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Balkan Report: June 3, 1998

3 June 1998, Volume 2, Number 22

Albania's Nano Talks to RFE/RL. Prime Minister Fatos Nano told RFE/RL's South Slavic Service in a telephone interview on 27 May that the international community has learned from the Bosnian war that it must act quickly and decisively in Kosova. Nano stressed that to ignore the problem in the hopes that it will somehow go away is to court disaster, because the Kosova crisis could easily spill over into neighboring countries.

He added that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "does not have a future if he continues to behave like a warlord." Nano noted that many young Serbs are refusing a call-up for a war that they do not support.

He said that Albania backs shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova in pursuing a peaceful settlement. The prime minister defended Rugova's decision to meet Milosevic without a foreign mediator present, saying that there is ample international attention given to Kosova and that a foreign diplomat does not have to be physically present when the talks take place.

Turning to the question of alleged Albanian complicity in the fighting in Kosova, Nano stressed that Tirana works closely with NATO and opposes violence. He said that Albanian government has succeeded in restoring order and "control over its territory" since the unrest of 1997, but pointed out that the border with Yugoslavia is mountainous and difficult to control. Nano noted that "international monitoring missions and foreign military attaches in Tirana... have constantly issued accurate reports in which they point out that Albania is not involved" in aiding armed groups across the border. On the contrary, Albania's main concern about the frontier is that the Serbs will violate it and encroach on Albanian territory.

Asked whether he considers the actions of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) to be terrorist, Nano replied that "desperate people who defend their homes and their children... [in the face of] massive ethnic cleansing and violent operations" cannot be legitimately classified as terrorists. He stressed that the Serbian paramilitary police are trying to turn Kosova into a second Bosnia and spread the conflict beyond the province's frontiers. Their goal is "to preserve Milosevic's style of rule in a traditional, primitive way."

The prime minister urged that Kosova become a special entity within Yugoslavia, on the model of the status of the Republika Srpska within Bosnia. Nano said that establishing autonomous regions in the Balkans could prove to be a step toward "Europeanizing" the region "with due political good will and with due flexibility by everyone." He also stated that "the United States of American has been and remains the principal partner of Albanians generally and Albania in particular in finding a stable and peaceful solution for the Kosova problem."

Kucan Calls for Comprehensive Balkan Settlement. Slovenian President Milan Kucan also urged the international community to heed the lessons of the Bosnian conflict and apply them to Kosova. He told the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" of May 25 that the conflict in Kosova could "lead to a new Balkan war." He stressed that the international community must realize that "the fate of the Balkans" is currently being decided in the province. Kucan added that empty pronouncements and a "carrot-and-stick [diplomatic approach] will yield no useful results." The Slovenian president stated that Balkan problems cannot be solved piecemeal and that sooner or later a European conference will have to formulate a comprehensive regional settlement. Kucan stressed that Milosevic is responsible for the failure of the Yugoslav successor states to reach a settlement among themselves regarding the former Yugoslavia's debts and assets.

Observation of the Week. Speaking at the NATO Foreign Ministers' meeting in Luxembourg on May 28, Germany's Klaus Kinkel stated that his main worry is that the conflict in Kosova could cause thousands of people to seek asylum in Germany. He added that Kosova is unlikely to become "another Bosnia" because in Kosova only one side, namely the Serbs, is heavily armed, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" wrote.