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Unhappy with KFOR, Serbs bolster Milosevic

Yugoslav leaders want the Army back in Kosovo. Paramilitaries may be

By Alex TodorovicSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / September 15, 1999



BELGRADE, YUGOSLAVIA

In recent days, Yugoslav military leaders have begun harshly criticizing the KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

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The leaders, pretending as though they were not involved with the killings of thousands of Albanians during the war, have repeatedly said they want the UN to invite the Yugoslav Army to help establish order. Analysts say the situation is indirectly bolstering the Milosevic regime, because Serbs are again uniting around a perceived foreign enemy.

"International peacekeeping forces [under NATO auspices] haven't adequately fulfilled one single task assigned to them by the UN Security Council and the military technical agreement," said Third Army Commander Gen. Maj. Nebojsa Pavkovic on Sept. 12. "If international peacekeepers in Kosovo can't carry out their assignments, they should ask the Yugoslav Army to return."

Major Pavkovic stressed that according to the military-technical agreement signed in June between NATO and the governments of Yugoslavia and Serbia, the Yugoslav military is supposed to return to Kosovo to protect border crossings and cultural monuments.

According to the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Center for Peace and Tolerance in Pristina, Albanian extremists have killed more than 350 minorities since KFOR arrived in mid-June, while another 400 have been kidnapped.

A disproportionate number of the victims are elderly Serbs. About 130,000 Serbs have left Kosovo since the Yugoslav Army pulled out in mid-June, while 97,000 remain there.

"The violence in Kosovo serves [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic," says historian and Milosevic observer Alexander Djilas. "It compromises the West and the pro-Western Yugoslav opposition. Now that they're allowing the annihilation of everything Serbian, the West's initial reason for fighting the war seems spurious."

Mr. Djilas and others note that initially, the lost war worked against Mr. Milosevic, but then the country entered a new phase of ambiguous loyalties, where Milosevic's worldview is somewhat vindicated.

Journalist Dragoljub Zarkovic writes in the opposition weekly Vreme: "As each day brings more news of the desperate situation of Serbs in Kosovo, [Milosevic's] war against the entire world appears less like a bad or insane move."

The new mood has given Milosevic's party a more confident bounce. "We think that the international forces will leave sooner or later, and we can't wait for that moment," said Ivica Dacic, a spokesman for Milosevic's party, at a recent press conference. "Our fight for Kosovo continues, and anyone who thinks we've given up is deceiving himself."

The Yugoslav government is outraged that border crossings with Albania have not been secured, allowing Albanian mafia to take advantage of the situation.

"One problem is that UN troops were never trained for police work and that there's virtually no border with Albania," says Yugoslav military commentator Miroslav Lazanski. "Albanian criminals are running rampant in Kosovo committing every evil that you can imagine. I think our troops would do a better job."

The Yugoslav government will also carefully monitor how effectively KFOR troops disarm the Kosovo Liberation Army, a task that is supposed to be completed by Sept. 19. Failure to properly disarm the KLA by that date will be a measure of proof for conspiratorial Serbs that KFOR and the KLA have a deal to drive out Serbs.

There is some speculation that Milosevic might not wait for a UN invitation for soldiers to reenter Kosovo. In fact, there are already reports of paramilitary activity.

On Sept. 13, NATO's supreme commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, said that groups of Serbian paramilitaries are infiltrating back into Kosovo. A KFOR spokesman also said that a unit of Serbian paramilitary soldiers was trying to provoke an incident in Kosovo.

Even the opposition is cowering under the violence in Kosovo. Vuk Draskovic, one of Serbia's most powerful opposition leaders, was in favor of ending the war, but he now issues scathing statements against the peacekeeping mission.

"It's a natural human reaction to worry about safety first and foremost," says Slobodan Vuksanovic, vice president of the Democratic Party.

"This will be the main theme in the news until the situation is solved. The situation in Kosovo is preventing the democratization of Serbia."

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society