November 29, 2003

ERP KiM Newsletter 29-11-03

Albanian "Flag Day" Festivities: a bomb attack on Serbs in Cernica, a Serb beaten near Novo Brdo, Serb flags torn down in Southern Serbia

Diocese of Raska-Prizren condemns most recent terrorist attack in Cernica

This year's Day of Republic of Albania was celebrated in
Kosovo Province, Southern Serbia and Macedonia with unhidden ambitions for pan-Albanian territorial unification. Ethnic provocations, tearing down of Serb flags in South Serbia as well as attacks on innocent civilians prove again and again that the true goal of ethnic Albanian nationalists is not Europe of 21st century but reshaping the map of Europe and persecution of the last remaining non-Albanian communities. Will the U.S. and Europe support exactly those ideas which were identified as a main cause of Balkan wars 1991-1999 and allow that which was denied to Serbs, Croats and other European peoples having their minorities in other countries. Without any doubt independence of Kosovo and the finalization of ethnic cleansing of non-Albanians is the first step towards Europe which may plunge the suffering Balkans and the entire continent into new bloodsheds and ethnic wars.

CONTENTS:

Serbian Orthodox Church condemns most recent terrorist attack in Cernica
Hand grenade tossed into yard of Serb-owned house in Cernica near Gnjilane"This attack is another example that shows that unpunished previous crimes against Serbs in Cernica are only encouraging Albanian extremists whose goal is to expel the remaining Serbs from this martyred village," said Bishop Artemije 

Serb Ivan Todorovic injured in Albanian group attack despite his UNHCR marked car
UNHCR employee in Novo Brdo Ivan Todorovic sustained minor injuries yesterday at about 15,00 hours during an attack by a group of ethnic Albanians, reported Serbian sources from the Novo Brdo area in Kosovo and Metohija today.

Wounded KPS Officer wounded in terrorist attack on Nov 24 dies
His death was due to gun shot injuries that were inflicted upon him and other KPS Officers during the shooting incident in Pec on Monday 24th November 2003. This is the second KPS Officer that has died from injuries sustained on that day. Sebahate TOLAJ, a female KPS Officer, was killed during the shooting incident on Monday and her funeral was held on Wednesday.

"Specific Threat" against Internationals triggers Kosovo Alert
NATO has raised security in Kosovo in response to a "specific threat" of attack against international organizations in the United Nations protectorate, alliance peacekeepers said Friday. "We now know that a specific threat has been made toward international organizations within Kosovo," Wing Commander Chris Thompson of KFOR told a news conference in the Serbian province where nominally Muslim ethnic Albanians predominate.

Albanians tear down Serb flags in Southern Serbia to commemorate "Flag Day"
On Friday, in Presevo (a Serbian city outside of Kosovo administrative boundaries), during the celebration of the Albanian national holiday, Serbian flags were taken down from the administrative building of the Presevo municipality, and were replaced with flags of Republic of Albania.

IWPR (UK) Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia: Armed to the teeth
Disarming civilians in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia means making them see guns are a threat to security, not a guarantee.

Opinions about Kosovo-Albania Union
Leading ethni Albanian politicians reveal that the idea of territorial unification of all Albanians in the Balkans remains the final goal. Independence of Kosovo is a focal element in this pan-Albanian strategy which is, as Paskal Milo observes: a strategic objective to all Albanians and nobody doubts it.

Serbian Orthodox Church supports Constitutional Parliamentary Monarchy
His Holiness Pavle, the Patriarch of Serbia has sent, on behalf of the Holly Synod of Serbian Orthodox Church a letter of support to HRH Crown Prince Alexander II and Constitutional Parliamentary Monarchy:

INET News from Kosovo and Metohija

More News Available on our:

Kosovo Daily News list (KDN)
KDN Archive

This newsletter is available on our ERP KIM Web-site:
http://www.kosovo.net/erpkiminfo.html


Diocese of Raska and Prizren condemns most recent terrorist attack in Cernica

Hand grenade tossed into yard of Serb-owned house in Cernica near Gnjilane

"This attack is another example that shows that unpunished previous crimes against Serbs in Cernica are only encouraging Albanian extremists whose goal is to expel the remaining Serbs from this martyred village," said Bishop Artemije 

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ERP KIM Info Service
Gracanica, November 29, 2003


Today Bishop Artemije of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija strongly condemned last night's terrorist attack in the village of Cernica. "This attack is another example that shows that unpunished previous crimes against Serbs in Cernica are only encouraging Albanian extremists whose goal is to expel the remaining Serbs from this martyred village, said Bishop Artemije in a statement for the ERP KIM Info Service.

"Keeping in mind that the perpetrators of terrorist attacks in Livadice, Obilic, Gorazdevac and other locations have not yet been found, either, the completely legitimate question arises whether the role of the UNMIK police is to find and punish criminals or simply to register their crime and express its 'serious concern' and 'sincere regret' for the violence of which it is a dumb witness. Through its irresponsible and passive behavior UNMIK is even becoming an indirect accessory to ethnic cleansing being conducted against the Serbs and other non-Albanians under the colors of the UN. Serbs have had enough of the rhetoric of condemnation and regret, which masks indifference and hypocrisy. It is necessary to undertake concrete actions as quickly as possible not only against the perpetrators of crimes but also against those political leaders of the Kosovo Albanians who, both personally and through the media, have controlled and fanned anti-Serb hysteria and created an atmosphere of an open season on Serbs  for more than four years. For days the internationally-funded Kosovo RTK television has been broadcasting clips glorifying Hague indictee Fatmir Limaj and the KLA. Yesterday's celebration of the Republic of Albania's Independence Day and the birthday of Adem Jashari, the acts of wild barbarism in Bujanovac and the Presevo Valley once again confirms the grim future facing the south of Serbia and the whole of southeastern Europe if concrete steps are not taken toward the establishment of law and order," the Diocese of Raska and Prizren said in a written statement.

Hand grenade tossed into yard of Serb-owned house in Cernica near Gnjilane

According to Serbian sources in Kosovsko Pomoravlje, a hand grenade was tossed last night in the yard of the house of Srboljub Jovanovic in Cernica near Gnjilane. No one was injured in the explosion, which occurred at five minutes to midnight. At the time of the attack there were three children and three adults in the Jovanovic house. There was minor material damage.

According to Beta news agency sources, last night's grenade attack was carried out against one of two locations where groups of Serbs in Cernica were targeted with hand grenades on August 31 of this year. School teacher Miomir Savic died from wounds resulting from the explosion of one of the grenades.

According to Beta and local sources of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Kosovsko Pomoravlje, the remaining Serbs in Cernica, like most Serbs throughout Kosovo and Metohija, spent yesterday afternoon locked up in their houses because of the Albanian crowds celebrating Flag Day of the Republic of Albania. According to the same sources, after the grenades were tosses into the Serb yard, the shouting and boisterousness in the village stopped.

Since to the arrival of international peacekeeping forces in Kosovo and Metohija in June 1999, seven Serbs have been killed and 34 have been wounded in Cernica. About 40 Serb-owned houses have been set on fire or destroyed. In June 1999 there were 712 Serbs living in Cernica; now there are 250 living among with 3,000 Albanians.

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A Serb Ivan Todorovic injured in Albanian group attack

UNHCR employee in Novo Brdo Ivan Todorovic sustained minor injuries yesterday at about 15,00 hours during an attack by a group of ethnic Albanians, reported Serbian sources from the Novo Brdo area in Kosovo and Metohija today.

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Beta News Agency, Belgrade
November 29, 2003


Ivan Todorovic injured in Albanian group attack

NOVO BRDO - UNHCR employee in Novo Brdo Ivan Todorovic sustained minor injuries yesterday at about 15,00 hours during an attack by a group of ethnic Albanians, reported Serbian sources from the Novo Brdo area in Kosovo and Metohija today.

The attackers physically assaulted Todorovic as he was getting out of an automobile visibly marked with UNHCR signage.

Todorovic was rescued by a Kosovo Police Service patrol that happened to pass by at the moment of attack.


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Further death of KPS officer: Victim of Pec Shooting 24th November

His death was due to gun shot injuries that were inflicted upon him and other KPS Officers during the shooting incident in Pec on Monday 24th November 2003. This is the second KPS Officer that has died from injuries sustained on that day. Sebahate TOLAJ, a female KPS Officer, was killed during the shooting incident on Monday and her funeral was held on Wednesday.

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UNMIK Police Press Release, 29-11-03

At 2220 hrs on Friday 28th November 2003, KPS Officer Isuf HAKLAJ sadly died in Pristina Hospital Intensive Care Ward.

His death was due to gun shot injuries that were inflicted upon him and other KPS Officers during the shooting incident in Pec on Monday 24th November 2003.

This is the second KPS Officer that has died from injuries sustained on that day. Sebahate TOLAJ, a female KPS Officer, was killed during the shooting incident on Monday and her funeral was held on Wednesday.

All International Personnel wish to express their condolences to their families and assure them that a full investigation is being instigated to apprehend the Murderers.


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"Specific Threat" Triggers Kosovo Alert

NATO has raised security in Kosovo in response to a "specific threat" of attack against international organizations in the United Nations protectorate, alliance peacekeepers said Friday. "We now know that a specific threat has been made toward international organizations within Kosovo," Wing Commander Chris Thompson of KFOR told a news conference in the Serbian province where nominally Muslim ethnic Albanians predominate.

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Reuters
Fri Nov 28, 3:17 PM ET


By Shaban Buza

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - NATO has raised security in Kosovo in response to a "specific threat" of attack against international organizations in the United Nations protectorate, alliance peacekeepers said Friday.

In a joint statement with the United Nations mission, or UNMIK, referring to recent suicide bomb attacks in Turkey, they said extra measures would remain in force until "the threat is assessed to have reduced."

"We now know that a specific threat has been made toward international organizations within Kosovo," Wing Commander Chris Thompson of KFOR told a news conference in the Serbian province where nominally Muslim ethnic Albanians predominate. He would not disclose which organization had been threatened. Diplomatic sources said it was UNMIK.

A KFOR armored personnel carrier blocked the bridge leading to U.S., British, German and other international offices and KFOR headquarters, stopping all vehicles to check documents and registering all traffic.

Kosovo police vehicles guarded other U.N. and international offices, plus the Kosovo parliament building and major city intersections and KFOR was conducting random checks elsewhere in the capital, targeting cars with foreign plates.

Besides various U.N. agencies and NATO, a number of international nongovernmental assistance groups are active in Kosovo, including the international Red Cross, the ICRC.

The statement referred to "terrible recent events, not just in south-eastern Europe but elsewhere in the world."

It said a number of the countries affected by recent attacks "are represented within KFOR and the international organizations working in Kosovo."

An internal UNMIK letter Thursday said security was being heightened due to "an unconfirmed potential threat" but added that "the likelihood of a direct threat to UNMIK staff members at the present time is still considered to be low."

"If you notice anything suspicious or out of the ordinary, such as individuals following you, suspicious persons loitering around UNMIK buildings or compounds, or suspicious vehicles or packages left in the vicinity of UNMIK buildings or compounds report it immediately..." it said.

The NATO-led force of 18,000 is made up of troops from 34 countries including the United States and its 18 NATO allies.

"The security measures that have been seen in Pristina in the past 24 hours represent a measured, prudent and deterrent response to that threat," Thompson read from the statement.

"We will not identify any targets that may or may not have been nominated and neither will we discuss any of the operational aspects...," the statement added.


UNITED NATIONS NEWS CENTRE

Kosovo: UN reports unconfirmed potential threat against international entities

28 November - The United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) said today it had received information that an unconfirmed potential threat was made against international establishments there.

KFOR, the multinational force in Kosovo, and the police took precautionary security measures as of yesterday and these measures will remain in place until the threat is assessed to have eased, UNMIK said in a statement.


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Albanians Tear Down Serbian Flags in Southern Serbia to Commemorate the "Flag day"

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Free Serbia, other Serbian Media
November 28, 2003

Presevo, 28 Nov (Free Serbia) Ė On Friday, in Presevo (a Serbian city outside of Kosovo administrative boundaries), during the celebration of the Albanian national holiday, Serbian flags were taken down from the administrative building of the Presevo municipality, and were replaced with flags of Republic of Albania.

Before this act, around 3000 Presevo high school students walked around town carrying the Albanian flag in front and chanting such things as "Preshevo," "Eastern Kosovo," and "We want our rights." High school students from Preshevo demanded that city high school "25th of MayĒ (the Day of Youth) be renamed "Skenderbeg."

Presevo mayor Riza Halimi addressed the gathered students, congratulating them on Flag Day, and mentioning that this gathering had not been reported to the organs in charge, and warning them that they had to disband. Halimi also pointed that under the law for national minorities in Serbia, the use of symbols of other states is forbidden, and that having this in mind, the use of the flag of Republic of Albania is forbidden. "Our national symbol is similar to the symbol of another state, and that is the Republic of Albania," explained the mayor.

The protest finished in front of the high school building, from which the Serb flag was also taken down and was replaced with an Albanian flag.

 Police did not intervene in either case.

Covic Warns on Flag "provocation"

Politicians must resist provocations such as the flag of the Republic of Albanian being raised above the Presevo Municipal Council building, the head of Belgrade's South Serbia Coordination Centre said today.

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Beta News Agency, Belgrade
November 29, 2003

BUJANOVAC -- Friday - Politicians must resist provocations such as the flag of the Republic of Albanian being raised above the Presevo Municipal Council building, the head of Belgrade's South Serbia Coordination Centre said today.

Nebojsa Covic was commenting on a protest in Presevo this morning when ethnic Albanian high school students celebrated Albania's national holiday, Flag Day, by raising the Albanian flag on mast of the May 25 High School in the town.

Protesting Albanian students also called for the school's original name of Skenderbeg be restored. The name was changed in 1989.

Covic called for a restrained response, saying that Albanians had the right to their own flag, but must observe the official flag of Serbia and return it to the school mast.

"If someone thought we'd fall for these provocations, that the police or the security forces would attack the children, we'll we didn't, because we've seen that movie and learnt from it," he said.

Covic accused "some separatist and extremist factions from the Albanian community" of being involved in today's events.

"I wonder why these groups which manipulate children weren't brave enough to take the Serbia flag down from the council building themselves," he added.

The situation in Presevo and neighbouring Bujanovac was calm this afternoon.


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IWPR: Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia: Armed to the Teeth

Disarming civilians in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia means making them see guns are a threat to security, not a guarantee.

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RELIEF WEB

Source: Institute for War & Peace Reporting, London (IWPR)
Date: 27 Nov 2003


Source: IWPR and Saferworld
By David Quin, Vladimir Jovanovski and Ana Petruseva in Macedonia; Naser Miftari, Artan Mustafa and Jeta Xharra in Kosovo; and Ilir Aliaj and Lazar Semini in Albania (BCR No 470, 27-Nov-03)



Sweat pours down Emin Limani's face as he picks up gun after gun - and then shovels them into a furnace. He's melting them down as part of a scheme to disarm Kosovo.

There's still a long way to go. There are hundreds of thousands of weapons held illegally in the area, and taking them out of circulation is a big task.

The real challenge is to convince people that giving them up is a good idea. People like Emin, in fact. Despite his job, he is no advocate of disarmament. His face darkened when IWPR asked him how he feels about melting down the weapons.

"I feel very sorry that I have to destroy them, but what can I do?" he mumbled, as if ashamed.

With Kosovoīs final status still up in the air, Emin, like many others, believes these weapons mean safety, not a threat to security, and would like more guns to replace the ones in his furnace. "These are old anyway. We'll buy new ones - better ones with any luck."

The wars in the southern Balkans may be over, but the region remains heavily saturated with weapons. Many people in Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania have a Kalashnikov or some other gun at home. Just in case, they say.

The thousands of firearms held illegally are in part the legacy of the
1998-99 conflict in Kosovo and the 2001 conflict between Macedonian troops and Albanian insurgents.

But if they are just the leftovers of finished conflicts, why are there still so many of them around?

IWPR has talked to some of the owners as well as the officials who are trying to take the guns out of society, and discovered that many people are worried about protecting their family or business in an atmosphere of high crime levels. For others, memories of past conflicts remain vivid. And the unresolved question of whether Kosovo will end up independent or part of Serbia, together with occasional acts of violence by the shadowy Albanian National Army, ANA, in Macedonia, as well as other extremist groups elsewhere, do nothing to encourage a bright view of the future.

Other people say gun ownership has a lot to do with cultural pride - our forefathers carried weapons, and so will we. And that feeling is just as rooted in Macedonian and Serb communities as it is among Albanians.

Efforts to remove these weapons, both international and local, have met with limited success because of the political problems and because people are so attached to their guns. And also because there are simply so many of them in circulation. Many of the firearms came from Albania, where military stockpiles were raided wholesale in 1997. But plenty also came from what used to be the Yugoslav army, as guns were stolen, sold, or simply handed out to paramilitaries.

To get a sense of the scale of the problem, IWPR teams spoke to government officials, non-government organizations (NGOs), peacekeepers, police, and men and women in towns and villages across Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania. It became rapidly clear that there are a lot of guns in private hands - and that apart from the political implications of this in such a volatile part of the world, a lot of people are getting killed or injured in deliberate shootings or accidents.

Finding out exactly how many weapons there are in these three places is problematic, as estimates may be manipulated to suit political agendas.
And trying to pin down which community has more - Albanians or Macedonians, for example - is a contentious and prickly subject.

Macedonia's Guns - Legacy of a Brief Conflict

Macedonia faces a serious problem of over-armament. This is almost inevitable, given the small country's geography, sandwiched between Albania, Kosovo and Serbia.

The conflict of 2001 was clearly an important factor in the arming of civilian population - ethnic Macedonians as well as the Albanian rebels.
Depending on your viewpoint, the war was the catalyst for so many firearms coming into the country, or a consequence.

A year and a half later, despite the best efforts of international disarmament programmes, the weapons are still there. This is due to a combination of persisting instability, large-scale unemployment and porous borders.

Data on gun ownership are hard to come by, and figures vary greatly. The London-based think tank Saferworld, in a report entitled Macedonia:
Guns, Policing and Ethnic Division published in October 2003, quoted a local estimate of 80,000 to 100,000 illegally-held weapons and, for comparison, another official estimate of 700,000. Recent data collected by the Small Arms Survey, an NGO based in Geneva, suggests that between 100,000 and 170,000 people hold weapons illegally - some of them more than one.

Even the more conservative estimates are alarming for a population of just over two million.

In addition, as of the end of March 2003 there were another 156,000 licensed guns in legal ownership, most of them in private hands.

Weapons have always been present in Macedonian society, carried as a mark of manhood. Many more became available in the Nineties as military stores were plundered across the former Yugoslavia. In 1997, arms proliferation accelerated suddenly following the mass looting of gun depots in Albania.

The Kosovo war which began the following year sparked a further upsurge in availability, as weaponry was trafficked through Macedonia and in some cases stockpiled in secret dumps there.

In 2000, after that conflict had ended, NATO forces began disarming the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA. According to Saferworld, "Observers at the time reported that that many arms were brought into northern Albania and regions of Macedonia."

As a result of these various arms flows, there was no shortage of weapons when an Albanian guerrilla force calling itself the National Liberation Army, NLA, appeared and in January 2001 launched an insurgency in northern Macedonia. Government security forces struggled to regain control of these areas. In August 2001, the government signed what became known as the Ohrid Agreement with the NLA rebels, who agreed to stop fighting and disarm in return for political concessions. NATO deployed troops to oversee the peace.

Gezim Ostreni heads the Macedonian government's National Co-ordination Body, set up in 2003 to handle the voluntary surrender of weapons. He is one of a number of former rebels brought into mainstream Macedonian structures as a consequence of the Ohrid deal. IWPR asked him about the NLA's weapons because of his role as the organisation's chief of staff during the conflict, and before that a KLA commander in Kosovo. In the interview, he laughed off questions about how the rebels had armed themselves, saying the details were "still a military secret".

Ostreni was keen to draw a distinction between the rebels' armaments and the current situation, where weapons remain in civilian hands. The NLA weapons, he said, were all dealt with by the NATO peacekeepers'
Essential Harvest disarmament operation following the Ohrid accord.

"All the weapons we used to own were handed over to NATO, and they have been destroyed," he said. "Now we need to collect the weapons that are in the hands of civilians, which is completely a different problem.
These arms are not controlled by a hierarchy and are beyond anyone's control, so it is civilians who are the victims."

Ostreni's claim is likely to be based on the fact that NATO was able to collect approximately 3,800 small arms and light weapons - well above the target of 3,000 that the NLA had signed up to. But some observers believe that neither figure came close to the true number of guns the rebels held.

Nowadays, the main challenge to the government's monopoly of armed force comes from the ANA, which claims to have active guerrilla forces in Kosovo and the mainly Albanian Presevo valley region of southern Serbia, as well as Macedonia. It shot to fame in 2003 when it claimed responsibility for a number of small-scale attacks carried out in all three places. It is difficult to assess its strength, though the number in Macedonia is likely to run into the low hundreds rather than thousands. It claims to be pursuing the pan-Albanian agenda apparently abandoned by both the KLA and NLA, though analysts also suggest it is linked with organised criminals who exploit the poorly policed former crisis areas of Macedonia, where cross-border smuggling is rife.

The persistent presence of both ANA and armed criminals in predominantly Albanian parts of the country fuels Macedonian fears of a resurgence of violence, and reinforces the widespread view that the Albanian minority is much the greater offender when it comes to stockpiling and using illegal arms.

In Kumanovo, where some of the worst fighting in 2001 took place, some Macedonians are clear who is to blame.

"The Albanians in Kumanovo and the surrounding area are armed to the teeth," said one local man who was conscripted into the Macedonian army as a tank driver during the 2001 conflict. "There isn't a house that doesn't have a Kalashnikov. The police should go into their basements and confiscate the guns and rocket launchers."

Although it is hard to test this assumption, informed observers believe there are more weapons in Albanian hands. "It appears that illegal possession may be more common among members of the Albanian community,"
said the recent Saferworld report. "The high level of mistrust between the ethnic Albanian community and the state means that Albanians have had little incentive to register their weapons or acquire them legally, and a large number of weapons remain uncollected following the 2001 crisis."

Yet as the report points out, the view that the Albanians are the sole culprits is only partly accurate. Majority Macedonian areas in the south and east have not been immune to gun proliferation.

"There are arms among both Macedonians and Albanians," General Zehedin Tushi, the Macedonian army's deputy chief of staff, told IWPR. "It is part of the so-called gun culture that rules across the entire Balkans."

General Tushi, who is an ethic Albanian, believes that much of the arms smuggling trade has stopped because the market is now saturated. The small amount now coming in "mostly enters at the border crossings, where roads exist, and not across the mountains", he said.

Others agree that the problem cuts across the ethnic divide, and that the government should apply equal pressure for disarmament across the entire country. Boris Stojmenov, the outspoken leader of the VMRO-Macedonia party and owner of Channel 5 TV in Skopje, told IWPR that "disarmament should not be carried out only in northwestern Macedonia, but also in other parts of the country, where the Macedonians are in the majority.

"After the war, lots of weapons also accumulated in eastern, central and southern Macedonia. In Skopje, Stip, Bitola and Strumica, shootings are even more frequent than in Tetovo and Kumanovo."

In Kumanovo, where both groups still live in the same neighbourhoods, one young Albanian told IWPR, "It is not true that only the Albanians are armed. If you had visited Kumanovo on New Year's Eve, you'd have heard bursts of gunfire and you'd have thought you were in Baghdad. The shooting came from every building."

Ethnic Macedonians Also Involved

On the ethnic Macedonian side, gun ownership isn't just a matter of arms left over from other Balkan conflicts. The nationalist VMRO government, which was ousted last year, was responsible for handing out weapons during the 2001 conflict.

Many of these were handed out to reserve policemen and soldiers, and to civilian units pulled together in ethnic Macedonian villages. One of the most controversial was the creation of the Lions , a paramilitary police force, in June 2001 by the then interior minister Ljube Boskovski.
Formed around a core of professional police, the unit recruited reservists who were often VMRO members, and issued them with firearms.
The Lions were disbanded in 2002.

After the conflict efforts were made to retrieve these weapons, but opinions differ as to how successful this has been. The current interior minister, Hari Kostov, claims that the operation to get the guns back is almost complete, "All the weapons that Ljube Boskovski handed over during the crisis, and which were in the hands of the police reservists, have been handed back. There are only three or four people who received about 500 automatic weapons [in all] and have not returned them."

Despite this upbeat assessment, a senior police officer in Kostov's ministry told IWPR that the issue is far from closed because it is hard to track how many guns were issued since there were so few checks at the time. "At the time, automatic weapons were handed over without the appropriate controls, and no strict records were kept on who was getting a Kalashnikov," the officer, who did not want to be identified, said.
"Those arms which were recorded have been returned. But often the guns were handed out direct from the warehouses with no record at all."

What made things worse was that some of the reservists selected for the Lions had criminal records. Emin Salah, an expert at the interior ministry, recently said that between 1999 and 2002, when VMRO was in power, 2,425 gun licences were issued to people who had been through the penal system, most of them ethnic Macedonians.

Crime and Poverty

While tensions between the Macedonian and Albanian communities have decreased since 2001, conflict has been replaced by an epidemic of gun crimes. Figures released in October by the Macedonian Institute for Arms show that 71 people had been killed in shootings so far in 2003, continuing the trend of 2002, when there were 84 such murders. That makes Macedonia one of Europe's most dangerous countries for gun-related crime.

Some of the victims may have been shot in personal disputes, but there is clearly a problem with gangland conflicts, especially in northern and western areas where smuggling is big business and policing still poor.

Dr Dragan Markovic, a surgeon in the central hospital in Tetovo, in north-west Macedonia, has seen his share of the consequences. A specialist in chest surgery, Dr Markovic is part of a small team who, despite pitifully low wages and outdated equipment, try to patch together the victims of gun crime.

If he looks tired, it's hardly surprising. He told IWPR that last year he performed between 100 and 150 operations, mainly on men aged from 15 to 30, with bullet wounds to the chest, arms, back and legs. Those shot in the head have to go to Skopje, 40 kilometres away. "There's nothing we can do for them here," said Markovic.

The surgeon says this crime wave is not really to do with ethnicity - he reckons he operates on roughly the same number of Albanians and Macedonians.

The root cause of the violence, he says, is poverty - unemployment, officially reported at 37 per cent, driving many men into organised crime.

Modest Results from Disarmament Efforts

A year after it swept VMRO from power, the present current government - a coalition between the Socialist Democratic Union of Macedonia and the Democratic Union for Integration - began a major programme to encourage the voluntary surrender of weapons.

A media campaign which began in September advertised the nationwide amnesty from November 1, the emphasis being placed on changing the way weapons are viewed in both Albanian and Macedonian communities. As an incentive, the government announced that everyone who surrendered a firearm would be entered in a prize draw to win a car. Cynics joked that for many, a new Kalashnikov would have been a more attractive prize.

The 45-day amnesty involves 123 collection points where people can turn up with unlicensed guns - or legal ones that they no longer want. As of November 15 - two weeks into the amnesty - Blagoja Markovski, in charge of the scheme, said his officials had collected 389 weapons . The haul included rocket launchers, mines and explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition, as well as an assortment of automatic rifles and pistols.

A third of the way through the process, these figures suggest that the final number collected will not exceed a small percentage of the tens of thousands of illegal firearms believed to be in circulation.

Before the campaign began, some in the international community voiced concerns that it was ill thought-out and premature. Diplomats had earlier urged the government to schedule the amnesty for next spring so that it would have more time to prepare. In September, a senior diplomatic source told IWPR, "They [the government] insisted they are ready but we have no information about how they are going to do it. What is not clear is why they do not want to assure success before they start such an action."

One major concern is that the process will be uneven, as Albanians remain more reluctant to let go of their guns given their continuing lack of confidence in the government's security forces.

"There is no way this action would produce significant results," an analyst, who asked not to be named, told IWPR before the amnesty got under way. "Albanians are not prepared to give in their weapons, and that is because they still have a need for them because the multi-ethnic police are not up to the task. They need them to protect themselves not only from Macedonians but from Albanians as well.

"They will hand up anything they have that is superfluous, but they'll always keep a firearm lying around the house."

The evidence so far tends to confirm this view. IWPR has learned that the amnesty has been most successful in Skopje and in some Macedonian-majority areas in the west and centre of the country. It has also been told off the record by several sources involved in the process that the Albanians in western Macedonia do appear to be better armed than most, and weapons here are not being surrendered as readily as elsewhere.

An added complication is that analysts fear that opposition parties - both Macedonian and Albanian - may oppose the process. So far the Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, led by Arben Xhaferi, has refused to back the campaign, and has tried to block amnesty efforts in the north-west. And there are concerns that the VMRO may do the same among its ethnic Macedonian constituency.

The government has been reticent about what it would do if faced with such organised opposition. During the summer, the prime minister's national security adviser, Dr. Lazar Kitanovski, admitted that "we haven't prepared a strategy what to do if the DPA or VMRO block the disarmament campaign. The only thing that we could do is bring it out into the open, and show the international community who is hindering demilitarisation and reconciliation in our republic".

A second government strategy is to introduce tougher laws on gun registration, which are now in the process of approval. But General Tushi, the army's deputy chief of staff, believes that changes in legislation will not have much impact if the disarmament process is imposed from above.

"We are going to adopt a new disarmament law, but will it be worth anything if ordinary people refuse to accept it?" he said. "There is a significant degree of distrust of the authorities among the Albanian population. In addition, there is a great deal of ethnic intolerance and hatred. The Albanians have to be involved in this process so that it can be explained to them that arms pose a threat above all to them and their families."

Despite reservations over the way the campaign has been handled, the main concern for Saferworld is that it should be the start of a process where people increasingly feel secure enough to abandon guns as a way of life.

"The government has demonstrated the importance it attaches to disarmament by launching the amnesty, but this is only the first step,"
Saferworld director Paul Eavis said in a press release at the start of the amnesty. "The process must be supported by measures to improve the long-term security in the country and wider region, to ensure members of both ethnic communities feel sufficiently secure to give up their weapons."

Kosovars Keep Powder Dry

North of the border, in Kosovo, there are even more firearms left over from conflict. A report by Small Arms Survey in June 2003 estimated that there are between 330,000 and 460,000 small arms and light weapons in Kosovo, some 300,000 of them unlicensed. And a poll conducted by the group suggested that two out of three households in the area have a gun.

Meanwhile, a survey by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, produced startling evidence that one in five school students is armed.

As in Macedonia, the international community started its disarmament effort almost as soon as the conflict was over. In June 1999, NATO began the delicate task of collecting weapons from the KLA. The 20,000-strong force was told to surrender its weapons in preparation for being transformed into the civilian Kosovo Protection Corps, KPC. By the time the process ended in October 1999, the KLA had handed over more than 6,000 firearms to the NATO-led Kosovo Force, KFOR.

The new KPC was allowed to retain stocks of 2,000 rifles, of which 200 are used to guard military facilities and the rest are held in secure storage.

Legislation was tightened, with the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK, taking charge of weapons registration and control, and threatening heavy fines and up to 10 years imprisonment for anyone caught without a proper license.

But this hand-over of arms was just the tip of the iceberg. Weapons keep on being discovered in their thousands. According to KFOR data seen by IWPR, the peacekeepers have seized and destroyed 18,000 illegally held weapons since entering Kosovo in June 1999. KFOR's Major Hans Lampalzer says the finds have included rifles, anti-tank weapons and six million rounds of ammunition.

One night in August this year, a team of KFOR soldiers netted three tonnes of ammunition packed into two boats floating on the river Drini on the border with Albania. There was no one on board, and it remains unclear what the story was behind this arms find, the largest since KFOR took charge in 1999.

UNMIK police have also played a significant role in confiscating weapons. From June 1999 until the end of February this year, they confiscated 3,361 illegal guns, including automatic and sniper rifles.

As in Macedonia, a large proportion of the weapons surrendered or seized originated in Albania, when arms depots were plundered in 1997.

There have been a number of small-scale schemes to promote and publicise disarmament. One joint project between KFOR, the UN, the Kosovo prime minister's office and the local women's group Jeta Ime has seen weapons melted down and turned into manhole covers and souvenirs, which are then sold across Kosovo. While the guns may be the result of confiscations rather than voluntary surrenders, it is still good propaganda for the latter.

This year, the UNDP launched a more ambitious surrender scheme that was linked to incentives, because people are so clearly reluctant to give their weapons up. Using money donated by the Japanese government, the UNDP promised to spend 675,000 US dollars on building schools, health and community centres in whichever three municipalities collected the most firearms.

But despite the publicity campaign surrounding it, the one-month amnesty which ended on October 1 was disappointing. Only 155 weapons were handed in. It should be added that many more were registered and became legal, thus contributing to greater public regulation of ownership.

The UNDP in Kosovo is still looking at where it goes from here. "We still don't know why we were unable to make a dent in the numbers of illegal weapons still in circulation," said Marie-France Desjardins, programme manager of the UNDP's Illicit Small Arms Control Project. "We have to think hard about it and discover where we went wrong."

The scheme followed the "weapons-for-development" model piloted and used with some success in Albania. Why, then, should it have been a failure?

Local people interviewed by IWPR gave a variety of reasons. As in Macedonia, general crime levels and lack of faith in the police make people concerned to protect their families by themselves. But the incentive scheme appears to have been ill-conceived given the widespread public distrust in local government, which meant people suspect that the community would never see any of the donor assistance. In Albania, by contrast, the UNDP remained in control of how the money was spent.

Guns are used for all sorts of things in Kosovo - settling scores in feuds and maintaining a sense of security at home. But a dominant theme among ethnic Albanians interviewed by IWPR was that holding onto weapons reflects a sense of unease about the future. Many are mistrustful of the international community's intentions for Kosovo's final status. As one man put it, "If they don't give us independence, that might mean that Serbian [security] forces are allowed to come back - and we don't want to be caught empty-handed when that happens."

Although preliminary talks between Belgrade and Pristina began in October, few Kosovo Albanians or Serbs feel that a peaceful resolution of the area's disputed status is likely soon.

In towns and villages across Kosovo fear of the future and memories of the past, combined with doubts over the effectiveness of police to protect them, means both Serbs and Albanians will keep their weapons.

Disarming Kosovo means convincing the residents of villages like Prekaz to hand in their weapons. This small village, 16 km north of Pristina, lies in the Drenica valley, the KLA's old heartland. It looks like many other Kosovo villages - insular, surrounded by neat fields and rolling hills, with farms built the old way with a towerhouse in one corner, and villagers getting on with rebuilding their lives after the war.

What marks Prekaz out is the key role it played in the start of the Kosovo conflict in 1998. The village is home to the Jashari clan, who were famed from Ottoman times, always armed and always fiercely independent. The last clan chieftain, Shaban Jashari, died side by side with his two sons - one of them, Adem, a founding member of the KLA - and 52 other relatives vainly fending off a three-day Serb attack, which ended after heavy artillery smashed the village to pieces.

The Jasharis' last stand has become legend among Kosovo Albanians, and is immortalised in popular songs and posters.

Here people laugh at the very idea of surrendering their guns. This is a place that believes in defending itself. With memories of war still fresh in people's minds, convincing them that anyone else can provide security will take a seismic shift in attitudes.

Sitting on his ancient tractor, 50-year old Gani Xhemajli stopped ploughing his field to talk to IWPR. He is adamant that disarming is a bad idea, "Even if I had weapons, I wouldn't hand them in, because I don't believe that either the police or KFOR can keep me safe at any time."

He said neither the local or international police forces, nor the peacekeepers are to be trusted because so few serious crimes are solved, "You need a weapon to protect yourself, as all we hear from police when there's a murder is that the investigation is ongoing. And in most cases nothing happens."

Figures from UNMIK police seem to back this assertion. Out of 44 murder cases recorded this year, 26 remain unresolved.

Mytaher Haskuka, a psychologist working for the UNDP, agrees that many people in Kosovo have little faith in the rule of law. And, he says, this mistrust goes back a long way before the recent war, and is rooted in the Albanians' historical reliance on self-defence because of the weak writ of central governments in this part of the world down through the years.

"The lack of a state, and of state institutions, leads people to take justice in their own hands," he told IWPR. "In this respect, weapons have become a sort of cult among Albanians, in particular in Kosovo and northern Albania, where historically there has been a lack of authority in imposing the rule of law. As long as people feel unsafe there will always be a tendency for them to carry weapons."

But as in Macedonia, it is not just the Albanians who are armed. The Serb minority appears to be no more willing to part with its weapons.
"We believe that none of the security forces operating in Kosovo at the moment are able to fully protect the Serbs, so we have to look out for ourselves," said one man from the enclave of Gracanica.

Arms were distributed to the Kosovo Serbs throughout the Nineties by the interior ministry in Belgrade, and more were handed out by the Yugoslav army when it withdrew from the region in June 1999.

The already low level of trust between Serbs and Albanians was further damaged over the summer by a series of ethnically motivated attacks on both sides. One of the sadder incidents happened in August, when a gunmen fired at a group of teenagers swimming in a river near the Serb enclave of Gorazdevac, killing two of them, including an 11-year old Serb boy.

Albania's Sudden Glut of Guns

Not all the guns used in the Kosovo and Macedonian conflicts came from Albania. But the sudden flood of weapons looted from 1,300 army depots across the country in 1997 meant there were more available at lower prices than ever before.

Civil disturbances broke out all over in Albania in March that year as angry crowds took to the streets to protest about the collapse of "pyramid" investment schemes. In poverty-stricken Albania, people had been willing to risk putting their money into private funds which promised high returns - but had no financial foundation and could pay out dividends only as long as new investments kept coming in. When the schemes collapsed, thousands were left penniless, and demanded compensation from the government - which was itself close to bankruptcy.

Mobs began looting shops, and swarmed over army stockpiles grabbing what they could. According to government data, the military lost 550,000 weapons, 31,000 hand grenades, at least 840 million rounds of ammunition, and large amounts of explosives. Other estimates put the number of weapons that went missing higher, at 650,000.

The government estimates that of the 550,000 guns it believes were stolen, 200,000 have since been recovered, and 150,000 were trafficked out of the country, leaving another 200,000 still in civilian hands.

Faced with such an unprecedented situation, the Albanian authorities responded with a nationwide initiative, organising operations to collect the firearms. It began in August 1997 by declaring an amnesty for the voluntary surrender of looted guns. A government commission was set up to oversee the collection process. In May 2000, the commission expanded its activity by recruiting around 250 police officers especially for the task. Although this force was subsequently reduced, officers have visited more than one million homes since 1997 asking people to hand over guns voluntarily or sign a declaration that they have none.

Parliament has twice extended the deadline for the surrender, and it will now end in spring 2005.

Novel Incentive Scheme

To reinforce the government's amnesty, the UNDP has run a series of programmes linking arms surrenders explicitly to funding for local development projects.

The first was a two-year pilot project which began in 1998 in the Gramsh district, chosen because it had a large army garrison from which large quantities of weapons had been stolen. By the time it finished in 2000, it had netted 5,000 guns and established a basic model for providing development projects in exchange for communal handovers of weapons.

It was followed by Weapons in Exchange for Development, WED, a project in the Elbasan and Diber districts which ended in 2002 after 6,000 firearms had been collected. The same basic approach was used but this time made provision for the elimination of weapons - 16,000 were destroyed.

The current programme is known as Small Arms and Light Weapons Control, SALWC. It picked up from WED but with limited funding available for the five areas it was aiming to help - Tirana, Shkodra, Lezha, Kukes and Vlora - it introduced an element of competition. Those villages, districts or municipalities which collect the most guns win funds for a previously-identified local development need. "We introduced a formula that figured the most successful villages, based on weapons handed in per head of the population," said Lawrence Doczy, UNDP Albania's programme manager for security sector reform, and previously manager of the SALWC project. "At village level, those who handed in the most weapons would receive a maximum 20,000 dollars, at municipality level 50,000 dollars. We announced from the very beginning that any community could participate."

The effect is multiplied through a publicity campaign telling people about the benefits of disarming. In 2003, a new component - security-sector reform, focusing on community-based policing - was added to SALWC.

The significance of these weapons-for-development schemes is not so much the number of guns they have turned up - around 18,000 have been handed over in all three UNDP projects - as their impact in gradually altering long-held preconceptions about weapon ownership.

Another important factor - and one that distinguishes these projects from the recent UNDP-funded amnesty month in Kosovo - is that in Albania, it was the UN that managed and disbursed the money, not the local authorities.

In private, UN sources have told IWPR that now gun ownership legislation has been tightened up, the Albanian government should not extend its amnesty any further than the current deadline, spring 2005. Instead, they said, the rule of law should be applied by the police's firearms collection force.

"If the Albanian government wants to help change attitudes, then national amnesties have to stop and police have to implement legislation on the ground," a UN source told IWPR.

Crime and Trafficking

The huge trafficking business that sprang up in 1997 and helped feed the Kosovo and Macedonian conflicts began dying down as demand for guns receded when these wars ended.

The Albanian authorities' efforts to stem the trade were helped by the partnership they forged with UNMIK in Kosovo.

"You should bear in mind that our area [Kukes, northern Albania] borders on two regions which were engulfed in armed conflicts for some time, Kosovo and Macedonia," Medi Canga, the regional police chief in Kukes told IWPR. "But I am quite certain when I say that there is no longer any trafficking of arms going on in the region; there is zero trafficking. There are several reasons for this, but as far as Kosovo is concerned, the main one is that we have established very good collaboration with UNMIK. As for Macedonia, we are heavily patrolling the border area."

Canga warns that police have to remain alert, "We have information that many stashes of arms have been placed along the border. Criminal groups may not be trafficking these arms, but they have hidden them, maybe for later use."

Avni Jashellari, the head of the counter-trafficking unit established in the interior ministry in 2001, agrees that the general trend is downwards. He believes that organised criminals may have turned their attention to more profitable trades such as narcotics and human trafficking now that there is less demand for guns. "One of the reasons for the fall in arms trafficking is that the situation in neighbouring countries is now more stable and the chance of renewed armed conflict there is lower," he told IWPR. "Another reason might be that criminal groups which were involved in arms trafficking have now turned to other criminal activities."

In the central port city of Vlora, where the civil unrest began in 1997, local police chief Lieutenant-Colonel Neritan Nallbati says the real problem now is not international trafficking but local gangsters. "Many in the civilian population still have arms, but in most cases they are in the hands of criminal groups operating in the city, who use them to protect themselves from rival groups," he said. "As for trafficking to neighbouring countries, we have had no cases - and not even received any information about it."

CONCLUSION

The view from Albania is that this is going to be a long and slow process involving government, law enforcement officers and local communities - and one where everyone concerned has to buy into the concept of disarmament.

In each of the places IWPR visited - Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania - weapons proliferation has been closely associated with instability and conflict. But in each the political context has differed significantly, and this has determined the varying degrees of reluctance to give up weapons. The role the state and international community has played in encouraging or forcing disarmament has also differed from place to place, and so has the public's response to these measures.

The lessons from Kosovo and Macedonia suggest that changes in the law and one-off amnesties are not enough - the key is to alter public attitudes at grassroots level, which are rooted in tradition as well as in perceptions of political instability and crime. Unless this is achieved, the reluctance to give up private arsenals will remain insurmountable.

There's a need to invest disarmament with the same political and social importance that armament has traditionally held in these societies - by incentives, or other innovative schemes.

Xhavit Shala, the chief of police in Lezhe, a district in northern Albania, has invented his own system for persuading people to part with their beloved weapons, gradually and without alarming them too much.

He started by getting his own officers to hand over just one item from their family arsenal - for instance a vintage Austrian gun from the First World War. This bottom-up method worked, and it quickly snowballed - so far Shala has collected a large stockpile including 165 firearms, 12 anti-tank rockets, and he has received tip-offs of arms caches due to be trafficked

"I can see that the community believes in the arms collection programme. One less weapon means one less crime," said Shala.

In Macedonia, disarmament official Gezim Ostreni told IWPR that people still harbour misconceptions about the danger of firearm proliferation.

"These weapons do not pose a threat for the state, contrary to what is commonly believed," he said. "They pose a threat to people who live in the vicinity of the owners. They will be used not to start uprisings, but to shoot at one's own children or neighbours. I've been through two wars, and I know that well."

This investigative report was produced by David Quin, Co-ordinating Editor in Skopje; with material contributed by Ilir Aliaj and Lazar Semini in Albania, Naser Miftari, Artan Mustafa and Jeta Xharra in Kosovo, and Vladimir Jovanovski and Ana Petruseva in Macedonia.

The investigation formed part of Saferworld's small arms and light weapons project, as part of its efforts to develop civil-society capacity to work on small arms issues in South Eastern Europe, for which the UK Government provided funds.

Saferworld (www.saferworld.org.uk) does not necessarily endorse the views expressed in this article.


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Opinions About Kosovo-Albania Union

Leading ethni Albanian politicians reveal that the idea of territorial unification of all Albanians in the Balkans remains the final goal. Independence of Kosovo is a focal element in this pan-Albanian strategy which is, as Paskal Milo observes: a strategic objective to all Albanians and nobody dobuts it.

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28 Nov. (Epoka e Re, Pristina daily in Albanian)

                Servet Pellumbi: I judge that every initiative that comes out and has for a goal to find an option to come out of this situation is something good. Related to this, I evaluate the LPK initiative, which is very clear and meaningful. There are some inner factors that we should examine more with this initiative, in order for not to remain only as an idea, but to be concretely realized. The initiative for the creation of the Kosova-Albania Union sounds very beautiful, but it seems to me unrealizable for the moment, even thou it has its legal base and logic.

                Paskal Milo: It is a strategic objective to All Albanians and nobody doubts it. Itís a time and method issue how is this Union is going to be realized. If you think to split the tasks of the whole Albanian political spectrum to pressure the decision-maker factors, Iím congratulating you, because itís a vigilant and excellent political play.

                Leka Zogu: This is an imperative for our nation and the first step towards a united Albania. You will have my support till the end and I wonít spare anything to help you.

                Sabri Godo: Anyone that has Albanian blood should have this idea in his heart when the time comes. In my opinion, it is early to talk about this subject now. For the start, we should try for the independence of Kosova that will be a very big thing for us. I totally agree to use this as a pressure, but Iím skeptical that there can be found a serious political force in Albania to openly support this initiative.

                Abdurrahman Aliti: This initiative, in different periods, has been a preoccupation of all Albanians. In the time of integration of whole world, there is no reason why we shouldnít integrate. Iím impressed by the fact that you choose the way for this issue to be solved in democratic way. Iím totally agreeing with you for this integration to happen in the first place between Albanians and after that to integrate in Europe.

                Ali Ahmeti: Even though we agreed with the co-governing partner (Branko Crvenkovski) not to make any declaration of Kosovaís status, I still feel as a LPK member, and as such, I must support the project for Kosova-Albania Union!

                Daut Maloku: You, with the name and tradition that you have, deserve to lead this issue on. Of course that there is going to be needed cooperation on other subjects as well. Iím ready that in the name of the party that Iím governing with, to help in this direction and to accept any task that youíll authorize me for this cause.

                Milazim Krasniqi: Albania-Kosova Union remains as a last option, because the international communityís aggressiveness and indolence of the Albanian institutional factor are seriously and fatally destroying the project for independence of Kosova.

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Serbian Orthodox Church Supports Constitutional Parliamentary Monarchy

His Holiness Pavle, the Patriarch of Serbia has sent, on behalf of the Holly Synod of Serbian Orthodox Church a letter of support to HRH Crown Prince Alexander II and Constitutional Parliamentary Monarchy:

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Patriarchal palace
Belgrade, 29 November 2003


Your Royal Highness,

Regarding Your esteemed letter of 21 November 2003, it is our honor to reply as following:

The entire history of Serbian people is in the sign of our rulers and ruling houses. In the recent two hundred years, a particular role was played by Karadjordjevic Dynasty. Without the Supreme Leader Karadjordje, the liberation of Serbian nation from the Ottoman slavery is unthinkable, just as the personalities of King Peter I and King Alexander the Unifier are built in the very quintessence of our state and Serbian people in the first half of the 19th century. Thus the national saying "It is no good without a King", was proven right in the period after WW2 and the second half of the 20th century, when under the form of democracy, under a president, a reign of tyranny unprecedented in the history of Serbian people was established. Contrary to that, at the same time, European countries that had preserved parliamentary monarchy, now represent examples of prosperous and well organized countries, flagships of true democracy.

Because of that, Your Royal Highness, it is clear to everybody that the Church, in its very nature against any form of violence, stands on the point of view that the decision on abolishing monarchy, as well as many other decisions (confiscation of property etc.) brought in 1945, were the result of tyranny and as such should be declared null and void by the official institutions of any truly democratic society, in the name of Godís love and justice, and true general welfare and freedom. It goes without saying that this is not in the Churchís jurisdiction. The Church is here to pray for and support those who are in charge to bring such decision, to create normal premises for the recovery of our society and our state, as well as the conditions for the rule of law and final victory of justice.

In that name, Your Royal Highness, please accept the expressions of our special respect.

With Godís blessing

Patriarch of Serbia
Pavle


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News from Kosovo and Metohija, Nov 28

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www.inet.co.yu

I*Net News, Belgrade

Friday 28 November 2003

20:20 Speaking on the state holiday of the Republic of Albania, Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova emphasized in Pristina that "formal recognition of the independence of Kosovo will pacify the region and contribute to the stabilization of the situation, as well as democratic progress".

20:00 UNMIK press spokeswoman Isabella Karlowicz said today that the continuation of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina is not expected until the beginning of next year, and that this would be at the level of the task groups, which have not yet been formed.

19:40 During today's celebration of state holiday of the Republic of Albania in the south of Serbia, the Serbian flag was removed from the Presevo municipal building and replaced with an Albanian flag.

16:00 UNMIK chief Harri Holkeri confirmed that security measures in Kosovo have been beefed up but denied the existence of direct danger as a result of terrorist attacks on members of the international mission in Kosovo.

12:40 Macedonian defense minister Vlado Buckovski said on Thursday in Pristina that Skopje is ready to accept and respect any political solution for Kosovo achieved through dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade as long as it does not represent a threat to the interests and territorial integrity of Macedonia.

12:20 Serbia and Montenegro deputy parliamentary speaker Milorad Drljevic and Albanian parliament speaker Servet Pelumbi agreed on Thursday in Tirana that the issue of Kosovo can be resolved only in accordance with international standards and UN Security Council Resolution 1244. Pelumbi especially welcomed the beginning of dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

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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

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