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U.S. warns of attempts to "destabilize" Kosova

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington on 12 February that "the United States is concerned by recent developments in Serbia and Montenegro and in Kosovo regarding the timing and nature of decisions on Kosovo's future status," a State Department statement noted. Boucher stressed that the United States supports UN Security Council Resolution 1244 and UN civilian administration (UNMIK) head Michael Steiner's program for achieving democratic standards before tackling the question of status. Boucher added that "statements or actions by the authorities in Belgrade or on behalf of Kosovo parties or institutions which attempt to force the pace of the future status process...are unhelpful and potentially destabilizing" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 February 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 31 January 2003). In Prishtina on 13 February, the legislators belonging to three leading Kosovar Albanian political parties issued a joint declaration in support of independence, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. For his part, Steiner warned against any unilateral moves aimed at changing Kosova's status. In Belgrade, the Foreign Ministry condemned the three-party declaration. PM

U.S. Ambassador to Serbia and Montenegro William Montgomery said in Nis on 14 February that both Belgrade and local Albanians are to blame for the recent increase in tensions in the Presevo region, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 and 14 February 2003). In Belgrade, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic warned of ethnic Albanian "terrorism," adding there will be no compromise with "extremists," the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 15 February. Serbian authorities have also sent an unspecified number of additional police units into the region following continued peaceful protests by local Albanians. PM


Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic visited the Presevo region on 13 February, the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported on 15 February. He defended the increase in police strength and differentiated between peaceful protesters and "terrorists," who must be punished. On 15 February, he warned of "terrorists" and kidnappers in the area, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Belgrade's latest statements follow Serbian media reports about the alleged presence of guerrilla forces in the region. Western diplomatic and media sources have expressed doubts about the existence of any organized guerrilla force. Observers note that some Belgrade politicians are actively courting nationalist voters in the run-up to possible elections in 2003. PM


Speaking in Belgrade on 16 March, Covic said Steiner has no real successes to show after one year in office as head of UNMIK, Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported the next day. Covic added that Steiner has simply used "clever marketing" to present UNMIK's record as positive. The minister called for talks between "Belgrade and Prishtina," stressing that the return of Serbian refugees is of utmost importance. He warned that if Serbs are kidnapped, "those responsible will have to pay dearly." He did not elaborate, but added: "We will never destroy a village or attack civilians, but we will not allow them to attack us." PM


Covic said in Belgrade on 16 February that the leading Kosovar politicians who are ex-guerrillas have simply "exchanged uniforms for suits," Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported the next day. He argued that Hashim Thaci controls the oil business, Ramush Haradinaj runs cigarette smuggling, and Agim Ceku manages the hotel and nightclub sector. "Is this what the EU means when they call for setting up a multiethnic economy in Kosovo?" Covic asked. Covic charged that the three men plan to organize major disturbances in Kosova to show that the civilian leadership under President Ibrahim Rugova is incapable of governing. Covic did not elaborate, except to say that "gangs and criminals" want early general elections in May. PM


Slobodan Samardzic, an adviser to outgoing Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, said in Belgrade on 17 February that the new Serbian Constitution will regulate the status of Kosova in a manner similar to that of Vojvodina, "no more and no less," Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 November and 9 and 12 December 2002). PM


The U.S. government has postponed from 31 March to 15 June its decision on whether to certify Serbia and Montenegro as eligible for U.S. financial assistance, the Belgrade daily "Danas" reported on 17 February. At stake is a package worth about $140 million. Whether Belgrade will be certified or not depends primarily on whether it convinces Washington that it is cooperating with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Cooperation involves arresting indicted individuals and allowing investigators access to Serbian archives (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 and 26 April 2002). PM


In Belgrade on 17 February, chief prosecutor for The Hague-based tribunal Carla Del Ponte said Serbia and Montenegro are not cooperating with that body, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. Djindjic told her that some of the archives to which she wants access were destroyed in NATO's 1999 bombing of Serbian targets. PM


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