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Balkan Report: August 12, 1998

12 August 1998, Volume 2, Number 32

WEU Calls For Intervention in Kosova. The Western European Union's Presidency on August 7 called on NATO to intervene "immediately" to prevent the war from spreading throughout the region, Reuters reported from Paris. WEU president Luis Maria de Puig said in a statement headlined "Enough is Enough" that "it is now clear that the use of force is the only means of bringing about a political agreement, with which the parties must be forced to comply...The limits of what the international community can tolerate without intervening have been reached. We are in the midst of a catastrophe with more than 600 dead, over 5,000 taken prisoner, 200,000 refugees and 300 villages destroyed: This is Bosnia all over again...The international community has yet again been deceived by [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic...The time has come for military action."

Massacre in Rahovec? Erich Rathfelder, who is a correspondent for Berlin's "taz" and Vienna's "Die Presse," broke the story on August 5 that local eye-witnesses took several foreign journalists the previous day to the site of at least two mass graves near Rahovec. The town had fallen to Serbian paramilitary police and Yugoslav army forces after clashes with the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) in mid-July. Rathfelder wrote that Kosovar grave diggers had already opened one of the shallow graves and found "the corpses of more than 500 people, of whom over 400 were children. The second grave may contain about 1,000 bodies." The article cited "non-Albanian" reports that the Serbs used Kosovar civilians as human shields when fighting the UCK. Rathfelder also wrote that Serbian forces conducted house-to-house searches in Rahovec and elsewhere, killing entire families in the process.

The grave-diggers said that the paramilitary forces of Zeljko Raznatovic "Arkan" committed the killings, but Western observers hold the Serbian police responsible, Rathfelder added. Kosovar spokesmen recently told "Bosnia Report" that the police include many veterans of the "ethnic cleansing" campaigns in Croatia and Bosnia. R. Jeffrey Smith of the "Washington Post" wrote on August 5 that he saw a group of Serbian police leaving "a brightly burning house," where, the police told him, the Albanians "must have been smoking." Smith noted that the Serbs regularly use "this strategy of blaming the other guy, an approach that the Yugoslav government honed during the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia."

EU representatives later visited a series of individual graves near a garbage dump, but it was not clear if that was anywhere near the site that Rathfelder and his Swedish colleague saw. Rathfelder stuck by his story, and his editor called for a team of international forensics experts to go to Rahovec before the bodies decompose any further. On August 10, the "Financial Times" wrote that evidence is beginning to emerge of the massacre in Rahovec of several hundred members of the Halveti dervish sect, one of the many and varied Islamic sects to be found in the western Balkans.

Kosova Scenarios. The same day that Rathfelder published his revelations, international legal and human rights expert Fred Abrahams asked rhetorically in the "International Herald Tribune": what is the threshold of the international community's tolerance of ethnic cleansing and other atrocities? He notes that the international community is justifiably concerned about "the destabilizing effects that an independent Kosova might have on neighboring Macedonia... and on the fragile peace in Bosnia." Abrahams adds, however, that "unchecked atrocities, and the predictable UCK response, will feed a refugee outflow that could ignite an increasingly radical Albanian community in Macedonia."

The bottom line, Abrahams continues, is that "there will be no stability in the Balkans as long as Milosevic stays in power." As an alternative, the human rights expert urges three steps. First, he suggests indicting Milosevic for war crimes. The U.S. Senate has already passed a resolution calling for such an indictment. Second, he recommends continuing to promote democratic alternatives, independent courts, depoliticized police and free media within Serbia and Montenegro. Finally, Abrahams calls for consideration of "all options for Kosova's political status... so long as they include guarantees for the rights of both Albanians and Serbs."

In the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung," Matthias Rueb echoes the view found in several U.S. and British dailies that the Western powers are secretly pleased to see the uncompromising UCK defeated on the battlefield, in the hopes of making it more pliant at any future peace talks. Rueb calls this view "naive," an adjective that he also applies to unnamed Western projects to solve the Kosovar problem by making Kosova a third federal republic within Yugoslavia. He notes that republican status for Kosova would open a Pandora's box of political problems within Yugoslavia and would probably prompt Montenegro to seek independence.

Rueb further argues that the overwhelming majority of UCK members want neither autonomy nor a Greater Albania, but rather are adamantly in favor of independence. Rueb points out that a union between Kosova and Albania has little attraction for either party, a point with which many foreign analysts would agree.

But some others would not. On August 4, a group of Serbian, Greek, Macedonian and Bulgarian academics met in Belgrade to launch a new book called "Greater Albania - Ideas and Possible Consequences." The authors stress that Kosovar independence from Serbia would lead to the formation of a Greater Albania, which in turn could lead to a Third Balkan War.

Quotes of the Week. "He broke his word." -- German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, to the Chemnitz "Freie Presse" on August 4, in reference to the continuing Serbian offensive despite Milosevic's pledge that it had stopped. "Pressuring Milosevic without a military threat is like playing baseball without a bat. It doesn't work." -- Unnamed senior Western diplomat, quoted in the "New York Times," August 5. "We were expecting [the offensive and atrocities], and worse. We have our own plans." Unnamed UCK officer, quoted in the same article.