Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Serbia should get rid of Albanians, Dodik says

1/06/2007 09:22:36  
Serbia should get rid of Albanians, Dodik says (Dpa)

Sarajevo/Banja Luka_(dpa) _ Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik said Monday in an interview to Bosnian Serb TV in Banja Luka that it would be better for Serbia to get rid of Albanians, media reported Tuesday.

"I am saying this for the first time, but I believe it would not be good for Serbia if Albanians stay there, to be incorporated into the political life of that country, which would then generate a long-term destabilization," Dodik said.

He however said it would be impossible for Serbia to lose part of its territories without receiving anything in compensation.

"The international community is frustrated with the fact that Serbia did not give up Kosovo," Dodik said.

He rejected any connection between the negotiations on the status of Kosovo and the latest political crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Serbian and Albanian representatives did not reach an agreement over the future status of Kosovo during the latest round on negotiations held Monday in Vienna.

The Serbian delegation suggested a solution similar to the solution for Hong Kong, but the Albanian delegation did not agree with the proposal that retained the possibility of unilaterally declaring the independence of the province on December 10, despite international warnings to refrain from such moves.

The issue of Kosovo has often been put in the context of political disputes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, with speculations that the Bosnian Serbs may then demand a split with the rest of Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

Serbia glimpses 'European dawn' (Ft)

Tony Barber in Brussels and Neil MacDonald in Belgrade

The European Union will reward Serbia for improved co-operation in the hunt for alleged war criminals by initialling an agreement on Wednesday that puts Serbia on the road to EU membership.

The EU's gesture is intended to strengthen pro-European forces in Belgrade, notably Boris Tadic, the president, and his allies, and to woo Serbia away from the kind of nationalist intolerance that unleashed the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

"This marks a real turning point for Serbia," Olli Rehn, the EU's enlargement commissioner, said on Tuesday. "After a long nationalist night in the 1990s, a democratic dawn broke in 2000. Now a new European dawn is in the making in Serbia."

Mr Rehn was referring to the removal from power in October 2000 of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader who died last year in his prison cell in the UN war crimes tribunal's detention centre at The Hague.

Mr Rehn approved the decision to initial the accord after Carla del Ponte, the war crimes prosecutor, told him there was political will in Serbia to arrest fugitive suspects and that she was being granted better access to necessary documents.

However, the EU is holding back from putting a final signature on the agreement until it is satisfied Serbia is fully co-operating with the tribunal - a condition that implies the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander.

Western intelligence services suspect that Mr Mladic, who is accused of having organised the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in 1995, is in hiding in Serbia.

Serbian officials say they are already co-operating as much as possible with the tribunal, and that they have lost track of Mr Mladic. According to Mr Tadic, the fugitive general has not been seen since 2002 - even though he was paid his military pension up to November 2005.

Pro-EU officials in Belgrade say the EU could send a stronger signal of support by signing, rather than merely initialling, the so-called stabilisation and association agreement. This step would improve the political conditions for arresting Mr Mladic and the other three remaining fugitive suspects, they say.

EU officials acknowledge Wednesday's accord will do little in itself to ease tensions between Belgrade and western countries over the province of Kosovo, which wants to declare independence from Serbia next month.

Even so, the agreement represents Serbia's biggest advance yet on the path to EU entry, and it will be welcomed by EU states that deem it vital to maintain the momentum for the bloc's enlargement in the Balkans.

In progress reports published on Tuesday, the European Commission made clear that, with the exception of Croatia, membership almost certainly lies many years away for western Balkan countries and Turkey.

The report on Turkey stated: "There was limited progress on political reforms in 2007 . . . Freedom of expression and freedom of religion are the most urgent issues, on which we want to see the government take action without delay."  

11/06/2007 20:49:47  
Hate speech trial of Serb ultra-nationalist to open (Afp)

by Stephanie van den Berg

THE HAGUE, Nov 7, 2007 (AFP) - Serb ultra-nationalist political leader Vojislav Seselj goes on trial at the UN war crimes court here Wednesday on accusations that his "hate speech" fanned the flames of the 1990s Balkan wars.

Sesel, who continues to head Serbia's biggest political party, the Serbian Radical Party, from his cell in The Hague on Tuesday again insisted that he was not guilty of the charges leveled against him.

"I am being tried for atrocious war crimes that I allegedly committed through hate speech as I preached my nationalist ideology that I am proud of," he said in a pre-trial hearing.

"I have no other involvement in these crimes expect for what I said or wrote."

Prosecutors say the 53-year-old formed a joint criminal enterprise with late Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic to "ethnically cleanse" large parts of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia's northern Vojvodina region.

He faces three charges of crimes against humanity and six counts of war crimes including persecution, deportation, murder and torture.

In the only case before the UN war crimes court since the Milosevic trial to focus on Serbia's involvement in the wars in Bosnia and Croatia in the early 1990s, prosecutors say Seselj was "the chief propagandist for Greater Serbia."

Along with Milosevic and others, their alleged goal was to remove by force a majority of the Muslim and Croat population from swathes of the former Yugoslavia, and eventually create a greater Serbian state.

During the 1991-95 wars in Croatia and Bosnia Seselj's party sent its own paramilitaries to the frontlines. At least five former members of the so-called White Eagles are currently on trial in a Serbian war crimes court over crimes committed in Bosnia and Croatia.

So far only the case against former Yugoslav president Milosevic looked closely at Belgrade's role in the Croatian and Bosnian wars from 1991 to 1995. When Milosevic died suddenly in his UN cell in March last year the proceedings against him were terminated without the judges issuing a final ruling.

Like Milosevic, Seselj is acting as his own lawyer and openly displays his contempt for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Seselj has been in custody in The Hague since February 2003. He went on hunger strike last year to insist on his right to defend himself, forcing an earlier trial to be nullified.

Many observers say he will be quick to apply the same tactics this time around.

According to the indictment Seselj recruited, financed and supplied Serb paramilitary units and volunteer fighters who went on to commit atrocities.

Seselj's fiercely nationalist rhetoric, which included him announcing in the early 1990s that "we are going to create Serboslavia out of Yugoslavia," provoked Serbs to tolerate and commit crimes against non-Serbs, it said.

A fierce critic of the West, Seselj has announced he will use the trial to show the existence of an international anti-Serb conspiracy involving the European Union, Germany, NATO, the United States and the Vatican.

"It was from the West that all evil originated," he stressed Tuesday.

Seselj's trial will start with a four-hour opening statement by the prosecutor. On Thursday Seselj himself will address the court for the same amount of time.

The trial will then be adjourned until December 4 when the prosecution will call its first witness. The trial is expected to last about a year.

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