Asylum for Milošević talks denied
In the wake of a report by the New York Times on Monday, 19 June, alleging the US and Russia were trying to work out an immunity and asylum deal for President Slobodan Milošević should he elect to step down, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher issued a heated denial, saying "there have been no proposals along those lines."
Boucher said that US policy is "fairly simple: he should be out of the country and in The Hague."
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov called the story the result of "fertile imaginations," saying that while Moscow has frequently reminded Washington of the need to "end the isolation of Yugoslavia," there had been no discussion of Russian asylum for the Yugoslav strongman.
Greek government spokesman Tilemanhos Hitiris issued a similarly heated denial, saying that a recent visit to Belgrade by the Greek Foreign Minister had "nothing to do" with any plan to offer Milošević asylum."
Hague Tribunal spokesman Paul Risley waded into the debate Thursday after a meeting between International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte and UN Kosovo chief Bernard Kouchner, saying that "any country offering asylum [to Milošević] will face sanctions," adding that the Tribunal would not allow indictments against any individual to be withdrawn for "political reasons."
Meanwhile, former Milošević advisor Zvonimir Trajković told BETA this week that his former boss was unlikely to ever leave Yugoslavia, saying Milošević would do everything in his power to seek guarantees from "the citizens and opposition of Serbia" to ensure he would never face the Hague Tribunal.
Milošević, Trajković said, would only step down "when he finds his Putin," a reference to former Russian President Boris Yetlsin's decision to step down in favour of current President Vladimir Putin in return for complete amnesty.
Finally, ICTY President Claude Jorda made public this week a report claiming that, within 30 months, the ICTY anticipates the arrest of the 30 most wanted Yugoslav war criminals, including Milošević, Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić, the Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje reported Thursday.
Otpor clamp down continues
Serbia's assault on the student-run Otpor resistance movement continued this week, with three Otpor members in the Vojvodina town of Subotica being arrested – one for the sixth time.
In Lekova, opposition activists Bratislav Stanković was arrested after a neighbour who is president of the building's tenants' council called police to alleged that Stanković had written the word "Otpor" in his building's hallway.
In the week's most explosive development, police in Kragujevac arrested 23 Otpor activists, including four minors and two journalists, early Thursday afternoon. They were released that evening after "intensive questioning."
Meanwhile, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Jiri Dienstbier met with Otpor representatives in Požarevac, where he was presented with evidence concerning police mistreatment of some 600 Otpor activists. Dienstbier later met with Serbian Minister of Justice Dragoljub Janković, where he expressed concerns over the state's planned anti-terrorism law, as well as over the current fate of at least 1000 ethnic Albanian prisoners moved to Serbian detention facilities in advance of NATO's entry into Kosovo last year.
Anti-terrorist law in offing
Serbian Deputy Minister of Justice Zoran Balinovac announced this week that "preparation for the new anti-terrorism law is in its final stages," adding that the law will provide stricter punishment not only for individuals deemed guilty of committing acts of terrorism, but also for the organizers of resistance groups and "those who publicly express their approval of such acts."
For his part, Deputy Federal Minister of Internal Affairs Svetozar Simonović said the bill is "a result of the government's desire to comply with UN conventions on terrorism," noting that the state would "fight large-scale terrorism with large-scale anti-terrorist forces."
In a meeting with UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Jiri Dienstbier, Serbian Minister of Justice Dragoljub Janković said that the measure was necessary because "NATO's aggression against Serbia has continued with various terrorist acts and attempts to provoke unrest and to encourage people's mistrust in the government," a veiled reference to Yugoslav opposition groups.
New anti-terrorist legislation, Janković told Dienstbier, "would efficiently uproot the incipient evil in the country."
Admiral lashes out at Milošević
Former Yugoslav Minister of Defence Admiral Branko Mamula said this week that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević has "led the country into an abyss and a world ghetto."
Drašković accuses Milošević
Vuk Drašković, the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) chief who barely escaped an assassination at his summer-house in Budva, Montenegro, last week, condemned Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milošević for the attack.
"Serbian services, no doubt, are behind the attempted assassination. Our state is in the hands of murderers led by a terrorist regime. Serbia is the Iraq of the Balkans," he said.
"Nevertheless," he said, "it is my task to continue the struggle. That is the only way for my country to survive."
Meanwhile, Montenegrin police this week arrested two men believed to have been part of a group of six who planned and executed the assault. (See News from Montenegro)
Reservists still waiting for Kosovo pay
One year after their service in Kosovo ended, Yugoslav Army (VJ) reservists complained to the daily Blic asking that the paper investigate why daily mobilization pay from last June had still not been paid.
Veterans groups have recently demanded payment of combat pay from Kosovo, asking why the VJ has sufficient funds to provide a general with a lavish retirement ceremony - complete with a ceremonial sword equal in value to one day's mobilisation pay for 1000 reservists - yet does not have the funds available to pay its reservists.
Meanwhile, veterans of the wars in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia have threatened to take to the streets in protest if they are not granted a meeting with Yugoslav Prime Minister Mirko Marjanović.
Nikola Mandić, president of the Association of 1999 War Veterans of Serbia, told local media that the Prime Minister had ten days to receive a delegation or face protests in the street.
The association alleges that some 17,300 persons entitled to benefits have not received payment in the past 11 months.
Second Anniversary of Alliance for Change has second anniversary
Zoran Đinđić, Vesna Pesić and Milan St Protić were among those to address the faithful at this week's second anniversary of the founding of the Alliance for Change umbrella opposition coalition.
Đinđić told his membership that they should prepare for "serious action" this year, as the Alliance had not only united political parties, but also an "entire bloc of democratic organisations." The Alliance, he said, is concentrating on the future, not on the failures of the regime, trying to offer potential voters an economic, social and political alternative for a democratic future.
EU moves to isolate Belgrade
Meeting in the Portuguese town of Santa Maria da Feira this week, European Union heads of state agreed on further steps to isolate the Belgrade regime of Slobodan Milošević while strengthening democratic forces in Serbia and throughout the Balkans.
The leaders stated they were particularly interested in devising a new regime of "smart sanctions" that would selectively target the Yugoslav élite close to Milošević while providing more concrete support for opposition towns and cities.
In a joint statement, EU leaders said that Yugoslavia would be "welcomed into the European family of democratic nations" when it clearly demonstrates its willingness to cooperate with its neighbours.
"The EU supports civil society's initiatives and the democratic forces in Serbia which are fighting to achieve the aim of democratic transformation and the inclusion of Serbia in Europe," the statement said, calling on the often-fractured democratic forces in Serbia to put aside petty differences and work as a united bloc.
Prodi's cash pledge for post-Slobo Serbia
In a meeting this week with Democratic Party leader Zoran Đinđić, European commission President Romano Prodi claimed the EU has earmarked DEM 5 billion in transition and reconstruction assistance for Serbia once Slobodan Milošević is out of power.
Đinđić, meanwhile, has asked for a donors' conference to show the Serbian people that "Europe is prepared to make a clear statement on Serbia's place in the European family of nations."
BETA news agency