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Yugoslavia: Albright Pitches Democratization In The Balkans

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has urged both parties to the increasing tensions in southern Serbia to take "great care" NOT to incite further violence. In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's South Slavic Service in Prague, Albright said the U.S. was "very concerned" about the unrest, which has featured clashes between Yugoslav security forces and ethnic Albanians. RFE/RL's Lisa McAdams is traveling with Albright and filed this report.

Prague, 6 March 2000 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said one of the themes of her three-day visit to the Czech Republic is "democratization" and what the U.S. and Czech governments can do to further the cause of peace and ethnic tolerance in the Balkans.

Albright says the Czech Republic could serve as a "model" for peaceful democratic transition in the region and she urged the democratic opposition in Serbia to take note:

"It's important for them to look at lessons from this part of the world, where dissidents who might have disagreed on some long-term goals, or even some tactics, ultimately figured out it was in their advantage to ultimately cooperate together and get rid of a dictatorship."

Albright said that is where the importance of sustained contact with non-governmental organizations (NGO's) enters in -- a process she said the West hopes to better facilitate in the days and weeks ahead. Later today, Albright is scheduled to meet with some leading Czech NGO's who work on behalf of various projects in the Balkans.

Asked to comment on increasing tensions in southern Serbia, Albright expressed the United State's "deep concern." And she warned ethnic Albanians there not to miscalculate the international community's will on keeping the peace.

Albright made the comment after being asked to address suggestions that the Kosovar Albanians could try to provoke Serbia, in order to spur a western military response.

"Well they (the ethnic Albanian Kosovars) shouldn't miscalculate, because I think that the problem here is that the international community is devoting a great deal of time and energy into helping the Kosovars create a place where they can exercise a high degree of autonomy and self-government. That is what the U.S. is concentrating on, and that is what the Kosovars should concentrate on too."

Albright was also asked her view on whether it was possible to defeat dictatorship and violence with democracy. She responded by saying that negative, repressive tactics may work for a time, but she said they ultimately prove to be "flawed." Here, she cited Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic as a case in point:

"I think that was has happened here is that Milosevic wanted to be another Tito. Instead what he is another Enver Hoxha, who has basically taken his people and isolated them and given them a lower standard of living than they have ever had. I don't think the Serb people deserve Milosevic. They are a good people who want to lead a peaceful life and they don't deserve a leader like him."

Albright heads to the Balkans on Wednesday, where she will make stops in Sarajevo, Brcko and Banja Luka. She told RFE/RL the purpose of the trip is to reiterate American support for the creation of strong state institutions. Albright, who has long described herself as a "realistic optimist," said she believes democracy ultimately will win out in the Balkans. But not before a fair amount of burden-sharing between the U.S. and the West.

Albright also described recent events in Croatia as a bright beacon, signaling democratic change. And she credited the united opposition in that country with helping to foster the change:

"What President Mesic and Prime Minister Racan made quite clear is they want to support the Federation and central institutions in Sarajevo, instead of doing what [Croatian President] Franjo Tudjman did, which was to support separatism. So, that is a big step forward."

Albright said officials in Zagreb also had urged the Serbs to come back to Croatia -- an appeal Albright said should serve as a guiding principle in how things ought to be done in future in the Balkans.