Albanian Daily News - Dec 06

Kosovo troubles could spill over into Serbia, Macedonia

Albanian Economic Tribune

BELGRADE - Troubles in Kosovo risk spilling over into southern Serbia and Macedonia, a former Yugoslav army chief of staff warned in an interview with Agence France-Presse.

General Momcilo Perisic, who was fired by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in November 1998 and has since joined the opposition, was commenting on a recent flare-up on Kosovo’s border with Serbia.

"There is a great danger of the Kosovo problem spilling over into southern Serbia and even more so into Macedonia," Perisic said.

At the end of last month, Serbian police suffered two attacks blamed on fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which officially, has been demilitarised. Two policemen were killed and eight others wounded. They were the most serious clashes around Kosovo since the army and police evacuated the province last June, before deployment of the NATO multinational force and the establishment of a provisional United Nations administration. Many ethnic Albanians live on the border with Kosovo and a quarter of Macedonia’s two million inhabitants is Albanian.

Since the clashes, the Yugoslav army has staged two exercises in the region of Bujanovac, a small town in southern Serbia close to the borders with Kosovo and Macedonia. Official Serbian television showed tanks, armoured vehicles and infantry moving through the hilly terrain.

"The area is a trouble spot exposed to people from Kosovo who want to cause incidents and provoke the army," said Perisic, accusing Albanian "extremists" of trying to spread the Kosovo conflict.

He said it was "more than normal" that the Yugoslav army make preparations on the ground to prevent new raids. The exercises were part of regular training, but he conceded they might be interpreted by Albanian "extremists" as an attempt to intimidate the mainly Albanian population of Bujanovac and Presevo. Thousands of Albanians already left the area during the Kosovo conflict to set up home either in Kosovo or in Macedonia. Perisic said there was also the risk that Albania itself would be destabilised.

The former chief of staff said that the international community, the Yugoslav leadership and the Albanian separatists were all to blame for the situation in Kosovo. Perisic said the NATO bombing campaign "instead of stabilising the situation, simply added to the destabilisation."

[URL may be different next day if article is archived]