "Family, Country, World. In that order." The United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), backing Lev Kreft, has a colorful billboard with the motto "Let your voice be heard," while the Slovenian Youth Party (SMS) simply exhorts Slovenes to "Select your own goal!" Even parties entertaining little hope of placing their candidate in office hope to raise their profiles through media exposure.

The latest allegation to emerge prior to the election is that Drnovsek has been taking advantage of his position to use state property for personal ends by staying overnight at the castle at Brdo, "Delo" reported on 28 October. The charges concern the use of former President Josip Broz Tito's cabin on the castle grounds, for which the prime minister is ostensibly required to pay, and there are suggestions that rival political parties are seeking to promote negative publicity over the affair to reduce Drnovsek's lead in the polls.

In response to queries, "Delo" received a reply from Drnovsek's public relations advisor, Gordana Pipan, who said that sleeping arrangements are provided only for official purposes, when there is late-night business taking place at Brdo. Journalists who were allowed access to the building, however, reported that the cabin is arranged like an up-scale private weekend vacation house, with food in the refrigerator, newspapers on the table, and a toothbrush in the bathroom.

The public, however, seems disinclined to bite at the scandal of "Drnovsek's dacha." As Boris Jez jested in "Delo" on 4 November, finding Drnovsek's toothbrush is no story at all -- the discovery of two toothbrushes would have been a real story. In an interview published the same day, Dr. Vlado Miheljak observes that Drnovsek's strong party backing from Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) and his experienced public relations team make it difficult for any substantive criticism to stick.

Some attention has also been dedicated to campaign expenses. The biggest spender in the presidential race is Brezigar, who had spent 13.5 million tolars ($58,600) by 3 November. She was followed by Arhar at 12.2 million tolars ($53,000) and Drnovsek at 9.3 million tolars ($40,400). The thriftiest of the nine candidates was Bucar, who had spent a mere 46,000 tolars ($200).

In any case, the outcome of the presidential election appears to be a foregone conclusion. A "Delo" poll conducted on 1 November indicates that Drnovsek could garner enough votes to meet the crucial 50 percent cutoff for winning the presidential election outright. If a runoff election were held -- presumably between Drnovsek and Brezigar -- the same poll indicated that Drnovsek would likely win with 60 percent of the votes. (Donald F. Reindl, dreindl@indiana.edu)

QUOTATIONS OF THE WEEK: "This is the greatest threat to Bosnia's international credibility since the war." -- High Representative Paddy Ashdown, regarding the arms sales affair. Quoted in "The Guardian" on 31 October.

"Typical Balkan stupidity." -- Ethnic Albanian politician Xhevat Ademi of the small National Democratic Party (PDK), commenting on his brief arrest by the Macedonian police on terrorism charges. Quoted by AP in Skopje on 4 November after his release.

"This truce is good news because parliament serves to work and not to manufacture scandals." -- Vojvodina political leader Nenad Canak, on the compromise deal between Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic that enabled the Serbian parliament to resume work. Quoted by RFE/RL on 6 November.

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