- The Washington Times - Monday, November 27, 2000

ZAGREB, Croatia Any notion that the troubles besetting the Balkans had ended with the ouster of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic were dispelled at a groundbreaking summit of regional leaders late last week.

The unprecedented summit, bringing officials of the 15 European Union nations together with leaders of the countries that once made up Yugoslavia, was in many ways a celebration of the emergence of democratic leaders in several Balkan nations.

But there were ample warnings of the potential for new crises in Montenegro and Kosovo, where Serbia had demanded a NATO crackdown by today on ethnic Albanian militants.

In the summit's final declaration on Friday, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Albania and Yugoslavia agreed to work toward political dialogue, regional free trade and close cooperation in the fields of justice and internal affairs.

French President Jacques Chirac, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, announced the European Union will allocate $705 million to the region in 2001, the first installment of a six-year, $3.9 billion program. Serbia will get $202 million in the first year, said EU Budget Commissioner Michaele Schryer.

But there also were reminders of the sources of instability in the region.

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said his republic will hold a referendum early next year on its role within Yugoslavia, saying the world should recognize that Montenegro and Serbia already are de facto separate countries.

Yugoslavia's new president, Vojislav Kostunica, countered that any unilateral decision by Montenegro would prove disastrous. He also described Kosovo as Europe's biggest problem, warning that trouble there could set off crises elsewhere.

Bernard Kouchner, the U.N. administrator in Kosovo, voiced similar concerns, recalling a recent series of bomb blasts, assassinations and attacks on Serbian policemen near the Kosovo border.

Yugoslavia has accused ethnic Albanians of attacking Serbian areas outside Kosovo, and warned that if the international community does not intervene, it will send its own troops to do the job.

Yugoslavia's army sent tanks near the boundary yesterday to back a demand that NATO clear the Albanians from the region no later than today.

"We do not need any more victims to understand that the conflict in Kosovo is not over," Mr. Kouchner said. He noted that Kosovo's majority Albanian population was set on independence and fearful that the ouster of Mr. Milosevic in Serbia might make that less likely.

Summit participants had been eager to see what Mr. Kostunica would say about the various conflicts in the region and the demands of the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. They cannot have been happy with his answers.

Mr. Kostunica blamed the failures of the European Union for the NATO bombing campaign in Serbia and dismissed The Hague tribunal as a toy of U.S. policy, saying he will not hand over Mr. Milosevic. He offered no sign of remorse to the Croatian people for the role Serbia played in the 1991-1995 conflict.

Croatian President Stipe Mesic, on the other hand, stressed the need to cooperate with The Hague and hand over indicted war criminals such as Mr. Milosevic, Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, and the former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Ratko Mladic.

He also said Mr. Kostunica had so far failed to take control of the Serbian army and the police, the key pillars of power for his predecessor, and that a recent appearance on national television by Mr. Milosevic clearly showed he has every intention of remaining active in Yugoslav politics.

"It would be illusory to discuss any normalization without full cooperation with The Hague tribunal, without the individual assignment of guilt which will prevent the creation of myths of collective guilt of any nation," Mr. Mesic said.

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