- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (Agence France-Press) President Vojislav Kostunica said yesterday he had refused the resignation of the Yugoslav army's chief of staff, Gen. Nebojsa Pavkovic, despite pressure from his coalition partners and the international community.
"He offered to withdraw, but I asked him to stay because of [army] reforms, which he has initiated and created," Mr. Kostunica told reporters.
Gen. Pavkovic, a top Yugoslav general named to the post by former strongman Slobodan Milosevic, who is awaiting trial at the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague on charges relating to the wars in Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia in the 1990s, has kept his position ever since.
He led the third army that controlled Kosovo during the war in the southern Serbian province, which has been under U.N. administration since June 1999.
Mr. Kostunica's partners in his ruling coalition have demanded that Gen. Pavkovic be removed.
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said "it will be impossible for Yugoslavia to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program as long as Pavkovic is the army chief of staff," Beta news agency reported.
Some international officials have indicated that Gen. Pavkovic should not keep the post, linking him to atrocities committed in Kosovo during the Milosevic era.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kostunica yesterday called for talks with Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova about the future of the Serbian province.
Mr. Kostunica said he already had invited Mr. Rugova for talks after taking office in October last year following Mr. Milosevic's ouster, but added, "Now I can renew this call, convinced that this is the best solution."
The U.N. mission and the NATO-led peacekeepers "will not stay forever in Kosovo," Mr. Kostunica told a press conference.
But "Serbs and Albanians will and that is why the solution [for Kosovo] should be found in their mutual accord, no matter how painstaking the road is," he added.
Mr. Rugova, whose Democratic League of Kosovo won the largest number of seats in parliamentary elections Nov. 17, is the only candidate for the post of Kosovo president.

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