Wednesday, July 26, 2006

where is my time going....

much to my dismay - i've been unable to reinstate the habit of posting selected news clippings and commentary on the Balkans. apparently, that was much easier whilst attending grad school. now, my efforts and attention are on redemption department in full effect.

here's a sampling of my stuff - in case you're interested

Thursday, July 06, 2006

getting back into it...

I've got a bit more time now ... so I'm going to start posting stuff again - currently there are less than one person visiting this site per day. So if that is you, hold on to your seat (or don't).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Who does Serbia hate more - James Lyon, or James Lion?

In a recent article posted on, the Beta News Agency quotes International Crisis Group's James Lion (though his name is actually Lyon) in his feeling that the will to arrest Mladic is simply not present in Serbia.

Lyons primarily blames the failure to arrest Mladic on Kostunica, who has filled the Security Information Agency with criminal cronies. “Why would they do this now? What has changed? The police, the SIA and the military are not under civil control. That is why I have reasons to doubt that these structures would even issue a warrant, much less arrest Mladić.” Lion (sic) said.

My first instinct regarding the mispelling of his name was that it was a subliminal gesture of disrespect to an analyst that is so constently critical of the Serbian polity. Maybe its just a misprint, they probably forgot to ask him how he spells his name on the phone.

Having spoken about Lyons with several of my Serbian friends, I got a clear impression that the guy is not very popular in Serbian circles. One the one hand, he understands Serbia very well, and tells it like it is, in a way in which almost no other Balkan analayst has over the past several years. (See ICG's excellent reports on Serbia and Kosovo at On the other hand, Lyons is clearly a representative of the ICG, which has indelible ties to the Western powers, and has, in my opinion, often taken stances on Serbia that are far too incriminating, and do not appropriately take into account the myriad challenges Serbia has faced on their post-Milosevic path towards democratization. Having said that, Lyons is dead on in blaming much of Serbia's woes on the West, which he specifically notes the lack of political pressure to present Mladic and Karadzic to the ICTY. In my opinion, the West's involvement with Serbia has been accompanied by a sort of ex post facto punitive agenda for Serbia, almost to make up for the West's mishandling of the civil war in the 90's.

In the end, perhaps a more fitting question is who is more unpopular for their recent calls on the Serbian Government for failing to arrest, and even protecting Mladic, Lyons or Draskovic? One thing is for certain, either these two figures are uniquely accusatory in their perspective on Serbia's ICTY cooperation, or there is a hell of a lot of dissent suppression going on in Serbia. Whether they are right or not, there is certainly a need for more critical views to be expressed on Serbia's politics, if not only for Serbs themselves.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Pyramid in Bosnia -- Huge Hoax or Colossal Find

Sean Markey
for National Geographic News
May 12, 2006
link here

He's been called a Balkan Indiana Jones. Others label him a dreamer, or worse, a pyramid buff with loony ideas.

Despite his critics (and he has many) Semir "Sam" Osmanagic believes he's discovered the find of a lifetime—a series of ancient pyramids in the heart of Bosnia.

Visoko Pyramid Piggy-Banks - as appropriate as they are optimistic.

If the Bosnian-American businessman is correct, the structures would be the first known step pyramids in Europe.

"I am 100 percent sure. There is no other option," the Houston, Texas-based Osmanagic said.

At the heart of Osmanagic's belief is Visocica hill, an undeniably pyramid-shaped mound near the town of Visoko, 18 miles (30 kilometers) northwest of Sarajevo.

Visoko, the former medieval capital of Bosnia, cradles a rich history, including Roman and Illyrian ruins and countless Neolithic artifacts.

"Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun"

Last month Osmanagic and his team began sinking a series of wells into the 700-foot-tall (213-meter-tall) hill, which Osmanagic renamed the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun.

The kick-off was observed by a clutch of onlookers, journalists, and—in what may be a first for such endeavors—contestants from the Miss Bosnia beauty pageant.

So far a mixed crew of volunteers and hired help has unearthed a network of tunnels along with what Osmanagic describes as ancient mortar and sandstone blocks shaped by human hands.

He says the pyramid is at least 2,500 years old and may even date to the last ice age, which ended about 10,000 years ago.

"Hopefully we can find some organic material, you know, the bones or the wooden fragments, or charcoal. … Then we can tell for sure," he said.

In recent months thousands of tourists have flooded into Visoko to peer at the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun and its neighbors, the nearby hills christened the Pyramids of the Moon and the Dragon.

Local entrepreneurs have been quick to cash in on the interest, knocking out pyramid-themed souvenirs, including clocks, slippers, and T-shirts.

One pizza parlor now serves triangular pies on triangular platters. And a local hotel recently changed its name to the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun Motel.

Supporters say the dig is a spade of positive news in the once war-torn country, which endured a brutal four-year civil conflict in the 1990s.

In an email, Bosnian Meho said he was "amazed with a finding [of] pyramids, like many others Bosnians."

"This is [the] first positive thing, and so many of us now [are] getting together [for the] first time after the war, because we [have] got something positive to talk about."

Osmanagic echoes the sentiment: "Finally we have something so positive happening in this little, tiny, ruined country of Bosnia."

Professional Outcry

While he concedes that the notion of such colossal structures in the region defies accepted history, Osmanagic is adamant that the pyramids are real.

But a pantheon of archaeologists disagrees.

Prominent Bosnian archaeologists entered the scrum early on, denouncing the dig and lobbying to shut it down.

Anthony Harding, president of the Czech Republic-based European Association of Archaeologists, has dismissed Osmanagic's ideas as "wacky" and "absurd."

Garrett Fagan, of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, has slammed the project. He says that the dig will destroy bona fide archaeological sites in the area.

He recently told the London Times newspaper: "It's as if someone were given permission to bulldoze Stonehenge to find secret chambers of lost ancient wisdom underneath."

Experts shovel some of their scorn on the media, which have been trumpeting Osmanagic's astounding announcements in recent weeks.

Many news Web sites, including the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, MSNBC, and ABC, ran a credulous Associated Press story dated April 19 that carried the headline, "Experts Find Evidence of Bosnia Pyramid."

In response, the executive editor of New York-based Archaeology magazine, Mark Rose, blasted Osmanagic as a quack and the press as gullible.

To emphasize his case, Rose quoted from online excerpts of a 2005 book by Osmanagic about the Maya.

Passages from the book suggest the Maya descended from the people of the mythical city of Atlantis, who themselves are aliens who came to Earth from the Pleiades star cluster.

Osmanagic counters that the material was misrepresented and was not his theory, but an interpretation of a Maya codex, or ancient book.

In general, the Bosnian-American dismisses Rose and other critics. Reported to have the Bosnian government's support, he plans to press on with this year's six-month excavation.

"I understand that the archaeologists would be the last ones to accept the fact that thousands of years back we did have advanced civilization in this region," he said.

Osmanagic remains confident his team will unearth sufficient proof to back that claim.

Given the level of professional skepticism, it will be a tough sell.

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," said Curtis Runnels, an archaeologist at Boston University in Massachusetts and a Balkan prehistory expert.

He says the known Upper Paleolithic peoples in the region were lucky if they could build tents and fires. Monumental architecture on a scale not even seen in Egypt would be a cosmic leap forward.

"It is not up to professional archaeologists to explain 200 years of research and evidence," Runnels said. "It is up to Mr. Osmanagic to prove his claims."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Serb minister sees Mladic in Hague "in a few days"

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Top war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic could be in detention at the Hague tribunal "in a few days", a Serbian government minister said on Thursday.

Zoran Loncar, who is a member of Serbia's National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal as well as Minister for Local Government, said he was optimistic and hopeful that the wartime Bosnian Serb Army commander would be handed over soon.

"A pensive-looking Loncar wanders into the
high stakes arena of promise-making over Mladic,
that for Serbia, has all but lead to promise-breaking..."

Addressing a news conference after a cabinet meeting, he said he hoped "no one will be surprised" if "fulfillment of the Hague obligation" is completed within the next few days, Beta news agency reported.

"I express optimism and hope that this can happen in a few days," Loncar said. He added that his optimism was based on the facts given to ministers as well as information received by the National Council.

Mladic's handover to international justice is a key condition for the eventual admission of Serbia to European Union and NATO membership, and the foreign investment that accompanies international endorsement of its democratic credentials.

However, there have been dozens of hints, nudges and speculative pronouncements about the imminent handover of the man wanted for the genocide of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995, and he is still at large.

The EU this month suspended talks with Belgrade on closer ties because Mladic had not been delivered to the United Nations war crimes court, and the United States is again warning that its 2006 aid to Serbia is also conditional on that action.

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, under fire by pro-Western critics at home for failing to deliver Mladic in time to avoid the EU talks suspension, said once again on Thursday that he would keep his promise and insisted he had never given or set himself any deadline.

Kostunica made no mention of delivery "in a few days".

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

ICTY sentences Bosnian Croat to 12 years in prison for war crimes

09/05/2006 - found on Southeast Europe Times.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- The UN tribunal on Monday (8 May) sentenced former Bosnian Croat militia commander Ivica Rajic to 12 years in prison for war crimes committed in the central BiH village of Stupni Dol in 1993. Rajic was convicted in relation to the deaths of 31 Bosniak civilians -- including women and children -- and the destruction of the village, as well as the detention and inhuman treatment of 250 Bosniaks in the town of Vares. In October, Rajic pleaded guilty to four of the ten charges against him, and is expected to testify for the prosecution in several other cases involving Bosnian Croat officials.

In other news Monday, the Osijek regional court in Croatia sentenced Croat Serb Petar Mamula to four years and ten months. He was convicted of the 1991 torture and abuse of Croat civilians in Baranja. (ICTY Web site, HRT, AFP - 08/05/06)

- vidimo se u dvanajsti

Monday, May 08, 2006

Jocic on Mladic: Expect arrest in weeks! or maybe even days!

consider these dueling stories issued May 5th - one from Reuters, and one from CBS quoting Reuters.

First, the original Reuters...

"Mladic could be arrested in days: Serb minister"

Fri May 5, 2006 7:33am ET

VIENNA (Reuters) - Genocide suspect Ratko Mladic, whose capture is a key precondition for Serbia boosting its ties with the European Union, could be under arrest by Sunday, Serbian Interior Minister Dragan Jocic said on Friday.

Asked when Mladic could be arrested, Jocic told reporters at an EU meeting in Vienna: "The question of Mladic will be solved very soon." Pressed to be more precise, he added: "I think that maybe on Sunday."

The EU on Wednesday broke off talks with Belgrade aimed at eventual EU membership for Serbia, citing its failure to hand over Mladic to the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

..and the CBS article:

"Mladic could be arrested in weeks: Serb minister"

May 5, 2006 — VIENNA (Reuters) - War crimes suspect Ratko Mladic, whose capture is a key precondition for Serbia boosting its ties with the European Union, could be arrested within weeks, Serbian Interior Minister Dragan Jocic said on Friday.

Asked when Mladic could be arrested, Jocic told reporters at an EU meeting in Vienna: "The question of Mladic will be solved very soon."

Pressed to be more precise, he added, speaking through a translator: "I cannot give you the exact time … it could be weeks."

Due to a mistranslation by an interpreter, Reuters earlier reported erroneously that the minister expected Mladic's arrest could come by Sunday.

The EU on Wednesday broke off talks with Belgrade aimed at eventual EU membership for Serbia, citing its failure to hand over Mladic to the U.N. war crimes tribunal.

Copyright 2006 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

So who is right? Lets ask Ratko!

Mladic: "Neka bude CBS!"

Rasim Ljajic: Mladic not Arrested after Milosevic for Fears about Ruling Coalition Stability

7 May 2006 | 13:34 | FOCUS News Agency

Belgrade. Serbia and Montenegro’s Minister of Human and Minority Rights and Chairman of National Council for Cooperation with The Hague Tribunal, Rasim Ljajic said that after the authorities delivered Slobodan Milosevic to the Tribunal, they feared that a possible arrest of Ratko Mladic could threaten the stability of Serbia’s ruling coalition, Serbian newspaper Glas Javnosti reported.
Rasim Ljajic was explaining the reasons why the former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic had not been arrested when it was possible.
“The second reason is that there was not a complete control over the military and civil security services. There were fears that clashes might erupt between the army and police, because at that time Mladic was strictly guarded by members of the army”, the minister said.

linked here

Friday, May 05, 2006

Mladic is "hiding alone"

09:45 May 05 | B92

BELGRADE -- Serbian Economic Minister Predrag Bubalo said that Ratko Mladic's web of helpers has been cut off.

He said that there were, initially, about 50 people helping Mladic to hide. The number was then cut to ten, and five have since been arrested, according to Bubalo. He said that the Serbian services have been able to reconstruct Mladic's movement from April 2002 to the end of 2005, but have yet to confirm where he he has been hiding during the past several months.

Serbia - "how long do you think you can stay in there, little Ratko?"
Ratko - "i'm not guilty and i'm never coming out! leave me alone!"

However, Bubalo said that the fact that Mladic's web of helpers has been untangled will make it harder to find him.

"Ratko Mladic is now hiding independently, and that is one of the hardest tasks. When a web exists, then someone within the web can make a mistake. This right now is definately a difficult task, like finding a needle in a hay stack." Bubalo said.

He said that after the cooperation crisis with the Hague Tribunal is solved, cooperation will be analysed to see if the administration could have been more effective in finishing these obligations. Bubalo said that he is convinced that Mladic will be extradited to The Hague shortly, and that the Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU will be signed by the end of the year, regardless of the postponement.

The three individuals arrested yesterday under suspicions that they belong to the inner circle of Mladic's helpers are not members of the Serbia-Montenegro military, according to a statement from the Defence Ministry.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Orthodox Churches in Kosovo to Be Protected by Law

4 May 2006 | 15:47 | FOCUS News Agency

Pristina. Orthodox churches and monuments in Kosovo will be protected by law, Kosovo’s President Fatmir Sejdiu told Greek agency ANA-MPA, Macedonian state TV station MTV reports.
The TV station notes that the President spent the Easter holidays in Decani monastery.
Kosovo’s President also paid attention to the issue of the border between Macedonia and Kosovo pointing out it must be solved after the final status of the region is agreed on.

"Its too bad when churches become the victims of man-made wars."

Kosovareport Blog: The Comment Commandos Continue the Conflit

How absolutely fitting and distressing that a relatively harmless kosovo blog would become the virtual battleground for anonymous Albanians and Serbs to come settle their scores in such a sophomoric and broken-English kind of way.

Keyboard Soldiers: "battling it out in the margins!"

see it for yourself here (be sure to look under comments, and watch out for strategically placed obscenities....

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

EU's Rehn halts SAA talks with Serbia-Montenegro over Mladic

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The EU has called off talks on closer ties with Serbia-Montenegro because of Belgrade's failure to arrest war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn made the announcement Wednesday (3 May) after consulting the UN tribunal's chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte. The deadline set by the EU for Mladic's arrest expired on Sunday. The next round of Stabilisation and Association talks had been scheduled for 11 May.

"It is disappointing that Belgrade has been unable to locate, arrest and transfer Ratko Mladic to the Hague," Rehn said. "The Commission therefore has to call off the negotiations."

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica had pledged that Mladic would be apprehended in April -- a promise that won Serbia-Montenegro a month-long extension from the EU. In a statement Wednesday, he insisted his government had done all it could.

In Podgorica, meanwhile, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic said Montenegro's EU aspirations were being damaged because of Belgrade's inability to resolve the Mladic case. If the 21 May independence referendum in the republic succeeds, he said, Montenegro will seek to separate its EU bid from Serbia's before the end of this year. (BBC, Politika, Blic, Danas, Independent, EU Politix - 03/05/06; Beta, RTS, Mina, Tanjug - 02/05/06)

reported on SouthEast European Times

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Labus: "Only miracle can save Serbia"

By Gilles Castonguay

MILAN (Reuters) - The European Union should suspend talks with Serbia for failing to hand over war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic as promised, the Hague tribunal's chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte said on Tuesday.

Speaking a day ahead of her report to the EU Commission in Brussels on Belgrade's co-operation with the United Nations court, she said she hoped the EU would get tough with the Serbs.

Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Miroljub Labus, who was in Brussels for meetings on Tuesday, agreed that "only a miracle" could now prevent the EU from suspending the association talks.

"don't you mean only a 'Mladic' could prevent the EU from suspending talks?"

The EU wants wartime Bosnian Serb Army commander Mladic extradited to the Hague tribunal as proof that Serbia will comply with international justice, before advancing its hopes of eventual membership in the 25-member bloc.

Del Ponte declined to say during a visit to Milan what she would tell the commission, but said she hoped it would result in a decision to penalise Belgrade for its failure to deliver.

"I would appreciate it if the EU would strongly support the fact that if Mladic is not delivered the suspension of negotiations will be done," the UN prosecutor said.

Serbia has failed to keep a pledge that Mladic -- alleged to be hiding in the country with the protection of renegade army and intelligence officers -- would be handed over by the end of April. It was the latest of a number of such failures.


Speaking after talks with EU western Balkans director Reinhard Priebe, Labus told reporters his impression was that the formal EU negotiation was, as a result, now just a step from being postponed. The next round is due on May 11.

Labus said Belgrade could not guarantee that Mladic, 64, would be extradited in the next 24 hours, when EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn is due to meet del Ponte then decide on the fate of the Belgrade-Brussels talks.

Rehn wrote in a Serbian newspaper article on Sunday that Serbia should take its place in the EU but if Mladic was not turned over this week, the Commission would have to postpone the talks and put the process on hold until Belgrade co-operates.

Mladic's arrest "can be done in a day, but also in five years", Labus told Belgrade's Radio B92. "Only a miracle in the next 24 hours can save us, and stories that Rehn might change his mind are groundless."

Labus, however, said Priebe told him the EU and not del Ponte would ultimately decide whether or not to suspend talks.

The EU has given Belgrade the benefit of the doubt in the past despite del Ponte's impatience, because it is concerned about the political stability of Serbia, where Mladic enjoys the emotional support of ultranationalists.

Newspaper reports say Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is confident the suspension of talks would not delay the one-year association agreement process by more than a month.

Del Ponte said she had no fresh word from Serbia on Mladic, who is wanted for genocide in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, Europe's worst atrocity since World War Two, and over 10,000 deaths in the 1992-95 siege of Sarajevo.

He has been on the run since 2001 when the late strongman Slobodan Milosevic, his protector, was sent to the Hague.

"We'll see tomorrow if they have detained and arrested him," del Ponte told reporters. "Tomorrow we'll adopt our position on the co-operation with Belgrade."

(c) Reuters 2006. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuters sphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group of companies around the world.

This article:

Last updated: 02-May-06 14:09 BST

tagged under ,,

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mladic a no-show | Belgrade keeps quiet on Kosovo demands

I can't help but feel there's a correlation between simultaneous stories today regarding the failure to apprehend Mladic as the final offering of Serb ICTY quasi-repentance and the reluctance of Belgrade's Kosovo negotiation team to offer their "demands" before the May 4th talks resume. Its possible the Kosovo negotiaion team would be hesitant to show their cards before the next face-off regardless, but they are smart to not augment the worldwide censure against Serbia right now for failing to meet the Mladic deadline.

Ratko and Radovan - thank you Serbia may we have another?

Its really a shame that Belgrade didn't get Mladic in time. Its even more of a shame the way the ICTY has been administered on Serbia as a quasi-forced rehabilitation that has elicited social and political responses in Serbia that are so contrary to the ICTY's purposes. It is in this regard that I am most critical of the ICTY, because what it was supposed to do for Serbia is so important. Instead, the ICTY is just devolved into some shriveled, distorted bastardization of what it was initially designed to be, and yet it is still one of the only real tools in the EU's toolbox that gets anything done. Either that or they just like to wave it around and pretend that they're fixing things.

For an excellent commentary on the ills and woes of the ICTY, check out this article by Iagor Rangelov of the London School of Economics.

tagged under ,,

Holbrook: Serbia's choice EU or Kosovo

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro, May 1 (UPI) -- U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrook says Serbia must decide whether it wants to control Kosovo or become a member of the European Union.

Holbrook, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Belgrade's private B92 radio-television Monday he cannot speak on behalf of the Bush administration but suggested Serbia should decide between Kosovo and the EU by the end of this year.
He said Kosovo should be independent of Belgrade, but it should guarantee absolute freedom for the Serb minority in 90 percent ethnic-Albanian Kosovo.

... A Bureaucrat & a Gentleman: Holbrooke with Richard Gere ....

"I know that my friends in Serbia will not agree with me, but truth is that Serbia has lost Kosovo," said Holbrook. "It lost it due to the policy of (the late Serbian strongman) Slobodan Milosevic and it is the best for Serbia to recognize this reality," he said.
Holbrook said the presence of the U.S.-led NATO troops in Kosovo would be needed some time after Serbs and ethnic-Albanians reach an agreement on Kosovo's future status.

Serbs and ethnic-Albanians are to meet in a fourth round of talks in Vienna May 4-5.
Kosovo has been under U.N. administration and NATO protection since 1999, when NATO air attacks forced Milosevic's Serbian troops to withdraw from the province to stop human rights abuses against ethnic-Albanians.

Copyright Political Gateway 2006©
Copyright United Press International 2006
original article found here

tagged under ,

Another deadline comes and goes

13:24 May 01 |

THE HAGUE, BELGRADE -- Yet another deadline given by the European Union for the extradition of Ratko Mladic has come and gone.

Serbian Prime Miniser Vojislav Kostunica has failed to make good on his promise to the Hague Tribunal and Brussels that Hague fugitive Ratko Mladic would be arrested and extradited by the end of April. When Serbia-Montenegro was being threatened with the suspension of its discussions with the EU one month ago, the EU's Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said, after discussions with the Hague's Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, that Serbia has until April 30 to extradite Mladic, and that Kostunica gave him assurances that this would happen.

Now, Brussels is warning that this is the last possible moment for actions and concrete results, and that all further stabilisation and association talks between the EU and Serbia will be ended if nothing is done reagrding this matter. Rehn said that there is no more time left for excuses and that Serbia has been given more than enough time to find Mladic. Serbian officials have yet to give any official statements regarding the end of this deadline and the lack of results.

(much in the spirit of Milosevic, Mladic selfishly holds Serbia hostage
as EU talks come to a halt until his arrest)

Del Ponte will be talking with European senior officials regarding Belgrade's cooperation with the Hague on May 3, after which a decision will be made on the further progress of talks between the EU and Serbia-Montenegro.

B92's Hague correspondant Ljubica Gojgic said that the Tribunal has yet to issue an official statement on the end of the deadline, and has stated that there wil be no public comments made until May 3. Despite the lack of official statements, the disspointment of the Hague officials is evident. One fact that increased the optimism regarding Mladic's arrest in The Hague was that no one from within Prime Minister Kostunica's cabinet denied the announcements that Kostunica had made a promise that Mladic would be extradited by May.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Podogorica, 28 April (AKI) - A court in the Montenegro capital, Podgorica, on Friday sentenced three pro-independence activists for attempting to buy votes in a referendum to be held on 21 May, when Montenegrins will choose whether or not they want to remain part of a union with Serbia.. Former state security official Vasilije Mijovic and Ivan Ivanovic, an activist from the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), each got ten month jail terms, while another DPS activist, Ranko Vucinic, got six months. The resulf of next month's referendum is expected to be very close.

Mijovic and Ivanovic were captured in a secretely shot film on 5 March, offering to pay a 1,580 euro electricity bill to a man named Musan Buskovic in the village of Golubovci, south of Podgorica, if he voted for independence and the dissolution of Montenegro's union with Serbia.

Montenegro's prime minister, Milo Djukanovic, who is spearheading the independence drive, has laughed off accusations that his party was buying votes for independence, saying the film was the work of the Serbian secret services - a claim immediately dismissed by the opposition as “Djukanovic’s wishful thinking.”

never underestimate the resolve of republics who want to get away from serbia....

Serbia favours the continuation of the state union, but Montenegro's population is fairly evenly split on the issue. A survey released on Friday by the Podgorica Centre for Democracy (CEDEM) indicated 87 percent of Montenegro's 475,000 eligible voters would turn out to vote in the referendum, and that 56.3 per cent would opt for independence.

CEDEM said it would make no new surveys in the period running up to the referendum. The European Union has recommended that at least 55 percent of voters need to turn out for the result to be considered valid.

Djukanovic has banned some 300,000 Montenegrins living in Serbia from voting in the referendum. According to the opposition, he has organised a vote buying campaign and is planning to fly in thousands of ethnic Albanians originally from Montenegro and now living in the USA and European countries, to vote for independence.

Montenegro's opposition, which opposes independence, last week uncovered another film reportedly showing Ivanovic attempting to buy votes in the same village, saying he was doing it in the name of the government. The film allegedly shows Ivanovic offering 500 euros to a local DPS official, Aleksandar Leka Cekovic, not to come out and vote against independence. "That’s for you from the government, to treat your children,” Ivanovic is reportedly heard saying.

The film has not yet been aired on TV, but excerpts were published by Podgorica daily Dan.


Serbia charges police officers with 1999 Kosovo murders

In what prosecutors describe as a sign that Serbia is facing up to the bloody legacy of the Milosevic years, eight former police officers have been indicted for the 1999 slayings of 48 people -- all but one from the same family -- in Kosovo.

By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade – 28/04/06

The Serbian War Crimes Prosecution on Tuesday (25 April) brought an indictment against a group of police officers for war crimes against Albanian civilians in the Kosovo village of Suva Reka in 1999. Gendarmerie Assistant Commander Radoslav Mitrovic, who commanded a special unit during the Kosovo conflict, is among those charged.

Also indicted were Radojko Repanovic and Nenad Jovanovic, the former chiefs of the Suva Reka precinct, and Sladjan Cukaric, a policeman at the precinct. In addition, charges were brought against former Serbian secret police member Milorad Nisavic, Suva Reka policemen Miroslav Petkovic and Zoran Petkovic, and police patrol chief Ramiz Popovic.

The group has been in custody since October 2005, and some were on active duty when arrested.

Yugoslav Army Chief of staff General Nebojsa Pavkovic (right) and former Commander of Yugoslav Third Army General Vladimir Lazarevic were among four ex-generals indicted in 2003 for war crimes in Kosovo. [Getty Images]

Prosecutors say the indictees were responsible for the killing of 48 people -- including at least 13 children and a pregnant woman -- in Suva Reka on 26 March 1999. All but one of the victims belonged to the local Berisha family. Their bodies were later found in mass graves in Serbia.

One of those graves, discovered in 2001, is located at the special police units' training field at Batajnica, on the outskirts of Belgrade. Some 800 bodies are believed to have been transported there from Kosovo in an effort to cover up atrocities.

A news release from the prosecution says the indictment is the first to be filed in the Batajnica case and that the prosecutor has proposed that the District Court's War Crimes Council extend the indictees' detention.

The indictments are a "sign that Serbia is ready to face its negative past" and to "sanction crimes, regardless of who committed them", the AKI news agency quoted prosecution spokesman Bruno Vekaric as saying.

In 2003, the UN war crimes tribunal at The Hague indicted four former Serbian police and army generals -- Nebojsa Pavkovic, Vladimir Lazarevic, Vlastimir Djordjevic and Sreten Lukic -- for crimes in Kosovo. Indictments were also raised against former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic and Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was indicted for Kosovo war crimes as well, but he died on 11 March before a verdict was reached.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Tensions mount ahead of Montenegro referendum

Tensions are mounting between secessionists and unionists in Montenegro ahead of the republic's scheduled 21 May referendum on independence from Serbia.

The unionists, ie those who would favour a close and lasting political association with Serbia, are shown by recent polls to be slightly outnumbered by those who seek independence for this republic of 700,000 people. However, some 15% of the 480,000 registered voters are still undecided.

According to a special formula proposed by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Montenegro's secession from Serbia would require 55% of the votes cast, instead of a simple majority. Political science professor Srdjan Darmanovic was quoted by Financial Times Deutschland as saying that there is a "55% chance of reaching 55%".

the little Montenegro that could....

In the run-up to the referendum, EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak has held talks with both secessionist Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and Predrag Bulatovic, the leader of the unionist opposition. "I conveyed my concern over the mood which seems overly headed toward confrontation," Lajcak said, citing recent accusations of vote-rigging and bribery by the unionists. "There is no need to create problems that would only complicate life after the referendum," he said.

"Something must change in Montenegro, or the European Union will change its stand" toward the Balkan republic, Lajcak commented.

Decency ban urged in Croatia resort

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Associated Press
ZAGREB, Croatia -- A bishop on a northwestern Croatian island has asked authorities to declare a "decency zone" in the city's center, to ban regular summertime promenades of tourists wearing nothing but swimsuits.

Ivan Kordic, bishop of Krk island, said "scarcely dressed" people "harm the morale, the spirit and the soul" of other people in the city, in a letter to city officials.

Krk authorities have not responded to the letter yet.

.... EU or bust? - Decency is stoutly un-European

But tourist officials and many residents have already rejected the idea, arguing that in Krk, as most other Croatian tourist resorts, city centers are adjacent to beaches and it is therefore normal for people to walk around, have a drink or do some shopping in their swimsuits. Besides, a dress code could put off tourists, who are responsible for most of the island's -- and the country's -- hard currency income, they said.

"It's quite logical that one should be dressed decently when entering a holy place," Majda Sale, a local tourist worker, told a local newspaper. "But walking in public places is a question of personal freedoms and a good taste."

The Roman Catholic church is highly influential in Croatia, where about 90 percent of people are members. The church has so far successfully protested against yoga classes in schools, an AIDS program that taught pupils how to use condoms and shopping on Sundays.

EU to replace UN mission in ruling Kosovo

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro, April 27 (UPI) -- An EU civil mission could play a leading role in governing Kosovo once the future status of Serbia's southern province is decided in U.N.-mediated talks.

Representatives of the Contact Group -- the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Russia -- Wednesday in Vienna met behind closed doors to discuss the international presence in Kosovo, the Tanjug news agency reported quoting diplomatic sources.

An international civil mission, led by the EU, should control judiciary, police and other relevant institutions, once Kosovo's future is determined, Tanjug said Thursday.

there's a new sheriff u gradu

The Contact Group considered ways to transform the NATO-led U.N. Kosovo forces and the Kosovo Protection Corps, along with the international civilian presence.

The fourth round of talks between Serbs and ethnic-Albanians on the future of Kosovo will be held in Vienna May 4-5. Kosovo is 90 percent ethnic-Albanian, with a Serb minority of 100,000.

Formally, Kosovo is part of Serbia but since 1999 it has been governed by the U.N. civilian mission and protected by NATO forces.

Most ethnic Albanians publicly say they want a Kosovo independent of the Serbian government.

© Copyright 2006 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Serbian authorities suspend major private television's broadcasting permit

A move by Serbia's broadcasting agency to suspend the license of the republic's first private television station for allegedly biased reporting has been criticised by local media organisations.
(Blic - 27/04/06; AP, VOA, UPI, Radio B92, Beta - 26/04/06)

Serbian police shut down the republic's first private television station early Wednesday (26 April) following a decision by the government's broadcasting agency to temporarily suspend the licence of BK Television (BK TV).

Belgrade-based Radio B92 reported that the Serbian Broadcasting Agency cited two reasons for its move: BK TV management has prevented agency representatives from examining much of the station's financial information, and has presented biased reporting regarding one of its owners, Serbian tycoon Bogoljub Karic and his party, the Power of Serbian Movement.
BK TV's license has been suspended for 30 days, after which it could face a permanent ban if it fails to change its policies. Some however linked BK TV's closure with its alleged campaign against the broadcasting agency and its recent selection of final winners for national television frequencies, which did not include Karic's television station.

that's Miodrag Popov, BK Television's Editor in Chief, and he ain't hugging that policiac!

Describing the agency's decision as "illegal," the television station's attorney, Miroslav Djordjevic, said his team would take action against those who tried to implement it and against the broadcasting agency members.

The deadline for filing complaints and appeals against the agency's decisions is 15 days. The agency then has 30 days to respond to such appeals.

Karic, an ally of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and one of Serbia's wealthiest people, founded BK TV together with his three brothers in the early 1990s. After being accused of corruption, three of the Karic brothers, including Bogoljub, fled the country earlier this year and are believed to be in Russia, according to the AP.

The broadcasting agency's decision to close down BK TV sparked criticism from at least three journalist associations, including the Serbian Journalist Society and the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM). According to ANEM, the move was arbitrary and constitutes a serious threat to democracy and media freedom.

This "rash intervention" on the part of the broadcasting agency "is a threat to the legal basis underpinning electronic media operations in Serbia, in a way which goes far beyond the present procedure of broadcast license allocation," ANEM said in a statement.

Noting that the right to freedom of expression is guaranteed under the Serbian Constitution, the association said this included the right to be critical of the decisions of public organisations, including the broadcasting agency. "Thus the suspension of a broadcast license on the grounds of such criticism is unacceptable and is seen as a serious attack on freedom of expression in this country," ANEM said, urging the agency to "reconsider and revoke its decision"

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Year of the Balkans

This will be the year of the Balkans from many aspects because there will be a lot of political changes and developments in the region and most probably the region will have new states as well.

Needless to say Kosovo first comes to mind among these states. It is certain from now that the final status of Kosovo, which has been under the administration of the United Nations (UN) since the war in 1999, will be determined by the end of this year and the region will gain independence, even if it is conditional or limited.

On the other side, we can anticipate that Abkhazia, North Ossetia, Transdiniester and the Bosnian-Serb Republic will also be influenced by Kosovo’s independence in a way because Russia is trying to establish close relations with Abkhazia, North Ossetia and Transdiniester. The Russian diplomatic efforts are aimed at helping these regions gain recognition as independent states. Leaders of the Bosnian-Serb Republic, which is called Republica Sirpsa in Serbian, are already saying that Kosovo’s independence will lead to instability in their republic and other Bosnian Serb circles have begun developing ideas such as, “If Kosovo gains independence why shouldn’t we do likewise, why shouldn’t we split from Bosnia?”

Despite the tiny picture, it appears as though Fikret Ertan has got some serious "balkan fever"

As these developments on Kosovo are taking place, Bosnia-Herzegovina is trying to prepare a new constitution before the general elections in fall. Today, Bosnia-Herzegovina is governed in accordance with the constitution that was adopted along with Daytona Agreement in 1995; however, this constitution is anachronistic, needs to be amended and the international community also accepts these amendments. Since the Bosnia-Herzegovina administration feels compelled to amend the constitution with pressure from international community, it has been studying a new constitution frame for four months.

According to recent new reports, the Constitutional Review Commission of the Bosnian Parliament accepted the amendment offers presented early this month. The commission will present these changes to the upper house of parliament next week and important steps to adopting the amendments will have been taken.

The amendments at issue can be summarized as follows: Increasing in the number of ministers, giving the prime minister more powers, replacing of the current three-party rotating presidential system with a new system that has only one president and two vice presidents, a transition from direct election as envisaged in the current constitution to the election of the president and two vice-presidents through popular vote. Such changes will bring along with them radical transformation of the political system in Bosnia-Herzegovina. It can well be argued that these amendments are aimed at making the central authority more flexible in its governance as well as taking the country closer to European Union (EU) standards. The proposed changes have received support from both the EU and the United States (US), the architect of the Dayton Accords. From this perspective, it seems very likely that Bosnia will have a new constitution in 2006.

In addition to all these developments and changes in Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina, other important developments and changes will also take place in Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia. We can easily argue that Serbia will capture the two wanted war criminals, Gen. Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic and will refer them to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, and that will mean Serbia surmounting one of the biggest obstacles on its path towards the EU.

It is already evident that both Macedonia and Croatia will make great strides in their journey towards the EU; because the process that has already begun will gain momentum later this year and Macedonia will probably gain candidate country status late in December; Croatia will resume its accession talks because the Croatian government handed over Gen. Ante Gotovina, another war criminal, to The Hague last December.

Lastly, we will probably hear a declaration of independence from Montenegro after the May 21 referendum.
As we said at the very beginning, 2006 will the year of the Balkans…
April 22, 2006

After independence, first visit to Belgrade

15:55 April 25 | Beta

PODGORICA -- Miodrag Vlahovic said that his first official visit will be to Belgrade once Montenegro gains independence.

The Montenegrin Foreign Affairs Minister said that, in a televised debate regarding the relations between Belgrade and Podgorica, he hopes that Serbian officials will accept him at this time, in order to talk about further relations between the two independent states.

He said that the claims of the parties who support the preservation of the federal union that relations between Serbia and Montenegro will be poor if Montenegro gains independence, are not true.

Officials who support the union, National Party official Dragan Soc and Serbian National Party official Goran Danilovic, said that relations are poor between Serbia and Montenegro because of the anti-Serbian politics being led by the Montenegrin ruling parties.

.... Belgrade won't likley bust out the napolitanke for Miodrag

Soc said that the Montenegrin Government is leading hateful politics against everything that is Serbian, and added that, if Montenegro gains independence, relations with Serbia will worsen and that Montenegro will be woven into the Great Albania project. He also said that if Montenegro becomes independent, visas will be imposed on Montenegrin citizens and that they will be considered foreigners in Serbia.

Liberal Party leader Milodrag Zivkovic dismissed the claims that Montenegro is leading anti-Serbian politics as “a repulsive claim.”

He said that relations will only better once independence is gained and that the eventual anger of Serbia over this will last several months, at the most.

Vlahovic and Zivkovic accused the bloc supporting the union of using the talks of visas, passports and borders to scare the Montenegrin citizens and promote fear.

According to the Montenegrin Government, there are 19,000 more registered voters in Montenegro today, in light of the May referendum, than for the parliamentary elections in 2002. Citizens have until May 10 to register if they wish to participate in the independence referendum.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Kosovo Serb leader hails Albanian visit

PEC, Serbia-Montenegro, April 24 (UPI) -- A Kosovo Serb leader Monday praised a history-making visit of Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian president to mark the Serb Orthodox Easter Sunday.

Oliver Ivanovic, the leader of the moderate Serbs in Kosovo, praised the visit, the first at such a high level since 1999, of Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian President Fatmir Sejdiu, a Muslim, the Serbian Beta news agency reported.

Sejdiu visited the medieval Decani monastery near Pec where he met Serbian Christian Orthodox Bishop Teodosije Sunday.

Ivanovic welcomed Sejdiu's visit saying the "deeds speak more than words," Pristina electronic media reported.

Kosovo ethnic-Albanian Prime Minister Agim Ceku Sunday visited two villages at Pec, close to Decani monastery, to donate two tractors to Serb farmers.

Ceku's request to visit Gracanica Monastery near Pristina was turned down by a Serbian bishop who argued he could not accept Ceku's Easter visit until his residence is refurbished and Serbs refugees are returned to their homes.

In March 2004, ethnic-Albanian extremists destroyed numerous Serbian houses and churches.

Serbs and ethnic-Albanians have been conducting U.N.-mediated talks to decided on the future status of Kosovo.

Kosovo, formally still part of Serbia, has been governed by a U.N. mission and protected by NATO troops since 1999, when Serbian forces were expelled from Kosovo.

© Copyright 2006 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Alleged Mladic aide held in Serbia

24/04/2006 - 18:46:44

Another alleged ally of top UN war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic has been detained on suspicion of helping the general to evade arrest, a lawyer said today.

Ratko Vucetic, a retired Bosnian Serb officer, was detained on Saturday, apparently as part of government efforts to hunt down Mladic by an end-of-April European Union deadline, said Vucetic’s lawyer Branko Butolen.

Butolen said that a judge questioned Vucetic today and ordered him kept in detention for 30 days, pending an investigation.

Ratko Mladic - won't be smiling for long....

Vucetic is the sixth alleged aide to Mladic arrested in the past few months, since the Serbian government stepped up measures to located the fugitive general.

Mladic is sought by the UN war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands, on genocide charges for allegedly orchestrating the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica.

The European Union has threatened to suspend ongoing talks with Belgrade on establishing closer ties, unless Mladic is handed over to The Hague tribunal by the end of this month.

The UN court officials have insisted that Mladic is hiding in Serbia under the protection of military hardliners.

A nationalist politician, Aleksandar Vucic, today protested the arrests of Mladic’s aides, and urged the government to end its “witch hunt against those who have defended the Serb people.”

Vucic claimed that Vucetic was seriously ill and an invalid.

Vucetic’s lawyer Butolen said his client lost a foot and a finger in the war, and had heart problems.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Hot on the trail of Mladic

The daily writes that according to Banja Luka daily Fokus, Mladic was located in Macedonia two weeks ago, in a vacationing community on the coast of the Dojranska Lake, near the border with Greece. Fokus’ sources say that Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has serious intentions of arresting Mladic and extraditing him to The Hague, but is trying in every way possible to make sure that the arrest does not take place on the territory of Serbia.

Fokus claims that this is because Kostunica would like to keep the Government in tact, and the Socialist Party of Serbia is threatening to collapse it if Mladic is arrested.

"you're days are numbered Mladic!"

Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski denied the claims that Mladic is in Macedonia, according to Glas Javnosti.

Serbian Radical Party official Milorad Mrcic said that Mladic’s eventual arrest would show how little Kostunica takes into consideration the feelings of Serbia’s citizens and that arresting Mladic would be yet another betrayal of the Serbian people.

Liberal-Democratic Party President Cedomir Jovanovic that every day is a good day for Mladic to be arrested.

The International Crisis Group’s Balkans expert, James Lion, said that the media creates unnecessary hype before every deadline for the arrest of Mladic and that the international community will believe that Mladic is arrested only when they see him in The Hague. He said that Mladic will not be arrested because the Serbian Government is using the situation as a trump card for the Kosovo question.

Tiny Montenegro takes on might of EU with vote on independence from Serbia

By Marcus Tanner in Podgorica
Published: 21 April 2006

They are putting out the flags in Montenegro - double-headed eagles that look as if they have been removed from an Austro-Hungarian museum.

But this is no historical pageant for tourists. On 21 May, the junior partners in the ramshackle successor state to Yugoslavia, the State Union of Serbia-Montenegro, will go ahead with an independence referendum likely to cut ties to Serbia and plant another new state on the map of Europe.

Brussels barely conceals its distaste. Still wrestling with the unlovely prospect of an independent Kosovo, the EU now faces the prospect of not one but two new poor, tiny members.

The EU has raised the bar as high as it can manage for the referendum, insisting on a 55 per cent majority in favour of independence before it will recognise the outcome. This unprecedented demand has angered but not daunted the authorities in the capital, Podgorica, who have been busy touring European capitals explaining the mountainous republic's case for going it alone.

Montenegro's ebullient Foreign Minister, Miodrag Vlahovic, says it is time Brussels faced reality and consigned the joint state with Serbia to history.

"If there is any vote in favour of independence, one thing is clear - the State Union won't exist," he said. "If we have the majority, the State Union is over and done with. We are not trying to dissolve a state that existed for centuries. It was a provisional arrangement that we entered precisely because there was an exit route."

The minister said Europe wanted to "compensate" Serbia for the likely loss of Kosovo in the current final status talks in Vienna by making Montenegro's escape from Serbia's embrace as tricky as possible. "We are hostages of Serbia," he said. "Everyone in the Balkans is a hostage of Serbia." While Brussels holds its nose, European diplomats are already flitting about Podgorica, scouting out a city in which sooner or later they will have to set up diplomatic shop.

Some are tussling over rights to the old embassy buildings that the big powers maintained in the former royal capital of Cetinje before the First World War, when Montenegro was an independent kingdom.

King Nicholas of Montenegro, a whiskery, wily old man who exported his striking daughters to courts all over Europe (one was queen of Italy in the Mussolini era), lost his throne in 1918, when the Serbian army annexed his land to the new state of Yugoslavia. In the late 1980s Yugoslav communists oversaw his reburial in Cetinje. But the attempt to stage-manage, and so defuse, history backfired; the ceremony unleashed memories of lost greatness that grew stronger in the 1990s.

Montenegro's pro-independence camp feels furious about the way they say Serbia under Slobodan Milosevic dragged them into war with Croatia, and especially into besieging the Croatian port of Dubrovnik in 1991. The Serbs reply that they didn't need much prodding. Some are quick to criticise the Serbs, blaming Belgrade for all their country's ills, from its grinding poverty to the dismally slow pace of integration with the EU.

Serbia's reluctance to hand over the indicted war criminal general Ratko Mladic gives some substance to the complaint. Without Mladic's surrender, everybody accepts the State Union is not going to get closer to the EU.

Meanwhile a bloodcurdling row over whether Serbs or Montenegrins should represent the State Union in the Eurovision Song Contest has raised tempers further. After a Serb audience booed the Montenegrin winners, No Name, off the stage in Belgrade, it was decided that no one would represent the country in Eurovision.

But not everyone shares the independence line. On an afternoon in Podgorica, a procession of Serb Orthodox bishops, priests, nuns and lay people, some waving Serbian flags, parading unchallenged through the centre of the city - a powerful reminder of the size of the pro-Serbian party in Montenegro.

At the centre of the commotion was the deceptively frail-looking Bishop of Montenegro, Amfilohija, a saint in the eyes of the pro-Serbian camp and "Satan" - as one man put it - in the eyes of the rest.

The bishop's supporters are not in the majority in the capital, which is the fiefdom of the pro-independence Prime Minister, Milo Djukanovic, but the vote will be close-run elsewhere.

Only 42 per cent of the population of Montenegro is registered as Montenegrin, followed closely by a 30 per cent bloc of ethnic Serbs who dominate parts of the north adjoining Bosnia and Serbia.

The pro-Serb "unionists" as they are called, accuse their opponents of bribing electors to vote their way. To the government's chagrin, they even captured one such transaction on film, in which a voter was promised relief from a year's electricity bills in return for a vote against Serbia.

While such tactics suggest the independence camp is more nervous than it lets on, Florin Raunig, an Austrian diplomat, says he doubts the vote will ignite any violence. Mr Raunig said Europe's insistence on 55 per cent voting for separation meant the vote could be inconclusive if the sovereignty camp gets more than 50 but less than 55.

In the meantime, the government acts as if the vote had already take place and gone its way. The Foreign Minister conducts diplomacy without reference to Belgrade, and the Serbian dinar is not the legal tender - this is euroland.

On the border with Albania, flags, banners, emblems and other references to the State Union came down long ago. Montenegro's double-headed eagle, it seems, has come to stay.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Europe Prepares to Evacuate 40,000 Kosovo Serbs

18 April 2006 | 17:12 | FOCUS News Agency

Podgoritca. Chair of Serbian National Council for Central Kosovo Rada Trajkovic revealed that WHO and UN Refugee Agency are preparing project for evacuation of 40,000 Serbs who are expected to leave Kosovo after it receives its independence. The project is in its final stage and crisis headquarters that will receive Serbs who would leave Kosovo are being set up, Montenegrin newspaper Dan reads today.

Trajkovic expressed her regret the World Trade Organization participates in a project for moving Serbians from Kosovo. “I am waiting for official reaction from Belgrade because instead of creating an environment to keep the Serbs in Kosovo there is a project that proposes leaving it,” Trajkovic noted.

Nine arrested on corruption charges in Serbia


Serbian Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic says the nine officials, lawyers and businesspersons apprehended by police last week were part of "the largest organised criminal group ever uncovered in Serbia".

By Igor Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade – 18/04/06

Nine people suspected of criminal association, bribery and revealing official secrets were arrested by the Serbian police on 12 April, after an eight month investigation. The detainees include three state officials -- Belgrade Commercial Court President Goran Kljajevic, Commercial Court Judge Delinka Djurdjevic and an officer of the Serbian police's general inspectorate, Dejan Ivezic

Businessmen Mika and Milinko Brasnjevic, Kreditno-Eksportna Banka director Sekula Pijevcevic, lawyers Jasmina Kojic and Nemanja Jolovic, and Postal Savings Bank chairwoman Jelica Zivkovic were also among those apprehended. A tenth person -- Slobodan Radulovic, the former general manager of the C Market retail chain -- is on the run. Police say he is probably in Spain. An international arrest warrant will be issued for him.
The ten individuals are suspected of conspiring in a series of irregular bankruptcy proceedings and company privatisations, ruining several companies in the process and defrauding the state of tens of millions of euros. The C Market chain reportedly suffered around 20m euros in losses. Other damaged companies include the formerly successful Beko, Slavija and Belgrade Department Stores, all of which which ended up being dragged into bankruptcy. of Serbia's only handsome politicians ... go get em Dinkic!

"The police have dealt the biggest blow to economic crime and corruption in Serbia since [the toppling of Milosevic's regime on] 5 October 2000," said Serbian Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic. [Getty Images]

All of those arrested have been placed in month-long custody. The case has been taken over by the special prosecutor for organised crime, Slobodan Radovanovic, and has been declared a state secret.

According to Serbian Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic, "this is the largest organised criminal group ever uncovered in Serbia."

The Serbian police "have dealt the biggest blow to economic crime and corruption in Serbia after [the toppling of Milosevic's regime on] 5 October 2000," Dinkic said, adding that Kljajevic had eluded justice until now because he had the support of politicians and key government figures. Finally the political will has been summoned to deal with him, Dinkic added.

Kljajevic has been accused of abuse of office previously, and was suspended from duty in June 2004. However, he was returned to the position due to an apparent lack of evidence.

Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's government has been stepping up the battle against corruption in recent months. Supreme Court Judge Ljubomir Vuckovic was arrested for accepting a bribe in September 2005. In mid-January 2006, National Bank of Serbia Vice Governor Dejan Simic was also arrested for bribery. At the same time, authorities brought charges against one of Serbia's most powerful tycoons, Bogoljub Karic, who left the country soon after.

Serb folk music strikes chord in postwar Croatia

By Zoran Radosavljevic
Saturday, April 15, 2006; 9:05 PM

ZAGREB (Reuters) - People's arms go up in the air, their eyes close and their bodies start to sway to the deafening, hypnotic rhythms.

The music, known as "turbo-folk," is unmistakably Serbian but none of the ecstatic young Croats in the Sova (Owl) nightclub, who lip-sync the words of each song, seem to care.Until recently, for most Croats Serbia was the enemy they fought in the 1991-95 independence war and all its products were shunned. Turbo-folk, synonymous with Serbia, was considered politically incorrect.

With its lyrics about unrequited love, adultery and revenge set to folk melodies, strong beats and synthesizers, turbo-folk started in the 1980s. It was generally ignored in urban areas, but became popular in rural parts of Serbia and Bosnia.

However, times are changing and turbo-folk -- blasted, or even ignored, by critics who say it has no musical value -- is conquering the very heart of the Croatian capital, where semi-secret folk clubs have mushroomed in the past year.The Jutarnji List daily's rock critic describes it as "a mixture of mutated Balkan melodies, howling vocals, idiotic lyrics and sampled disco and house rhythms."

Not that that puts the fans off.

A survey in Jutarnji List showed that 43 percent of 17- and 18-year-olds in the biggest Croatian towns regularly listen to turbo-folk, often at home.

"The youths are fascinated. It is a real turbo-folk fever. I have tried playing some different music, but the audiences would boo and go home. They want this," said Ivica Sovic, the owner of Sova nightclub on the outskirts of Zagreb.

"I can't really explain it. In the war years, no one dared play Serbian music. The war ended 10 years ago, we've had a long vacuum without that music and now folk is 'in' again," he said.


Contrary to what some might expect, his audiences are smartly dressed young urban Croats.
"In this era of wild capitalism, widespread frustrations over money, jobs and harassing bosses, a lot of young and middle-aged people born in towns deliberately confront the desirable cultural norms by going to turbo-folk clubs," said sociologist Drazen Lalic.

He said that war-related migration in the 1990s had changed the urban population's make-up and brought a new culture and turbo-folk music to towns.

And somewhat surprisingly, he added, turbo-folk was even more popular with Croat nationalists, who usually oppose everything Serbian, than with the liberals."Hardline Croat nationalists are by their culture very similar to Serb nationalists. Hence they are more prone to turbo-folk," he said. The fact that the languages are almost identical helps.

Turbo-folk is often associated with ostentatious nouveau riche, many of whom made their fortunes during the war.

Zeljko Raznatovic Arkan, the husband of a top turbo-folk star Ceca, who is popular in Croatia, led the notorious Serb militia, the "White Eagles," in Croatian and Bosnian wars. He was gunned down in a Belgrade hotel lobby in 2000.

"Turbo-folk is today a mass synonym for folk music that glorifies the 'get-rich-quick' philosophy...nouveau riche wealth, big guns, big cars, fur coats and fake designer items," the Jutarnji List said.

"The youngsters consider the image of turbo-folk stars as a cool new trend."

While the critics pan it and the sociologists muse on its popularity, the audiences in Sova and other clubs seem utterly indifferent to the origins of the music they adore.

"Hey, the times have changed. Everyone I know listens to turbo-folk. This music comes from Bosnia and Serbia but most young people do not know or care," said Petra Koscevic, a black-clad 17-year old.

‘Al Qaeda men have been transiting Balkans for years’

* Report claims militants took advantage of Balkans’ porous borders to meet, train and possibly plot attacks in Europe

SARAJEVO: Islamic militants with ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations have been crisscrossing the Balkans for more than 15 years, according to an intelligence report focusing on their activities in Bosnia.

The 252-page analysis, compiled jointly by US and Croatian intelligence and obtained by The Associated Press, said extremists financed in part with cash from narcotics smuggling operations were trying to infiltrate Western Europe from Afghanistan and points further east via a corridor running through Turkey, Kosovo and Albania.

The report offers new evidence to support what authorities long have suspected: that terrorists have taken advantage of the Balkans’ porous borders and relatively lax security to meet, train and possibly plot attacks elsewhere in Europe.

“Either they come here seeking logistical support, financial support or to contact certain individuals to get instructions, or to hide for a moment from those who are following them,” Dragan Lukac, deputy director of SIPA - Bosnia’s equivalent to the FBI - told the AP in an interview.

Thousands of militants came to Bosnia to fight on the Muslim side during the country’s 1992-95 war. But militants - including some with suspected ties to Al Qaeda - were active in the region even before it dissolved into ethnic conflict, the intelligence report says.

They included Kamrud Din Khirbani, a member of Algeria’s Armed Islamic Group, or GIA, who moved to Zagreb, Croatia, in 1991 to set up a humanitarian aid organisation at the direct request of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the report says.

It says Khirbani used the organisation, Al-Kifah, “to infiltrate GIA members into Bosnia”, and contends that Iran and other unnamed Arab countries bankrolled the operation through cash transfers. The GIA was behind a series of terrorist bombings that targeted the Paris subway system in 1995, killing eight people and wounding hundreds of others.

The report made no connection between those attacks and Khirbani, although it said he was sought by the CIA.

The Algerian connection is well-known to Bosnian authorities: Bensayah Belkacem, one of six Algerian-born Bosnians detained by the US military in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, allegedly made several telephone calls to Abu Zubaydah, believed to be the operations chief of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and an aide to bin Laden.

But Bosnian and international officials stressed that the Balkan country should not be considered a hotbed of terrorist activity.

“What we’re concerned about here are the same things we’d be concerned about in the United States or Western Europe or anywhere else where terror has raised its head,” NATO’s top commander in Bosnia, US Brig Gen Louis Weber, said in an interview.

Weber, noting that the vast majority of Bosnian Muslims are moderate and secular, said the country’s terror threat was fairly low because “there isn’t a large community that would support that kind of activity here”. AP

U.S. envoy says Kosovo status to be decided by end of 2006 2006-04-15 05:05:03

BELGRADE, April 14 (Xinhua) -- U.S. envoy on Kosovo's future status talks Frank Wiesner said Friday that the official U.S. stance is that the future status of Kosovo must be determined by the end of the year, the official Tanjug news agency reported.

Wiesner, who is on a two-day visit to Kosovo, said in the provincial capital of Pristina that he would urge Belgrade to be cooperative and flexible in the talks on the future status of the Serbian breakaway province.

The talks, which were mediated by the United Nations, began in February in Vienna with technical discussions. Three rounds of talks yielded limited successes and the fourth round is scheduled for May 4.

Legally still part of Serbia, Kosovo has been run by the United Nations since 1999, when U.S.-led NATO bombing forced the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo. The future status talks are focused on whether Kosovo should become independent or remain part of Serbia.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, who comprise some 90 percent of the population, want outright independence, but Serbian leaders insist on maintaining nominal sovereignty over Kosovo, and want the province's minority Serbs to have more autonomy. Enditem

Editor: Luan Shanglin

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bosnian town hopes to cash in on pyramid


VISOKO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Restaurants serving meals in triangle-shaped plates. Artisans crafting wooden key-chains in the shape of pyramids. Shopkeepers hawking T-shirts saying "I have a pyramid in my backyard."

Pyramid-mania has taken hold of this small Bosnian town as residents seek to cash in on claims by an archaeologist that it may host Europe's only ancient pyramid.

"Our expectation are high. This could be our oil well," Vehab Halilovic, who has started carving pyramids on wooden souvenirs like flutes and pipes.

No pyramids are known in Europe, and there are no records of any ancient civilization on the continent ever attempting to build one.

However, Bosnian archaeologist Semir Osmanagic - who has spent the last 15 years studying the pyramids of Latin America - claimed last year that there is evidence of one here in his Balkan homeland and conducted some research on the site.

He plans to carry out new excavations this week on a hill overlooking Visoko that may definitively prove or disprove his theory. Osmanagic says the hill has four perfectly shaped slopes pointing toward the cardinal points, a flat top and an entrance complex.

Under layers of dirt, Osmanagic found a paved entrance plateau, underground tunnels and stone blocks.

Osmanagic believes the hill was shaped by the Illyrian people, who inhabited the Balkan peninsula long before Slavic tribes conquered it around A.D. 600. Little is known about the Illyrians, but Osmanagic thinks they were more sophisticated than many experts have suggested.

Halilovic, who has been making wooden souvenirs for 30 years, says his last big windfall came during the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo when he sold souvenirs with Olympic motifs.

After the 1992-95 Bosnian war, he started making souvenirs for NATO peacekeepers. As Bosnia stabilized, the number of soldiers decreased and Halilovic's market shrank.

Then came the pyramid theory.

"We are people who adapt fast," he said, after testing a few tones on a new flute.

Another resident, Esef Fatic opened a souvenir shop two weeks ago and sells pyramids made of clay and wood and slippers displaying a pyramid.

"We already have buyers. Business is better since this pyramid story started. If scientists really confirm our hill is a pyramid, this place will become alive. People will come from all over the world," he said.

One local hotel called Hollywood has changed its name to Motel Bosnian Sun Pyramid.

Its Web site boasts: "While enjoying your meal in our restaurant placed on the 6th floor, you have the opportunity to also enjoy a magnificent view of the Sun Pyramid. You too can be part of the mystery and the miracle occurring in our area."

Satellite images show two more pyramid-shaped hills with 45-degree angled slopes, indicating three possible pyramids around Visoko - which were quickly named the pyramids of the Sun, Moon and Dragon.

The possibility that the hills are not ancient pyramids is not even considered in Visoko.

"The question whether there is a pyramid or not is not being asked," Senad Hodovic, director of the local museum. "People here believe there is one, are excited about it."

Danish artists protest Mladic

BELGRADE -- Two Danish artists have countered pro-Mladic propaganda posters on the streets of Belgrade.

Originally, posters distributed and plastered by the clero-fascist organisation Obraz showing support for Hague fugitive Ratko Mladic appeared on walls and building around Belgrade.

Light blue stickers were stuck on these posters today which read “we know that your nerves are frail” and “we know you are a coward,” which were put on the posters by two Danish artists.

According to the Associated Press, the two artists, Jan Egesborg and Pia Bartelsen, wanted to show disapproval of the trend of painting Mladic as a Serbian hero who protected Serbs during the war in Bosnia.

“Our message is that it is over and that there is no escape for him.” Egesborg said.

Ties Between The U.S. And Croatia Excellent - State Department

The relations between the United States and Croatia are excellent and the two countries closely cooperate in a series of matters, a senior official of the U.S. State Department said in Washington on Thursday.
The relations between Croatia and the United States are excellent, said Rosemary DiCarlo, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, while responding to questions by Croatian reporters.

In the context of the close bilateral cooperation, she said that Croatia was a very good partner in Afghanistan and that the United States were grateful for the job the Croatian contingent had done there.

Commenting on the December 2005 apprehension of the retired Croatian general Ante Gotovina, who had been wanted by the UN war crimes tribunal, DiCarlo said that this marked the improvement of the relations between Croatia and the United States.

I believe that with the arrest of General Gotovina, Croatia has really turned a new page, DiCarlo said.

She assessed that Croatia was making good progress on its road towards the European Union.

The U.S. official praised Croatia's efforts to develop good relations and cooperation in southeastern Europe.

She dismissed some speculation that Croatia's refusal to sign an agreement with Washington on non-extradition of U.S. citizens to the International Criminal Court was an obstacle for improving relations between Zagreb and her country and that it was a reason for not so strong support of the United States to Croatia's bid to join NATO.

Article 98 is not a precondition for a candidate's admission to NATO, she explained adding that the conclusion fo the agreement, however, was a requirement for U.S military assistance.

Friday , 14 April 2006

Croatian News Agency-HINA

US envoy says Kosovo talks to end in 2006

Pristina, April 15 (AP): A U.S. envoy in talks on Kosovo's future said on Friday that the province's disputed status should be resolved in 2006.

U.N.-mediated talks began in February in Vienna, Austria, toward deciding whether Kosovo should become independent or remain part of Serbia.

``It remains the firm view of the United States that the final status of Kosovo must be achieved, and achieved this year,'' said Frank Wisner, a U.S. diplomat assigned to help U.N. envoys in negotiations.

``And when it's achieved, to leave the region more stable, more prosperous and a region that will be integrated into Europe,'' he said.

The negotiations _ also involving Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership and Serb officials from Belgrade _ aim to resolve Kosovo's status while protecting the rights of its Serb minority and preventing its internal territorial division.

The next round of U.N.-mediated talks is scheduled for May 4.

While praising the work of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian negotiators, Wisner said he would push them on the subject of protecting minority rights, as well as cultural and religious sites. On Saturday he planned to visit the 14th-century Decani Monastery, a Serb Orthodox site.

Kosovo's Serbs have refused to participate in local institutions since a brief period of ethnic violence targeting them and their property in March 2004. A key aim of U.N. negotiators is to give Serbs a voice in Kosovo and reinvigorate its decrepit economy before any possible independence.

Kosovo's ethnic Albanians, who comprise about 90 percent of the population, want independence for the tiny province, formally part of Serbia-Montenegro. Serb leaders insist on maintaining at least some control over Kosovo, and want the province's minority Serb communities to have more autonomy.

Kosovo has been a U.N. protectorate since 1999, when a NATO air bombardment stopped a crackdown by Serb forces on ethnic-Albanian separatists.

Wisner on Thursday visited neighboring Macedonia in an attempt to build ``support for final status of Kosovo'' in the region.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Tadic and Radicals lead opinion polls

10:44 April 13

NOVI SAD -- If presidential and parliamentary elections were held, Boris Tadic and the Serbian Radical Party would win.

According to a recent poll by the Scan agency in which 1,700 citizens from all around Serbia were polled, Serbian President Boris Tadic would receive 30 per cent of the votes, and Radical Party leader Tomislav Nikolic would receive 28 per cent.

In third place is Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica with 6.7 per cent of the vote and Power of Serbia Movement leader Bogoljub Karic is in fourth with 4.4 per cent.

Of the people interviewed, 45.9 per cent would definitely participate in elections, 21.3 per cent said that they probably would and 10.5 per cent of the surveyed said that they would not vote.

The political party with the most support is the Serbian Radical Party, who have the support of 32.5 per cent of those interviewed. Tadic’s Democratic Party would receive 26.3 per cent, while Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia is backed by 7.5 per cent of the Serbian citizens, according to Scan Director Milka Puzigaca.