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RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 3, No. 160, 99-08-18

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Newsline Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty <http://www.rferl.org>

RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol. 3, No. 160, 18 August 1999


CONTENTS

[A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

  • [01] SOUTH CAUCASUS STATES OFFER EARTHQUAKE AID TO TURKEY
  • [02] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN KARABAKH
  • [03] PROTESTS IN AZERBAIJANI EXCLAVE CONTINUE
  • [04] DAGHESTAN CONFLICT WILL NOT AFFECT AZERBAIJAN OIL EXPORT
  • [05] RUSSIA TO APOLOGIZE FOR BOMBING GEORGIAN VILLAGE
  • [06] KAZAKH EX-PREMIER'S SUPPORT BASE CRUMBLING?
  • [07] KAZAKHSTAN EXPORT PIPELINE LIKELY TO BE SHELVED
  • [08] KYRGYZ OFFICIAL ACCUSES BATKEN GUERILLAS OF PLANNING 'ISLAMIC
  • [09] TURKMENISTAN POSTS SOLID INCREASE IN FOREIGN TRADE
  • [10] UZBEKISTAN CLARIFIES CIRCUMSTANCES OF BOMBING RAIDS

  • [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

  • [11] SERBIAN GENERAL THREATENS CRACKDOWN
  • [12] BELGRADE REGIME WARNS OPPONENTS...
  • [13] ...TAKES MEASURES AGAINST THEM
  • [14] BELGRADE DEMONSTRATION LOSING SUPPORT?
  • [15] YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT CUTS IMPORT DUTIES
  • [16] SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER BACKS MONTENEGRIN PLAN
  • [17] EU PREPARING TO END SANCTIONS AGAINST KOSOVA, MONTENEGRO
  • [18] LOCAL SERBIAN LEADER DENIES BREAKTHROUGH IN MITROVICA
  • [19] ANOTHER GRENADE ATTACK AGAINST SERBS IN GJILAN
  • [20] TORTURE CHAMBER DISCOVERED IN PRISHTINA'S GRAND HOTEL
  • [21] UN LAUNCHES PRISHTINA CLEAN-UP CAMPAIGN
  • [22] MAJKO WANTS 'PAN-ALBANIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM'
  • [23] IZETBEGOVIC SLAMS FRAUD CHARGE
  • [24] SACKED CROATIAN MINISTER BLAMES TOP LEADERS
  • [25] DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER TO RUN FOR ROMANIAN PRESIDENCY
  • [26] ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN CHURCH TO SET UP PRIVATE UNIVERSITY
  • [27] MOLDOVAN COMMISSION RECOMMENDS CHANGING DESIGNATION OF
  • [28] BULGARIA'S KOZLODUY REACTOR SHUT DOWN

  • [C] END NOTE

  • [29] SERBIAN PROTESTS: WILL THIS TIME BE DIFFERENT?

  • [A] TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

    [01] SOUTH CAUCASUS STATES OFFER EARTHQUAKE AID TO TURKEY

    Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev on 17 August sent a

    message to Turkish President Suleyman Demirel expressing

    condolences over the earthquake that struck the west

    Anatolian city of Izmit earlier that day, Turan reported.

    Azerbaijan has sent 30 doctors and 30 aid workers to

    participate in relief work. Armenian President Robert

    Kocharian similarly expressed condolences in a telegram to

    Demirel, according to Noyan Tapan. An Armenian government

    source told the agency that Armenia is prepared to send

    rescue groups to Turkey if asked to do so. In Tbilisi,

    Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili expressed condolences

    to his Turkish counterpart, Ismail Cem, Interfax reported. A

    group of 10 Georgian rescue workers left for Turkey on 18

    August. LF

    [02] ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTER IN KARABAKH

    Vartan Oskanian met in

    Stepanakert on 17 August with Arkadii Ghukasian, president of

    the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, to discuss

    "organizational issues" connected with a major conference to

    be held in Armenia next month on relations between that

    country and the diaspora, RFE/RL's Stepanakert correspondent

    reported. Oskanian later told deputies to the enclave's

    parliament that the conference will explore "the need to

    establish a pan-Armenian umbrella structure" as well as

    discuss the economic development of Armenia and Nagorno-

    Karabakh and the creation of a "single Armenia-Karabakh-

    diaspora information space." With regard to the ongoing

    search for a political solution to the Karabakh conflict,

    Oskanian said "the Armenian side is now in a better

    diplomatic position than ever before." Also on 17 August,

    Karabakh Foreign Minister Naira Melkumian met with Andrzej

    Kasprczik, who is the permanent representative of the OSCE

    chairman-in-office, to discuss preparations for the latter's

    visit to Stepanakert next month, according to Noyan Tapan. LF

    [03] PROTESTS IN AZERBAIJANI EXCLAVE CONTINUE

    Women in Sadarak

    have again picketed the local government building to protest

    the authorities' handling of the 12 July clash involving

    local residents and employees of the Sadarak customs post,

    Turan reported on 17 August. Local residents have staged

    periodic protests for the past five weeks to demand the

    firing of the head of the customs post, whom they blame for a

    clash in which one person was killed and four injured (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 1999). The participants in the 17

    August picket also demanded a meeting with Nakhichevan

    parliamentary chairman Vasif Talibov to discuss their

    demands. LF

    [04] DAGHESTAN CONFLICT WILL NOT AFFECT AZERBAIJAN OIL EXPORT

    Interfax on 17 August quoted an unnamed official from

    Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR as denying that the

    hostilities in Daghestan constitute a serious threat to the

    continued export of Azerbaijani oil via the Russian

    Federation. But he admitted that the present system for

    exporting crude by rail from Makhachkala to Tikhoretsk allows

    Baku to export just over half the planned amount of 120,000

    metric tons per month. He rejected as untrue claims by

    Russia's pipeline monopoly Transneft that SOCAR exported 1.5

    million tons of oil via the Baku-Grozny-Novorossiisk pipeline

    during the first six months of this year. LF

    [05] RUSSIA TO APOLOGIZE FOR BOMBING GEORGIAN VILLAGE

    The Russian

    air force will official apologize to the Georgian leadership

    in the name of the Russian Defense Ministry for the 9 August

    incident in which two Russian aircraft bombed the village of

    Zemo Omalo in northeastern Georgia, Interfax and

    "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported. According to an unnamed

    Defense Ministry source, the commission created to

    investigate the incident concluded that the pilots dropped

    mines on the village by accident, their intended target being

    Botlikh Raion in neighboring Daghestan. In related news,

    ITAR-TASS reported on 17 August that Russian Foreign Minister

    Igor Ivanov will visit Tbilisi on 3-4 September. LF

    [06] KAZAKH EX-PREMIER'S SUPPORT BASE CRUMBLING?

    Six members of

    Akezhan Kazhegeldin's Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan

    addressed an open letter to Kazhegeldin on 17 August

    announcing that they are quitting the party, Interfax

    reported. The six accused the party's deputy chairman, Gaziz

    Aldamzharov, of being unable to overcome divisions within the

    party. They noted that they had warned Kazhegeldin earlier of

    an imminent split in the party's ranks but he had ignored

    such warnings. Kazhegeldin left Kazakhstan in December 1998,

    shortly after the party's founding congress. The six also

    announced their intention to create a new party in the near

    future that will "unite all sane opposition forces." It is

    unclear whether they consider it feasible to do so before the

    10 October elections to the lower chamber of the parliament.

    LF

    [07] KAZAKHSTAN EXPORT PIPELINE LIKELY TO BE SHELVED

    Interfax on

    17 August quoted an unnamed Kazakh gas sector official as

    predicting that Astana may abandon plans for an oil export

    pipeline to China. The official said that the Kazakh

    government will probably reject the feasibility study on that

    project, which is expected to be completed shortly (see

    "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). The Kazakh official said

    that Chinese engineers who participated in the feasibility

    study agree that the 2,900-kilometer pipeline "is too long."

    In late 1997, China and Kazakhstan signed a general agreement

    on construction of the pipeline at an estimated cost of $2.7

    billion. LF

    [08] KYRGYZ OFFICIAL ACCUSES BATKEN GUERILLAS OF PLANNING 'ISLAMIC

    STATE'

    In a telephone interview with RFE/RL's Bishkek bureau

    on 17 August, Kyrgyz National Security Ministry spokesman

    Talant Razzakov claimed that the ethnic Uzbek guerrilla band

    headed by Juma Namangani aims to create an Islamic state in

    the Fergana Valley that would include the Andijan, Fergana,

    and Namangan Oblasts of Uzbekistan and the Leninabad Oblast

    of Tajikistan. Razzakov estimated the guerrillas' total

    strength at more than 1,000, and claimed that some of them

    were trained in Afghanistan. Kyrgyz forces are continuing

    military action against 21 of Namangani's men who took four

    Kyrgyz officials hostage in southern Kyrgyzstan on 6 August.

    The hostages were released on 13 August. LF

    [09] TURKMENISTAN POSTS SOLID INCREASE IN FOREIGN TRADE

    Turkmenistan's foreign trade turnover grew by 57.2 percent to

    $1.22 billion during the first half of 1999, compared with

    the same period last year, Interfax reported on 17 August

    quoting the National Statistics Institute. The trade surplus

    as of 30 June 1999 was $112.1 million, compared with a

    deficit of $259.4 million the previous year. Also during the

    first six months of 1999, industrial output rose by 19

    percent, primarily as a result of a 160 percent increase in

    gas production and a 60 percent increase in the output of the

    cotton industry. LF

    [10] UZBEKISTAN CLARIFIES CIRCUMSTANCES OF BOMBING RAIDS

    Uzbekistan's Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov said on 17

    August that at the request of the Kyrgyz government, Uzbek

    combat jets dropped bombs two days earlier on the district of

    southern Kyrgyzstan in which ethnic Uzbek guerrillas from

    Tajikistan are entrenched, Interfax reported. Kamilov and

    Uzbek Security Council Secretary Morakbar Rakhmonkulov said

    those strikes were justified as the guerrillas had planned to

    cross into Uzbekistan and stage attacks there. Kamilov

    admitted that the Uzbek aircraft may have inadvertently

    dropped bombs on the territory of neighboring Tajikistan,

    noting that the guerrillas are very close to the frontier

    between the two countries. Tajikistan on 16 August delivered

    an official protest to Tashkent over the attack (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 17 August 1999). LF


    [B] SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

    [11] SERBIAN GENERAL THREATENS CRACKDOWN

    General Nebojsa

    Pavkovic, who commands the Nis-based Third Army, told

    Belgrade's "Glas javnosti" of 17 August that the army must

    intervene to separate opposing groups if that is necessary

    "to prevent civil war." He stressed that the army will not

    allow anyone to seize power "illegally." Pavkovic noted that

    the army's crackdown in March 1991 led to "human losses and

    destruction." But he stressed that the death and destruction

    would have been far worse had the army not intervened to put

    down demonstrations against Serbian leader Slobodan

    Milosevic. Observers suggest that Pavkovic's remarks are a

    warning that the army may intervene again if there is

    politically-inspired violence in conjunction with the

    Yugoslavia-Croatia soccer match on 18 August or the

    opposition rally the following day. Both events are to take

    place in Belgrade. PM

    [12] BELGRADE REGIME WARNS OPPONENTS...

    Yugoslav Prime Minister

    Momir Bulatovic told the parliament on 17 August that an

    unspecified "powerful, illegal, international movement" seeks

    to overthrow the "legally elected Yugoslav government."

    Telecommunications Minister Ivan Markovic of the hard-line

    United Yugoslav Left said that "the agents of terrorism in

    Serbia are not just the members of the so-called Kosova

    Liberation Army (UCK), but those gathered in the Alliance for

    Change." The alliance is one of the main sponsors of the 19

    August demonstration. Elsewhere, the state-run daily

    "Politika" called unnamed members of the opposition

    "political midgets and losers." PM

    [13] ...TAKES MEASURES AGAINST THEM

    Seven policemen beat up and

    arrested artist Bogoljub Arsenijevic on 17 August in front of

    the Belgrade offices of former General Momcilo Perisic's

    Movement for Democratic Serbia. A spokesman for the movement

    criticized the police action and promised that "our lawyers

    will launch proper legal action" on Arsenijevic's behalf. The

    artist attracted public attention in July when he led a

    violent take-over of the town hall in Valjevo (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 13 July 1999). In Pancevo, the local Prosecutor's

    Office began an investigation into opposition leader Vesna

    Pesic's remarks at a recent rally in Vrsac, RFE/RL's South

    Slavic Service reported on 17 August. Pesic told the

    protesters that the Serbian people might get rid of Milosevic

    by using the "Romanian method" unless he goes voluntarily.

    Her remarks were an allusion to the violent overthrow of

    Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989. Top

    Serbian officials subsequently accused her of encouraging

    "terrorism" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 August 1999). PM

    [14] BELGRADE DEMONSTRATION LOSING SUPPORT?

    Serbian Renewal

    Movement leader Vuk Draskovic said in Belgrade on 17 August

    that he will not attend the Belgrade demonstration but will

    be represented by his deputy instead. Draskovic did not give

    a clear reason for reversing his earlier decision to attend.

    He said only that he cannot "accept many many stupid ideas of

    [unspecified] irresponsible people," Reuters reported. He

    also suggested that he fears that the rally could turn

    violent, AP noted. Observers said that Draskovic is piqued

    because he was slated to speak only second. Shortly after

    Draskovic announced his decision not to attend, Alliance for

    Change leader Vladan Batic said that he will not address the

    gathering, the Frankfurt-based Serbian daily "Vesti"

    reported. It is unclear why, nor is it clear whether he plans

    to attend at all. PM

    [15] YUGOSLAV PARLIAMENT CUTS IMPORT DUTIES

    The federal

    legislature on 17 August approved significant cuts in the

    import taxes for cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, and used

    cars, "Danas" reported. At that same parliamentary session,

    Sports Minister Velizar Djeric denied rumors that his

    ministry bought up 22,000 out of a total of 70,000 tickets to

    the Yugoslavia-Croatia match. Critics had charged that the

    ministry sought to pack the stadium with Milosevic

    supporters. PM

    [16] SERBIAN OPPOSITION LEADER BACKS MONTENEGRIN PLAN

    Social

    Democratic leader Vuk Obradovic said that the Serbian

    opposition finds Montenegro's proposal for redefining

    relations between the two republics "basically acceptable"

    (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 10 August 1999). He added,

    however, that Montenegrin officials would be "wasting their

    time" if they tried to negotiate the plan with Milosevic,

    RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported from Podgorica on 17

    August. Obradovic stressed that this is the view of most

    opposition parties in Serbia. PM

    [17] EU PREPARING TO END SANCTIONS AGAINST KOSOVA, MONTENEGRO

    A

    spokesman for the EU Presidency, which is currently held by

    Finland, said in Brussels on 17 August that EU officials will

    lift economic sanctions against Kosova and Montenegro "soon."

    He added that experts are studying ways to make sure that

    Milosevic and the Serbian authorities do not benefit from the

    move, Reuters reported. One key problem is preventing

    Montenegrin oil imports from reaching Serbia. Another is

    ensuring that Serbia's JAT airlines does not profit from the

    reopening of flights from EU countries to Montenegro's two

    airports. PM

    [18] LOCAL SERBIAN LEADER DENIES BREAKTHROUGH IN MITROVICA

    Oliver

    Ivanovic, who is the leader of Mitrovica's Serbs on the

    city's UN-chaired interim council, denied on 17 August that

    Serbs and Albanians in the city have agreed on a plan to end

    the division of the city, AP reported. The previous day,

    Bajram Rexhepi, who is Ivanovic's counterpart in the

    Albanian-dominated south of the city, reported that both

    sides agreed on the return of 25 Albanian families per day to

    the north. Ivanovic, however, stressed that "relentless

    Albanian onslaughts on the Ibar River bridge [which divides

    the two parts of the city] are very dangerous." He referred

    to several recent incidents in which local Albanians seeking

    to return to their homes in the north clashed with French

    troops who were blocking the bridge. FS

    [19] ANOTHER GRENADE ATTACK AGAINST SERBS IN GJILAN

    Unidentified attackers wounded three Serbs in Gjilan on

    17 August, AP reported. It was the second grenade attack

    against the Serbian community in that region within two

    days (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999). The same

    day, Russia charged Western countries with "turning a

    blind eye" to attacks against Serbs (see Part I). FS

    [20] TORTURE CHAMBER DISCOVERED IN PRISHTINA'S GRAND HOTEL

    The Prishtina daily "Rilindja" reported on 17 August

    that the staff of the Grand Hotel has discovered two

    prison cells and a torture chamber in an underground

    building belonging to the hotel. The daily added that

    the employees found women's clothes and lists containing

    the names of unspecified students, an RFE/RL South

    Slavic Service correspondent reported. During the recent

    conflict, journalists reported that Serbian

    paramilitaries used the building as their command

    center. Many foreign journalists stayed at the hotel,

    which also housed the regime's media center.

    International war crimes investigators have started

    investigations. FS

    [21] UN LAUNCHES PRISHTINA CLEAN-UP CAMPAIGN

    UN Special

    Representative Bernard Kouchner launched a municipal

    clean-up campaign in Prishtina on 17 August, Reuters

    reported. Kouchner said that since the war "all over the

    place in the city garbage was...disposed [of in a way

    that poses a] real danger for public health." He added,

    however: "We are confident that through this project,

    we'll be able to make Prishtina a clean and beautiful

    city." The initiative, called "I love my city

    Prishtina," is the beginning of a larger cleanup project

    for the whole of Kosova, which is jointly financed by

    the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the UN Development

    Program. It receives substantial technical support from

    KFOR and employs 330 locals. FS

    [22] MAJKO WANTS 'PAN-ALBANIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM'

    Albanian Prime

    Minister Pandeli Majko has urged Education Minister Ethem

    Ruka to draw up plans to unify education in Albanian language

    in Albania, Kosova, and Macedonia and intensify cooperation

    between the universities of Tirana and Prishtina, Reuters

    reported on 17 August. He said that "it is time to talk about

    [creating] a unified strategy for education in Albanian

    wherever Albanians live in the Balkans." Majko stressed that

    "this is...a turning point to make the biggest investment for

    the future of the Albanian community in the Balkans," adding

    that first steps should include an exchange of teachers and

    professors. Majko argued that "Albanians should read the same

    history because we are part of the same history. Now it is

    time for us Albanians in the Balkans to make history." FS

    [23] IZETBEGOVIC SLAMS FRAUD CHARGE

    Bosnian Muslim leader Alija

    Izetbegovic called a "New York Times" report on massive fraud

    in his republic "lies." He charged that the article

    constitutes an attempt to discredit his government and deter

    foreigners from investing in Bosnia, "Oslobodjenje" reported

    on 18 August (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17 August 1999).

    Izetbegovic issued a statement rebutting several specific

    charges of fraud cited in the article. In Washington, a State

    Department spokesman noted that "U.S. government assistance

    has not been misused or abused to the best of our knowledge."

    VOA's Croatian Service reported that the embezzled funds

    amount to 20 percent of all public money in Bosnia. In

    Sarajevo, a spokeswoman for the office of the international

    community's high representative said the "lost" money

    probably totals more than $1 billion. PM

    [24] SACKED CROATIAN MINISTER BLAMES TOP LEADERS

    Zeljko Luzavec,

    whom President Franjo Tudjman recently fired as minister of

    transportation, maritime affairs, and communications, has

    blamed several top officials for his demise (see "RFE/RL

    Newsline," 5 August 1999). Luzavec singled out Ivic Pasalic,

    who is Tudjman's top adviser, as well as Deputy Prime

    Minister Ljerka Mintas-Hodak and Reconstruction Minister Jure

    Radic, "Novi List" reported on 18 August. Luzavec charged he

    was the victim of a "palace coup" aimed at covering up

    evidence of mismanagement of the bankrupt shipping company

    Croatia Line (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 17 August 1999). PM

    [25] DEMOCRATIC PARTY LEADER TO RUN FOR ROMANIAN PRESIDENCY

    Petre Roman told a 17 August meeting of the Democratic

    Party in Targu Mures that he will run for president in

    2000, an RFE/RL correspondent in the Transylvanian town

    reported. Roman, who is leader of the party, said the

    Democrats will not participate in any election alliances

    formed for the 2000 parliamentary elections, adding that

    after the ballot they will agree to participate in a

    government coalition only if it is set up on the basis of a

    "clear joint program" and not for "the sake of power

    alone." One day earlier, Roman said the Democrats are ready

    for "a dialogue" with the opposition Party of Social

    Democracy in Romania (PDSR), provided the PDSR "seriously

    reforms its political philosophy." PDSR deputy chairwoman

    Hildegard Puwak on 17 August responded that her party

    welcomes a dialogue but rejects Roman's conditions. MS

    [26] ROMANIA'S HUNGARIAN CHURCH TO SET UP PRIVATE UNIVERSITY

    Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania honorary

    chairman Bishop Laszlo Tokes, addressing a forum of the Ady

    Endre Academy in Debrecen, Hungary, on 16 August, said that

    a Hungarian-language high school in Oradea will be

    transformed in September into a private ecclesiastic

    university for the Hungarian minority, Romanian Radio

    reported the next day. Tokes said that in 2000 the new

    university, to be called the Partium Christian University,

    will set up branches "in all of Transylvania." MS

    [27] MOLDOVAN COMMISSION RECOMMENDS CHANGING DESIGNATION OF

    OFFICIAL LANGUAGE

    The Republican Commission overseeing the

    implementation of the law on the official state language

    has recommended that the official designation of that

    language be changed from "Moldovan" to "Romanian," RFE/RL's

    Chisinau bureau reported on 17 August. The recommendation

    will be submitted to the government and later to the

    parliament. The commission said that the 1994 decision to

    opt for "Moldovan" was prompted by " political

    considerations that ignored the opinion of experts from

    Moldova and abroad." The mentioning of "Moldovan" in the

    country's constitution must be changed accordingly, the

    commission says. MS

    [28] BULGARIA'S KOZLODUY REACTOR SHUT DOWN

    Reactor No. 2 at the

    aging nuclear power plant at Kozloduy was shut down on 16

    August following a non-radioactive water leak, Reuters

    reported. A spokeswoman for the plant said the leak did not

    affect the plant's safety and that the unit will be shut

    down until 27 August for repairs. MS


    [C] END NOTE

    [29] SERBIAN PROTESTS: WILL THIS TIME BE DIFFERENT?

    By Christopher Walker

    The mass protest scheduled to take place on 19 August in

    Belgrade will be the third in a series of demonstration waves

    that the Serbian opposition has staged since the beginning of

    this decade. On the two previous occasions--in 1991 and in

    the winter of 1996-1997--ordinary Serbs took to the streets

    to vent their frustrations with the miserable state of

    affairs in their country.

    But to date, each protest wave has fallen short, with

    the opposition unable to achieve the crucial precondition for

    setting Serbia's reform process in motion: Yugoslav President

    Slobodan Milosevic's removal from power.

    The earlier protest campaigns failed owing to a variety

    of reasons, including a fragmented opposition, a passive,

    exhausted Serbian population, deft political maneuvering by

    Milosevic, and the manipulation of Serbs through tight

    control over state-run media.

    In addition, Milosevic has been the beneficiary of

    short-sighted Western policies that have allowed him, among

    other things, to convince his electorate that the West--and

    the U.S. in particular--is the villain and Serbia the victim.

    Thus while it is encouraging that the opposition is once

    again working to muster an organized effort against the

    status quo, its ability to effect a leadership change in

    Belgrade is questionable.

    In the two months since the cessation of hostilities

    between Serbian forces and those of NATO and the Kosova

    Liberation Army, there have been small, spontaneous pockets

    of protests throughout Serbia. The round of demonstrations

    scheduled to begin on 19 August will be the first broad,

    organized effort to pressure the Milosevic regime since the

    winter of 1996-1997.

    At that time, tens of thousands of Serbs marched to

    protest the annulment of the results of municipal elections

    that Milosevic's Socialist Party had lost. While Milosevic's

    extralegal action served as a catalyst for the

    demonstrations, a host of other chronic problems in Serbian

    society--including a very sick economy-- kept protesters on

    the streets every day over three months. Ultimately,

    Milosevic reversed the annulment but otherwise paid only lip

    service to the key opposition demands for reform.

    As was the case in the earlier rounds of protests, the

    planned demonstrations starting this week will feature the

    participation of two main opposition figures: Democratic

    Party leader Zoran Djindjic and Vuk Draskovic, the

    controversial head of the Serbian Reform Movement, who served

    in Milosevic's government until his dismissal during the

    conflict with NATO.

    Both Djindjic and Draskovic are calling for a

    transitional government but have not agreed on a blueprint

    for achieving this goal. While Djindjic is seeking

    Milosevic's unconditional departure from power, Draskovic has

    indicated he prefers some sort of power-sharing arrangement

    with the Yugoslav leader. Whether the two opposition leaders

    will be able to work together to mount a successful challenge

    to Milosevic and then orient Serbia's policies toward the

    West is an open question.

    The challenge for the opposition has always been

    formidable, but post-Kosova politics in Serbia may make the

    task even more difficult. During the two previous rounds of

    major protest activity, the opposition was able to associate

    itself with the values of the West, including calls for

    deeper integration into and cooperation with Western

    institutions. As a variation on the "divide and conquer

    tactic" so often used by Milosevic, Serbian advocates of

    cooperation with the West face the prospect of being branded

    as "traitors against Serbia" or "lackeys for NATO."

    Democratic Party leader Djindjic, who fled to Montenegro

    during the Kosova conflict, is the best known of those

    labeled an agent of Western interests.

    As a result, proposing closer ties to the West as an

    important part of any prospective reform program may not be a

    winning message with many Serbs. The shift from pre-Kosova

    discourse, in which it was normal to view the West as a

    desired partner, to the more ambiguous post-Kosova climate,

    raises questions about the direction Serbian politics will

    take in the post-Milosevic era, whenever it arrives.

    Other key institutions in Serbia have not made their

    intentions fully clear with respect to the country's

    leadership. The Serbian armed forces, considered by the rest

    of the world to have suffered overwhelming losses during its

    conflict with NATO, seem to have weathered the storm by

    having resourcefully squirreled away much of their crucial

    weaponry during the conflict. Despite some rumblings in the

    immediate aftermath of the war, the military--a conservative

    institution not easily disposed to changing the existing

    order--has not made any bid to alter the current leadership.

    The Serbian Orthodox Church, for its part, has sent

    mixed signals. While it has decided not to take part in the

    opposition-led demonstration this week, Church leaders have

    publicly appealed for the resignation of Milosevic and

    Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, both of whom are

    indicted war criminals.

    For Serbia--as well as the rest of the world--there is

    no more to be learned or gained from Milosevic's leadership.

    If 12 years ago someone had scripted a worst-case scenario

    for his rule, it would have been difficult to imagine one as

    tragic as today's reality.

    The latest cycle of protest in Serbia will be viewed as

    a success only if it achieves the goal of removing Milosevic,

    thereby distinguishing itself from previous efforts.

    The author is a New York-based analyst specializing in East

    European affairs (intrel@aol.com).

    18-08-99


    Reprinted with permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
    URL: http://www.rferl.org


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