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Balkan Report: May 6, 1998

6 May 1998, Volume 2, Number 18

Bosnian Lessons Learned? SFOR may soon have a look-alike on the Balkan peninsula. A British Defense Ministry spokesman has said that British troops will go to the Macedonian-Kosovar border as part of an international "fire wall" to prevent the Kosovar conflict from spilling over into Macedonia, "The Sunday Telegraph" reported on May 3. "We are interested in greater cooperation with Macedonia and Albania. This is our effort to contribute to increased security and stability in the region," the spokesman said. The British units will join U.S. and Scandinavian soldiers already serving with the UN forces there (UNPREDEP), which is the first mission in UN history aimed at conflict prevention rather than at peacekeeping after a war. It is not clear how large the new force will be or how its mandate will be defined. But senior British army officials told "The Sunday Telegraph" that they expect that the enterprise will become a Bosnia-type NATO mission within one year.

Arkan in Macedonia? Another British paper suggests that the new detachment will certainly have its work cut out for it. For several reasons, many veteran observers of the Balkans have long suspected that Macedonia, rather than Albania, is the country most likely to be involved in any spill-over of the Kosovar conflict. Ethnic tensions have been simmering for some time now between the Macedonian majority and the ethnic Albanian minority, which makes up some 20-25 percent of the population. The Albanians of western Macedonia in general share much closer historical, social, and economic links with the Kosovars than do the Albanians of Albania proper. Tirana, for its part, is barely able to keep domestic order, let alone contemplate a war with Yugoslavia. It is also highly attentive to Washington's concerns.

James Pettifer, an established British writer on Balkan affairs, wrote in "The Times" on April 28 that Zeljko Raznatovic, better known as Arkan, has resumed his "business dealings" in Macedonia after a three-year break. Arkan is widely regarded in Croatia and Bosnia as a war criminal and profiteer, and he is wanted by INTERPOL for pre-war criminal activities. Many also believe that he has links to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and Belgrade's security apparatus.

Pettifer suggests that Arkan has been preparing for the reintroduction of sanctions on Serbia: "Sources in the UN peacekeeping force in Skopje... say Arkan has invested in a shopping mall, the Beverly Hills. Serb-owned cafes and enterprises were centers of 'business' - or sanctions-busting - during UN curbs between 1992 and 1995."

Arkan does not appear to have surfaced directly in the latest Kosova fighting. Veton Surroi, Kosova's leading journalist, recently told "Bosnia Report" in Thessaloniki that Arkan does not "need" to go to Kosova. This is because the Serbian paramilitary police there include many veterans of the Croatian and Bosnian conflicts who are old hands at "ethnic cleansing."

But Pettifer adds that one Dragi Georgievski of the Macedonian police reserves was recently killed in Kosova. Macedonian opposition politicians say that Georgievski's death in the fighting there suggests possible links between nationalist extremists in Serbia and Macedonia.

Media Warning. The Vienna-based International Press Institute criticized plans by the U.S. and its allies to block the dissemination of hate-propaganda in Bosnia by controlling radio and television licenses and shutting down offending stations and newspapers. In a statement issued on May 3, the institute charged that the plan "could result in the restriction of the media's right to freely gather and distribute news and information." But the Dayton agreement bans the dissemination of hate-propaganda. And non-nationalist parties have complained that the nationalists' grip on most of the local media puts the non-nationalists at a disadvantage.

Social Democrats Divided. Another problem facing the non-nationalist parties has been their frequent reluctance to sink their differences and form joint slates to fight the nationalists within each entity and across the inter-entity divide. A recent program of RFE/RL's South Slavic Service's "Radio Most" (Bridge) indicated that these differences are far from gone. Social Democratic leaders from both sides of the inter-entity divide showed that even they are capable of quibbling over issues such as the redrawing of ethnic boundaries in Sarajevo, or whether Serbs, Croats, and Muslims should be given equal constitutional status across Bosnia now or only later.

Quote of the Week. From Mira Markovic, the wife of Milosevic and leader of the die-hard leftist block, on the subject of Kosova: "The most powerful weapon, the same which proved itself so murderous in 1991, that of nationalist hatreds and separatism, has been put to work against the present Yugoslavia... The evidence is there in front of us to show that the revival of nationalist hatred and encouragement of separatism are the mechanisms of disintegration of the country and the fundamental cause of possible generalized bloodshed."