Milošević on the way to The Hague
The Government of Yugoslavia, meeting without most coalition members from Montenegro on Saturday, adopted a decree on co-operation with the UN Tribunal in The Hague. The decree becomes effective the following day, after being published in Government's gazette, and it will give a green light for the delivery of former president Slobodan Milošević and others indicted for war crimes.
The cabinet met in haste, after abandoning draft legislation in the Parliament which was certain to fall victim to the Montenegrin Socialists who hold the balance of power. All but one member of the Government from the Socialist People's Party (SNP)—which, until 5 October, was in coalition with Milošević—boycotted the meeting. The sole present SNP member gave the quorum for the meeting, although he voted against the decree (8:1).
Because of the conference of donors planned for 29 June, it was expected in Belgrade that Milošević would be delivered to The Hague immediately after the decree becomes official, since the decree was in response to US pressure for concrete co-operation with the Tribunal. Washington has so far failed to reply to its invitation to the conference. At press time, there was a lot of confusion about the forthcoming delivery of Milošević and hundreds of journalists from foreign and local media were on full alert.
The situation was rather tense and the authorities were expecting mass protests by Milošević's supporters. As an indication showing the public opinion, the first report about the new decree was published on the Radio B92 Internet news site under the title "Deportation for dollars gets green light." The station is widely considered as independent.
Dramatic meetings in the background
On Friday, a day before the meeting of the government, leaders of the ruling coalition in Serbia (DOS) met with Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica, demanding the dismissal of General Nebojša Pavković, chief of staff of the army. Pavković has been one of Milošević's strongest supporters for years and in last few days a few Government members publicly accused him of preparing a coup. President Koštunica, who has often declared his opposition to the Tribunal promising that Milošević would not be delivered, instead requested time to reorganise and reform the army.
"People should demand an explanation why Yugoslav Army Chief Nebojša Pavković is still in place," Serbia's Vice PM Nebojša Čović, in charge of Kosovo, told the daily Danas.
Pavković's recent order to demote southern Serbian army head General Ninoslav Krstić has sparked an unwelcome investigation into his own past in Serbia and Kosovo. Yugoslav army soldiers under Pavković's supervision allegedly played a role in repulsing the first attempt to arrest Milošević. Worse, recent mass grave excavations in Serbia have reminded the public that Pavković was in command of the combat forces in Kosovo when war crimes were committed there.
"It is unbelievable that Milošević has been in jail since 31 March without any charges regarding the issue of mass graves," Čović added. "If Serbs cannot maintain this minimum level of consciousness, then they have a huge problem," he said.
Government to resign?
Many analysts believe that the procedure for clearing the way for the delivery of Milošević would now lead to a crisis in the Federal Government and new federal elections.
Yugoslav Interior Minister Zoran Živković said that the decision of SNP to keep the Yugoslav PM and other party ministers from participating in cabinet session could signal the end of the coalition between the two parties and the end of the Federal Government.
SNP leader Predrag Bulatović accused the senior coalition partner DOS of expecting to pass the decree by riding roughshod over their objections. His party notified the international press that its federal ministers, including Yugoslav PM Zoran Žižić, have offered their resignations and the executive board of the party would decide on the matter.
"If the information is correct, I think it could mean the end of the coalition and the end of the federal government," Živković told Radio Free Europe. "If it is a forced decision, then the party they belong to wants to stop reforms commenced by the Federal Government and avoid obligations that the coalition had promised to fulfil."
Đinđić praises decision
Speaking in Subotica, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Đinđić lauded the Federal Government for living up to the rights and obligations of joining the international community. Both Yugoslav and Serbian authorities would very quickly settle all the issues of co-operation with the international community, including delivery to The Hague, the Serbian PM promised.
"All those who intend to break with these obligations should know there will be no pardon and no forgiveness," Đinđić warned.
Speaking before the meeting of the government, Dragoljub Mićunović, president of the lower chamber of Yugoslav parliament, said that the government had to pass the decree, because Yugoslavia must not be anybody's hostage anymore.
"This decree is not just philosophising, it really means someone is going to go to The Hague," Mićunović promised. "It is irrelevant that Milošević is in jail if his policies continue," he stressed.
In that context, Mićunović also mentioned General Pavković. "Kostunica said that Pavković was not a party issue but a state one, and that reforms within the army would be conducted soon, including the dismissal of Pavković," said Mićunović. "Pavković is not allowed to make threats, to issue statements, to make speeches or to argue with politicians, but to obey and carry out political decisions. The Yugoslav army must be put under the control of the Parliament," he added.
Ljubomir Pajić, 23 June 2001
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