Thursday, June 30, 2005

Election puts Albania at crossroads on Europe - Financial Times

By Kerin Hope
Published: July 1 2005 03:00 | Last updated: July 1 2005 03:00

Disco music booms across Lake Ohrid as voters in Sunday's general election gather to hear Edi Rama, mayor of Tirana and Albania's most popular politician, call for a third straight term for the governing Socialist party.

"Our future is Europe and we must work to get there," says Mr Rama, an artist who has become an international celebrity for having the capital's once drab Stalinist-era buildings painted in fluorescent orange and pink and upgrading its parks. The New Yorker magazine recently called him "inexhaustible".

Like many Albanian towns, Pogradec, a trout-fishing centre and would-be tourist resort, has imitated the capital, but in muted shades of green and ochre. Remittances from migrant workers in Greece have fuelled a construction boom. Its internet cafés feature brand-new flat-screen computers.

Under the Socialists, Albania has achieved growth rates of about 6 per cent of gross domestic product for four successive years. Per capita incomes have doubled to the level of Romania. Trade with Italy and neighbouring Balkan countries flourishes.

But talks on a European Union stabilisation and association pact, the first step towards closer integration with the Union, have stalled because of the government's failure to tackle organised crime and entrenched corruption in the police and judiciary.

Sunday's vote will decide whether Albania resumes those talks with the prospect of signing the agreement later this year. As the only country in the Balkans that has failed to carry out an uncontested election, it still has to prove its democratic credentials.

An opinion poll published earlier this week showed the Socialists trailing with 34 per cent of the vote to 35 per cent for the right- of-centre Democratic party. With support of around 10 per cent, the Socialist Movement for Integration led by Ilir Meta, a former Socialist prime minister, appeared set to hold the balance of power in the 140-seat parliament.

Polling will be closely monitored by 400 observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and 3,500 Albanian observers, mainly from civil society groups. To prevent irregularities, unopened ballot boxes will be driven under guard to regional centres for votes to be counted.

"In 15 years we've made very little progress with applying democratic rules. But if we want to take the road to Europe, this election is a test we have to pass," says Remzi Lani, director of the Albanian Media Institute.

But the contest is so tight, diplomats and local analysts say, that both Socialists and Democrats will be tempted to make widespread use of intimidation and competitive vote-buying - tactics that have influenced the outcome of previous elections.

The bitter personal rivalry between Fatos Nano, the prime minister, and Sali Berisha, the former president and Democratic party leader, raises fears of violent protests if the fairness of the election result is called into doubt.

Mr Nano was jailed under a Berisha government on corruption charges. He was freed in 1997 in the turmoil that followed the collapse of a series of fraudulent pyramid savings schemes - tolerated by Mr Berisha - in which depositors lost an estimated $2bn (€1.6bn).

Factsheet on Albania - AFP

TIRANA, June 30 (AFP) -

Albania, the southern Balkan state where legislative elections will be held on Sunday, is one of the poorest countries in Europe, after more than 50 years of communist dictatorship under Enver Hoxha who died in 1985.

- GEOGRAPHY: Covering some 28,748 square kilometers (11,099 square miles), Albania is a Mediterranean country which shares borders with Macedonia, Serbia-Montenegro and Greece. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea in the west, and a coast on the Ionian Sea in the southwest.

- POPULATION: 3,1 million people.

- CAPITAL: Tirana (population of 500,000).

- RELIGION: Muslims (70 percent), Orthodox Christians (15 percent ), Catholics (8 percent).

- HISTORY: In 1912, after four centuries of the Ottoman empire's rule, Albania proclaimed independence in the southern town Vlora. Ahmed Zogu came to power in 1922 and in 1925, was elected president. He proclaimed a monarchy and became king in 1928, under the name Zog the First. In April 1939, Italy invaded the country and King Zog fled Albania, leaving the throne to Victor-Emmanuel III. Albanian communists, linked with Yugoslav leader Tito, launched a resistance movement against the fascists and Nazis, under the leadership of Stalinist Enver Hoxha.

In 1946, Hoxha proclaimed the People's Republic of Albania, which later become totally isolated. Hoxha ruled the country with an iron fist until his death in 1985. In 1990, his successor Ramiz Alia faced a popular revolt which he severely crushed. Thousands of Albanians fled the country but, under pressure from the street protests and unrest, Alia introduced a multi-party system and in December 1990 started the process of de-Stalinisation after 45 years of absolutist communist rule.

- POLITICS: President Alfred Moisiu, former defense minister, elected by the parliament on June 24, 2002. Prime Minister Fatos Nano, leader of the Socialist party since 1991.

In February and March 2004, social discontent provoked a series of protests, gathering thousands of people demanding Nano's dismissal.

In November 1998, more than 93.5 percent of voters adopted a new Constitution via a referendum.

- ECONOMY: After the communist regime was overthrown, Albania was left with an obsolete industrial base and a pattern of industrial capacity wholly unsuited to its needs.

In 1997, fraudulent pyramid schemes ruined the Albanian economy and left thousands without savings.

Almost half of the economically-active population is still engaged in agriculture, one fifth is believed to be working abroad, while unemployment is officially around 15 percent. According to UN data, a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.

GNP: 2,414 dollars per inhabitant (World Bank 2004).

FOREIGN DEBT: 1.64 billion dollars (2004)

DEFENSE: Around 21.500 troops (IISS 2004/2005).

Albania is among the first ex-communist countries to join NATO Partnership for peace programme in 1994. In May 2003, together with Macedonia and Croatia, Albania signed an "Adriatic Chapter" with the United States, aimed at facilitating its integration into NATO.

Tirana was expected to sign an accord of stabilization and association with the European Union in 2004, but this was delayed after many European institutions strongly condemned Albania's failure to root out organized crime and corruption and the lack of political and economic progress.

Council of Europe sends delegation to monitor Albania's election

Strasbourg, 30 June: A 15-member delegation of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) headed by Jerzy Smorawinski will observe the election in Albania on 3 July 2005, information sources in the Council of Europe (CE) announced.

The parliamentarians will meet party leaders, the chairman of the Central Election Commission, journalists and non-governmental organizations. On the Election Day, they will be deployed in the capital and in the towns around the country.

The observation of the election will be carried out in the framework of an international election observation mission (IEOM) composed of delegations from the Council of Europe and OSCE parliamentary assemblies, the European Parliament, and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR.).

According to the same sources, a pre-election delegation from PACE, which visited the country from 30 May to 1 June 2005, said in a statement that the truly democratic conduct of the election, in line with the commitments Albania subscribed to when it joined the Council of Europe, depends now on the political will of the authorities and parties participating in this election. The delegations will be accompanied by an expert from the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe's group of experts that made recommendations on the electoral law and the administration of the (local) election in Albania in October 2004.

President appeals to Albanians to "exercise right to vote"

Tirana, 30 June: The president of the Republic of Albania appealed Thursday [30 June] to all Albanian citizens "to participate in the polls and exercise their right to vote".

The information office of the president's office announced that, responding to the interest of media in the electoral campaign, which is almost completed, President [Alfred] Moisiu emphasized that "in spite of a few incidents that have occurred Albanians are showing that they have undergone great transformation in their democratic mentality and the political forces".

"I wish that the election makes smooth progress, in spite of the recent days' problems in the judiciary system. On this occasion, I invite the judiciary system to be very prudent and rigorously apply the demands of the constitution. The right of the citizens to vote should not be denied. The judiciary system should defend this right," President Moisiu underlined.

The president of the republic is expected to address Friday the Albanian people with a message on the occasion of elections.

Source: ATA news agency, Tirana, in English 1601 gmt 30 Jun 05

Albanian police, army troops protect major buildings ahead of election

Tirana, 30 June: Since 1700 hrs (1500 gmt) on Thursday [30 June], in entire Albania, the army troops have taken protection of state institutions and the buildings of special importance.

According to the public order ministry, this measure will be in effect up to 1200 hrs on 5 July 2005. The state police officers, who guard and secure the most important state objects, will be engaged in maintaining the order and tranquillity in the election process.

Source: ATA news agency, Tirana, in English 1720 gmt 30 Jun 05

Ex-legislator to observe critical Albanian election

By Courtney Kinney
Post staff reporter

Former state Sen. Joe Meyer is on his way to Albania to observe that country's elections, the second time in a year he has monitored elections in a fledgling democracy.

Meyer, an attorney from Covington, is one of 400 observers who will monitor the set-up of polling places, casting of ballots, counting of ballots and tabulation of results for the parliamentary election Sunday. The observers, who come from a variety of nations, work with the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, part of the international Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Meyer is one of 45 Americans in the group.

Meyer in October observed municipal elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a Balkan state that was part of the former Yugoslavia until 1991. It was the country's first election under a new regime following years of civil war.

He left Tuesday for Albania and will return next Tuesday.

Meyer, who currently works as an adviser in the Kentucky Auditor's Office, said it is an honor to be a part of helping a new democracy.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to help the spread of democracy to countries that have not participated in it very much," said Meyer, a Democrat who served in the state Senate from 1989 to 1996 and in the state House from 1982 to 1988.

Meyer applied for the position, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, in January of 2004 and was selected for the Bosnian election last fall.

"It's a tremendous educational opportunity. Plus, you get to go places you'd never otherwise go," he said.

Sunday's election is considered a milestone for Albania, a European country adjacent to Greece that broke with communism in the early 1990s. Elections since then have been fraught with irregularities and fraud, but officials have promised to be more vigilant this year. The country wants to join

NATO and the European Union, and free and fair elections are a requirement to join both.

Meyer and the other observers will be briefed on specific problems to watch for, then dispatched in pairs to polling stations across the country, which is roughly the size of Maryland.

The country was largely isolated from the rest of Europe and the world until the fall of communism in 1992, and still only has one international airport, no international railways and only 120,000 phone lines for its more than 3.5 million residents, Meyer said.

"Albania is a fascinating country about which I - and we as Americans - know very little," he said.

Council Special Report Calls for Rapid Resolution

June 30, 2005--The United States needs to push for a speedy resolution of Kosovo's final status and stay engaged in the Balkans, concludes a new Council Special Report. "The ongoing uncertainty over final status has increased tensions in Kosovo, fueling Serbia's political turmoil and threatening to destabilize the entire region," says the report.

Forgotten Intervention? What the United States Needs to Do in the Western Balkans is a follow-up to the 2002 Council-sponsored Independent Task Force report Balkans 2010, and was co-written by Council Senior Fellow and retired Army Major General William L. Nash and research associate Amelia Branczik. Nash, head of the Council's Center for Preventive Action, led U.S. troops into Bosnia after the Dayton Accords and was a UN administrator in Kosovo.

Kosovo remains the most significant unresolved question. "Finding a settlement acceptable to all sides will be difficult and will require an active U.S. role to establish a consensus on the specifics of final status, prepare the environment in Serbia and provide political cover for Belgrade, create a credible process, and implement a solution." Final status will most likely involve some sort of conditional independence. The U.S. needs to work with the UN and the European Union to prepare Belgrade for this outcome, using incentives such as guaranteeing full protection for Kosovo's Serb community, a promise of EU candidacy for Serbia as early as 2006, and compensation for its loss of territory.

The report also argues that the United States, the UN, and the EU should create a consultative review commission on what the specifics of final status would be. Meanwhile, the United States should maintain its current modest commitment of troops in Kosovo and Bosnia as part of NATO forces there. Any outbreak of fighting would require a strong U.S. response. "Current conditions require more active efforts to prevent a crisis in Kosovo that could undo years of international efforts to create conditions for lasting peace."

With the threat of terrorism looming large for the foreseeable future, the existence of strong and stable states in the western Balkans, with the ability to police their borders and control organized crime networks, is critical for U.S. national security. "There is a danger that the United States is withdrawing too rapidly," says the report. "This could lead to a vacuum of political leadership that will undermine U.S. foreign policy goals."

For the region as a whole, the report makes the following recommendations:

Stay Involved in the Western Balkans. "Although the broader U.S. objective is to pull out of a secure and stable region, a precipitous withdrawal of assistance will undermine stability and ultimately be counterproductive. Instead, the United States should continue to provide support for a greater EU role and promote the region's integration into the EU, which provides the best framework for securing political and economic stability in the long term."
Restore Economic and Democratization Assistance to 2002 Levels. "The dramatic decline in U.S. assistance across all sectors suggests an underestimation of the difficulties involved in EU accession goals, and which will not fully materialize for several years...To demonstrate its commitment, the United States should restore annual funding for assistance programs in the western Balkans to $440 million, the 2002 level of assistance."
Promote Governance Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina. "Bosnia will not be a sustainable state as long as it maintains its current ineffective and inefficient government institutions. Reducing the cost of the public sector, reforming government structures within Bosnia's two entities, and making specific changes to the constitution introduced by Dayton will facilitate effective governance as the international community hands over greater sovereignty to local politicians."
Promote Further Reform of Serbia and Montenegro's Security Sector. While "the chief obstacle to Serbia and Montenegro's progress on EU accession continues to be lack of compliance with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)," the United States "has an important role to play in encouraging and assisting further reform." While maintaining pressure to capture suspected war criminals Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, the United States can acknowledge Serbia's recent progress on ICTY compliance by providing more low-level assistance to Serbia and Montenegro's armed forces.

Artists from Kosovo and Japan

An exhibition is featuring nine artists from Japan and Kosovo at Gallery Hibiya near Tokyo's Yurakucho Station.
The 11th International Exhibtion for Peace/Kosovo is featuring five artists from Japan: Atsushi Ogawa, Emiko Horimoto, Jeri Holey, Junko Matsushima and Toshihiko Sawai -- and four artists from Kosovo -- Arta Agani, Driton Hajredini, Hamdi Bardhi and Nysret Salihamixhiqi.

A solo exhibition -- "Message of Universal Love" -- featuring Horimoto is also being held in the same gallery.

The two exhibitions are open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (to 5 p.m. on the last day) through July 7 at Gallery Hibiya (1-6-5 Yuraku-cho, Chiyoda-ku. Tel. [03] 3591-8948), along the Harumi Ave. near the JR tracks and a three-minute walk from JR Yurakucho Station.

The Japan Times: July 1, 2005

Berisha, symbol of the fall of communism, ready to return to power

TIRANA, June 30 (AFP) -

Former Albanian president Sali Berisha, a symbol of the fall of the communist dictatorship, hopes to return to power in legislative elections on Sunday, after eight long years in opposition.

The first post-communist president of Albania is still regarded by many as the man who ended almost fifty years of isolation of the country under the rule of dictator Enver Hoxha.

But his rivals constantly recall the chaos that engulfed Albania at the end of his presidential mandate in 1997: armed unrest by hundreds of thousands of Albanians caused by the collapse of several fraudulent investment schemes he had allowed to function.

Born on October 15, 1944 into a Muslim farmer's family in Tropoja, in the mountainous north, former heart surgeon Berisha came to prominence by managing to transform an anti-communist student revolt into a general movement that eventually toppled the communist regime.

Detractors at the time said he had been hand-picked as an opposition leader by then communist President Ramiz Alija as a device to control the student protests. Berisha, a former party member, said he joined the anti-communist protests out of contrition for his earlier support of the regime.

After the multi-party system was introduced, Berisha, a big man with the stylish appeal of an actor, was one of the founders of the Democratic party. He was elected president in March 1992.

"I am opposed to the (Communists) because I feel co-responsible for the dictatorship," he said after the election.

Despite ending his country's isolation -- Albania was among the first former communist countries to join the NATO Partnership for peace programme -- and opening up Europe's poorest state to the world's market economy, Berisha soon squandered the goodwill he inherited after succeeding Alija.

In particular his intolerance of dissent within his own party and his use of the courts and secret police to intimidate the opposition cost him dearly in terms of support.

Although insisting that he was against a "witch-hunt" of former communist officials, he allowed the "genocide" trials of dozens of former leaders, some of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Berisha has never managed to establish a dialogue with the opposition, thus provoking ongoing demands for his dismissal.

His ouster in 1997 was the culmination of years of growing discontent at government corruption, cronyism and authoritarian rule.

The rebellion in 1997 left almost 2,000 dead and the country lawless and divided, with large quantities of weaponry in private hands and the government holding little sway in the north and south of the country.

After the Socialists took power, Berisha went into opposition and has for eight years been condemning his main rival, Prime Minister Fatos Nano as a "dictator," accusing him of corruption and dictatorial rule.

Berisha seems to see Sunday elections as his last chance to return to power. To reach that goal, he has listened to his critics and changed his style, assuming the image of a "people's politician".

Advised by American experts, he attends local meetings, mingles with crowds, exchange handshakes and kisses with his supporters.

"Nano wants to transform elections into a personal battle. I will not follow him," Berisha insists.

Serbs Thwart Plan to Reopen Mitrovica Bridge - IWPR

United Nations plan to allow free movement in divided Kosovo town meets angry reception in Serb-run northern sector.

By Përparim Isufi in Prishtina (BCR No 563, 30-Jun-05)

Kosovo Serbs living in northern Mitrovica have given a hostile welcome to UNMIK’s new strategy for establishing freedom of movement in the divided town of Mitrovica

The strategy, launched in mid-June, aims to gradually open the bridge over the river Ibar - which divides the Serb-majority north from the mainly Albanian south - to civilian vehicular traffic.

Earlier, Kosovo’s NATO peacekeepers scrapped the checkpoints they had re-established on the bridge after ethnic riots shook Kosovo last March. Security on the bridge is now in the hands of the Kosovo Police Service, KPS.

During the first week of the UNMIK plan, which was put into action June 13, the bridge was opened for two hours per day, which increased to four hours in week two. UNMIK sources say that by mid-July, there will be no restrictions on cars or pedestrians moving between the two sections. However, the plan has run into resistance in the north of Mitrovica where many Serbs fear free movement over the Ibar will end in unification of the town and their loss of control over the districts they currently hold.

For eight days running, not one car driver ventured north after a solitary driver on June 13 met a volley of stones hurled by Serb crowds gathered at the square, just north of the bridge.

The Serb protesters have kept their vigil up ever since. Alex Anderson, Head of the International Crisis Group, ICG, in Pristina, said UNMIK appeared to lack a strategy that took into account the predictable opposition of many Serbs to the scheme.

“UNMIK does not appear to have planned a broad political initiative to accompany this measure and implementation seems to be very floppy on the ground,” he told IWPR.

“Serb ‘bridge watchers’ are demanding IDs from people who pass. They are being allowed to decide whom to let across.” The bridge watchers are organised groups of Serb civilians who patrol and monitor all traffic across the Ibar. Though supposed to comprise local volunteers, many Albanians believe they are ultimately controlled by Serbia’s security forces. Mitrovica has been a security hotspot throughout the UN’s six-year administration of Kosovo. Many displaced Serbs from other parts of Kosovo settled in the town in the turmoil of 1990-2000, occupying houses of Albanians who had fled south.

Ethnic tensions have frequently boiled over in Mitrovica since then, resulting in bloodshed. In incidents in 2000 and 2001, more than 20 Albanian inhabitants of the north were killed while peacekeepers failed to intervene.

In March 17, 2004, ethnic riots, starting in Mitrovica, then engulfed most of Kosovo, resulting in the loss of 19 lives over two days. Several thousand Serbs were forced from their homes by Albanian extremists, while dozens of Serbian churches and shrines were attacked and damaged. In spite of the hostile reaction from the Serbs in the north, UNMIK seems determined to go to ahead with its initiative for the bridge. “There is no reason to protest because the opening of the bridge in Mitrovica will help improve the freedom of movement in Kosovo,” said the UNMIK spokesperson, Neeraj Singh. Mitrovica Serbs do not agree, seeing UNMIK’s initiative as a prelude to an invasion of the north by Albanians concentrated in the southern part of town.

Milan Ivanovic, a Serb representative in northern Mitrovica, told IWPR, “UNMIK’s decision to allow the circulation of private vehicles over the bridge threatens the security of Serbs.”

The town’s Albanian mayor, Faruk Spahia, on the other hand, said the Serb protests “were to be expected”.

“[The local Serbs] are directly inspired and controlled by the government in Belgrade, which has an interest in obstructing the process leading to [Kosovo’s] final status,” he added. Serb concerns about the use of the bridge are linked to recent diplomatic developments over Kosovo.

Two months ago, the Contact Group of big nations said it had ruled out the partition of Kosovo into Serb and Albanian zones.

A partition line, following the current ethnic dividing line of the Ibar, has been one of Serbia’s reserve options in the event of its nightmare scenario, the international recognition of Kosovo’s independence.

Last year, the EU’s foreign policy supremo, Javier Solana, said the problem in Mitrovica had to be resolved before talks on final status began. Blerim Shala, a Kosovo Albanian political analyst, said the furore over the bridge represented “a counter-attack from Serbia to undermine UNMIK’s initiative”.

Whether UNMIK’s latest plan will succeed where so many others have failed remains to be seen.

Even the local Albanians are sceptical about the initiative’s chances. Without other major plans to reconcile the two communities, the problem of this divided town, of which the bridge is only a symbol, may well continue to haunt Kosovo. Përparim Isufi is a journalist with the newspaper Zëri in Pristina.

Kosovo government-appointed team to draft "action plan" on status

Prishtina [Pristina], 30 June: The action plan on Kosova's [Kosovo] final status will be drafted by experts selected by the government, Special Representative of the Secretary General Soeren Jessen-Petersen, Kosova Assembly, and the Political Forum, Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi declared yesterday.

Kosumi made this announcement during a meeting with representatives of the Parliamentary Committee for International Cooperation and Euro-Atlantic Integrations.

"This way we will create and maintain a consensus on major issues, such as final status," Kosumi said.

Kosumi also reported to the Parliamentary Committee on issues related to regional dialogue.

He repeated that there will be no dialogue with Belgrade about Kosova's final status. But he did not exclude the possibility of establishing more working groups for dialogue with Serbia on technical issues.

"Nobody - including Belgrade - can decide how we will live in ten years," Kosumi said.

During Kosumi's mandate, he has met several times with senior officials in Prishtina. He has also taken part in official visits to Albania, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Croatia.

Kosumi emphasized that, during these meetings, he had made several agreements on free trade, return of refugees, and other issues.

Kosumi expressed his readiness to respond to all concerns of MPs.

R.N. Burns IV With Katja Gloger of Stern Magazine - Excerpt on Kosovo

QUESTION: And you will keep cooperate completely now, share the Balkans (inaudible) forward?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Yeah. Look, German, American troops are together in Kosovo, in Bosnia, in Afghanistan and now in Darfur. So NATO is playing -- and NATO is in Iraq. NATO is playing a much more expansive role than it ever was before. You know, NATO was created, really because of the German problem back in the 1940s -- the division of Germany -- and we wanted to prevent a continental war. We wanted to prevent aggression by the Soviet Union with the Warsaw Pact. And now NATO had a very different purpose. It represents the will of the countries involved to be peacekeepers in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Kosovo, in Bosnia, in Macedonia, in Darfur. And the world needs a military organization that can be the most successful peacekeeping organization in the world. I think NATO is that already. It's certainly the most in demand. We're being asked to go everywhere, it seems.

10 Years After Bosnia Massacre, Justice Not Yet Served- The Washington Post

Experts Doubt Top Suspects Will Be Tried Before U.N. Court Is Scheduled to Expire

By Daniel Williams
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, June 30, 2005; A20

SREBRENICA, Bosnia -- Nearly 10 years after Serb troops massacred close to 7,000 Muslim prisoners around this mountain town, war crimes investigators have all but wound up their probe into the killings, but express doubts that all major suspects will be brought to justice before a U.N. tribunal's scheduled closure in 2008.

As forensic experts complete the examination of a newly discovered mass grave, the two main targets of the war crimes manhunt remain at large. Ratko Mladic, who commanded the military forces of the breakaway Bosnian Serb state during the 1992-95 war, and Radovan Karadzic, its political leader, have been wanted men for a decade.

Preparations are underway in the town of Potocari near here for a July 11 ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

Serbian President Boris Tadic has announced that he will attend the event, to be held at a cemetery where 2,000 of the victims lie. Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica recently issued a statement denouncing the "massive crime" of Srebrenica.

Serbia has surrendered close to a dozen other war crimes suspects to the U.N. court this year, and this month, a half-dozen people in the part of Bosnia dominated by ethnic Serbs were arrested for alleged involvement in the massacre.

Despite gestures like these, deep suspicions remain. The Serbian parliament has refused to issue a condemnation of the massacre. And some Bosnian Muslims have called for Tadic to stay away from the ceremonies, saying his presence would signal that Serbia considers Srebrenica part of its territory.

So far, the U.N. court in The Hague has convicted several Serb perpetrators, some of whom are appealing the verdicts. Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic is on trial, and several other suspects await hearings. Bosnian Muslims also committed atrocities, investigators say. Naser Oric, the Bosnian Muslim military commander for Srebrenica, is on trial for overseeing the killing and expulsion of Serb civilians in the years before the massacre.

But for now, the wait for the two big names continues. Carla del Ponte, the chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor, has said she will not attend the anniversary event unless Mladic and Karadzic are captured.

Fears that the tribunal might shut down before Mladic, Karadzic and other suspects come to trial prompted the court president, Theodor Meron, to call for an extension. "I can already predict that trials will have to run into 2009," he told the U.N. Security Council in a report this month.

Today, Srebrenica looks eerily the same as a decade ago. Gutted buildings dominate the winding main road. A pair of new mosques replace a couple that the Serbs razed. About 6,000 Serbs live in the town and nearby villages, along with 4,000 Muslims. Members of the two groups barely speak to each other, townspeople say.

The sum of information on Srebrenica points to a methodical killing campaign. The deaths took place not in a single orgy of destruction and bloodletting, but in a step-by-step process of capture, transfer, distribution and execution of thousands of detainees in multiple places around the town over four days, and by some accounts longer.

The killings took place two months before the end of the war. The United Nations had declared the town a "safe area" and stationed Dutch troops in it. But on July 11, 1995, Serb forces backed by tanks defied the United Nations and pushed straight into the town.

Hussein Karic, a Muslim who retired as a gamekeeper, returned from Sarajevo two years ago. He recalls being at his home above Srebrenica that day, when Serb forces started to descend from the mountains. He walked with a granddaughter to the town center, where hundreds of Muslims gathered. "I saw Mladic just a few feet away. He was trying to calm people. No one believed him," Karic said.

Karic joined a column of civilians heading for Potocari, down the valley. Occasionally, Muslim men were pulled out of the crowd and confined to buildings; there were screams and shots. "I kept circulating in the crowd. I didn't let anyone's eyes meet mine," Karic recalled.

Videos shot during the invasion showed Mladic moving about, patting little boys on the head and telling mothers not to wail. But at one point, he told Serbian television: "The time has come to take revenge on the Turks." Turks is the dismissive Serb label for Bosnian Muslims.

On July 13, buses arrived and a two-day evacuation began. Serb guards separated men from women and boys. Karic sneaked onto a bus for women and boys and stayed silent. He remembers looking into the eye of the driver. The driver did nothing. "I don't know why. It must be said some Serbs among the drivers knew there were men on board, but did not throw them off. It was God's will," Karic said.

Elsewhere, Serb guards were directing men and boys off the road, and women toward the trucks and buses. Sabaheta Fejzic recalls trying to shield her 16-year-old son. "The guards told me to go to the right, where the white buses were. 'Your son goes left.' . . . They grabbed him. I could not even cry, but my son was crying. I will never forget the tears falling from his eyes, his olive-colored eyes," she said, speaking slowly and pausing to recover from a sob.

"I knelt down and yelled out, 'Kill me.' One aimed a rifle at me. I said, 'Kill me.' But they said, 'Why waste the bullets?' And they threw me into a truck. It was all a haze after. I just see his olive eyes."

Captives were transported all over eastern Bosnia, war crimes investigators said: some just down the road to villages near the Drina River, others as far as 45 miles north, west as far as the outskirts of Sarajevo and several miles to the south.

Today, there are plenty of vivid traces of the operation. In the agricultural warehouse in Kravica, a few miles from Potocari, tribunal investigators say that scores of men and boys were packed into a long, white building and killed with bullets and grenades. Investigators have a photo of bodies piled up at the broad front doors.

Currently, the building is empty except for an occasional wandering goat. Bullet and shrapnel holes on the outside have been covered over. Inside, the walls are blackened by smoke and the bullets holes remain.

Similar remnants are visible in Pilica, 40 miles north, in a building called the Dom Kultura. Blackened flooring underneath a stage and pocked walls indicate shooting and fire within. There, on July 16, Serb soldiers killed prisoners, investigators say.

Drazen Erdemovic, a solder in the Serb army, confessed to shooting dozens of men in Pilica. In his defense, he said, "I had to do this. If I had refused, I would have been killed together with the victims. When I refused, they told me: 'If you are sorry for them, stand up, line up with them and we will kill you too.' " He was sentenced to five years in prison, his sentenced mitigated by his willingness to help investigators.

Investigators have identified numerous other places where prisoners were assembled and killed: a soccer field, a warehouse and a school in Bratunac, a warehouse in Konjevic Polje, a riverside at Drinjaca, a bend in the road at Nova Kasaba and a school and nearby dam at Petkovci. One of the worst mass executions occurred at a place called Branjevo farm, where more than 1,200 men and boys were shot down in a field.

Using aerial photographs, tribunal investigators have uncovered numerous grave sites filled with hundreds of bodies. Some of the bodies had been buried first at other sites, then dug up and moved in an attempt to hide evidence after the war ended. Many victims had their hands manacled or were blindfolded. In addition to the 2,000 corpses buried at the cemetery at Potocari, about 3,500 bodies remain in storage in Tuzla, Bosnia, where forensic experts are trying to identify them.

Last month, Serbian human rights campaigner Natasa Kandic, who has been investigating war crimes, provided a videotape of a unit of Serb soldiers called the Scorpions gunning down six Muslim men and boys at a house near Sarajevo. A vivid documentary account of an execution like this had never been found and shown before. It briefly set off a wave of soul-searching inside Serbia.

Nura Alispahic, a survivor of the killings, watched the tape at her home in Sarajevo. She later told reporters that her son Azmir was one of the prisoners: "I recognized his face, his shoes. That was my Azmir. They chased him, he turned around. I saw my enemies killing my child."

Azmir had left the family house in Srebrenica in an attempt to escape the town, but returned in a few minutes. "I forgot to kiss you, mother," Alispahic recalled him saying. That was the last time she saw him, or knew what happened to him, until the broadcast of the video in early June.

Petritsch candidate for Kosovo status talks

Belgrade/ Vienna - One of Austria's most experienced Balkans diplomats, Wolfgang Petritsch, is the leading candidate for the post of chief negotiator in talks on the future status of Kosovo, says the Belgrade news agency BETA quoting diplomatic sources in Brussels.

In the Kosovo status talks due to begin this autumn, "everything points to the chief negotiator being a European. The decisive factor will be his experience in Balkans affairs."

"Also, his present activities should not have him openly favouring one or the other side in the Kosovo problem", said the agency. It added that the European chief negotiator would probably have a deputy from the United States.

Up till March 1999, at the beginning of the NATO war against then-Yugoslavia, Petritsch was E.U. special envoy for Kosovo.

In February 1999 he was one of three international mediators - alongside Christopher Hill of the U.S. and Boris Mayorsky of Russia - who took part in Kosovo negotiations in the French town of Rambouillet near Paris. At present he is Austrian ambassador to the United Nations Organizations in Geneva.

As the EU struggles to contain a crisis, many in the Balkans fear the door is shutting

SPLIT, Croatia (AP) - In the shadows of a remarkably well-preserved Roman palace teeming with European tourists, a tattered poster depicts a fugitive general wanted on U.N. war crimes charges.

"Hero!" it declares, defying those who insist the man widely hailed as a patriot must be captured before Croatia can make it into the rapidly expanding European Union.

The scene in this sun-kissed Adriatic seaport -- well-off EU visitors sipping wine and snapping up souvenirs in a poor country with a turbulent past and an uncertain future -- underscores the disconnect between the nations of the Balkans and the coveted club they're struggling to join.

As the 25-nation bloc turns inward to deal with the crisis over its constitution, a bitter squabble over its budget, and jitters over mostly Muslim Turkey's quest for membership, debate is also growing over what to do with a rough neighborhood some call "Europe's ghetto."

Supporters of bringing Balkan nations into the bloc contend that taking in the region is the best way to ease the continent's largest security liability, and insist the EU will never be complete without it.

Opponents counter that it makes no sense to absorb countries where indicted war crimes suspects can elude capture with impunity, and where economies are heavily dependent on foreign aid and tourism.

"They are isolated from their own dreams," former Italian premier Giuliano Amato said of the region at a recent conference that called for an EU-Balkans summit next year.

Caught in the middle are ordinary citizens like Paula Lalic, a Croat innkeeper who's tired of seeing her homeland pressured to change its ways for nearly a decade by a Europe that suddenly appears to be withdrawing the carrot of membership.

"I'm not even sure what the point is any more," she said. "We have a beautiful country where everything works. They all come here to play, but if they don't want us, fine. Who needs them?"

Croatia had hoped to join in 2007 along with Bulgaria and Romania, but EU leaders have put membership talks on ice. Officially, the reason is Croatia's failure to capture Gen. Ante Gotovina, wanted since 1991 for wartime atrocities against Serbs.

But the backdrop is a growing sense that for problematic countries, the EU -- at least temporarily -- is closed for business.

In much of western Europe, there's been a backlash since the bloc took in 10 mostly ex-communist newcomers last year. It was evident in the recent French and Dutch rejections of the proposed EU constitution -- referendums seen as popular revolts that laid bare frustrations over a union many are convinced is already too unwieldy.

Although the incentives for joining are numerous -- lucrative subsidies, free trade and movement of workers and the promise of foreign investment -- people from Split to Sarajevo are losing heart.

"People here are not interested in Europe very much. They are occupied by their own problems, like how to survive and feed their children," said Milorad Zivanovic, a professor of philosophy in Banja Luka, the self-styled capital of Bosnia's Serb mini-state.

Two years ago, holding out the promise of prosperity to an economically shaky region still steeped in ethnic strife, EU leaders at a summit in Greece laid out an ambitious plan to give the Balkans a road map to membership -- perhaps as early as 2010.

But that plan has gone nowhere fast. The risks of absorbing the former Yugoslavia, which descended into a decade of bloodletting in the 1990s, are enormous.

Nationalism, corruption, cronyism and racketeering are rampant, and peacekeepers still patrol a region where human rights and the rule of law are patchy. As recently as 2001, Macedonia -- which hopes to open EU entry talks next year -- nearly imploded when ethnic Albanian insurgents took up arms to fight for greater rights.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has cautioned the EU not to abandon the region, pointing to its "common strategic interests in preserving peace and stability."

On a recent visit to Kosovo, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns echoed that view, saying the United States wants a Europe that is "united, secure and peaceful -- and that can only happen if the Balkans are part of it."

But to join, members must have functioning democracies and market economies and be ready to write into their national laws the entire package of EU rules and regulations, from agricultural standards to antitrust policy.

Many in countries whose leaders are struggling to slash spending, shrink black-market economies and shut down unprofitable state enterprises felt betrayed when EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner called this month for an expansion slowdown because Europeans need "time to breathe."

"By the time we get there, the European Union will no longer exist," said Rajko Susic, 34, of Serbia.

Even in Croatia, the most advanced of the Balkan candidates, disillusionment abounds.

Fewer than one in two Croats backs EU entry -- the most lukewarm support the bloc has ever seen in a candidate country.

Many insist Croatia, which political analyst Ines Sabalic says is desperate "to escape the sewers of the Balkans," is far more stable and prosperous than Bulgaria or Romania. The Gotovina issue, they say, is a flimsy ruse to keep it out of the club.

"When Gotovina is extradited, those against us will think of something new to set us back," complained Mislav Racki, a law student in Zagreb.

Condoleeza Rice and Kofi Annan discuss situation in Kosovo

Zëri reports on the front page that Condoleeza Rice paid the first visit in the capacity of US Secretary of State to the United Nations headquarters in New York. Rice said that Security Council reforms should not set aside other necessary reforms. A press release issued by the UN noted that Secretary General Annan and Rice discussed the situation in Kosovo, Iraq, Lebanon, Uzbekistan and Sudan.

Zëri publisher Blerim Shala writes that the frequent high-ranking meetings that discuss the situation in Kosovo prove that ‘we are already only one step away from the most important period in the new history of Kosovo’.

Shala however notes that while the high-ranking international structures are preoccupied with status developments, there are still no conditions in Kosovo where the main politicians could intensively engage in preparations for status talks.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Remember the Balkans - The Washington Times

By Helle Dale
June 29, 2005

Acceptance of the past is often crucial for unlocking the promise of the future. That lesson helped Germans rebuild their country after World War II. The Russians, to their own detriment, have come nowhere close to dealing with the bloody history of the Soviet era. In the Balkan wars of the 1990s, which split up the former Yugoslavia, much tragic history remains to be re-examined, but recent events may represent something of a breakthrough for Serbia, a nation in denial about war crimes committed in its name. If that is indeed the case, we may finally see the area of the Balkans make progress toward social healing and economic development.
On June 2, Serbian television broadcast a shocking, graphic piece of evidence of the horrors of the recent past. It was a tape — made by a Serbian hit squad, the Scorpions — of the brutal murder of six Bosnian men and boys in the Bosnian city of Srebrenica in 1995. The rest of the world has known Srebrenica as a place of infamy, where 8,000 Bosnian males of all ages were massacred by Serbian troops in horrible violation of the adage that "never again" must the horrors of genocide take place on European soil. In the Balkans, it did, while the rest of Europe was holding meetings about what to do to stop it.
The video came to light as part of the evidence in the war-crimes trial of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, and has finally stirred a wrenching and overdue internal debate in Serbia, where most accusations of Serbian war crimes have previously been dismissed as enemy propaganda, and where the Hague war crimes tribunal been dismissed as victors' justice.
Immediate evidence of its impact came in the form of a new willingness in Belgrade to hand over suspected war criminals. Coming as this does just before the 10th anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica on July 11, the tape is of critical importance. In the days since the video aired, Serbia has turned over a number of those wanted in The Hague; Serbia has been rewarded with the release of $10 million in U.S. aid that had been held up for lack of cooperation. Equally importantly, the Serbian government has opened its files on the most wanted of war criminals, Ratko Mladic, the man who ordered the Srebrenica massacre.
The timing of these developments is propitious. After years of relative neglect, the Balkans is back on the political agenda in Washington and Brussels, specifically the question of final status for the Serbian autonomous province of Kosovo, which has been left in political limbo for the past six years — since NATO bombing put an end to Serbian attempts to drive out the region's majority ethnic Albanian population.
Kosovo, whose Albanian population seeks independence from Serbia, has been a U.N. protectorate with more than 20,000 plus international troops stationed there, of whom 7,000 are Americans. This has produced an unstable peace, which was interrupted last spring by a vicious ethnic-cleansing campaign directed at Kosovo's Serbian minority population by Albanians.
Yet, enough political progress has been made that the U.S. government has decided to push strongly for negotiated final status talks for Kosovo this year. As stated by the administration's point man on the issue, Undersecretary for Political Affairs Nick Burns, "Kosovo has been put on the backburner for years. We have to go back and complete the job."
The Bush administration's preferred scenario is having a European chief negotiator with a strong American No. 2. Beyond calling for final status to be the target, the Americans have declined to come up with a formula. Yet, it is widely believed that a formula that allows some form of conditional independence for Kosovo — strong human-rights guarantees for the ethnic Serbian minority while precluding Kosovo from joining up with Albania — will be in the picture.
The real issues are whether Kosovars can be made to accept something less than 100 percent independence (at least for now) and whether Serbs will finally recognize that they have to let Kosovars determine their own future. Meanwhile, the role of the international community, specifically the United States and the European Union, is to offer Serbia, Kosovo and the other parts of the former Yugoslavia the inclusion in our institutions that offer them hope for the future. That would make 2005, 10 years after the nadir of the atrocities committed in the Balkans, a year to remember.

Serbian army 'helped Gen Mladic' - BBC

The head of military intelligence in Serbia and Montenegro has said war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic was at times sheltered by the army up to 2002.

His comments to a Belgrade newspaper were the first official acknowledgement that the Serbian military had helped the wanted general.

Earlier this week, the head of Serbia's security agency said the authorities lost track of Gen Mladic in 2002.

Gen Mladic is wanted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

He was indicted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague in 1995.

Gen Svetko Kovac told the newspaper Blic that "until 2002, Gen Ratko Mladic was in his house at the address everyone knows. The army occasionally offered him hospitality in its installations".

He said the arrangement ended in 2002 after which "we lost all trace of Mladic".

He said the military intelligence service continued to receive reports that Gen Mladic was hiding on military bases, but none of these could be confirmed.

He also said military intelligence was in "no way involved in any current negotiations with Mladic" on his surrender, as some media have reported.

Belgrade is under increased international pressure to arrest Gen Mladic and former Serb leader Radovan Karadzic before 11 July - the 10th anniversary of the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica.

The US has said it will resume aid to Serbia amid an expectation that Gen Mladic will soon be in custody.

Serbia and Montenegro has surrendered more than a dozen war crimes suspects in the past six months.

Kosovo's PM Rules Out Talks With Serbia On Future Status

TINA (AP)--Kosovo's prime minister has ruled out direct talks with Serbia about the province's future status, a government statement said Wednesday.

Bajram Kosumi said his government was ready to talk to authorities in Serbia about all other outstanding issues between the former foes.

But, "no one, Belgrade included, will determine how we will live in Kosovo after 10 years," Kosumi, an ethnic Albanian, told a parliamentary committee, a government statement said.

Kosovo, which officially remains a province of Serbia-Montenegro, has been administered by the United Nations since 1999 following NATO's air war aimed at stopping the crackdown of Serb troops on separatist ethnic Albanians.

Since then, the province remains disputed between the ethnic Albanians who want it to be independent and Serbia, which opposes the province's independence.

Talks to determine the province's future are expected later this year, if Kosovo reaches internationally set standards on rule of law, democratization and the rights of minorities.

If the result of the review is positive, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is expected to appoint a senior European representative as an envoy for those talks.

Direct contact between authorities in Kosovo and Serbia resumed this year on issues such as missing persons as a result of war, return of displaced persons, telecommunications and energy.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

Seselj and Toma Grobar have blood of Kosovans on their hands

The paper writes that Natasa Kandic from the Humanitarian Law Fund accuses senior Serbian government officials of being involved in war crimes committed in Kosovo. Among them are Tomislav Nikolic – also known as Toma Grobar [Grobar being the Serbian word for gravedigger] - and Vojislav Seselj from the Radical Party.

‘I have recently been threatened by Tomislav Nikolic [also known as Toma Brobar] for investigating a case and I have obtained facts showing that both of them [Seselj and Nikolic] were involved in the war crimes in Croatia and Kosovo’, Kandic told Lajm.

Kandic says she has publicly stated the names of those who committed crimes in Kosovo some of whom still hold key positions within the Serbian Government. ‘Some of them even own factories where bodies were burnt, like in the factory of Bor and Mackatica’.

Kosovo and FYROM finalize Free Trade Agreement

Daily newspapers report that Kosovan officials, UNMIK and the Macedonian Government have harmonized all positions on reaching a free trade agreement between Kosovo and FYR Macedonia.

‘This is a good step toward building a good climate between Kosovo and countries in the region. Such agreements are part of Standards and we hope that this will turn into a liberalization agreement,’ Trade and Industry Minister Bujar Dugolli was quoted as saying.

Zëri reports that the free trade agreement has been finalized and that technical issues must be signed by the respective representatives, and this should happen after the return of UNMIK chief Søren Jessen-Petersen to Kosovo, who is one of the two signatories from the Kosovan side.

The paper quotes PDSRSG Larry Rossin as saying, ‘We have reached agreement on all elements of the free trade agreement.’

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

A test for 'Europe whole and free' ; From Albania, of all places

There's an important election next Sunday, one that may make a significant difference not only to the prospects for consolidating a democratic transition, but also to regional peace, security and stability, and to the question of whether "Europe whole and free" still has meaning after the failure of the EU Constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands. It's in Albania. That's right, Albania.

During the Cold War, Albania was the ne plus ultra communist country of Eastern Europe, a place where strange little apparatchiks in ill-fitting black suits and plastic shoes had grown deeply suspicious about the fidelity of Leonid Brezhnev's Soviet Union and Mao's China to the principles of Marxism-Leninism and severed their ties accordingly. Albania was the North Korea of the Balkans, tucked at a far distant end of the earth past the point where the rail lines stop running. Even if you could get there, you couldn't. Albania was closed to the outside world, hermetically sealed by its deranged political class to prevent the intrusion of corrupting influences. Albania was the place people living under the thumb of the Soviet Union in its heyday could point to as consolation that things could be worse.

The post-communist transition was difficult. Albania's communist rulers held on a couple years longer than their brethren in Eastern and Central Europe, and it looked for a while like the poor Albanians - and by poor, I mean about as poor as possible in Europe, even in the Balkans - would long be fated to a choice of communist- era goons repackaged as "democrats" but more interested in seizing political control to enrich themselves and their cronies than in improving the lives of Albanians. On a good day, there's not much to steal in Albania; nevertheless, it beats working - at least for a certain sort of opportunistic political entrepreneur.

Sali Berisha was the first post-communist president of Albania. Elected in 1992 following his party's sweep of parliamentary elections, he had a golden opportunity to steer Albania into the modern world. He didn't. Instead, he cracked down on press freedoms and political rights in a fashion that earned the condemnation of Western human-rights groups; attempted to politicize the judiciary by firing and demoting judges who ruled against him; tried (and failed) to ram through a constitution in 1994 that would have consolidated his own power; and rigged the 1996 elections in favor of his party, prompting calls from European monitors for new elections.

Meanwhile, the Albanian economy had essentially been turned into a giant ponzi scheme. Albanians, though new to capitalism, took to it well enough to generate substantial savings (including remittances from the 400,000 or so Albanians then living abroad out of a total population of 3.5 million, according to a World Bank report). They weren't quite sophisticated enough to refrain from depositing their savings in accounts seductively offering sky-high interest rates. Fund managers made payments straight from the deposits of new investors, minus what the managers stole, until the whole scheme collapsed in 1997. People lost everything, the country dissolved into riots and chaos, and the Berisha government fell.

Now, Mr. Berisha wants back in. He is hoping to unseat the incumbent prime minister, Fatos Nano, who helped steer the country out of chaos as prime minister in 1997 and was named prime minister again in 2002. Mr. Nano's past is somewhat checkered in the manner of most of the country's politicians - the exception being his party- mate Edi Rama, the extraordinary mayor of Tirana. But what Mr. Nano has that Mr. Berisha lacks is a genuine record of performance: The economy has grown by nearly 7 percent per year since 1998, per capita GDP has increased from $800 to a little over $1,700 and unemployment has been falling.

Perhaps even more important, Mr. Nano has been energetic in seeking Albania's permanent integration into Western institutions. Albania, Croatia and Macedonia jointly created the Adriatic Charter for regional cooperation, a novelty in the war-ravaged Balkans. Mr. Nano's Albania has aspirations to join NATO and contributed a small contingent of troops to Iraq. Albania has also been working to strengthen ties with the European Union.

In truth, I don't know what Mr. Berisha would do in office. Perhaps he is a very different man from the one who was in charge a decade ago. But with Mr. Nano, we know that Albania will get someone who can keep pushing for his country's further integration into the West. This comes at an important time, with the European Union looking inward as a result of the crisis over the constitutional treaty and with crucial negotiations over the future of Kosovo looming. The danger posed by backsliding in the Balkans would be acute.

One test of the maturity of a democracy is that the United States need be no more concerned about which party wins the election than in the case of Britain, France or Germany. Albania may be getting closer, but it's not there yet. For Albanians, Europeans and Americans, Mr. Nano would be the better choice.

* Tod Lindberg is the editor of Policy Review magazine and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. His column appears on Tuesdays. E-mail:

CIA director visits Albania secretly: reports

TIRANA, June 27 (Xinhuanet) -- The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Porter J. Goss had a secret visit to Albania on Friday, attending the conference of the southeastern European countries' intelligence services directors, local media reported Monday.

During his several-hours visiting in Tirana, Goss attended the opening of the conference and had meetings with the Albanian PrimeMinister Fatos Nano and the officials of the Albanian intelligenceservice. The CIA then left for Bosnia.

The official information about Goss's visiting to Albania had not been made public untill Monday.

In the meeting with Nano, Goss appreciated the splendid relations existing between the governments and intelligence services of Albania and the United States, the reports said.

The two were optimistic on future bilateral cooperation, the report said.

According to the local media's reports, the conference, which was held in Tirana from Friday to Sunday, was focused on the regional cooperation in fight against organized crimes and terrorism. Enditem

Picture of the Day

Picture of the Day
Originally uploaded by kosovareport.
Hardline supporters show photos of Slobodan Milosevic,left, and Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitives Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, centre and right, during a rally in Belgrade, Tuesday June 28, 2005.

Milosevic posters appear in divided Kosovo town

Text of report by Serbia-Montenegrin radio Kontakt Plus on 28 June

[Announcer] A rally entitled "The truth about Kosovo-Metohija" is in progress in Sumadija Square [in northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica] attended by several hundred people. [Serbian Orthodox Church] Bishop of Milesevo Filaret, an academician and a member of the Bulgarian Academy [of Arts and Sciences], Velko Valkanov, a Greek member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, journalist and publisher Ljiljana Bulatovic, journalist and publisher Milovan Drecun, writer Momir Lazic, Kosta Bulatovic, Mitar Balevic, lawyer Dragoljub Tomasevic, Prof Kosta Galjak and others will hold speeches.

Along with posters calling on citizens to attend this, as they put it, people's rally entitled "The truth about Kosovo-Metohija", posters featuring pictures of the former Yugoslav and Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, also appeared in the northern part of Kosovska Mitrovica. Mirjana Milutinovic has a report.

[Reporter] UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] spokesman Gyoergy Kakuk told Kontakt Plus radio that the posters had been put up by a group of people based in Belgrade, adding that they had very limited support from the Kosovo Serbs.

[Kakuk, in English, superimposed by voice of interpreter] We understand that the posters were put up by a group based in Belgrade, the posters with Milosevic's face, and it seems that they have very limited support in [Kosovska] Mitrovica, not to mention among Kosovo Serbs in general. You should just remember the manner in which Milosevic used to exploit Kosovo Serbs for his own political purposes, and you should just remember what terrible consequences all this had for all Kosovo citizens. There is no law against putting up such posters, but it seems that the majority of Kosovo citizens are indifferent towards this, and they look upon it with scorn. I repeat that Kosovo Serbs, who suffered at the hands of this terrible person together with others, did not do this, UNMIK spokesman Gyoergy Kakuk said.

Prompted by the rally held today in Kosovska Mitrovica, entitled "The truth about Kosovo-Metohija", Gyoergy Kakuk said that the police had approved the rally as a way of celebrating St Vitus Day, not as a rally supporting any particular person, including Milosevic.

[Kakuk] We and the KPS [Kosovo Police Service] remain vigilant to uphold the people's democratic right of assembly and freedom of speech, and we will see to it that this is not abused, and that rallies proceed in a peaceful and democratic manner. So, we are making sure that there is no hate speech and incitement of ethnic hatred, the UNMIK spokesman said.

Source: Kontakt Plus, Kosovska Mitrovica, in Serbian 1400 gmt 28 Jun 05

Supporters Rally In Belgrade In Support Of Milosevic

BELGRADE (AP)--Hardline supporters of Slobodan Milosevic rallied Tuesday in the Serbian capital to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the former Yugoslav president's extradition to the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

The rally organizers, from Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, handed out copies of a printed statement to about 3,000 supporters at Belgrade's main Republic Square.

The statement demanded Milosevic "be set free instantly" and called for the "arrest of those who committed the act of kidnapping and unlawful" handover of Milosevic to the U.N. court at The Hague, Netherlands.

The protesters held Socialist Party banners and gold-framed photographs and posters of their former leader.

Milosevic's popularity has increased amid a resurgence of hardline Serb nationalism, which helped trigger the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s.

Following his ouster in October 2000, Milosevic was extradited to The Hague tribunal on June 28, 2001, to face charges of genocide for atrocities committed by Serb troops in the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Belgrade media reported that Milosevic himself coordinated the organization of the rally from his detention cell at The Hague.

However, it was a far cry from the frenzied nationalist gatherings staged by Milosevic during his years in power, when tens of thousands attended.

The reformists who removed Milosevic from power have failed to live up to citizens' expectations that they would substantially improve the republic's economic and political situation.

Milosevic has been regaining popularity in Serbia, with almost a third of people saying they trust him despite his war crimes trial, a recent survey showed.

The survey, conducted by Faktor Plus polling agency, also said that Milosevic - who was ousted in a massive popular revolt - enjoys more popular backing than the current prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, who took over Milosevic's presidency in 2000.

Intermixed with Milosevic posters at the Tuesday rally were pictures of two top fugitive war crimes suspects sought by the U.N. court - Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic and military commander Ratko Mladic. [ 28-06-05 1635GMT ]

Bosnian Foreign Ministry protests against Draskovic's statements

SARAJEVO, June 28 (Hina) - The authorities of Bosnia-Herzegovina on Tuesday expressed their concern and dissatisfaction to the Ambassador of Serbia and Montenegro, Stanimir Vukicevic, with the latest statements by Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, who linked the solving of Kosovo's status with the respecting of Bosnian state borders, the Bosnian Foreign Ministry reported.

The statement said that Ambassador Vukicevic was called to the ministry where he was received by acting secretary general Adnan Hadzikapetanovic.

Hadzikapetanovic told the ambassador that Draskovic's statement did not contribute to the good-neighbourly relations and the development of the spirit of regional cooperation.

The Bosnian Foreign Ministry has also instructed Bosnian Ambassador in Belgrade Tomislav Leko to ask the Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Ministry to take an official position on Draskovic's statement.

Blerim Shala: Return to the last century (Zëri)

In a front-page editorial in Zëri, Blerim Shala comments on a report by the Serbian Interior Ministry regarding the situation in Kosovo from November 2004 – April 2005.

Shala argues that the approach and the conclusions of the report are identical with the reports of the Interior Ministry from the period November 1998 – April 1999. ‘As if nothing happened in the meantime,’ he says.

‘Translating this report and sending it to the right addresses in the West would be the best possible argument in Kosovo’s favour.’

Something similar, claims Shala, can be done with the public presentations of Vuk Draskovic, the foreign minister of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro.

Commenting on Draskovic’s statements, Shala says that both Kosovars and this part of Europe have grown tired ‘with such logic and arguments’.

In closing, Shala notes that with all the ups and downs in the Kosovan political scene, at least there is no politician in Kosovo that uses the language and arguments of the last century, as happens with Draskovic and the Serbian Ministry of Interior Affairs.

U.S. House of Rep. Resolution on Srebrenica Genocide

In the House of Representatives, U.S.,

June 27, 2005.

Whereas in July 1995 thousands of men and boys who had sought safety in the United Nations-designated `safe area' of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina under the protection of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) were massacred by Serb forces operating in that country;

Whereas beginning in April 1992, aggression and ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Bosnian Serb forces, while taking control of the surrounding territory, resulted in a massive influx of Bosniaks seeking protection in Srebrenica and its environs, which the United Nations Security Council designated a `safe area' in Resolution 819 on April 16, 1993;

Whereas the UNPROFOR presence in Srebrenica consisted of a Dutch peacekeeping battalion, with representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the humanitarian medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontie.AE2res (Doctors Without Borders) helping to provide humanitarian relief to the displaced population living in conditions of massive overcrowding, destitution, and disease;

Whereas Bosnian Serb forces blockaded the enclave early in 1995, depriving the entire population of humanitarian aid and outside communication and contact, and effectively reducing the ability of the Dutch peacekeeping battalion to deter aggression or otherwise respond effectively to a deteriorating situation;

Whereas beginning on July 6, 1995, Bosnian Serb forces attacked UNPROFOR outposts, seized control of the isolated enclave, held captured Dutch soldiers hostage and, after skirmishes with local defenders, ultimately took control of the town of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995;

Whereas an estimated one-third of the population of Srebrenica , including a relatively small number of soldiers, made a desperate attempt to pass through the lines of Bosnian Serb forces to the relative safety of Bosnian-held territory, but many were killed by patrols and ambushes;

Whereas the remaining population sought protection with the Dutch peacekeeping battalion at its headquarters in the village of Potocari north of Srebrenica but many of these individuals were randomly seized by Bosnian Serb forces to be beaten, raped, or executed;

Whereas Bosnian Serb forces deported women, children, and the elderly in buses, held Bosniak males over 16 years of age at collection points and sites in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina under their control, and then summarily executed and buried the captives in mass graves;

Whereas approximately 20 percent of Srebrenica's total population at the time--at least 7,000 and perhaps thousands more--was either executed or killed;

Whereas the United Nations and its member states have largely acknowledged their failure to take actions and decisions that could have deterred the assault on Srebrenica and prevented the subsequent massacre;

Whereas Bosnian Serb forces, hoping to conceal evidence of the massacre at Srebrenica , subsequently moved corpses from initial mass grave sites to many secondary sites scattered throughout parts of northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina under their control;

Whereas the massacre at Srebrenica was among the worst of many horrible atrocities to occur in the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina from April 1992 to November 1995, during which the policies of aggression and ethnic cleansing pursued by Bosnian Serb forces with the direct support of the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic and its followers ultimately led to the displacement of more than 2,000,000 people, an estimated 200,000 killed, tens of thousands raped or otherwise tortured and abused, and the innocent civilians of Sarajevo and other urban centers repeatedly subjected to shelling and sniper attacks;

Whereas Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (done at Paris on December 9, 1948, and entered into force with respect to the United States on February 23, 1989) defines genocide as `any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; and (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group';

Whereas on May 25, 1993, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 827 establishing the world's first international war crimes tribunal, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), based in The Hague, the Netherlands, and charging the ICTY with responsibility for investigating and prosecuting individuals suspected of committing war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions on the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991;

Whereas nineteen individuals at various levels of responsibility have been indicted, and in some cases convicted, for grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, violations of the laws or customs of war, crimes against humanity, genocide, and complicity in genocide associated with the massacre at Srebrenica , three of whom, most notably Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, remain at large; and

Whereas the international community, including the United States, has continued to provide personnel and resources, including through direct military intervention, to prevent further aggression and ethnic cleansing, to negotiate the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (initialed in Dayton, Ohio, on November 21, 1995, and signed in Paris on December 14, 1995), and to help ensure its fullest implementation, including cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that--

(1) the thousands of innocent people executed at Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 1995, along with all individuals who were victimized during the conflict and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995, should be solemnly remembered and honored;

(2) the policies of aggression and ethnic cleansing as implemented by Serb forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995 meet the terms defining the crime of genocide in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide;

(3) foreign nationals, including United States citizens, who have risked and in some cases lost their lives in Bosnia and Herzegovina while working toward peace should be solemnly remembered and honored;

(4) the United Nations and its member states should accept their share of responsibility for allowing the Srebrenica massacre and genocide to occur in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995 by failing to take sufficient, decisive, and timely action, and the United Nations and its member states should constantly seek to ensure that this failure is not repeated in future crises and conflicts;

(5) it is in the national interest of the United States that those individuals who are responsible for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, should be held accountable for their actions;

(6) all persons indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) should be apprehended and transferred to The Hague without further delay, and all countries should meet their obligations to cooperate fully with the ICTY at all times; and

(7) the United States should continue to support the independence and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, peace and stability in southeastern Europe as a whole, and the right of all people living in the region, regardless of national, racial, ethnic or religious background, to return to their homes and enjoy the benefits of democratic institutions, the rule of law, and economic opportunity, as well as to know the fate of missing relatives and friends.

Madeline Albright to address Kosovo Assembly on 5 July

Zëri reports on the front page that former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will visit Kosovo on July 5th when she will give a speech at the Kosovo Assembly. The news was confirmed by the Media Office of the Assembly. The paper notes that Albright will visit Kosovo in the capacity of director of the National Democratic Institute.

Zëri also reports that the Kosovo Government and Prime Minister Kosumi will host a dinner for Albright in honour of her constant contribution. Albright is also expected to meet senior Kosovan leaders.

KFOR: No threat of violence when status negotiations start

Zëri reports on the front page that KFOR is not planning to increase the number of its troops in Kosovo as there is no serious threat when the negotiations on the final status start.

On the other hand, UNMIK officials think that during the sensitive stage of the comprehensive review by ambassador Kai Eide, there could be people interested in causing violence.

International media have speculated over the last few days that with the launch of status talks, Serb militants in the northern part of Kosovo and supported by nationalists from Serbia could start violence.

Balkans can enter EU only after solution of Kosovo’s status

Koha Ditore covers a political discussion ‘Balkans and the road ahead to EU’ that was held in Pristina and was organized by International Forum UBT 2005.

‘Europe cannot ignore Kosovo problem,’ said Michel Cullin, director of Vienna Diplomatic Academy, and added that the ‘Balkans should be seen as a European whole with Kosovo having a place in it’.

Skender Hyseni, an advisor to President Rugova, said that ‘solution of Kosovo’s status is a precondition for integration of the Balkans into the EU’.

Participants in the conference concluded that the solution of Kosovo’s final status is important for the future of the European Union.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Kosovo Protesters Hurl Eggs At Serbia-Montenegro Minister

PRISTINA (AP)--Protesters in Kosovo hurled eggs at a convoy carrying Serbia- Montenegro's foreign minister on his first visit to the disputed province since the end of the war six years ago.

Around 100 protesters massed outside the U.N. headquarters as the foreign minister, Vuk Draskovic, met with the deputy head of the U.N. mission in Kosovo, Larry Rossin.

Some of the demonstrators threw eggs from the balconies of nearby buildings as Draskovic's convoy arrived. Police arrested about a dozen protesters. Two local reporters were also detained during a melee that followed the arrests.

"His visit is unacceptable, because...Serbia is unacceptable," said a statement from the Kosovo Action Network, a group that organized the protests. " The state union that (Draskovic) represents was an accomplice in crimes here," it said.

Kosovo has been administered by the U.N. since mid-1999 when a NATO air war halted Serb forces' crackdown on ethnic Albanians seeking independence.

An estimated 10,000 ethnic Albanians were killed. After the end of the war, tens of thousands of Serbs fled the province in the face of attacks and threats from ethnic Albanian extremists.

Those Serbs remaining live mainly in isolated enclaves scattered around the province, and the two communities remain divided.

Talks to resolve Kosovo's status are expected later this year if Kosovo - legally a province of the Serbia-Montenegro union that replaced Yugoslavia - meets U.N.-set standards on democracy, human rights and rights of minorities.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority demands independence, while Serbs want the province to remain within their borders.

Draskovic's visit follows one by Serbia's prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, who attended a Serb Orthodox Mass in western Kosovo in January. Serbian President Boris Tadic toured Serb communities in Kosovo in February.

Draskovic later traveled to the Serb enclave of Gracanica to observe Vidovdan, or St. Vitus Day, a Serb holiday marking the 616th anniversary of an epic battle against Ottoman Turks.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires


SARAJEVO, June 27 (FENA) – The weekend’s statement by Serbia and Montenegro Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, suggesting a linkage between a settlement of the status of Kosovo and BiH are damaging, destabilizing and completely unacceptable, was announced by the OHR.

The Kosovo question is a matter solely for the international community and the Government of Serbia and Montenegro, and has no connection with Bosnia and Herzegovina, was announced.

"Bosnia and Herzegovina is a sovereign state, a member of the United Nations whose borders are internationally recognised, and guaranteed by treaty and by law. These borders are not a matter for negotiation and Serbia and Montenegro, as a Dayton signatory has an obligation to uphold them. The days when Belgrade brings into question Bosnia and Herzegovina ’s borders are long gone and will never be allowed return", was announced.

These kinds of comments damage Serbia and Montenegro's ability to be regarded as a stable influence in the region and a country on its way to Europe, was anounced by the OHR.

Petkovic: Those who don’t live here cannot decide for K-Serbs

Several dailies quote Returns and Communities Minister Slavisa Petkovic as saying that those who don’t live in Kosovo cannot decide for Kosovo Serbs. Zëri notes that Petkovic has called on Kosovo Serbs to take their fate in their own hands and not listen to others who don’t live with them in Kosovo.

‘When Belgrade called on us not to participate in elections, it didn’t tell us how we should pursue our interests in Kosovo and we still don’t have answer to this,’ Petkovic was quoted as saying.

Jessen-Petersen: I hope talks between Belgrade and Pristina will start in July

Epoka e Re reports that UNMIK chief Søren Jessen-Petersen told Vienna-based Standard newspaper that he hopes talks between Belgrade and Pristina would start in July. ‘For the time being, we are trying to organize the meeting between the two presidents. Both Ibrahim Rugova and Boris Tadic have accepted this. As soon as this meeting is held, nothing will stand in the way of the meeting of the two prime ministers,’ said Jessen-Petersen.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Picture of the Day

Picture of the Day
Originally uploaded by kosovareport.
Serbian citizen Nebojsa Minic is seen at a hospital where he remains under police custody in Mendoza June 25, 2005. Serbia's special war crimes court on Wednesday urged the government to extradite Minic, who is suspected of murdering Kosovo Albanians in 1999, during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. REUTERS/Paulo Paez

1,000 UK troops on Kosovo standby to counter Serb militants

By Robert Fox in Pristina

26 June 2005

Britain is drawing up contingency plans to send up to 1,000 extra British troops and advisers to Kosovo as a crisis looms over the Balkan province's future.

Officially Kosovo remains a part of Serbia, although it has been under international control since 1999, when Nato troops took over in the wake of a bombing campaign against ex-president Slobodan Milosevic. But the province's restive Albanian majority, backed by the US, is demanding independence from "final status" talks later this year.

Serbs inside Kosovo, of whom about 125,000 remain, and the Serbian government still oppose Kosovo breaking away. Recently, however, Belgrade has shifted its position by declaring Kosovo should be granted something "more than autonomy, but less than independence". Either way, the interim Kosovo government of President Ibrahim Rugova and Prime Minister Bajram Kosumi believes there is a threat of serious violence once the talks get under way.

In March last year riots across the province killed 19 people, including one UN policeman, and seriously injured more than 200. A report into the riots by Kai Eide, a Norwegian diplomat, castigated Unmik, the UN mission to Kosovo, and K-For, the international military force, for incompetence, inertia and corruption. As the violence erupted, German UN troops were accused of hiding in their barracks. The 1st Battalion, the Royal Gloucester Wiltshire and Berkshire Regiment, then Nato's spearhead battalion, had to be flown in. As tensions rose this spring, the 1st Green Jackets had to be brought in for a similar mission.

As the "final status" talks begin, trouble is feared from Serb militants in Mitrovica and north-east Kosovo, with intelligence suggesting they could be supported by nationalists across the border in Serbia. More worrying, say intelligence analysts, is the possibility of another spontaneous nationalist uprising by militant Kosovo Albanians if independence is put off yet again. "We could face something like the KLA uprising in 1998, only this time we don't know who the new leaders will be," said one.

Britain has 200 troops and support personnel in Kosovo, and some 1,000 troops in Bosnia, where the international administration is run by Lord Ashdown. But his mission ends in October, and Britain hands over command of the EU force in Bosnia at the same time. The Ministry of Defence says officially there are no immediate plans to send troops to Kosovo, but "contingencies are under constant review". According to military sources, the timing means the British battalion in Bosnia could be switched to Kosovo, just when it might be needed.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Most wanted: doctor death - The Independent

Ten years after Radovan Karadzic's troops killed 7,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, the former Serb leader remains at large. In this remarkable report from the heart of Bosnia, Antony Barnett goes on the trail of Europe's most notorious war criminal

Sunday June 26, 2005
The Observer

What strikes you first is the colour of the house. As you drive along the bumpy stone road that leads to the family home of Dr Radovan Karadzic, Europe's most wanted war criminal, its garish pink exterior bursts out in front of you. But despite its bright facade, it is a house that hides many dark secrets.
On Monday 11 July it will be 10 years since Karadzic's Bosnian Serb soldiers marched into the United Nations safe haven at Srebrenica and slaughtered more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. Yet Karadzic, the chief architect of this massacre - as well as the mastermind of the 1,000-day siege of Sarajevo that saw 10,000 civilians killed, 1,000 of them children - remains a free man.

Despite a $5 million (£2.7m) bounty on his head, Karadzic is a fugitive. Protected by a secret underground network made up of politicians, criminals, spies, businessmen and priests from the Orthodox church, Karadzic - a psychiatrist, children's author and poet in another life - is believed to be hiding in the mountains of eastern Bosnia close to the border with Montenegro.

His liberty remains a major embarrassment to the international community and an open sore in a country where 200,000 people were killed in a bitter ethnic war between Serb, Muslims and Croats. There can be no healing until Karadzic faces justice.

A decade after Srebenica and his indictment at The Hague, The Observer set out on a journey to reveal the network built to hide a man accused of committing the worst atrocities witnessed in Europe since the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

Karadzic's pink family home is the obvious place to start. It stands on the outskirts of a town called Pale, cradled in the Bosnian mountains. Before the war in 1992 it was a ski village 10 miles south east of Sarajevo. Today it is the capital of the Republic of Sprska (pronounced Serbska), the semi-autonomous region of Bosnia that the Serbs like to call their own. It is a state within a state, where Karadzic's nationalist Serbian Democratic Party (SDP) still holds considerable power and is linked to an organised crime network run by Serb former paramilitary leaders and war criminals loyal to him. Most towns and villages there were ethnically cleansed, with Muslim communities expelled or exterminated. Mosques came down, Orthodox Serb churches went up.

Pale was a Karadzic stronghold in the war. It was from the Panorama hotel in the town centre that Karadzic and his cronies planned their brutal campaign. It takes only a few minutes to drive from the hotel to the Karadzic home.

As I arrive at the house the front door opens. None of the three people standing by the hall, who are thought to be part of Karadzic's extended family, will be interviewed, nor answer questions asked through the locked iron security gate. 'Have you seen Radovan? Where do you think he is? Can I speak to his wife Ljiljana? Has she seen him recently?'

All the questions are greeted with silence. After a while a tall, broad-shouldered man with closely-shaved dark hair, believed to be Karadzic's brother-in-law, comes to the gate and says they cannot help us. Karadzic's wife is not here. She is at another property, painting it after it was wrecked during a raid by Nato troops searching for clues to the whereabouts of her husband.

The next-door neighbours watch nervously from their first floor balcony. They too refuse to answer questions. A man in a scruffy red polo shirt with a walkie-talkie in hand comes over to ask for my ID papers. I ask for his. He claims he is with the Republic of Sprska police. He asks us to leave. I have doubts about the authenticity of his own ID, but decide to head into the centre of Pale.

Love letters from 'Radovan' to his beloved wife 'Lili', dated 2002, have recently been published showing that these two psychiatrists, who fell in love at medical school in Sarajevo, have met at a secret location. In one letter Karadzic tells his wife it would 'take a battalion' to discover his hiding place ... Of course, caution is necessary but there is not need of such fear and paranoia.'

His apparent lack of concern appears well founded. Despite being, like Osama bin Laden, one of the world's most wanted men and hiding in a country as small as Wales, the commitment to capture him by the 7,000 overseas troops still in Bosnia seems questionable. The French are regularly accused of being 'too close' to the Karadzic network, and even the British seem reticent.

One British officer serving in Bosnia, alluding to the fact that any attempt to snatch Karadzic is likely to lead to a shoot-out, said: 'If you think we would risk the life of one British soldier for these people, then you're wrong.'

This month - a week after a remarkable video appeared revealing the horror of the massacre in Srebrenica - Karadzic's brother, Luka, said: 'My brother has made a strategic decision to never surrender to the Hague Tribunal [set up try those accused of war crimes]. If he surrendered he would betray his people and God, which has protected him from the enemies for so long.'

To those hunting the so-called Butcher of Bosnia, these people make a web of clandestine supporters who form a protective financial and spiritual cloak around Karadzic that keeps him free. Such is their influence that one source claims trackers sent from The Hague to find Karadzic are sometimes spotted as arriving at Sarajevo airport and put under surveillance. Information is fed to Karadzic's army of bodyguards, who can move him at short notice should one of these investigators get a lucky break.

To these supporters Karadzic is a folk hero, a leader who helped protect them from the Muslim hordes. They inhabit a closed world, hostile to outsiders and suspicious of questions.

An orthodox priest, Father Jeremija Starovlah, gets up from his chair when he sees me approaching. His short silver hair and beard offer a striking contrast to his traditional black robes. The small, pretty white church that he runs is in the centre of Pale, a short drive from the Karadzic home.

A local newspaper reported last March that Starovlah was calling on Orthodox believers to shelter Karadzic. A few weeks later the international authorities said they had intelligence suggesting Karadzic was staying with the priest. Nato forces raided Starovlah's home, blowing up his front door and injuring his son. Karadzic was not found.

The raid provoked street protests by more than 2,000 Bosnian Serbs. Some wore masks of Karadzic while others waved the blue, red and white flags of the Republic of Sprska.

Now Starovlah refuses to speak or answer any questions. 'Has Karadzic been here?' I ask. 'Do you regard him as a hero? Where do you think he is now? Should he go to the Hague?' He says only: 'I have no comment to make. I do not wish to speak about this.'

Starovlah shows no desire to set the record straight. This is a priest in the Bosnian Serb capital, who is close to the Karadzic family. And in the Republic of Sprska, family secrets are closely guarded.

One of the most shocking parts of a recent film of Srebenica, showing six Muslims being bound and shot at close range, was that it began with a Serb Orthodox priest blessing the camouflaged paramilitary troops who carried out the massacre. Rumours persist that Karadzic is disguised as a priest and moving from monastery to monastery.

As well as the church in Pale, intelligence agencies have monitored phone calls that disclose he has hidden in the isolated mountain monastery of Ostrog. Karadzic's grandson was christened there. According to a diplomatic source it is estimated that Karadzic spends 80 per cent of his time in church property. The source says it is not a coincidence that since the war dozens of new Orthodox churches have been built at a cost of millions of pounds. It is alleged that most of this money comes from the same illicit sources that provide the funds to protect Karadzic.

Yet while the church may offer Karadzic spiritual and physical sanctuary, an altogether more criminal network funds the $200,000 a month operation to protect the 'Doctor in the Forest'.

Milovan Bjelica is waiting for me outside Cafe Iceberg in the town of Sokolac, a 45-minute drive from Sarajevo. Smoking a Malboro and drinking an espresso he beckons us over with his steel-blue eyes. A disfigured right hand hangs loosely by his side.

Nato arrested Bjelica twice last year, detaining him for a month at a time. Armed troops swooped on the town last August and questioned him for more than two hours a day for a whole month. They had heard he had gone to Belgrade and accused him of meeting supporters of Karadzic. Bjelica claims he was there to have surgery.

Bjelica has been accused by the US State Department and the European Union of funnelling money to the Karadzic network and running the security and intelligence units that guard him. His name is on the US list of international terrorists and he is banned from travelling to any EU country.

In March 2003 the US government described him as a 'long-time friend and business associate of Karadzic, [who] presides over a network of legal and illegal businesses that are also used to provide for the protection of Karadzic'.

Bjelica denies all this but there is no doubt he is a supporter of Karadzic and was a powerful figure in his Serbian Democratic Party. Bjelica was the party president in eastern Bosnia during the war and spent time with Karadzic.

Bjelica has agreed to meet us because he wants to ensure I understand that many Serbs were killed in the war and suffered Muslim ethnic cleansing. He takes my notebook and draws a sketch of Sarajevo, pointing out areas where he claims 5,000 Serbs were killed.

Bjelica has seen the video of Srebenica and thought it was 'terrible'. But he claims there are films of the Bosnian Muslims, or mujahideen, as he calls them, beheading Serbs. 'Why is that not shown on your TV?' he says.

Like many of Karadzic's closest allies, he believes their leader 'signed a contract' with Richard Holbrooke, President Bill Clinton's chief adviser during the Dayton Peace Accord in 1995 that ended the war. This stipulated that if Karadzic disappeared from frontline politics he would not be arrested.

'To over 90 per cent of Bosnian Serbs he is a hero,' says Bjelica. 'He protected the Serbian people during the war.'

So where does Bjelica, whose nickname 'Cicko' means pussycat, think his friend is hiding? He shrugs. Stubbing out his cigarette, he gets up from the table, shakes my hand and leaves.

The centre Sarajevo is a long way from the corridors of Westminster, but the heated complexity of Bosnian politics makes the hurly-burly of the House of Commons seem tame. Yet it is the former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown, who, as the High Representative of the International Community in Bosnia, has overall responsibility for stability in the region. As part of Lord Ashdown's brief, the capture of Karadzic and other war criminals such as General Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander, is pivotal.

'You can't have peace without justice,' says Ashdown. 'And only after that you can get to reconciliation. This can only happen when the major architects of these crimes are brought to justice.'

His office sits on the former front line of the Sarajevo's bloody battle, and the surrounding buildings are pockmarked with bullet holes. The former Bosnian parliament building across the street remains a burnt-out wreck, a vivid reminder of the horrors faced by civilians in the siege of the city that was inspired by Karadzic. It was largely Serbian sniper bullets and shells that rained down from the surrounding mountains killing those queuing for bread or buying fruit in the main street market.

So why, 10 years on, has Karadzic not been found? 'Catching war criminals is a campaign, not a commando raid,' says Ashdown. 'It requires changing the political climate, attacking corrupt networks, removing the money he uses to fund himself. It requires isolation by taking out lower-level war criminals. Then we have a better change of catching him.' Ashdown describes Karadzic as 'the head of a vast criminal organisation' that thrives on corruption and extortion. Visits are paid to businessmen from dark forces who ask for contributions for the 'doctor in the forest'. These organised crime networks make vast sums from smuggling drugs, petrol and tobacco as well as trafficking young girls for the sex trade.

Ashdown's office has carried out investigative audits on many of the state-owned companies, such as the electricity firm Electroprivreda and discovered tens of millions of dollars missing.

'We have just carried out an audit of Sprske Sume, the Serb forestry organisation, and found it riddled with political backhanders just siphoned out of the system. This is public money just disappearing into political parties such as the SDS. From there siphoning it to Karadzic is not a difficult thing to do.'

Ashdown's office believes that one of the key 'bankers' to Karadzic's network is Momcilo Mandic, a former minister who commanded Karadzic's police force. Mandic has made a fortune from running petrol stations, a bank and other businesses. Like Bjelica he is on a number of international blacklists but lives freely in Belgrade. The US has described him as a 'major funding source for Karadzic through his control of an elaborate network of criminal enterprises engaged in embezzlement, business fraud and fictitious loans'. He too has denied the claims.

Another Bosnian Serb accused of providing money for the Karadzic network is Radomir Kojic, who is also on the US terrorist list and banned from travelling. Last month an Observer investigation discovered that his mine-clearing company, Unipak, won many lucrative contracts from foreign governments including six from the UK Department for International Development. Kojic, a wartime Serb commander in the hills around Sarajevo, rejects the claims, saying his he is the victim of false rumours spread by business rivals who have provided no evidence of wrongdoing.

Meeting us outside his hotel in the ski resort of Jahorina, where Sarajevo's Winter Olympics was held in 1984, he claims his business now faces ruin. 'It is better for my family if I kill myself,' Kojic says. He does, however, admit he was a member of Karadzic's party in 1990 and the property developer who built Karadzic's family home in Pale. The pink house, it seems, is never far from the centre from the story.

They call the area the heart of darkness. The geographical triangle created by the towns of Visegrad, Cajnice and Foca in the Republic of Sprska in the far east of Bosnia is indeed a cold, dark place. But these are not adjectives used to describe the region's physical appearance. It is rich in natural beauty, with the majestic River Drina snaking its way through the glorious pine forests in the valley as the peaks of the Zelengora mountains tower above.

The chill comes from the history that swept across the nearby borders of Serbia and Montenegro and whipped up a storm of ethnic hatred that brutalised a generation. It remains a hotbed of fervent Serb nationalism where some of the worst genocidal crimes of the Bosnian war were committed. Ten years ago it was not dead branches from the pine trees that the Drina carried in its fast-flowing, but the bodies of hundreds of butchered Muslims that were swept along in its bloodstained water.

It is among these mountains and remote villages of his loyal supporters that many believe Karadzic is hiding. It is close enough to the porous borders of Montenegro, the country of Karadzic's birth, that the 'Doctor from the Forest' can easily slip through out of the clutches of Nato and European Union forces.

At the apex of the triangle is Foca, a place renowned for harbouring war criminals. Before the war more than half of the town's 40,000 population was Muslim, now there are none. Rape, torture and murder changed that.

Today the centre of Foca is a scene of normality. Teenagers wearing fashion able sunglasses sip beer and smoke cigarettes at cafes overlooking the river while rock music pumps from the speakers. At Cafe Uno, a group of four older men sit around a table eating the traditional local Bosnian dish of cevapi, small sausages made of lamb and beef.

I ask if they will talk about Karadzic. At first nobody wants to speak. 'We don't want to talk about politics,' said one. 'Do you think of him as a hero or a war criminal?' I ask. After a pause, one of them, a chubby man with curly hair, barks: 'A hero, of course. He protected us.'

The oldest in the group, with a moustache and fine grey hair, then takes over. He snarls: 'You English and Americans, you know where he is. You are protecting him. If you wanted to arrest him you could.' The others around the table nod in agreement. They want us to leave.

As I start driving high into the mountains towards the Montenegro border, it becomes increasingly clear why it has been so difficult to catch Karadzic. Not only is he among people who view in him as one of a long line of Serb heroes who have fought off foreign invaders. But the terrain itself is almost impassable in a normal car. The roads are practically dirt tracks and wind their way up steep mountainous slopes that rise into the clouds. If Karadzic was hiding anywhere here, his security people would see anybody coming from miles away.

As I leave Foca and head back to Sarajevo there is a sign for Niksic, the home town of Karadzic's mother, which is 105km east in Montenegro. As I drive on, three young boys coming from a game of football pass by. They raise their hands in the infamous three-fingered salute of Serb nationalists.

Fugitives from justice

General Ratko Mladic
Mladic was commander of Serbian troops in Bosnia during the war. Along with Karadzic he is charged with genocide for ordering the massacre of Muslims in Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo in which 10,000 civilians were killed. He is blamed for abetting the 'systematic' campaign of sniping at civilians in the city over the past three years and for the seizure and use as human shields of 284 UN peacekeepers in May and June 1995. He is accused of shelling the towns of Tuzla and Srebrenica 'in order to kill, terrorise and demoralise the Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat civilian population'. Aged 50.

Ante Gotovina
A Croatian, he is the Hague tribunal's third most wanted man. He is accused of the murder of hundreds of Serbs. Aged 49.

Milan Lukic
The notorious leader of the White Eagles paramilitary group, he is accused of masterminding the massacre of thousands of Muslims in the eastern Bosnian town of Visregrad. Many were burned alive. Women and children were forced across the bridge over the River Drina and shot. Thousands of local men were killed elsewhere. Aged 38.

Dragan Zelenovic
Zelenovic is charged with organising the mass rape and torture of Muslim women in the Bosnian town of Foca. Aged 44.