- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kosovo clash

A top negotiator for Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority said he detects some “Soviet nostalgia” in Russia’s campaign to block a deal in the U.N. Security Council giving the province final independence from Serbia.

“The Russians are clearly playing a game of nerves in the talks, which probably makes them feel a little nostalgic for the old days,” said Ylber Hysa, a Kosovo lawmaker and a member of the delegation that arrived in New York last week for intensive talks on Kosovo’s ultimate status. “It is a game that used to play very well.”

Mr. Hysa talked by phone with our correspondentDavid R. Sands yesterday.

The United States and European Union strongly back a plan by Finnish mediator Martti Ahtisaari that would give the province functional independence from Serbia. The Bush administration argues that Kosovo will never accept Belgrade’s rule after the 1999 NATO-led air war stopped a brutal ethnic-cleansing campaign ordered by Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

But Serbia has rejected the Ahtisaari blueprint. Russia, a longtime ally of Belgrade, also has come out against partition but has not revealed whether it would use its veto in the Security Council to block the proposal.

Mr. Hysa, a member of the moderate ORA party in Kosovo, said Russia’s strategy appears to be to delay any U.N. action until at least next month when Group of Eight leaders convene in Germany.

“That could set up a very interesting meeting between President Bush and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” Mr. Hysa said.

Serbia’s new pro-Western coalition government has said it could not survive in power if it permitted the loss of Kosovo. But Mr. Hysa noted that patience also is running out among Kosovo’s Albanian majority, who have experienced violence and political uncertainty for more than 15 years.

“We have been waiting a generation,” he said. “If we do not get a resolution, there will be difficulties, perhaps violence, even provocations by radical elements to establish a fait accompli on the ground.”

Musharraf’s choices

President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is struggling against growing unrest and could become a less reliable partner of the United States in the war against terrorism, said a former top U.S. diplomat who specialized on South Asia.

Mr. Musharraf is facing riots and protests sparked initially by his suspension of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on charges of “misconduct.” Justice Chaudhry, who issued frequent rulings against government corruption, is the first chief justice to face such disciplinary action in the court’s 50-year history. His case in on appeal.

The fierce reaction against Gen. Musharraf’s decision and the riots between his supporters and opponents have weakened the general, who took power in a 1999 coup, said Teresita C. Schaffer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs and now director of the South Asian program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Musharraf is still in power, but it is not the same Musharraf with whom the international community has been working for six years, nor the same Pakistan,” Mrs. Schaffer wrote in an article posted on the center’s Web site (www.csis.org).

“His willingness and ability to put his full strength behind the anti-terrorism effort are reduced. He is vulnerable to domestic challenges.”

She added that “most of Musharraf’s options are not attractive.”

“He can hope that things will calm down, and that the Supreme Court will delay a decision [on the appeal of Chief Justice Chaudhry’s dismissal] until passions have cooled,” she wrote.

“He can crack down on political parties and the press. He could, if disorder continues, declare a state of emergency or martial law, options he has publicly rejected in recent days. But none of these is a sure bet, and each of these brings its own potential complications, including fresh domestic upheavals and international pressure.”

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

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