Yugo Digest: 1996-05-25

yugo_digest_logoThis Week: Karadzic retains power; Iran-Bosnagate Senate testimony; the real story behind the capture of the Zvornik 7.

19 May 96, Sun

A French soldier was shot to death on Mt. Igman, near Sarajevo. NATO said his death was not the result of hostile fire, meaning it was either an accident or suicide. Twenty-six IFOR soldiers have died and 36 have been wounded since Operation Joint Endeavor started six months ago.

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Despite the setback of last night’s vote in parliament, EU representative Carl Bildt insisted that international efforts to oust Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic were making headway. A spokesman said Bildt “is continuing to ensure that this sidelining of Dr. Karadzic is ratified and consummated.”

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Iran-Bosnagate Senate Testimony

U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith gave his tacit approval when Croatia asked him if the U.S. objected to arms being smuggled through Croatia to Bosnia. Galbraith said he was instructed by “Washington” not to answer Croatia’s question.”It was the position of the United States to wish to see the arms embargo lifted, but our administration was not prepared to lift it unilaterally, and we could not persuade the Europeans to lift it multilaterally,” Galbraith said.

Former U.S. negotiator Richard Holbrooke told the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 20 that he explored the possibility of the U.S. directly supporting arms smuggling by Iran and other Muslim countries in late 1994. The Clinton administration did not support Holbrooke’s proposal. He said U.S. intelligence agencies were deliberately not told of the decision to ignore Iranian arms smuggling because it was the U.S. was not running a covert operation, only responding to Croatia’s diplomatic inquiry.

Testimony also revealed that National Security Advisor Anthony Lake told Galbraith and Charles Redman, Galbraith’s predecessor, that no written reports should be made. (Thus making it easier to deny the existence of a covert operation.)

20 May 96, Mon

EU representative Carl Bildt returned to Belgrade to renew the pressure on Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to oust Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic. He threatened renwed sanctions if Milosevic does not fulfill his Dayton Accord responsibility to arrest war criminals.

An embarassed Bildt accused of Karadzic of “poisoning” the peace process. (The Bosnian Serbs waited until Bildt arrived in Pale last Saturday to negotiate Karadzic’s surrender before announcing that they had voted former Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic out of office nine hours earlier.)

Despite Karadzic’s attempts to reassert his power, Bildt says he is “very clearly at the beginning of the end of his political life.”

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Former Prime Minister Rajko Kasagic, fearing for his safety, is rumored to have gone into hiding.

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Two hundred Muslim soldiers of the Muslim-Croat federation began tank and artillery training in Turkey. The armor training will be on U.S. M60A3 tanks, 45 of which the U.S. has promised to donate to Bosnia. The U.S. is also paying Turkey $2 million to provide the training.

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Two-thirds of Serbia’s health and social workers went on strike demanding a 50% pay increase, regular salary payments and better working conditions. Serbian Health Minister Leposava Milicevic quickly responded by offering a 30% pay increase. Yugoslavia’s health workers earn an average salary of 632 dinars ($130).

Montenegrin health workers sat out a day in support of their Serbian colleagues. Serbian trade unions may join soon health workers on the picket line.

The strikes coincided with the sacking of National Bank chief Dragoslav Avramovic, who had clashed with government ministers over printing money to help cash-strapped state-owned companies, warning it could reignite hyperinflation in Yugoslavia.

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Muslims in Mostar asked EU administrator Ricardo Peres Casado to postpone municipal elections until the general elections in September.

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Banja Luka’s only independent radio station was briefly off the air after its electricity was cut off because, Serb authorities said, it “had not paid its electricity bill”. The station manager called the incident “organized harassment”.

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The World Bank gave Macedonia a $7.9 million interest-free loan. The loan is intended to help fund agricultural pilot projects, support privatization of veterinary and epidemiological services, and improve small farmers’ access to commercial credits. The loan is repayable over 35 years, with a 10-year grace period.


21 May 96, Tue

EU representative Carl Bildt and IFOR ground commander Lt. General Sir Michael Walker met with “Bosnian Serb leadership” in Pale, the capital of Republika Srpska. They failed to extract a commitment that President Radovan Karadzic would resign. Bildt said he will ask Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to help arrest Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic.

In a sign of how much power Karadzic retains, IFOR held a press conference in a Pale press center built for and controlled by Karadzic’s influential daughter, Sonja. (She also controls international press access to Bosnian Serb officials and is planning her own radio station; his son Sasa has numerous small businesses.)

Bildt still clings to the hope that Karadzic is on his way out. “Mr. Karadzic is less in power and authority than he was a week ago. We’ll see what the situation is in a week from now,” said Bildt.

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Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic, an indicted war criminal, made a rare public appearance in Belgrade at the burial ceremony for Gen. Djordje Djukic, Mladic’s chief of logistics who had been in charge of the Serb bombing siege of Sarajevo. Also attending was Col. Veselin Sljivancanin, another indicted war crimes suspect. Despite the public appearance, Yugoslav authorities failed to arrest either man. The U.S. will not “react emotionally just because we’ve seen … the video of Mladic in Belgrade,” said a State Department spokesman.

The ICTY, frustrated at the lack of progress in apprehending Mladic and Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic is planning to reveal the evidence against them. It would be the first time the Tribunal has revealed evidence against an indicted suspect prior to his trial. Their trials are due to start June 27 and are scheduled to last until July 5.

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Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum met with Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to kick start the civilian portion of the Dayton Accord. Kornblum said he wasn’t there “to issue threats … but I did make it clear that the process must go forward and that there is the prospect of sanctions if it doesn’t.” (Sounds like a threat to me, though diplomatic threats usually carry all the impact of a wet noodle.) Kornblum said the U.S. would hold Milosevic responsible for if Bosnian Serbs’ failed to adhere to the Accord since he signed for them.

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Croatia’s new amnesty law for Serbs involved in the 1991 rebellion in Eastern Slavonija is badly flawed and complicates the UNTAES mission to transfer the Serb-held enclave back to government rule, the U.N. said. The law pardoning Serbs who bore arms against Croatia was enacted last week at the behest of Western diplomats. (Many Serbs are already preparing to evacuate the region to move to Serbia.) Despite the flawed legislation, UNTAES finished the deployment of its troops to the region today.


22 May 96, Wed

Faced with numerous and flagrant violations of the civilian provisions of the Dayton Accord, the U.S. and European powers summoned the presidents of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia to a summit in Geneva on June 2.

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Croatian President Franjo Tudjman’s daughter, Nevenka Kosutic, sued the Feral Tribune for $635,000. The independent weekly claimed that she set up a profitable business using government connections. (This is yet another Tudjman legal maneuver aimed at driving Feral out of business.)

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The European Commission gave $17.3 million to Bosnia’s Moslem-Croat federation to purchase urgently needed water supply and farm equipment. $10 million will be used to improve water supply in 58 municipalities. The remaining $7.3 million will buy tractors for private farmers.


23 May 96, Thu

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic may be preventing General Ratko Mladic from returning to Bosnia. Mladic was in Belgrade to attend the funeral of General Djordje Djukic. The Bosnian Serb army says Mladic is back in Republika Srpska. The speculation coincides with growing pressure on Milosevic to remove Mladic and Karadzic from power and hand them over to the ICTY. The Yugoslav Foreign Ministry is preparing a bill on extradition of indicted war criminals. The bill might be submitted to parliament by next week.

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Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum said “Karadzic is not in power.” (Closing your eyes and wishing really hard does make it so.) For his part, Karadzic still refuses to budge and is threatening to hold a referendum to cement his power.

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A deal was struck to head off the threatened Muslim boycott of local elections in Mostar. The elections are due on May 31 but local Moslem leaders were unhappy that Moslems driven out of the city during the war would not be able to vote. The elections were rescheduled for the second half of June. The refugees will now be allowed to vote. The Mostar elections are crucial for the survival of the fragile Muslim-Croat federation.

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Jordanian peacekeepers were shot at by Serb militia in Eastern Slavonia. The region’s return to Croatian control is one of the Dayton Accord’s provisions.

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Bosnian Serb police prevented a bus from the government-held Sarajevo suburb of Ilidza from reaching the Serb-run district of Lukavica. They said the bus failed to meet “safety standards,” but Bosnian Serb authorities indicated that they intend to ban all such bus traffic between the federation and the Republika Srpska. Interestingly enough, most of the bus’s passengers were Serbs who wanted to telephone friends or (and this is probably the key) collect pensions.

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The Real Story Behind the Capture of the Zvornik 7

In their first public interview since turning the Zvornik 7 over to Serb authorities, the U.S. troops who captured them contradicted mainstream press reports that they were refugees from Srebrenica.Two of the seven were carrying AK-47s when they were seen crossing the road near a U.S. checkpoint on the IEBL. Twenty minutes later shooting was heard 200 meters north of the checkpoint. Within seconds the seven tried to recross the road. They were captured by U.S. soldiers who found five grenades, two pistols and seven knives on the Muslims. (The IEBL is the middle of the ZOS. No weapons are allowed in the ZOS.) They were mostly clean shaven, wearing parts of uniforms, their boots were clean and in general they did not look like they had been hiding in the woods for a year.

The IPTF questioned the seven, but deferred to the civil affairs and MPs who arrived 20 minutes later. Translators working for the U.S. Army said the Serb police questioned the Muslims about incidents near Milici a few weeks prior.

When the Serb paddy wagon showed up to take away the prisoners, small arms fire and an explosion were heard from the vicinity of the previous shooting. None of the rounds hit the checkpoint.

24 May 96, Fri

Croatian state television broadcast a fawning editorial on President Franjo Tudjman. It hailed him as the visionary architect of Croatian independence from Yugoslavia and its victory over Serb rebels. But Tudjman is identified in Western minds not as a world-class statesman but mainly as the co-sponsor of the war that tore up neighbouring Bosnia, by backing separatist Bosnian Croats.

“There is a desire to compare Tudjman with Tito, so that in the eyes of the world he is seen as a dictator or one-party ideologue. It would be more logical to compare Tudjman with Bismarck or Churchill or even de Gaulle. These statesmen unified their nations, won wars, or created a strong and independent state in a situation of internal decay,” the commentary said. Independent Radio 101 poked fun at the Churchill reference, noting that he lost Britain’s first post-war elections.

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Five unoccupied houses in Dugi Dio were blown up today. The IPTF believes it was a “professional job”. Dugi Dio is one of the few Muslim settlements remaining in the Republika Srpska. Angry Muslims refused to allow Serb police to enter the village. (Serb police have a legal right to enter the town, but agreed not to patrol it for a few days while the situation defuses.) The Serb police denied any knowledge of the explosions, accusing Muslims of blowing up their own homes.

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British Prime Minister John Major, on a visit to British troops in Bosnia, said, “The expectation is the pullout will occur on time. Certainly, that is what we are working for, and we hope that will happen.” Major made a point to also visit moderate Bosnian Serb opponents of Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic. (The first world leader to do so.)

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U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has recommended that the mandate of UNPREDEP be extended for six months, beginning November 20, 1996. Macedonia requested the extended protection last week. Half of UNPREDEP’s 1,200 peacekeepers, obeservers and police are American soldiers.

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Kosovar’s Albanian shadow-state President Ibrahim Rugova postponed today’s planned elections for one year. Both presidential and parliamentary elections were on the ballot.

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Turkey paid Bosnia the first $20 million of a planned $80 million in reconstruction aid. The money would be used for the repair of the Bosnia’s infrastructure and industry, and to provide housing for Muslim refugees returning from Turkey.


25 May 96, Sat

A U.S. soldier was diagnosed as having the deadly Hantavirus earlier this month. He was hemorrhaging and his kidneys were failing, but his condition improved after military doctors gave him ribavirin, an experimental drug. Another soldier may also have contracted the disease, but took the drug before being positively diagnosed. The disease is contracted by breathing dust that has been contaminated with feces, urine and rat saliva. A Hantavirus outbreak killed thirteen people in the U.S. southwest several years ago.

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True Heart and Peace, a Muslim women’s group, tried to enter Serb-controlled territory to plant trees in Kozarac, site of a former prison camp. Bosnian Serb police prevented their passage.


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