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OMRI: Pursuing Balkan Peace, Vol. 1, No. 46, 96-11-19

Open Media Research Institute: Pursuing Balkan Peace Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: Open Media Research Institute <>

Vol. 1, No. 46, 19 November 1996


  • [01] Warnings of "Civil War" Among Bosnian Serbs
  • [02] War Criminals, IFOR, IPTF: Who Monitors Whom?
  • [03] Is There a Croatia after Tudjman?
  • [04] Slovenia's Political Backsliding
  • [05] A Tough Week for Bulgaria's Socialists

  • [01] Warnings of "Civil War" Among Bosnian Serbs

    by Patrick Moore

    Cashiered Gen. Ratko Mladic and 80 officers sacked with him still refuse to accept their dismissal and demand a role in the army's future (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 12 November 1996). Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic has so far refused to acknowledge that there is anything to negotiate but met on 18 November with a general staff delegation for the first time since the sackings on 9 November. She was joined by Mladic's successor, Gen. Pero Colic, AFP reported. The group consisted of Gens. Manojlo Milovanovic, Zdravko Tolimir, Zivomir Ninkovic, Momir Talic and Novica Simic. Plavsic had named Talic to command Banja Luka's First Corps and Simic to head the Third Corps in Brcko, but the other three men seem to be Mladic loyalists. Her office later announced that the outcome of the meeting was that Mladic would go, but on 19 November his staff issued an angry denial. It stated that all that was agreed was that Plavsic would meet with Mladic on 20 November.

    Mladic's spokesmen continued last week to warn that the standoff could degenerate into "civil war" between his loyalists on the one hand, and the civilian authorities, the police, and the pro-Plavsic military on the other. On 13 November the civilians shut down Mladic's Radio Krajina and it has since emerged that his backers had taken over the Zep television relay station on 12 November, thereby crippling the Republika Srpska TV network, Nasa Borba reported on 18 November.

    Plavsic originally ordered the sackings in hope of ending the long-lasting power struggle between the civilian and military authorities of the Republika Srpska. A war of words began soon afterward, with TV Pale launching its first indirect attack on Mladic and his supporters on 14 November. The broadcast stressed that civilians must control the military and that generals must know how to adjust to peacetime. Plavsic has meanwhile acquired the support of the international community, which had long pressed her to fire the indicted war criminal. IFOR soldiers accompanied Republika Srpska police in sealing off Mladic's command center at Han Pijesak. One of the officers trapped inside there told Nasa Borba of 14 November that he and his fellows felt like they had been "occupied" or put "in a ghetto." The spokesman added that harassment of Mladic loyalists had become "a daily occurrence." He said that people in Han Pijesak suspect that IFOR's goal is to take Mladic to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague but insisted: "We will not allow them to take our commander there, not at any price."

    The question remains as to the role of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic in the standoff. He may be staying out of it, knowing that the whoever the winner is will still be dependent on him. In any event, neither Milosevic nor the people in Pale have any reason to want Mladic extradited for war crimes, since he knows too much and might willingly implicate the others if he felt he had nothing to lose. A likely outcome is that Mladic will simply disappear from public view, as his fellow indicted war criminal and former civilian leader Radovan Karadzic did. In the meantime, Mladic shows no willingness to go quietly or on terms other than his own.

    [02] War Criminals, IFOR, IPTF: Who Monitors Whom?

    by Jan Urban and Yvonne Badal (in Sarajevo)

    One of the problems with IFOR's mandate was that the peacekeepers did not feel obliged to catch war criminals, as the following report illustrates.

    "I passed IFOR checkpoints hundreds of times and never had any problems," Simo Zaric said during a seven-hour discussion last week in his home town of Bosanski Samac. From the bottom left corner of version 3-A of IFOR's "wanted" poster of indicted war criminals, the former Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Army of the Republika Srpska (VRS) intelligence officer and military commander smiles, as if mocking his physical description and full address below the photo. Zaric's picture is surrounded by 22 others -- along with 53 names, addresses, and descriptions of citizens of Bosnia- Herzegovina who were indicted for war crimes by The Hague. The majority are Bosnian Serbs or Serbs, followed by Bosnian Croats and two Bosnian Muslims. Five names bear the stamp "detained." Large block letters read: "Instructions to IFOR: If you encounter any of these indicted war criminals in the course of your regular duties and the situation permits, confirm their identity, detain them, and contact your chain of command IMMEDIATELY."

    After the international media discovered last month that seven indicted war criminals were on the Republika Srpska police payroll or in direct, official contact with the Republika Srpska government, the United Nations International Police Task Force (IPTF) confessed to have had knowledge of an eighth case since August: that of Radovan Stankovic from Foca, who was until recently an active member of the police force (see Pursuing Balkan Peace, 5 and 12 November 1996). The persistent suspicion that the Republika Srpska police force harbors many more indicted war criminals grew when the Foca and Visegrad police chiefs refused to hand over lists of their employees to the IPTF, and Republika Srpska Interior Minister Dragan Kijac once again failed to provide IPTF Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald with a detailed report on the structure of his police force.

    Last week, OMRI confirmed that two more of the "most wanted" war criminals in Bosanski Samac still live where they always have. Both Simo Zaric and his wartime deputy Miroslav Tadic are far from hiding and remain well-known in their small town. Tadic owns a cafe on one of the main streets and Zaric owns a small food store. Before the war he was a prominent business manager and then a state security and police officer. Today, people in Samac know him as an outspoken voice against the ruling Serbian Democratic Party (SDS). His store and small atrium cafe display Socialist Party posters and fresh copies of the independent Doboj weekly Alternativa. "If IFOR or others were serious about arresting us they could do it in no time," says Zaric. "It is a lie that they do not know where we are and what we do." In late October, two white IPTF cars, accompanied by four IFOR vehicles, passed his store, circled back, and finally stopped. The international policemen took pictures and videotaped the location. "The same procedure was followed in front of my and Tadic's homes. It was quite a show," he said.

    His account, confirmed by his lawyer, family members, and friends, supports allegations that early in its mission IFOR issued a "Monitor But Don't Touch" rule vis-a-vis indicted war criminals. Asked to confirm Zaric's account, IFOR spokesman Simon Haselock said: "We have to re-check it. We do not believe it took place. It is unlikely that IFOR soldiers would act against the known policy [against the mandate not to launch a manhunt]. At least, they should not." A highly placed U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that on several occasions -- including Chief of Staff briefings at the White House -- top army personnel claimed that IFOR not only had no mandate "to launch a manhunt" but also that it lacked sufficient information on the whereabouts of most indicted war criminals.

    Both Simo Zaric and Miroslav Tadic are indicted for alleged participation in planning and preparations for the "unlawful deportation and forcible transfer of hundreds of Bosnian Croats and Muslims -- including women, children, and the elderly -- from their homes in the Bosanski Samac municipality." Only 400 of the almost 17,000 Bosnian Croats and Muslims who lived in the area in 1991 remain. Simo Zaric vehemently denies those allegations. Including his name on a list with those whose indictments he believes are "definitely justified" because they "were criminals and remained criminals" is to him a great injustice. "As a JNA officer I put together a multinational unit called the Fourth Detachment, which included 28% Muslims and 7% Croats. I am convinced that we prevented large scale interethnic fights and atrocities when we took Samac in the early morning of 17 April 1992," he says. He claims the deportations of Croats and Muslims and their "mass isolation" -- accompanied by atrocities and killings -- were exclusively organized by the then civilian authorities "who," he stressed, "invited the paramilitaries in the first place." He added that "I was ordered not to pay attention to paramilitary units and not to interfere. Though I filed an official protest to Mladic's general staff against deportations, isolations, mistreatment, and the destruction of sacred objects (which still exists in writing), I could not prevent them." Only in the month following 17 April 1992 was he able to rescue his non-Serb soldiers from detention, with the help of the Belgrade general staff. "After the JNA officially withdrew from Bosnia on 18 May 1992 and the VRS came into being, I was immediately sent to the front line where I spent most of the next two years."

    "I am ready to go to The Hague and prove my innocence," says Zaric. "But I want to be sure that it will be a legal, apolitical, and swift procedure. I do not want to lose two years there awaiting a trial. I am willing to cooperate." But telling the entire truth, he said, "is more dangerous today than it was in wartime." His first priority is the safety of his family, which is "a small Yugoslavia," with his Muslim wife, one daughter married to a Croat, and another to a Muslim. "I was raised believing in the Yugoslav system," he explains, "which was based on respect and trust for everybody. That is also why I am so angry to find myself on The Hague's poster." Meanwhile, IFOR has issued but not distributed a new warrant poster, this time without addresses -- a fact that caused the Hague Tribunal to demand its logo be removed from the poster, according to a source close to that court. -- Jan Urban and Yvonne Badal in Sarajevo

    [03] Is There a Croatia after Tudjman?

    by Patrick Moore

    But some of the biggest -- and certainly the most unexpected -- news this week came from not from Bosnia but from Croatia. Franjo Tudjman was secretly admitted to Washington's Walter Reed Army Hospital for cancer surgery at the end of last week, CNN reported on 15 November. Unnamed U.S. medical officials and a Croatian diplomat told that television station and news agencies that his condition is quite poor and that he may not recover. Other Croatian officials initially responded to the reports with silence, then suggested his hospitalization was routine. An embassy spokeswoman claimed the president's condition is "excellent" and that he will soon be back at his desk and on the tennis courts, Slobodna Dalmacija noted on 18 November. Opposition politicians and the independent media, for their part, charged the authorities with behaving like their communist predecessors in censoring and manipulating the news.

    Word of possible cancer surgery came as a surprise to most observers because Tudjman (74) is an athletic non-smoker. Neither the opposition nor his own party has any readily identifiable strong candidate for the presidential vote slated for 1997. Too many of the opposition leaders, moreover, are regarded as lackluster, less than honest, or as compromised by a communist past. The credibility of many as real alternatives to Tudjman is further limited by the fact that some are his old cronies from the early days of the drive for independence who have since split with him, often for personal reasons as much as over policy. Thus even if the fragmented opposition manages to agree on a joint candidate with or without Tudjman on the scene, its election prospects are less than bright.

    The question of what-comes-after-Tudjman has, in any event, now moved to the center of the political agenda, Novi List added. Tudjman ran the country and his party -- the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) -- in a paternalistic fashion and preferred to be surrounded by loyal technocrats or apparatchiks than by brilliant innovators. None of his lieutenants could be said to have a mass following. The unity of the HDZ, moreover, is shaky. It is the only broad popular movement in Eastern Europe that helped topple communism in the late 1980s but that did not subsequently split into ideologically coherent parts, as happened, for example, to the former Czechoslovakia's Civic Forum. The HDZ, furthermore, is increasingly regarded in society as a corrupt league of good-old-boys that is unsuited for the current tasks of democratization and postwar reconstruction. It has already encountered stiff voter opposition in some cities, such as Zagreb, and in some regions, notably Istria.

    In short, neither the opposition nor the HDZ could go into any post-Tudjman presidential election confident of victory. All that is certain is that the death or incapacitation of the man who has dominated Croatian politics for so long would clearly mark the end of an era.

    [04] Slovenia's Political Backsliding

    by Stan Markotich

    There has been political uncertainty in Slovenia as well. Premier Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democratic Party (LDS) remains the most popular in the country following 10 November general elections, but his problem is that he may have a difficult if not impossible time forming a new government.

    Drnovsek's LDS won the plurality of 27.05% of the popular vote and controls 25 of the legislature's 90 seats. The popular vote return was even an increase of some 3% from the party's share in the last general elections, held in 1992. Drnovsek, speaking on TV Slovenija on election night, observed that the largest parliamentary party is asked to form a government. But for Drnovsek, the problems are several, immediate and unavoidable. Firstly, even while garnering more votes this time, the LDS controls 5 fewer seats. And the LDS's coalition partner, the Christian Democratic Party (SKD), dropped from about 14.5% of the popular vote support in 1992 to about 9.5%, translating into 10 seats, five fewer than last time.

    Surging ahead in both popularity and representation are two rightist parties that were once marginal. Marjan Podobnik's Slovenian People's Party (SLS) won 19 seats and finished second overall. The flamboyant and controversial Janez Jansa -- a former defense minister and dissident in socialist Yugoslavia -- led the ultraconservative Social Democrats (SDSS) to 16 seats.

    On 11 November the Ljubljana daily Delo hinted that Drnovsek may already be working behind the scenes at a coalition of the LDS, SLS, and SKD. Such an alliance would control 53 seats, and effectively keep one of Drnovsek's main rivals --Jansa &amp; Co. -- out of power.

    Nevertheless, Podobnik may balk at working with the LDS. But while the SLS leader has not refused to cooperate with Drnovsek -- and could conceivably enter into a coalition with him -- any such alliance may well prove short- lived. Already Podobnik is on record as stressing that his priority is forming a coalition government of rightist parties under the "Slovenian Spring" banner. Also, on 11 November he said publicly that a coalition of rightist parties could control 46 of the 90 legislative seats, effectively keeping the LDS out of power, Reuters reported. He added: "I expect to become the next prime minister."

    Fundamental policy differences also argue against Drnovsek and Podobnik working together for the duration of a four-year parliament. Drnovsek is committed to Slovenia's integration into the European Union and NATO, but Podobnik has repeatedly stressed that the country has already made too many concessions on especially EU membership and has, at the very least, to slow down that process.

    But Podobnik's envisioned Slovenian Spring coalition would not be without its potential problems and pitfalls. Undoubtedly the SDSS gained public support because Jansa is personally a charismatic figure. However, he is also erratic, and may prove to be an unreliable ally. Also, there is a question as to whether the SDSS caucus -- at the moment little more than a group personally loyal to Jansa -- could withstand pressures to fragment.

    [05] A Tough Week for Bulgaria's Socialists

    by Stefan Krause

    In Bulgaria, the past week underscored the deep crisis of the governing Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP). On 11-12 November, a BSP plenary meeting gave Prime Minister Zhan Videnov a vote of confidence until an extraordinary party congress scheduled for December. But on 13 November, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski resigned, casting new doubts on the future of the party and its leader.

    After 22 hours of closed-door deliberations among the members of the BSP Supreme Council and the BSP parliamentary deputies , the 158 delegates present at the plenary meeting had to decide whether to continue supporting Videnov as prime minister or not. Finally, 87 delegates backed Videnov, 69 voted against him, and two abstained. They also decided that an extraordinary BSP congress on 21-22 December will discuss future party policies and possible leadership changes.

    Prior to the meeting, Videnov was under attack from all sides. On 5 November, 19 leading BSP members ranging from orthodox Marxists to social- democratic reformists called for his resignation in an open letter published in the BSP daily Duma. Despite their prominence, they failed to muster a majority against the unpopular prime minister and party chairman. On the other hand, Videnov's victory was not overwhelming, especially considering that although the BSP is highly fragmented, party discipline had always been one of the ex-communists' strongest assets.

    During the plenary meeting, Deputy BSP Chairman Yanaki Stoilov and prominent party members Nikolay Kamov and Filip Bokov resigned from the Executive Bureau, the party's highest decision-making body. All three had signed the anti-Videnov letter.

    And only one day after the plenary meeting, Foreign Minister Georgi Pirinski handed in his resignation, saying that the government "no longer enjoys the necessary minimum confidence" of the people. At the plenary meeting, Pirinski had announced that he would vote against Videnov. Pirinski said that the outcome of the meeting "does not show convincing enough support" within the party for Videnov and noted that the majority backed Videnov not so much because it trusted him but rather because the consequences of rejecting him were unclear.

    Pirinski's resignation cast new shadows on the future of Videnov, who by the 12 November vote appeared to have stabilized his position at least until the upcoming congress. No longer bound by cabinet discipline, Pirinski is free to pursue his own agenda and rally around him the reformist wing of the BSP. He is not only the most popular BSP politician, he is also arguably the most prominent reformer. As such, he is a deputy chair of the Alliance for a Social Democracy (OSD), the most important pro- reform group in the BSP. He has repeatedly been named as a possible successor to Videnov as prime minister.

    After the 2 October murder of former Prime Minister Andrey Lukanov -- in recent years the mentor and unofficial leader of the OSD -- Pirinski started promoting himself as Lukanov's political heir. On 10 October, he published an article in Duma, entitled: "10 November is Approaching," a reference to the date when in 1989 long-time Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov was ousted. This article called for an extraordinary BSP congress and a review of government policy and was widely understood as demanding Videnov's sacking. And Kontinent the following day interpreted Pirinski's article as saying "I am Lukanov's successor."

    Even if Pirinski's remains the only minister to resign -- talk has it that other Videnov critics may follow his example --, the pressure on Videnov remains high. Videnov's strongest asset is that he is a politician who knows how to play the intraparty game, at least partly thanks to his training as a Communist youth functionary. Whether this is enough to get a new mandate at the upcoming party congress is a different question. Although Videnov currently holds the two most important posts in the country, it seems that in the longer term, Pirinski has the better potential. At present, it is too early to say which side will come out on top in December. If the reasons for the present BSP crisis -- most notably that the party has to decide between reformism and dogmatism -- remain unresolved, even a split of the party cannot be ruled out.


    Another ongoing story has been that of the attempts of Muslim refugees to go home to areas just inside Bosnian Serb territory. IFOR, the UN police, the UNHCR, and the office of High Representative Carl Bildt announced a temporary halt to such moves into the zone of separation, Oslobodjenje and Nasa Borba reported on 14 November. That effectively means that Muslims will not be allowed to return to their villages, although that is their right under the Dayton agreement. The suspension is aimed at defusing tensions in the now-quiet area around Celic and Koraj in northeast Bosnia, where the worst fighting since the Dayton agreement was signed took place at the start of the week. IFOR said that both sides are to blame and both sides brought weapons into a demilitarized area, but it added that the Muslims shot first. The Muslims are nonetheless determined to go home, Nasa Borba noted. -- Patrick Moore


    In a related development, U.S. IFOR troops on 14 November confiscated six truck-loads of arms from the Bosnian army's 254th Brigade in the same Celic- Koraj area. Russian IFOR troops took a smaller quantity of weapons from the nearby Serbian police. The seizure of light and heavy armaments at Celic is aimed at preventing the refugees from rearming and at discouraging the army from organizing similar ventures with other refugees, VOA noted. The Bosnian army then charged IFOR with staging provocations against it and against its commander, Gen. Rasim Delic, Oslobodjenje reported on 15 November. -- Patrick Moore


    In Brussels, NATO ambassadors voted on 18 November to set up a Stabilization Force (SFOR) to replace IFOR when its mandate runs out on 20 December, the BBC reported. SFOR will have 31,000 members, which is just under half of what IFOR had at its peak. The ambassadors called for detailed contingency planning to provide for the new force, but were not able to agree on the length of its mandate. The question of how clear and robust the mandate will be will remain the key issue. Meanwhile in Sarajevo, Bosnian Defense Minister Vladimir Soljic, an ethnic Croat, resigned as part of an apparent face-saving maneuver to enable his Muslim deputy Hasan Cengic also to leave office, Oslobodjenje reported on 19 November. The U.S. insists that Cengic, who has close Iranian links, go before Washington resumes its military aid program. -- Patrick Moore


    Meanwhile in Paris, the three members of the Bosnian presidency met with representatives of the five-member international Contact Group, the BBC and Reuters reported. Alija Izetbegovic, Momcilo Krajisnik, and Kresimir Zubak accepted a 13-point, two-year stabilization program that stresses the right of refugees to go home, the need for democratization, the central role of joint institutions, and the importance of cooperating with the Hague-based war crimes tribunal. U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher threatened sanctions against those who do not comply. The Paris meeting is but the latest in series of gatherings in the course of the wars of the Yugoslav succession in which international diplomats meet with regional politicians in a West European venue. According to the now time-honored ritual, the former Yugoslavs reaffirm promises they have already made and broken before, and then go home and do as they please. -- Patrick Moore


    And elections have been big news in Serbia, too. Opposition parties have claimed victory in the republic's 12 largest cities, following the 17 November run-off balloting for municipal councils, Nasa Borba reported on 19 November. In addition to Belgrade, opposition parties scored convincing wins in industrial centers such as Nis, Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Cacak, and in Vojvodina's Novi Sad. In Belgrade municipality, projections show the opposition winning some 70 out of 110 seats. A representative of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) said the leftist coalition dominated by the SPS scored victories in 134 of 174 municipalities, but Reuters added "none of the big towns were on his list." -- Stan Markotich


    Macedonian citizens went to the polls, too. According to preliminary results of the 17 November local elections, the governing coalition led by the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) retains its strength despite a strong opposition showing, Nova Makedonija reported on 19 November. The SDSM gained 503 municipal council seats in the first round, their coalition partners the Socialist Party (SP) 147, and the moderate ethnic Albanian Party of Democratic Prosperity (PPD) 92. Among the opposition, the nationalist Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (VMRO--DPMNE) picked up 339 seats, the Democratic Party (DP) 104, the Liberal Party (LP) 102, and the radical Party of Democratic Prosperity of the Albanians (PPDSH) 80. Voter turnout was low -- between 35 and 60% -- and the opposition complained about various irregularities including cases of voters not appearing on election lists. Police had to intervene when PPD and PPDSH supporters clashed in Skopje and Tetovo. -- Stefan Krause and Fabian Schmidt


    Greece, meanwhile, will spend 4 trillion drachmas ($16.6 billion) by the year 2007 to upgrade its military equipment, AFP and Reuters reported on 13 November. Prime Minister Kostas Simitis said half of the money will be spent by 2000. Purchases for the next four years will include AWACS planes, 60 fighter planes, new tanks, transport helicopters and planes, submarines, warships, an air defense system, anti-aircraft systems, and trainer aircraft, as well as the modernization of existing F4 Phantom jets. Most of the equipment will come from the United States, and some from France, Germany, and possibly Switzerland. Simitis said the hardware will be modernized despite the difficult economic situation and the government's attempt to meet EU convergence criteria. His reason is that "our country faces Turkish provocation and threats." Simitis' announcement came as the Turkish parliament was debating the 1997 state budget, which envisages defense expenditures of $8 billion, compared to $6.6 billion in 1996. -- Stefan Krause

    Edited by Patrick Moore

    This material was reprinted with permission of the Open Media Research Institute, a nonprofit organization with research offices in Prague, Czech Republic.
    For more information on OMRI publications please write to

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