Saturday, April 29, 2006

Krasniqi defeats Bostice!

By Fabian Weber

Stuttgart – Former European heavyweight champion Luan Krasniqi outscored American David Bostice Saturday night at Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Halle by unanimous decision over ten rounds (99:93, 99:92, 99:91).

It was Krasniqi’s first bout since he lost a WBO title shot against Lamon Brewster in dramatic manner on September 28, 2005. Leading on all score cards and visibly dominating the defending champion Krasniqi was sent to the canvas with a solid shot at the end of round eight. Krasniqi who wanted to become the first heavyweight world champion from Germany since Max Schmeling was unable to recover and lost to Brewster in round nine.

Now, ranked number two by the WBO, another title chance is on the horizon, first of all since number one ranked Wladimir Klitschko won the IBF title last weekend and will consequently disappear from the rankings of the World Boxing Organization which could enable Krasniqi to climb to the top.

Krasniqi improved his record 29-2-1 with 14 knockouts. Bostice dropped to 35-11-1 with 15 knockouts.

Turn in Mladic, be positive on Kosovo, NATO tells Serbia

BRUSSELS, April 29, 2006 (AFP) -

NATO urged Serbia Saturday finally to arrest war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic and find a positive solution for Kosovo to pave the way to acceptance within the North Atlantic Alliance.

"See that Mladic gets to The Hague, and I can tell you that NATO will bring you in very quickly, then you can continue stabilisation and association with the European Union," said NATO Secretary-General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, speaking at a forum in Brussels on transatlantic relations.

Mladic, a former Bosnian Serb military commander, has remained at large for more than 10 years since being indicted by The Hague war crimes tribunal for his role in Bosnia's 1992-95 war on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"The only recipe for security and stability is EU and NATO membership," said de Hoop Scheffer."We need Serbia in an active and positive role in the Kosovo negotiation ... My plea is: make it possible for all of us, to make this happen. You can do it happen, please do it quickly."

United States diplomat Richard Holbrooke, architect of the Dayton agreements on Bosnia, said the main issue for Serbia was "to figure out how to protect your long-term future. And to start the process by which Serbia finally takes its role as an important country inside the EU over time."

Holbrooke also foresaw an independent future for Kosovo.

The majority ethnic Albanian province has been run by the UN since Serb forces were forced out by a NATO-led assault in 1999.

"How it happens is of immense importance to the future of Europe," he stressed. "All the rights of the minority people of Kosovo, which means primarily the Serbs, must be respected, their churches, culture, their language.

"This will require an international security presence, and, speaking personally, I hope there will be an American participation in that."

But Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic warned against an independent Kosovo.

"The main objective must be security and stability," he said. "There will be no freedom, no security and stability in Europe if we keep some parts of Europe far away from security and stability. We mustn't ignore the issue of Kosovo. The problem is not solved."

Draskovic said he was participating here as "a warning that plans of Kosovo's independence are very very dangerous.

"The boundaries of a province, Kosovo, could not be changed, while borders of an internationally recognized state could be changed. Separatists all over the world are watching now."

Macedonian, Kosovo premiers agree Ceku's 5 May visit to enhance relations

Text of report in English by Macedonian state news agency MIA

Skopje, 28 April: Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski had a phone conversation with Kosovo interim government Premier Agim Ceku, the PM's cabinet said Friday [28 April] in a press release.

They agreed Ceku to pay a visit Macedonia on 5 May, bringing good intentions for respect and strengthening the bilateral relations and understanding.

Kosovo government fully respects Macedonia's territorial integrity and sovereignty and reaffirms the principle of border inviolability, Ceku told Buckovski.

Kosovo also supports Macedonia's integration with the European Union and NATO, Ceku said.

Buckovski expressed hope for the Ceku's visit to be productive, saying that Macedonia holds to its position on the border demarcation issue, which as a technical process is to be completed within the talks on province's final status.

Source: MIA news agency, Skopje, in English 1844 gmt 28 Apr 06

SEN. MCCAIN REMARKS AT GERMAN MARSHALL FUND: It seems clear that Kosovo will eventually become independent

BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 28 -- The office of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., issued the following statement: Today Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) gave the following speech, "A Global Agenda for the United States and Europe: An American View," at the German Marshall Fund Brussels Conference:

"On the 60th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, the Prime Minister of Belgium described the Allies who fought together as a band of brothers. "Brothers in ideals and conviction," he said, "It is now our duty to further strengthen this bond in order to secure this hard-won freedom for future generations." The U.S. and Europe have traveled a great distance since 1944, and a long way even since 2004. Our agenda today is truly global, and it pays tribute both to this continent's internal success and to the strength of the transatlantic partnership. America and Europe have had disagreements, strong ones, and we are likely to have more in the future. But as befits an enterprise of historic importance, we move past these differences and unite to achieve great things, locating in our common approach a force that has altered the world.

We do so precisely because of the bonds the Prime Minister so eloquently described. The transatlantic democracies believe in the legitimacy of governments chosen by the people. We believe that certain rights are inalienable, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We believe in a world built on human rights, possessing strong and legitimate international institutions and norms. And we know that free societies hold at their core the promise of happiness and prosperity for all, while oppressive regimes offer only tyranny and repression.

These are lofty sentiments, to be sure, but do not dismiss their real world impact. Whether we turn our attention to the regime in Iran, the displaced in Sudan, troops under NATO command in Afghanistan, or to our own citizens, individuals everywhere look to the United States and Europe for unity and leadership. They know that we pursue not just narrow self-interest, but seek the blessings of liberty for all. They, like us, know that the scope of our activities is, by necessity, ambitious and global. And they know - or they should know - that we will work together. The world needs the United States and Europe together, and it needs us now.

Among the natural areas of cooperation for the transatlantic partners is the promotion of democracy. Both the U.S. and Europe have long used diplomatic means to encourage democracy. The U.S. has promoted it directly since the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy in President Reagan's first term, the EU launched its Barcelona Process in the mid-1990s, and in recent years European interest has increased, with Hungary establishing a Democracy Transition Center and the EU creating a democracy fund. The German Marshall Fund's 2005 transatlantic trends survey showed that sizable majorities in both the U.S. and Europe support the promotion of democracy, and this support is evidenced today through proposals for democracy promotion foundations in Spain, Lithuania, and in the EU Parliament. All of this signifies great progress. Around the world, budding democrats, dissidents suffering under oppression, and reformist governments should know that they can draw on our support - diplomatic, financial, technical, and moral. We need to coordinate our aid and messages and expand the mechanisms through which we promote democracy to effectively advance our deepest values.

This opportunity presents itself in a number of countries around the world, especially those where both our interests and values are under threat. Perhaps foremost on the minds of leaders today is Iran. I believe we are all aware of the danger posed by a nuclear armed regime in Tehran. Iran is a longtime sponsor of international terror. An Iran emboldened by a nuclear arsenal and the missile systems to deliver weapons would feel unconstrained to sponsor even more deadly terrorist attacks. Its calls for death to America and the extinction of Israel illustrate where its enemies list begins, but surely not where it ends. The nuclear danger reaches beyond the possibility of terrorism; Iran's moves could induce Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and others to reassess their defense posture and arsenals. Iran already possesses ballistic missiles capable of reaching major European capitals and, though many would rely on classic deterrence to insure against Iranian thoughts of attack, its President's messianic impulses are cause for grave worry. Europe's history teaches painful lessons: In the 1930s too few took at face value a dictator's threats to destroy peoples and countries, and the world paid a terrible price.

The EU3 deserves praise for its great efforts to present a positive endgame: an Iran with far reaching economic incentives, external support for a civilian nuclear energy program, and integration into the international community. But in rejecting these overtures, Iran leaves us with no option but to pursue more coercive measures, starting with immediate UN Security Council action. The Security Council should impose multilateral sanctions, including a prohibition on investment, a travel ban, and asset freezes for government leaders and nuclear scientists. In taking these steps at the UN, China and Russia should know that their decisions on the Iranian issue will be a key test of our relations. And all options must remain on the table. I'm not saying that military force is necessary at this moment; indeed, military action is always the last option we should consider, and moving toward sanctions will help forestall the need for greater coercion. But to preemptively forswear options is to weaken our diplomatic hand. In the end, there is only one thing worse than military action, and that is a nuclear armed Iran. By standing united on this issue, we can block Iran's efforts to split the great powers and increase the chances of a peaceful resolution.

And as in so many other issues, the U.S. and Europe must define their policy not just by what we stand against, but also by what we stand for. In Iran the transatlantic partners support the people's longing for freedom and democracy, their hopes for change, their desires for jobs and an end to isolation - none of which the ruling regime provides. After decades of difficult relations with Iran, it is important that we remain on the right side of history, supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people. One day this proud and great nation will join the world's democratic community, and we must assist its people in that effort.

The Iranian nuclear issue will be a key test of our relations with Russia, and I hope Moscow will rise to the occasion. But even an improved position on Iran cannot entitle Russia to a free pass on other concerns. In recent years Moscow has pursued increasingly troubling foreign and domestic policies, and the trends continue to worsen. In the past few months alone, Russia has used its natural gas supplies to punish democratic Ukraine in the middle of winter, embargoed the import of wine from Moldova and Georgia, invited Hamas to Moscow, expressed public opposition to sanctioning Iran, and taken several steps to link North and South Ossetia. The Kremlin pursues greater autocracy at home and undermines democracy abroad. It appears to define affairs in the Black Sea region and Central Asia in 19th century zero-sum terms. For these reasons I have expressed deep skepticism in the past about the other G8 members conferring upon Russia the prestige that accompanies the St. Petersburg summit.

Recognizing that the G8 heads of state will attend the summit, however, I am encouraged that the "frozen conflicts" in Georgia and Moldova will be on the agenda. We should be crystal clear: these conflicts endure because of Russian policy and Russian support for illegal separatists. Other issues too, need to be addressed, including Russia's predatory use of energy supplies and its reversal of democracy at home. I know that President Bush will raise these issues, and I hope that all G8 leaders will do the same. We must recognize that our differences are with that government, not the Russian people. In order to pursue a cooperative relationship with its government, many of its decisions must be reversed. And if Europe and the United States are not united in demanding this, we are unlikely to see any progress at all.

One area that demands progress is in the Black Sea region. The German Marshall Fund has done important work in identifying the Black Sea as a region, highlighting how the frozen conflicts and trafficking of both narcotics and humans make the region a key focus for the U.S. and Europe. Our approach to the region as a whole must emphasize several elements, including increased security on land and on the sea, accelerating the construction of a trans-Caucasian energy route linking Central Asian and Caspian oil and gas with European markets, expanding trade ties, and putting the region's states on a path to full membership in NATO and the EU.

When it comes to individual countries in the Black Sea region, the Ukrainian experience exemplifies what the transatlantic partnership can achieve. Refusing to accept fraudulent elections in 2004, the U.S. and Europe together maintained solidarity with protestors braving fear and cold. Now that Ukraine has held a truly democratic election and is institutionalizing the reforms promised by the Orange Revolution, the transatlantic partners must respond by extending tangible benefits. As a first step, NATO should endorse a Membership Action Plan for Ukraine as soon as possible.

We should do the same for Georgia, which has implemented far-reaching political, economic, and military reforms, and has presented a viable peace plan for South Ossetia. By integrating reformist democracies like Georgia and Ukraine into transatlantic institutions, we can meet their aspirations for a secure partnership in a community of values - and extend the zone of democratic peace into regions of vital interest to Western security. Just as NATO enlargement stabilized Europe's north and center, so too will it stabilize Europe's east.

And we must not overlook Turkey. Competing visions for Turkey's future have been a source of some friction between the United States and Europe in recent years, so let me be clear about where America stands. I know that there are some in Europe who resent our strong support for Turkish membership in the EU. But I hope these skeptics would see that the benefits of Turkish integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions far outweigh the alternative. Our vision is one of a democratic, secular Turkey, a westward looking member of both NATO and the European Union. That vision the vast majority of Turks share. But there is another possible outcome - a Turkey turned away from Europe, rejected by and alienated from Euro-Atlantic institutions, a country that could give rise to extremists, whether inside or out of government. None of us wants this. By further integrating Turkey, we send a strong message to the Islamic world that the West is not a closed club, but rather is open to all those who share our values.

Nor does any of us want to see a continuation of Europe's last dictatorship, and for that reason I am very encouraged that Europe has taken steps to sanction Alexander Lukashenko's government in Belarus. For too long, Mr. Lukashenko has ruled his country through fear and intimidation, and, notwithstanding his supporters in Moscow, his tyranny cannot forever endure. His latest outrages - stealing the presidential election and then breaking up protests in Minsk - are an affront to the liberal conceptions on which Europe prides itself. The way in which the U.S. and European countries, including Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Poland, and others, have cooperated to support the Belarusian opposition, promises great hope for the future. I hope that we can continue and expand such cooperation. Alexander Milinkevich and the other opposition leaders need it. The Belarusian people deserve it. And democracy in Belarus depends on it.

2006 is a critical year not just for the countries in Europe's east, but also on its south. The international community needs to ensure that old tensions in Balkans do not flare up in this period of transition, when Montenegro conducts its referendum and the future status of Kosovo is determined. While the timing remains uncertain, it seems clear that Kosovo will eventually become independent. With independence come domestic and international responsibilities, and the government in Pristina will be expected to protect minorities, address crime, root out corruption, and conduct its foreign policy responsibly - and how it approaches each of these issues will affect the timing of independence. At the same time, the EU should smooth the way for a future status decision this year by putting Serbia on a fast track to membership, and by moving ahead with visa and market access agreements. By doing so, Europe can ensure that the Serbian people are anchored firmly in Europe. If we can accomplish these goals, the transatlantic allies can, this year, successfully conclude their greatest European democracy project since the end of the Cold War.

Just as ethnic cleansing in the Balkans cried out for transatlantic action in the 1990s, so today does genocide clamor for our attention. I speak, of course, of Sudan. Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic refer to the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur on occasion, mostly to emphasize that "we need to do more." But as time passes, more innocent people die. The United States has labeled the killing there genocide, Kofi Annan has called it ethnic cleansing and called on the international community to act. Estimates of the dead start at tens of thousands, with over 2 million displaced - most living in unsafe, desperate conditions. Now there are spillover effects - weapons flowing into Darfur from Libya, Chad, and the Central African Republic; refugee flows throughout central Africa; and janjaweed militias terrorizing Chadians across the border.

This may well be a strategic issue, it is certainly an issue of international credibility, but above all it is a moral issue. As Ambassador Richard Williamson has written, "Even if we do much, achieve a great deal, but turn our backs on the great moral challenges of our time, history will not be kind to us. Nor should it be." I believe that we can develop, at this conference, some measure of the political will necessary to take immediate action. We need to be blunt - to stop the killing and expedite the return of over 2 million displaced Darfurians requires us to act.

And make no mistake - the crimes continue. The UN humanitarian coordinator in Sudan estimated that earlier this year 150,000 people fled their homes in just two months. The African Union should be applauded for its courage and efforts to resolve the situation and its troops have served under very difficult circumstances. But the AU forces need help - not just a few more troops, but thousands more. The UN has begun planning to send peacekeepers to Darfur, and we need to push for a commitment to deploy. To do this the UN needs real contributions of well-trained and equipped peacekeepers, and we must find and finance them. NATO's current role should be expanded as well, providing logistical and communications support for peacekeeping forces, and the allies should look at NATO enforcement of a no-fly zone over Darfur. The U.S. and Europe should seek UN sanctions against militia leaders and complicit government officials and, barring sanctions at the UN, impose them outside the UN framework. In the end perhaps only a political settlement will end forever the conflict in Darfur; in the meantime there are huge populations at risk and we must defend them. If we do not, the pledge of "never again" will once more ring hollow.

And while we keep our gaze fixed on near term challenges, we must also keep in mind the greatest geopolitical shift of this generation - the rise of Asia, and China in particular. The founders of the liberal international system must work cooperatively in order to integrate China into global institutions and give it a greater stake in upholding and contributing to international order. This means encouraging China to commit to norms ranging from nonproliferation to free trade to peaceful relations with its neighbors, while continuing to emphasize the importance of freedom and human rights. We can do little of this without a joint transatlantic strategy, as Europe will have a key role in shaping the Asian century.

I began this address speaking of values - the universal ones we hold dear and wish to promote in lands as diverse as China, Sudan, and Belarus. It is important to recall that our ability to do so is directly tied to the degree to which we ensure the triumph of these values at home. It is no secret that American society and government are imperfect; so too are those of Europe. We must strive to uphold our values, even as we confront the very real threats that exist in our world today. America took a step in this direction last winter by passing legislation that clarifies the terms under which captured terrorists may be detained and interrogated. We are currently in the midst of a debate in the U.S. about how best to deal with the flood of undocumented immigrants entering our country. Any real solution in the U.S. must start with a view of immigrants as individuals possessing of certain basic human rights - and as an economically and culturally revitalizing force. Europe would, I hope, move toward such a view. In such questions of values, it is imperative that we hold ourselves to a standard at least as high - and surely higher - than we hold everyone else.

In looking over the U.S.-European agenda, it is conceivable that we succeed on every front. We could see a Europe whole, free, and at peace, with democracy in Belarus and Russia and with the Balkans and Black Sea regions squarely integrated with the rest of the continent. The Iranian nuclear crisis could be resolved peacefully and we could succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Darfurians could return home and live without fear, Africans could prosper. And democracy could spread in lands where it is today denied.

I don't know if things will turn out that way. But we can say for certain that if we fail to try, we will fail for certain. And I do know this: We greatly increase the chances of success in our global agenda by working together. Americans welcome a strong, capable, and independent Europe, a Europe able to wield significant influence around the globe. Not only do we seek European leadership, we believe it is necessary to make the world a better, safer place for our interests and our values. This means true leadership B not a group of countries that merely follows American directives, as some fear, nor a coalition that opposes American power simply because of its country of origin, as others suggest.

To follow any other course would discount this shared and historic endeavor, a force that has already transformed the lives of millions. In turning back the forces of tyranny and terror, and in helping to secure the blessings of liberty everywhere, we will embark on a project worthy of this grand partnership. And in doing so, we will prevail, as we have prevailed before - together."

Serbia not helping Kosovo talks: Ceku

SOFIA, April 29, 2006 (AFP) -

Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku accused Serbia on Saturday of not being "constructive" in talks over the final status of Kosovo, where the ethnic Albanian majority is demanding independence.

"Unfortunately, Belgrade has not been so constructive in this first round of negotiations," Ceku told journalists here on the sidelines of a conference on "Political strategies for the Balkans".

"Until now, Serbia has very much had an ethnic and territorial approach to these issues and we have a citizenship approach. There is our big difference," he said.

"The only resolution for Kosovo is an independent country, integrated in Europe and NATO and with good relationships with all its neighbours," Ceku added, referring to the province as "an emerging nation".

Ceku's statement came a day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that independence for Kosovo was "a fairly dangerous path that could lead to dangerous consequences for the region."

"We don't agree with those trying to persuade us... that there is no alternative to Kosovo independence," Lavrov told reporters Friday during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Sofia.

Russia has long sided with Belgrade in challenging moves toward independence for Kosovo, a southern province of Serbia which has been administered by the United Nations since the end of a 1998-1999 war.

Serbs see Kosovo as the cradle of their culture and religion and Belgrade has refused to countenance independence, offering complete autonomy instead.

UN-backed talks between Belgrade and the ethnic Albanian government in Pristina on the ultimate status of the province began in February, with a conclusion expected by the end of the year.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Kosovo prime minister plays down border dispute

By Neil MacDonald in Pristina
>Published: April 27 2006 16:19 | Last updated: April 27 2006 16:19
Agim Ceku, prime minister of Kosovo, played down a border dispute with neighbouring Macedonia on Thursday, saying that the current border would not change after the breakaway Serbian province gains formal independence.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Ceku said that the line agreed by Macedonia and Serbia in 2001 would be respected in practice, even if Belgrade had no authority to speak for Kosovo. The 90 per cent ethnic-Albanian province has been under United Nations administration since the expulsion of Serb-led Yugoslav forces in 1999.

“There will be no change of borders,” Mr Ceku said.

However, the demarcation of the boundary through the mountainous Debelde area – a step Macedonia has pushed for repeatedly since Mr Ceku took office March 9 – can only proceed when Kosovo becomes a sovereign state.

“This, for us, is a very technical issue, not a political issue and not a source of political destabilisation,” Mr Ceku insisted.

The day before, he had rankled Macedonia’s government by visiting Debelde and rejecting Serbia’s right to make sovereign decisions there. According to Reuters newswires, Prime Minister Ceku said that the line through the area’s rugged pastoral lands should be renegotiated.

Vlado Buckovski, Macedonia’s prime minister, has demanded closure on this “open border question” as a pre-condition for Kosovo’s independence. The UN Security Council endorsed the Serbian-Macedonian border deal in 2001 over the objections of Kosovo Albanian leaders.

Both prime ministers have come under domestic pressure lately to beat their drums over Debelde. In the absence of an outright territorial disagreement, Mr Ceku and Mr Buckovski have ratcheted up their respective positions on when demarcation should happen.

Macedonia’s forthcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for July 5, are the reason the issue has come up now, according to Mr Ceku. But he, too, had to placate angry villagers, some of whose properties were divided by the new boundary, officials in Kosovo’s government said.

Under the 2001 agreement, Serbia transferred 2,500 hectares to Macedonia, which had seceded from the Yugoslav federation ten years before. The current misunderstanding shows why Kosovo needs sovereignty as soon as possible, Mr Ceku said.

Kosovo government official confirms PM seeks to hire two Croatian advisors

Prishtina [Pristina], 25 April: Kosova [Kosovo] Prime Minister Agim Ceku has been making efforts to reinforce his staff with two additional international advisers. This time, he is planning to have two senior officials from Croatia - Milorad Pupovac, a Serb deputy in the Croatian Assembly, and Neven Mimica, a former Croatian minister of European integration. Kosova government spokeswoman Ulpiana Lama has confirmed this news.

"Yes, it is true that the prime minister has requested consultation from international experts, and this is not an isolated case. The prime minister has international advisers for other areas such as, for instance, the economy," Lama said. According to her, in both cases, consulting was requested because the prime minister considers the integration of minorities and European integration as issues of paramount importance.

"It is normal to seek individuals with expertise and experience in respective areas, that is, people who know very well the region's problems and have proven to be successful in their previous assignments." [Passage omitted]

Milorad Pupovac is a deputy in the Croatian Assembly and chairman of the Independent Democratic Serb Party of Croatia. The reason why Ceku wants to hire him as adviser is that Pupovac would work on the issue of displaced people from Kosova. He is considered to have been successful in this field, more specifically, the return of displaced Serbs to Croatia.

"Mr Pupovac has a respectable career and has played an impressive role in the area of political, social and economic integration of the Serb minority in Croatia. It is obvious that this issue has some specifics, which means that it is more logical to engage Mr Pupovac as an adviser on minority (especially Serb) issues, than, let us say, an expert from Albania, Macedonia or some other country from the region," Lama said. [Passage omitted]

Based on internet writing, Pupovac was a supporter of Croatia's independence, and was harshly criticized by media and political circles in Serbia.

The second adviser that Ceku is seeking to hire - Neven Mimica - is a member of the Croatian Social Democratic Party. He is known as a moderate official. He served as a minister both in the previous Croatian government and the actual one headed by Ivo Sanader. Mimica is an economist by vocation and has very successfully performed the job of the European integration minister in the Croatian government.

The reason why Ceku wants Mimica is that is he wants him to implement his experiences on integration in Kosova. Croatia is the first country of the Western Balkans that has been given the status of the EU candidate.

"As regards the integrating processes, Croatia is a positive example, and Mr Mimica, at some point, minister of integration, has his share of success in this positive story," Lama said.

Our newspaper could not contact any of the two above-mentioned Croatian officials. [Passage omitted]

Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 26 Apr 06 p 3

Montenegro PM urges Serbia to arrest UN war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic

PODGORICA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Montenegro's prime minister Thursday urged Serbia to capture U.N. war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic before a EU deadline, saying it would be good news for the entire Balkan region.

Milo Djukanovic, who advocates Montenegro's independence from a union with Serbia, also said that his tiny republic would move separately toward EU integration if its citizens vote in favor of the Serbia-Montenegro split at an upcoming referendum next month.

"By solving the state's status conditions will be created for Montenegro to move fast on the road to EU integration," Djukanovic said.

He added that Serbia -- which faces possible EU isolation if it does not hand over Mladic to the court in The Hague, Netherlands, by the end of April -- is crucial for stability of the Balkans and also should move closer to Europe.

"That is why it is very important for Serbia to end the deadlock in the process of European integration" by capturing Mladic as demanded by Brussels, Djukanovic said.

Serbia and Montenegro are the only two former Yugoslav republics that stayed together after the bloody breakup of the ex-Balkan federation in the early 1990s. Relations between the two have gradually worsened over the years, with Djukanovic pushing Montenegro towards independence from the Serbia-Montenegro union.

The May 21 independence referendum in Montenegro remains a potentially tense event because of the deep divisions among its 600,000 people over the issue.

Djukanovic in the past has accused Serbia of hampering Montenegro's EU efforts by failing to arrest Mladic and other Serb war crimes suspects sought by the Hague court, in connection with atrocities committed during the wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.

The EU has set an end-of-April deadline for Serbia to hand over Mladic or face suspension of talks on establishing closer ties with the bloc.

Djukanovic said that Mladic's arrest would present "a sure sign that Serbia's state policies were taking a pro-European and democratic turn."

Djukanovic's government passed a declaration on Thursday pledging to continue the talks with the EU separately from Serbia, if Montenegro becomes an independent state after the May vote. The declaration also expressed readiness "to build Montenegro as a modern European country."

The run-up to the vote has been tense following brief arrests earlier this week by the authorities of several supporters of the union with Serbia, and the unionists' temporary walkout from a commission in charge of organizing the vote.

First group of Kosovo Serb returnees arrives in Istok

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

Istok, 27 April: The first group of Serbian returnees has been accommodated at the refugee centre in the Ljug community in Istok. They will be staying at the centre until their homes are renovated.

A group of 11 family heads, after obstruction by the local Albanian government, visited Gorioc monastery, and expressed their wish to stay in Kosovo and begin reconstruction of their homes in accordance with the return project approved by UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo], says a statement from the Coordination Centre for Kosovo-Metohija.

The Red Cross and the Coordination Centre for Kosovo-Metohija have supplied the centre in Ljug with food and personal hygiene supplies, as well as a makeshift outdoor bathroom and basic household utilities.

The reconstruction of 50 Serbian homes is planned in Istok and will be implemented according to a plan signed in February by the Serbian returnees and the German construction firm THW.

Source: Radio B92 text website, Belgrade, in English 0859 gmt 27 Apr 06

Macedonian TV says Kosovo border issue has become "political knot"

Excerpt from report by Macedonian A1 TV website on 27 April

The technical issue of the border demarcation has turned into a political knot. The uncertainty remains as to whether the Macedonian and Kosovar prime ministers will meet.

Buckovski and Ceku [Macedonian and Kosovo prime minister, respectively] will most likely speak on the telephone tomorrow, following which the Macedonian authorities should decide whether to refuse to welcome him [Ceku].

Ceku's office has once again repeated that it has no information about the possible cancellation of the meeting, confirming that another conversation is expected.

Following her meeting with the OSCE head earlier today, Macedonian diplomacy chief rushed to reiterate Macedonia's position, namely, demarcation before status.

"The border demarcation as a technical issue should be completed before Kosovo's final status has been defined," Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva has said.

The Kosovars persist with their position too. In an interview for a local television station, the Kosovar Assembly speaker said that all the contentious issues related to the border would be resolved after the status had been acquired, adding that no fuss should have been made about this issue. [passage omitted on reaction by Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-People's Party]

On the other hand, Xhaferi [leader of Democratic Party of Albanians, PDSh in Albanian] does not see anything contentious in Kosovo's behaviour. He says that the problem lies in us, because we have apparently failed to see the Kosovo Government's positive stands toward Macedonia. [passage omitted on Xhaferi's statement]

We have yet to see whether Buckovski and Ceku will manage to reach a compromise over the phone, thus truly reducing the border demarcation to a technical problem.

Source: A1 TV website, Skopje, in Macedonian 0000 gmt 27 Apr 06

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Kosovo's PM Ceku: Serbia doesn't have any right to sign anything related to Kosovo

DEBELDE, Serbia and Montenegro, April 26 (Reuters) - Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku poured fuel on a border dispute with Macedonia on Wednesday by visiting the mountain region in question and saying the current line should be renegotiated.

Studying a map of the border with Macedonia, Ceku, an ethnic Albanian former guerrilla commander, said a 2001 deal signed by Serbia and Macedonia, which Kosovo says deprived the United Nations-run province of 1,200 hectares of farmland, was invalid.

"Serbia doesn't have any right to sign anything related to Kosovo because they have no authority over Kosovo," he said in the dusty border village of Debelde.

"Macedonia must start realising they have a new neighbour. Kosovo is Macedonia's new neighbour," said Ceku, interim prime minister of the southern Serbian province since March.

Kosovo's 90-percent Albanian majority is pushing for independence from Serbia in U.N.-led negotiations in Vienna, seven years after NATO bombing drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against civilians in a two-year war with separatist guerrillas. The United Nations took control in June 1999.

But the border line above Debelde and its patchwork of tilled farmland and grassy hill slopes has yet to be demarcated since Serbia and Macedonia signed a deal in 2001 that was endorsed by the U.N. Security Council but rejected by Kosovo.

Ownership of this scrap of land, a route well trodden by smugglers and black-clad Albanian guerrillas during Macedonia's own Albanian rebel insurgency in 2001, has become a matter of pride for both sides.

Macedonia had hoped to talk Ceku into accepting the current deal -- signed with Serbia two years after it lost control of Kosovo and its southern border -- at a meeting in Skopje due on May 5.

But Kosovo insists there can be no demarcation until after a decision on its status, possibly later this year, when it believes it will finally win the right to renegotiate the border deal.

The major powers steering Serbia and the Kosovo Albanians through negotiations on "final status" want the border line set before they decide whether to grant Kosovo independence, which diplomats say is likely.

Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski said on Wednesday he was waiting to speak to Ceku "to see if the scheduled meeting will be productive or counter-productive."

Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski said he had "no intention of renegotiating."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Serbia charges policemen over Kosovo family massacre

BELGRADE, April 25, 2006 (AFP) -

Serbia's special war crimes prosecutor indicted on Tuesday a senior policeman and seven other officers for killing ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo's 1998-99 conflict, his office said.

Radoslav Mitrovic, the deputy commander of a special police unit, five other acting policemen and two former officers were accused of having killed 48 Kosovo Albanians, all but one of whom were from one family, the office of prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said in a statement.

The atrocities took place on March 26, 1999, in the small town of Suva Reka, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) southwest of Kosovo's main city of Pristina, it added.

Among the victims were four babies, 10 children, a pregnant woman and a 100-year-old woman, according to information given at the time of the arrest of the suspects in October last year.

The bodies of the 48 victims were among hundreds of ethnic Albanians found in 2001. They were buried in a grave some 500 kilometres from Kosovo in the Belgrade suburb of Batajnica.

The bodies were moved to Belgrade by Serbian forces during the regime of late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic, who died in March while being tried at the UN war crimes tribunal for his role in the wars in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia.

The remains of some 800 ethnic Albanians killed during the war were found in mass graves across Serbia after the collapse of the Milosevic regime in October 2000.

The indictment is the first concerning the so-called Batajnica case and first against acting Serbian policemen.

The southern Serbian province of Kosovo has been under UN protection since a NATO bombing campaign forced Serbian forces to withdraw in 1999 and end a crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists.

Eight members of Serbian interior ministry indicted for war crimes in Kosovo

BELGRADE, April 25 (Hina) - The Office of the Serbian Prosecutor for War Crimes on Tuesday issued an indictment against eight members of the Serbian Interior Ministry's special forces and state security department for crimes committed against civilians in Suva Reka in Kosovo in 1999, during the NATO air campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The indictment refers to the killing of 48 members of the Berisha family from Suva Reka, including six children aged 1-4, seven children aged 7-13, a 100-year-old woman and a woman eight months pregnant.

Their bodies were found in 2001 in a mass grave on a military range in Batajnica near Belgrade. Serbian police general Vlastimir Djordjevic has been indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague for this crime. Djordjevic fled Serbia in late 2000 and, according to some Serbian media, has lived in Russia since.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Kosovo police deny arresting anyone linked to Al-Qa'idah "yet"

Text of report by Zija Miftari entitled "ShPK without comment on allegations about Kosova serving as transit country for Al-Qa'idah" published by Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 21 April

Prishtina [Pristina], 20 April: The Kosova [Kosovo] Police Service [ShPK] refuses to comment on whether the Al-Qa'idah terrorist organization has been using Kosova as a transit country, as the CIA said in a recent analysis, published by the US Associated Press.

On Thursday [20 April], ShPK spokeswoman Sabrije Kamberi said that this was a matter for the intelligence services and that the police did not comment on it. "Because such reports involve intelligence and security activities, we do not comment on them until a suspect is arrested," she said.

Kamberi explained that no one suspected of being connected to the Al-Qa'idah organization had been arrested as yet. She said that the ShPK expected the public to help with information about terrorists.

"Now and again, the police receive information from the public and we continue to encourage them to provide us with information," she said.

According to the analysis by the CIA and the Croatian intelligence agency, published by the Associated Press, extremists financed by narcotics smuggling have tried to move into Western Europe from Afghanistan via Turkey, Kosova and Albania.

The CIA's 252-page analysis says terrorists have been taking advantage of the poorly guarded borders and relatively fragile security to move and meet freely and perhaps even to plan attacks on other parts of Europe.

The ShPK has a special department for securing the borders and ShPK officials say it has been doing its job well.

The ShPK information officer said that there had been cases of people attempting to leave Kosova illegally through border crossing points, Prishtina's international airport and "mountain routes". Kosovars usually try to leave the country via the airport with false passports, visas or other documents, she explained.

"Those Kosovars who are caught attempting to leave the country with false documents are held by the police until their files are prepared for the courts and they are later released in consultation with the prosecution authorities," Kamberi said.

Police say they have no difficulty in verifying the identity of Kosovars with false papers. "The identity of a person using false documents is verified by fingerprints," Kamberi said.

Every person who has an identification card in Kosova is obliged to give fingerprints when providing the personal information required for the ID and these are registered in a database. According to Kamberi, the police possess this database.

As for foreigners who are caught attempting to enter Kosova illegally, they are refused entry and returned to their home country. But the police official did not explain how the police identify someone caught in Kosova with a false passport from another country.

The joint analysis of the CIA and Croatian intelligence service says that the Algerian connection is the strongest in the Balkans and mentions the Bensyah Belkacem case, where an Algerian with Bosnian citizenship, who is being held in detention by the US Army in Guantanamo, is suspected of making some telephone calls to Abu Zubaydah, head of operations in Afghanistan and an associate of Bin-Ladin.

PM Qeku says Kosovo wants good relations with Serbia

PRISTINA, April 24 (Hina) - Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Qeku said in Pristina on Monday that his government wanted good relations with Serbia, stressing however that good bilateral relations also required good will from the other party.

During his regular weekly address to citizens on Radio Kosovo, Qeku said that Serbian institutions must do all that they could to shed light on the fate of thousands of Albanians who went missing. He also asked Serbia to distance itself from the past and apologise for what he called horrible crimes committed in Kosovo.

Qeku said Serbia must accept a new reality and recognise Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state in which local Serbs, as Kosovo citizens, should realise their future in peace and mutual respect.

Speaking about the Kosovo-Macedonia border demarcation issue, Qeku said this would not be an apple of discord in good bilateral relations, adding that the two sides would find a modus vivendi, based on the principle of border inviolability in the region.

Premier says Kosovo does not recognize Belgrade-Skopje border accord

Text of report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive

Prishtina [Pristina], 24 April: Prime Minister Agim Ceku considers the agreement reached between Skopje and Belgrade on the delineation of Kosova's [Kosovo] border with Macedonia as invalid.

He made these comments today in Prishtina following a meeting with the chairman of the Democratic Party of Albanians [PDSh], Arben Xhaferi.

Ceku believes that the delineation is not an urgent issue and that it will be solved at a more appropriate time for both parties. "Kosova is currently dealing with much more important issues than that."

"We do not recognize any agreement signed between Belgrade and Skopje," Ceku said, adding that this is a stance of the Kosova Assembly, as well.

According to the prime minister, this issue will be settled based on the principles of the international law, without any political or technical influence.

The chairman of the PDSh, Arben Xhaferi, considers the issue of delineation as a calumny, adding that "it must be solved based on the Contact Group principles".

He said that he came to Prishtina to get the political and institutional support from the leaders of Kosova, and particularly Prime Minister Ceku, for the elections that will be held in Macedonia, and at the same time to give full support in order for Kosova to be a sovereign and independent state.

"Kosova is a dike with all the countries in transition regarding democratic elections. Today in Kosova, everyone agrees that the democratic standards during the election have been fully respected. Continuing this conclusion Kosova has moral authority to support democratic elections in Macedonia," he said.

Xhaferi also met with President Fatmir Sejdiu and Kosova Assembly Chairman Kole Berisha.

Ceku confirmed that he will visit Skopje on 5 May. However he added that he is not going there with an offer on the border.

Source: KosovaLive website, Pristina, in English 24 Apr 06

Kosovo Serb hails Kosovo president's visit to Orthodox monastery

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro, April 24, 2006 (AFP) -

A Kosovo Serb leader on Monday welcomed an Easter visit by the region's ethnic Albanian president to the Orthodox Decani monastery, saying it could start a new phase in tense relations between the ethnic Albanian majority and Serb minority.

Serbian Orthodox "Bishop Teodosije's decision to admit President (Fatmir) Sejdiu may open a new page in the history of Serb-Albanian relations," Oliver Ivanovic, a moderate Serb leader in the province, told AFP.

Sejdiu, together with UN Mission (UNMIK) head Soren Jessen-Petersen and the commander of the NATO-led peacekeepers (KFOR) Giuseppe Valotto on Sunday visited Decani, in the west of the province, and congratulated the clergy on Orthodox Easter.

Sejdiu said the visit, the first of its kind, was an opportunity to convey the message that Kosovo was ready to be an important protector of all historical monuments.

Ivanovic said Bishop Teodosije's decision to meet the president was also a "very courageuous step" considering the Serbian Orthodox Church's official position.

Last week Bishop Artemije, the head of the Church in the disputed UN-run province, had turned down a request by Kosovo's Albanian Prime Minister Agim Ceku to attend its Easter service at the weekend in the monastery of Gracanica, south of Pristina.

Artemije said Ceku's attendance was refused because "many Orthodox churches were burned down in the March 2004 riots" by Kosovo Albanians, including the Church leader's residence in the southern town of Prizren.

Ivanovic did not want to comment on the refusal of Ceku's attendance, but said that "political wisdom prescribes that one who comes with a good will should be admitted."

Kosovo has been run by the United Nations and NATO since June 1999, after the alliance's air war drove out forces loyal to late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic over a crackdown against separatist Albanian rebels.

The relationship between the pro-independence ethnic Albanian majority and Serb minority which backs continuing links with Belgrade has remained tense ever since.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Kosovo Albanian leader in Serb Easter visit

DECANI, Serbia and Montenegro, April 23 (Reuters) - Kosovo's ethnic Albanian president joined Serbs marking Orthodox Easter at a 14th century monastery on Sunday, a gesture unprecedented since the war and made amid talks on the fate of the province.

Facing international pressure to reach out to the 100,000 remaining Serbs, Fatmir Sejdiu made the 80-km (50-mile) trip west from the capital Pristina to the Decani monastery, nestled in a wooded valley at the foot of the towering Montenegrin border.

"I have come here because all citizens must be respected," Sejdiu, a Muslim, told reporters after a short lunch with the monks and a tour of the marble monastery and its immaculate grounds. He was accompanied by Kosovo's U.N. governor.

Orthodox Serbs mark Easter this year on April 23.

It was a sensitive step, seven years since NATO bombing drove out Serb forces and the United Nations took control.

Kosovo's 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority is pushing for independence from Serbia in negotiations under way in Vienna.

But they face pressure from the West to improve life for the Serb minority, ghettoised and targeted for revenge since the end of the 1998-99 war and the deployment of NATO peacekeepers.

Some 10,000 ethnic Albanian civilians died and 800,000 fled as Serb forces tried to crush a two-year Albanian rebel insurgency, the culmination of a decade of Serb repression.

Signs of reconciliation are rare. Mutual suspicion and sporadic, sometimes explosive, violence have kept the two communities firmly divided.

"The doors to the Decani monastery are always open to people of goodwill and who bring the message of peace," said the senior bishop at Decani, Bishop Teodosije.


A request by Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku, a former guerrilla commander Serbia accuses of war crimes, to attend the Easter service in the Serb enclave of Gracanica was rejected by the head of the Orthodox church in Kosovo, Bishop Artemije.

Artemije insisted Ceku first rebuild some 30 Orthodox religious sites torched during Albanian mob riots in March 2004, in which 19 people died and 2,000 Serbs fled their homes.

Sejdiu, who succeeded the late Kosovo Albanian pacifist icon Ibrahim Rugova in February, insisted Kosovo's rich Orthodox heritage would be safe.

"We are demonstrating that we are ready to protect all religious monuments in Kosovo, and all cultures," he said.

A UNESCO world heritage site now guarded by Italian NATO soldiers, the monastery, its dark interior a mosaic of Byzantine frescoes, sits on the western edge of a province dominated by 2 million mainly Muslim ethnic Albanians.

Scores of centuries-old monasteries lie at the heart of Serbia's claim to Kosovo as its religious heartland stretching back 1,000 years.

But diplomats say Western powers will steer negotiations that began in February in Vienna toward some form of independence, possibly within the year. The talks, mediated by U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, reconvene on May 4 in the Austrian capital.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Two dead, eight injured in Kosovo shooting over disputed house

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro, April 22, 2006 (AFP) -

Two ethnic Albanians were killed and eight were injured on Saturday in a shoot-out over a disputed house in a town in Kosovo, officials said.

"The conflict between two groups erupted over property rights of a house" in the town of Stimlje, some 25 kilometers (15 miles) south of Pristina, said Ibrahim Demiri, spokesman of a local council.

A buyer, accompanied by several people, was trying to enter his new property when illegal occupants of the house opened fire on them, Demiri explained.

One of the murdered was Vezir Bajrami, deputy mayor of Stimlje, whose brother had bought the house.

Bajrami was a member of the opposition Democratic party of Kosovo (DPK) but officials ruled out any political dimension to the incident.

Police said three of eight injured in the shoot-out had suffered serious wounds.

Demiri said several children who were on their way to school were slightly injured.

Kosovo, a southern Serbian province, has been run by the United Nations and NATO since June 1999, after NATO air attacks drove out forces loyal to the late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic over a crackdown against separatist Albanian rebels.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Portuguese president visiting Kosovo

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Portugal's president visited Kosovo on Friday, where he met with Portuguese peacekeepers and held talks with the province's top U.N. official.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva's meeting with Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu was canceled, but no explanation was given, the statement from the Kosovo's president office said.

Cavaco Silva held talks with Soren Jessen-Petersen, the top U.N. official in Kosovo, before heading out to the military barracks in city's outskirts for a parade organized by Portugal's peacekeepers in his honor.

The Portuguese leader was welcomed by some of the 300 troops that are part of the 17,500-strong, NATO-led force, in the capital, Pristina. On Thursday, he visited Bosnia-Herzegovina, where Portugal has about 200 peacekeepers.

Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations and patrolled by the NATO-led peacekeepers since 1999.

Kosovo Serb representatives divided over whether to rejoin institutions

For the time being there are no good reasons for the Kosmet [KosovoMetohija] Serbs to enter the Kosovo provisional self-government institutions. The situation in Kosmet is unstable, the Serbs continue to be the most threatened national community in Europe. It is a fact that, nevertheless, the international community has, back since the elections for the Kosovo Assembly, continually been putting pressure on the Serbs and official Belgrade to have the Kosmet Serbs enter the provisional institutions. Official Belgrade's answer has been: "No" until significant results are achieved in Vienna in terms of decentralization, Aleksandar Simic, an adviser to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, has told Politika among other things.

Simic said that significant progress would be achieved in terms of decentralization when new municipalities with a Serb majority are created and guarantees offered to the Serbs, through a revision of the Constitutional Framework, that they would be able to protect their rights and interests by means of a qualified majority.

What happens once the new municipalities with a Serb majority are created? Simic said that elections for the municipal authorities would be held first. Once those authorities were constituted, the municipalities with a Serb majority were mutually linked, and they had set up their councils and committees, they would elect lawful Serb representatives to Kosovo's provisional institutions. "We are seeking constitutional guarantees for that, because that is the only way that the Serbs would have an essential role in the decentralization. That is why there has been no progress in the Vienna talks for the time being," Aleksandar Simic said.

Representatives of the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija can enter the provisional Kosovo institutions at this point, if they like, but they could not represent the Serb community in them but only themselves, Simic said, and recalled that the List had won the support of merely 0.3 per cent of voters in the elections.

Oliver Ivanovic, the leader of the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija, holds just the opposite view. It is not true that the international community is pressuring the Serbs to enter the Kosovo provisional institutions, Ivanovic has said. He thinks that that initiative is extremely useful for the Serbs and that it is high time that the Kosmet Serbs take part in the work of the provisional institutions. The participation of the Serbs in the work of the provisional institutions is the right solution for a multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo[, Ivanovic said].

Representatives of the Serb List for Kosmet have conferred with representatives of the Contact Group and sought a "decentralization to fit the Serbs", that is, the creation of seven to nine new municipalities with a Serb majority. They also asked for guarantees that would protect the rights of the Serbs. "The Serbs should get the right of veto in certain matters or it would be requested that decisions on matters of outstanding importance for the Serbs require the support of 50 per cent of the Albanian and 50 per cent of the Serb deputies. Only then will it be possible to say that the Serbs have protected themselves. Because of what I have said, I think that changes will be made in the Constitutional Framework," Oliver Ivanovic said.

In the coming days the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija will request a meeting with President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica of Serbia, which is to be held within two weeks. At that meeting the state leadership should adopt a final position on the participation of the Kosmet Serbs in the provisional institutions. "If the representatives of the state leadership say that the Serbs should not participate in the provisional institutions, we will ask for a good explanation of that," Oliver Ivanovic said.

In addition to that, the Serb List for Kosovo-Metohija has invited the other Serb political parties in Kosmet to talks on an agreement on the participation of the Serbs' representatives in the work of the provisional institutions. Ivanovic said that the invitation would be open for another two weeks.

Dr Milan Ivanovic, the chairman of the Serb National Council of Northern Kosovo, has responded to the proposal of the Serb List for Kosmet saying that it was not in a democratic spirit for a majority to join a minority but the other way around.

Ivanovic has said that it was the opinion of an overwhelming majority of Kosmet Serbs that the Serbs should not participate in the work of the provisional institutions, because they would in that way only provide legitimacy [for those institutions] and make it seem that Kosovo was a multi-ethnic and democratic society.

Ivanovic categorically said that the majority of Serbs in Kosmet were against Serbs again entering the Kosovo institutions. That is why a possible "yes" by Tadic and Kostunica to the request of the Serb List for Kosmet for the entry of Serbs into the Kosmet institutions would be understood by the Serb National Council as an imprudent one, for which it would hold the state leadership accountable.

[Passage omitted]

Source: Politika, Belgrade, in Serbian 20 Apr 06

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Serbian Poll Shows Strong Support For Milosevic's Allies

BELGRADE (AP)--An ultra-nationalist party that ruled with Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s would win Serbia's parliamentary election if it were held now, according to a poll released Thursday.

The Serbian Radical Party would get 38% of the vote, the independent CeSID polling firm said. The pro-Western Democratic Party would come in second with 28 percent.

The Socialist Party of Serbia, which was headed by Milosevic until he died of a heart attack in March at the U.N. war crimes tribunal's detention center in The Hague, Netherlands, would collect 7.6% - allowing it to form a government with the ultra-nationalists.

The poll surveyed 1,488 adults earlier this month. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

The populist Radicals, who supported Milosevic's warmongering policies throughout his rule in the 1990s, are cashing in politically on the failure of the fractured pro-democracy groups - which toppled the former Yugoslav president in 2000 - to make major improvements in living standards for impoverished Serbs.

Radicals' leader, Vojislav Seselj, is also being tried by the U.N. war crimes tribunal on charges of fomenting the wars in Kosovo, Bosnia and Croatia.

The governing conservative Democratic Party of Serbia, a separate group from the Democratic Party, would get only 7.6% of the vote, the poll found.

Serbia's next parliamentary elections are scheduled for December 2007, but with eroding support for the government in the parliament, it is widely believed an early vote will be held by the end of this year.

Sale of Kosovo's nickel plant completed

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Authorities in Kosovo completed Thursday the sale of a nickel plant, the largest private foreign investment in the impoverished province since the end of the war in 1999, officials said.

The British-based company Alferon/IMR, part of Eurasian Natural Resources group, which is among the world's largest private mining and metals groups, bought Kosovo's Feronikeli for euro30.5 million, or about US$ 37 million, a U.N. statement said.

The plant consists of three open pit mines with ferronickel ore reserves and a metallurgical complex, it said.

The Feronikeli plant in central Kosovo suffered structural damage during NATO bombing of Serb forces in the disputed province in 1999. It remains one of the major employers in the economically depressed province.

Its privatization is the most important sale so far of socially owned firms, a term used for enterprises run by their employees under the system of self-management that existed in communist-ruled Yugoslavia.

Alferon/IMR were declared winners of the bid for the plant last year, but the signing of the contract and the purchase were delayed following negotiations on electricity supply for the complex.

A handover ceremony will take place next month, the U.N. said.

Kosovo, which formally remains a part of Serbia, has been run by the United Nations since the end of the war in 1999. The province is the poorest region in the western Balkans.

Privatization is among the most sensitive issues in Kosovo, as it is still unclear whether the province will become independent or remain part of Serbia-Montenegro, the successor state of Yugoslavia.

Serbia's authorities, which want to maintain some control over Kosovo, have fiercely opposed the privatizations, while Kosovo's ethnic Albanian authorities are eager to sell assets, open investment opportunities and create jobs.

Serbian bishop bans Kosovo premier from Orthodox Easter service

Pristina, 20 April: [Raska-Prizren] Bishop Artemije has denied [Kosovo Prime Minister] Agim Ceku's request to attend Easter church services in Gracanica.

The Raska-Prizren Bishop reminded the Kosovo premier that he had been living as a refugee himself for the past seven years and that his residence and cathedral were burned to the ground in March 2004, along with many other landmarks of the Orthodox Church.

"We told him that, considering that we have been living with the status of refugees for nearly seven years, outside our residence in Prizren, which was burned during the riots on 17 March 2004, along with our cathedral and many other holy places, we are not able to welcome Mr Ceku before we have returned to our restored residence, and our people have returned to their homes," Bishop Artemije said.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

INTERVIEW-UN could face new role in northern Kosovo

By Matthew Robinson
MITROVICA, Serbia and Montenegro, April 19 (Reuters) - The United Nations may have to extend its stay in Kosovo after a decision on an Albanian demand for independence to oversee a peaceful transition in the Serb-dominated north, a U.N. official said on Wednesday.
Gerard Gallucci, the top U.N. official in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica, said an international presence would help "coordinate relations" between Serbs in the north and the ethnic Albanian authorities in Pristina, which will run Kosovo whatever the outcome of negotiations under way in Vienna on the future of the Serbian province.
"Everyone now understands there has to be a transitional period in which the international community -- even though it may be getting out of a U.N. role south of the Ibar River -- may continue to play some similar role in the north for some period of time," the American diplomat told Reuters in an interview.
"I think the U.N. may be best equipped to play this role," he said from his office which overlooks the Ibar river dividing the town's Serbs and Albanians since a war in 1998-99 in which 10,000 Albanians were killed.
Diplomats say the Serbian province of 2 million people, run by the United Nations since 1999, will likely win independence in U.N.-led talks set to end later this year.
The main U.N. mission will bow out once a deal is in place and will be replaced by a slimmed-down European Union operation.
But at least half Kosovo's 100,000 remaining Serbs hold sway in north Mitrovica and the rocky strip of land that runs up to central Serbia. They reject the idea of being ruled from Pristina and have resisted successive U.N. efforts to reintegrate them with the rest of Kosovo.
The major powers say splitting the province in two, as some Serbs advocate, is not an option. They are pushing Albanians to give Serbs greater local self-government, perhaps heading off the mass exodus Serbs threaten should Kosovo split from Serbia.
Gallucci said the international community recognised the "different reality" in northern Kosovo.
Serbs enjoy a level of freedom there envied by thousands of Serbs living in scattered enclaves south of the Ibar, the target of sporadic violence. Around half the Serb population fled a wave of revenge attacks after the war.
Gallucci said some kind of international presence would have to help monitor, administer and coordinate relations between the north and Pristina during a period of transition.
The United Nations has the experience for the job and the EU may have "its hands full with the security and justice role Kosovo-wide".
"It makes sense there be some person overall with some degree of responsibility for the north, whether that person be free-standing or part of a larger mission," said Gallucci.
Mitrovica, a shadow of a once thriving mining town, has come to symbolise the ethnic division which still plagues Kosovo, seven years after NATO expelled Serb forces accused of atrocities against Albanian civilians in its war with separatist guerrillas.
Divided by the Ibar River and patrolled by French NATO troops, Mitrovica is dominated by Serbs in the north and Albanians in the south.
For Serbs, the north represents their last urban centre, linking them to the rest of Serbia. The Albanians say it is the frontline of a Serb bid to divide Kosovo, which Serbs have considered their religious heartland for the past 1,000 years.
Recent moves suggest both sides are edging towards dividing the running of the city.
"You have two incompatible views of Kosovo which then come down to incompatible views of Mitrovica," said Gallucci.

Consulate "not aware" of US report on independent Montenegro igniting mafia war

Podgorica, 19 April: The US consulate in Podgorica said in a statement today that it was not aware of a report by the US Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA] in which it is said that after Montenegro becomes independent a war between drugs mafias in the region will break out.

The Belgrade daily Politika and the Podgorica daily Dan have reported that the DEA has drafted a report on possible crime developments in the Balkans, concluding that Montenegro and Kosovo's independence will result in a war between various mafia clans in the region.

At the same time, the president of the committee for monitoring of the media coverage of the [independence referendum] campaign, Zeljko Rutovic, who is a member of the pro-independence bloc, has said that this is an example of propagandist, incorrect and unprofessional reporting on the campaign in Montenegro.

[Passage omitted]

According to him, there is no doubt that this is a deliberate, direct and calculated move aimed at confusing the citizens and causing fear and neurosis - all aimed against Montenegrin independence.

"Distorting facts and rising tensions via manipulation is a bad example of journalism as a profession and of the media, which have published these reports exclusively tendentiously, aiming to destabilize the referendum process," Rutovic said.

22 firms up for sale in Kosovo's privatization bid

PRISTINA, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - Kosovo launched its 15th round of privatizations Wednesday, offering a veterinary facility, a toll milling business and agricultural land, in an attempt to revive the province's economy.

The Kosova Trust Agency, the U.N. entity responsible for privatizing the province's enterprises, said it hoped 26 new firms would be created by the sales, according to its Web site, which lists the offerings.

The offered companies were once owned by workers and managers under a system set up during communist-era Yugoslavia, and are now considered inefficient and dilapidated after years of neglect.

Privatization is among the most sensitive issues in Kosovo, as it is still unclear whether the province will become independent or remain part of Serbia-Montenegro, the successor state of Yugoslavia.

Kosovo was placed under U.N. administration in 1999 following NATO air strikes that ended a Serb crackdown on independence-seeking ethnic Albanians.

Serbia's authorities, which want to maintain some control over Kosovo, have fiercely opposed the privatizations, while Kosovo's ethnic Albanian authorities are eager to sell assets and open investment opportunities and create jobs.

Annan Appoints Ex-US Genl As Deputy To Kosovo Mission

PRISTINA (AP)--The U.N. has appointed a former U.S. brigadier general to be the deputy head of the U.N. mission in Kosovo, the organization said Wednesday in a statement.

Steven Schook, who has retired from the U.S. Army, previously served in Kosovo as chief of staff to the commander of NATO-led peacekeepers deployed in the province, which has been administered by the U.N. since 1999, after NATO launched airstrikes to stop a crackdown by Serb forces of separatist ethnic Albanian rebels.

Schook was also the NATO commander and senior military representative in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegoniva, and served as the commander of multinational peacekeeping troops known as SFOR in that country, the U.N. said.

Talks to determine Kosovo's future status are underway, with the ethnic Albanian majority population pushing for full independence and the province's Serb minority and Serbia insisting it remains linked with Serbia. [ 19-04-06 0908GMT ]

Kosovo Albanians accept Mitrovica division into two municipalities

Pristina, 19 April: The Pristina [Albanian] status discussion team will concede to have two municipalities in Kosovska Mitrovica.

The Pristina negotiators will accept this proposal because they believe that this is the best way to keep Kosovska Mitrovica territorially united, adding that it will help with the inner-city integration efforts. [Passage omitted]

[Kosovo President Fatmir] Sejdiu did not want to say how many new municipalities will be created in Kosovo, and stated that it is important to make sure that the new municipalities are organized according to Kosovo laws, remain economically stable and keep a focus on their ethnic components.

Source: Radio B92 text website, Belgrade, in English 0926 gmt 19 Apr 06

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Kosovo government to tackle corruption, Premier Ceku says in radio address

Text of report by Radio-Television Kosovo TV on 17 April

[Announcer] Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku today pledged that he and the government will fight corruption in Kosovo society. In his weekly radio address Prime Minister Ceku said that the Kosovo government will not accept corrupt individuals and that they will be subject to the law.

[Reporter] Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku saw fit to address Kosovo citizens and call on them to fight corruption. He added that in this phase we are working for the establishment of the state of Kosovo at the same time as the formation of the backbone of the state and that he sees Kosovo as a functioning state. Kosovo has to be a state that produces peace and stability and this is in the public interest, it is higher and noble aim. This is the kind of Kosovo that we want, and there will be no room for corrupt individuals in the Kosovo government since no one is untouchable, Prime Minister Ceku said. To achieve this, we need the good will of the people and above all reforms of the judicial system.

We need people who respect institutional logic and place the law above every personal interest; for this we need time, patience and commitment, Prime Minister Ceku said in his weekly radio address.

Source: RTK TV, Pristina, in Albanian 1730 gmt 17 Apr 06

New Kosovo party vows to protect Serb community

Text of report in English by independent internet news agency KosovaLive

Prishtina [Pristina], 18 April: Kosovar political landscape has been enriched with a new political party - the Independent Liberal Party [NLS], which according to its chairman, Slobodan Petrovic, will be engaged for protecting the rights of the Serb community.

"The Independent Liberal Party will represent the interests of Serbs in Kosovo-Metohija, and it is important because our party has a multiethnic character," said Petrovic.

Petrovic said that his party aims a multiethnic, European Kosova, where all the citizens will have equal rights.

"The goals of the NLS are focused in preventing Serbs from leaving Kosovo, creation of conditions for their sustainable return and their integration into the Kosovar social events," said Petrovic.

As far as the future status, Petrovic said that it is not up to his political party to decide on this. "We fully support negotiations between Prishtina and Belgrade," he said.

"We do not decide on independence or something else, it is an issue that will be decided by Belgrade, Prishtina and international community," said Petrovic.

He said that they want to contribute to the political processes, adding that they have no personal interests.

"Our political party consists of young people, whereas our doors are opened to all the people of the good will, regardless of religion, race or gender," said Petrovic, and added that they will try to represent a bridge between Prishtina and Belgrade.

Source: KosovaLive website, Pristina, in English 18 Apr 06

US envoy says Kosovo status talks have Not failed, asks parties to be flexible

Text of report by Gazmend Syla entitled "'Negotiations have not failed, I am optimistic,' says Wisner" published by the Kosovo Albanian newspaper Koha Ditore on 15 April

Prishtina [Pristina], 14 April: Frank Wisner [US envoy on Kosovo status] does not believe that the talks held in Vienna [between the representatives of Pristina and Belgrade] have failed up to now. Nor does he think that the three rounds of talks in the Austrian capital have failed to make any progress. He said he has not come to the region to accelerate or fix anything after the three rounds of talks, which the media have described as unsuccessful. He argues that this is only a beginning, and that the future will be better when both parties are more flexible. He is very optimistic.

"The negotiations have only started - there were three rounds of discussions on one issue. I can say it is very immature to say that the negotiations are facing a difficulty," Wisner said during a meeting with some print media editors in Prishtina on Friday afternoon [14 April].

"We cannot prejudge the failure before the results. I am optimistic, and I suggest that people think in this way," he said.

Wisner noted that there are some things both parties need to fulfil for the negotiations to be successful. "First, each party should place its cards on the table, and say what they can do for a different future for the people living in Kosova [Kosovo], and what is required for building sustainable trust and for creating prosperity," he said.

"Before they insist on their stances with grudges and play a game of words, the parties must be fully involved in the game. This is my message, and I do not see that the negotiations are facing difficulties, they have just started," he added.

The US envoy on Kosova status declined to comment if the negotiations on status should start as the talks on technical issues have not progressed adequately.

"The structure of negotiations and the schedule addressing the issues are [UN envoy] Martti Ahtisaari's job. So, it is not up to me to offer timeframes about issues that should be addressed, except that they need to move more quickly," he said.

Wisner noted that there are two other issues that have not been addressed yet - the cultural and religious heritage and minority rights. The US official announced that President Ahtisaari's team would come here to resume the talks on decentralization. He said he would like to see an agreement on decentralization in place as well as its implementation.

"I would like to see the parties agree on concrete issues, and this makes sense, so that the political decisions are translated into laws, and the laws are adopted by an elected parliament. This would give a different signal for the future of the communities in Kosova. Yes, I believe that decisions can be reached and implemented, and it is a fact that their implementation builds trust among the communities before the status," Wisner said.

During the conversation with Kosovar journalists, Wisner explained that there were three reasons that had made him come to Prishtina, the region and the EU for a second time. The first is to meet the European Commission in Brussels and make it clear there that the United States and the European Commission are on the same wavelength, and that all the steps that these two mechanisms take to achieve progress in the negotiations process are coordinated, and that both parties should confirm that this process should be completed by the end of 2006.

"This suggests huge efforts, and both parties should be prepared to support the result, and on this I wanted to make it clear that our plans are synchronized," he said.

The second reason is that he wanted to meet the leaders of the region. He said he had met the Macedonian government, Kosovars and Serbs, and he was also going to meet the governments of Albania and Greece.

"I am doing so because I and my government believe that the countries in the region are direct partners in what is going to happen in the future. We have to hear their views, and they need to understand our need for the urgency on principles on which we agree."

Wisner said that the third reason for his visit was directly linked to the negotiation process. "We want to see the course of negotiations being as intensive as possible, and we want to deal with other issues of the final status," he said.

However, Wisner did not say if he had a specific message for Prishtina and Belgrade. He said his message is a general one, and that Martti Ahtisaari has been leading the negotiations and that the United States supports them. However, he said he had encouraged "our friends here, that is, the authorities in Kosova, to continue to actively participate in the negotiations and to present ideas on the table, because the final status will not work until the partners involved express themselves in a full, friendly and flexible way".

"I deeply believe that the climate of trust among the communities has to be enhanced, because this is an excellent opportunity to send out signals that the future will be different from the past. The sending of signals is important to both parties, Albanians and the Serbs in Kosova, as the international community and the United States want to see a result where the people can live in peace and seek prosperity together, and the door is open to international economic cooperation, be it public or private," he said.

Wisner said that when he goes to Belgrade he would encourage the government there "to stick to negotiations, to present the differences on the table, and to find a solution to them and see if we can find ways to manage the needs of all."

[Box] US has not changed stance on negotiations

Wisner ruled out any possibility that the United States would change its stance on Kosova's status at some later phase of the negotiations.

"I think that the United States administration's stance has been articulated as part of a consensus agreement articulated in London, and I refer to it," he said.

He declined to comment on the US undersecretary of state statement's that "the negotiations are moving towards independence". "I have seen that (statement). What Burns said. I know what my mission is, and the instruction I have is to negotiate a final status, and to encourage and move the negotiations forward," he said.

Source: Koha Ditore, Pristina, in Albanian 15 Apr 06 pp 1, 4

Pristina ready to develop relations with Macedonia

PRISTINA, April 18 (Hina) - The authorities in Kosovo on Tuesday expressed readiness to develop good-neighbourly relations with Macedonia despite the border dispute and stressed that the issue of Macedonia-Kosovo border demarcation was not urgent for Pristina and that it would be solved at a time favourable for both sides.

Kosovo officials reacted to the requests of Skopje that the border issue be solved before the determination of the final status of Kosovo.

Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiu said today that good relations with Macedonia were extremely important for Kosovo, adding that the border issue must be solved in a just way.

The Kosovo government issued a statement earlier today, saying that the solution to the border dispute must be internationally recognised.

The Kosovo-Macedonia border demarcation issue was raised in 2001 when Belgrade and Skopje signed an agreement that Pristina found unacceptable

Monday, April 17, 2006

In Montenegro resort, a rift over independence

By Nicholas Wood The New York Times

HERCEG NOVI, Montenegro Over the next few weeks this seaside town will fill up with vacationers from across Europe, primarily Serbs from Montenegro's neighboring republic.

But in a month's time residents here and across Montenegro will face a tough choice, one that some say could upset their town's livelihood. In a referendum on May 21, Montenegrins will decide whether to retain their ties with Serbia or go their own way and declare independence. The two now make up the federation of Serbia and Montenegro.

The question has hung over Montenegro since Yugoslavia broke up in the early 1990s. Montenegro's connections with Serbia - they share the same religion and language - gave it little reason to break away, and the government here supported Serbia throughout the wars of 1991 to 1995. But a small independence movement took root, and was ultimately adopted by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic in 1998 as he distanced his republic from the leadership of Slobodan Milosevic.

Since then the government has emphasized other aspects of Montenegro's history, which includes a separate church and royal dynasty. Between 1878 and 1918, Montenegro was in fact independent, and it became part of Yugoslavia only after the First World War. In that light, Djukanovic describes the referendum as a chance to restore independence. His critics say it is an attempt initiated by the region's longest serving leader in order to entrench his control over the republic.

This city, which offers reasonably priced holidays on an increasingly expensive Adriatic coast, appears split down the middle, like much of Montenegro. Pollsters say they have stopped asking questions on doorsteps.

"We give them the questions to fill out by hand," said Rasenko Cadenovic of the Damar polling agency, based in the capital, Podgorica. "It's the only way to avoid a family row."

Cadenovic says the elderly are more inclined to support the union with Serbia and the younger to favor independence. There are geographic divisions too, with areas in the northeast, near Serbia, generally in favor of the federation, and areas on the coast wanting to break away. The pro-independence bloc is thought to have a majority, but perhaps not the 55 percent needed to effect a split-up.

"We all have friends or relatives on one side or the other," said Miroslav Milosev, a 32-year-old waiter who came to Herceg Novi five years ago to find a job. He favors independence, but his wife, Ksenja, wants to keep ties with Serbia, whose economy and population, around 10 million, far exceed those of Montenegro, which has just over 600,000 people.

"I think its silly to make new borders now," said Ksenja Milosev, whose parents are Montenegrin but live in Serbia. Not only does the town benefit from Serbian tourists, she said, but residents travel to Serbia to go to university and get medical care.

"Education and health care are much better there," she said.

Opponents of Djukanovic suggest that Montenegrins stand to lose if Serbia cuts their access to such benefits in retaliation for a vote for independence. Warning darkly of the Serbs, Pedrag Bulatovic, the leader of the pro-union bloc, said, "How Montenegro will look after May 21 and whether there will be a barbed wire fence between Serbia and Montenegro will be decided by others, not the prime minister."

In reality, Serbia and Montenegro are quite separate already. Both have their own customs services, currencies and separate governments. Beyond the military forces and a foreign service, there is little they share.

"We are struggling together, and it's inevitable that we will go our own way eventually," Miroslav Milosev said.

"Everyone else has gone their own way," he said, referring to four other former Yugoslav states, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia, which all declared independence from Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. "Why stop some else from having their own state?"

For Serbia, a separation would come at a hard time. Negotiations are ongoing on the future of Kosovo, the Albanian- dominated province being administered by the United Nations, and it, too, could become independent.

But Montenegro has a constitutional right to declare independence, and diplomats say that retaliation, economic or otherwise, could harm Serbia as much as Montenegro. (The tiny republic is Serbia's only route to the sea.)

The difficulty facing Djukanovic is to get the special majority, 55 percent of the vote, as agreed by the government and the European Union, which Montenegro wants to join.

"With a 100 percent turnout, we estimate he has a six to eight percent lead," Cadenovic said. A lower turnout could whittle that lead, leaving a bare majority but not one big enough to create a new state with international recognition.

While the government has argued that independence is needed to complete political and economic reforms, it needs the support of some of its fiercest critics to win. Many voters are highly critical of Djukanovic, whose administration has been tainted by repeated accusations of corruption and links to organized crime. The prime minister is also wanted by a court in Bari, Italy, which investigated him for possible links to cigarette trafficking.

Nebojsa Medojevic, a leading critic of the government, predicted that nothing would deeply change for Montenegrins after a vote to break away, considering that Djukavovic has been in office now for 17 years.

"Why would he start to reform things? Any serious reform would endanger him and his friends," said Medojevic, who is the director of a group called the Center for Transition, which lobbies for Djukavovic's removal from office. "I am for independence, but I am absolutely against this regime."

There is little doubt that the referendum will prompt high emotions, but few expect it to spill over into the kinds of conflict that followed the declarations of independence in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, which led to wars.

"It won't be like that here," Ksenja Milosev said. "Everyone's roots here are so mixed."

US Envoy:Serbia Must Be More Constructive In Kosovo Talks

BELGRADE (AP)--A U.S. envoy urged Belgrade officials Monday to play a "constructive role" in the ongoing Kosovo talks, as Serbia announced it would soon come up with a specific proposal for the future autonomy of its U.N.-run province.

Frank Wisner, who is the U.S. representative in the U.N.-brokered negotiations on the future status of Kosovo, met Serbian leaders as part of a tour of the region that also included visits to Kosovo and Macedonia.

Wisner met with Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, President Boris Tadic and Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic.

The visit is aimed at giving fresh impetus to the U.N. efforts to negotiate the final status of the province of 2 million, which has been an international protectorate since 1999 NATO bombing forced Serbia to end a crackdown against the separatist rebels and pull out.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority insists on independence, while its Serb minority and Belgrade are seeking to keep Kosovo at least formally within Serbia's boundaries.

In Belgrade, Wisner focused "on strengthening relationships with Serbia's leaders" and urged them "to play a constructive role in the ongoing negotiations to ensure a peaceful, democratic Kosovo that protects the rights of all its residents," the U.S. embassy said in a statement.

A statement from Kostunica's office, issued after the meeting, quoted Wisner as saying "it would be very important that the Serbs join the work of the interim institutions in Kosovo," which they have boycotted since last year's election, complaining of discrimination.

The statement also quoted Kostunica as telling Wisner that independence for Kosovo would be "unacceptable" for Serbia, and would "present a dangerous precedent, to impose a solution on a democratic country and strip it of part of its territory."

Instead, Kostunica said, the solution for Kosovo should be a compromise, and "all extremist solutions should be left behind."

"Belgrade will soon present a concrete proposal for the autonomy of the province in accordance with European standards," Kostunica was quoted as saying.

The ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in the past have rejected any proposals that fall short of independence.

Serbian media and officials blasted Wisner ahead of the visit for allegedly saying in Macedonia that the best solution for Kosovo was that it become an independent state.

The U.N.-mediated talks on Kosovo's future, which began in February, aim at finding a settlement by the end of the year.

US envoy Wisner urges Macedonia to heed US stance on Kosovo - paper

Text of report by "RF" entitled "US envoy to Kosovo on a Balkan tour; Macedonia should be made aware of the United States' position" published by the Macedonian Albanian-language newspaper Fakti on 16 April

During his visit to Shkup [Skopje] and Prishtine [Pristina], Ambassador Frank Wisner, representative of the international mediating group, emphasized the United States' position regarding Kosova's [Kosovo] final status and the position of the regional countries regarding this issue.

Special US envoy to Kosova Frank Wisner has sent out a clear message to the state authorities in Shkup, warning them to be more careful in the process of resolving Kosova's final status. "Macedonia must be aware of the United States' position regarding the solution of Kosova's final status," he said.

According to him, the United States has been supporting Macedonia for a long time, which has been clearly proven. It is important that the Macedonian government understands how the United States views the progress of the talks on Kosova's status and their conclusion. We consider Macedonia a partner of the United States and the international community," Wisner said.

The situation in the region and the negotiations between Prishtina and Belgrade on Kosova's final status, which are being carried out with international mediation, were on the agenda of the meeting between US Ambassador Frank Wisner and Ali Ahmeti, chairman of the Democratic Union for Integration [BDI].

Meanwhile, the state authorities, the president in particular, have mentioned other details concerning their meeting with Ambassador Wisner. Members of [Presdient] Branko Crvenkovski's office are convinced that the final solution of Kosova's status which will be backed by the international factor, will contribute towards Balkan stability and strengthen the regional countries' Euro-Atlantic aspirations.

According to the press release, Ambassador Wisner briefed the Macedonian president on the developments following the latest round of talks between the Albanian and Serb delegations in Vienna, expressing his conviction that the final solution would be reached by the end of the year.

With regard to the northern border between Kosova and Macedonia, the two interlocutors are said to have agreed that there is a valid international agreement in place in this respect, adding that the demarcation issue should be resolved before a final decision is reached on Kosova's future status.

Meanwhile, Kosovar officials yesterday denied the possibility of resolving the border dispute between Prishtina and Shkup before the final status. They also said that the border issue with Macedonia had not been discussed with the US envoy. These reactions follow yesterday's statement issued by members of Crvenkovski's office in relation to the border issue which has to be resolved before the solution of Kosova's final status.

In the meeting with Prime Minister [Vlado] Buckovski, Ambassador Wisner reiterated the Contact Group's principle regarding the inviolability of regional borders. "The United States supports the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Macedonia and it is against border changes in the region," Wisner was quoted as saying during the meeting with Prime Minister Buckovski.

Prime Minister Buckovski emphasized that the Republic of Macedonia will comply with every solution reached between Prishtina and Belgrade in relation to Kosova's final status and with the mediation of the international community, provided that it respects the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Macedonia.

Having concluded his visit to Shkup, Ambassador Frank Wisner visited Kosova yesterday.

Following the meeting with Kosova President Fatmir Sejdiu, Wisner said that the final status must be resolved by the end of this year. "Any solution regarding Kosova's final status will ensure peace, stability and security in the region. The visit in the Balkan region is aimed at expressing the US government's support for the processes aimed at resolving Kosova's final status," Wisner said in Prishtina.

During the meeting with UNMIK [UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] Chief Administrator Soeren Jessen-Petersen, Wisner emphasized the US support for the UN Administration and for the two-party talks in Vienna. According to him, the authorities in Belgrade and Prishtina should be more convincing so as to win the trust of the international community.

Source: Fakti, Skopje, in Albanian 16 Apr 06

U.S. envoy urges Serbia to be more constructive in talks on Kosovo

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro (AP) - A U.S. envoy urged Belgrade officials Monday to play a "constructive role" in the ongoing Kosovo talks, as Serbia announced it would soon come up with a specific proposal for the future autonomy of its U.N.-run province.

Frank Wisner, the U.S. representative in the U.N.-brokered negotiations on the future status of Kosovo, met Serbian leaders as part of a tour of the region that also included visits to Kosovo and Macedonia.

Wisner met with Serbia's Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, President Boris Tadic and Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic.

The visit is aimed at giving fresh impetus to the U.N. efforts to negotiate the final status of the province of 2 million, which has been an international protectorate since 1999 NATO bombing forced Serbia to end a crackdown against the separatist rebels and pull out.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority insists on independence, while its Serb minority and Belgrade are seeking to keep Kosovo at least formally within Serbia's boundaries.

In Belgrade, Wisner focused "on strengthening relationships with Serbia's leaders" and urged them "to play a constructive role in the ongoing negotiations to ensure a peaceful, democratic Kosovo that protects the rights of all its residents," the U.S. embassy said in a statement.

"Imposing independence for Kosovo would be a danger for stability of the western Balkans as well as for international law," Foreign Minister Draskovic said after his meeting with Wisner, reiterating Belgrade's vehement opposition to turning Kosovo into a sovereign state.

Draskovic also demanded "maximum protection" for centuries-old Serb churches and monasteries in Kosovo, some of which have been targeted by ethnic Albanian militants.

"These is nothing unrealistic or anti-Albanian or undemocratic in these demands," Draskovic said.

A statement from Kostunica's office, issued after the meeting, quoted Wisner as saying "it would be very important that the Serbs join the work of the interim institutions in Kosovo," which they have boycotted since last year's election, complaining of discrimination.

The statement also quoted Kostunica as telling Wisner that independence for Kosovo would be "unacceptable" for Serbia, and would "present a dangerous precedent, to impose a solution on a democratic country and strip it of part of its territory."

Instead, Kostunica said, the solution for Kosovo should be a compromise, and "all extremist solutions should be left behind."

"Belgrade will soon present a concrete proposal for the autonomy of the province in accordance with European standards," Kostunica was quoted as saying.

The ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in the past have rejected any proposals that fall short of independence.

Serbian media and officials blasted Wisner ahead of the visit for allegedly saying in Macedonia that the best solution for Kosovo was that it become an independent state.

The U.N.-mediated talks on Kosovo's future, which began in February, aim at finding a settlement by the end of the year.