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Balkan Report: August 17, 1999

17 August 1999, Volume 3, Number 32

"End Of An Illusion?" This was the headline of a recent editorial in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" about Kosova. The article notes a marked discrepancy between the words and deeds of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) regarding a multiethnic and democratic society. Interethnic relations are at an all-time low, and the only hope for maintaining the Serbian population is to concentrate the Serbs in areas where they constitute the majority. Such an approach may be politically undesirable, but it now seems to be the only practical one, the daily concludes.

This argument has been used by U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and others over the years to promote the idea of a partition of Bosnia on ethnic lines. Its rationale is that one should not force people to live with each other if they do not want to, and that a partition along ethnic lines will be the most durable solution in the long run.

Opponents of this view argue that it plays into the hands of the perpetrators of ethnic cleansing. The result would be to cement their work in place. Many observers note that a partition along ethnic lines would, in fact, be impossible in most parts of the Balkans without touching off fresh waves of ethnic cleansing. This was true during and after the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 and remains true now in the wake of Milosevic's wars. (Patrick Moore)

The UCK's Commander Talks to RFE/RL. General Agim Ceku (39), who heads the General Staff, recently spoke with Evliana Berani of RFE/RL. Ceku is a former Yugoslav army officer who later became a well-known general in the Croatian army. He resigned his commission in Croatia to take charge of the UCK fighters after the Serbian crackdown began.

Berani: "What are the main problems facing Kosova?"

Ceku: "Thanks to the joint efforts of the UCK and NATO forces in Kosova, we have secured peace and freedom for all citizens of Kosova. But the war-time opponents of the UCK and NATO have not yet come to terms with the new situation. They therefore continue their actions aimed at maintaining the lack of security in some areas. They thus commit crimes against the citizens of Kosova in order to create an unstable and insecure situation.

The UCK and NATO know who they are. It is the Serbian regime, which has been organizing activities through its secret service, police, and paramilitary forces here, even though they have officially withdrawn from Kosova."

Berani: "Is the UCK cooperating with KFOR in order to find those responsible for the crimes?"

Ceku: "The UCK has guaranteed all citizens of Kosova peace and security. If an incident happens in Kosova, we are also concerned about it. This is because there are many who want any incident to be blamed on the UCK. The UCK is therefore very interested in catching those who commit the crimes. We act in every situation and give information to KFOR, and we try together with KFOR to catch those who commit these undesirable acts."

Berani: "Does the UCK leadership indeed have full control over all members of the UCK?"

Ceku: "The UCK is an army organized in a military manner. It functions very well on all levels from the General Staff to the lower ranking units. There were accusations recently [by General Sir Mike Jackson] that the UCK's commanders do not have all their people under control, but I can assure you that we do have control over the army. The military hierarchy is functioning."

Berani: "At a meeting with journalists, several French military officials accused the UCK of organizing the [ugly] protest gatherings in Mitrovica."

Ceku: "This is not true...In fact, the UCK commanders of that region have done a great deal to ease the tensions there. We see the situation in Mitrovica as a problematic case for the people of Kosova, but also for the UCK. We want to solve every problem in Kosova in cooperation with KFOR, and it is the obligation of KFOR to deal with the situation in Mitrovica. But in any case, we wish to cooperate and make our contribution to ease the situation in Mitrovica. We do not accept the partition of even a millimeter of the territory of Kosova. "

Berani: "How is the current cooperation between the UCK and KFOR?"

Ceku: "We are cooperating in two processes with KFOR: in the demilitarization of the UCK, and in the transformation of the UCK. The process of demilitarization, as is widely known, is proceeding according to the schedule envisaged in the demilitarization agreement. KFOR has made clear that the UCK has kept its obligations according to the agreement so far.

But unfortunately we have had some misunderstandings and some differences. The main issue is that the presence of KFOR is supposed to create security on the ground. We do agree to that, but have to say that [their efforts have] not been sufficient so far. Throughout our history, someone else has always had our fate in his hands, and we are thinking in the long term. KFOR is not always going to be here. We wish to build our own security system that is able to make sure that everybody who left can return to Kosova." (Translated by Fabian Schmidt)

Kosovar Legislator Wants Parliament to Meet. Gjergj Dedaj, who heads the Liberal Party of Kosova, told RFE/RL on 9 August that he demands a meeting of the shadow-state parliament. Dedaj said that it was impossible to hold a parliamentary session in Kosova during the war, but the Serbian forces are gone now and the legislators should meet. He argues that shadow-state legislators still have a mandate from the electorate, and that it is difficult to understand why parliament remains idle at a time when other bodies are involved in efforts to rebuild Kosova and its institutions. He stressed that parliament and shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova are entitled to represent the electorate until new elections take place. (Fabian Schmidt)

Surroi Concerned Over Power Vacuum. Kosovar journalist and political figure Veton Surroi remains firm in his conviction that the province requires a firm and unambiguous authority. He stressed that this is vital if the rights of all citizens are to be guaranteed, "Danas" reported on 12 August. A continuation of the present power vacuum is to the detriment of all, he warned. (Patrick Moore)

Berisha Says 'Sigurimi Agents' Work In Kosova For Belgrade. Albanian opposition leader and former President Sali Berisha told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service on 15 August that the current Albanian secret service has sent groups of employees from the communist-era secret service Sigurimi to Kosova. He added that "I have the deepest conviction that these subversive groups represent the old links of Belgrade to the Albanian [communist-era] secret service." He did not elaborate. Berisha also charged the current Albanian secret service with smuggling arms to the UCK. He quoted Hashim Thaci as urging Majko to stop such smuggling. According to dpa, however, Majko urged UCK leader Hashim Thaci in Prishtina on 15 August to stop smuggling arms through Albania. (Fabian Schmidt)

Belgrade Steps Up Propaganda Campaign. Yugoslav envoy Vladislav Jovanovic said at the UN on 12 August that NATO troops are unable to control the violence in Kosova. He urged the international community to allow Serbian forces to return to the province to protect Serbs, Roma, and pro-Yugoslav Albanians. Jovanovic gave journalists copies of a new 417-page government-published book entitled "NATO Crimes in Yugoslavia." (Patrick Moore)

General Pavkovic Says Serbian Forces Must Return To Kosova. General Nebojsa Pavkovic, whose Third Army's zone of operations includes Kosova, said that KFOR troops have not fulfilled their obligations under the June peace agreement, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported on 16 August. He demanded that NATO troops leave the province and that the UN allow his forces to return. (Patrick Moore)

General Perisic Says Milosevic Must Go. Former General Momcilo Perisic told a Belgrade press conference on 12 August that the first goal of his new Movement for a Democratic Serbia is to oust Milosevic (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 August 1999). He stressed that Milosevic "has made Serbia's territory shrink and its people die." The current leadership has "no more right whatsoever to represent us and lead us," Perisic added. He argued that the opposition has "not done much to change things." For that reason, he continued, he founded his own "political movement" instead of joining an existing one.

When a reporter asked the former general about his role in the shelling of the Croatian port of Zadar in 1991, Perisic responded that he was "defending a still existing country against rebels." A Croatian court has sentenced him to 20 years in prison in conjunction with the shelling. Many Bosnians regard him as a war criminal for his role in the shelling of Mostar in the 1992-1995 war.

On 14 August, Perisic told Belgrade's Studio-B Television that the army will not obey any orders by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to support a violent crackdown on civilians. (Patrick Moore)

Deja-Vu For Batakovic. Dusan Batakovic, who heads the Council for Democratic Change in Serbia, is not impressed by the Serbian Renewal Movement's Vuk Draskovic's call for any transition government to include Milosevic's backers. Batakovic said that the proposal amounts to creating a "life preserver" for the regime. He added that it recalls earlier attempts to dilute Milosevic's power by making nationalist writer Dobrica Cosic president or California businessman Milan Panic prime minister. The outcome was that Milosevic remained as firmly in the saddle as ever, and the other two men eventually left office with little to show for it, "Vesti" reported on 10 August. Cosic's role was best illustrated by the fact that he rode to his inauguration in a Belgrade taxi. (Patrick Moore)

Djindjic Says New Situation Has Emerged. Serbian Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic told Vienna's "Die Presse" of 12 August that the current situation is more promising for the opposition than at any time in the past. First, he noted, the protests erupted spontaneously from the people and were not orchestrated by politicians. Most people, including most of the military, have gained nothing from Milosevic's rule. In the end, Djindjic predicted, it will be "the energy of the people in the streets" that will topple the dictator.

Second, the opposition leaders have achieved a modicum of cooperation among themselves. At any rate, he noted, they have stopped insulting each other in public.

Third, a certain division of labor has emerged. Draskovic anticipates that after the planned demonstration in Belgrade on 19 August, Milosevic's Socialist Party, or important elements of this party, "will be prepared to accept our transition government." Should that fail to happen, Djindjic added, he will lead a second phase of the protest to force Milosevic from office. The opposition's tactics will include a general strike as well as protests and acts of civil disobedience. Djindjic is confident of victory before the end of the year. (Patrick Moore)

Kilibarda Raps Seselj. Outspoken Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda warned Serbian Radical leader Vojislav Seselj against threatening the Montenegrin leadership (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 August 1999). Kilibarda stressed: "We are an old, proud people who are afraid of nobody. Least of all of Seselj, who didn't even manage to keep control of his village somewhere in Herzegovina," "Vesti" reported on 10 August. Kilibarda said that the federation has long outlived whatever use it may once have had for Montenegro. He stressed that the Montenegrin proposal for restructuring relations between Montenegro and Serbia is aimed at "self-defense." (Patrick Moore)

At The Top In Montenegro. General Spasoje Djurovic is the new head of the Podgorica unit of the Second Army. He is a Montenegrin. Elsewhere, the board of editors of Montenegrin Television reelected Velibor Covic as editor-in-chief. He is a supporter of President Milo Djukanovic. (Patrick Moore)

Serbian TV Blasts U.S. 'Media Terrorism.' State-run television (RTS) said on 11 August that the U.S. jams its broadcasts and seeks to "enslave Serbia and its people" by installing a "puppet government." According to RTS, "NATO countries, led by the U.S., have prepared a project called Ring Around Serbia in order to jam RTS's programming and broadcast Western Serbian-language programs in their place. RTS added that the alleged U.S. plan violates international norms in telecommunications and constitutes a "classic form of state terrorism."

Yugoslav Telecommunications Minister Ivan Markovic of the hard-line United Yugoslav Left said in Belgrade on 14 August that Serbian broadcasts continue to be jammed from abroad, "particularly from neighboring Hungary and Croatia." He also referred to jamming from unspecified "ships and aircraft," AP reported. He did not elaborate. Observers note that Ring Around Serbia is a Western response to Serbia's restrictive media laws that date from October 1998. Transmitters in several countries bordering Serbia broadcast programs of RFE/RL, VOA, BBC, Deutsche Welle, and Radio France International.

State Department spokesman James Rubin said in Washington on 11 August that RTS's charges are false. He added: "In the future we may expand transmissions using new wavelengths. If we do so, we will do so only if we can identify frequencies not officially registered by public and private entities in Serbia. We have taken great care not to jam [Serbian] broadcasts and will continue to do so." Rubin then observed that "if the Serbian authorities were to overturn their draconian media law and allow real independent media inside Serbia, there would be much less of a need for the international community to broadcast into Serbia from adjoining areas. I think the Serbs would probably do well to focus a little bit more on what's going on inside of Serbia," he added.

Meanwhile, Senator Richard Lugar wrote this week in "The Washington Post" that the Western alliance must now follow up on its military victory by promoting democracy in Serbia. Increasing broadcasts by VOA and RFE/RL are one of his recommendations. He also advocates providing speedy and effective assistance to the Alliance for Change and other elements of the democratic opposition through the National Endowment for Democracy and other NGOs. Senator Lugar stresses that the West has "squandered a decade of opportunity for democracy building in Serbia and should not now expect instant gratification. But Serbia has never been more ripe for change," he concludes. (Patrick Moore)

Norway Not To Accredit Envoy To Milosevic. The Foreign Ministry has decided not to send Hans Ola Urstad, who is Norway's new ambassador to Yugoslavia, to Belgrade "for the time being," AP reported on 11 August. The government does not want him to present his credentials to Milosevic, whom the Hague-based tribunal has indicted for war crimes. Diplomatic protocol requires a new ambassador to present his letters of accreditation to the head of state of the host country. (Patrick Moore)

Putin Pledges Cooperation With NATO. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in an interview on Russian Television on 15 August that "Russia should be and will be an integral part of the civilized world and in this context we will cooperate with NATO," Reuters reported. Putin did not elaborate. He added that "we will also keep...relations [with Yugoslavia] and we will insist [that NATO respect the status] of our country. We have our geopolitical interests and we will stand up for them." Meanwhile, Colonel-General Georgii Shpak, who is commander of the Russian paratrooper units, told Interfax in Moscow that the situation in Kosova "will more or less normalize within half a year." He added that ethnic Albanians in Kosova are not only hostile towards Russian peacekeepers, but also against French and U.S. troops. An unidentified sniper shot and wounded a Russian soldier near Gjilan on 13 August, ITAR-TASS reported. (Fabian Schmidt)

Russian, Serbian Officials Deny Arms Smuggling. Foreign Ministry officials told Interfax on 13 August that "Russia did not send any weapons or their components to Yugoslavia. ...Russia strictly observed and continues to observe the embargo on arms deliveries to Yugoslavia, imposed by...UN Security Council resolutions." The officials argued that claims published in "Jane's Defense Weekly" of 2 August that Russia delivered rocket components to Yugoslavia "are meant only to justify the...arming of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK), which...led to the failure of the negotiations for a [peaceful] settlement in the area," (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999) Yugoslav Ambassador to Moscow Borislav Milosevic, a brother of the Yugoslav president, called the report "misinformation and absolute rubbish." (Fabian Schmidt)

A Separate Islamic Organization For The Republika Srpska? The Bosnian Serb authorities are hindering the election of a new mufti of Banja Luka by insisting that the local Islamic organization first register with the Republika Srpska government as an independent body. This means that the Bosnian Serb entity would acquire its "own" Islamic community, which would be legally separate from the one in Sarajevo, "Oslobodjenje" reported on 11 August.

The last mufti was Ibrahim efendi Halilovic, who died one year ago. An ugly dispute resulted following the refusal of the Bosnian Serb authorities to allow him to be laid to rest on the site of the Ferhadija mosque, where he worked most of his life. The Ferhadija was a UNESCO-registered cultural property dating from the 16th century until unknown persons blew it up following its conquest by Serbian forces. The Bosnian Serb authorities have repeatedly refused to allow Muslims to rebuild it. (Patrick Moore)

Susak Statue Causes Row In Herzegovina. The late Croatian Defense Minister Gojko Susak is remembered for three things. First, he and other emigre businessmen--he ran a pizza parlor in Canada--bankrolled the election victory of President Franjo Tudjman's Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) in 1990. Second, he supervised the transformation of the Croatian army from a rag-tag force to a first-rate one between 1991 and its ultimate victory in 1995. Third, he epitomized the power and influence in Tudjman's Zagreb of Herzegovinians--whom many from Croatia proper regard as poor country cousins.

The Franciscan fathers have long been one of the pillars of Croatian nationalism in Herzegovina. The Franciscans of Siroki Brijeg are, however, unhappy with the decision of sculptor Branimir Cilic to place a 3.3 meter-high statue of Susak in the courtyard of the local church without asking them. Some local believers also feel that the statue of a politician does not belong in front of a church.

"Vecernji list" reported on 10 August that Cilic made his move after the Franciscans refused him permission to place the statue at the shrine of Medjugorje. Come what may, he has plans for a 888 square-meter monument to war victims on the side of Mt. Cvrsnica. It will be dominated by--a 33 meter-high statue of Gojko Susak. (Patrick Moore)

Ships For A Song. The Zagreb daily "Vjesnik" reported on 12 August that buyers will get bargains in purchasing the ships of the bankrupt Croatia Line (formerly Jugolinija). The 22 ships on offer have lost $60 million in value since 1997. One ship was recently sold in the U.S. for $1.8 million even though it was valued in 1997 at $5.2 million. (Patrick Moore)

Mladic In Macedonia? Moscow's "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 11 August that General Ratko Mladic may be living in Macedonia. He is rumored to have received local citizenship several months ago under an assumed name, the paper added. Observers note that sightings of Mladic or fellow indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic crop up from time to time in the regional or foreign media. Like sightings of Nessie, they are difficult to verify. (Patrick Moore)

Aliens. State-run media reported on 9 August that KFOR troops refused to admit a Tanjug reporter to Kosova on the basis of his identity card. They insisted that he show his passport. The Serbian media stressed that foreign soldiers had no business asking for identification from a man who was in his own country. (Patrick Moore)

O Tempora, O Mores. Police in Nis recently detained Igor Radocaj--who is a young Bosnian Serb from Prijedor--and sent him to the local court. The reason is that he is suspected of having committed war crimes against Albanians while recently serving in Kosova as an army volunteer (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 August 1999).

His mother, Vera Radocaj, told BETA that she has been on hunger strike since 5 August to demand his release. She stressed that he is innocent. Then she added: "In the worst case, that he killed somebody..., [well] this is war. There was once a time when an army volunteer was considered almost sacred." Ms. Radocaj argued: "We Serbs have begun to demonize ourselves. Tudjman and [Bosnian Muslim leader Alija] Izetbegovic never would have sent their soldiers to court," she concluded. (Patrick Moore)

Quotations of the Week. "You can't establish a democratic society with undemocratic laws." -- The UCK's Thaci, quoted by Reuters on 9 August.

"The dictate of force used by the U.S.-led NATO alliance represents the greatest threat to the future of mankind and to the equality of all nations." -- Statement issued by Milosevic's office on 11 August after he met with Russian State Duma deputy Nikolai Ryzhkov (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 August 1999).

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia "is part of an aggression mechanism which, disregarding...justice, protects those who bear the true blame for the genocide brought against the Yugoslav people: the leaders of NATO, the U.S., and Great Britain." -- Yugoslav Ambassador to Russia Borislav Milosevic, as quoted by Interfax on 12 August.

"Those who exhibit weakness will be so treated in the Balkans. This is about showing and using weapons. Those who shoot faster and hit their target better will survive--this is what it's about. I think that warning shots should be fired before one allows oneself to be beaten up." -- German KFOR commander General Helmut Harff, to Berlin's "Tagesspiegel" of 11 August.