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OMRI: Pursuing Balkan Peace, Vol. 2, No. 3, 97-01-21

Open Media Research Institute: Pursuing Balkan Peace Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Open Media Research Institute <http://www.omri.cz>

Vol. 2, No. 3, 21 January 1997


CONTENTS

  • [01] Kosovo Liberation Army Launches New Offensive
  • [02] IS MILOSEVIC STILL THE OLD SLY FOX?
  • [03] Bulgaria's New President Takes Office
  • [04] Collapse Of Pyramid Investment Schemes Gives Albanian Opposition A Push
  • [05] DOES WASHINGTON FAVOR ASSIGNING BRCKO TO THE SERBS?
  • [06] SWIFT REACTION TO BRCKO REPORTS.
  • [07] BOSNIAN SERBS FIRE ON CROATIAN TOWN.
  • [08] BOSNIAN FEDERAL ARMY TAKES SHAPE.
  • [09] EXPLOSION PARTLY DESTROYS BRIDGE IN TENSE BOSNIAN REGION.
  • [10] BOSNIAN OFFICIAL WANTS RUSSIAN TROOPS OUT.
  • [11] MOSTAR CROATS EVICT ANOTHER MUSLIM FROM HER HOME.
  • [12] WAR CRIMES UPDATE.
  • [13] FORMER BOSNIAN SERB LEADER IN CRITICAL CONDITION AFTER SUICIDE ATTEMPT.
  • [14] BRITAIN WARNS BOSNIA ON RECONSTRUCTION AID.
  • [15] TUDJMAN CAUTIOUS ON U.S. BALKAN INITIATIVE.
  • [16] CROATIA AT THE UN.
  • [17] BULGARIA'S FORMER COMMUNIST LEADER FREED.

  • [01] Kosovo Liberation Army Launches New Offensive

    by Stan Markotich

    A bomb attack on the dean of the Serbian Pristina University, Radivoje Papovic, on 16 January and the killing of Cun Dervishi, an ethnic Albanian who was loyal to the Serbian government, the same day were the latest in a new series of assassination attempts by the shadowy Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK). These attacks differ from those conducted last year in that the terrorists now carefully select their targets and use more sophisticated means in killing them. It is also the first time that they target primarily ethnic Albanians whom they accuse of being collaborators. The question is what effect these developments will have on the overall political situation in the province.

    The UCK emerged in early 1996 as group that hit at arbitrarily selected victims. The gunmen simply shot policemen on the streets or Serbs sitting in cafes, but did not pinpoint key Serbian officials. Nine of their victims died last year and a similar number were injured. This year, however, the UCK has begun launching more sophisticated and selective operations against higher representatives of the Serbian administration.

    And they had special reasons to single out Papovic, since he is known for his insistence that the university remain a Serbian institution. In September, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Kosovar shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova signed an agreement for the return of ethnic Albanians to schools and the university, thus ending the parallel school system the Albanians set up after abolition of the region's autonomy in 1989. The agreement has, however, not been implemented, partly due to Papovic's opposition. In a letter to the Albanian language service of Deutsche Welle, the UCK declared Papovic a "dedicated enemy of the Albanian people" and charged him with "anti-Albanian activities, especially in the sphere of education."

    There is, moreover, another dimension to the UCK's new policy in targeting its victims. Between 9 and 16 January the UCK killed three ethnic Albanians. Two had reportedly cooperated with the Serbian police; the third was a member of the Podujevo city council for Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). The UCK had, however, started its assassination campaign against ethnic Albanians already on 26 December, when they shot an ethnic Albanian policeman. The killing of these people thus signals that the terrorists will now target certain ethnic Albanians -- as well as Serbs -- as a "warning to all other collaborators and national traitors."

    There are other noteworthy developments as well. First, the way the group carried out the bombing indicates that it has improved its technical capabilities. Police said the bomb was placed in a parked vehicle in the central Pristina district of Dardania and was probably activated by remote control. Both vehicles were destroyed by the blast that also shattered windows in the neighborhood. Second, the relatively high number of recent killings also suggests that the UCK is attempting to use the current tense internal situation in Serbia and the increasingly difficult situation for Milosevic to aggravate tensions in Kosovo, presumably in hope of setting off mass unrest there.

    This strategy may prove successful. The shadow state has failed to react and seize the opportunity presented by the dramatic developments in Belgrade and across Serbia, which the Kosovar establishment maintains are an internal Serbian affair. At the same time, disputes among senior Kosovar political leaders are deepening over the strategy the shadow state should follow. The most prominent advocate of change is the newly elected leader of the Parliamentary Party of Kosovo, Adem Demaci. He has urged Kosovars to reconsider their demands for an independent state and think instead about a federal Yugoslav option. He has also called on them to take their protest against the Belgrade regime to the streets. Such an open discussion about different strategic options is crucial for the long-term success of the shadow state. If, however, the political establishment further postpones an open debate, it will play in the hands of the UCK, which will then attract fresh support, mainly among Kosovo's desperate youth.

    And the Belgrade opposition may also suffer, albeit indirectly, from the UCK's activities. Radio Serbia accused opposition leader Vuk Draskovic of being behind the "terrorists" who carried out the bombing. These allegations are clearly fabricated, but they show that Milosevic is trying to capitalize on the developments in Kosovo. Draskovic said: "Milosevic is trying to play his last card by preparing civil war in Kosovo without caring about the consequences and the expected bloodbath." The opposition also charges that he may use the attacks in Kosovo as an excuse to declare a state of emergency in all of Serbia, something they have suspected him of wanting to do for a long time. -- Fabian Schmidt

    [02] IS MILOSEVIC STILL THE OLD SLY FOX?

    The Serbian president and the authorities have nonetheless seemed on the surface to have been caught off guard by the daily mass protests, which are aimed both against the regime and at winning recognition for opposition victories in the 17 November runoff municipal elections. The authorities appear to have no coherent response to the developments in the streets. As time goes by, however, Milosevic's tactics do seem more calculating, and aimed primarily at wearing down the opposition's momentum.

    One element the president has clearly not disavowed is force. True, with international attention focused on Serbia, he has held back on full-scale violence against peaceful protesters, but it cannot be concluded that Milosevic will always shun it. On 20 January police officers armed with clubs attacked demonstrators in Belgrade for the first time in several weeks, reportedly injuring at least 12 people. According to Radio B-92, one person was seriously beaten. The incident occurred when the well-armed police officers moved to disperse the non-violent crowd of protesters from around the city center.

    In another ploy, the regime has used its influence over the judiciary to dampen opposition hopes of gaining recognition of key victories. Nasa Borba headlined its coverage of the local electoral commissions' awarding the opposition victories in three municipalities on 14 January: "Belgrade returned to the Opposition." For some in the opposition ranks, the announcement itself was cause for celebration, but Zajedno leader Vuk Draskovic and other veteran protesters cautioned that the commissions' rulings constituted no guarantee the regime would honor the decisions.

    At first, it appeared the regime was set back by the rulings, and signs the regime was scrambling surfaced. Tanjug reported on 16 January that the authorities offered concessions such as economic reform and cabinet shuffles, but resisted recognizing election victories. Meanwhile, the Yugoslav Defense Council -- including top military leaders, Milosevic himself, Federal Premier Radoje Kontic, and Montenegrin President Momir Bulatovic -- met that same day to discuss solutions to the political crisis.

    Then the regime used the judiciary to buy more time. Following appeals of the commissions' decisions, opposition fortunes met with two setbacks on 20 January. First, a local Belgrade court asked the Supreme Court to rule on the governing Socialist Party of Serbia's (SPS) appeal against the ruling recognizing Zajedno wins in Belgrade. The Supreme Court is under no time restriction to review the case. In a related development, the Supreme Court overturned a decision recognizing the opposition victory in Sabac, instead ruling that the SPS had won 35 seats to Zajedno's 29 in that town council.

    Meanwhile, the regime and its allies continue to use state-controlled media in an effort to portray the protesters and Zajedno as a serious threat to public safety. Mirjana Markovic -- Milosevic's wife and key political ally - - remarked on state television on 17 January that Zajedno is a threat to national security and ominously hinted at a link between the opposition in Belgrade and the terrorists in Kosovo (see above). In short, Milosevic may still be the clever strategist he always has been, carefully setting up his moves like a seasoned chess player.

    [03] Bulgaria's New President Takes Office

    by Maria Koinova

    . President-elect Petar Stoyanov and deputy vice president-elect Todor Kavaldzhiev on 19 January took their oath of loyalty to the constitution amid a tense political environment. The discredited Socialists (BSP) remain the largest party in the legislature but there is strong pressure from the opposition and above all from the streets for early elections. Stoyanov, who was elected by the opposition, is nonetheless likely to ask the embattled Socialists to form a government since he is obliged to do so under the constitution.

    The inaugural ceremony itself was held in parliament. Recent political tensions gripping the country have intensified, notably following the 10-11 January events that took place just in front of that building and included violent clashes between police and demonstrators. The incident resulted tens of individuals being wounded.

    Outgoing president Zhelyu Zhelev, foreign diplomats, outgoing cabinet members and even the two rival patriarchs of the divided Bulgarian Orthodox Church also came to the inauguration, national TV reported. However, the festive atmosphere inside parliament was not reflected outside: the building was surrounded by metal fences and hundreds of policemen were stationed to prevent new clashes between citizens and deputies. "Police are guarding BSP deputies from the 'people's love,'" the pro-opposition Darik Radio observed on 19 January. However, just after the ceremony, people gathered to congratulate the new president and vice-president on central Alexander Nevsky Square, where a big concert took place later that day.

    Stoyanov -- who was elected as opposition candidate with 60% of the votes in the 3 November 1996 presidential runoff -- vowed in his speech to be president of all Bulgarians and to do everything possible to improve living conditions. "Recent events have shown that there is a new will for change in Bulgaria, one which led people into the streets," Stoyanov said.

    The new president also said that structural reforms should start immediately, and that a consensus should be reached soon on setting up a currency board, which the IMF calls "a key element" to stabilize economy. As he did during his eight months of campaigning, Stoyanov said that Bulgarians should choose the "European model of civilization" and make preparations to enter the EU and NATO.

    Stoyanov declared himself in favor of early elections, as he did during the dramatic developments in front of the parliament on 10 January. However, striking something of a new note, he said the country needed a new "social contract." This would not be between two parties, but between the governing and the governed. He stressed that problems can no longer be decided by the political elite at round table discussions and during "night plenums of dubious legitimacy," but by the parliament, cabinet and president in an open dialogue with the public.

    Stoyanov has meanwhile avoided saying whether or not he is going to ask the BSP to form a new government. The opposition has proposed that he give a mandate instead to a caretaker cabinet to prepare for early elections. Media speculation last week, however, suggested Stoyanov is not about to violate the constitution, and that he will thus approach the largest party, the BSP. Alexander Yordanov, a deputy from the opposition Union of Democratic Forces (SDS), predicted on 19 January on Darik Radio that on 24 or 25 January Stoyanov would probably give the BSP the mandate. -- Maria Koinova in Sofia

    [04] Collapse Of Pyramid Investment Schemes Gives Albanian Opposition A Push

    by Fabian Schmidt

    The collapse of a series of pyramid investment schemes since November has cost thousands of Albanians their savings. These disappointed and desperate people took their anger to the streets last week, blaming the government for the losses. The opposition, in a mass rally on 19 January, tried to capitalize on the public anger, hoping to force new elections. It remains to be seen, however, if it will be able to hold daily protests and, as it has pledged, to follow the examples of Belgrade's and Sofia's civic protest. The Interior Ministry has threatened to use force to prevent what it calls "illegal" demonstrations in the future.

    The Tirana opposition Center Pole coalition and the Socialist Party called for a demonstration in central Tirana's Skanderbeg Square, and on 19 January an estimated 10,000 people turned out. Riot police, however, blocked the streets to the city center and only some 3,000 people managed to get through. At Skanderbeg Square, police used truncheons to disperse the crowd. Despite all this, it was the largest demonstration the opposition managed to organize since last May's parliamentary elections. (That vote was subsequently disputed because of irregularities and police violence.) The large turnout this weekend indicates that the public mood is slowly changing against the ruling Democratic Party, which in October still gained over 50% of the overall votes in local elections.

    The opposition is still divided, but it has recently picked up support against the government and President Sali Berisha's authoritarian style of rule. The Socialists have boycotted parliament since the 1996 parliamentary elections, saying the vote was fraudulent. In the fall of that year, Azem Hajdari -- a prominent 1990 student leader and later influential Democratic Party legislator -- broke away from the official Democratic Party line and turned against Berisha, accusing him of authoritarianism. Something of a political gadfly, he has since established himself as a trade union and student leader and organized strikes in early January.

    The collapse of the pyramid schemes has now added to further antagonism against the government. About 500,000 people are estimated to have invested a total of half a billion U.S. dollars. Every sixth Albanian has thus put an average of $500 into the schemes, probably involving over a third of Albania's families. (Some, not having learned their lesson, have since ploughed their remaining money into tickets for TV Bingo.) This amounts to a huge potential of dissatisfaction, and rumors of government involvement stir the growing anger. Many of the cheated investors say that the ruling Democrats have not only encouraged people to invest but also profited themselves. Now that the government has frozen $255 million of pyramid scheme assets, many investors charge the government with "stealing" their money.

    The Democratic Alliance Party has charged the Democrats even with having used money from pyramid schemes for their election campaign. The government has rejected the charges as "vile slander" and pointed out that it had already warned about the schemes in November and set up a commission to investigate them.

    Whether the opposition can capitalize on the current political crisis remains, however, in doubt. The Interior Ministry has issued a strongly- worded statement warning protesters that it will not allow "illegal" demonstrations. The ministry also rejected eyewitness reports that some protesters in Tirana had been hurt in scuffles with police and accused the opposition of encouraging people to daub themselves with red ink to fake injury. A climate of fear of police crack-downs prevails among the opposition, just as it did after last May's parliamentary elections. Whether Tirana will now follow Belgrade and Sofia will thus depend on the courage of the protesters.

    [05] DOES WASHINGTON FAVOR ASSIGNING BRCKO TO THE SERBS?

    Returning to Bosnian affairs, diplomats who asked not to be named told Reuters on 15 January that U.S. envoy John Kornblum has recommended to U.S. mediator Roberts Owen that the contested town of Brcko be given to the Republika Srpska. Croats and Muslims would be allowed to return to their homes in the area and be given an internationally monitored transit corridor. The joint government of Bosnia that includes all three peoples would control the town's harbor on the Sava River, Oslobodjenje added on 16 January. The Dayton agreement already supposedly guarantees the right of refugees to go home and the right to freedom of movement. Owen is currently at arbitration meetings in Rome and must reach a decision on the fate of the town and the surrounding area by 15 February. -- Patrick Moore

    [06] SWIFT REACTION TO BRCKO REPORTS.

    The U.S. State Department quickly and repeatedly denied that the leaked report represents Washington's policy and stressed that any decision will be made by the arbitration commission itself, Reuters and AFP wrote on 15 January. Bosnian Co-Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic added that he doubts that the story of the report is authentic, Oslobodjenje stated. International media noted, however, that Muslims and Croats generally were "livid" upon hearing of the alleged proposal. Vital considerations are at stake both for the Serbs and for the mainly Croat and Muslim federation, and the controversy is so intense that Brcko was the one territorial issue that proved impossible to resolve at the Dayton conference in late 1995. The Muslims and Croats insist it is theirs on the basis of the prewar census, i.e. before ethnic cleansing. The Serbs claim it because they have held it since early in the war and above all because it connects the eastern and western halves of their territory. Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic has said that the Serbs would rather go to war than give up Brcko. -- Patrick Moore

    [07] BOSNIAN SERBS FIRE ON CROATIAN TOWN.

    Speaking of armed violence, Bosnian Serbs in Bosanski Brod fired automatic weapons across the Sava River into Slavonski Brod late in the afternoon of 20 January, Hina reported. The bullets hit the main street and shattered windows but caused no casualties. This is the first such incident since the Dayton peace treaty was signed in December 1995, AFP wrote. In Sarajevo, UN spokesman Kris Janowski criticized the Bosnian Serbs for breaking a "gentleman's agreement" and using UN funds to repair houses whose owners had been "ethnically cleansed" from the region, AFP added. -- Patrick Moore

    [08] BOSNIAN FEDERAL ARMY TAKES SHAPE.

    Back in the Federation, the planned structure of the new mainly Croatian and Muslim joint army was announced in Sarajevo on 13 January, two days after presidency members Kresimir Zubak and Alija Izetbegovic signed an agreement. The new force will be 30-35,000 -strong and include 14 brigades divided among four corps -- three [Muslim] and one Croat -- plus two rapid- reaction battalions. There will also be a combined artillery division and other combined units for air-defense, logistics, training and helicopters, AFP noted. Oslobodjenje wrote on 18 January that the Fifth Corps based in the Bihac area will not be dissolved. The two nominal allies fought a brief but vicious war in 1993, which was ended only thanks to vigorous U.S. political and economic pressure on both sides. A major problem has subsequently been to overcome mutual mistrust and local power interests in order to make the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina a reality. Nowhere has real cooperation proven more difficult than in military and police affairs. -- Patrick Moore

    [09] EXPLOSION PARTLY DESTROYS BRIDGE IN TENSE BOSNIAN REGION.

    But the main tensions in Bosnia lie elsewhere. An explosion eliminated a section of a wooden bridge near Koraj in Serb-held territory in northern Bosnia late on 18 January. It is not clear who caused the blast, but an electric detonation cord was found nearby, AFP reported on 19 January. The Celic-Koraj border region has been a source of tension since August 1996 as Muslim refugees try to exercise their right to return to their homes just inside the Serbian side of the inter-entity border. -- Patrick Moore

    [10] BOSNIAN OFFICIAL WANTS RUSSIAN TROOPS OUT.

    The new governor of the Tuzla area, Sead Jamakosmanovic, has called for Russian SFOR troops in the area to be replaced. He accused them of complicity in the Serbian attack on the bridge. Jamakosmanovic repeated a frequent Muslim and Croat charge against the Russians, saying "they are not neutral," Oslobodjenje reported on 21 January. He asked that U.S. forces replace the Russians, adding: "We have confidence in the Americans." Scandinavian and Turkish troops are also stationed in the tense area. -- Patrick Moore

    [11] MOSTAR CROATS EVICT ANOTHER MUSLIM FROM HER HOME.

    In Herzegovina, two armed men on 14 January threw an unnamed 71 year-old woman Muslim woman out of the apartment in Croat-held west Mostar where she had lived for 30 years, AFP reported, quoting UN police. The thugs then took her out of town and dumped her. They warned her not to scream or she would "end up the same way" as another elderly Muslim woman, who was evicted from her flat and left to die in an abandoned building on Christmas Eve. A Croat soldier later moved in to that apartment, claiming he had bought it in a bar for DM 3,000. The woman in the latest case told police she is too afraid to go home. Both the UN police and the international community's High Representative Carl Bildt condemned the latest evictions, but they failed to say how such acts will be prevented in the future or what they will do to punish those involved. West Mostar is widely regarded as one of the most lawless areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina and a place where Croatian military personnel, politicians, and mafia figures cooperate closely. -- Patrick Moore

    [12] WAR CRIMES UPDATE.

    Still on the dark side of things, the Bosnian state commission dealing with the 200,000 missing persons -- mainly Muslims and Croats - from the conflict said that 31 mass graves containing 1,462 bodies and 466 single graves were found and exhumed last year. Forensic inspectors from abroad and from the region will resume their work in the spring. In Zagreb, the Hague-based war crimes tribunal's chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour, said that Croatia is not cooperating with the court despite its promises to do so. She noted that mechanisms for the extradition of indicted war criminals exist, but that this has not led to concrete results, Onasa reported on 18 January. -- Patrick Moore

    [13] FORMER BOSNIAN SERB LEADER IN CRITICAL CONDITION AFTER SUICIDE ATTEMPT.

    Nikola Koljevic (60), a former vice president of the Republika Srpska, is in critical condition after shooting himself in the head in Pale on 16 January, news agencies said. Initial reports on 17 January suggested that he was dead, although he actually was in a coma. SFOR flew him by helicopter to Belgrade, where he underwent emergency surgery in the military hospital. Doctors there are "reserved" about his chances for recovery, AFP wrote on 19 January. Tanjug carried a statement on 21 January describing his condition as "stable," adding that he is being kept on a respirator. Koljevic had attempted several times to end his life after being replaced as vice president following the 14 September Bosnian elections. In late 1995 he participated in the talks that led to the Dayton agreement, and in a suicide note for his family, he said he had done all he could for his people. A professor and expert on Shakespeare, Koljevic cultivated an image abroad as a moderate, but many Muslims in particular regarded him as a war criminal because of his role in the siege of Sarajevo. -- Patrick Moore

    [14] BRITAIN WARNS BOSNIA ON RECONSTRUCTION AID.

    Still in the Republika Srpska, U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Portillo said in Banja Luka on 12 January that aid will be contingent on implementing the Dayton agreement, Onasa wrote. He added that war criminals must be brought to justice if a lasting peace is to take root, but pointed out that the present peace is no guarantee that war will not break out again some months hence. In contrast to many Western official visitors to the region, he spoke bluntly and refused to paint a rosy picture: "Despite political progress, I don't think there is much progress in reconciliation... There is precious little sign of the population wishing to tolerate each other." The following day, Portillo warned that SFOR's mandate will not be extended after it runs out in mid-1998. He added that all sides should now concentrate on restoring basis infrastructure links. -- Patrick Moore

    [15] TUDJMAN CAUTIOUS ON U.S. BALKAN INITIATIVE.

    Turning to Croatia, U.S. State Department envoy Richard Stifter met with President Franjo Tudjman on 14 January to discuss a proposal on southeast European economic and ecological cooperation. The American position is that the region extending from Hungary to Turkey contains at least 12 mainly small countries that should best tackle problems of infrastructure and communications together. Tudjman said that his country is interested in cooperation on specific projects of an economic nature but rejects any new political grouping. Croatia and Slovenia are the only ones of the 12 countries approached so far that have yet to sign on to the project. The trend in both countries is to stress themselves as being central European rather than Balkan, and to be deeply suspicious of anything that smacks of relegating the two countries to the Balkans or of setting up a new Yugoslavia. Croatian dailies on 14 and 15 January have been adamant on the point. -- Patrick Moore

    [16] CROATIA AT THE UN.

    The UN Security Council has extended the mandate for UN monitors on the Prevlaka peninsula until 15 July, news agencies reported on 14 January. The land is Croatian territory, but Belgrade claims it because it controls the entrance to the Bay of Kotor, which contains federal Yugoslavia's chief naval base. And details are emerging of Croatia's recommendations to the UN on reintegrating eastern Slavonia. Zagreb will exempt ethnic Serbs from military duty for two years, during which time a long-term policy will be hammered out, Vjesnik wrote on 15 January. The government also plans to reserve two seats for Serbs in the upper house of the legislature, as well as advisory positions for Serbs in the ministries of internal affairs, justice, education, and culture. Voting rights will be extended to all Serbs who have obtained Croatian papers. The UN's administrator in Slavonia, Jacques Klein, has praised the Croatian proposals, which have been discussed at length in the press ever since. -- Patrick Moore

    [17] BULGARIA'S FORMER COMMUNIST LEADER FREED.

    Todor Zhivkov (85) was released from house arrest on 21 January, owing to advanced age, domestic media and AFP reported. Zhivkov headed the Bulgarian Communist Party for 35 years and was dismissed by the party's reformers on 10 November 1989. Arrested in January 1990, he spent several months behind bars and was placed under house arrest in his granddaughter's villa in a wealthy part of Sofia. In 1992, Zhivkov received seven years' imprisonment following a conviction for involvement in misappropriating public funds for the benefit of relatives and friends. The Supreme court, however, acquitted him in February 1996 on the grounds that as head of state he could be held responsible only for high treason. Despite that, he remained under house arrest and still faces a possible trial for allegedly misappropriating funds given to pro-communist groups in the Third World. -- Maria Koinova

    Edited by Patrick Moore


    This material was reprinted with permission of the Open Media Research Institute, a nonprofit organization with research offices in Prague, Czech Republic.
    For more information on OMRI publications please write to info@omri.cz.


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