- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Serbian plea

With an international decision on the status of Kosovo imminent, a top adviser to Serbian President Boris Tadic is warning that a wrong solution could undermine his country’s pro-Western reformers at a critical moment in the country’s history.

“The worst thing the international community could do is impose a solution that is destabilizing to all sides, to Kosovo and to Serbia,” Vuk Jeremic, senior foreign policy adviser to Mr. Tadic, told our correspondentDavid R. Sands during a Washington visit last week.

“A mutually acceptable solution on Kosovo, whether it stays in Serbia or is given some form of independence, is simply not possible in the next three weeks.”

Serbia holds a critical parliamentary vote Sunday, with Mr. Tadic and his allies facing a challenge from nationalist parties that oppose the country’s efforts to join NATO, the European Union and other Western institutions.

Soon after the vote, a mediator from the United Nations is due to issue his recommendation on the future of Kosovo, whose ethnic Albanian majority overwhelmingly favors independence from Serbia. The province has been in political limbo since the 1999 NATO bombing campaign ousted the forces of former Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Serbs view the province as the historic heart of the nation.

Private analysts and some U.S. officials fear that putting off the decision on Kosovo’s final status again could ignite passions inside the province, but Mr. Jeremic said he feared the reaction in Serbia to an adverse decision could be far more dangerous for the region.

Serbia “is critical to the entire Balkans region,” he said, “because of our size, because of our central location, because of our economic resources. It has the potential to sink or to pull up the entire region. We proved that in a negative sense all through the 1990s.”

In Brussels Monday, NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the alliance was reinforcing its mission in Kosovo ahead of the status decision. With ethnic movements pressing to redraw national borders in the Balkans and beyond, he feared granting Kosovo unconditional independence could open “a can of worms” for Europe and the West, particularly if the final status decision is not endorsed by the full U.N. Security Council. Russia has long been a diplomatic ally of Serbia and skeptical of Kosovo’s push for independence.

“We know that [a Kosovo decision] will be hard for us no matter what, but if it is presented to the Serbian people as the unanimous vote of the Security Council, we would listen,” Mr. Jeremic said.

“Everybody is wary of an outburst inside Kosovo if there is a delay, but people should take into account the more profound consequences of an outburst in Serbia if the decision comes down in the wrong way.”

Mr. Jeremic said Mr. Tadic’s government is committed to its “Euro-Atlantic” foreign policy whatever the decision on Kosovo but warned that Kosovo’s independence would weaken the domestic argument for Serbian membership in NATO and the European Union.

“Our long-term strategic goals are completely in accord with what Europe and the United States want for us,” he said. “The 1990s were a dreadful decade for Serbia. We were Europe’s rogue nation. We are determined not to go back to those days again.”

Negroponte endorsed

The influential Council of the Americas is urging the Senate to confirm John D. Negroponte as deputy secretary of state, citing his long career as an ambassador in Latin America.

Mr. Negroponte, most recently director of national intelligence, is a former ambassador to Mexico and Honduras.

“John Negroponte has been a friend of the council for many years,” said Susan Segal, the president and chief executive officer of the organization of more than 200 blue-chip corporate members that promotes free trade and democracy. “We are confident that his deep experience in Latin America … will continue to energize the administration’s policies in the Western Hemisphere, even as he maintains global responsibilities.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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