Serbia + 1 more

Kosovars Serbs take big step toward setting up their own entity

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

...AND ELECT A LEADERSHIP...

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

...BUT ARE REBUKED BY THE UN AND ALBANIANS

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

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