PRISTINA, Kosovo - Kosovo's parliament declared the disputed territory a nation on Sunday, mounting a historic bid to become an "independent and democratic state" backed by the U.S. and European allies but bitterly contested by Serbia and Russia.
The main reason for contesting it is because the independence has been forced on Serbia in violation of international law and UN resolutions. Yugoslavia was systematically dismembered by the West, and now Serbia is being dismembered, under implicit threat of US and NATO military force.
Fireworks lit up the night sky over Kosovo's capital Pristina, where thousands of giddy ethnic Albanians braved subfreezing temperatures to ride on the roofs of their cars, singing patriotic songs and chanting: "KLA! KLA!" the acronym for the now-disbanded rebel Kosovo Liberation Army.
The KLA is long known to be an extremist Islamic terrorist group, with ties to radical terrorists throughout the Islamic world, and deriving a significant amount of its funding from organized crime activities. I address this most recently in a post entitled McCain's Ties to Islamic Terrorists -- and Heroin Traffickers? That post links to a US Senate Republican Policy Committee press release from 1997 entitled Clinton-Approved Iranian Arms Transfers Help Turn Bosnia into Militant Islamic Base. For further information, see Digging It Up, Part 2 of 2 for brief summaries and plenty of links.
Continuing with the article:
"Kosovo is a republic — an independent, democratic and sovereign state," Kosovo's parliament speaker Jakup Krasniqi said as the chamber burst into applause.
Serbia immediately denounced the declaration as illegal, and Russia also rejected it, demanding an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
President Bush said the U.S. would work to prevent violence after the declaration and the European Union appealed for calm, mindful of the risk that the declaration could plunge the turbulent Balkans back into instability.
Hours after the declaration, an explosion apparently caused by a hand-grenade rocked a U.N. courthouse in the Serb-controlled north of Kosovo, but no one was injured.
In Pristina, however, the mood was jubilant. Revelers danced in the streets, fired guns in the air, and waved red and black Albanian flags and American flags. Many dressed in traditional costumes and played trumpets and drums. Thousands of ethnic Albanians streamed into the city from neighboring Macedonia.
I appreciate the goodwill toward the United States on the part of the ethnic Albanian people in Kosovo, but America has done them a great disservice in handing them over to what will be a failed state.
Had this been done in accordance with international law, and working with Serbia, it could be a very happy day for the people of Kosovo. Instead, despite the calls for peace, this day will mark the descent of Kosovo into tremendous lawlessness, as those who illegally traffic weapons, sex slaves and heroin will now be calling the shots there, with full backing of the West.
"This is the happiest day in my life," said 68-year-old Mehi Shehu. "Now we're free and we can celebrate without fear."
The new nation's leaders signed their names on a giant iron sculpture spelling out "NEWBORN" before heading to a performance of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" by the Kosovo Philharmonic Orchestra.
"I feel stronger," said Ymer Govori, 36, carrying his daughter on his shoulders. "I have my own state and my own post code, and it won't say Serbia any longer."
The declaration was carefully orchestrated with the U.S. and key European powers, and Kosovo was counting on swift international recognition that could come as early as Monday, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels, Belgium.
There has, of course, been behind-the-scenes work to speed recognition.
But by sidestepping the U.N. and appealing directly to the U.S. and other nations for recognition, Kosovo set up a showdown with Serbia — outraged at the imminent loss of its territory — and Russia, which warned that it would set a dangerous precedent for separatist groups worldwide.
Ninety percent of Kosovo's 2 million people are ethnic Albanian — most of them secular Muslims — and they see no reason to stay joined to the rest of Christian Orthodox Serbia.
As I pointed out in McCain's Ties to Islamic Terrorists -- and Heroin Traffickers?:
Kosovo has for centuries been part of Serbia. When the Ottomans invaded the area, it was the scene of a major battle in 1389. Despite winning the battle, the Ottomans were forced to retreat in order to consolidate their power in the face of the Serbs and their allies.
By the late 17th Century, the Ottomans were in control, essentially Islamizing the region, and dhimmifying those inhabitants who refused to submit to Islam. Ethnic cleansing of Orthodox Christian Serbs continued off-and-on through the years, culminating in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, by which time ethnic Albanians had replaced the Serbs as the dominant people in Kosovo.
This precedent now being set, in violation of international law, but backed by the Bush Administration and the European Union, has the potential to reach to non-English-speaking minorities in places in the United States. In a way, it is kind of a "squatter's rights" precedent, backed by superior firepower.
Quoting Clinton-Approved Iranian Arms Transfers Help Turn Bosnia into Militant Islamic Base:
Stepping-Stone to Europe
The intended targets of the mujahedin network in Bosnia are not limited to that country but extend to Western Europe. For example, in August 1995, the conservative Paris daily Le Figaro reported that French security services believe that "Islamic fundamentalists from Algeria have set up a security network across Europe with fighters trained in Afghan guerrilla camps and [in] southern France while some have been tested in Bosnia." [(London) Daily Telegraph, 8/17/95] Also, in April 1996, Belgian security arrested a number of Islamic militants, including two native Bosnians, smuggling weapons to Algerian guerrillas active in France. [Intelligence Newsletter, Paris, 5/9/96 (No. 287)] Finally, also in April 1996, a meeting of radicals aligned with HizbAllah ("Party of God"), a pro-Iran group based in Lebanon, set plans for stepping up attacks on U.S. assets on all continents; among those participating was an Egyptian, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who "runs the Islamist terrorist operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina from a special headquarters in Sofia, Bulgaria. His forces are already deployed throughout Bosnia, ready to attack US and other I-FOR (NATO Implementation Force) targets." ["State-Sponsored Terrorism and The Rise of the HizbAllah International," Defense and Foreign Affairs and Strategic Policy, London, 8/31/96] Finally, in December 1996, French and Belgian security arrested several would-be terrorists trained at Iranian-run camps in Bosnia. ["Terrorism: The Bosnian Connection," (Paris) L'Express, 12/26/96]
As I stated in Kosovo in 1999, Part 3:
On the other side of Europe, there are several nations with substantial and increasingly militant minority groups of immigrants from Islamic countries. The precedent that is being set in the Balkans will reach across Europe, and the dominoes will fall. The westernmost dominoes are nuclear-armed powers, permanent members of the UN Security Council; the first dominoes are being toppled by the Bush Administration in the Balkans.
Continuing with the article:
Krasniqi, Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and President Fatmir Sejdiu signed the declaration, which was scripted on parchment, before the unveiling of a new national crest and a flag: a bright blue banner featuring a golden map of Kosovo and six stars, one for each of its main ethnic groups.
Here is an excerpt from a page about Hashim Thaci at a pro-Serbian website:
During his university years, Thaci was one of the Albanian student leaders, and the first student president of the parallel university in Pristina. Kosovo Albanians, full of resentment over the 1989 annulment of the autonomy of Kosovo by Slobodan Milosevic, established in early 1990’s underground administrative and educational institutions.
By 1993, in Switzerland, Thaci joined the Kosovo Albanian political emigration. He was one of the founders of the Marxist-Leninist organisation People's Movement of Kosovo, which is believed to have created the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK).
From 1993, as a member of the inner circle of the UCK, Thaci alias Snake (Gjarpni) was responsible for securing financial means, training and armament. After he completed his military training in Albania, he was engaged in a number of terrorist actions in Kosovo.
Thaci is also known as the organiser of the Drenica-Group. The group controlled between 10-15 per cent of criminal activities in Kosovo in connection with smuggling of arms, stolen cars, oil and cigarettes as well as with prostitution, the establishment and maintenance of connections with the Albanian, Czech and Macedonian mafia. Other than that, Thaci's sister is married to Sejdija Bajrush, one of the leaders of the notorious Albanian mafia.
On the 25th of May, 1993, Thaci, along with the Drenica-Group members Rafet Rama, Jakup Nuri, Sami Ljustku and Ilijaz Kadriju, participated in the attack on the railroad crossing in Glogovac (central Kosovo) when four Serbian policemen were killed and three seriously wounded. Thereafter, according to the deposition of Rafet Rama on the 11th July, 1997 in the District Court of Pristina, Thaci and others went into hiding in wood in Drenica. Yet, they often visited Albania, Switzerland and Kosovo.
On the 17th of June, 1996, Thaci with other accomplices opened fire on a Serbian police car on the road Mitrovica-Pec in Sipolje (north of Kosovo). Same year, according to the deposition of Rama, Thaci and his gang threw hand grenades into the Serbian barracks "Milos Obilic" in Vucitrn (central Kosovo). In July 1997, Thaci was sentenced, in absentia, by the District Court of Pristina to 10 years in prison for criminal acts of terrorism. In February 1998, a central arrest warrant was issued in his name. Thaci was condemned for having ambushed and attacked patrolling Serbian policemen.
Wrath of Thaci not only fell upon Serbian officials, but Albanian dissidents as well. Chris Hedges from New York Times accused Hashim Thaci and his two confidents, Azem Syla the UCK's Minister of Defence and Xhavit Haliti the Ambassador to Albania, of murdering top commanders within the UCK itself and other potentially opponent Kosovo Albanian nationalists ("Leaders of Kosovo Rebels Tied to Deadly Power Play", 25 June 1999). Hedges interviewed for his article a former member of the secessionist movement in Switzerland, Rifat Haxhijaj, who stated: "When the war [against Serb authority] started, everyone wanted to be the chief. For the leadership this was never just a war against Serbs - it was also a struggle for power". In 1997, a Kosovo Albanian reporter, Ali Uka, who was a supporter of the Kosovo independence movement though too critical for the taste of its leadership, was found dead in his apartment in Tirana. His roommate at the time of his death was no other than Thaci the Snake. According to former UCK officials, Thaci conducted assassinations in cooperation with Tirana, which often placed members of its secret police "at the disposal of the rebel commanders".
According to Bujar Bukoshi, once the Prime Minister of the Rugova government in exile, "Cadavers have never been an obstacle to Thaci's career".
Of course, the official web site of the supporters of the Albanian Leader from Kosova Hashim Thaci would have a somewhat different version of events.
Continuing with the article:
"From today onwards, Kosovo is proud, independent and free," said Thaci, a former leader of the guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army, which battled Serbian troops in a 1998-99 separatist war that claimed 10,000 lives. "We never lost faith in the dream that one day we would stand among the free nations of the world, and today we do."
Thaci pledged the new nation would be "a democratic, multiethnic state" — an attempt to reach out to Serbs who consider Kosovo the cradle of their medieval culture and religion.
But he also had stern words for the Serbian government, saying in the Serbian language: "Kosovo will never be ruled by Belgrade again."
Thaci on Sunday signed 192 separate letters to nations around the world — including Serbia — asking them to recognize Kosovo as a state.
Serbian President Boris Tadic rejected the independence bid immediately, declaring Sunday's proclamation "unilateral and illegal." Kosovo's 10 minority Serb lawmakers boycotted the parliamentary session in protest.
And Serbia's government minister for Kosovo, Slobodan Samardzic, said Sunday that Serbia would increase its presence in the roughly 15 percent of Kosovo that is Serb-controlled — an apparent attempt to divide the province.
Divide the province? Understandable, if "Kosovo will never be ruled by Belgrade again" and considering that Serbs are concerned about their fate under the rule of those tied to organized crime and Islamic extremists.
Serbia's government ruled out any military response as part of its secret "action plan" drafted earlier this week as a response, but warned that it would downgrade relations with any foreign government that recognizes Kosovo's independence.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said Moscow supports Serbia's "just demands to restore the country's territorial integrity."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has argued that independence without U.N. approval would set a dangerous precedent for "frozen conflicts" across the former Soviet Union and around the world. He is pressuring the U.N. Security Council to intervene, and the council planned to meet in an emergency session Sunday afternoon at Russia's request.
Before Kosovo's parliament voted, President Bush said the U.S. will work to prevent violent clashes after the independence declaration. The State Department was reviewing the development with European allies as the province sought swift recognition from the West.
"The United States will continue to work with our allies to do the very best we can to make sure there's no violence," Bush said several hours before Kosovo's parliament approved the declaration.
"We are heartened by the fact that the Kosovo government has clearly proclaimed its willingness and its desire to support Serbian rights in Kosovo," Bush said. "We also believe it's in Serbia's interest to be aligned with Europe and the Serbian people can know that they have a friend in America."
In the American people, yes, the Serbian people have a friend; in the Bush Administration, the Serbian People have an agent of international organized crime and Islamic extremists (see Digging It Up, Part 1 of 2 and Digging It Up, Part 2 of 2 for a list of links).
Concluding the article:
The EU's foreign ministers plan to meet Monday. While all 27 EU nations endorse an aid plan for Kosovo, several — Greece, Romania, Spain, Cyprus and Slovakia among them — say they will not recognize the territory's independence.
"We appeal to all parties in Kosovo and in the wider region to remain calm and not to respond to any provocation," EU spokesman Jens Mester said. "The international community will not tolerate violent action in Kosovo."
Kosovo had formally remained a part of Serbia even though it has been administered by the U.N. and NATO since 1999, when NATO airstrikes ended former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.
Kosovo is still protected by 16,000 NATO-led peacekeepers, and the alliance boosted its patrols over the weekend in hopes of discouraging violence. International police, meanwhile, deployed to back up local forces in the tense north.
The ambassadors of the 26 NATO nations will meet in special session Monday at the alliance headquarters. NATO said Sunday in a statement that it has no immediate plans to increase its peacekeeping force, and that it "will continue to provide security for all citizens of Kosovo, majority and minority alike."
NATO has been particularly ineffective in protecting Serbs in Kosovo.
From Ethnic 'cleansing' threat to Serbs in Kosovo, which concludes with these remarks:
The northern half of Mitrovica is festooned with pictures of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. North of the bridge, a banner reads: "Russia help us." But in the flats overlooking it, Petar Milosavlevic, a 69-year-old Serb, despaired of those who talked of violence.
"I was born here and I will die here. If there would be any new violence, I only wish that the first bullet would kill me and not some young person," he said. "We all used to live together - Serbs, Albanians, Croats, Roma - and it was all good until the politicians messed things up. They poisoned people's minds."