February 27, 2003

ERP KIM Newsletter 27-02-03

CONTENTS:

SRGOV: Covic calls for collective rights of Kosovo Serbs
BETA: Thousands attend Pristina protest rally
RFRLE: Kosovo Serbs take big step towards setting up of Serb entity
REUTERS: Kosovo Serbs form union angering Albanians
AP: Serbs, ethnic Albanians brace for renewed conflict in volatile Balkans
Radio Yugoslavia: News from Kosovo and Metohija


CORRIGENDA
(We kindly appologize to our readers because  in our Newsletter 25-02-03 Special Edition, in the article Appalling situation in the Serbian Orthodox cemetery of Pec, it was stated that the source was Radio B92. The report, as it may be clearly understood from the text, was a report by ERP KIM Info-Service)


COVIC CALLS FOR COLLECTIVE RIGHTS OF KOSOVO SERBS

TOP

Serbian Government
February 26, 2003

Brussels, Feb 26, 2003 - Coordinating Centre for Kosovo-Metohija head Nebojsa Covic told NATO leaders in Brussels on Wednesday that Belgrade's official position is that Kosovo Serbs must have the same collective rights that have ethnic Albanians in Macedonia.

Covic said that the NATO Council and Secretary-General George Robertson both gave their support to Belgrade's efforts to work with NATO to tackle the issue of destabilisation of southern Serbia carried out by criminal groups, the Beta news agency reported.

The talks with NATO leaders also touched on the return of Serbia's security forces to Kosovo-Metohija, said Covic. "This is stipulated in UN Security Council Resolution 1244," he said, adding that the talks mainly focused on the importance of refugee return, safety and the freedom of movement.

Covic said that it is necessary to establish collective rights of Serbs in Kosovo-Metohija in line with a programme adopted in June 2001 in Belgrade, adding that ethnic Albanians in Macedonia have the same rights. However, said Covic, there is the problem of the return of 230,000 people, which has to be voluntary and sustainable.

He endorsed the initiative of holding a conference of Balkan states in May this year, which would address the issue of border security. Tightening border security would help prevent attacks by extremist groups.

Covic told NATO senior officials that the masterminds of the recent terrorist attacks in southern Serbia come mainly from Kosovo, but not only from that region.

"If we want to achieve regional stability, then we must not allow any place in the region to become a safe haven for criminals from other parts of the region. These criminals are mostly bandits from Kosovo who go to southern Serbia and Macedonia. I can say that there is no rule of law in Kosovo-Metohija, with due respect to efforts made by KFOR in the first place, and much fewer by UNMIK," said Covic.

TOP


THOUSANDS ATTEND PRISTINA PROTEST RALLY

TOP

Beta
February 26, 2003



PRISTINA -- Wednesday -- Thousands of people rallied today in Pristina protesting over the arrest and extradition of four former Kosovo Liberation Army members.

According to some estimates, as much as 50 thousand people attended today’s ‘Freedom to the Liberators’ protest rally organized by associations of Kosovo Albanian war veterans.

The speakers voiced their dissatisfaction with the issuance of indictments against former KLA members, who led “a battle for liberation” and demanded that such arrests stop.

The four former KLA members - Fatmir Limai, Haradin Bala, Isak Musliu and Agim Murtezi – are charged with was crimes against Serb and Albanian civilians in 1998.

TOP


KOSOVO SERBS TAKE BIG STEP TOWARD SETTING UP THEIR OWN ENTITY

TOP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (USA)
26 Feb 2003

Some 300 delegates representing Serbian communities in eastern, northern, and central Kosova agreed in Mitrovica on 25 February to set up a Parliament of Serbian Districts and District Units of Kosovo and Metohija, "Danas" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 February 2003). The delegates approved a declaration endorsing the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and of the state union of Serbia and Montenegro." They vowed to defend that integrity "with all available means." The resolution said the new Union of Serbian Districts and District Units of Kosovo and Metohija, or Serbian Union, will function as "an integral part of Serbia," Reuters reported. The declaration called for the return of Serbian security forces to the province and urged a fight against organized crime and "terrorism," which are terms that some Serbian politicians and media use to justify oppressing Albanians. The delegates demanded the abolition of the civilian Kosova Protection Corps (TMK), which most Serbs regard as nothing more than a successor to the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) under a different name. PM

...AND ELECT A LEADERSHIP...

The Serbian delegates meeting in Mitrovica on 25 February elected Marko Jaksic of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) to head the Serbian Union, "Danas" reported. He was unable to attend the session because he is in Kraljevo recovering from injuries sustained in a traffic accident. Prominent Kosovar Serb personalities present at the gathering in Mitrovica included Serbian Orthodox Archbishop Artemije and politicians Rada Trajkovic and Milan Ivanovic, who, like Jaksic, is known as a hard-liner, dpa reported. Trajkovic said that "all Serbs are afraid of Albanians dominating their lives," Reuters reported. The Serbian meeting comes in response to a recent call by leading Kosovar Albanian political parties for independence. This in turn was triggered by the inclusion in the preamble of the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro of a reference to Kosova being part of Serbia, which the province's ethnic Albanian majority refuses to accept following the 1998-99 conflict (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 18 February 2003). PM

...BUT ARE REBUKED BY THE UN AND ALBANIANS

Michael Steiner, who heads the UN civilian administration (UNMIK) in Kosova, dismissed the formation of the Serbian Union, Reuters reported from Mitrovica on 25 February. He told a press conference that "institutions that are based in monoethnicity will neither be our partners, nor will they have any legal relevance." Steiner's spokesman, Simon Haselock, argued that "these ideas of partition and division only incite tension." Ramadan Avdiu, who is a political adviser to Kosovar Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi, said that "this union is an attempt at dividing Kosova and is unacceptable." Observers note that one factor instrumental in triggering the Croatian conflict in 1991 and the Bosnian war the following year was the refusal of local Serbs to live in a state in which they would be in a minority. Similar feelings on the part of the Serbs of Kosova led them to support former President Slobodan Milosevic, beginning with his rise to power in 1987.

TOP


KOSOVO SERBS FORM UNION ANGERING ALBANIANS

TOP

Reuters
Tue February 25, 2003 04:04 PM ET
By Shaban Buza

KOSOVSKA MITROVICA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - Kosovo's Serb minority formed a union of Serb-dominated towns and areas on Tuesday and said they saw their future with Serbia, angering the pro-independence ethnic Albanian majority.

The U.N.-led administration in Kosovo made clear it would not deal with the new self-styled Union of Serb municipalities, and an aide of ethnic Albanian Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi branded it as an unacceptable bid to divide the province.

About 300 delegates at an assembly in the Serb-dominated north of the flashpoint town of Mitrovica elected a president and a 15-member executive board and adopted a declaration that included establishing a Kosovo Serb entity.

"The Serb entity would...function as an integral part of Serbia," the declaration said, calling for the return of some Serbian army and police forces to help secure Serb-dominated areas and fight organized crime and "terrorism."

The declaration set out a series of demands to improve the minority's situation and create conditions for Serb refugees to return to the province.

"All Serbs are afraid of Albanians dominating their lives," said Kosovo Serb politician Rada Trajkovic.

DEEP DIVISIONS

Serbs, many of whom live in enclaves guarded by troops from Kosovo's NATO-led peacekeeping force, insist the province should remain part of Serbia and say they are discriminated against. The Albanians demand independence, saying they can never again be ruled by Serbia.

The landlocked province of two million came under international administration in mid-1999 after an 11-week NATO bombing campaign to halt Serb repression of its Albanians when Slobodan Milosevic was in power in Belgrade.

United Nations officials say the province's future will be decided by the Security Council at some unspecified time in the future.

The U.N.'s Kosovo governor, German diplomat Michael Steiner, brushed aside the formation of the union.

"Institutions which are based in mono-ethnicity will neither be our partners nor will they have any legal relevance," he said.

His office this week rejected an appeal by Belgrade to allow the return of Serbian forces to the province and for talks on its future status to start in 2003.

Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was quoted at the weekend as telling Britain's Times newspaper that Belgrade would sponsor a breakaway Serb mini-state if the West prevented its troops from returning to guarantee the minority's rights.

He has accused the international community of gradually handing over powers to Kosovo's Albanians.

But Steiner's spokesman Simon Haselock said: "These ideas of partition and division only incite tension."

Ramadan Avdiu, political adviser to Rexhepi, said: "This union is an attempt for the division of Kosovo and it is unacceptable."

TOP


SERBS, ETHNIC ALBANIANS BRACE FOR RENEWED CONFLICT IN VOLATILE BALKANS

TOP

Associated Press
Tue Feb 25, 3:51 AM ET

By ALEKSANDAR VASOVIC, Associated Press Writer

PRESEVO, Serbia-Montenegro - In the shadows of a possible war with Iraq, another crisis is looming in this troubled corner of the Balkans, where ethnic Albanian militants are preparing a fresh challenge of Serbian rule.

A former commander of ethnic Albanian rebels in Serbia's southern Presevo Valley said he and his men are ready to launch a new insurgency this spring aimed at breaking the region away from Serbia and joining it with neighboring Kosovo.

"The glory days will return - and this time we will fight until the end," the 29-year-old commander, who goes only by his first name, Murteza, told The Associated Press.

The United Nations (news - web sites) and the NATO (news - web sites)-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo are playing down the risk of renewed conflict. U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Daniel J. Keefe, the commander of U.S. troops in the province, said Monday that "we do not see a threat of increased extremist activity."

But in an ominous sign of rebel activity in the area, which has long been a flashpoint between Serbs and restive ethnic Albanians agitating for autonomy, a Serb police officer was killed and two others wounded Sunday when their car ran over a land mine. The Serbian government branded the attack a "terrorist act."

The goal of the ethnic Albanian majority in the region 300 kilometers (190 miles) south of Belgrade is to shake off Serbian rule and join Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians are a majority.

Kosovo has been under NATO control and U.N. administration since Serbian troops left the province in 1999 after a 78-day alliance bombing campaign ended former President Slobodan Milosevic (news - web sites)'s crackdown against ethnic Albanians.

Milosevic was unseated in 2000 and is now on trial before the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague (news - web sites), Netherlands, for charges stemming from that bloody conflict and earlier wars in Bosnia and Croatia.

By attempting to join with Kosovo, the Presevo Valley's ethnic Albanians would end up under U.N. protection and closer to their ultimate goal: full independence.

Many analysts believe the militants may take advantage of the world's preoccupation with the crisis in Iraq to relaunch a rebellion in southern Serbia.

A 2000-2001 conflict in the region ended with a Western-brokered deal. The insurgents surrendered their weapons to NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo in exchange for amnesty and self-rule on the municipal level.

But tensions and occasional flare-ups have persisted.

Murteza, dressed in a gray sweater, camouflage trousers and well-worn military boots, joined some 7,000 of his ethnic kin from the town of Presevo at a rally last week demanding more autonomy for the region and the release of several detainees.

After an ethnic Albanian working for Serbia's Security Service was assassinated earlier this month in the neighboring town of Bujanovac, police arrested several suspects and seized large caches of weapons and ammunition in two ethnic Albanian strongholds.

The raids led to protests in Bujanovac and Presevo and triggered fears of renewed fighting. Murteza claims he has dozens of eager young fighters under his command. He would not say what kinds of arms his force has; two years ago, it had infantry weapons and light anti-tank arms.

"We demand fresh talks about the Presevo Valley, and freedom for our boys," said Orhan Rexhepi, a local leader of the ethnic Albanian Movement for Democratic Prosperity.

The Serbs, however, have vowed never to give up any more territory to ethnic Albanians.

Heavily armed Serbian police have been patrolling frozen mountain roads and villages overlooking the Presevo Valley, trying to prevent ethnic Albanian militants from Kosovo from entering the area.

As a motorcade of armored jeeps and trucks rumbled through narrow and muddy streets in the ethnic Albanian village of Konculj, a former rebel stronghold, the Serbs were met with defiant stares from some villagers.

"This is hostile territory," said a Serb police commander who gave only his first name, Milan.

In response to the police raids, the Albanian National Army, a shadowy rebel group opposed to the 2001 peace deal, recently announced the mobilization of its members in Kosovo, according to Serbian government claims.

Nebojsa Covic, Serbia's deputy prime minister in charge of the region, said the government had information that ethnic Albanian militants "were grouping in the Kosovo towns of Kosovska Kamenica and Gnjilane" just across the border.

The Serbian government has demanded that the U.N. mission and NATO troops in Kosovo prevent an imminent spillover of ethnic Albanian militants from the province into the Presevo Valley.

Although ethnic Albanians view the recent police raids as a provocation, Covic said there would be additional raids aimed at seizing illegal weapons and that he could not rule out "possible incidents."

"We will not negotiate anew with the terrorists," he said.

TOP


RADIO YUGOSLAVIA - NEWS FROM KOSOVO AND METOHIJA

TOP

The Vice-President of the Serbian Government and the head of the Coordination Centre for Kosmet, Nebojsa Covic, presented to the highest NATO officials, the standpoint of the Belgrade authorities that it was necessary to respect the collective rights of the Serbs in Kosmet and to give them a status of a constituting people, as the one the Albanians enjoy in Macedonia. He stressed that he got support from the NATO Council and the General Secretary of the Alliance, George Robertson for the intention of the authorities in Belgrade to supress, together with the NATO, the actions of the criminal groups in the South of Serbia.
Covic told the NATO officials that the leaders of the Albanian terrorist groups came mostly from Kosmet where there existed no rule of law yet an there was no respect of the rights of all national communities.

Armed groups of Albanians, supported by the Albanian emigration leaders gathered about HOMELAND CALLS (Domovina zove) FUND, prepare a line of attacks on the security forces in the South of Serbia, writes the Frankfurt daily in Serbian language VESTI. The daily quotes that for the past 15 days more than 500 Albanian young men from the villages in the vicinity of Presevo, have gone to the improvised camps in Kosovo in order to get trained in handling explosives and hand weapons. The Army of Serbia and Montenegro has learned that central bases of these groups are located near Priluzje and in Mt Cicevica, a traditional stronghold of armed Albanian extremists, quotes German daily.

The Supreme Court of Slovenia decided that the ex-member of KLA Fatmir Ljimaj, indicted by the Hague Tribunal for war crimes against Serbian and Albanian civilians, should be extradited to the Tribunal in the Hague. The deputy Justice Minister of Slovania, Rok Ateblaj declared that Ljimaj would be handed over to the Hague Tribunal probably before the coming Friday. Ljimaj has a right of appeal on the decision of the Supreme Court, but his appeal would not stop the execution of the decision.

Over 10,000 Albanians staged a protest rally in downtown Pristina demanding the independence of Kosmet and the release of all the arrested members of the former KLA who are tried in the Hague and Pristina. The participants in the rally submitted their demands to the UN Security Council, the EU and US and British officials.

The head of the OSCE mission in Serbia and Montenegro, Maurizio Massari, said he was convinced that the latest incidents in southern Serbia would not endanger the peace process. Criminal actions ought to be punished by all means, Massari said and added that isolated incidents exist in all the countries, not only in the south of Serbia. The OSCE is at the moment concentrated on the reintegration of Albanians into state institutions, the battle against organized crime and the accelerated social and economic development in southern Serbia in cooperation with the republican government and local authorities, Massari said.

All Pristina dailies pay much attention to the Declaration on Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity of Serbia and Montenegro in Kosmet, adopted yesterday (February 25) by the Assembly of Serbian Municipalities and Municipal Units in the northern Kosovska Mitrovica. The KOHA DITORE daily writes that after the constitution of the Serb entity in the Province, it remains to be seen whether the Declaration of the Albanian Community on Independent and Sovereign Kosmet and counter-declaration of the Serbian community on sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and Montenegro in Kosmet, will be used as threats or their contents will be realized. The ZERI daily quotes that the endeavours of UNMIK to unite the divided Mitrovica are not successful and that the north of the city has become center of confrontation and division of Kosmet.

The Serbian National Council of Kosovo-Metohija supported the declaration on sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and Montenegro in Kosmet as well as the adopted determinations for further activities of the Union of Serbian Municipalities in the Province. The communiqué of the Council quotes that the Serbian people in Kosmet pledge for an intensification of the implementation process of 1244 Resolution stipulations, which have not been fulfilled until now. The SNC cannot accept a hasty assessment of UNMIK Head Michael Steiner that Serbs tend towards a monotheistic society in Kosovo because the Serbian community in the Province requests only the legitimate individual and collective rights of the constitutive people quotes the communiqué.

TOP


ERP KIM Info-Service is the official Information Service of the Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren and works with the blessing of His Grace Bishop Artemije.
Our Information Service is distributing news on Kosovo related issues. The main focus of the Info-Service is the life of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Serbian community in the Province of Kosovo and Metohija. ERP KIM Info Service works in cooperation with www.serbian-translation.com as well as the Kosovo Daily News (KDN) News List

Disclaimer:
The views expressed by the authors of newspaper articles or other texts which are not official communiqués or news reports by the Diocese are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Serbian Orthodox Church

If you received this message by error or you don`t want to receive our e-mails anymore, please write to us: erpkim@kosovo.net

Our Newsletters are available on our ERP KIM Info-service Web-Page:
/erpkiminfo.html

Additional information on our Diocese and the life of the Kosovo Serb Community may be found at: http://www.kosovo.net

Copyright 2003, ERP KIM Info-Service