Tense week in Preševo Valley
On Saturday 2 December, the situation in the Preševo Valley was reported as being calm under the control of Serbian police, by EU monitoring mission head Frank Plakon.
On Sunday, a commander of the Liberation Army of Preševo, Medveđe and Bujanovac (UÇPMB), Muhamet Xhemaili, said that Serb Security Forces had violated the cease-fire agreement in place since last week. He reported two men as having been wounded in an attack on Friday. On Monday this was countered by Serb claims that members of UÇPMB had fired mortars at a Serbian police patrol in the region. Accusation and counter-accusation have run for much of the week.
President Vojislav Koštunica started the week using a pacifistic tone, urging tolerance and patience on all sides. He also referred to "our citizens" who were being pushed into conflict by "their own extremists." Such language is a new departure for Yugoslav politicians, accustomed to referring to Albanians only as terrorists and rebels.
This was in marked contrast to the more strident announcements of fellow the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) member, Zoran Đinđić who reiterated Serbia's capability and willingness to defend her territory against "terrorists," strengthening rumours of rivalry between the newly elected President and his coalition mate.
By the end of the week however, Koštunica was making less soothing noises, making it clear that patience was not in endless supply and that some progress needed to be made soon on the situation.
The Yugoslav government requested a UN session on the border crisis after shots were fired at state security forces from within the demilitarised zone (GSZ). They have demanded armed Albanians withdraw from the GSZ.
In addition, permission has been sought from NATO for the Yugoslav forces to be able to force armed Albanians from their positions within the GSZ. This will take place after the Yugoslav special elections on December 23, if the approval is granted.
UNHCR announced this week that it plans to assign USD 37.5 million in humanitarian aid to contribute towards a resolution of the Preševo situation. A UNHCR spokesman said a key priority for the organisation was ensuring that people could return to their homes.
Campaigns for the Serbian elections have now been in full swing for a week in preparation for the 23 December. There is speculation that the DOS could win by a landslide, consolidating the Presidential victory. DOS have announced their intention to run a normal campaign despite their current popularity in Serbia, while SPS (under their re-elected president, Slobodan Milošević) appear to be planning a comeback.
Post-Milošević woos China
Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan met Foreign Affairs Minister Goran Svilanović in Belgrade on Saturday, and announced that China welcomed political stabilisation in Yugoslavia as it would improve the international standing of the country. Koštunica was invited to visit China next year as the guest of the Chinese President.
The visit and meetings were regarded as a great success by the Yugoslav government, who described the re-establishment of relations with China (an historic ally of Milošević) as "the crown of our diplomatic activities." After the meetings it was announced that China will provide USD 2.4 million in aid to Yugoslavia.
And in other news...
- After being appointed as Governor of the Yugoslav National Bank, Mlađan Dinkić stepped down from his position as Director of G17 plus on Friday. Meanwhile, Dinkić's choice of deputy Radivoje Rasović was elected by 75 votes, with 20 against and one abstention.
- As of midnight Tuesday, the black market and official rate of exchange have been levelled, meaning that one Deutschmark is worth YUN 30, instead of six.
- The US Treasury Department has concluded that associates of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević had channelled at least USD one billion out of Yugoslavia into banks in Cyprus, only to get re-channelled to other destinations. Cyprus said later in the week that despite a massive operation and international assistance, the banks could find no trace of such money.
- The body of Judge Nebojša Simeunović, was found in the river on Sunday, some weeks after he disappeared. The judge, who was last seen shortly after he refused to carry out the order to have 3 prominent DOS figures arrested on the night of 4 October is something of an icon of the revolution in Serbia. Čović, one of the men who was on the arrest list, as President of the Democratic Alternative said that he was certain the previous regime was at responsible be it directly or indirectly.
- President Koštunica pardoned the Serbian Liberation Army members on Wednesday. Three members of the Serbian Liberation Army members had been sentenced "for planning diversions and assassinations of the state's political and army leaders." They were released this week from the Military Prison in Niš.
- Over the course of the coming week, several Yugoslav ambassadors will be recalled including the Milosevic's brother. Some new ambassadorial appointments have been annouced: USA—Milan St Protić, France—Radomir Diklić, UK—Vladeta Janković, Germany—Milovan Božinović, Mexico—Vesna Pešić and Italy—Miodrag Lekić. The ambassador to Moscow (Milosevic's replacement) will be appointed by the SNP of Montenegro, while the DOS will appoint an Ambassador to the Vatican.
- 26 policemen from Užice have been suspended because they had refused to serve in southern Serbia, the Užice chief of police Voja Drndarević said that any police who disobey orders without a valid excuse will be suspended.
Eleanor Pritchard, 9 December 2000
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