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Balkan Report: April 1, 1998

1 April 1998, Volume 2, Number 13

Gelbard's Rocky Balkan Visit. U.S. special envoy Robert Gelbard's latest meeting with Kresimir Zubak, the Croatian member of the Bosnian joint presidency, lasted only half an hour, RFE/RL reported on March 28. Zubak broke off the talks in Sarajevo because he was upset by what he called Gelbard's inherent assumption that the Croats are to blame for the failure to implement the Dayton agreement and for the continued de facto partition of Bosnia into three states.

Gelbard went on to apparently more agreeable meetings with Muslim leaders in Sarajevo and then with the Republika Srpska's Biljana Plavsic-Milorad Dodik team in Banja Luka. From there he called on President Franjo Tudjman in Zagreb, whom he told that "now that there is a positive, pro-democracy, pro-Dayton government in the Republika Srpska, the focus is much more on the Federation. We expect - and I underline the word expect - both sides in the Federation to do much, much more to implement" the binding agreements they have signed.

Referring to what he called his "very difficult" meeting with Zubak, Gelbard added that he had had similarly unpleasant sessions with the Muslims in the past. "What I can say to Zubak and to [Muslims]: Stop worrying about the other people, we'll worry about them. When you're perfect, you should start criticizing the other people."

"Subversive" Media. Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic said in Belgrade on March 29 that the VOA, CNN, the BBC, Deutsche Welle "and others" have "massacred the truth in Kosovo" through their reporting on the ongoing Serbian crackdown. He said that domestic Yugoslav radio stations that rebroadcast the foreign stations' reports are guilty of "subversion" and of being "a Fifth Column." Referring to unnamed foreign journalists who have reported on the shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army [UCK], Matic added that "our state must establish a clear relationship [with] certain foreign journalists who are in contact with Albanian armed terrorist groups." In Washington, the VOA's Croatian Service denied the charges in its morning broadcast on 30 March. The VOA said that it is committed to accurate and objective reporting.

Kosovars: Serbian Goal is Ethnic Cleansing. A Kosovar shadow-state spokesman told an "RFE/RL Newsline" correspondent in Tirana on March 25 that the purpose of the ongoing Serbian paramilitary offensive is to drive the ethnic Albanian population out of Kosovo by using the methods that the Serbs used in their "ethnic cleansing" campaigns in Bosnia. The spokesman said that the Drenica offensive was aimed at clearing a strategic corridor west of Pristina, and that the current drive near Decani and Djakovica is intended to force the Kosovars out of the border regions with Albania.

He added that refugees are fleeing to Macedonia, where many have friends and relatives, rather than to Albania, which is widely known in Kosovo to be too impoverished to handle a refugee influx. The spokesman dismissed the idea that Albania might attack Yugoslavia. He noted that the Albanian army is weak and that the Tirana government would not undertake any armed action that would meet with Washington's disapproval. The spokesman stressed that the Serbs might be able to carry out the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo very quickly because the Kosovars, unlike the Bosnian Muslims, have no military organization to protect them.

Quote of the Week. Ramiz Alia, Albania's last communist-era president, told "Koha Jone" of March 25 that the major powers should recognize Kosovo as an sovereign and independent state. He added that "Europe has been slow to act, as it was in the case of Bosnia" and that "now is the time for action and not for words. Kosovo needs solutions and not declarations and promises." Concerning the education agreement signed on March 23 between Serbian and Kosovo Albanian officials, Alia stated that holding talks and signing agreements "are well-known tactics of Milosevic, which he also used in the case of Bosnia."