RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 7, No. 177, Part II, 17 September 2003
London's "Financial Times" reported on 17 September that unnamed
"senior American military officers, particularly in the beleaguered
U.S. Army, are pushing the Pentagon to withdraw all U.S. peacekeepers
from the Balkans to make resources and troops available for
overstretched operations in Iraq. Although the number of U.S. forces
in the two NATO operations in the former Yugoslavia is relatively
small -- 1,500 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, two-thirds of which are
logistics personnel, and 2,000 in Kosovo -- people [familiar with]
the internal Pentagon debate said the army has insisted on the move."
The daily noted that "a pull-out would be a significant reversal for
the Bush administration, which as recently as June brushed off EU
overtures to take over the 12,000-strong force in Bosnia, arguing
that [the United States] needed to keep a presence to hunt down
Islamic militants in the region. Colin Powell, secretary of state,
has repeatedly said U.S. Balkan policy is: 'We went in together and
we will come out together.'" The daily suggested that the Pentagon
wants the EU to do more for security in Europe because some key EU
members are unwilling to be helpful in Iraq, calling this a "division
of labor" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 10 September 2003, and
"RFE/RL Balkan Report," 15 November 2002, and 27 June and 5 September
2003). PM

reported on 17 September that "opposition [to the pullout] from some
Pentagon civilians, as well as State Department officials, centers on
the diplomatic impact of withdrawing, as well as whether European
allies -- particularly the French and Germans -- can successfully
take over operations.... A withdrawal of U.S. forces could be
particularly problematic in Kosovo, where local leaders have insisted
only American forces can serve as neutral arbiters." Other observers
note that many Bosnian Muslims as well as Kosovars regard the United
States as the only "serious" military security force in the region
and do not trust the EU to do the job. Such observers argue that a
withdrawal of U.S. forces would prompt some leaders in the region to
take security matters into their own hands again rather than trust
the EU (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 5 and 10 September 2003, and "RFE/RL
Balkan Report," 15 November 2002, and 27 June and 5 September 2003).

SERBIA TO VOTE FOR A PRESIDENT -- AGAIN. Natasa Micic, who is speaker
of the Serbian parliament and acting Serbian president, announced on
17 September that a presidential vote will be held on 16 November,
dpa reported. She stressed that "the authority and legitimacy of an
elected president would contribute to the adoption of the new
[Serbian] constitution more than any acting president could," adding
that campaigning can begin on 18 September. Anticipating her
announcement, the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS)
coalition announced the previous day that it will nominate a
candidate "next week," RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages
Service reported. Serbia and Montenegro's Defense Minister Boris
Tadic said that it would be "irresponsible" of him to seek the
presidency because he has important tasks to carry out in reforming
the military. Previous Serbian presidential elections in October and
December 2002 were inconclusive or invalid (see "RFE/RL Balkan
Report," 11 and 18 October and 13 December 2002). Critics say that
the new election is likely to fail too, unless the rules are changed
first. The post is little more than symbolic, since real power lies
with the prime minister and the government. The last president, Milan
Milutinovic, left office in January. PM

Mayor Riza Halimi said on 15 September that representatives of
southern Serbia's ethnic Albanian population should be included in
the Belgrade delegation in upcoming Belgrade-Prishtina talks, just as
some Serbs from Kosova should be members of the Prishtina team,
Deutsche Welle's "Monitor" reported. Serbian Deputy Prime Minister
Nebojsa Covic has previously rejected similar proposals from Presevo
Valley Albanian leaders (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23, 25, and 30 June
2003, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 and 20 June 2003). PM

KOSOVA GETS ITS 'OWN' AIRLINE. Kosova's Minister of Transport and
Telecommunications Zef Morina signed an agreement in Prishtina on 16
September with Hamburg International to make that small private
German airline Kosova's "designated carrier," dpa reported. Morina
hailed the move, saying "this is a big day for Kosova. The designated
air carrier will bring important revenues to the Kosova budget."
Hamburg International won over rival bids from Slovenia's Adria
Airways, Serbia's JAT, and Kosova Airways, which is a joint project
of several Kosovar travel agents. Norbert Grella said on behalf of
the German company that it will fly under the name of Kosova Airlines
with one aircraft to Munich and other destinations in Germany, and
with a second plane to Switzerland, Scandinavia, Italy, and France.
The UN civilian administration in Kosova (UNMIK) reported that 1
million people traveled in and out of Prishtina airport in 2002,
making it the region's second-busiest airport after Sofia, Bulgaria.

Ambassador to Macedonia Nicolaas Biegman told the Skopje daily
"Utrinski vesnik" of 15 September that Macedonia is capable of
dealing with its own security problems by itself, Deutsche Welle's
"Monitor" reported. He dismissed the recent unrest in the north as
the work of "young criminals, who terrorize the local population. And
that's it" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8, 9, and 10 September 2003,
"RFE/RL Balkan Report," 5 and 12 September 2003). Biegman denied any
link between problems in Kosova and those in Macedonia, saying that
he knows no politician in Kosova who shows much interest in the
situation in Macedonia, which is "too far away" for Kosovars. The
ambassador nonetheless doubts that Macedonia will qualify for NATO
membership before 2006, since it has many criteria to fulfill in the
meantime (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 September 2003, and "RFE/RL
Balkan Report," 22 November 2003). PM