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Balkan Report: October 6, 2000

6 October 2000, Volume 4, Number 74

UN's Dienstbier Wants Deal For Milosevic. The United Nations' Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the former Yugoslavia, Jiri Dienstbier, says opposition to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's rule is "snowballing." But he warns that the outcome is not yet certain. Most strikingly, he argues that the international community should throw out its indictment of Milosevic and let him go free in order to secure his peaceful departure from power.

Dienstbier--a former dissident activist who served as Czechoslovakia's first post-Communist foreign minister (1989-1992)--returned from his latest trip to Serbia and Montenegro on 3 October. In Prague the following day, he said that the atmosphere in Belgrade is reminiscent of the Czech capital in November 1989, when communist rule collapsed: "There is enormous euphoria. They are celebrating their victory, but obviously this is linked with concerns with what will happen, how Milosevic will react."

Dienstbier says the Serbian opposition is convinced that the next two days, 5 and 6 October, will be decisive. He says that if the Constitutional Court does not stand in the way of the 8 October second round of voting and demonstrations continue on 6 October--when a pre-runoff campaign ban takes effect--Milosevic may accuse the opposition of violating the law and deploy the army and police in the streets.

The Yugoslav opposition is boycotting the runoff election, insisting its candidate, Vojislav Kostunica, won the first round outright.

But Dienstbier says it is far from clear whether Milosevic will be in a position to order force to be used against the public. The Czech diplomat says an overwhelming number of soldiers and policemen voted for Kostunica in the first round.

Dienstbier met with Kostunica twice on his latest visit, and quotes the opposition leader as saying his priority is to restore relations with Montenegro and to ensure the return to Kosovo of all those--mostly Serbs--who fled the province.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to mediate in the dispute over holding a runoff. But Dienstbier is dubious about Putin's offer to find a way out of the crisis. "I think the negotiations that are now being proposed are not about a second round of elections or the like. When Putin phones Washington, when he negotiates with the French, it is basically about enabling a transition [of power to take place]. A dictator does not leave peacefully if the only option he has is to go to prison for the rest of his life."

Dienstbier adds that he cannot imagine what Putin can do "other than offer Milosevic a dacha."

The chairman of the Russian State Duma's foreign affairs committee, Dmitry Rogozin, said in Moscow on 4 October that Russia would not extradite Milosevic to the West to face war crimes charges if the Yugoslav leader were to enter Russian territory.

Dienstbier quotes Serbian opposition leaders as saying the UN's Hague-based tribunal's indictment of Milosevic last year for war crimes is the main obstacle to the opposition's ability to come to an agreement with Milosevic on his departure from power. He says a deal is necessary to avoid a violent confrontation and more deaths. Dienstbier argued that "we have to ask ourselves whether from a moral point of view the fate of a single dictator is more important than the fate of millions of people in the Balkans."

Nevertheless, Dienstbier says he shares the view that enabling Milosevic to avoid justice for his role in the widespread killings in Bosnia and Kosovo would mean that a future Serbian or Yugoslav state would suffer from the absence of a moral foundation.

Dienstbier describes Kostunica as a "most trustworthy negotiating partner" who, he says, is "consistent, has taken no part in any corruption or even in any business activities, nor was ever in the former League of Communists of Yugoslavia." He says Kostunica is "incredibly peaceful and open [and] quite reminiscent of Czech or Polish intellectuals who all of a sudden took on a political role [11 years ago]." Dienstbier also says Kostunica "never clowned around like some other representatives of the Serbian opposition, nor did he hop from party to party."

The Czech diplomat added that "Kostunica is above all a constitutional lawyer. And he is a person whose main interest is creating a state of law, which is the most important thing of all, regardless of his other political opinions. And I think this is the most essential thing in the Balkans."

But Dienstbier also notes that Kostunica advocated a "greater Serbia" in 1991 and 1992, when it became clear that the former Yugoslavia was finished. In Dienstbier's words: "Kostunica did not support the killings in Bosnia. But he felt that if there could be no Yugoslavia, there might as well be ethnically-based states in the Balkans." (Jolyon Naegele)

Hague Court, Annan Slam Dienstbier Remarks On Immunity For Milosevic. On 4 October, Jim Landale, who is a spokesman for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, called Dienstbier's remarks "extremely disturbing." Landale stressed that "it is not possible for anyone to negate an indictment by the tribunal--no individual, no state, no group of states." Paul Risley, who is Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte's spokesman, pointed out that she has repeatedly said that Milosevic's indictment remains firm. Wolfgang Petritsch, who is the international community's high representative in Bosnia, argued that "the rule of law must apply to everybody, whether [or not] we like it for political and tactical reasons." In New York, Fred Eckhard, who is Secretary-General Kofi Annan's spokesman, said that Dienstbier's remarks reflect his personal views "and do not represent the views of the secretary-general or of any intergovernmental organ," AP reported. (Patrick Moore)

KOSTUNICA: Milosevic Was In West's Interest. Kostunica gave an interview to the Russian daily "Kommersant" of 4 October. He said that he cannot rule out the possibility that Milosevic will use force to try to stay in office even though political pressure for him to go is building. He also made some remarks about some other aspects of domestic and foreign policy:

Kommersant: You have stated that the West has helped Milosevic stay in power. What do you mean by that?

Kostunica: It is to the advantage of the West when leaders of post-Communist countries are authoritarian in domestic politics and easy to manipulate in foreign affairs. This does not affect Russia, however, because of its size and power.

When it was convenient for the West, Milosevic was proclaimed a factor of peace and stability in the Balkans. At those days he signed the [1995] Dayton agreement and agreed to expel Serbs from Krajina.

Milosevic ceased to be a factor of peace when he expressed disagreement with the plan which the West wanted to impose on Kosovo and Serbia. It would be absurd to condemn him for the refusal to accept the plan worked out in Rambouillet [in early 1999 for home rule in Kosovo] because no sensible [Serbian] politician would have ever signed it. It turns out that Milosevic has been condemned for the only right move he made. And only then did the West remember his authoritarianism and anti-democratic style.

Kommersant: Would you hand over Milosevic to the Hague tribunal?

Kostunica: No. This is a political institution, not a legal institution. This is contrary to my views on the truth and human rights. This contradicts Yugoslavia's position. This list could be extended. But the Hague court is not what troubles me most.

Kommersant: If you become president, how will you structure relations with Russia and the West?

Kostunica: I will pursue a sensible and considered policy, without making the country dependent either on the West or Russia. It will be a policy of business cooperation on a reasonable basis.

Kommersant: How do you intend to settle the question of Montenegro, in order to avoid a break-up of Yugoslavia?

Kostunica: With the help of patient and firm dialogue. I am convinced that we will succeed in finding a mutually beneficial solution.

Kommersant: And what will become of Kosovo?

Kostunica: Unfortunately, the KFOR forces must stay there for some time, along with the UN mission. We should only [insist that it stick to] its mandate, and place a person less authoritarian and concerned for his own fame than Bernard Kouchner at its head. The mission must be headed by a wise man who knows our history and the peculiarities of the country. Unlike Kouchner, he must be free of prejudice.

But the main point is that a real dialogue between Serbs and Albanians must be started. Imposed decisions do not last long. People must come to an agreement themselves and make mutual concessions. (Edited by Patrick Moore)

Albanians Vote For Continuity. The first round of Albania's 1 October local elections indicates that the governing Socialist Party (PS) is likely to win in a majority of municipalities and communities, many of which are currently held by the opposition Democratic Party (PD). The PD has clearly failed to present a credible alternative to the Socialists.

According to preliminary results, the PS got just over 50 percent of the votes nationwide and the PD just over 33 percent. The small Social Democratic Party received over four percent, the ethnic Greek Human Rights Union Party two percent, and all other parties together seven percent.

The PS has won in 27 cities and 105 communities, and the PD in nine cities and 33 communities. In 28 cities and 87 communities there will be a run-off. The Socialist Party has claimed victory in the capital Tirana, a traditional PD stronghold.

The gains of the PS are likely to boost the government's self-confidence about winning the upcoming general elections early next summer. It also shows that the PD-led opposition has failed to convince most voters of its ability to pursue a policy of stabilization and economic recovery.

International observers from the OSCE and the Council of Europe acknowledged that the elections were conducted freely and fairly. They also noted that there was considerable improvement compared to the two previous general elections in 1996 and 1997, which were marred by violence. This time there were some irregularities--mostly involving names missing from the voters' lists--but OSCE officials denied PD claims that these irregularities affected the outcome of the vote. OSCE spokesman Giovanni Porta stressed that "everything reported by our observers is positive," the "Albanian Daily News" reported.

The Central Election Commission, reacting to pressure from the opposition, had added about 360,000 potential voters to the voting lists in recent weeks, mostly people who are permanently living abroad. This increased the total number of voters to almost 2.7 million, the highest number of registered voters ever in Albanian history. By comparison, in the 1996 local elections there were only 2,178,110 voters registered. The registration of many absent voters, however, resulted in a comparatively low turnout of only around 61 percent of all those registered.

Nonetheless, Vili Minarolli, the local PD chairman for Tirana, claimed that up to 200,000 names were still missing from the voters lists in Tirana alone. He told "Shekulli" that "the electoral process all over Albania has been completely manipulated, and for this reason the PD does not recognize the election results." Minarolli claimed that "the Albanian government organized an electoral farce, knowing fully well what it was doing. It followed the example of what their fathers [the Communists] had done for 50 years."

He argued that those missing from the lists did not have enough time to register themselves before the elections, and that there were "fictitious names" on voting lists.

PD spokesman Edi Paloka--speaking in the name of party leader Sali Berisha--described the vote as "invalid," arguing that "between 30 and 40 percent of the voting lists were manipulated." He also claimed that polling station commissions turned "tens of thousands of Albanians" away on voting day because their names were missing from the lists. Referring to incidents in which polling stations had not received enough ballot-papers for all the voters by noon, Paloka claimed that the Central Election Commission (KQZ) distributed the ballots according to "political geography."

Those charges lack credibility, however. For the first time, the elections were based on Albania's new computerized central population register, developed since 1997 in close cooperation with the OSCE. And OSCE Ambassador to Albania Gert Ahrens stressed that the claim of electoral fraud "is a phenomenon that we have seen eight times during elections in Albania over the past ten years." Ahrens noted that such charges are often exaggerated.

Furthermore, the head of the PD Reform Movement, Genc Pollo, acknowledged that the PD had indeed suffered significant losses and put the blame for losing the vote on his political rival Berisha. Pollo told "Shekulli" that the declarations by several PD officials that they do not recognize the outcome are "irresponsible, undemocratic, and adventurous." He added that "these irresponsible attitudes towards democratic rules will lead the country into new tensions and clashes, which are both unnecessary and dangerous for Albania."

Pollo stressed, furthermore, that failure to recognize election results will send "a very negative signal to Kosova, where the first free elections in its history will take place in three weeks."

"Koha Jone" suggested that "the Albanian opposition faces its most difficult situation" yet. The daily added that PD officials "are confronted with a new situation, which forces them to readjust and accept a new political reality." This is the reality that they are an opposition party that has to become more creative in developing credible policy alternatives to those of the current administration. Over the past four years, the PD's main political strategy was to ridicule the PS-dominated coalition government, often using extremely harsh rhetoric. The PD has real problems, however, presenting itself to the voters as a constructive political force.

The local elections suggest that the voters see some improvement in Albania's economy and security situation. Some observers suggest that Albanians are, moreover, too afraid of a return to the anarchy and violence of 1997 to vote for a change. Thus the voters have once again opted for the Socialists not because they like the PS program, but because they want stability and hope that the current government will continue its economic and administrative reforms. (Fabian Schmidt)

Albanian Mobile Phone Sweepstakes. Four international mobile phone companies are competing for the second Albanian mobile phone license, Ferdinand Poni, who is the head of the telecommunications regulation office (ERT), told "Koha Jone" on 27 September.

The competitors include Panafon, which is Greece's largest mobile phone company, Telecom Italia's mobile branch TIM, and Turkey's Turkcell. These three had lost in the bidding for the privatization of Albania's first mobile phone company, AMC (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 19 May 2000).

Siemens Austria is also participating in the race for the license that ERT will issue by the end of the year, "Albanian Daily News" reported. (Fabian Schmidt)

U.S. Military Trucks In Albania. Forty-four U.S. military trucks arrived in Durres on 28 September as part of a consignment of aid to the Albanian army, "Albanian Daily News" reported. Robert Sorenson, a U.S. diplomat who was present at the ceremony to mark the occasion, said that the donations will improve the army's ability to intervene in response to natural catastrophes. Albania has received $35 million worth of U.S. logistical aid for the army since 1994. (Fabian Schmidt)

British Charity Opens Kids' Libraries In Albania. John van Weenen, who is the head of the British organization Task Force Albania, has pledged to open several children's' libraries throughout Albania. The organization will open a library in Durres at the end of this year, including 50,000 English-language and 3,000 Albanian books. Van Weenen says he has invited Britain's Prince William to attend the inauguration: "Otherwise, there is a strong possibility that Norman Wisdom would come here," he added. (Wisdom is a British comedian from the 1950s and 1960s who was also very popular in Albania. The late dictator Enver Hoxha was quite fond of his films. Albania is now home to a Norman Wisdom Museum.)

The children's library in Durres will become the second one in the country. The group opened its first library in Tirana in September 1998 in the presence of Diana, Princess of Wales's brother, Earl Charles Spencer. Named after the late princess, it offers books for children from 3 to 18 years of age, as well as computer and English classes.

Task Force Albania has been active in supporting the education of Albanian children since 1991 and has raised $10 million, "Albanian Daily News" reported. Van Weenen stressed that "education is the key�. If Albania is going to fit into Europe, we have to change the mindset of the younger generation." The organization has also delivered about $7 million worth of humanitarian aid to children in remote parts of Albania. (Fabian Schmidt)

Quotations Of The Week. "Screw you. I'll throw everything I've got at you." -- Reported parting words of General Nebojsa Pavkovic to the striking Kolubara miners in the early hours of 3 October. From a private source. ("Jebem vam majku, sve sto imam cu baciti na vas.")

"The issue here is that Mr. Kostunica is very clearly a Serb nationalist. One can recognize that one can be a nationalist and not be an ethnic cleanser. I think that he is obviously entitled to believe in a strong Yugoslavia. He has never been a communist. He's someone who has made very clear that he believes in the rule of law. Those are values that are important to the U.S. and to the European community." -- Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, on 2 October. She was speaking at a press conference in Paris with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine. State Department official transcript.

"There is a complete convergence between the views of the United States, Russia, and the European Union, insofar as Russia has also supported a democratic change in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Russians have not shown any form of indulgence toward President Milosevic and his regime. Therefore, in that respect there is convergence..., but obviously the Russians express themselves with a different tone, given their historical relations with Yugoslavia and Serbia. But there is not a difference in terms of overall goals." -- French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, at the same press conference.

"The Yugoslav crisis is Russia's unexpected chance to make a double diplomatic breakthrough. It can restore its position in the Balkans from the lowly state it was forced into by the policy pursued over the past years. [It can also] solidify its relations with the West [and] improve its image in the eyes of the international community by defending democracy in Serbia together with Europe and the United States." -- "Izvestiya," 3 October.

"The outside world wants to serve as Yugoslavia's election committee. But Yugoslavia already has its own committee that has called for a second round of voting, so why doesn't the world respect that? Globalization means 'interventionism' by the outside world into the internal affairs of a country that should be decided by its own people. Please, don't let this happen in Cambodia's 2003 election. I will not accept it." -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. Quoted by dpa from Phnom Penh on 3 October.

"The two became the first political rivals in Albania to hold a televised debate without insulting each other." -- The "Albanian Daily News" about the two candidates for Tirana mayor: writer and former ambassador Besnik Mustafaj for the Democratic Party, and painter and current Culture Minister Edi Rama for the Socialists. Reported by "Albanian Daily News" (see above).