Friday, March 31, 2006

World Bank To Grant $19 Mln To Back Economic Growth in Kosovo

PRISTINA (Serbia and Montenegro), March 30 (SeeNews) - The World Bank said on Friday it would grant $19.0 million (15.8 million euro) through June 2007 to back the economic growth of the U.N.-administered Serbian province of Kosovo.

"The World Bank is working in Kosovo to help build the economy, improve the investment climate, promote good governance, and protect the environment," World Bank Director for South East Europe, Orsalia Kalantzopoulos, said in a statement.

The grants are included in a new interim World Bank strategy for the province. The main aims of the strategy are the generation of new sources of economic growth, ensuring associated environmental improvements and the creation of macroeconomic stability through sound fiscal policy and public financial management, the global lender said.

Under the strategy the World Bank plans to spend $8.5 million in Kosovo's mining sector, considered the key to the province's future economic growth and the main attraction for foreign investors.

A further $5.5 million will be spent for environment protection projects, mainly for cleaning up the land in the abundant lignite mine areas. The World Bank will also support Kosovo's fiscal policy by $5.0 million and will help the province improve its public expenditure management, the statement said.

Kosovo remains part of the loose union of Serbia and Montenegro that succeeded rump Yugoslavia in 2003. The province was put under U.N. administration in 1999 following the NATO bombings on Serbia that expelled Serb forces to end what Western powers said was repression of civilians in fighting the ethnic Albanian rebel insurgency.

Since the end of the conflict the World Bank has approved 22 grants totaling $95 million to support Kosovo's energy, mining, education sectors, community development and business environment.

Opinion poll indicates 53 per cent in Serbia oppose extraditions to Hague

Text of report in English by Serbian news agency Beta website

Belgrade, 29 March: According to a poll conducted by Marten Board International agency, 53 per cent of respondents categorically oppose extradition to the Hague tribunal.

The same poll showed that 13.3 per cent of those questioned were in favour of extradition, 10.5 per cent expressed their general support, 6.3 per cent said they were indifferent, while 10 per cent of the respondents mainly opposed extradition.

According to the agency's analysts, the large number of those who strongly opposed extradition to the tribunal was due to the deaths of Milan Babic and Slobodan Milosevic, allowing the political engagement of Ramush Haradinaj, and the influence of the anti-tribunal lobby in the country and the lack of an adequate counter-campaign.

Based on the poll, the most important issues for more than half of the respondents were social problems - the living standard was cited by 38 per cent and unemployment by 26.3 of those questioned. Only 7.4 per cent of the polled were concerned about Kosovo, 2.3 per cent about cooperation with the tribunal, while relations between Serbia and Montenegro were cited by only 1.2 per cent of the respondents.

An overwhelming 74.1 per cent of those questioned were for joining the EU and 67.1 per cent the Partnership for Peace Programme, while membership in NATO was backed by 26 per cent and opposed by 45.4 per cent of those surveyed.

The opinion poll was conducted on a sample of 1,185 adults in Serbia, without Kosovo, from 20 to 27 March.

Source: Beta news agency website, Belgrade, in English 29 Mar 06

Serbian "drug barons" said to have strong ties with Colombian cocaine traders

Text of report by "E.B." entitled "Serbian drug barons are big players in Europe" published by Serbian newspaper Blic on 27 March

Belgrade: Serbian drug barons, who maintain strong ties with cocaine traders in Colombia, the world's biggest producer of this narcotic, have strong business contacts also with the Albanian mafia, police information indicates.

These good contacts on both sides of the Atlantic and highly functional trafficking routes, whereby tons of cocaine are smuggled from South America to Europe, have enabled them to take a place among the most powerful drugs traffickers in Europe.

People have only recently become aware of the existence of one of them, Dragan Ilic from Nis, who was arrested in Argentina for the smuggling of 171 kg of cocaine in 0.7 litre bottles designated for Spain; two others are still out of reach of the police. Ilic would have remained out of the public eye if he had not drawn attention to himself with his spectacular wedding to Miss Venezuela, at which stars of our entertainment industry firmament performed, led by Ceca Raznatovic.

One of those not available to the police was born in Kosovo and is associated with a shipment of 200 kg of cocaine in earthenware jars, while the other is associated with the smuggling of 164 kg of the drug from Panama to Bosnia-Hercegovina. A shipment of nearly 100 kg of cocaine, seized by the Greek police in Athens, is also attributed to him.

"Ilic was introduced into the business by Sreten Jocic, better known as Joca Amsterdam, while the other two made use of the old contacts that existed between the Serbian mafia and the Colombians, with the Medellin Cartel. These contacts have been operational for two decades and the original founders on both sides are long dead," our source in the police says.

The Serbs have founded their empires, however, on this old friendship. Using well-oiled smuggling channels across the Atlantic, they smuggle cocaine from South America to the drugs markets in the EU countries. The US Drugs Enforcement Administration (DEA) is keeping a watchful eye on the Serbian drugs barons, so that the job is done by their underlings. They themselves have never been caught with so much as a gram of cocaine in their possession, so that they are clean as far as the law is concerned.

"Cocaine is smuggled by ship from South American ports - Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Panama and Mexico - to the most far-flung point of Europe, the Spanish Canary Islands. From there it goes to other ports, such as Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Hamburg in Germany, Marseille on the Cote d'Azur, and Piraeus, as well as Scandinavian, Italian and Belgian ports," our source explains.

Apart from the main smuggling route through the Canary Islands, there is also a direct line between South America and Europe, where the Serbian troika has a significant share of the market. Their strong positions are due in a large measure to good cooperation with the Albanian mafia, both in smuggling cocaine from South America and in using the Albanian connection inside Europe.

"Part of the cocaine ends up on our market as well, coming in mostly by way of the port of Bar, but these are small quantities," our source in the police says.

Source: Blic, Belgrade, in Serbian 27 Mar 06 p 16

Commentary sees growing pressure on Serbia ahead of new round of Kosovo talks

Text of commentary by Aleksandar Mitic entitled "Strange coincidences" published by the Serbian newspaper Politika on 30 March; ellipses as published

The start of the negotiating process on the future status of Kosovo-Metohija has been characterized by strong pressure on Belgrade and on the Serbian negotiating team. There is no doubt that one part of the international community is giving off signals that are going in the direction of some kind of independence of Kosmet [Kosovo-Metohija]. True, there had never been any talk of "full independence" but a distinction is being made between "Kosovo's independence" and "Kosovo's independence from Serbia". The first option is very uncertain and in reality very difficult to achieve, but the second option is a subject of widespread speculation, even in official international circles. Burying the policy of "Standards before status" (which today even European diplomatic sources admit was a bluff), the relatively biased principles of the Contact Group (there can be no return to the situation before 1999, there can be no division...), a selective approach to the element of "history" in determining status (as if nothing had existed before and after 1999), insisting on the will of the majority (the majority on the level of Kosovo, not Serbia), an attempt to create a "Kosovo exception" in the system of international law, an attempt to trade "Standards for status" - all of these signals point to the creation of an atmosphere in the negotiations in which the formal links between Kosmet and Serbia would be severed.

Signals in the direction of "independence" are being given to Belgrade in the form of 10 Kosovo "carrots on sticks".

1. The timing of the "package of pressure" on Serbia. Montenegro has been demanding independence for more than five years, but they will hold the independence referendum to coincide with the Kosovo status talks. Bosnia filed a lawsuit against Belgrade with the International Court of Justice [ICJ] in 1993, but the decision will be made at the time of the Kosovo status talks. The Dayton Agreement on Bosnia has been in force since 1995, but the main pressure on the [Bosnian] Serb Republic to accept constitutional changes is expected during the Kosovo status talks. Former Bosnian Serb wartime commander Ratko Mladic was accused of war crimes in 1995, but Belgrade has been given a deadline to capture him or face problems with negotiations during the Kosovo status talks. Is this a coincidence?

2. Weakening Serbia's negotiating position. The demands made by Belgrade and Pristina are not treated equally. Even though decentralization is the key to the survival of the Kosovo Serbs, Belgrade's proposal on decentralization was evaluates as "untenable" in the internal EU documents. On the other hand, there is tolerance for the mobilization of Albanians in the region of Presevo [southern Serbia], who are demanding "independence" and asking for the same "concessions" as the Kosovo Serbs - even though the situations between these two communities cannot be compared.

3. Tolerating threats of violence. Regardless of the fact that an atmosphere of threats of violence on Kosovo is being maintained, with sporadic low-intensity violence against Serbs (beating, throwing stones), and threats of violence against international representatives by "frustrated" Albanians (such as the movement of Albin Kurti or the Albanian National Army [ANA - AKSH in Albanian]), the international community has still not raised its voice. What is more, the threats are used as an argument for stepping up the process in the direction demanded by those who are making those threats, and the international community is simply following them.

4. Informal "carrots". In order to persuade Belgrade to accept the loss of Kosovo, informal offers are being made, such as: "you will lose Kosovo anyway, so it is better for you to make a good agreement, get Euro-Atlantic integration, investments, and reduction of debts."

5. Insisting on participation of Serbs in Kosovo institutions. The Kosmet Serbs have rejected participation in Kosovo institutions as a sign of protest against permanent discrimination and attempts to be exploited as "multiethnic decoration". It seems very unlikely that they would do that now, only so they could "fulfil the Standards of multiethnic institutions". The Kosovo Serbs do not see their place in a Kosovo Assembly that passes a resolution in which "independence is the only option" and which elects Agim Ceku, a general accused of war crimes, as prime minister. However, international pressure for the Serbs to enter the Kosovo institutions has not stopped.

6. "Undemocratic" Serbia versus "democratic" Albanians. An impression is being created about how Serbia is fighting for a medieval past while the Albanians are struggling for a European future. According to this impression, Serbia will have a successful future only if it lets Kosmet go, and the Kosovo Albanians will achieve their full democratic potential only if Kosovo becomes independent. The Kosovo Albanians are being praised for their "political maturity" at a time when all reports indicate that the Standards are far from being fulfilled. At the same time, [former Kosovo President] Ibrahim Rugova has been called the "Balkan Gandhi" even though he never once condemned the anti-Serb violence. Rugova's "pacifist" policy has been praised as a model for Kosovo, but one month later a man suspected of having committed war crimes was elected prime minister.

7. Hypocrisy regarding war crimes. Even though Serbia has extradited to the Hague Tribunal [International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia - ICTY] all its persons indicted for committing war crimes in Kosovo, Albanians keep getting preferential treatment: Fatmir Limaj has been cleared of all charges, Ramush Haradinaj has been released pending the start of his trial and has been allowed to take active part in political life, while Agim Ceku, whom Serbia has accused of mass crimes against humanity in Croatia and in Kosovo, has been elected prime minister of Kosovo with the full support of the international community.

8. Spreading defeatism in Serbia. Statements in which Serbs are urged to accept "reality" and the "independence" of Kosovo are being made on all sides and their aim is to confuse Serbia's public opinion, to mentally disarm the people and make them indifferent to the fate of Kosovo.

9. Media pressure. There is an ongoing wide, synchronized international campaign launched by the pro-Albanian lobby, with the aim of "following" a certain media agenda, a context of negotiations and interpretations, which are used to suggest that Albanian independence is inevitable.

10. Pressure on neighbouring countries. Even though some of the countries in the region are concerned about the possibility of changes of borders (such as Macedonia, Romania and Bosnia-Hercegovina), their views are not being fully acknowledged and they are expected to relativize their positions. At the same time, Tirana is openly lobbying without any limitations or warnings in favour of an independent Kosovo and is providing logistical support to the Kosovo Albanians in international circles.

In view of Belgrade's rejection of Kosovo's independence and the impossibility of finding an acceptable "carrot", there is no doubt that the pressure on Serbia will strengthen. The united resistance of Belgrade and the Kosovo Serbs will be crucial, but without a strong diplomatic, media and lobbying campaign, mainly directed towards the European Union, it is not very likely that this will be enough.

Source: Politika, Belgrade, in Serbian 30 Mar 06

Serbia returns remains of 52 ethnic Albanians to Kosovo

MERDARE, Serbia-Montenegro, March 31, 2006 (AFP) -

Serbia on Friday returned the remains of 52 ethnic Albanians killed during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war after their exhumation from a mass grave near Belgrade.

More than 200 members of victims' families were at the handover of the remains in Merdare, a village on the administrative border between Kosovo and the rest of Serbia.

They put flowers around forensic plastic sacks containing the remains, temporarily laid out in an improvised tent on the Kosovo side, while Serbian authorities and the province's UN representatives finalised the transfer.

Hafize Alia, a 47-year-old housewife from Mitrovica, said she has been attending every transfer from Serbia in the hope of finding out the fate of her brother who went missing seven years ago.

"It is not the first time I have not got any information on my brother. It is not fair to play on our nerves and feelings for so long. We have no words to explain our emotions," she said.

After the handover, the remains were transported to a UN-run morgue in the southern town of Orahovac for forensic analysis, DNA identification and eventual return to their families.

About 800 ethnic Albanian civilians killed in Kosovo during the war were secretly transferred and buried in Serbia by the regime of late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Following Milosevic's ouster by a popular uprising in October 2000, Belgrade authorities uncovered four mass graves in Serbia that have since been exhumed.

The remains delivered to Kosovo on Friday were mostly of people originally from southwestern Kosovo. They were the last to be exhumed from a mass grave at Batajnica, near Belgrade.

The remains of over 700 victims have been returned to Kosovo in 18 transfers between Serbia and the UN mission that has run Kosovo since the war.

"The remains of some 90 unidentified victims that have been exhumed are still in Serbia. The Serbian side promised to return them by June," said Arsim Gerxhalliu, Kosovo forensic expert.

The Red Cross says some 2,398 people, mostly ethnic Albanians, are still listed as missing from the war.

Kosovo government expects positive evaluation of Standards by UNSC in June

Text of report by Sami Kastrati entitled "Government expects positive evaluation by UNSC of Standards' fulfilment in June" published by the Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 31 March

Prishtina [Pristina], 30 March: During a meeting with all the ministers who are heads of the working groups, as well as with the coordinators and others involved in the process of implementation of the Standards [for Kosovo] at the central level, Prime Minister Agim Ceku expressed his hope that the technical evaluation of the Standards' implementation by the UN Security Council, due for June, will be positive. Officials in charge of Standards implementation have drawn similar conclusions, based on the activities carried out to date.

"We believe that with the implementation of the Standards, the respective ministries will assume more responsibilities in their respective areas, and it is realistic to expect that the next technical evaluation, due to be carried out at the UN Security Council in June, will be positive," said Avni Arifi, Standards coordinator in the Kosova [Kosovo] government.

He explained that there will not be a new prioritization of the Standards after the recent government reshuffle, but their implementation will continue according to the government's three-month action plan adopted on 28 February.

"The action plan that was approved at the 28 February session is in progress. We cannot add other points to the plan. It is important that there is speed and efficiency in the implementation. The priorities were set earlier, and now it is only a matter of coordination to implement them so that we can have the best possible results," Arifi said after the meeting.

Arifi announced a swapping of assignments among the various ministries. According to him, the rule-of-law Standard has been transferred from the Public Services Ministry to the newly established Ministry of Justice, while the democratic functioning of institutions Standard has been transferred to the Public Services Ministry.

"There cannot be democratic functioning of institutions if there is no rule of law, and there cannot be a genuine economy if there is no democratic functioning of institutions and rule of law," Arifi said.

The Kosova government officials declined to say in which of the Standards the greatest progress has been made. "It is important that there has been parallel and consistent progress in all Standards," they said.

It has been reported that during Prime Minister Ceku's meeting with the working groups and coordinators, stronger inter-ministerial cooperation was urged in the efforts for the Standards' implementation. From now on, meetings at this level will be held twice a week for each ministry to present its achievements in the implementation of Standards.

Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 31 Mar 06

Kosovo talks team accepts "in principle" UN mediators' decentralization proposal

Text of report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive

Prishtina [Pristina], 31 March: The Negotiating Team approved today in principle the document of the international mediators on decentralization and appointed Lutfi Haziri as chairman of the Kosovar delegation in the third meeting on decentralization scheduled for 3 April in Vienna.

The president's adviser, Skender Hyseni, said that the Negotiating Team has reviewed carefully the document brought by UN Deputy Mediator Albert Rohan.

"The Negotiating Team approved this draft document in principle with some remarks made by the Political Group," said Hyseni, without giving any details on these remarks.

"We have determined the red lines. Every reform of the local self-administration must secure the unitary character and the territorial integrity of Kosova [Kosovo]," said Hyseni.

He denied the statements that this document offers a solution, which Kosova has to pay for its independence. "We cannot qualify it as a price, because a certain period, as an independent state, Kosova would experience the need for the reform of the local self-administration," said Hyseni.

He also said that there are no disagreements among the Negotiating Team members.

The Negotiating Team has also decided on the composition of the Kosovar delegation that will attend the third meeting on decentralization. The delegation consists of Skender Hyseni, Ardian Gjini, Fehmi Mujota, Sadik Idriz, Enver Hoxhaj, Ylber Hysaj, and Blerim Shala, whereas Deputy Prime Minister Lutfi Haziri will chair it.

Source: KosovaLive website, Pristina, in English 31 Mar 06

Thursday, March 30, 2006

UN Seeking To Create Conditions For Kosovo Serbs To Stay

PRISTINA (AP)--A U.N. mediator for Kosovo said Thursday his team was determined to create ways of ensuring the Serb minority remains in the province after a settlement on the province's future is reached.

Albert Rohan, the deputy U.N. envoy for the Kosovo talks, spoke at the conclusion of a three-day visit, during which he met with ethnic Albanian leaders who insist on full independence for the Serbian province, and Serb mayors who warned him of possible partition if it should gain independence.

He said his team was working to create conditions that would enable Kosovo's Serb minority to live there.

"We try to make arrangements so that people can stay," Rohan said.

"When the mayors told me that they couldn't live in independence if this were the outcome of the status process, I told them this is your decision," Rohan said.

"We cannot force you to stay, we cannot force anybody to return," he added. "What we can do is to provide conditions, where objectively we can expect the Serbs to stay here and to come back."

He said the international community rejected any partition of the province.

Rohan presented the leaders a plan on the reform of local government in Kosovo, meant to give the Serb minority a greater say in the areas where they form a majority.

The document - which contains points of agreement and compromise solutions from two rounds of talks held by the former foes - calls for maximum authority for municipalities and cooperation between them, but rejects the creation of a separate entity or an internal division of Kosovo, Rohan said.

He expressed hope that the sides would come closer to a deal on local government in April. Issues such as the status of the Serbian Orthodox churches, protection of minority rights, the division of assets and liabilities between Serbia and Kosovo and the post-status international presence will also be discussed.

Kosovo, formally still part of Serbia-Montenegro, has been under U.N. administrative control since mid-1999, when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization halted Serb forces' crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Its status is now being negotiated through U.N.-sponsored talks, which are being mediated by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari. He was appointed by the U.N. to steer the two sides toward agreement by year's end.

Rohan also expressed support for the creation of new municipalities for the ethnic minorities in the areas where they form a majority in Kosovo.

Only about 100,000 Serbs still live in Kosovo, mainly in NATO-protected enclaves. Tens of thousands of others have fled, fearing reprisal attacks, or have been forced out since the end of the war.

Western diplomats have said Kosovo's quest for independence is conditional on the province becoming a democracy that respects minority rights, with local government reform a key to that goal.

Two ethnic Albanian suspects arrested for stabbing Serb in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Police said Thursday they had arrested two ethnic Albanian youths for allegedly stabbing a Serb in an ethnically tense town in Kosovo.

The two suspects, both under 18, were in police custody. The U.N. police commissioner in Kosovo, Kai Vittrup, said they had confessed to the crime.

A 19-year-old Serb, who survived, was stabbed with a knife Tuesday in Kosovska Mitrovica, which is divided between an ethnic Albanian south and a Serb-dominated north. A few hundred Serbs took to the streets to protest the incident.

Vittrup said, however, that "there isn't any ethnic background for this attack." According to preliminary investigation, the stabbing occurred when the suspects and the victim began fighting after an argument, Kosovo police official Maj. Latif Merovci said.

Kosovo, formally still part of Serbia-Montenegro, has been under U.N. administrative control since mid-1999, when NATO halted Serb forces' crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Draskovic: Kosovo cannot be U.N. member

Serbia's foreign minister says the government should admit it does not govern Kosovo and let it join all bodies except the United Nations.
"Serbia should clearly state that it does not govern Kosovo, that it shall not govern Kosovo, and that it is up to the (ethnic) Albanian majority to govern Kosovo, with respect of the Serbian rights," Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic told state-controlled Radio-Television Serbia.
"Serbia should state that we absolutely support the independent and parallel path of Kosovo towards Europe and that we have nothing against representation of an independent Kosovo in all international organizations, except in the United Nations.," Draskovic said.
"There cannot be a seat (for Kosovo) in the United Nations and there is no change in the present borders with Albania and Macedonia," he said.
Draskovic called his proposal a compromise following Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku insistence on the province's independence.
In Vienna, Austria, Serbs and ethnic Albanians, with U.N. mediation, have been negotiating the future of Kosovo, whose 2 million population is 90 percent ethnic Albanian.
Formally, Kosovo is part of Serbia, but it has been under U.N. administration since 1999 when NATO air sttacks forced Serbian troops to withdraw.

Serb hopes of own entity in Kosovo dashed

By Matthew Robinson

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - The United Nations on Thursday dashed Serb hopes of their own "entity" in Kosovo and issued a stark response to those threatening to leave if the Albanian majority wins independence.

"When told me they couldn't live in an independent Kosovo, if this is the outcome of the status process, I told them: This is your decision, we cannot force you to stay," Albert Rohan, the deputy U.N. envoy in negotiations on Kosovo's fate, told reporters in the capital Pristina.

The Austrian diplomat, who on Wednesday visited Serbs in the north, outlined an initial proposal for Kosovo's future governing structure, the fruit of the first two rounds of Serb-Albanian talks in Vienna.

He ruled out any form of separate entity or autonomy for the 100,000 remaining Serbs, as demanded by Belgrade:

"We made it clear that this does not mean and cannot mean the creation of a separate entity," he said.

"We oppose any internal division of Kosovo and we oppose any third layer of government between the central authority and the municipalities."

Rohan is deputy to U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, who is leading negotiations on the fate of the disputed Serbian province, run by the United Nations since the 1998-99 war.

Western powers have made increasingly clear they see independence as the only realistic outcome. Kosovo's two million Albanians, 90 percent of the population, have long demanded their own state and have run their affairs since 1999.

But the Serb-dominated north has resisted U.N. efforts to reintegrate it with the rest of Kosovo, threatening the province with de facto partition.


Serbia lost control of Kosovo -- its "Jerusalem" -- when NATO bombs drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against Albanian civilians in a 2-year war with separatist guerrillas, the culmination of a decade of Serb repression.

Half the Serb population fled a wave of revenge attacks. Those who stayed eke out a grim existence on the margins of society, cocooned in a Belgrade-run world of "parallel structures" outside Kosovo's Albanian-dominated institutions.

The leaders of three mainly Serb municipalities in the north, which enjoy a natural land link to central Serbia, warned on Wednesday that Kosovo would be split in two if the U.N. Security Council grants independence later this year.

Many Serbs living in scattered enclaves across the rest of Kosovo say they will pack their bags and leave.

But partition, with implications of forced population movements, is a taboo concept in the West.

Rohan argued that the plan for decentralisation, the core of negotiations that began last month in Vienna, should provide the Serbs with enough local powers to convince them to stay.

The document allows for cooperation between Serb areas within Kosovo and financial donations from Belgrade.

"What we can do is to provide conditions where objectively we can expect the Serbs to stay and to come back," said Rohan, ahead of the next round of talks on April 3. "Whether they want to stay, to return, to leave, is their decision."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Kosovo PM, UK army commander discuss security

Prishtina [Pristina], 27 March: Kosova [Kosovo] Prime Minister Agim Ceku said today sin Prishtina that it was a joint obligation of him as TMK [Kosovo Protection Corps] commander, and Michael Jackson as the chief of the Great Britain Army Headquarters to raise the TMK to the highest level as part of the political process and transform it into a defence force.

He made these comments today following a meeting with Gen Michael Jackson and Col Paul Miller.

"The history of Kosova is closely connected with the name of Gen Jackson, because he was the first Commander of the Kfor [Kosovo Force] peacekeeping troops in Kosova," said Prime Minister Ceku.

He said that together with Gen Jackson they have gone through difficult, important, and historical moments such as the agreement for demilitarization and transformation of the Kosova Liberation Army [UCK] and its transformation into the TMK.

Ceku said that today's meeting was focused on the current political situation in Kosova, possible developments, possible security architecture in the post status period, and on many other issues.

Gen Jackson congratulated Prime Minister Ceku on his new appointment. He said that this is a momentous year for Kosova as final status talks gather momentum. "There is much to be done in all aspects - politically, economically, and in security. And I wish the prime minister every good luck and all the Kosovars for their future," said British General Michael Jackson.

Source: KosovaLive website, Pristina, in English 27 Mar 06

Serbia: Interpol Lifting Of Warrant Vs Kosovo PM Shameful

BELGRADE (AP)--Serbia protested Tuesday against Interpol's recent decision to remove Kosovo's former rebel leader and newly elected prime minister, Agim Ceku, from its list of wanted persons.

Serbia's Justice Minister denounced as "shameful" Interpol's recent acknowledgment Ceku is no longer on its list of internationally wanted persons because of his new status.

The arrest warrant had been initiated by Serbia, which accuses Ceku of atrocities and war crimes, including genocide, against Serbs and other non-Albanians during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war.

Kosovo has been a U.N.-run protectorate since 1999 when Serbia was forced by North Atlantic Treaty Organization bombing to halt its crackdown against the ethnic Albanian separatists in Kosovo and hand over the province to the U.N. and the military alliance. A final status for the province is now being negotiated through U.N.-sponsored talks.

Formerly a top commander of the ethnic Albanian guerrillas, Ceku became Kosovo's prime minister earlier this month. The province's U.N. administrators then urged Interpol and a number of Western governments to ignore the arrest warrant for him, as well as for another former rebel leader, Hashim Thaci, citing the need for them to move freely.

Both were detained in the past when they traveled abroad, but were released after U.N. officials intervened. They are now part of the talks on Kosovo's future.

Serbian authorities claim Ceku is responsible for wartime killings of 669 Serbs and 18 other non-Albanians in Kosovo, for more than 500 abductions and about as many armed attacks.

More "realism" in Kosovo talks, says chairman

Vienna - Chairman of the current direct Kosovo talks, Albert Rohan, called on Tuesday for more "realism" on both sides.

Quoted by the Austrian parliamentary press service, he said the intenational community had made it clear to the people of Kosovo that with the beginning of the direct Belgrade-Pristina talks, there would not automatically be independence.

It had also been made clear that Pristina must improve the treatment of the Kosovo-Serb minority, said Rohan, who is deputy to UN Kosovo envoy Martti Ahtisaari.

To the Serbs in Kosovo, it had been empasized that they must join in the work for Kosovo's future, and that any further boycott would be counterproductive. But he regretted that the Serbs were only in part cooperative.

His statement was on the sidelines of a current conference of foreign policy committee chairpersons of EU national parliaments.

Austrian ex-diplomat Rohan again pointed to the complexity of the problem. Everything except independence would be acceptable to Belgrade. For Pristina, nothing but independence was thinkable.

The situation was aggravated by the Kosovo-Serbs, on Belgrade's advice, still boycotting the institutions in Pristina in the belief that they could thereby delay or prevent independence.

Rohan said the present strategy of the international community was above all not to allow the direct talks in Vienna to concentrate on the central question of Kosovo's future status.

Concrete and practical issues were being dealt with first, such as decentralization, protection of holy sites, minority rights, economic questions, and the future of the international presence in the Serbian province.

Serb youth stabbed in northern Kosovo, tensions soar

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Ethnic tensions soared in northern Kosovo on Tuesday after a Serb teenager was stabbed and seriously injured, allegedly by a group of ethnic Albanian youths, witnesses and officials said.

A few hundred Serbs took to the streets of the ethnically divided town after hearing that the 19-year-old, identified as Milosav Ilincic, was attacked in the mostly Serb-populated part of the town by a group of young men from the southern, ethnic Albanian part of Kosovska Mitrovica.

Kosovo's chief U.N. official Soren Jessen-Petersen condemned the stabbing and asked police to launch an investigation, a U.N. statement said.

"I deeply regret and am shocked to learn about this deplorable incident," he added, urging restraint.

Police spokesman Sami Mehmeti confirmed a teenager was stabbed, but did not provide the ethnicity of the victim or the circumstances of the attack. He said 200 demonstrators were protesting.

Kosovo Serb leader Milan Ivanovic said Ilincic was attacked while standing with his girlfriend near a bridge over the Ibar river that separates the mostly Serb northern part of town from the ethnic Albanian south.

Ilincic was rushed to a hospital where officials, who declined to be immediately identified, said he was admitted with three deep stab wounds and was undergoing surgery for a ruptured liver and two head injuries.

Kosovska Mitrovica, 45 kilometers (30 miles) north of the province's capital, Pristina, has been ethnically divided since the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. Kosovo is now a U.N. protectorate.

The critical bridge between the two communities in Kosovska Mitrovica had been guarded by NATO peacekeepers and members of the U.N. police until last summer, when it was reopened for traffic.

After the incident, however, the bridge was closed again to civilian use until further notice, Mehmeti said.

Ivanovic claimed that ethnic Albanian members of the Kosovo Police Service were near the scene of the incident when the alleged stabbing occurred, but failed to intervene and possibly even encouraged the attackers to run back to the ethnic Albanian part of town.

Also Tuesday, U.N. envoy Albert Rohan, mediating in ongoing talks on Kosovo's future, met with Kosovo's pro-independence ethnic Albanian leaders in Pristina. He is expected to visit the northern, mostly Serb-populated area on Wednesday.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Serbia needs to be realistic about Kosovo, Serbia-Montenegro minister says

Text of report in English by Belgrade-based Radio B92 text website on 27 March

Belgrade/Pristina, 27 March: Serbia-Montenegro Human and Minority Rights Minister Rasim Ljajic has said that Serbia needs to use more arguments in the Kosovo status discussions, and arguments which are not based on myths.

Ljajic said that Serbia needed to show that it was ready to compromise and that it should be aware that the situation will not go back to the way it once was.

"It is doubtful that the Albanians will accept Belgrade having control and that is why an original solution must be found, like a solution was found in Bosnia that had never been heard of until then," Ljajic said.

Great Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a congratulatory letter to Kosovo's new Prime Minister Agim Ceku, stated that the implementation of human rights standards must be Kosovo's primary goal.

"This will help Kosovo reach European norms for creating democratic institutions, successfully administering and creating a legal state," Blair said.

Source: Radio B92 text website, Belgrade, in English 1350 gmt 27 Mar 06

US To Close Kosovo Base, Relocate Troops - NATO Official

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP)--The U.S. is planning to close one of its military bases in Kosovo and relocate its troops to its main base in the disputed province, a NATO official said Monday.

The plan, however, wouldn't affect overall U.S. troop numbers, the official said on condition of anonymity in exchange for discussing the issue.

The U.S. troops would be transferred from Camp Monteith to Camp Bondsteel, the main U.S. base in the province.

"That process may eventually bring a decision to close Camp Monteith later this year," the official said.

Camp Monteith is located in Gnjilane, 50 kilometers east of the capital, Pristina. Camp Bondsteel is some 45 kilometers southeast of Pristina.

A U.S. military spokesman in Kosovo, Maj. Paul Pecena, confirmed the relocation of the soldiers over the past two weeks, but declined to speculate on whether the base would be closed.

The NATO official said a small troop presence would be maintained at Camp Monteith until a final decision is made on closing it.

Some 1,700 U.S. peacekeepers are part of the 17,500-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force, down from a high of 5,000 U.S. soldiers deployed here after the war.

Kosovo has been run by the U.N. since mid-1999, when a NATO air war halted a Serb crackdown on separatist ethnic Albanians fighting for independence, and forced Belgrade to relinquish control of the province. Kosovo officially remains a province of Serbia.

U.N.-sponsored talks in Vienna are attempting to resolve the province's future status. Ethnic Albanians, who comprise about 90% of the population of 2 million, insist on full independence. But Serbia, and Kosovo's Serb minority, say Belgrade must retain some control.

Kosovo Albanian, Serbian representatives discuss minority issues

Text of report in English by Albanian news agency ATA

Tirana, 27 March: The representatives of the communities in Kosova (Kosovo), Albanians and Serbs, commenced on Monday (27 March) in Durres a two-day meeting dealing with the issue of the national minorities in Kosova.

During the meeting being held in Belvedere Hotel, 9km from the city of Durres, the discussions with be focused on the support for representatives of communities, especially in the decision-making process.

The meeting is organized by the European Centre on Communitarian Issues. At the end of the meeting chaired by Veton Surroi, representative of Mark Weller Centre and member of Kosovar negotiation team, the participants are expected to approve a final document on the issues of the minorities.

Source: ATA news agency, Tirana, in English 1133 gmt 26 Mar 06

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Experts See Independence for Kosovo as Inevitable

By Barry Wood
23 March 2006

With independence now seen among Western governments as the likely outcome of talks about the status of the Serbian province of Kosovo, the European Union Wednesday called on the Kosovo Albanians to take action to protect the province's Serbian minority. Minority rights is taking center stage in the status negotiations.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told Kosovo's prime minister, Agim Ceku, that he is insisting on full protection for the territory's 10 percent Serbian minority. The discussions in Brussels were the first between Solana and the recently installed Mr. Ceku. The EU official expressed their frustration with the Kosovo leader, saying there has been a lot of talk on protecting the Serbian minority, but very little action.

United Nations sponsored talks on Kosovo began last month and a third meeting between officials from Serbia and Kosovo is scheduled for April 3rd. The talks thus far have focused on local government but minority rights and cultural heritage will soon be discussed.

Independence is now almost certainly the intended outcome of the talks even though this is vigorously opposed by Serbia. Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, recently became the highest-level western official to endorse independence, saying it was almost inevitable. Kosovo, whose population is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, has been administered by the United Nations since 1999 after a 78 day NATO bombing campaign forced Serbian troops to withdraw. The status negotiations are guided by a contact group of six nations-the United States, Britain, Russia, France, Germany, and Italy.

At a forum Wednesday at Washington's Georgetown University, Balkans specialist and former U.S .ambassador to Turkey Mort Abramowitz said the status negotiations provide the opportunity to get Kosovo's Albanian majority to enact meaningful minority safeguards.

"And the best you can do right now is, I believe, pressure the Kosovars on how important this is, and to get them to carry out whatever activities and legislation they can do to improve the lot of the Serb and other minorities," he said.

Abramowitz said the ongoing Kosovo negotiations must determine whether the territory will have full independence and a seat in the United Nations. Similarly, he said the status of the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica in the north must be resolved.

Charles Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown said it would be a mistake to eliminate any possibility of territorial adjustments. The Serbian populated land north of Mitrovica is adjacent to Serbia proper. "Unless the international community and Pristina is prepared to do what is necessary to reattach Mitrovica and northern Kosovo to a functioning state, I don't think they should make partition unacceptable. This is an area that is almost 100 percent Serb," he said.

The UN and the six-nation contact group have ruled out territorial adjustments as well as any future merger between an independent Kosovo and neighboring Albania.

The UN officials chairing the Kosovo talks hope to reach a settlement by the end of the year.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Kosovo must act now to protect Serb minority - EU

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Kosovo's ethnic Albanian government must take action now to protect its Serbian minority, the European Union's foreign policy chief told new Kosovan Prime Minister Agim Ceku on Wednesday.

"For a long time there has been a lot of talk but not much action. I think we have to reverse that now, to talk less and act more," Javier Solana said after talks with Ceku.

"I insist very much that ... this is fundamental."

Full protection of the 10 percent Serbian minority in Kosovo is essential for talks launched in February on the status of the Serbian province to move forward, an EU official said.

Still legally part of Serbia, the province of 2 million people has been run by the United Nations since 1999 when NATO drove out Yugoslav forces accused of atrocities against Albanian civilians in two years of fighting with separatist guerrillas.

Ceku, a former guerrilla commander, pledged to work on the EU's demands to enhance Serbian minority rights and build trust.

"We would like to make gestures in the coming months to send signals that we are very clear on integrating minorities," he told reporters.

"We are very clear on wanting Serbs to stay in Kosovo, to be equal, to be free, to be secure, and to love Kosovo and make (it) home and to treat Kosovo as home as well," Ceku added.

A third round of talks between Kosovo Albanians and the Serbian government on the status of Kosovo, mediated by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, is set for April 3.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was the first senior minister to say this month that Kosovo's path to independence from Serbia was "almost inevitable".

Western powers want the Albanians to make concessions first to the Kosovo Serbs, isolated and targeted by sporadic violence since the end of the war, when half the Serb population fled.

After their second round of talks last week, Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians clashed over the extent to which Kosovo Serbs should run their own affairs and enjoy special ties to Belgrade.

Serbia has proposed creating a Serb entity within Kosovo. The Albanians say this means ethnic partition and are proposing a more modest decentralisation without links to Belgrade.

"The differences are enormous," said Albanian negotiator Blerim Shala.

Serbia has accused Ceku, 45, a former senior commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), of murder and terrorism. He was named prime minister by Kosovo's parliament on March 10.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

New Kosovo PM to visit NATO, EU

(Brussels, DTT-NET.COM)- New Kosovo Prime Minister is to make his first visit out of the UN administrated province since he took the post and visit top NATO and EU officials on Wednesday.

NATO officials told DTT-NET.COM that Agim Ceku is to meet with Secretary General of the alliance Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Wednesday. The same day Kosovo PM is to meet with EU chief of diplomacy Javier Solana, officials from his cabinet said.

The visit of Ceku at NATO and EU headquarters comes at the time when talks between Kosovo and Serbia leadership have entered an important phase on the rights for Serbian minority in the province.

The visit is considered to be an opportunity for NATO and EU to show support of Ceku’s cabinet and especially urge him to speed up implementation of UN set standards on minority rights.

On Friday major international powers, US, EU and Russia urged Ceku’s government to make concessions on the self rule rights for Serbs of Kosovo at municipal level.

The issue was negotiated for the second time between Prishtina and Belgrade in Vienna, Austria.

UN mediators said that the second round held yesterday at Austrian capital showed good signals that deal is possible, but further meetings are needed to achieve some concrete results on the powers of current and new municipalities to be created for Serbian minority.

Death of a Dictator

Good riddance to Milosevic--and to Saddam, too.
by Stephen Schwartz and William Kristol
03/27/2006, Volume 011, Issue 26

ALBERT WOHLSTETTER, better than almost any other American strategic thinker, understood Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian dictator who died at The Hague where he was on trial for genocide. Writing in the Wall Street Journal in 1995, Wohlstetter drew a direct line between Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and the Balkan butcher: "The successful coalition in the Gulf War . . . left in place a Ba'ath dictatorship . . . .That told Slobodan Milosevic, who is not a slow learner, that the West would be even less likely . . . to stop his own overt use of the Yugoslav Federal Army to create a Greater Serbia purged of non-Serbs."

Wohlstetter was not the only person to recognize the evil of Milosevic. Margaret Thatcher was a prominent advocate of direct and firm action against Serbian aggression. She recalled indignantly in 1999, "The West could have stopped Milosevic in Slovenia or Croatia in 1991, or in Bosnia in 1992." In 1995, Milosevic was slowed, at least, by the Dayton Accord, which, however, left Bosnian Serbs with most of the country and treated Milosevic, who had incited them to mass murder, rape, and wholesale vandalism, as a more or less respectable figure. In 1999, four years after Dayton, 33 prominent foreign policy experts, including John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz, signed a statement calling on President Clinton to end the "pact with the devil" signed at Dayton and to intervene immediately in Kosovo, the last setting for Milosevic's theater of the macabre. So we did, and Milosevic was stopped.

He was deposed by his countrymen in 2000, deported to The Hague by the Yugoslav government, and put on trial before a special tribunal. At the trial he attempted to present himself as a prescient and courageous defender of the West against al Qaeda. According to him, the murder of elderly Muslim peasants in remote districts of Bosnia or Kosovo was a blow against Islamist terrorism. In 2002, he even tried to claim American government support for the allegation that "mujahedeen" had fought in Kosovo. In reality, while some 2,000-4,000 Saudi-backed "Arab Afghans" intruded into the Bosnian conflict, they failed to influence the course of the fighting, and their form of Islam repelled the European Bosnians.

And now the brute will be buried, leaving a legacy of some 250,000 dead (mostly Bosnian Muslims), thousands of victims of rape (also mostly Bosnian Muslims), and the economic and cultural wreckage of the former Yugoslavia. His vision of a Greater Serbia resulted in the reality of a Lesser Serbia, reduced to the country as it existed in 1911, plus war booty taken from the Hungarians after World War I (Vojvodina in the north) and two unhappily acquired possessions that may soon be gone, Montenegro and Kosovo. Montenegro, annexed in 1918, is preparing a referendum on secession from its current "federation" with Serbia for May of this year, and the "final status" of Kosovo, conquered by Serbia in 1912, is being negotiated by the international community.

Milosevic will be remembered as the man who, at the end of the 20th century, reintroduced mass atrocities into a Europe that had ostensibly banished them forever. Milosevic's retro political style included "ethnic cleansing" or mass expulsion; internment in concentration camps; grotesque torture and sexual terrorism; gratuitous slaughter of whole families, villages, and even the equivalent of a significant town--8,000 Muslim males at Srebrenica, and the systematic destruction of holy places and cultural landmarks. All was carried out by lawless gangs and "militias," in addition to the Yugoslav army.

Some Western "realists," looking for excuses not to act, could not help asserting the moral equivalence of Milosevic and his victims. But neither the Croats, nor the Bosnian Muslims, nor the Kosovar Albanians ever attacked Serbia or Montenegro. In an attempt at psychological distancing from the crimes of the Belgrade regime, some Westerners harped endlessly on Croatian and Bosnian Muslim collaboration with the Nazis in the Second World War, even though as many or more Croats were anti-fascist Partisans as helped the Nazis, and Bosnian Muslim clerics interceded on behalf of Jewish and Serb victims of the Germans.

Milosevic, the man pushed to the foreground by the crisis, was a mediocrity, like Saddam Hussein or, for that matter, his hero Stalin. Milosevic was a product of Communist rule in a remote provincial town, Pozarevac, in Serbia, and of a narrow, bureaucratic culture. There is no evidence that he cared about the Serb people or Serbian traditions; but he certainly loved authority over others. When he gained power, after working his way through the Tito party system, he used it to posture as a world-historical figure. But he was similar to Vladimir Putin in Russia: an empty vessel waiting to be filled by new ideologies or mafia business opportunities once communism ended.

It is appropriate that Milosevic was an ally of Saddam, who also killed quite a few Muslims--and an ally of other anti-Americans. Evil finds its compatriots. So Iraq supplied energy-poor Serbia with oil. Iraq contracted with Serbia for sophisticated weapons and their maintenance. Serbia had a WMD program, including a nuclear bomb effort dating from the Tito years, finally shut down only in 2002, when enough highly enriched uranium for at least two nuclear weapons was removed from an institute near Belgrade in a joint U.S.-Russian effort supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Milosevic was also, in his time, supported by the late, unlamented Yasser Arafat, who even invited him to Bethlehem, in the territory of the Palestinian Authority. (Israel blocked the trip by making it clear that, as a good member of the United Nations, it would arrest Milosevic and hand him over to The Hague.) What counted to people like Saddam and Arafat was, of course, Serbia's confrontation with America, not its attempted genocide of Bosnian Muslims. And when the U.S.-led coalition went into Iraq in 2003 to remove Saddam (who incidentally was a more direct threat to American interests in 2003 than Milosevic was in 1999), many of the same people opposed that intervention as well. Some acted out of decent motives and made respectable arguments--and some simply liked dictators and hated America. So Slobodan and Saddam ended up sharing the legal help of the disgraceful Ramsey Clark.

Yet the suffering of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Balkan war of 1992-95 produced important effects. The nightmare of Bosnia--all those people killed only for their names, the rapes, the mosques destroyed down to their foundations--affected Muslims throughout the world, as did the apparent indifference of much of "Christian Europe" to the horror. After all, British policy was shaped not by Lady Thatcher, but by the cruelly shortsighted team of Lord Carrington, Lord Douglas Hurd, and Lord David Owen. U.S. policy did not follow the path recommended by Ronald Reagan or John McCain. It was based first on the pseudo-"realism" of James Baker, then left at the mercy of the fecklessness of Warren Christopher.

So Muslims around the world have not forgotten Bosnia. While Westerners tend to dismiss the Balkans as a fringe area of the Islamic world, many Muslims view Bosnian Islam with respect. Precisely because it suffered, and defended itself, and survived as a community of Islamic believers in the heart of Europe, Bosnia has credibility and prestige among Muslims, from Saudi dissidents to Malayan Sufis.

Bosnian Islam, which showed its moderation during the recent war, therefore represents a real asset for a Europe coming to grips with the Islamic challenge. In the middle of the uproar and shouts--and some brutal slayings--accompanying the recent controversy over the Danish cartoons, the chief Muslim cleric of Bosnia, Mustafa Ceric, issued a Declaration to European Muslims. In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty accompanying the declaration, Ceric described the text as "a personal act . . . sending a message to the Western audience that we, Bosnian Muslims, did not agree with the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, on March 11, 2004, in Madrid, on July 7, 2005, in London."

In the declaration itself, Ceric writes sharply, "Muslims should not be afraid to think about their future in the same way as they should not be possessed by their past. . . . Not only have Muslims failed to produce a genuine idea of globalization, but they are, generally speaking, failing now at living in a global world." In an introduction to the declaration, Ceric argues, "Muslims must realize that the general feeling about their faith in Europe today is unfavorable. European Muslims must take the issue of violence in the name of Islam very seriously, not because some people hate Islam and Muslims, but because the act of violence, the act of terror, the act of hatred in the name of Islam is wrong. . . .European Muslims must develop a program for anti-violence." Ceric reproaches the ruling caste in Muslim countries that "claims to defend Islam, but, in fact . . . uses (or misuses) Islam to cover up its own shortcomings."

Bosnians like Ceric survived the time of Milosevic without sharing in the evil he represented. Such Bosnians can serve as intellectual and moral examples for moderate Muslims around the world. And Europeans can benefit from treating them as trustworthy partners. The death of Milosevic does not close the book on the disaster of the Yugoslav wars; major criminals remain at large. But the fact that Balkan Muslims remained stubbornly commited to civilized values is notable. It deserves to be remembered as people of good will contemplate the future of Islam in Europe and beyond.

--Stephen Schwartz and William Kristol

Serbian nationalism stirs again

The Serbian government faces three crises that could inflame sentiments here following the death of Milosevic.
By Peter Ford | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

BELGRADE, SERBIA - When Serbian state television cut into its usual programming to carry a live report on the arrival of Slobodan Milosevic's body in Belgrade last Wednesday, the station received hundreds of angry calls from viewers demanding that it stop giving such importance to the fate of the former Yugoslav president.

When the report ended, hundreds more furious calls came in, this time from Mr. Milosevic's supporters, demanding the channel carry 24-hour coverage of his funeral arrangements.

"Even after his death, Milosevic continues to divide Serbs into two enemy blocs," says Nenad Stefanovic, chief editor of state TV.

Despite the battlefield losses in the 1990s and the popular overthrow of Milosevic, Serb nationalism remains a potent force and the country is still torn between its past and future. Milosevic loyalists have seized on his death to galvanize voters and try to regain the power they lost five years ago. At stake is the blueprint for Serbia's European integration that reformers have drawn up as the keystone for stability in the Balkans.

A farewell rally for Milosevic in front of the parliament building here Saturday, attended by around 80,000 predominantly older people, put wind in the sails of the nationalists who already enjoy the support of almost half the electorate, according to recent polls.

Two hours later, pro-democracy forces could muster only a few hundred younger demonstrators at a nearby square to celebrate what they hoped was the end of an era, but feared might signal its rebirth.

Among them was Branka Prpa, widow of a journalist murdered by members of Milosevic's security forces in 1999, who was dismayed that the authorities had allowed the former president's supporters to gather on the steps of parliament. It was there, she recalled, that anti-Milosevic protesters had overthrown the government in 2001. The former president's supporters chose the same spot Saturday "to send a message to the citizens of Serbia that he has returned from the dead, that he will triumph over us," she said.

Adding to the woes of the government, led by reformist Boris Tadic, is the prospect of three crises in the coming months that could inflame Serb nationalist sentiment.

• Within the next two weeks the government must hand Gen. Ratko Mladic over to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, where he has been indicted for involvement in the Srebrenica massacre, or see the EU cancel negotiations on a closer partnership with Serbia.

• Next May, voters in Montenegro are expected to decide in a referendum to secede from Serbia and set up an independent state.

• Most painfully, UN-sponsored talks on the future of Kosovo are likely to end in independence for the territory that Serbs regard as the historical hearth of their homeland, although today they are vastly outnumbered there by an ethnic Albanian majority.

"We are entering a very gray zone," warns Zarko Korac, a former deputy prime minister.

If the government appears in no immediate danger of falling, despite depending on the parliamentary votes of Milosevic's Socialist Party, it is because "no-one else wants to be in power and have to deal with this triple whammy" says James Lyon, an analyst in Belgrade with the International Crisis Group.

But the ultranationalist Radical Party's plan to introduce a resolution in parliament condemning The Hague tribunal, which government deputies will find hard to vote against, "shows that the opposition is flexing its muscles and can force the government to do what it wants," Mr. Lyon adds.

The Hague war crimes tribunal, dealing with atrocities committed during the Balkan wars in the 1990s, is viewed even by moderate Serbs as focused unfairly on Serbian criminals while sparing Bosnian, Croatian, and ethnic Albanian perpetrators.

This fuels a widespread sense, voiced loudly in recent days, that Serbia continues to be victimized by the rest of the world. "Slobodan Milosevic did not attack anyone, he simply defended his people," said Mara Triveskovic, a pensioner, as she emerged from the museum where Milosevic's coffin had been on public display. "He was a true hero."

That such a view of recent Serb history - at odds with the one held everywhere else in the region and beyond - is so common in Serbia is largely the fault of the democratic governments in office since 2001, says one Western diplomat.

"They have shied away from the debate that the country has to have" about what exactly happened in the Balkans in the 1990s, the diplomat says. "You cannot set a new direction for Serbia without confronting those forces who glorify the past. The people are ready for this change, but it takes just a little bit of leadership."

In the absence of such leadership, the opposition is eager to exploit the authorities' difficulties, as Socialist leader Milorad Vucelic made clear Saturday. "Fight, Serbia, he [Milosevic] would say to us," Mr. Vucelic declared. "Fight for your freedom and don't give away Kosovo."

Kosovo appears bound for independence regardless of Belgrade's wishes. But the government does have more influence over the fate of General Mladic, who is believed to be hiding in Serbia. Milosevic's death, however, for which most Serbs blame the tribunal and a lack of proper medical care, makes it even less likely that the authorities will soon transfer him to The Hague, or persuade him to surrender.

That means the EU will not open negotiations on closer ties, due to begin April 5, and it will also entail another cut in US aid as punishment. With unemployment around 30 percent, inflation at 15 percent, and the average monthly salary only $250, any cuts in aid will only add to voter frustration.

Milosevic's death, laments the Western diplomat, "have caused people to get caught up again in conspiracy theories ... in what has happened in the past, not what should happen in the future."

• Beth Kampschror contributed to this article from Belgrade.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Serbs show divided feelings as Milosevic is buried

By Douglas Hamilton
POZAREVAC, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Slobodan Milosevic was buried beside his provincial family home on Saturday after thousands of die-hard loyalists rallied to hail the man who presided over years of bloodshed and was ousted by his own people.

The pro-Western politicians who now run Serbia refused him a state funeral, but Socialists and ultranationalists did their utmost to show their hero could still draw big crowds.

Some 3,000 local mourners waving Serbian flags and holding red roses gathered to praise Milosevic, indicted by the U.N. over the Balkan wars of the 1990s, before his burial in the town of Pozarevac, 80 km (50 miles) east of the capital Belgrade.

He came home not in a cortege of black cars, but in a private hearse with advertising on the sides. Instead of a military honour guard, black-clad security men threw back the unwelcome, like bouncers at a night-club.

Only 100 invited guests saw his coffin lowered into a grave in the garden of the family home as darkness fell and a brass band played sombre music. Earlier, supporters read messages from his wife Mira and son Marko, both too frightened to return from self-imposed exile in Russia.

"He had the courage of a statesman at times of the greatest trouble for the people and he was never a coward," Milorad Vucelic, a senior Socialist Party official, declared to thousands of people in the town centre before the burial.

"He was a hero both in life and death, a great man."

A crowd estimated by police at around 80,000 massed in central Belgrade to begin the proceedings. The coffin was draped in the red, blue and white Serbian flag and flanked by former military officers in ceremonial uniforms.

Party organisers gave lapel buttons to the thousands of followers bussed in to the capital, and communists and ultranationalists made lengthy speeches.

Milosevic died of heart failure in his cell at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague last Saturday, only months before a verdict was expected in his marathon trial covering the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo which killed at least 150,000 people.


Widely seen in neighbouring countries and the West as the leader most responsible for those wars, Milosevic faced charges including genocide and crimes against humanity.

But feelings in Serbia were more divided. He had dominated politics for more than a decade before a huge crowd of protesters chanting the slogan "He's finished!" at the federal parliament forced him from power in October 2000.

His supporters, mainly middle-aged and elderly, chose to gather at the same spot on Saturday before the coffin was taken on to Pozarevac.

The current government, a thin coalition of conservatives and liberals trying to set Serbia on the road to European Union membership, kept its head down during the Milosevic rites, determined not to endorse his legacy but wary of the ultras.

In the end, Milosevic got a big funeral for a small town. His Socialist Party had vowed to fill Pozarevac but only 1,500 queued to view the grave.

Biljana Krneta, a state airline employee, said she had come to the rally because Milosevic deserved respect. "He tried to do what he could and I don't blame him for anything," she said.

About 2,000 generally younger anti-Milosevic protesters waving colourful balloons and blowing whistles gathered nearby later in the day to denounce his rule.

A banner featuring a death notice with Milosevic's picture declared: "He's finished forever!"

Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic, target of failed assassination bids under Milosevic, had his own view of the former president.

"All the squares in the city would be too small to hold all the victims of Milosevic and his rule, those who were killed or handicapped, made homeless or refugees," he said in Belgrade.

Milosevic was laid to rest under an old lime tree where he is said to have first kissed Mira Markovic, the childhood sweetheart who became his wife and partner in power.

"We two, we have always been on the same side of the world," said Mira's letter, read out at side of the grave in which she also plans to be buried.

"I'll fight on for our ideals."

(Additional reporting by Ellie Tzortzi, Beti Bilandzic, Zoran Radosavljevic and Ljilja Cvekic)

'At first, we saw Milosevic as God'

By Colin Freeman in Belgrade
(Filed: 19/03/2006)

As a Serbian Army veteran, the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic filled Vladimir Miladinovic not with defiant pride, but dreadful memories of his time fighting in Kosovo.

There was his fearful comrade Nick the Houseburner, for example, notorious for setting light to Albanian homes and mutilating dead bodies. There was the indiscriminate bombardment of villages by units armed with tanks and grenades. And there was the awful, gradual realisation that the entire, horrific campaign was being waged for a leader he had long idolised.

Vladimir Miladinovic: No tears
"When Milosevic first came along I adored him, like everyone else," said Mr Miladonivic, who was an intelligence chief during the campaign in Kosovo in 1999. "But now we know that he wasn't a patriot, just an opportunist who exploited the nationalist cause for his own rise."

Mr Miladinovic, 33, is not unusual in harbouring regrets about the campaign that forced an estimated 800,000 Albanians from their homes and saw many hundreds killed and tortured. He is, however, one of the few ex-Serbian servicemen who have recanted publicly.

The reaction to his whistleblowing role in a recent television documentary, in which he detailed atrocities against Albanian civilians, showed the difficulty that many Serbs have in accepting any culpability for the bloodshed. When it was broadcast six months ago, the spectacle of being denounced by one of their own sparked a public outcry that forced him into hiding.

As a Serb, born and raised in Kosovo, he remembers how attractive Milosevic's nationalist rhetoric was. After decades in which feelings of ethnic identity had been suppressed by President Tito, Serbs had long felt marginalised by the Albanian majority until a visit from Milosevic in 1987 when he promised: "Nobody is allowed to beat you".

"From that moment, we saw him as God. He liberated us not just physically, but spiritually," Mr Miladinovic said.

His loyalty wavered only 12 years later, when he was posted to a Serbian Army garrison in his home town of Gnjilane. As a boy, he played with his Albanian neighbours. Now he saw fellow Serb soldiers use counter-insurgency operations against the guerrillas as the front for savage ethnic cleansing.

Once part of a machine that spilt endless blood in Milosevic's name, yesterday he found himself unable to shed a single tear. "I had no emotion when I heard of his death whatsoever. He had no sympathy for anyone who died, not even Serbs. I hope that after his death one very thick line is drawn under all this."

Kosovo, Serbia Talks End Without Deal; New Date Set

VIENNA (AP)--The U.N.-mediated talks between officials from Serbia and Kosovo ended without a clear deal Friday, but the two former foes pledged to meet again next month in their attempts to find a lasting solution for the province.

Ethnic Albanian and Serbian officials had "extremely constructive discussions" as the U.N.-mediators tried to find a common ground, said Albert Rohan, the U.N. mediator chairing the session.

Rohan, who is the deputy to the chief U.N. Kosovo talks mediator, acknowledged that there were profound differences between the two sides, but he characterized Friday's encounter as "issue-oriented and without polemics." The next round was set for April, 3, Rohan said.

The two delegations sat across from each other for the second round of talks in their attempts to find a lasting solution to one of the most intractable issues left since the disintegration of Yugoslavia - whether Kosovo becomes independent.

Ethnic Albanians, who comprise about 90% of the province's population of 2 million, insist on full independence. But Serbia, and Kosovo's Serb minority, insist Belgrade must retain some control over the province.

"There's not any formal agreement of any sort," Rohan said, but added that mediators "feel that there's common ground on some of the subjects" on the local government reform.

The talks have opened nearly seven years after the province became a U.N. protectorate when NATO halted the crackdown by forces of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on ethnic Albanian separatists.

The process is being mediated by former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, appointed by the United Nations to steer the talks toward an agreement by the end of the year.

The one-day round of talks at Vienna's Auersperg Palace didn't deal directly with the question of the province's status.

Instead, the discussions focused on the details of local government reform to give Serbs more of a say in areas where they live, the financing of municipalities and the links between the beleaguered Serb minority and Belgrade.

"I would be probably naive to say that there was agreement on all these matters," Rohan said. "There are, of course, profound differences in the approach of the two sides."

However, Rohan noted some progress, with the sides agreeing to allowing some links between Belgrade and the municipalities where Serbs form a majority in Kosovo. The mechanisms for doing that remained contentious.

The opposing views were also made clear by both delegations.

Hashim Thaci, the leader of ethnic Albanian delegation at the talks, said, " Kosovo made one step forward to a free and democratic, independent and sovereign state."

His Serb counterpart, Leon Kojen, said the discussions were useful, but also difficult, because the two points of view on the future status of Kosovo are " very sharply opposed."

The start of talks was overshadowed by the Serbian delegation lodging a protest with U.N. mediators about Thaci, the former rebel leader whom Belgrade accuses of war crimes, heading the Kosovo team.

The letter said Thaci's active participation in the talks "will make it much harder to build mutual confidence and made genuine progress in the negotiations."

Thaci didn't comment on the Serb protest and instead insisted the province must gain independence, but also said his negotiating team will try to find common ground with the Serb delegation.

Thousands of people died and hundreds of thousands were displaced during the war, and the end of hostilities did not bring the two sides any closer to a resolution.

The two sides disagree over how much power should be held locally, with Serbian officials insisting the province's Serbs be allowed to run affairs in their communities, link up with other Serb areas and have special ties to Belgrade.

Ethnic Albanians have rejected ideas of Serb municipal clusters, which would provide direct control of the police forces and justice systems, saying that would lead to the ethnic partition of the province.

As talks developed, in Kosovo, thousands of Serbs protested at the anniversary of anti-Serb riots in 2004, when mobs of ethnic Albanians attacked them and their property in the worst outbreak of violence since the end of the province's war.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Serb objections mar second round of Kosovo talks

By Matthew Robinson

VIENNA (Reuters) - Serbs and ethnic Albanians met in Vienna on Friday for a second round of talks on the future of Kosovo, marred at the outset by Serb objections to the presence of a former guerrilla leader Belgrade accuses of terrorism.

The two sides opened direct talks last month, seven years since late Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic went to war with NATO and lost control of the southern Serbian province to the United Nations.

After a timid first round, the gloves came off on Friday as the Serbs submitted a formal protest to UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari over the Kosovo Albanian delegation's choice of former rebel commander Hashim Thaci as leader.

"This is a man convicted of terrorism in 1997 and is under investigation in Belgrade for war crimes," said Serb negotiator Aleksander Simic. "We told Mr Ahtisaari that this is not good for the future of the negotiations."

Thaci shrugged off the objections. "The dark past will be buried tomorrow with Milosevic in Serbia," he told reporters.

Milosevic died at the weekend four years into his war crimes trial and will be buried under a lime tree at his family home in central Serbia on Saturday.

Friday's meeting continues a discussion of how to devolve power to the Serb minority, part of a "bottom-up" approach adopted by Ahtisaari as he grapples with one of Europe's most intractable diplomatic conundrums.


The province of 2 million people has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when NATO bombed to drive out Milosevic's forces accused by the West of atrocities against Albanian civilians in a 2-year war with Thaci's Kosovo Liberation Army.

The 90-percent ethnic Albanian majority says Milosevic lost Kosovo in 1999 and will settle for nothing less than independence. Serbia argues this would mean amputating sacred land central to the Serb identity for 1,000 years.

Some form of independence appears almost certain. But Western powers want the Albanians to make concessions to the Kosovo Serbs, ghettoized and targeted by sporadic violence since the end of the war, when around half the Serb population fled.

Belgrade has proposed the creation of a Serb entity within Kosovo, with special links to the rest of Serbia. The Kosovo Albanians say this means ethnic partition. They are offering more modest decentralization, but no links to Belgrade.

"Belgrade's ideas are destructive," Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu said in an interview with Austrian newspaper Die Presse. "Serbia wants the division of Kosovo. Their rhetoric shows that for them the war over Kosovo continues."

The Kosovo delegation baulked at the agenda for Friday's meeting, which included "inter-municipal cooperation and cross-boundary cooperation" -- something the West says Albanians must accept if they are to offer the Serbs a future.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Russia and China give assurance they will not stand in way of Kosovo independence

By Guy Dinmore in Washington and Daniel Dombey in London
>Published: March 14 2006 20:31 | Last updated: March 14 2006 20:31

Russia and China have told the US that they will not block the independence of Kosovo, the breakaway Serbian province, according to western diplomats.

Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, discussed the issue with Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, in Washington last week and was told Moscow would not stand in the way of independence, the officials said. Russia and China would probably abstain in a proposed UN resolution that would grant independence.

Kosovo, with its ethnic Albanian majority and Serb minority, has been a ward of the UN since Nato forces bombed Serbia to halt “ethnic cleansing” in 1999 and then took control of the province. But the debate has entered a new phase with the start of UN-brokered negotiations to decide Kosovo’s final status.

The issue is particularly sensitive since Serbia, which has offered Kosovo autonomy rather than independence, is also involved in a face-off with the international community over General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb war crimes indictee, who is still at large. The death last week of Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia’s former president, has added to the heady brew.

The US and UK are pushing for Serbia to accept that Kosovo will become independent, while Russia, which had previously worried that the province would set a precedent for its own republic of Chechnya, has scaled down its objections.

The officials, who asked not to be named, said the Bush administration had persuaded Moscow and Beijing that independence for the Serbian province was “unique” and would not set a precedent for Chechnya or for the Chinese-claimed territories of Taiwan and Tibet.

However, analysts said some in Moscow wanted a better deal with Washington that might leave open the possibility of a Kosovo-type solution for other regions, including Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia, which is backed by Russia.

Last week Jack Straw, the UK foreign secretary, said Kosovo’s independence was “almost inevitable”. But Philippe Douste-Blazy, his French counterpart, stuck closer to the European Union’s official line by saying that negotiations should not be prejudged”.

The EU has also told Serbia it has until the end of this month to increase co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia over the detention and transfer of Gen Mladic.


Greek diplomats urge change in government policy on Kosovo

Text of report by Irini Karanasopoulou, entitled "Kosovo like... USA", published by Greek newspaper Ta Nea on 13 March; subheadings and ellipsis in newspaper headline as published

High-level diplomatic officials of the Foreign Ministry are suggesting a turn of the country's foreign policy on Kosovo so that there will be openings towards the Albanians and a "diplomatic reception" of the almost certain independence of the area in 2006.

Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni has not made any final decisions on the issue but, according to her associates, she seems to initially agree with the need of adjusting the foreign policy on Kosovo, also following her recent tour in the former Yugoslavia.

Independence is certain

In their suggestions, these officials note that Kosovo's independence - either through talks or in another way - must be considered certain, given that this is the choice of the Americans with the support of the British.

At the same time, the same diplomats are saying, the French are not interested, while the Germans are neutral since their interest in former Yugoslavia has in fact been exhausted in Slovenia and Croatia.

"The only thing we achieve by speaking continuously about the need not to have asphyxiating timetables, not to change the borders, not to have a solution if it is not agreed, is to be against both the Albanians and the international factor," the high-ranking diplomatic officials pointed out to the Foreign Ministry's new leadership, reminding that the diplomatic establishment has had this view since year 2000 but the governments had not accepted it. For this reason, they add, "it would be good if the 'green light' to a possible change of policy - provided this is decided by the government - is to be given at the highest possible level, by the Prime Minister himself.

In three countries

The diplomatic officials' suggestion points out that as soon as Kosovo becomes independent, the Albanian element will dominate in three countries - Albania, Kosovo and Skopje [Macedonia]. Consequently, good relationship with the Albanians will operate in a protective way for the existing Greek investments but also for future ones. They note that with Kosovo becoming independent, the money of exiled Kosovars will start flowing into the area since so far they were hesitating to send money to their fatherland which was under a disputed regime.

As a first opening towards the Albanians, the diplomats propose the establishment of a channel of communication with new Kosovo prime minister, general [Agim] Ceku, former UCK [Kosovo Liberation Army] member.

According to Washington, he constitutes to be the best choice because he is accepted as a hero in Kosovo and consequently he can make "offers" to the Serbs - which is also something that Athens wants.

Source: Ta Nea, Athens, in Greek 13 Mar 06

Monday, March 13, 2006

No Sympathy for Slobo

Let's not forget Milosevic's many crimes.
By Christopher Hitchens
Posted Monday, March 13, 2006, at 11:44 AM ET

During the siege of Sarajevo or the mass deportations from Kosovo, the news of a sudden stoppage of the heart of Slobodan Milosevic would have occasioned a joyous holiday in many other hearts. And the idea that he might one day die in prison would have been excellent tidings for a future generation and was the intended effect of his long and convoluted trial. But the news that he has succumbed randomly is bad news, as was the illness that overtook one of his original judges and helped protract the process in the first place. One can see, forming in the swamps of nationalism and superstition, a myth of martyrdom dimly taking shape.

This would be the worst outcome, since Milosevic began and ended, as all such dictators do, by ruining his own people and degrading his own country. It was on April 24, 1987, that, as an ambitious Stalinoid bureaucrat, he journeyed to Kosovo and made a toxically demagogic appeal to the Serbian minority. It was on June 28, 1989—the 600th anniversary of the Serbian defeat in Kosovo by the Turks—that he returned to the territory and made a hysterical speech to a mass rally. During his ignoble presidency, Serbia became a banana republic, and his predecessor, Ivan Stambolic, was later "disappeared" and found in a shallow grave. Serbian death squads were used against fellow Serbs and also "deniably" deployed in Bosnia and elsewhere. By the end of it, the Serbian minorities in whose name he had launched a regional war had been ignominiously expelled from their ancient homes in the Krajina region and in Kosovo itself. Only a Serb can truly feel the depth of the cultural and political and economic damage that he did, and the brave crowds of students who demonstrated in Belgrade in March 1991 shouting "Slobo Saddam" had it exactly right.

Or almost exactly right. Milosevic did not have quite the psychopathic power of a Saddam Hussein or an Osama Bin Laden. He was that most dangerous of people: the mediocre and conformist official who bides his time and masks his grievances. He went from apparatchik to supreme power, and though he rode a tide of religious and xenophobic fervor, it is quite thinkable that he never really cared about the totems and symbols that he exploited. In office and in the dock, he embodied the banality of evil. In the excellent 1995 book The Death of Yugoslavia, written by Laura Silber and Allan Little, and in the fine BBC TV series that accompanied it, you can actually see the petty tactics and cynical opportunism that he employed like a sluggish maggot at the heart of the state that just keeps eating remorselessly away. He apparently had only one true friend, his adorable ideologue of a wife, Mirjana Markovic, who used to cheer him up about his big-eared and stone-faced appearance and about the suicide of both of his parents. Beware of those resentful nonentities who enter politics for therapeutic reasons.

The highlights of his more lurid criminal career ought to be briefly set down before anyone tries to airbrush them. He arranged for his own entourage to be pelted with stones in Kosovo in 1987 (this we have on film) so that the provocation could appear on Belgrade television and isolate the civilized elements in the ruling party. He made a secret agreement with his equally disgusting counterpart Franjo Tudjman of Croatia for a sort of Stalin-Hitler carve-up of Bosnia, and thus empowered the very Croatian extremists who later turned on Serb civilians. He entered into a collusion with fascist and irredentist groups, among them Bosnian Serbs and Belgrade Serbs, which deliberately threw Bosnia into civil war and gave us the modern (and euphemistic) term "ethnic cleansing." He hijacked the national army of a unitary state and used it to attack the autonomous republics within that state. He very nearly destroyed two of the urban cultural treasures of Europe: Dubrovnik and Sarajevo. He emptied the treasury of Serbia and reduced its citizens to poverty and paranoia. He and Saddam were the only two heads of government to welcome the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev. Eventually, he went even further and ordered the mass expulsion of the majority population of Kosovo, who were herded onto trains and forced onto the roads; an act that would, if successful, have lethally destabilized the two neighboring states of Albania and Macedonia. And at that very belated point, the Western powers decided they had had enough of him and brought about his removal from Kosovo and his removal from power.

It is worth remembering, however, how much the "realists" had relied upon him until then. Negotiators David Owen, representing the European Union, and former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance thought he was a necessary "partner for peace." Henry Kissinger and Lawrence Eagleburger pronounced him to be the man to do business with and steadily opposed any intervention. It took an act of ultimate irrationality on Milosevic's part before NATO decided to overrule Russian and Chinese and U.N. objections and put an end to fascism and racist murder in their own backyard. And, of course, by then most of the damage had been done, and it is now the anti-realists who inherit the ghastly, laborious job of cleaning up the mess, digging up the mass graves, restoring essential services, and pacifying inflamed tribal and confessional feelings.

Some friends and colleagues of mine have testified against Milosevic and his henchmen in The Hague and had the satisfaction of seeing the slaughterers and torturers confronted by their victims. An enormous archive of atrocity has been amassed and videotaped and cataloged, and one day history will be very grateful for it. No denial or revisionism will be possible in this case. It would be nice to think that it was this relentless accumulation of evidence that stopped Milosevic, who was often confronted by former colleagues in the witness box, from making the long and self-pitying speeches that have served Saddam Hussein as a model tactic. It would also be nice to think that it is what eventually killed him. But he probably suffered his last spasm feeling sorry only for himself, and now we will have the final sordid task of preventing others from feeling a misplaced sympathy for him also.
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His most recent book is Thomas Jefferson: Author of America. His most recent collection of essays is titled Love, Poverty, and War.

Moscow Rallies to Defend Milosevic

Moscow Rallies to Defend Milosevic
By Nabi Abdullaev
Staff Writer

Igor Tabakov / MT

Communists protesting outside the Dutch Embassy on Monday. The poster reads, "Milosevic's killers to court!"

In Moscow, where Slobodan Milosevic's family lives and he enjoys widespread sympathy due to his role in opposing NATO in the Balkans, officials and politicians on Monday angrily rejected the results of his autopsy and called for Russian doctors to be able to conduct their own probe into his death.

A Dutch toxicologist said Monday that the former Serbian president had taken the wrong drugs in an effort to be sent for treatment to Moscow.

Outside the U.S., Dutch and Serbian embassies in Moscow, hundreds of Communists protested against the UN tribunal that was trying Milosevic on war crimes charges.

About 300 people, led by the Communist Party's Moscow chief, Vladimir Ulass, joined the rallies, carrying red flags and signs reading "Milosevic is a Hero, Bush is a Fascist" and "The Hague is a Factory of Death."

"We reject the claim that Milosevic died of natural causes," Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov told reporters before the rallies, describing Milosevic's death as a "crime by imperialism."

"We believe that the international tribunal and the Americans who unleashed NATO aggression against Yugoslavia at the end of the last century are guilty in Milosevic's death," Zyuganov said.

Dutch toxicologist Donald Uges, who conducted blood tests on Milosevic two weeks ago as part of his treatment for a heart condition and high blood pressure, on Monday ruled out foul play or suicide in Milosevic's death. Uges said he thought Milosevic had taken a drug used to treat leprosy and tuberculosis in an effort to support his application to be treated in Moscow.

"I don't think he took his medicines for suicide -- only for his trip to Moscow ... that is where his friends and family are. I think that was his last possibility to escape The Hague," Uges said, Reuters reported. "I am so sure there is no murder."

Uges' comments came after Milosevic's lawyer Zdenko Tomanovic said that the former Serbian president had told him he had feared he was being poisoned, and had written a six-page letter to the Russian Embassy in the Netherlands dated Wednesday, three days before he died.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters Monday that, since the UN tribunal had rejected Milosevic's application to receive medical treatment in Moscow, Russia wanted to carry out its own probe into his death.

"In fact, Russia was not trusted. In a situation when we were not trusted, we also have a right not to trust," Lavrov said.

Lavrov confirmed he had received Milosevic's letter, in which he complained of being given strong medicines used to treat tuberculosis and leprosy.

"It says that, in his opinion, certain methods of treatment ... had had a negative impact on his health," Lavrov said, adding that Moscow had asked the tribunal to allow Russian doctors to study the results of the autopsy.

The Foreign Ministry issued a statement shortly after Milosevic's death was announced Saturday, saying that it regretted that the tribunal had two weeks earlier rejected his application to travel to Moscow. Russia had offered assurances that Milosevic would return to The Hague to complete his trial.

Yury Mashkov / Itar-Tass

Protesters near the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Monday. One poster reads, "Milosevic is a Hero! Bush is a Fascist!"
Alexei Mukhin, an analyst with the Center for Political Information, said top Russian officials "were insulted by having their guarantees rejected" by the Hague tribunal, and were now "gloating over the delicate situation the tribunal finds itself in."

In a State Duma session Monday, reaction to Milosevic's death ranged from distrust of the UN tribunal to expressions of respect for the Serbian authorities' wishes.

United Russia Duma Deputy Konstantin Zatulin called for a public inquiry in Russia into Milosevic's death.

"We cannot trust this mission to the tribunal itself, or to the Western leaders who turn an epitaph to Milosevic into an indictment," Zatulin said.

International Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachyov called on Russia to respect the position of the Serbian government over Milosevic's death. He also said the Duma would adopt a resolution Wednesday criticizing the Hague tribunal over what he said was its anti-Serbian stance and for not allowing Milosevic to travel to Moscow.

"Russian lawmakers will also insist on a full and unbiased international investigation of the reasons that led to Milosevic's death, in which Russian experts will participate," Kosachyov said, Interfax reported.

Memorial prayers for Milosevic were held in several Russian Orthodox churches on Sunday, Interfax reported, citing the Moscow Patriarchate.

Coverage of Milosevic's death on Russian state television was overwhelmingly sympathetic toward Milosevic, with several commentators defending him and blaming the Hague tribunal for his death.

National newspapers, however, were more evenhanded in their coverage, with some articles offering criticism of his role in the Balkans conflicts.

"He was a man who, I believe, dedicated his life to the good of his people, his country," former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov told Rossia television on Sunday.

Alexei Sazonov / AP

A man holding a portrait of Milosevic at the U.S. Embassy picket on Monday.
Primakov blamed Milosevic's death on the UN tribunal and the Serbian authorities who handed him over to The Hague in 2001.

Mikhail Margelov, head of the Federation Council's Foreign Affairs Committee, told the channel, "It is important that the court in The Hague has not ruled while Milosevic was alive whether he was guilty or was not."

Milosevic's elder brother, Borislav, a former Yugoslav ambassador to Russia, told Rossia that the tribunal had "discredited itself legally and morally."

Some newspapers on Monday were more balanced in their consideration of Milosevic and his legacy, giving space to criticism of him and offering a broader perspective of his role in the Balkans wars.

Kommersant wrote in a front-page article Monday that Milosevic had used Russia, Yugoslavia and the Serbs to serve his own quest for power, while Izvestia attempted to debunk views common in Russia that Milosevic was a great statesman and ally of Moscow.

Borislav Milosevic, who lives in Moscow, was himself hospitalized overnight Sunday. He was taken to Moscow's Bakulev heart surgery center, where his brother had asked to come for treatment. He denied speculation that he had suffered a heart attack.

Borislav Milosevic said Monday that he would travel to Belgrade to attend his brother's funeral.

The death of Milosevic, dubbed the "Butcher of the Balkans" in some Western media reports, could cause some diplomatic embarrassment for Russia, as it has quietly been sheltering his family, despite international warrants being issued for Milosevic's widow, Mira Markovic, and their son Marko Milosevic.

Since 2001, numerous unconfirmed reports in the Russian and international media have said Markovic and Marko Milosevic are living in Moscow.

On Monday, the Dutch Foreign Ministry said Marko Milosevic had applied for a visa at the Dutch Embassy in Moscow to travel to The Hague and take his father's remains to Belgrade for burial.

Marko Milosevic also surfaced Monday on Channel One television, saying that if Serbia did not offer him and his family safety guarantees, he would ask Russia for permission to bury his father in Moscow instead, Reuters reported.

"I just lost my father and do not want to risk my mother," he said, Reuters reported.

"I have already asked the Russian authorities, although for now unofficially, whether we could bury him in Moscow ... if we need to, until the conditions in Serbia are right to move his body there."

Natalya Krainova contributed to this report.