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Balkan Report: November 11, 1998

11 November 1998, Volume 2, Number 44

Which Way for the Republika Srpska? The legislature in Banja Luka is slated to elect a prime minister in the next few days. The international community's Carlos Westendorp has repeatedly warned the Bosnian Serbs that their impoverished entity stands to lose outside financial and other assistance if hard-liners come to determine policies in the Republika Srpska. Following the replacement of the moderate Biljana Plavsic as president by the nationalist Nikola Poplasen, the international community has increasingly focused attention on who will hold the prime minister's job.

Incumbent Milorad Dodik learned during his first term in office that the international community is in a strong position to help those politicians who cooperate with it or to hurt those who do not. He consequently appears receptive to calls by Westendorp for a "broad-based government" in Banja Luka, which means one that will consist of moderate Serbs together with the Muslim Coalition for a United and Democratic Bosnia. RFE/RL's South Slavic Service recently broadcast Dodik's remarks in which he reminded the hard-liners that the Coalition is a "legitimate and legal party with full rights." He added that he finds it difficult to conceive forming a working leadership in parliament without the Coalition.

Nationalist leader Dragan Kalinic, for his part, appealed in the same broadcast to moderates to join their fellow Serbs in an all-Serb government. He said that he finds it inconceivable that there could be more harmony between Muslims and Serbs than between Serbs and Serbs. Kalinic stressed that a Dodik-Muslim deal would split the parliament into "two blocs: a patriotic Serbian bloc, and a Muslim-Serb bloc."

The next few days should provide clues as to which man's concept will win out. Reports from Banja Luka suggest that Dodik will succeed in putting together the broad-based coalition unless the Muslims make political demands of him that he cannot meet.

Karadjordjevic Says West Helped Milosevic. Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic, who is the claimant to the Serbian throne, said in London on November 4 that the West gave Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic a "new lease on life" by negotiating with him and allowing him to play the role of a peacemaker, AP reported. The prince charged that Milosevic deliberately orchestrated the crisis in Kosova and "provoked NATO" into threatening air strikes so that he could then negotiate a settlement and portray himself to his own people as the man who "saved Serbia." Karadjordjevic added: "Serbia remains in darkness and ignorance, and the state-run media are singing praise to the president. Any hope of democratic reform is on hold, and that is serious."

Bosnian Ambassador to the UN Muhamed Sacirbey often warns foreign leaders against what he calls "dancing with dictators," such as Milosevic. Sacirbey says that foreigners help legitimize dictators in their own people's eyes by appearing on television with them and according the dictator's respect as negotiating partners.

Montenegro's Cup: Half Empty or Half Full? RFE/RL's South Slavic Service recently interviewed several prominent Montenegrins from the worlds of politics, education and culture. The subject was whether President Milo Djukanovic is taking his country toward democracy or toward a new dictatorship.

Those who are critical of the president argued that he does not want an independent Montenegro, but only to reach an understanding with the leadership in Belgrade in order to make himself master in his own house. Some speakers in this vein added that Djukanovic's overall approach has been shallow, in that he blames Belgrade and its local allies for Montenegro's problems without posing any new solutions of his own. One critic added that not even the press is free in Montenegro, because one does not find articles that criticize Djukanovic or expose corruption in the government. (Djukanovic is widely believed to have made a fortune through sanctions-busting and smuggling during the Croatian and Bosnian wars.)

Some other Montenegrins were more positive about the president. One argued that Djukanovic has managed to create "a new Montenegrin political space" based on patriotism, liberal ideas, and a broad understanding with a variety of political forces. As a result, pro-Belgrade "Quislings" have no more place on the Montenegrin scene. Finally, proponents of this view concluded, the way is now open to create a civil society of Montenegrins of all ethnic backgrounds, including Albanians, Croats and others.

Refugee Update. The UNHCR reported recently that the current number of displaced persons within Kosova stands at about 200,000. An additional 30,000 are refugees in Montenegro, as are 20,000 in Albania and slightly fewer than 10,000 in Bosnia.

Quotes of the Week. Serbian President Milutinovic said in Prishtina on November 5 that Kosova's future lies not in conflicts "or in attempts at establishing apartheid and the self-isolation of ethnic communities..." He added that Serbia's goal is to promote development in Kosova "and end the spiral of violence, xenophobia, as well as chauvinistic, religious and historical prejudice, in other words, everything that divides peoples," RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported.

Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, who is the president of the Hague-based war crimes tribunal, to a press conference there on November 5, in response to the decision of the Yugoslav authorities to deny visas to top officials of the tribunal: Milosevic's Yugoslavia has become a "rogue state, one that holds the international rule of law in contempt."

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, in Yaroslavl at the parliamentary assembly of Belarus and Russia, on November 3: "Yugoslavia is the only country that has sustained such pressure from the West and not surrendered."

Unnamed UCK official in Switzerland, quoted in Knight-Ridder Newspapers on November 6: "The UCK has no great ideology now. We don't care if we're America's 52nd state. We just want to get rid of the Serbs."

French Defense Minister Alain Richard, in Paris on November 5, in response to a question as to whether it was France or the U.S. that first discovered that a French NATO officer was spying for Serbia: "There is no interest in that."

"The Guardian" the following day, after confirming that Washington -- and not Paris -- first uncovered the treachery: "It provides further confirmation of a long-held belief in Washington and London that the French military cannot be trusted when it comes to dealing with the Serbs."

Unnamed Western aid official in Sarajevo, as to why the international community funds housing projects there at a time when there is no housing shortage: "...this is the Balkans, where the logic of diplomacy can be a little crazy." (Quoted in "The Guardian" on November 5.)

Outgoing Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic, to her successor Nikola Poplasen, in Banja Luka on November 4: "I entrust you with a Republika Srpska at peace, in the middle of the democratization process, and I hope you will continue where I left off. I entrust you with a government that is effective and not corrupt, as well as with a fight against criminals, which I have begun and not had the time to finish."

Dragan Kalinic, of Radovan Karadzic's Serbian Democratic Party, to members of the moderate Sloga coalition that same day: "We are going to act as an opposition, and you will have to explain why you have accepted a multiethnic police force, customs department, and education system."