Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Terrorists Recruiting 'White Muslims'

By WILLIAM J. KOLE, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 43 minutes ago



His code name was Maximus, and he held secret meetings in a shabby room at the Banana City Hotel on the outskirts of Sarajevo.

Bosnian police put him under surveillance, and in a raid last fall on his apartment on Poligonska Street, authorities seized explosives, a suicide bomber belt and a videotape of masked men begging Allah's forgiveness for what they were about to do.

What they planned, investigators believe, was to blow up a European embassy. But compounding their concern, they say, was the ringleader's background: Maximus turned out to be Mirsad Bektasevic, a 19-year-old Swedish citizen of Serbian origin with ties to a senior al-Qaida operative.

Terrorists have been working to recruit non-Arab sympathizers — so-called "white Muslims" with Western features who theoretically could more easily blend into European cities and execute attacks — according to classified intelligence documents obtained by The Associated Press.

A 252-page confidential report jointly compiled by Croatian and U.S. intelligence on potentially dangerous Islamic groups in Bosnia suggests the recruitment drive may have begun as long as four years ago, when Arab militants ran up against tough post-9/11 security obstacles.

"They judge that it is high time that their job on this territory should be taken over by new local forces ... people who are born here and live here have an advantage which would make their job easier. By their appearance, they are less obvious," the report reads.

Arabs, it adds, "have become too obvious, which has made their job difficult."

Bosnia's minister of security, Barisa Colak, acknowledged the existence of the intelligence report but said authorities had no concrete evidence that recruitment efforts are widespread. There are no known cases of a Balkan "white Muslim" recruit being involved in an actual attack.

"Even so, we have to be extremely careful and serious and not miss anything," he told the AP.

Even if systematic recruitment has been occurring, citizens of ex-Yugoslavia need visas to travel to Western Europe or the United States — a complicated and time-consuming process.

Dragan Lukac, the deputy director of SIPA — Bosnia's equivalent of the FBI — said authorities are taking no chances. Undercover counterterrorism agents have placed dozens of suspects under 24-hour surveillance and the country is "very intensively" sharing information with the FBI, the CIA, Scotland Yard and other agencies, he said.

"Bosnia has become a breeding ground for terrorists, including some on international wanted lists. We can clearly say that," Lukac told the AP in an interview.

Some disaffected young Bosnians may be receptive to the terrorist message: After the U.S.-led military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, it was considered "almost fashionable" to spout extremist sentiment in public, Lukac said, especially among those "frustrated and influenced by ideology, Islamized through various extremist streams."

Authorities who arrested Bektasevic and several alleged associates last October tipped off police in Britain, who quickly arrested three suspected British Muslim accomplices. They also alerted authorities in Denmark, who took seven others into custody. Investigators say they since have established that Bektasevic maintained close ties to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Since the 2001 attacks on the United States, Bosnia has deported dozens of Arabs and other foreign Muslims for suspected ties to terrorist groups or alleged involvement in dummy charities believed to have raised cash to bankroll attacks.

In February, the country launched an exhaustive review of all cases in which citizenship was granted to foreigners dating back to 1992 and vowed to deport any with suspected links to terrorism.

Police also confirmed they are keeping close tabs on dozens of mujahedeen — Islamic fighters who came to Bosnia to fight on the Muslim side in the 1992-95 war. Although most left for other conflicts in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq and elsewhere, some stayed and married local women.

The vast majority of Bosnia's Muslims rejects the mujahedeen's fiery brand of Islam. Yet young, restless men frustrated with 40 percent joblessness and angered by real or perceived insults to Islam can be open to hard-line dogma, the Prague-based think tank Transitions Online said in a recent report.

"A pool of potential white recruits carrying Bosnian or even Western passports would presumably be of great value to terrorists," it said, calling the Balkan country "a deeply traumatized society susceptible to extremism."

"Muslims are going through a very tempting time," conceded Mustafa Ceric, the leader of Bosnia's Islamic community. He insisted, however, that there was no stomach for extremist violence after years of devastating ethnic conflict.

"If we wanted terrorism, we had a chance to do so in the heat of our suffering, and we did not," he said in an interview.

NATO's top commander in Bosnia, U.S. Brig. Gen. Louis Weber, concurred in an interview, saying Bosnian Muslims overwhelmingly are moderate and secular, and the terror threat is fairly low because "there isn't a large community that would support that kind of activity here."

Although Ceric keeps close tabs on Bosnia's imams, the 6,500 European Union peacekeepers who now patrol Bosnia are one-tenth the number NATO deployed nationwide in 1995, meaning far fewer outside eyes and ears combing the country to disrupt any recruitment effort.

The U.S.-Croatian report says infiltration actually dates back long before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. It says Islamic militants with ties to al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations have been crisscrossing the Balkans for more than 15 years, financed in part with cash from narcotics smuggling and coming from Afghanistan and points further east via Turkey, Kosovo and Albania.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, evidence has emerged that extremists have been trying to carve out a beachhead in the Balkans. The region is home to 8 million Muslims, roughly a third of Europe's Islamic faithful, and arms and explosives are easily obtained in what Lukac calls "a kind of El Dorado" for criminals.

Several Islamic militants who fought in the former Yugoslavia went to Spain, bringing back new military skills and expertise as well as access to contacts throughout Europe, a Western diplomatic official with intimate knowledge of counterterrorism measures in Spain told the AP on condition of anonymity.

"Yugoslavia was a meeting point," he said.

Among the Islamic leaders Bosnian authorities are monitoring closely is Nezim Halilovic, chief mufti of the King Fahd Cultural Center. The mosque, one of dozens being built around Sarajevo with Saudi donations, can accommodate 5,000 people and is part of a $9 million complex that includes a library, a sports hall, restaurants and classrooms for studying Arabic and the Quran.

Its imam has repeatedly has been accused of using his sermons to preach violence in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Israel, Iraq and Kashmir. Nothing like that was heard at one of his recent noon prayer sermons; addressing throngs of heavily bearded men and burqa-clad women, he spoke proudly of "bringing Bosnian Muslims back to Islam."

Halilovic denies he is a radical and insisted Bektasevic and the others arrested last autumn were the victims of an elaborate setup.

"This is just a trick played on the Muslims," he said in an interview. "They were framed to bring the world's attention on Bosnia-Herzegovina as a 'terrorist country.' Europe and the whole world should not be afraid of Bosnian Muslims."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Albanians Finish Last in Race for Jobs

With almost no hope of paid employment, young Albanians are leaving Montenegro in droves.

By Marijana Camovic and Izedina Adzovic (Balkan Insight, 10 Apr 06)

Lindon, an ethnic Albanian teenager from Montenegro, is currently studying for an economics qualification in Shkoder, Albania.

It was not his first choice, he says, but it was the only realistic option available to him because he could not study in his mother tongue at home.

"It is difficult to follow lectures in a language which you know only superficially," he added, in reference to the national language of Montenegro, Serbian.

Several thousand ethnic Albanians live in villages in Montenegro close to the border with Albania, some of which have bilingual primary and secondary schools.

The Malesija region, which consists of lowland and hilly areas bordering the Lake Skadar national park, is home to some 15,000 Albanians. They account for 75 per cent of the region’s population, with Montenegrins and Muslims making up the rest.

Montenegro's ruling parties, which support independence from Serbia, make much of the concept of a state based on citizenship. They contrast this with ideologies founded on ethnic nationalism, which they say are a negative feature of Serbia and other states in the region.

Most Montenegrins agree, and see their republic as a successful multiethnic society whose Albanian members - who account for about seven per cent of the total population - lack for nothing.

Jelena Vuletic, a student at Podgorica University Law School, typifies this mainstream view. She says Albanians are no worse off than the rest and that Montenegro has no second-class citizens.

"They can insist on education in their mother tongue and end up ghettoised, or they can overcome this obstacle and join in with the others," she said.

Most Albanians say it is more complicated than that, however. They insist they are still subject to many forms of discrimination.

Even official statistics show that Albanians are vastly under-represented in the civil service, making up only 0.05 per cent of public servants. In the capital Podgorica, for example, there are no Albanians in the judiciary.

Ferhat Dinosa, a deputy in parliament for the Democratic Albanian Union, DUA, says Albanians also do badly in the jobs market, "Most are unemployed, which is why even those with diplomas are leaving and seeking jobs elsewhere.

"If Montenegro becomes independent, which we are looking forward to, I believe this might be better for young Albanians.”

Dinosa says the DUA is campaigning for proportional representation of Albanians in the civil service. He also says parliament is about to adopt a law on national minorities envisaging a special fund for them and other measures to do with representation.

The government has already taken some steps to help minorities in the field of education. Two years ago, it set up the first Albanian-language university department in Montenegro, which focuses on teacher training. About 40 future teachers now study there.

Dragan Kujovic, deputy speaker of parliament and an official of the ruling Democratic Socialist Party, DPS, says there is no outward discrimination against Albanians in Montenegro, though he admits they need help in the job market.

"I believe in the concept of a citizens' state," said Kujovic. "But we should do more to help employ Albanians as public servants, provided that they fulfil the professional criteria."

In the meantime, Albanians are resorting to emigration as the only solution to their dilemma.

Dzemal Nikaj, the director of Trojet, a non-governmental organisation that works with people from Malesija, says around 25,000 to 30,000 Albanians from the region now live abroad.

Most emigrated in the Nineties when it was almost impossible to find a job as the Balkan wars raged.

While the numbers leaving have since subsided, Nikaj says one reason for this is simply that it is now harder to cross borders.

"If the situation persists over the next 15 years, Albanians will become a minority in Malesija," he added.

According to the Montenegrin Employment Office, 18.6 per cent of the republic's population is jobless. But in Malesija the situation is far worse.

"If you are an Albanian, it is almost impossible to find a job," continued Nikaj. "There are figures to illustrate this, but we assume about 97 per cent of local young Albanians are unemployed."

Traditionally, people in Malesija were farmers. Only a small percentage of the land is now worked, however, as the sector fades in strength and importance.

Nikaj believes that as farming becomes less viable, the government needs to be more pro-active about alternatives. "The development projects which we have submitted to the state are not being granted favourable loans," he complained.

Nikaj also asserts that Albanians are not especially well served in parliament by the parties that officially represent their community. At the moment, there are two parties representing Albanians in the legislature, the Democratic Albanian Union and the Democratic Alliance in Montenegro.

The leader of the latter, Mehmed Bardhi, wants to see a new law that would define more clearly the status of ethnic minorities. He says the government also needs to demonstrate greater confidence in minorities.

"The government trusts no minority community, and especially not the Albanians," said Bardhi.

"Albanians have never done anything to the detriment of Montenegro but have always fought only for their rights.”

Bardhi maintains that even where ethnic Albanians constitute the majority, they do not get jobs, as the government acts on the premise that "the fewer Albanians are employed, the more the situation is under control".

Although many Albanians joined the police in 1999, Bardhi argues that the number of serving officers from the community is still far from representative.

"At least in the courts and police, where there is an Albanian minority, both languages should be used," he added.

Bardhi says young Albanians are forced to leave the country because they are sidelined and cannot break through into mainstream employment.

"All the senior public servants appointed by the state in the places where we live are non-Albanians, and they make all the decisions," he pointed out.

Montenegro's minister for ethnic and national minority rights, Gzim Hajdinaga, says the picture is less bleak than Bardhi claims.

He says the government is working on improving the representation of minorities at local and republican level.

"This percentage will increase, though it is true that today it is still a far cry from a realistic representation of minority groups, particularly Albanians," he said.

Hajdinaga adds that Albanians living abroad need to be encouraged to invest in Montenegro so as to create new jobs. "I believe the diaspora will start investing here, since there are more of us [Albanians] abroad than in Montenegro," he said.

However, Hajdinaga also argues that while the ethnic Albanian parties complain of discrimination, his ministry rarely receives official complaints on which it can act.

"There are almost no instances [of complaints], and they are too few in number to be able to draw any general conclusions from them," he said.

Not all Albanians in Montenegro belong to, or support, the ethnic Albanian parties. Some, like Nikola Gegaj, are members of the ruling DPS.

Gegaj believes there has been a positive change in the image of Albanians in Montenegro, so that society no longer sees them as a potential danger or problem.

"Young Albanians in Montenegro are perceived as citizens with equal rights who may well influence the image of Montenegro abroad," he said.

Gegaj also plays down the significance of language-related barriers to employment.

"Albanians are known as polyglots - they are simply accustomed to learning foreign languages," he said. "I don't think there are any Albanians in Malesija who cannot speak the official language of Montenegro."

One Albanian success story comes from Robert Camaj. An ethnic Albanian law school graduate, he now works for the Montenegrin Employment Office.

Camaj completed secondary school in Albanian but then enrolled in Podgorica University Law School, where classes were in the official language. When he enrolled, war was raging in Kosovo and signing up to study law was one way to ensure he would not be called up.

His knowledge of Serbian was not that good at the time, so initially the exams and the first two years of study were difficult.

But Camaj was not put off. "I wanted to prove that a faculty in which classes are in Serbian is not necessarily a serious impediment to young Albanians who are really keen on higher education," he said.

Camaj's advice to young Albanians is to study in their mother tongue if they so wish, but to be prepared to study in the national language if they have to.

"I am pleased with my job, and I'm satisfied with my status in the company and also with my senior colleagues' attitude towards me," he said.

However, Lindon does not share Camaj's optimism about a future life in Montenegro. When he completes his diploma in Albania, he plans to get a job in Western Europe or the United States, where most families in Malesija have some relatives.

"No, I don't see myself living here - not now, nor in ten years' time," he said.

Marijana Camovic is a journalist with the Podgorica daily Vijesti. Izedina Adzovic is a journalist for Radio Tuzi. Balkan Insight is BIRN's online publication.
This article was published with the support of the British embassy in Belgrade, as part of BIRN's Minority Media Training and Reporting Project.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Patriarch Pavle Hospitalised

BELGRADE -- Serbian Patriarch Pavle has been hospitalised.

According to the Tanjug Agency, Patriarch Pavle was taken to the Military Medical Academy today, because of general health problems cause by his old age. A statement from the Patriarch’s team of doctors, signed by MMA Director Miodrag Jevtic, says that Patriarch Pavle’s condition is stable and that his recuperation is going according to plan.

The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church is expected to stay hospitalised for the next ten days in order to recover adequately.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Serbian (American) Idol

A good laugh -- which we can all use once in a while. Click on title.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

AL QAEDA IN THE BALKANS

Not new, but a worthwile article if you haven't read it)

SERBIANNA (USA)
April 1, 2005

AL QAEDA IN THE BALKANS

Who in the Balkans wants to destroy America?

By Miroljub Jevtic, Ph.D.

The news that a group of mujahadeens headed for Osama bin Laden's jihad were captured on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan would be nothing new, had the Pakistani authorities not announced that one of them was an Albanian citizen. Clearly, Clinton's cooperation with Balkan Islamists in the 1990s is only now turning like a boomerang against the US.

While the official affront is that Bosnian Muslims and Albanians are American allies in the war on terror, the US forces are tied up in Bosnia monitoring and chasing the jihadists who have made Bosnia and Albanian inhabited areas in the Balkans their domicile. Overtly then, Balkan Muslims are supporting the West, while covertly they may seek destruction of it.

The American strategists believed that by caving into territorial demands Balkan Muslims are making, the newly established Islamic entities will, because of the American influence and endorsement of it, be a model to the Islamic world, showing the right political path. The Christians of Bosnia, for example, are increasingly being centralized under Islamic authority; Christian Croats are spliced within Muslim federation and dominated by them while the Serbian entity is under tremendous political pressure and may disappear. Meanwhile, Bosnian Muslims want to offer Muslim Turks a dual citizenship because they consider these centuries old occupiers of Bosnia their liberators.

In Macedonia, likewise, the real masters of the situation are the Muslims Albanians who have placed the Christian Slavs there into virtual political ghettos.

Instead of showing themselves content with this, Balkan Muslims are not only setting out towards Islamizing their territories, but also towards actions aimed at America's destruction.

Tradition has it that the most extreme Islamists among Slavic Muslims in theBalkans are from the Raska district, i.e. from Tutin, Novi Pazar and Rozajso one is to expect extremist Imams to come from this region. Yet, theIslamic extremism and open attacks on the US that is spreading among theBalkan Muslims is preached by an Imam, who is not a native of Novi Pazar,nor of Sarajevo, but is an ethnic Albanian from village of Orahovac inKosovo. This Imam, Suleyman Bugari, is a hodja of the White mosque in Vratnik, known as the most Muslim part of Sarajevo.

Ironically, the fiercest fighter of jihad has not turned up from the middle of Bosnia with its numerous Islamic top ranking religious schools, but from Albanian dominated Kosovo, busy teaching the Bosnians in the midst of Sarajevo what real Islam is.

Says Bugari: "The speech of the sword is more sincere than that of the letter. Its blade lies between seriousness and jest. The whiteness of the sword, not the blackness of the letters, for its back knows no rust of doubt'.

Continues he: "The status of Muslims cannot be improved by papers. This doesn't work. It is well known what can improve the status of Muslims worldwide. How was it improved at first? By taking Islam to all places. By convincing people that only God Allah exists."

Bugari concludes with a call to violence: "By purifying the heart of all idols, and then, if necessary, by the jihad. And jihad was necessary and will be necessary! Don't think that we can survive in any other way, except by these three things: faith, economics and responding to Allah when the time for jihad comes".

"[T]aking Islam to all places", including the US is the obligation of every Muslim, preaches Bugari.

This Albanian Muslim Imam is also an avid anti-Semite. Says Bugari: "Americans rule the world, and so do the Jews. With the Americans' help, they have again outsmarted the entire world, especially the economy. We consume American-Jewish products every day. We drink their 'Coca-Cola' and their 'Pepsi', we use their banks, buy their weapons, their 'Nikes' and various other products. Imagine how many 'cokes' a billion and a half Muslims drink every day. According to some data, 700 million 'Coca-Colas' every day, and you know well that 10 percent of every 'Coca-Cola' goes to Israel".

The Jew-hating Albanian Bugari attributes Islamic inability to legitimize their land conquests in the Balkans on the damnation Allah bestowed on Balkan Muslims because they relied on Americans. "We have indeed asked them for help during the war, and we have started to improve." says Bugari. "The Serbs are running away as they can, and we say: Come, Americans, and lend us a hand. This is why Allah is now punishing us."

Finally Bugari sides with Al-Qaeda by accusing America for holding 6 Algerian Bosnians in Guantanamo. "Now they will come and chase the Algerian group to Cuba, then they will chase Imad El-Mis'ri, then they will chase Fiusanin .."

Durguti was leading an organization known as "Vezir" or "Vazir."

The UN and US allege that Vezir is little more than a front for the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, based in Travnik, Bosnia, where Durguti was last sighted. Vezir and al-Haramain were heavily supported by Saudi charities and members proselytized the fundamentalist Wahhabi strain of Islam.

Among those who were placed under surveillance by the authorities and arrested in Bosnia because of their make-believe humanitarian work that was a cover-up for the terrorist logistic base, an ethnic Albanian was again identified. His name is Safet Durguti. Once more we have someone coming from the town of Orahovac in Kosovo, where Bugari is also from. This may suggest that Orahovac Albanians in Kosovo may be the leading cadre of terrorist recruits, European by race, recruited by al-Qaeda in order to be trained and easily bland in the western societies to conduct terrorist killings. Those who were to be allies of the US have thus shown their gratitude. Even to the author of this text, who has always been pointing out the dangers, all this seems odd. It would have been logical for the Albanian Muslims to show more patience until the creation of Greater Albania (thanks to the American tax payers' money) before revealing their true face. But no, they seem unable to wait, for their ultimate objective is not just Greater Albania, but through it, they wish to destroy the US and Israel, and then all remaining non Islamic political systems in the world.

These two cases of Albanian involvement in Islamic terrorism indicate CIAs erroneous evaluation of the impact the Islamic presence has in the Balkans. The way Islamic Imams of the Balkans reason and thus teach their faithful flock is that Americans are worse then Serbs, that Americans have been used to defeat Serbs and take away their land but now, once used, time has come for America to pay the price for being Christian. This is how Imam Bugari's thinks, and this is how his captured compatriot in Pakistan, logistics militant Duguti also thinks.

American analysts who might be reading this will behave like the entire administration, based on the presumption that Bugari is an exception to the rule and that the remaining Albanian and Bosnian Moslems are different. Indeed. Bugari was allegedly condemned by the leadership of the Islamic
community of the Raska (Sanjak) district but the fact that they issued a simple verbal statement of condemnation and left him to preach hate is more of a sign of Community's tacit support for extremism then any exceptionality.

According to the Statute of the Sanjak Islamic Community, this Community is an integral part of the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Hercegovina so Suleyman Bugari is under the jurisdiction of the Bosnian reis-ul-ulem Mustafa Ceric, who recently visited UK. According to Bosnian reis-ul-ulem Mustafa Ceric Bugari "is distorting the Muslim message and Islam" and is using his office for "poisoning with untruths the young, who are rushing to hear him pronounce the above mentioned phrases". This may indeed be empty rhetoric because the Chief Imam left Bugari to preach his message of hate and by leaving Bugari to preach, the highest Islamic authority in the Balkans is in effect endorsing Bugari's terrorist preaching.

Musafa Ceric may not have been able to remove Bugari because the rest of the imams in the council might also think the same, but are not bold enough to shout it out loud as Bugari does. Even the reis-ul-ulem of Bosnia who received the "UNESCO award for peace" has declared himself an "Islamic fundamentalist", just as Bugari. It is also Ceric who, with his authority, approves texts which appear in the official papers of the Islamic Community where exactly the same things are being written on jihad as the ones Bugari is saying. How can the US condemn someone now, after having awarded a Muslim for similar speech only a few months ago alleging his struggle for peace?

While the reis enjoys the prestige of a peacemaker, Bugari, on Ceric's behalf, calls for jihad against those who are turning Ceric into a peacemaker.

The case of the Pakistani arrest, Bugari and Durguti illustrate the increasing Albanian involvement into the worldwide network of Islamic jihad. In fact, the German Secret Services BND found that an Albanian of Austrian citizenship, certain Samedin Dzezairi, is a an Al Quaeda contact person for
the Balkans.

The fact that the man arrested in Pakisan is a native of Albania and not Kosovo is also an indicator of the degree of radicalization that a previously atheist Muslims of Albania are undergoing. When, after forty years of brutal communist and anti-religious policy, somebody manages to get involved with the Al Quaeda on his way to struggle for Islam, this shows more than anything else how strong Islam among Albanians in the Balkans.

Then we wonder why are Christian churches razed in Kosovo?

Inquiry faults Kosovo's UN governor on corruption

By Irwin Arieff
Fri Apr 7, 8:14 PM ET



The United Nations' internal watchdog accused Kosovo's U.N. governor on Friday of turning a blind eye to widespread fraud, corruption and mismanagement at the Pristina airport since mid-2004.

A two-year inquiry by the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services, working with European Union investigators, found that "fraud and mismanagement were rife and there was systematic corruption" at the airport, the OIOS reported.

The report comes as broad management reform proposals, put forward after allegations of widespread mismanagement in the now-defunct oil-for-food program for Iraq, are running into strong resistance from many U.N. member-states.

Some U.S. legislators have threatened to cut Washington's U.N. dues payments if the reforms fall short.

The United Nations has run Kosovo since 1999 after a NATO bombing campaign to halt Serb repression of ethnic Albanians, who make up about 90 percent of the province's population.

The world body is now leading international negotiations on whether Kosovo should be granted independence, as the Albanians demand, or remain an autonomous part of Serbia.

In Kosovo, the watchdog said, "the inevitable conclusion is that accountability for mismanagement and abuse of funds does not exist in the operation, management and supervision of the airport" in Pristina, the provincial capital.

'ENTIRELY UNWARRANTED'

Soren Jessen-Petersen of Denmark, Kosovo's U.N. administrator since June 2004, rejected the office's conclusions as "entirely unwarranted" and unsubstantiated.

He argued that as Secretary-General Kofi Annan's special representative for Kosovo, he had no mandate to investigate publicly owned enterprises such as the airport, according to the report.

He also argued against publicly issuing the OIOS findings.

The OIOS said a special task force including European Union investigators produced 33 reports between August 2004 and June 2005 detailing problems at the airport and how to remedy them.

While nine matters were referred through Jessen-Petersen's office to the U.N. Mission in Kosovo's Department of Justice for criminal investigation, most of the reports were not acted upon because it was not part of his job, Jessen-Petersen said in a written response to the report's findings.

The U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, in separate comments, supported that view, the OIOS said.

It said the U.N. mission's inability to address fraud and corruption at Kosovo's publicly owned enterprises dates back to the mission's origins in 1999. "Even though it has become clear that corruption is rampant in Kosovo ... mission management is reluctant to take action," the OIOS report said.

With the mission set to withdraw once Kosovo's future status is determined, expected later this year, this reluctance "will have a devastating impact on public perception inside and outside Kosovo, as the United Nations will be seen as escaping from the problems rather than solving them," it said.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Report Mladic spoke to Del Ponte is "lunacy": aide

Reuters

A report in a Bosnian weekly that top Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic told U.N. chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte over the phone that he would surrender soon is "total lunacy," her spokesman said on Friday.

Slobodna Bosna quoted a source close to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica as saying the premier called Mladic on March 29 when his guest Del Ponte asked how he could sure of delivering the former Bosnian Serb general to the Hague tribunal within weeks.

The report said Kostunica put Mladic on speakerphone so Del Ponte could hear him in person promising to surrender and asking for medical treatment. The five minute conversation also covered Mladic's preferences over arrangements of a surrender, it said.

"This is total lunacy. It is absolutely not true," said Del Ponte's spokesman Anton Nikiforov, adding that on legal grounds it was impossible for the prosecutor to discuss such matters with an accused.

Mladic is accused of genocide for the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo which claimed over 10,000 civilian lives. His handover is key to Serbia's bid to eventually join the European Union.

Del Ponte says he is hiding in Serbia, protected by hardliners. Belgrade denies knowing his whereabouts or being in contact with him, but Kostunica pledged repeatedly in recent weeks he will soon meet EU demands for Mladic to be handed over.

After a positive report from Del Ponte, the EU decided last week to go ahead with talks on closer ties rather than suspend them. Nikiforov said on Thursday Kostunica had persuaded Del Ponte that Mladic would be handed over to The Hague this month.

The prospect of a new deadline has sparked a new round of speculation in the Serbian press, which is periodically full of reports quoting anonymous sources that Mladic is either considering surrender, or ready to die to avoid arrest.

Serbia's high-selling daily Blic on Friday quoted a source close to the Hague tribunal as saying that despite all attempts at negotiations, Mladic had not decided to hand himself in.

"Knowing his character, it was clear from the start that he would never agree to something like that," the source said.

But no matter whether there was a surrender or an arrest, the Serb government would be careful not to humiliate him by sending him to The Hague "secretly, at night, by helicopter, with a bag over his head," the source added.

Newspapers also gave extensive coverage to accusations by members of Mladic's family in Serbia, including his son and four male relatives, that they had been harassed by police.

The description of the events in different media ranged from "brutal beatings" to "overnight detention" and "friendly chat." Mladic's son Darko said that "regardless of what the police do, they will not get any results."

Serbia's Interior Ministry has refused to comment on the reports.

Mladic "says he's ready to surrender": report

A Bosnian weekly said on Thursday top Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic told U.N. chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte he would surrender soon, in a phone call placed by the Serbian prime minister from his office.

Slobodna Bosna quoted an unnamed source close to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica as saying the premier called Mladic on March 29 when his guest del Ponte asked him how he could be so sure of his promise to deliver him to the Hague tribunal within weeks.

The magazine said Kostunica put Mladic on speakerphone so del Ponte could hear the fugitive in person, promising to surrender and asking for medical treatment. There was no immediate comment on the report from Kostunica's office.

The handover of Mladic is key to Serbia's bid to join the European Union in the coming years.

Belgrade has repeatedly denied knowing where he is hiding or having contact with him, but Kostunica has pledged several times in recent weeks that the EU's conditions will be met soon.

The EU decided last week to carry on with a second round of so-called association talks with Serbia and Montenegro despite the fact that Mladic was still at large.

It did so after del Ponte reported unspecified progress in Belgrade's cooperation with the tribunal, averting a suspension of the talks.

A del Ponte spokesman said on Thursday that Kostunica had persuaded del Ponte during her visit that the former Bosnian Serb Army commander, who is indicted for genocide, would be handed over to The Hague this month.

He declined to say exactly how she was persuaded.

ILL

Slobodna Bosna said Kostunica had simply picked up the phone and called Mladic, who told the prosecutor he was ready to surrender but was seriously ill.

It said del Ponte promised he would be given the best possible medical treatment.

Mladic, now 64, asked sarcastically whether he would get the same medicine as Slobodan Milosevic, who died last month in his Hague cell of heart attack, after claiming he was being poisoned.

Del Ponte expressed regret about the death, saying it was scarcely in her personal interests to see Milosevic die before a verdict in his four-year-long trial, Slobodna Bosna said.

It said Mladic expressed a wish to surrender not in Serbia but in Bosnia's Serb Republic, for which he "spilled blood for years," and that his surrender should happen in the next two weeks. The reported conversation lasted less than five minutes.

Slobodna Bosna quoted its sources as saying Mladic had cancer and only a few more months to live.

A Belgrade daily on Thursday quoted Mladic's wife as saying four close relatives were detained and her son's business probed as pressure mounted on Serbia for his handover.

"I am in shock, I can't believe the pressure put on us," Bosa Mladic told Kurir.

She said she knew nothing of her husband's whereabouts or plans. "Who knows where my husband is, no one knows that," she said.

Mladic is indicted for genocide along with his political boss Radovan Karadzic, for ordering the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslims and the siege of Sarajevo, which claimed over 10,000 civilian lives over 43 months.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Serb hopes of own entity in Kosovo dashed

By Matthew Robinson

PRISTINA, Serbia and Montenegro (Reuters) - The United Nations on Thursday dashed Serb hopes of their own "entity" in Kosovo and issued a stark response to those threatening to leave if the Albanian majority wins independence.

"When told me they couldn't live in an independent Kosovo, if this is the outcome of the status process, I told them: This is your decision, we cannot force you to stay," Albert Rohan, the deputy U.N. envoy in negotiations on Kosovo's fate, told reporters in the capital Pristina.

The Austrian diplomat, who on Wednesday visited Serbs in the north, outlined an initial proposal for Kosovo's future governing structure, the fruit of the first two rounds of Serb-Albanian talks in Vienna.

He ruled out any form of separate entity or autonomy for the 100,000 remaining Serbs, as demanded by Belgrade:

"We made it clear that this does not mean and cannot mean the creation of a separate entity," he said.

"We oppose any internal division of Kosovo and we oppose any third layer of government between the central authority and the municipalities."

Rohan is deputy to U.N. envoy Martti Ahtisaari, who is leading negotiations on the fate of the disputed Serbian province, run by the United Nations since the 1998-99 war.

Western powers have made increasingly clear they see independence as the only realistic outcome. Kosovo's two million Albanians, 90 percent of the population, have long demanded their own state and have run their affairs since 1999.

But the Serb-dominated north has resisted U.N. efforts to reintegrate it with the rest of Kosovo, threatening the province with de facto partition.

SPLIT IN TWO

Serbia lost control of Kosovo -- its "Jerusalem" -- when NATO bombs drove out Serb forces accused of atrocities against Albanian civilians in a 2-year war with separatist guerrillas, the culmination of a decade of Serb repression.

Half the Serb population fled a wave of revenge attacks. Those who stayed eke out a grim existence on the margins of society, cocooned in a Belgrade-run world of "parallel structures" outside Kosovo's Albanian-dominated institutions.

The leaders of three mainly Serb municipalities in the north, which enjoy a natural land link to central Serbia, warned on Wednesday that Kosovo would be split in two if the U.N. Security Council grants independence later this year.

Many Serbs living in scattered enclaves across the rest of Kosovo say they will pack their bags and leave.

But partition, with implications of forced population movements, is a taboo concept in the West.

Rohan argued that the plan for decentralisation, the core of negotiations that began last month in Vienna, should provide the Serbs with enough local powers to convince them to stay.

The document allows for cooperation between Serb areas within Kosovo and financial donations from Belgrade.

"What we can do is to provide conditions where objectively we can expect the Serbs to stay and to come back," said Rohan, ahead of the next round of talks on April 3. "Whether they want to stay, to return, to leave, is their decision."