Serbian Leaders Say They Will Attend Peace Talks on KosovoBy Paul Watson
Los Angeles Times
Serbian leaders agreed Thursday to join ethnic Albanians in peace talks, but both sides in Kosovo's conflict insist they won't drop demands that threaten to block a deal to end the bloodshed in the separatist province.
After a daylong debate peppered with attacks on the United States and NATO, Serbia's parliament voted 227-3 in favor of sending a delegation to the peace conference, set to begin Saturday near Paris.
But Serbian leaders rejected the deployment of foreign troops in Kosovo, a predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Serbia, to police any agreement. NATO is laying the groundwork for a peacekeeping force, which is likely to include U.S. soldiers.
"We don't accept the presence of foreign soldiers on our territory under any excuse of implementing any agreement that is reached," said one article in a 12-page resolution approved by parliament.
It also condemned "in the sharpest terms" NATO's threats to bomb Serbian forces if their leaders do not reach a peace agreement, calling the threats a violation of the U.N. Charter because NATO didn't get approval from the Security Council.
But hard-line positions here in Belgrade, the Serbian and Yugoslav capital, have a history of collapsing under foreign pressure, and Thursday's vote was another about-face by leaders who had always insisted that Kosovo was an internal matter. Serbia is the dominant republic of what remains of Yugoslavia.
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has bowed so many times to save himself since Yugoslavia began to disintegrate in 1991 that few would be surprised to see him do it again over Kosovo, even though Serbs call it their heartland.
That might sound like political suicide anywhere else, but not in Milosevic's Serbia, said political analyst Predrag Simic. "He has been, by now, 11 or 12 years in power, and there have been so many critical situations where it was very tempting to say his political career was on the edge, or over," Simic said in an interview.