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Balkan Report: March 17, 1999

17 March 1999, Volume 3, Number 10

RFE/RL Begins Broadcasts to Kosova. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty began broadcasts in the Albanian language to Kosova on March 8.

In making this announcement, President Thomas A. Dine said that "continuing dangerous tensions between Serbs and Kosovar Albanians make it more important than ever that all sides get accurate and objective information about developments in their region and the world." He stressed that these new broadcasts would thus support American national interests.

RFE/RL South Slavic Service Director Nenad Pejic said that with the addition of the 30 minutes of Albanian programming, RFE/RL will be on the air for more than 10 hours a day to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, and Croatia. These RFE/RL broadcasts are available to listeners on shortwave, AM, and FM frequencies.

RFE/RL stringers in Kosova -- as well as in Belgrade, Skopje, and Tirana -- will contribute to the new broadcasts. Like other RFE/RL programming, the Albanian broadcasts to Kosova will be produced at RFE/RL headquarters in Prague. The Albanian-language program can be heard daily in Kosova from 9:00 pm to 9:30 pm on shortwave at 7180 MHz, 9600 MHz and 9690 MHz.

Serbian Media Crackdown Continues. Serbian officials have recently taken steps to punish or drive out of business additional opposition or independent periodicals by imposing stiff fines under last fall's draconian press law. Ljiljana Blagojevic, who is a Belgrade city official from Vuk Draskovic's Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), is taking "Danas," "Blic" and "Glas javnosti" to court under that legislation. RFE/RL's South Slavic Service noted on March 13 that the SPO has not officially endorsed the press law, which was enacted before the SPO joined the Yugoslav government (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 November 1998).

The authorities are also seeking to impose a fine of well over $100,000 on the mass circulation, Kosovar Albanian-language daily "Kosova Sot," its publisher Ruzhdi Kadriu, and chief editor Ibrahim Rexhepi. The staff of "Kosova Sot" said in a statement that the move against them by Information Minister Aleksandar Vucic is in response to the paper's practice of accurate reporting from the battlefield.

What Future for the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina? A bomb seriously injured Jozo Leutar, who is deputy interior minister of the mainly Muslim and Croatian Bosnian federation, and two people accompanying him. The explosion in Sarajevo on 16 March destroyed his car, in which unknown individuals had planted the device. Police are investigating, and the motive for the bombing remains unclear. Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic called the explosion "terrorism." The international community's Jacques Klein noted that Leutar is a tough enemy of organized crime.

Tihomir Begic, who is an advisor to Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) chair Ante Jelavic, nonetheless argued that the attack must have been politically motivated. He told Reuters that the bombing "is proof that Croats cannot accept this state." He added that the Croats cannot exclude what he called "radical measures" in response to the attack. Leutar is also a HDZ official and was known as a hard-line nationalist during the 1992-1995 war.

In recent weeks, several Croatian leaders have called for the Dayton Bosnian Constitution to be changed and co-equal Muslim, Serbian, and Croatian entities to be established in place of the current federation and Republika Srpska. The root of the problem is that Croats are outnumbered by the Muslims and Serbs alike and constituted only about 18 percent of Bosnia-Herzegovina's pre-war population. They now form a clear majority only in areas of Western Herzegovina contiguous to Croatia. Many Herzegovinians would like to resettle all Croats in that area and then secede and join Croatia. But the Croats of central Bosnia -- many of whose communities date back to the Middle Ages and who are used to living integrated with Muslims and Serbs -- argue that they have a right under Dayton to go home and live in peace. They also do not like the Herzegovinians attempting to speak in the name of all the Croats in the republic.

Jacques Klein said in Sarajevo on March 13, however, that the best way for the Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina to protect their interests is to work to fully implement the Dayton agreement. He argued that the idea of establishing a separate Herzegovinian Croat mini-state is "outdated," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

In Zagreb, Ante Jelavic and Croatian opposition leader Drazen Budisa agreed that the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina should seek a decentralization of political power in that country rather than a three-entity system. They stressed that the individual cantons, and not the entities, should become the main centers of political authority, and that each of the three peoples should enjoy equal constitutional status within each canton.

Meanwhile on March 12, the lower house of Croatia's Sabor approved an agreement signed by Croatian and Bosnian officials in November 1998 after the two countries' Western allies applied considerable pressure on both of them. Bosnian Muslim leaders have balked at ratifying the pact, which they charge gives Croatia too large a say in the affairs of the Croats of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Croatian officials argue that Zagreb has a legitimate right to protect the interests of those Croats.

The Right Way, the Wrong Way, and... Officials of the district attorney's office in Sibenik announced on March 2 that they have begun an investigation of claims that appeared recently in the media to the effect that the Croatian military shelled the Adriatic town during the 1991 war in order to discredit the local civilian authorities. Davor Skugor, who commanded local military units at the time, said recently that he never intended a large-scale shelling of the town. He added that he ordered the firing of two mortars "so that people would understand that there was a war on."

Enter "Kuku Lele." Belgrade independent Radio B-92 reported on March 14 on the visit of Skopje restaurant owner and rock singer Sasa Kajmovski "Panki" with Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj in Belgrade. Seselj invited Kajmovski and two of his five waiters, who claim that they recently beat up 20 British soldiers in a brawl in Kajmovski's restaurant, the Dva Jelena. Seselj praised the waiters for humiliating the "foreign occupiers."

Both Kajmovski and his host called for the strengthening of the friendship between the Serbian and Macedonian peoples. Seselj's parliamentary floor leader, Stevo Dragisic, said that he will work to stage a concert in Belgrade by Kajmovski's band, Kuku Lele. One observer suggested that Kuku Lele could stage a joint concert under the banner "against NATO, for peace" with Ceca, who is Arkan's rock-star wife.

Quotations of the Week. "I would encourage Mr. Milosevic to agree to the terms [of the Rambouillet plan as the Kosovars have done], so that we can avoid further conflict and bloodshed. From his point of view, I think it's the last chance to preserve the integrity of Serbia and avoid economic and other adversity." -- U.S. President Bill Clinton on March 15

"We are ready to sign the political agreement, but only on the condition that our adjustments are accepted." -- Serbian President Milan Milutinovic on March 16

"The aircraft are still at high readiness. If the violence resumes, then NATO will take action. That is a language that Milosevic understands." -- British Defense Secretary George Robertson.

"You never know with the Serbs until you get right down to the wire." -- unnamed Contact Group official to Reuters' Tom Heneghan in Paris.

U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf, after a recent visit to the region: "There is no clearly established and proven civilian government and there is no line of authority between KLA (UCK) and a representative government. Without control, the KLA could get out of hand. It is an army, frankly, without any civilian control. And that is a recipe that is not very good. Lasting peace in the Balkans will not occur while Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is in power. A just and permanent way for him to step down should be found. The longer he remains, the longer turmoil, unrest, and killing will continue in Eastern Europe."

Kosovar leader Rexhep Qosja: "The Rambouillet meeting opened the way to independence."

"This job is a gateway to hell." -- Newly appointed director of Croatian Television, Marija Peakic-Mikuljan, to "Novi List" of March 16.