This Week: U.S. admits knowledge of smuggling; the ‘Zvornik 7’; Yugoslav economic savior fired; Bosnian Serb power struggle.
12 May 96, Sun
Dozens of Bosnian Croats visited family graves in Serb territory. It was the first such journey unmolested by Bosnian Serb protestors. U.S. troops provided security for the Croats.
U.N. officials trying to organize the return or repatriation of more than two million displaced Bosnians fear that as many as two-thirds of them will never go back to their homes. The officials, who accompanied UNHCR chief Sadako Ogata on last week’s six-day tour of Bosnia, said the trip had clearly demonstrated the engineers of ethnic cleansing would not cooperate in its reversal.
13 May 96, Mon
NATO said U.S. troops blundered when they turned seven Muslim soldiers over to Bosnian Serb authorities. The Bosnian government denied the men were its soldiers, instead suggesting they had escaped the fall of Srebrenica last summer and had been hiding out in caves ever since. (This appears unlikely as the men looked too well fed and groomed.)
“More time should have been taken to ascertain the facts and circumstances before making any decision about what to do with the seven men,” said a NATO officer. “An American major on the ground took the decision without consulting any higher authority. General Nash went ballistic and tried to get the men back from the Serbs but it was too late.”
The U.S. officer who turned the Muslims over to the Serbs said he did so because they appeared to be civilians despite their dress, their weapons were in violation of the Dayton Accord, and they were caught on Bosnian Serb territory.
Yugoslav National Bank Governor Dragoslav Avramovic survived a confidence vote by the bank’s governing board. Avramovic, who had expected to be ousted, said, “Either my information was wrong or they changed their minds.”
Avramovic has fought government policies that would unleash a new round of hyperinflation. Finance Minister Jovan Zebic, Avramovic’s replacement as chief negotiator with the IMF, said, “Government measures are not being implemented. He implements only those which he wants. That is no longer tenable.”
U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Elizabeth Rehn said that Kosovo threatens Balkan peace more than any other part of ex-Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia, Albania and Macedonia are among the 37 countries the CIA rates as high war risks. Kosovo, which is a part of Yugoslavia, is 95% ethnic Albanian; Macedonia contains a significant Albanian minority.
Germany turned accused war criminal Goran Lajic over to the ICTY. Lajic, a Bosnian Serb, was the commander of the infamous Keraterm prison camp near Prijedor.
EU representative Carl Bildt recommended that elections in Mostar be delayed due to “serious problems” posed by a boycott by six Muslim parties and a lack of freedom of movement. EU foreign ministers ignored his advice, telling Ricardo Pereez Cassado, the EU administrator for Mostar to hold the elections when called for by the Dayton Accord.
Note: The foreign ministers said a delay would create a precedent, conveniently forgetting the precedent set by the Serb boycott of Bosnian elections in 1992 — the same boycott which led directly to war.
14 May 96, Tue
The Council of Europe voted to delay Croatia’s application for membership. They cited Croatia’s failure to act on the 21-point democracy and human rights program it agreed to only a month ago. Croatia’s application had already been approved, first by a committee and then by the parliamentary assembly. The action of the ministers at the third, and hither to purely formal, stage of the admission process is unprecedented.
The government media protested the delay, saying Croatia had been singled out for “special treatment” because of national interests among the European Council’s members. (Many Croats regard Britain and France as hostile to their country’s independence, believing the they want to restore a Serb-dominated Yugoslavia.)
Bosnian and Croatian respresentatives are meeting in the U.S. to shore up their shaky federation. They signed yet another agreement to unify their armed forces. (The new agreement calls for a common defense ministry within three years.) They also agreed to set up common federation financial institutions, including a banking agency, privatisation agency and tax administration. The talks included a White House meeting with Clinton, Vice President Gore and Secretary of State Christopher.
The World Bank approved $40 million in loans to help Bosnia rebuild its economy. $20 million is for utilities, $10 million for education and $10 million for medical assistance. The loans include some funds for the Bosnian Serbs, but they may not accept money from a government they do not recognize.
Thousands of coal miners in the central Bosnian town of Kakanj went on strike on to back demands for more pay and better working conditions. The miners’ average monthly salary is 80 DM, while a basket of basic consumer goods for a typical family comes to at least 350 DM. (Some of this may be caused by IFOR-induced inflation. IFOR is paying its locally hired workers up to 1000 DM a month.)
The mine is the main supplier to the Kakanj thermal power plant, which produced about half of Bosnia’s electricity before the war broke out in 1991. Coal production in Bosnia is less than 10% of its pre-war level, due to equipment shortages. The World Bank estimates Bosnia will need at least $84 million over the next three years just to cope with its most basic energy needs.
15 May 96, Wed
IFOR ground commander General Walker disagreed with 1st Armored Division commander Major General Nash, his subordinate, over the handling of the Zvornik 7.
“However much we might want to question them, we are obligated eventually to turn such people over to civilian authorities if they have an interest in them. These men were on Serb territory … So they are now in the hands of the Serb police, where they belong. The agreement clearly characterises such armed groups, military or civilian, as threats to the peace,” Walker said.
The Zvornik 7 gave Muslim names, wore military fatigues and were armed when they surrendered to a U.S. patrol. Some of them have been accused of war crimes by the Serbs. U.N. police who visited the men said they are apparently being treated properly.
Yugoslav National Bank governor Dragoslav Avramovic begged parliament not to fire him. The dinar, which had been stable at 3.3 to the German mark, fell on the black market to 3.45 after parliament began to debate Avramovic’s future. Avramovic said he wanted to make deals with Britain, Germany and France to stabilize the dinar. “If I stay the dinar will be stable, but if I go, God help you then,” Avramovic said. The Yugoslav economy is at a virtual standstill despite the suspension of U.N. sanctions. Avramovic’s appeal fell on deaf ears. He was fired.
About 200 Bosnian soldiers arrived in Turkey, where they will spend three months training on the NATO-standard weapons the Bosnian government expects to receive. The Dayton Accord includes provisions to train and equip the Muslim-Croat federation’s army, so it can go toe-to-toe with the Bosnian Serbs. (Don’t forget that they were doing pretty darn good, with what they had, due to NATO air support, last Fall.) Though the program is for federation forces, so far only the Muslims are taking part. Federation pilots are also scheduled to be trained by the Turks on U.S. combat helicopters.
South Africa’s apartheid government paid Croatia $1.6 million in 1992 for a sensitive substance needed for the secret “Project B” chemical weapons project. The payment was made less than a year after Yugoslav authorities seized a 19-tonne consignment of South African-made weapons headed for Croatian separatists in September, 1991. South Africa’s Office for Serious Economic Offences, said the paper trail had led investigators to Croatia, but that it would take another 18 to 24 months to wrap up the investigation.
Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic fired Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic for not being “up to his task”. Kasagic was promoted by the West as a moderate alternative to Bosnian Serb hard-liners. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said the decision was “null and void”. (?!)
A Yugoslav court indicted Zlatibor Jovanovic, a Serb, for killing the Albanian whose death prompted the recent wave of violence in Kosovo.
Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic announced his candidacy in the forthcoming Bosnian elections. Karadzic cited his popularity among Bosnian Serbs as the justification for his candidacy. As an indicted war criminal, Karadzic is prevented from running for office by the Dayton Accord.
16 May 96, Thu
With U.S. armor covering an escape route, 49 Muslims made their first peaceful foray into Bosnian Serb territory, near Brcko, since the end of the war. On three previous visits to the large Muslim cemetery near the former front line, Muslims encountered angry, stone-throwing Serbs. Moderate Bosnian Serb politicians helped plan the visit. A group of Bosnian Croats also made a peaceful trip into Bosnian Serb territory.
The Council of Europe’s recent action against Croatia is viewed by Croatians as an attempt to hold the country to higher standards than those required of other member states like Russia, Romania and Albania. They feel Croatia is being punished by Britain, France and their allies for regarding the U.S. and not the EU as Croatia’s main partner.
The Croatian government confirmed “its commitment to the process of democratic development, thereby respecting the Council of Europe’s criteria and norms.” Yet, the Prosecutor-General sent two staff members of the Feral Tribune a court summons for libeling President Franjo Tudjman. Viktor Ivancic and Marinko Culic face possible prison terms of up to three years under a law enacted by parliament last month banning “defamation” of state leadership without defining what constitutes defamation.
Macedonia asked the U.N. to extend the UNPREDEP mandate for another year. Macedonian Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frckovski said the situation in his country was still unstable and that it was unable to defend itself. The UN force, which has been in Macedonia since 1992, includes 500 U.S. troops.
The Bosnian government promised coal miners a 60% raise for both April and May, but the miners claim the Kakanj thermal plant has never paid for their coal. (Thus making a wage increase impossible.)
Bosnian Serb Goran Lajic pleaded not guilty to charges of war crimes at the Keraterm prison camp near Prijedor in northwest Bosnia. Lajic said he was a victim of mistaken identity and did not even know where the Keraterm camp was.
17 May 96, Fri
The Zvornik 7 were beaten while in a Serb prison, the Red Cross reported. The beatings were used to extract confessions of killing Serbs near Srebrenica. The seven Muslim soldiers have since been transferred to Bijeljina.
The Zvornik 7 claimed to have been on the run from Srebrenica for 10 months. Yet when they surrendered to U.S. troops last week, they were healthy, wore new uniforms and casual shoes in good shape, and were clean-shaven with recent hair cuts. They were also carrying bread so fresh it was still warm. (Similar size, similar activities to the attempted infiltration of Croatia by another Bosnian special ops team a few weeks ago. It’s not a coincidence.)
The chances that Bosnia will hold together as a multiethnic, unified state are poor, according to a draft National Intelligence Estimate circulating in the American government. The NIE is a classified attempt to put together a consensus view of American intelligence agencies. The current draft is sharply pessimistic about the efforts to build a unified, multiethnic Bosnia. It questions the position of the Clinton administration that the civilian portion of the Dayton Accord is on schedule. The report predicts that the elections, if held, would be divided along ethnic lines. Leaders of all three groups want to preserve their power bases, fearing that a multiethnic state would dilute their control.
Independent Bosnian Serb media are under intense pressure, including death threats, for supporting moderate prime minister Rajko Kasagic in his leadership battle with president Radovan Karadzic. At least one pro-Kasagic publisher moderated his support of Kasagic after receiving phone death threats. Karadzic is unpopular in Banja Luka but still commands the state media and three police units and affiliated paramilitary in the area. IFOR considered placing an APC outside the publisher’s office but settled on sending occasional patrols by instead. “The thinking was if we are too visible in our presence it might make it seem he was our man rather than independent,” said a NATO officer in Banja Luka.
18 May 96, Sat
Side-stepping Western attempts to oust him, Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic appointed Biljana “the Serbian Princess” Plavsic as his diplomatic proxy. Accused war criminal Arkan gave her the nickname when she toured Bijeljina in 1992 after his militia had ethnically cleansed the city. A long-time anti-communist, she has opposed Communist-turned-nationalist Sebian President Milosevic for years. Plavsic was also the first to admonish Milosevic for selling out the Serbs after he signed the Dayton Accord.
In a visit to the Republika Srpska capital, EU representative Carl Bildt said Karadzic appeared to be withdrawing from public life. NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said Bildt’s maneuvers had had caused Karadzic’s removal.
Karadzic apparently hopes that by placing Plavsic in the limelight, he’ll lessen pressure for him to be arrested by IFOR. Judging from her stubborn nationalist role throughout the Bosnian war, that’s hardly likely. One EU official said she was “one of the architects of the ethnic cleansing.”
The Republika Srpska parliament endorsed President Radovan Karadzic’s dismissal of Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic by a vote of 55-1. Twenty-Four MPs did not attend the vote. Parliament also approved Gojko Klickovic as the new prime minister. The votes were a major victory for Karadzic who, it was thought, might have lost his hardline majority.
Klickovic said he would implement the Dayton Accord at the same pace as the Muslim-Croat federation, that he opposed Karadzic’s extradition and Serb integration into Bosnia. Klickovic was the mayor of Bosanska Krupa until it was captured by last year’s Muslim-Croat blitzkrieg. Since then he has been deputy health minister and worked on resettling Serb refugees and the Serb exodus from Sarajevo in March.
Kasagic said he would comply with his replacement by parliament.
Hundreds of Bosnian Serbs from Mastikose formed a human chain near Milin Birt, to prevent Muslims from crossing the IEBL to visit Prijedor and Kozarac. IFOR troops blocked the road with tanks and armored vehicles to prevent clashes while the Muslims’ passage was negotiated. The talks were unsuccessful, but the Serbs had dispersed by mid-afternoon.
Bosnian Serb General Djordje Djukic, released by the ICTY last month because of ill health, died in Belgrade of pancreatic cancer. Though released, the charges against him were still pending. Djukic was a senior logistics officer in the Bosnian Serb army before being captured by the Bosnian army after making a wrong turn in Sarajevo on January 30.
“Our original weapons were simply hatching babies.” (Defense Minister Susak, on Croatia’s response to American inquiries about arms smuggling.)
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