RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 34, Part II, 22 February 2007

Kosova, Martti Ahtisaari, said on February 21 after the first day of
consultations about his plan for the contested region's future that
"nothing has indicated the parties may move in a different direction
than the one they had before," international media reported the same
day. Once again, he indicated that a compromise or imposed solution
is needed urgently, saying that "I have already delayed my plan too
much" and that "if there's eternal delay in this process, then the
security situation becomes problematic." The security threat has been
thrown into focus by the deaths of two demonstrators on February 10
and repeated warnings of a new outbreak of hostilities between the
UN-administered Serbian province's Albanian majority and Serbian
minority (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 2, 6, and 12, 2007).
Ahtisaari has been highly skeptical about the prospects of a late
breakthrough and has called on the international community to muster
the courage needed to impose a solution (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
February 6, 2007). Nonetheless, Ahtisaari talked of "a good
beginning" to the talks because "both [parties] have behaved in a
proper manner." In comments to the media on February 21, Ahtisaari's
deputy, Albert Rohan, said, "we have to differentiate: we are
pessimistic as far as the status [issue] itself is concerned, and we
are totally open and hopeful that there will be fruitful discussions
on all these practical matters." AG

Negotiators representing the ethnic Albanian majority
cast doubt on the prospect of a breakthrough, with the chief
negotiator, Veton Surroi, telling the media the talks were "like [the
film] 'Groundhog Day': you wake up and find exactly the same
proposals from Belgrade." Surroi said that his team's proposed
amendments "will in no way change the structure" of the UN blueprint
and would "preserve its spine and the shape given to it by Mr.
Ahtisaari." Serbia's chief negotiator, Slobodan Samardzic, told the
media that "We are not rejecting the entire plan. We reject only the
provisions violating the territorial integrity of Serbia." Samardzic
did, though, say his team has "completely alternative proposals" to
the draft. Ahtisaari said on February 21 that he is "willing to
consider constructive amendments and to incorporate compromise
agreements." The consultative process is expected to continue until
March 10. Ahtisaari anticipates that he will present his plan to the
UN Security Council toward the end of March. AG

Yevgeny Primakov, who as foreign minister was responsible for Russian
diplomacy in the years leading up to the outbreak of violence in
Kosova, has called on the United States to accept the need for a
slower process of negotiation about Kosova's future. In an article
published on February 21 in the Russian weekly "Moscow News,"
Primakov wrote that, in supporting the Ahtisaari plan, the United
States is "acting in haste, apparently without assessing the possible
fallout of this haste." Primakov, a former prime minister, is now an
academic, but he expressed the hope that U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, "with whom I used to have good business contacts
and, I hope, still have a friendly relationship," would accept
Russia's motives for advocating a slower process because "clearly,
they far outweigh the desire of the U.S. administration to achieve at
least one success story in settling a crisis." Primakov outlined an
alternative approach in which the Ahtisaari plan would serve "as a
basis for serious negotiations between the parties involved, even if
this requires considerable time," adding that in a number of other
violently divided parts of Europe -- Cyprus and Northern Ireland --
talks have lasted "for decades." Primakov said, "this is not to
suggest that the Kosovo crisis should be allowed to drag on," but
that "jumping the gun can be as dangerous as marking time." Russia
has adopted a strong line of opposition to any plan that goes against
Serbia's wishes, with occasional hints of a softer line (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," February 6 and 12, 2007). In one of the most clear-cut
statements by a Russian politician, Konstantin Kosachyov, the
pro-Kremlin head of the Russian Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee,
told Reuters on February 20 that "I hope that our partners have the
wisdom not to insist on taking this to the Security Council, because
in that case Russia and China will be obliged to use their vetoes."

February 21, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) described
Albania's macroeconomic performance as "strong," its economic polices
as "good" and "sound," and its progress in structural reform as
"generally good." The report said Albania has met "all quantitative
program targets" set by the IMF, which, under its mandate to promote
stability in the global financial system, also acts as a highly
influential adviser on reform. The IMF said Albania complied with all
its timelines "except for two brief delays" and that the Albanian
economy is likely to enjoy export-led growth of 6 percent in 2007.
This positive assessment comes at a sensitive time for Albania, as
its hopes of enhancing its prospects of EU membership were dented by
flawed local elections held on February 18 (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
February 21, 2007). The report also struck an optimistic note on the
key financial challenge it highlighted, a large road-building
program, saying that "the current fiscal framework could accommodate
this without crowding out other poverty-reducing expenditure." More
generally, though, the report concluded that "these achievements
notwithstanding, major further efforts will be needed for Albania to
reach European standards in institutions, infrastructure, and the
business environment." Albania has one of the lowest levels of gross
domestic product per capita in Europe, ahead of Moldova's but on a
par with the figures for Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. AG


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 33, Part II, 21 February 2007

still to be announced, Albania's largest opposition bloc, headed by
the Socialist Party, appears to have scored significant successes in
many urban parts of the country in local elections on February 18.
According to local media, the Socialists have already secured control
of the cities of Berat, Durres, Elbasan, Korca, Lushnja, and Vlora,
as well as the capital, Tirana. Victory in Tirana would mean that Edi
Rama, the party's leader, would retain the post that catapulted him
into the national spotlight. This would be Rama's third term in the
position. The main battle line in the elections was between the
10-party governing coalition led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha's
Democratic Party and the five-party opposition grouping led by Rama's
Socialist Party. Estimates suggest Berisha's bloc will retain control
of the north and take over several small towns from the Socialists,
AFP reported on February 20. The turnout remains unknown. The Central
Election Commission said on February 20 that the vote count was
progressing slowly in numerous polling stations owing to
"disagreements" between rival parties and "technical problems,"
according to a spokesman quoted by AFP. The Greek Foreign Ministry on
February 20 voiced concern about alleged problems in the vote in the
southwestern town of Himare, whose outgoing mayor is ethnic Greek,
the Athens-based paper "Kathimerini" reported on February 20. Street
fights led to arrests in the town early in the election campaign (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," February 15, 2007). The country's 2.9 million
voters were choosing mayors and councilors for 67 towns and cities
and 317 other local councils. AG

' Hopes that the
local elections would burnish Albania's tarnished democratic
reputation were dashed when, on February 19, a 400-strong monitoring
team sent jointly by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe concluded that the elections
"represented a missed opportunity to conduct elections fully in line
with international commitments and standards for democratic
elections," AP reported on February 19. Joseph Borg of the Council of
Europe criticized "procedural shortcomings which disenfranchised many
eligible voters." Another criticism was that the "electoral
environment was marked by uncertainty and lack of trust between key
election stakeholders," according to Jorgen Grunnet, head of the
mission of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human
Rights. "After the 2005 parliamentary elections, we said these were
the best elections held in Albania, " AP quoted Grunnet as saying. "I
don't think you will find it in the text this time." The team's
conclusion overshadowed earlier claims by Prime Minister Berisha, who
hailed the elections as "the best ever held in Albania," the ATA news
agency reported on February 19. President Alfred Moisiu said after
voting on February 18 that "these elections are of great importance
to Albania and its integration with the European Union and NATO," and
Berisha said free and fair elections were "the most precious present
to Albania and to every Albanian because the nation and the country
needed to dissociate itself from the undignified and primitive
discussion of the electoral process." The vote was not marred by a
repeat of the violence that has scarred most previous elections.
However, an always bitter and sometimes fractious campaign became
increasingly tense in its final days with the publication of photos
of the Socialist leader Edi Rama naked and an explosion at a
restaurant in Tirana that occurred shortly after Rama had left. There
has been no further information about the incident, which the deputy
interior minister on February 15 linked to a property dispute
involving the restaurant's owner (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 15
and 16, 2007). AG

group calling itself the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) has claimed
responsibility for a February 20 bomb attack in Prishtina in which
three UN vehicles were damaged (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 20,
2007), local and international reported the same day. The group said
the attack was not intended to cause casualties but was "revenge" for
the deaths of two Albanians in a clash with UN-led police at a
February 10 demonstration against UN plans for the UN-administered
province. The name of the group is the same as that of an ethnic
Albanian guerrilla group disbanded in 1999 under NATO supervision
following NATO's successful intervention to end a Serbian crackdown
in the province. The attack was immediately condemned by Kosovar
Prime Minister Agim Ceku, who was himself a UCK commander during the
1998-99 guerrilla campaign against the Serbian authorities. Kosovar
President Fatmir Sejdiu said in a statement carried by local and
international media that "such criminal acts are absolutely
unacceptable...and completely harmful for the process to determine
the status of Kosovo." Meanwhile, consultations on the UN's proposals
for the future of the predominantly Albanian-populated Serbian
province are set to begin on February 21. Hopes are low of
compromises by either negotiating team, with the plan's author,
Martti Ahtisaari, saying he does not believe in "miracles" (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," February 20, 2007). The Albanian-language daily
"Koha ditore" reported on February 21 that Ylber Hysa, a member of
the Prishtina negotiating team, warned the international community
that any attempt to deny independence to Kosova would trigger a new
war. Hysa also said Prishtina has made many compromises and "that
doesn't leave much room for maneuver." AG

likely to heighten tensions in Kosova, local media reported that the
radical ethnic Albanian Self-Determination movement said on February
20 that it plans to hold a rally on March 3, in the middle of the
consultation process about the Ahtisaari plan. Self-Determination
(Vetevendosja) organized the February 10 rally that ended in the
deaths of two demonstrators, and its leader, Albin Kurti, remains in
detention for his role in the protest (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
February 12 and 14, 2007). Kurti's deputy, Glauk Konjufca, said the
rally will be "peaceful," news agencies reported on February 20, and
he added that Self-Determination "had nothing to do" with the attack
on the UN vehicles. "Koha ditore" reported on February 21 that
Self-Determination will not ask the police for permission to hold the
rally. The February 10 bloodshed prompted Kosovar Serbs to voice
doubts about their security, a concern repeated on February 20 by
Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, who told the Serbian news
agency Tanjug that the international community must react
"immediately and rigorously" to threats of violence (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," February 15, 2007). The bloodshed also led to the
resignations of Kosova's interior minister and the UN's police chief,
and raised concern that ethnic Albanians from neighboring countries
are stoking tensions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 13, 14, and 15,
2007). Confirmation that ethnic Albanian Macedonians took part in the
rally came on February 15 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 20, 2007).
Self-Determination is calling for immediate independence for Kosova
and the withdrawal of international troops. AG


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 31, Part II, 16 February 2007

Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has urged Serbia to adopt a
constructive position in talks over the future of Serbia's
UN-administered, Albanian-populated province of Kosova. De Hoop
Scheffer told local and international media that a Serbian resolution
on February 14 condemning the UN proposal "will only strengthen my
call to all parties, including Serbia, to work on the basis of the
Ahtisaari proposals in a constructive way, because there really is no
alternative." He added that "I do not think endless negotiations will
improve the situation" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 15, 2007). He
urged Belgrade to adopt a "constructive" approach to resolving the
province's future. De Hoop Scheffer was speaking in Mitrovica, scene
in 2004 of the bloodiest clashes since the UN and NATO assumed
control of Kosova in 1999 and five days after violence in Prishtina
left two protesters dead (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 12, 2007).
De Hoop Scheffer's visit to the 16,500-strong NATO-led peacekeeping
force is seen as an attempt to reassure Kosova's Serbs that NATO is
in control of the situation. In another intended signal of
reassurance from the international community, the head of the UN
police force resigned under pressure on February 14 (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," February 15, 2007). The U.S. representative to Kosova,
Tina Kaidanow, warned in a February 13 interview with Radio
Television Kosovo that violence could have serious political
implications, saying that "people have to clearly understand that
violence...damages the status process and could in fact ultimately
destroy the status process if it continues or escalates." The
security situation appears to have calmed down in recent days, with
the organizer of the February 10 rally, Albin Kurti, leader of the
Self-Determination movement, currently in detention and no further
Self-Determination rallies currently scheduled. Officials from
Belgrade and Prishtina are due on February 21 to meet in Vienna with
the author of the UN plan, Martti Ahtisaari. AG

leading opposition politician, Edi Rama, narrowly avoided an
explosion at a restaurant he visited on February 14, local media
reported. Initial reports indicated that the explosion occurred at
the headquarters of his Socialist Party minutes after he left.
Details about the cause of the explosion and the incident remain
scant, but Deputy Interior Minister Gjergj Lezhja told a news
conference on February 15 that the explosion occurred shortly after
midnight on February 15, an hour and a quarter after Rama left the
restaurant. Lezhja linked the explosion to a dispute between the
owner of the restaurant and a business partner. Lezhja said the
business partner provided details of the dispute, but it is unclear
from an Albanian Television report whether he confessed to the attack
or whether he was arrested. The political situation in the country is
becoming increasingly fractious ahead of local elections scheduled
for February 18 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 15, 2007). It also
comes in the midst of a controversy centering on the publication on
February 11 of photos of Rama in the nude. Rama has accused the
governing Democratic Party of being behind the publication of the
pictures, a charge it denies. The pictures were reportedly first
published in Bosnian and Croatian publications before being reprinted
by an Albanian newspaper on February 11. Rama, who says the photos
were taken in southern France in 1995 or 1996, said on national
television on February 12 that "I did what anybody else might have
done at that time, under those conditions and at my age," the daily
"Korrieri" reported on February 13. The Socialists are Albania's
leading opposition party and Rama, who is running for reelection as
the mayor of Tirana, has won considerable popularity for his efforts
to clean up and bring order to the capital. The impact of the
controversy on his popularity is hard to gauge at present. The leader
of the Democratic Party, Prime Minister Sali Berisha, on February 14
predicted that Rama will boycott the elections, the daily "Albania"
reported on February 15. AG


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 30, Part II, 15 February 2007

used its first session since elections on January 21 to reject on
February 14 the UN's draft proposal for the future of the
UN-administered province of Kosova. Of the 270 members of parliament
who voted, 255 supported a resolution condemning the UN blueprint as
"illegally laying the foundations for the creation of an independent
state on the territory of Serbia" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February
14, 2007). Similar views were restated in parliament, with Serbian
President Boris Tadic saying the proposal breaches the UN Charter,
"which guarantees the inviolability of internationally recognized
states," and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica declaring that the
plan would "dismember Serbia and grab 15 percent of its territory,"
international and local media reported. Serbian representatives are
currently preparing for what may be their last chance to amend the
proposal drafted by the UN's special envoy for Kosova, Martti
Ahtisaari (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 5, 2007). However, the
overwhelming opposition in the Serbian parliament to the proposed
settlement suggests Belgrade is unlikely to accept any major
compromises when its representatives meet Ahtisaari in Vienna on
February 21. Ahtisaari himself has effectively dismissed as unlikely
the possibility that either side will reach an agreement, and has
urged the UN to have the courage to impose a solution (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," February 6, 2007). Kosovar Prime Minister Agim Ceku
dismissed the Serbian vote, saying, "what matters is what the
European Union and the international community are saying, and not
what Belgrade is saying," AP reported on February 14. AG

. Stephen Curtis, the head of the
1,800-strong UN police force in Kosova, has resigned following the
death of two protesters in a February 10 rally against the UN's plan
for the province. Curtis told journalists that "we are at a critical
juncture in the history of Kosovo and nothing must be allowed to
interfere in the confidence of those involved in this process,"
adding, "My resignation today, I hope, will allay some of the fears
that the public have about the police and the policing of Kosovo."
International and local media reports quoted the head of the UN
Interim Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Joachim Ruecker, as saying he
"asked the police resign from his post with
immediate effect." Curtis's deputy, Trygve Kalleberg, said a police
investigation will focus on the decision to use rubber bullets. The
deputy head of UNMIK, Steven Schook, previously praised Curtis for
"doing a great job," but Prime Minister Ceku said publicly that "the
fact that two citizens died is sufficient proof that police might
have used excessive force" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 14,
2007). Curtis is the second official to resign as a result of the
violence. Kosovar Interior Minister Fatmir Rexhepi stepped down on
February 12, saying he felt a "moral responsibility" for the deaths
(see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 13, 2007). The impact of the clashes
on the delicate security situation and on Serbian attitudes was
highlighted on February 14 by a moderate Kosovar Serb leader, Oliver
Ivanovic, who said, in comments carried the same day by the Serbian
news agency FoNet, that the protests show Kosova's institutions
cannot control the masses. "The latest events show that there could
be even more violence, if NATO forces are reduced -- and they will be
reduced if the status is solved in a hasty manner," Ivanovic said.
The Albanian-language daily "Koha ditore" reported on February 15
that NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on February 15 will
visit Prishtina and Mitrovica, an ethnic flashpoint and the focus of
bloody violence in 2004. AG

in Albania have publicly expressed concern at the violence in
Prishtina. On February 13, UNMIK deputy head Schook said that
foreigners -- probably from more than one state -- were involved in
the clash (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 14, 2007). The UN police
force has not identified the citizenship of the suspected foreign
participants, but Albania and Macedonia, with its large ethnic
Albanian population, are likely countries of origin. After a February
13 meeting with Kosovar President Fatmir Sejdiu, Albanian Foreign
Minister Besnik Mustafaj said, "the political class in Kosova should
not fall prey to provocations... intended to destabilize the
situation in Kosova and the region," the Albanian news agency ATA
reported on February 14. The agency also reported that Albanian Prime
Minister Sali Berisha on February 13 condemned the violence as
"shocking" and warned Kosovar Albanians that violence would harm
Kosova as it moves toward "the absolutely inevitable realization of
its great project, independence." There have been no comments from
Macedonian ministers about the possible involvement of Macedonian
citizens. Macedonian security forces fought ethnic Albanian
separatists for six months in 2001, and Macedonia's political system
is founded on a delicate attempt to accommodate the ethnic tensions
in the country, the Ohrid agreement, which ended the violence in
2001. The deaths in Prishtina come at a time of heightened political
tensions in Macedonia, as several ethnic Albanian parties are
currently boycotting parliament, accusing it of undermining the Ohrid
agreement (see "RFE/RL Newsline," January 30 and February 14, 2007).
The website of Macedonia's A1 television on February 13 reported that
an ethnic Albanian political leader "braggingly told some Kosovo
newspapers that [his nephew] used his fists against the UNMIK
policemen" in Prishtina. AG

Secretary-General de Hoop Scheffer on February 14 expressed concern
about the "lack of political dialogue" in Macedonia, the Macedonian
news agency MIA reported the same day. Two ethnic Albanian parties
are currently boycotting parliament and a boycott by the largest
opposition party was narrowly averted on February 12 (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," January 30 and February 14, 2007). "Lack of dialogue won't
solve the problems, but it will diminish the contribution to the
Euro-Atlantic integration processes," de Hoop Scheffer said after
meeting with Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Macedonia
hopes to be invited to become a member of the alliance in 2008, but
de Hoop Scheffer gave no assurances, saying that an invitation
depends on Macedonia's progress. "A lot has been done, but a lot more
needs to be done" by Macedonia, he said. Gruevski said the country
hopes to complete the reform of its military in 2007. According to a
NATO press release, de Hoop Scheffer said he expects all countries in
the region eventually to become NATO members, adding, "When, I don't
know." Gruevski's visit to NATO's headquarters, just 16 days after a
similar visit by Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski, came on the
last day of a two-day visit to Brussels, during which EU officials
reiterated concerns about a perceived slowdown in reforms and about
the country's tense political situation (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
February 1 and 9, 2007). AG

local media in Albania, over 40 incidents have been reported in the
run-up to local elections to be held on February 18. The incidents
have chiefly involved attempts to prevent rallies being held and the
destruction of campaign material. Albania's State Election Commission
says over 4,300 local and international observers will monitor the
elections. The opposition Socialist Party, the second-largest in
parliament, has accused the Democratic Party headed by Prime Minister
Berisha of running a "violent campaign." In one incident reported by
the daily "Gazeta Shqiptare" on January 29, Socialist and Democratic
party workers in the town of Gjirokaster brawled and hurled objects
at each other. Political tensions in an area heavily populated by
ethnic Greeks, Himare, resulted in clashes and arrests on January 20,
shortly after the official election campaign began. Commentators have
argued during the campaign that the elections are important not just
for municipalities, but also for Kosovar Albanians, as their case for
independence from Serbia has been hampered by Albania's image as a
problem state with conflictual politics and weak institutions. AG


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 25, Part II, 8 February 2007

ALBANIA SET TO JOIN EUROPOL SYSTEM. Albania on February 5 signed a
strategic cooperation agreement that, subject to ratification by
Albania's parliament later this year, will facilitate the exchange of
intelligence and skills with police across Europe. "This agreement is
a welcome development and underlines the will of the Albanian
government to fight without compromise all forms of organized crime,"
Europol Director Max-Peter Ratzel said in a press release on February
5. Among the latest successes of Europol, which was set up in 1999,
was the arrest on January 30 of a group of counterfeiters operating
in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In Southeastern Europe, Europol has agreements
with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and EU member states. Albania has
become notorious as a conduit for trafficking and as a base for
criminal groups that have extended their operations across Europe.
Corruption also remains a significant challenge, though the regional
director of the World Bank, Orsalia Kalanzopoulos, recently called
Albania's battle against corruption "a success story," the Albanian
newspaper "Albania" reported on January 30. AG


RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 11, No. 22, Part II, 5 February 2007

direct talks between Serbian and Kosovar negotiating teams over the
past year, UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari on February 2 presented
his proposals for the future of Kosova, international media reported.
The proposed settlement, released to the media on February 2 by the
United Nations Mission In Kosovo (UNMIK), refers neither to
independence for Kosova nor to Serbian sovereignty and, in comments
to the media, Ahtisaari stressed the document is still open to
"constructive amendments." He invited the two negotiating teams to
meet with him on February 13 to continue talks. Ahtisaari will
present his proposal to the UN Security Council in late March, at
which point he said he would be "duty-bound" to address directly the
issue of Kosova's formal status. Under Ahtisaari's proposals, Kosova
would gain its own constitution, institutions, flag, and army, and
would "have the right to negotiate and conclude international
agreements, including the right to seek membership of international
organizations." However, NATO and the EU would retain a military and
police presence in Kosova, while an EU-selected envoy of the
international community would have the power to intervene in
government. The proposal, described as "supervised independence" in a
range of international media, envisages strong protections for ethnic
minorities and their cultural heritage and official status for the
Serbian language. Under the settlement, Kosova would make "no
territorial claims against, and [would] seek no union with, any state
or part of any state," a principle that seeks to allay regional fears
about the emergence of a Greater Albania and would appear to block
Serb areas from joining Serbia. AG

..WHICH ARE WELCOMED IN PRISTINA... Kosovar Albanian leaders
expressed general satisfaction with the proposals. Kosovar Prime
Minister Agim Ceku told Kosova Albanian KohaVision television on
February 2 that "the way [UN envoy] Ahtisaari describes Kosova is
nothing less than a sovereign country, an independent country,"
though the proposal "nonetheless does not meet all our expectations,
our demands." He subsequently told local and international news
agencies that "Kosova is definitely running the last mile toward
independence." Ceku said he hopes the UN will in April recognize
Kosova as independent, but added that his government will not make a
unilateral declaration of independence. Kosovar President Fatmir
Sejdiu said an independent Kosova will guarantee the safety and the
rights of the Serbian minority, which currently numbers about
100,000. Oliver Ivanovic, the only Kosovar Serb to meet with
Ahtisaari when he presented his plan, told Serbia's Radio B92 on
February 3 that the proposal is too "vague" to go before the UN in
its current form, and he urged Serbia to form a new government
quickly in order to continue with negotiations. The leader of the
hard-line Serbian National Council, Milan Ivanovic, called the plan
"a sort of political terrorism," asserting that it "does not at all
differ from the positions held by the Albanian negotiation team."
Ivanovic also predicted protests throughout Serb-dominated areas,
Radio B92 reported on February 5. The security situation in the
UN-administered province remained calm, though Radio Television
Serbia reported on February 2 that a dozen youths threw stones at an
elementary school in the Serb-dominated north. In the run-up to the
proposal, Oliver Ivanovic predicted a war "sooner or later," while
the commander of NATO forces in the region warned about the
possibility of violence spilling over into the southern Serbian
province of Presevo and into Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
January 31 and February 2, 2007). AG

..BUT REJECTED IN BELGRADE. Ahtisaari's plan was universally
rejected by Serbia's leading politicians. Serbian Foreign Minister
Vuk Draskovic accused Ahtisaari of proposing independence for Kosova,
President Boris Tadic said the proposal set a "dangerous precedent"
and reiterated that "Serbia and I, as its president, will never
accept Kosovo's independence," while Prime Minister Vojislav
Kostunica, who refused to meet Ahtisaari on February 2, said the UN
envoy has no mandate and declared his plan "illegitimate." One of the
strongest critiques came from the Serbian Orthodox Church, which, in
February 2 comments carried by B92, called the plan "legal violence
against Serbia," and called on the international community to prevent
Ahtisaari "in his dangerous intention to, on behalf of someone, take
the most precious part of its territory from Serbia, one of Europe's
oldest states." Kosova has emerged as a key issue in talks about the
formation of a new government, following elections held on January
21. Kostunica's Popular Coalition has warned of "serious
consequences" for any country that recognizes Kosova as independent,
and the importance of the issue was underlined in a February 1
interview with the Serbian newspaper "Vecernje novosti" when a
Kostunica adviser, Vladeta Jankovic, called the bloc's stance "the
last line of defense of the country's sovereignty" (see "RFE/RL
Newsline," February 1, 2007). Officials from other parties have been
critical of Kostunica's hard-line position. AG

REGION REACTS TO KOSOVA PLAN... Albania and Macedonia, which fought a
brief campaign against ethnic Albanian separatists in 2001, both
welcomed the Ahtisaari plan. Albanian Foreign Minister Besnik
Mustafaj praised the proposal, saying that "this moment marks the
emergence of Kosova from the so far de jure sovereignty Serbia had
over it," the Albanian news agency ATA reported on February 2.
Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said the proposal is
"acceptable" and Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki said the
settlement would end conflicts in the Balkans, local media reported.
Milososki added that "Yugoslavia's dissolution was incited by the
Kosovo crises in 1981 and would be now wrapped up with the resolution
of the Kosovo problem," the news agency MIA reported on February 2.
The three-member Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina did not comment,
but Milan Jelic, the president of the Bosnian Serb-controlled
Republika Srpska, said the status of Kosova is an internal Serbian
matter that should be decided by Belgrade and Pristina, the SRNA news
agency reported the same day. AG

..AS DOES INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY. The European Union, which would
play the key international role in the region under the Ahtisaari
proposal, and the United States both reiterated their support for the
plan, international media reported. However, Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov told the German paper "Der Spiegel" in an interview
published on February 3 that "every attempt to submit those proposals
in the Security Council will be in vain and counterproductive."
Lavrov also said, though, that Russia would not apply a veto. Lavrov
particularly criticized the proposal for not adequately addressing
the issue of ethnic Serbs displaced since 1999. UNMIK says 16,000
refugees have returned since 1999. UNMIK estimates that more than
220,000 displaced persons and refugees are still living in Serbia and
Montenegro (see "RFE/RL Newsline," February 2, 2007). AG



05/02/2006 - KOSOVO : SMI and Leka Zog praises Ahtisaari’s package

The SMI Deputy Chair Xhufi, appraised yesterday the package of Ahtisaari on Kosovo. “We consider this as something very important for preserving peace and a positive climate in Kosovo. At the same time, we consider it a decisive act of the international community to see the agenda of Kosovo separately from the agenda of Serbia”, he said according to Shqip, adding that the SMI notes that the document specifies the definite separation of Kosovo from any kind of sovereignty related to Serbia. “The SMI expresses its greatest appraisal and congratulates the people of Kosovo, and all political forces, for the responsibility and maturity shown prior and during the preparation of this package”. (gk) The pretender to the royal throne of Albania, Leka the First, also praised the agreement proposed by Ahtisaari. “Kosovo is only a step away from the big dream of independence. The report…gave to independence the legitimacy for which so much has been sacrificed. We ask from all Albanians to be attentive, because now, Kosovo entered the irreversible way to independence, with strong allies such as the EU and USA. For this reason, maturity and foresight is needed from the political class and the citizens” said Leka. (mk)