Question: Is there anything in particular that you want to say to the Western public?
The entire western story of the Yugoslav crisis is false, particularly on Serbia. I think that this is the failure of journalism, moral failure of journalism. The Western story is far from the truth. It can be said that many things presented to the foreign public about this country are simply not true. I therefore hope that your visit will help correct that.
What do you think about James Rubin's statement of last week?
There were several statements.
I think he said that you are "the problem"? What do you think about that? Do you have any response?
My duty is to protect the interest of my people and my country. If anyone has a problem with that, I can only tell you that I am proud of my role in defending and protecting the interests of my country and of my people.
Do you think that the US has changed its policy? There were some rumours on CNN last week, that the US had changed its policy and that now they are trying to oust you? Do you believe that?
This is not a question of a personal position of any individual. This is the question of a political approach to the problems in Yugoslavia and the problems in Kosmet. We consider Kosmet our internal affair and believe that this problem can be resolved only by agreement between the representatives of different national communities living there. I firmly believe that the problem cannot be resolved by solutions imposed from outside. People who live there should arrive at an agreement.
So you are saying that you will not accept the US plan, as presented by Ambassador Hill?
Any initiative directed at peaceful resolution is welcome as an initiative that can be taken into account. This is one side to it. But essentially, the problems in this country have to be resolved by people living in this country.
As far as I understand, the problem is that the people from Kosovo, namely the Albanians living in Kosovo, who are the predominant population, seek independence. The Serbs in Serbia wish to keep Kosovo as a part of Serbia. Is compromise possible and if so, is Ambassador Hill's plan a possible compromise? What extent of autonomy will you give to the people of Kosovo?
That question is not understood by many outside this country.
You mean, it was not well understood between you and Holbrooke?
Kosmet is above all a part of Serbia, and has always been a part of Serbia. Always, throughout history, for centuries.
Always has been and always will be?
Always has been and of course always will be. Why would it be any different in the future. Only in Kosmet, there are 1800 Serb, Christian churches, as listed by famous ecologist Weber. This is where different national communities live: Serbs and Montenegrins, Albanians, Muslims, Egyptians, Romanies, Turks. The approach of the Serb Government and all political parties and citizens of Serbia is that nationalities living there have to be equal. So, when we speak of the solution to the problem of Kosovo...
You mean, you and Holbrooke?
No, I do not mean only Holbrooke and me. Whenever we spoke with Holbrooke and Hill, with any foreign representatives and among ourselves, in general, we always thought that the problems can be resolved only on the basis of the principle of equality of all citizens living in Kosmet and all national communities living in Kosmet. So, if any national community, Albanian, Turkish, Muslim or any other, wishes to have self-governance: there are no limitations in that.
You mean independence?
Not independence. Self-governance of national communities.
Is that appropriate?
Absolutely. And if there are some limits, those are the rights of other national communities living in Kosmet. So, no national community living in Kosovo, among those I mentioned, cannot rule over the others. All national communities have to be equal. They have to have equal rights.
OK, but I see it like this. You probably know more but I understand that the KLA, as we call it, is much stronger than other Albanian forces, and that moderate forces are losing power. The question is whether the cease-fire will hold. And, on the long term basis, the question is how you will come up with an arrangement that will satisfy the local Albanians - great number of Albanians living there who wish independence. On the other hand, the Serb people wish to keep Kosovo within Serbia. Will you give them actual autonomy, the possibility to run their lives, their legislature, possibility to administer their towns as the Israeli gave the Palestinians the right to administer the towns on the West Bank?
This is different from the Palestinian question. Simply, we never discussed, including in our talks with the representatives of the international community, Holbrooke and the others, any kind of independence. Independence implies the secession of a part of Serbia. Disintegration of Serbia. No one in Serbia can agree with secession of any part of our country.
I understand. But the question is what level of autonomy would you accept within Serbia?
I tried to explain to you that each national community living in Kosovo can have autonomy, [regarding internal matters].
Do you think that it would satisfy Albanians?
It will not satisfy Albanians who seek independence. This is clear. We have no illusions about that. But it is a kind of compromise, which means that they can have their autonomy within Albanian community. But the same kind of self-governance has to be provided to Muslims, Turks and others living in Kosovo and Metohija. So, all of them have to be treated equally. This is the difference. We never spoke of any possibility of independence for Albanians. In order to understand the situation in our country, you have to appreciate one fact: there are 26 different national communities in Serbia. All of them are equal. Look, for example, at the Hungarians in the north. They are quite well integrated in Serbia. They have their own schools in Hungarian, their publishing houses, radio and TV programmes, papers, practically everything. We have no problems with them. No problems with Slovaks, Bulgarians, Ruthenians and others. The problem in Kosmet was not a problem with Albanian national minority as a whole. Albanians are good people and one of equal national minorities in Serbia. The problem in Kosmet is the problem of a separatist movement of one part of the Albanian national minority. A part of the Albanian national minority in Kosmet is manipulated by groups of Albanian politicians, who are Nazis. I will tell you why they are Nazis. Because their proclaimed goal is an ethnically pure state. I do not know if there is any ethnically pure state anywhere in Europe.
It is strange coming from you, because we in America are under the impression that that was the goal of Bosnian Serbs when they were killing in Bosnia.
There was a civil war in Bosnia between Muslims, Serbs and Croats. No one in Bosnia pursued a goal of an ethnically pure Bosnia. It would simply be impossible. But now that you mention Bosnia, the case of Bosnia was resolved in Dayton only because a formula was reached to equally protect the interests of all three peoples living there. That was our approach since the beginning of the crisis in Bosnia. You can see the papers from that period and see that. Since the beginning of crisis in Bosnia, our approach was that there is only one formula which can bring peace, and that is the formula which will equally protect the interests of all three peoples - Serbs, Muslims and Croats. So, that was achieved in Dayton. Now, the Serbs have their institutions, the Croats and Bosniaks have theirs and they can live together. That is no longer a problem.
But allegedly there was a connection between your Government and Bosnian Serbs, wasn't there?
Allegedly, according to our Government, there was a strong connection between Bosnian Serbs and your Government.
Between the Serbs in Serbia and the Serbs in Bosnia.
Is it not normal and logical that there are connections between the Serbs from both sides of one river. They lived in one country: former Yugoslavia. All the time. Why would those connections be strange?
But, if the Serbs in Bosnia killed many people, than you can see the problem in the picture that the West has about you.
In the war in Bosnia, Muslims killed Serbs and Croats, Croats killed Muslims and Serbs, Serbs killed Muslims and Croats. It was a civil war. No one was innocent there. No side was innocent. Only civilians were innocent and suffered the consequences of the horrors of war.
Did you read an article from the New York Times a week ago, which said that you fired Chief of General Staff and Chief of the State Security. The journalist who wrote that said that you were losing power, that your power was weakened and that you never give interviews, which I am sure is not true.
I gave a lot of interviews.
But what do you think about her analysis?
It is not good that she is not treating this country as all other countries in the world, the USA for example. How many Chiefs of General Staff have there been in your country in the past 5 years? We changed one and you changed three: Powell, Shalikashvili and now Shelton. It is normal in any democratic country. Why should not it be normal for Yugoslavia too?
I suppose what she said in her article, I am not sure, that you fired several high ranking officials at the same time: Chief of General Staff, Chief of the State Security. Allegedly, there was a disagreement between you and the Chief of General Staff. Is that true?
No, it was a regular change.
But, changes in both cases. They say that you disagreed over Kosovo?
I did not notice any major disagreement with my associates over Kosovo.
But the former Chief of General Staff said that firing was illegal. He made a statement in the press. Do you remember?
Yes, I remember. Everyone who is fired has a right to be angry. It was a regular change and that is all. It cannot be said that it is illegal. It is my constitutional right as of any other president in the world.
What is your reply to the general position of this journalist, who said that in the beginning you had a big country, and now Bosnia and Croatia left. She says that your power is diminishing. Is she right?
She is absolutely not right.
When I was in Russia, the Russians told me that she was not right.
Of course, I was the President of Serbia and Serbia is the same as before. For the past year and a half I am President of Yugoslavia, and Yugoslavia was created in 1992. So, we did not change our country. She does not have all the facts. She only inappropriately uses limited facts. Let us go back to the explanation of the problem.
First of all, it is clear that we do not have a problem with any national community, and there are 26 of them, except with a part of the Albanian national community in Kosovo, those who are engaged in a separatist movement. The problem is the drive for secession of Kosovo from Serbia and its unification with Albania. That is why I said that the nature of this movement Nazi. Because of its publicly proclaimed goal: ethnically pure state. That cannot be a goal of any democracy. There is another historical continuity, with what happened in World War II. In that war, Musollini, a fascist leader of Italy, created the so called Greater Albania and placed within this so called Greater Albania parts of Kosmet, a part of Macedonia and a part of Greece. Only in two years of the war, a part of Kosmet was part of Greater Albania. Never before in history and never after that. So, the separatist movement in Kosmet is the continuation of Mussolini's ideas from World War II. This is yet another proof of the Nazi nature of this movement. Our approach is totally opposite. We believe that people should live together regardless of their national origin. And if anyone should understand that, you Americans should. You live in a country with many Americans of different origin. You live together. And no one is trying to separate a part of the USA and create from it an ethnically pure state.
But, I spoke to one American, who was in Kosovo, an American official. He said that in the past few years two different systems were created in Kosovo. In one system, Albanians send their children to their schools and the other system is for the Serbs. The conclusion is that those two groups inevitably have to collide. Do you think he was right?
He was not right.
There was some sort of a parallel system created by the separatist movement. But that was marginal. In most parts of Kosmet Albanian children go to schools normally. All the time. In other public institutions, for example, health-care institutions, hospitals and other institutions. Albanians are present there. I would like you to understand that the problem in Kosmet is the problem of a separatist movement, not of Albanians in general. We make a clear distinction between them and Albanians as a people, who are our citizens with all their rights, we do not want them to be second-class citizens. We want them to be equal citizens of this country. That is the difference between them and the bandit groups who killed, raped, kidnapped and undertook all terrorist activities.
Do you think that you can reach an agreement with Rugova?
I think we can.
Have you ever talked to him?
I did. Once.
In May. Then we started some kind of a dialogue.
And how was it?
The dialogue was stopped by terrorist attacks, followed by anti-terrorist police activity, which was totally legal. You cannot imagine how many people were abducted, totally innocent people. For example, miners, they took miners to the woods. Many have not been heard from. Some have been killed.
OK. Let's say this is all true. But you still have to find a solution for Kosmet. Are you willing to accept the American plan?
I cannot talk about that plan in detail. But its major shortcoming is that the plan favors Albanians. Our approach is different. We think that no national community in Kosmet should be favored. Each national community in Kosmet has to be equal with other national communities.
Let's say you are right. Are you willing to withdraw your police and stop being so aggressive in Kosovo?
The Police in Kosmet has not been aggressive at all.
That's what the USA said. I do not know, I have never been in Kosmet.
The Police in Kosmet protects the citizens of Kosmet. The victims of terrorists are Albanians, not only Serbs. The Police protected citizens, not Serbs. That means, Serbs, Albanians, Turks, Roma, all citizens.
OK, let's suppose they are terrorists.
They are terrorists.
OK, but still there is a problem. You have your army there.
As any other country in its territory. Where is your army in your country?
But haven't you and Mr. Holbrooke agreed to keep only a limited number of soldiers?
Those soldiers that had been there before the onset of the conflict and crisis, and the police at the level before the crisis, which means 10,021 policemen. That is the situation in Kosmet. Since the agreement between me and Holbrooke there has been no action by the police except when they were directly attacked by terrorists. You have to understand that the terrorists are defeated. They are no longer a military factor in Kosmet.
But in a certain way they are a danger to security. Because of the simple fact that they may, in groups that they currently have, kill someone from an ambush.
Do you think that Mr. Hill's approach leads to independence? Are you afraid of that?
I would not go that far. He has shown good will to arrive at a good solution, but that is the subject of talks with the State delegation. Therefore they take one step at a time in good direction. I expect that the principle of equality of national communities be respected. This is the only way to calm the situation in Kosmet. How can Kosmet be calm if more than 600.000 residents should feel like second-rate citizens, and only Albanians should be granted their rights. This is not possible. This is one of the things that are totally differently represented in the international press. I even saw in the international press that 90% of Albanians live in Kosmet and 10% of others.
That is true.
That is not true.
What is true?
I will tell you what is true. First of all, there are 240,000 Serbs and Montenegrins. More than 150,000 Muslims. More than 150,000 Roma and Egyptians. The Turkish national minority numbers 40-50 thousand. If we add the Albanians and their parties who participate in the Joint Agreement, that is more than half of the population in Kosmet. We estimate that there are 800,000 Albanians in Kosmet. Hill will perhaps say there are 900,000. OK, we are not going to argue about that. What is our reply: to conduct a census under OSCE monitoring. What is more fair than to conduct a census, to establish accurate figures. Despite that, even if he were right about the 900 thousand figure, a the 600 thousand figure is a fact, this is a 1:1.2 ratio, not 1:1.9 as is widely, but incorrectly, believed in the International Community. All national communities have to be equal, that is the key for Kosmet. You should understand an essential fact. If national communities, like Turks for example, who are the smallest national community, between 40-50 thousand, are not equal with others, what is their position going to be. They have their papers, their radio and TV program, their schools in Turkish, etc. Why would they be second-class citizens in an autonomous province ruled by Albanians? The Joint agreement, reached by all national communities and ethnic groups and parties has a formula that there shall be an Assembly of Kosmet which will have two chambers: the chamber of citizens (one citizen - one vote), and the chamber of national communities in which each national community should be represented by its delegation which will be equal to others. Then, they can make all their decisions, respecting the interests of each national community in Kosmet. That is a fair formula, which is good and which guarantees equality of all living there. In such situation, the Serbs cannot be masters of Albanians. If the Albanians do not agree, the decision cannot be made. But the Albanians also cannot be masters of Serbs or Turks or Muslims. All of them have an equal right to live there.
What about University?
What is the problem there?
People abroad say, and that is bad for your image, that you cracked down on the University, on the press.
These are total fabrications. The changes of the Law on University included the abolition of self-management at the University, which we once had as a system. There is no more self-management, so there can be no self-management at the University either.
What do you mean there is no more self-management?
We used to have self-management as a system in the former Yugoslavia. You don't know that. The system could no longer stay only in the University. The state universities are financed by the Government, all buildings and their equipment belong to the State and all professors receive salaries from the State. Who should then appoint the members of the Executive Board? The Government, of course, and that is all there is to it.
I have a question from another area. I am interested in something else. For two days that I have been here, I could see how seriously people take the question of Kosovo. I wonder if you, as we in America say, have made a reasonable deal regarding Kosovo, regarding Interim arrangements. Will you meet resistance in your own country? From people who wish to keep Kosovo. Do you understand what I am saying?
I suppose that you talk about a reasonable solution.
No, whether you will from the political point of view be faced with resistance. If I were in New York, it would have not occurred to me at all. But here people sing songs about Kosovo. We in America cannot understand that. We think that you are acting irrationally. People talk about Kosovo all the time...
It is logical that you in America cannot understand everything about Serbia. We in Serbia do not understand everything about America.
No, I just wanted you to answer this question. Give me a straight answer. Would it be difficult, in case a reasonable solution is reached regarding Kosovo, would you be facing a lot of political resistance in your country, because emotions are running high regarding Kosovo.
No one in Serbia would accept, and that is totally true, that Kosovo be outside Serbia.
I understand that, but would you accept a reasonable deal?
Autonomy on the basis of equal treatment of all national communities.
Am I right that these are strong emotions that you will have to ...
I think that everybody will accept a just solution in Kosmet. The one that will equally protect the rights of all national communities. We do not have such kind of fascists here.
I didn't say they were fascists. I thought it was somewhat similar to Jerusalem, since this is an important city, emotionally.
Kosovo is important for us emotionally. As a part of this country, this is the heart of the country. We shall never give away Kosovo.
I understand that now.
Do you know that geographically, the region is called Kosovo and Metohija. Do you know what the word Metohija means? This is a Greek word and it means "church property", something that belongs to the church. So half of Kosmet is the land that belonged to the Serb Orthodox Church. For every Serb, Kosovo is the heart of Serbia. I have already told you that Weber made a list of 1800 churches in Kosmet that constitute a part of the international cultural heritage. We come from there. How can anyone say: let's take this part of Serbia and give it to the Albanians to play with it. It is out of the question.
If it is not like in Isreal, we will never give Western Bank because Hebron is there, and it is very important for the Jews. But it is more important to reach a compromise and keep the city. What is the difference?
It is a big difference, because of historical reasons. Kosmet was never a part of Albania. We did not invade the Northern part of Albania. Albanians who went there over the mountains may freely stay there. That is all right, but they cannot take a part of territory with them. Take for example the situation in Texas. You have a huge Mexican population there. What would happen if they were to say that they want to take a part of Texas and unite it with Mexico because they are a majority there? Would you allow that? It is not the question of human rights or the question of democracy. This is a question of separatism, a separatist movement. This is an entirely different thing. It has nothing to do with democracy, with human rights. It has to do with separatism and a separatist movement, which uses terrorism as means to an end. That is why we had to respond to terrorism and stop it. Nothing else.
Is it the same as PKK in Turkey? That is a separatist Kurdish Movement.
You can see that in Northern Ireland, on Corsica, the Basque Country in Spain. As opposed to Northern Ireland, we did not occupy northern Albania. Kosovo is a part of Serbia.
General Krstic was recently arrested. Is it true that you assisted in some way in his arrest and what is your reaction?
I think that it is very bad.
I heard that you were very forthcoming.
We have nothing to do with his arrest and we believe that it does not contribute to the normalization in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was an active general in RS and was arrested in the street by SFOR. This is not all right. Such secret indictments do not help the normalization of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly in view of the fact that on any side -Serb, Muslim or Croatian you can find people who participated in the war, who commanded the troops, who were active and you could arrest them. If we were to apply the rules according to which Krstic was arrested, half of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina should be arrested and sent to The Hague. But the war is over.
The State Department claims that you provide protection for 4-7 people - Serbs, who played a crucial role in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
That was not in Bosnia, that was in Croatia.
But they say that Mladic is here.
No, that is not true. Mladic is not here.
But aren't there any people that you could turn over to the Tribunal?
I would like to explain something to you. If the wars in Bosnia and Croatia are over, and if there is no one else to convict except the generals of the former JNA, who were in Croatia when something happened there, how can you simply say, OK, take these people. This is strictly prohibited by our Constitution. By the Constitution, not a law. We cannot extradite our citizens. I do not know where they are. I think that one of those three is not a citizen of Yugoslavia. Two are citizens of Yugoslavia. We never intended to arrest them and turn them over to the Tribunal. There has never been any evidence that they are guilty. Our Ministry of Justice asked the Tribunal to provide evidence of their alleged crimes. They did not get any evidence. If you want to talk about that, you have to have evidence. If there had been any evidence, they would have been arrested and tried here. We had trials for war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina. But our citizens were tried in our state courts, in Sabac, on the basis of our law. War crimes are crimes under our law.
I think that the idea of the Tribunal is to have them tried in the International Tribunal, not here. Do you have any interest in protecting them? Isn't that one of the conditions for the lifting of economic sanctions. Why wouldn't you turn them in then?
We consider that this Tribunal does not treat Serbs equally as others, that is a matter of principle. They have accused primarily Serbs for all that happened there. This was a part of a distorted picture of what happened in the former Yugoslavia. Dayton is the best proof that it is not true. We were accused of aggression in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After Dayton, it became clear that Yugoslavia did not commit aggression. That is confirmed by the creation of Republika Srpska in which Serbs from Bosna and Herzegovina live; not Serbs from Yugoslavia. Even today they live in Republika Srpska, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
You are talking about Mladic and Karadzic.
All of them, 1.2 million Serbs in Republika Srpska, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were in a civil war with the Muslims and Croats. That was not an invasion of Yugoslavia against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
But you assisted them, you armed them, right?
They were armed. All of them were armed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Of course, we helped them. How can we not help our people?
But the fact is that the Bosniaks were not armed, not in the beginning.
They were armed in the beginning and in the end. Everybody was armed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. How could they start the war if they were not armed?
But the Bosniaks were no match for the Serbs, in the beginning.
It is true that they were not so strong, the Serbs have traditionally been good warriors.
But why didn't you call the fight off, but let it turn into thousands and thousands of victims?
This is something that you do not understand. Serbia did not take part in this war, so it had nothing to call off. All the time Serbia advocated peace.
Do you have any regrets?
Ever since the beginning we advocated a peaceful solution. Our approach is that they should on their own find a solution that would equally protect the interests of all three peoples.
But you are a very powerful man. People say that you could have stopped it.
We did everything to stop it.
But you really could have stopped it.
I am a modest man, but I have to tell you: if Serbia was not so engaged and if I had not been so engaged in the search for a peaceful solution, Dayton wouldn't have been possible.
I am sure that's true.
That was done with great efforts on our side. And it is clear to anyone.
They are talking about an interim arrangement for Kosmet. They say that you had a very good relationship with Richard Holbrooke. Was that interim arrangement reached within 9 days because you and Richard Holbrooke have a good relationship or because you were afraid of NATO air strikes?
No, we were not afraid of NATO air strikes. We had to preserve the unity of the country at any cost. But we were for a peaceful solution all the time. Perhaps you do not know, but our State delegation had gome to Kosovo before Holbrooke came; they went 14 times and waited for Albanians to arrive and negotiations to start. They came once, and after that they were called to the USA for some talks. When they came back, terrorist activities intensified. So, they stopped the dialogue for reasons they never explained in Serbia. Perhaps their collocutors in the USA know these reasons.
Are you ready to continue dialogue with Mr. Holbrooke?
I believe that we have achieved a very important goal and the agreement to reach the problems peacefully. Now we need a dialogue between representatives of all national communities living in Kosmet. It is up to them to now define a joint platform for common life. Nobody else can do it for them. They have to do it on their own.
I know that your economic situation is difficult, that you are hard up for cash, that you do not have market economy. What are you going to do? You have sanctions again.
Allow me to correct you. First of all, we have market economy. Our entire economic concept is based on market economy. Second, sanctions caused great harm to us. In 1992, when they were introduced it was nothing tragic. In 1993, additional sanctions were introduced which totally isolated Yugoslavia in all respects. In 1993 the situation was really difficult. GNP fell and we had a high inflation rate. Extremely high inflation rate. In view of this, we decided to make our own economic programme to get rid of those negative tendencies. In the end of 1993, we completed our economic programme and started to implement it in the beginning of 1994, which was, despite the sanctions, the first year with positive growth rate of GNP. 1995 was even better, 1996 better still and 1997 and 1998 better still. So, in the past five years we have had positive tendencies. We shall continue with positive tendencies despite the sanctions. Of course, if there were no sanctions, the tendencies would be radically better. We had a rise in GNP, 5%, 6%, 7% and this year 4%. Throughout the five years since 1994 every year we had growth. We have problems caused by the sanctions. Our goods are more expansive due to the lack of EU trade preferences, USA blockade, frozen assets in foreign banks. So there are many obstacles. But if you compare our economy to those of Bulgaria or Romania, which did not have sanctions, did not have a war, did not have million refugees or anything like that, our economy is much better.
But you do not have foreign exchange reserves. They say that you are out of reserves and that there is no growth.
We never had big foreign currency reserves.
America is demanding changes from you, to democratize. Are you willing to introduce changes, so that sanctions may be lifted, to become a part of the world?
Of course, but we do not wish to pay the price they ask us to. If the price is to give up Kosovo, we will not give up Kosovo. As for democratization, that is an artificial story. We are the most democratic country in the region. We had six multi-party elections since 1990. Look at the Assembly of Serbia or Yugoslavia. No party has a majority, there are 7-8 parties in the Assembly and no party has a majority.
When did you last talk to Mladic?
A few years ago. We spoke for a long time before Dayton, here in Belgrade when Holbrooke and his associates were here. We talked about how to stop bombing and how to create a climate for cease-fire, so that Dayton can start. That was in the end of summer in 1995. And then we did it, we achieved that goal and in November we came to the negotiations.
Will you turn Mladic over to the Tribunal?
No. Again, he lives in Republika Srpska, not in Yugoslavia.
So, you cannot. Is the same true for Karadzic?
The same for Karadzic.
He lives in Republika Srpska?
Yes, I believe he lives there, if he is not somewhere else, I do not know. I did not follow his movement. He had a deal with Holbrooke to withdraw from the public life. He respected that. He withdrew from the public life. But, that is no longer relevant for the political life in Bosnia and Republika Srpska.
But it is important for the International War Crimes Tribunal.
You said that. I do not believe that Tribunal was very helpful. If that were so, it would treat all crimes in the world equally, and not hold trials for Serbs only.
So you think that the Serbs are treated differently, that they were not treated fairly?
Absolutely. The Serbs are the victims of the latest holocaust in this century, there is no doubt about that. It is a long story. The history will prove it. The Serbs were treated unfairly. The Serbs were always under pressures, Serbs were exposed to sanctions, pressures no matter that in Bosnia there was a civil war. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was isolated, instead of being treated normally as any other sovereign country, although it was a factor of peace and stability in this region, all the time, throughout the crisis.
Why was that, what do you think?
Because of the interests of great powers which wanted to take control of some parts of the former Yugoslavia.
Those which were involved.
What did they want?
To take control of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia...
For the same reasons big countries enslave small countries. As always in the history, big countries want to control the small ones.
You think that the reason is quest for power, for resources?
We are in the centre of the Balkans. Serbia is a bridge between Europe and the Middle East, the crossroads. This is a territory over which many empires fought. This is a link between Europe and Asia: Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, India. All roads go through Serbia. We live on the bridge between Europe and Asia.
But, Yugoslavia was a good ally of America during World War II.
During World War I as well.
Do you think that Germans are your enemies?
I think that we can have good relations with Germans. I think that Germany is through with Nazism. They are no longer a Nazi country. They are a developed country, with developed democracy.
Because of the new Government?
I do not see any difference.
Since Social-Democrats came to power?
They said that would not change anything in connection with their foreign policy.
I believe we shall find a way for good cooperation. We have had good cooperation with Germany in the past. We had a lot of ties and big German companies were always present in Yugoslav economy.
When did it stop?
With the start of the Yugoslav crisis, in the nineties.
Germany supported Croatia when it fought for the break-up of Yugoslavia and for its independence?
Why don't you ask them. The premature recognition of independence was a tragic mistake. For example, the recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina as an independent state on the basis of a rump referendum. In any referendum in Bosnia you have to have the participation of all three peoples, not two. It triggered a civil war.
People say that you had a vision of Greater Serbia. In 1989 you had this speech when you called upon the Serbs to rise and that was the beginning...
That is not true.
I read that somewhere.
You are not well informed. I have never made a speech inviting the Serbs to rise. On the contrary. In 1989 I was a supporter of greater Yugoslavia.
You never had the programme of Greater Serbia in mind?
No. We advocated that Yugoslavia should be preserved and still believe, as I believed then, that South Slavs should have been happy with Yugoslavia instead of separating into five different states. But it was their right to decide and there is no use to be sorry now. We considered that Yugoslavia was a good solution for the national interest of the Serbs, because in the former Yugoslavia all Serbs lived in one state in different republics. But they were in one state. The Muslims were also in one state in former Yugoslavia. The Croats were in one state and as well as Macedonians and others. That was the interest of all, not only of the Serbs.
When you think about America, since this is not clear to me, do you think that America changed its attitude towards Yugoslavia. After Dayton, you should have become a partner of America and now as though something has changed. Now they are asking for democratization, for this and that.
These are just excuses. You know full well that we are a democratic country.
I will tell you. When we finished Dayton it was agreed that the sanctions be lifted.
Yes, that's what I thought.
But after Dayton, more precisely after Paris, since the Dayton agreement was signed in Paris, you, of course not you personally, you put an outer wall of sanctions. That was not fair.
Madeleine Albright is responsible for that.
I do not know who is responsible, but when I spoke to some Americans and asked them why they did it, they said it was their insurance policy, since they were allegedly not sure whether we will honor our obligations from Dayton. That was not fair. I believe that it was a huge mistake, we could have been good partners. The pressures now continue, particularly regarding Kosovo, although no country supports terrorism. The fact is that terrorism was supported by different foreign factors. We did not have any choice but to defend our citizens and our state.
When you say foreign factors, do you mean Albania? I know that they are in the process of disintegration.
They had an implosion over there. A year before Kosovo, at our borders. You should know that we took from terrorist groups more than 26,000 pieces of different weapons, that were stolen and smuggled into Serbia from Albania. They destroyed their country. They looted their military warehouses. Their army is practically gone and they live in chaos. When Holbrook was here he told me that after he visited Tirana, he realized that the Albanian Government controlled only one block around the Government building. The rest of Albania is in total chaos. Anyone who has arms is controlling his part of the territory. Albania is undoubtedly a factor of instability of the entire region, because there is not a single terrorist organization which does not have its base in Albania. Albanian narco-mafia is well-known. You can discuss it with some services in the USA and they can tell you how powerful it is. The media war against us and the distorted picture created about us is based partially on various criminal factors of that Albanian organization. I also want to tell you that the money they give to foreign journalists and politicians is blood money, paid by the lives of young people from Western Europe, America and Canada.
What journalists, what politicians, give me some names.
Nomina sunt odiosa, if you know that Latin sentence.
Do you think that America changed its policy, that they considered you a partner. Now you know that Clinton on Saturday announced six months of new sanctions.
Those that already exist. That's what they say.
That is nothing new. But if America really wants to accelerate the process of economic reconstruction, democratization and everything else they scream about, it should lift all sanctions and create normal situation for cooperation. This is absolutely clear. This is what I told them so many times: why don't you try to change your approach from negative to positive and have normal cooperation. That would be more efficient for development of all good things which you say you want to see. This rigid position with sanctions and pressures does not produce good results. It only slows down the recovery and does not bring anything good. As the greatest world power, you have one weakness. Your weakness is that you believe that you can resolve everything by force. That was the weakness of many great powers that perished in the past.
But in this region we did not use force.
You bombed Serbs in Bosnia. The bombing in Republika Srpska could have been avoided and produced many negative consequences, that are certainly not helpful in the implementation of Dayton.
But why didn't you stop helping Bosnian Serbs?
Would you stop helping your relatives if it was vitally important to them. We helped our people.
Yes, but this is how the entire thing with accusations of genocide started. That is the heart of the matter for Serbia, not Dayton.
We do not believe that the Serbs in Bosnia behaved any worse than Muslims and Croats.
But it does not make it right.
The conflicts were not right, from any side and against anyone.
Why didn't you stop it?
We tried, as much as we could, and in Dayton it was stopped.
They stopped after bombing.
Bombing was not in the function of Dayton at all. We agreed all principles before the bombing. Several days ago I saw a statement of General Rose, British general who was a commander in Bosnia. He also said that the bombing was counter-productive. It is a totally distorted picture, if anyone should think that bombing helped Dayton. The situation is quite contrary. As you see, even a British general is saying what I am saying, and he was the commander of the International Forces in Bosnia. You can see that in an interview he gave a while ago. I read it in our press.
And if we bombed Serbia, as we threatened, when Holbrooke was here, were you ready. Do you have a powerful air-force?
I have to say that we do not have any other choice but to preserve our country and we could not accept anything that would lead to Kosovo being taken out from Serbia. We shall never accept any solution which would take Kosovo out of Serbia. That is clear. Kosovo is the worst possible spot in the world for any threats, because of its sensitivity. Kosovo is a sensitive spot in the heart of any Serb. Not only in Serbia, but Serbs in Bosnia, Serbs in America. A million of Serbs are now Americans. I do not believe that anyone will tell you anything differently regarding Kosovo.
Will you give the people of Kosovo the level of autonomy they had before 1989?
If you again think of Albanians, the system that was before was not appropriate because they abused the power they had to terrorize the rest of the population. Under the pressure of separatists in the beginning of the eighties, 40,000 Serbs left Kosmet. They were killing them, raping them, razed their cemeteries, destroyed monasteries. They abused the power they had. We stopped that violence.
When you abolished autonomy?
We did not abolish autonomy. Kosovo and Metohija is an autonomous province in accordance with the Constitution of Serbia.
I thought you abolished their autonomy in 1989.
You were wrong. however, a change did happen in 1989.
Albanians were no longer allowed to be masters over other population in the autonomous province of Kosovo and Metohija.
But the Serbs, whom we say are 10% of the population, control the army, police. The Serbs started controlling everything.
That is entirely untrue. The problem is media. A distorted picture was created. For example, many Albanians have been and still are represented in administration and different levels of power. I think that we currently have around 600 Albanians in the police in Kosovo, who are armed. This is the police of the Republic of Serbia. Kosovo is Serbia. In addition to that, there is more Serbs in Kosovo than 10 per cent.
But you know as well as I do that it does not satisfy the Albanian community in Kosovo.
We have to draw a line between what can satisfy them as equal citizens and what would represent their majorization. Except that, the satisfaction of Albanian community is not the highest principle of life in Kosovo. There is also the satisfaction of the Serb community, the Muslim community...
But the thing is that they are not equal.
They can have everything that makes them equal. But they cannot again be the masters of the rest of the population. That is the line.
Will you allow decisions to be made in Kosovo on everyday life, not in Belgrade.
Yes, of course, they can have it on the basis of the Agreement reached by all the national communities in Kosovo. They can no longer ask for more rights than others in Kosovo.
The fact is that the Serbs who are a small percentage of population in Kosovo rule in Kosovo. The question is what are you going to do if they want independence. You know that it is your problem. What will you do to keep Kosovo in Serbia, and at the same time satisfy their request for autonomy?
Both. We will let them run their affairs but that right has to be given to Turks, Muslims, Serbs and others.
But the Serbs are in charge.
Serbs in Kosovo will continue to have the right to exercise control over their inalienable interests.
Will the laws in Kosovo be equal for Serbs and all others?
All laws in Kosovo are equally valid for all.
So, according to you, local regulations will not be in place for them?
No local regulations.
Regardless of who wins the elections?
You obviously do not understand well. You have to understand something. If you read this joint agreement, you will understand. The Albanian national community will be able to run its affairs. The same will apply to Serbs, Turks, Muslims and others. But for Kosovo as a whole, they will have to make decisions together on common issues. As for special issues: they will be able to make their own decisions.
In addition to security, will they be able to make decisions on everyday business. Except for security, I do not see why it would not be possible. As long as they are not independent, as long as it is within autonomy, I do not see any problem in that. But you have to withdraw your police from there and stop being aggressive. I understand that the KLA attacks the police, I understand that they are not perfect, I have no illusions about that, but you are smart enough to draw conclusions.
You should not ignore a simple fact. The Police in Kosovo is from Kosovo. And Kosovo is Serbia.
No, they are from Serbia.
They are not from other parts of Serbia. Even if they were, Kosovo is a part of Serbia.
But they are Serbs.
Serbs, and others. Why wouldn't they be Serbs. This is Serbia.
Will you let the people there to have police?
Members of police are people living there. Now, it is a process. Nothing can be solved overnight. Currently in 112 villages in Kosovo and Metohija there is a local police, elected and staffed by local residents. These are all Albanian police officers. They take care of their daily security. When we started this process it was one village, two, three, five and now it is more than 110. We believe that it can go further. Everywhere, in Serb villages it is Serbs, in Albanian it is Albanians, who take care of security. But they cannot use force against members of other national communities.
Aren' t the Serbs doing just that? Now they have power in their hands and they are using it against the others?
I am telling you about our idea concerning the evolution of local police, once it becomes fully developed.
Will you withdraw your police?
All police in Serbia is ours. There is no other way. This is the police from Kosmet, it is ours, of the Republic of Serbia.
But it is the Serb Police. Are there any paramilitary units there?
No, there are not. Never have been.
Are there any troops in Kosovo?
Of course, the Army is there.
Are the soldiers from Serbia?
Of course, some are from Montenegro, some are from northern Serbia, from entire Yugoslavia, as any other army.
Will you keep your army there?
Of course, why would the Army leave Kosovo. This is a part of Yugoslavia. Where would an army be if not on its territory.
Will you withdraw it from towns and let the residents run their affairs.
The army is not running the towns.
Are the barracks in towns?
It depends. Sometimes they are in towns and it is nothing strange for any county. The Army is in the entire territory of FRY and its task is to be everywhere. It is its constitutional duty. We were exposed to attacks of various armed groups from Albania who tried to infiltrate into the territory of FRY, almost daily. It is a legitimate right of every state to defend its borders. That right cannot be disputed by anyone, not even your fellow nationals.
Tell me something about the extraction force based in Macedonia. Media yesterday wrote that you and Holbrooke agreed on the deployment of these forces for the protection of international observers.
International observers do not need any protection. We guarantee their protection.
So you do not like the extraction forces.
Absolutely not. I do not like their presence at all.
But media say that you and Holbrooke agreed on the extraction force?
No, we did not agree on the presence of any foreign solders on the FRY territory. If they want to have their forces in territories of other states, that is their problem. We cannot forbid NATO to place their force where they want. But on our territory, we do not wish to have any foreign troops.
What happens if they come to Kosovo to save the international observers?
There is no need for them to come.
But if they come nevertheless.
If they come to our territory we shall consider it an act of aggression.
And you will fight them?
This is a legitimate duty of our Army. The Army cannot allow any foreign troops to come to our territory.
That is why Mr. Holbrooke and you did not agree on an extraction force that would be deployed in Macedonia?
If it is in Macedonia, it is not our affair.
But they are in Macedonia to protect the observers.
Holbrook knows well that we protect anyone in our territory.
But I thought that they hoped that you will withdraw your police and army from Kosovo and enable Hill and his mediating team to bring both sides to negotiating table.
We never discussed police and army of Yugoslavia leaving Kosovo.
I thought that there should be less of them and that they should not respond to KLA attacks.
If KLA attacks, the police will certainly respond. Can you think that some group in the USA attacks someone and your police does not react.
This is not what they are asking you to do. It does not matter if it makes sense or not. Does your mandate expire in 2001?
Yes, I was elected in 1987 and my mandate expires in 2001.
You can be President of Yugoslavia for one term only?
Yes, in accordance with the Constitution of FRY.
Are you going to change the Constitution and allow another mandate. You are still young.
I have no intention of doing that.
You said once that you will not allow the internationalization of Kosovo.
Of course, that is our internal affair.
But you allowed NATO to fly over your territory and 2000 OSCE observers.
Yes, we allowed OSCE to verify what is true over there, this is good for us, we have nothing to hide.
You do not think that this is a change in your policy?
No, they will not be authorized to manage the situation in Kosmet, they can only verify the situation and report on it. They do not have the mandate to act in place of legitimate authorities.
What will happen when American troops leave Bosnia?
It will depend on what the international community will achieve before that. If the international community supports the development of normal democratic life and allows the authorities elected by the people to carry out their tasks, nothing will happen when they withdraw. I believe that they will recognize their common interest to manage their own future, and not to renew conflicts. Quite contrary, they should restore their ties, live normally, cooperate, develop economy to satisfy their everyday needs, without special assistance from abroad.
I have always asked myself if the state will be able to survive without outside help, or will it be eventually be divided between Serbia and Croatia.
It will depend on what is done in the meantime. We have no need to unite Republika Srpska with Yugoslavia. Everything is calm now. The same people that lives on both sides of the river Drina can be well integrated, even if they live in two sates. If today there are no barriers between Germans and French, why should there be between Serbs and Serbs living on either side of the same river.
Since you know so much about that region, can you tell me your opinion whether Bosnia can survive, whether in the long run it will be divided between Serbia and Croatia?
If they are well integrated in the region, they will have normal conditions to develop their country. My political approach was to eliminate all barriers in economy in the entire region, as we did two years ago with Macedonia. We abolished customs duties, which was followed by a radical rise in trade between FRY and Macedonia. That has nothing to do with integration among states. They are Macedonia, we are Yugoslavia. Practically, if borders are totally open, people can move freely, trade is free, no customs at all. What is more logical than benefits for both countries. The same is the case with Bosnia and Herzegovina. If we create all conditions for cooperation, the question where the border is will not be so important. We even started talks on the abolishment of duties with Bulgaria. We never intended to unite with Bulgaria. But we can abolish duties. If we open up, in market economy each enterprise will have more space to take advantage of market economy. We have to work a lot to be regionally integrated, that our economies be integrated. That will be followed by infrastructure, new roads, new railways, new communications and other things, but people have a common goal: to live in peace and affluence. Not to live in poverty and war. That will be the vision of the Balkans. That is why the international community should encourage cooperation between the countries of the region. This is something that strengthens peace and motivates people not to be isolated or confined to a small territory. If everything is free and open, without barriers, then borders are not important.
When I go home and people ask me what is the most important thing that President Milosevic had to say, whether you in any way changed your policy, whether you recently decided to introduce any changes. Did you change something that people do not understand. For example, do you think that you can really reach an agreement on Kosovo?
We can reach an agreement.
But an agreement that would really be fair, the one Americans would like.
Really fair. Something which is not fair to one party, cannot be fair to another. So, fair for everybody. But we in Serbia and Yugoslavia are trying to reach an agreement that the citizens of Serbia and Yugoslavia would like. That of course includes all citizens, the Albanians as well. It would be nice if the agreement were to be liked by others, Americans for example, but we do not arrange our country in line with the interests of others, but according to our interests.
Frankly, do you think you can really satisfy Albanians?
Of course, we cannot satisfy those who seek independence. This is the line we cannot cross.
When you met Rugova, did you agree with him?
I think that we understood each other well. We said, and that was even in our press release that the solution has to be based on full respect for equality of citizens and national communities in Kosmet. It cannot be avoided. Full respect for citizens and national communities is the key for Kosovo. There is no other key for Kosmet, any imposed solution cannot work. Solutions are like machines. They may be beautiful before they start working. Then, when you try to make it work, it is still beautiful but it does not work.
Have you seen the text by Dick Lugar in the Washington Post, in which he said that Washington is making a mistake by cooperating with you at all, and that democratic opposition should be built in Serbia and oust the regime in Serbia?
Democracy excludes interference into internal affairs of other countries. Your president Wilson had great ideas after World War I, but that kind of democracy cannot be imposed by tanks and bombing. I believe that senator Lugar is not well informed about the situation here and I do not know what we can talk about. You can talk with someone when he has facts, without that you cannot talk. I think that it is not in the spirit of American democracy to reserve the right to bring other countries to order. This is something that nobody can swallow.
You must have been very angry when you read the text.
No, I was not angry at all. I read worse things than that. In the past ten years I saw a lot of things and experienced many things. I am not sensitive to such messages. Only the people that is well and sound can be angry if they are preparing a government for it abroad.
But I heard from your opposition that you are a very cunning strategist and that the opposition is very weak.
No, it is not weak. When national interests are at stake, there is no difference between the authorities and the opposition. You have the Democrats and the Republicans who fight each other. But when national interests of America are at stake, then there is no conflict. Then all of them stand together. It is the same in our country. We have the opposition in the Parliament. A major opposition party is that of Mr. Draskovic, SPO. But when it comes to Kosovo they are on the same track.
They are not asking for more freedom in Serbia? More papers, freedom of the university, freedom of expression?
Serbia is one of the most democratic states in Europe. Since multi-party system was introduced, there were three federal and four republican elections. In the republican and federal parliament there are representatives of several parties, left-wing and right-wing. The freedom of the media is such that a Law had to be adopted to introduce a degree of responsibility for what is publicly said in order to protect the citizens from fundamental untruths. There is 2500 media in Serbia, most of which are privately owned.
But they are controlled by the State?
Only the state television. In Great Britain the BBC is controlled by the state.
But in our country, private persons own TV stations.
The state has control only over the state TV, but it has no control whatsoever over any private TV network.
How many private TV stations are there?
I don't know their exact number, but there are many of them. For instance, one of the biggest stations in Belgrade Studio B is controlled by the Opposition, that is by Mr Draskovic. The ruling party and the Government exercise no influence over that station. There is also BK Television, Pink Television, TV Palma. They are all privately run and have a large viewership, as well as many other TV stations throughout Serbia.
Is it true, I have heard that one of your official said that Osama bin Laden is influential in Kosovo and that it seems that he is there himself?
We possess information that Osama bin Laden visited Albania and not Kosovo.
Why did he go to Albania?
Why? We have heard that he blew up your embassies.
Are his training camps situated in Albania, rather than in Afghanistan?
I don't know where he is and I don't know where his camps are located. I believe that the United States knows better his present whereabouts than I do. We understand that he visited Albania and that this visit lasted several weeks.
Do you think that Albania is going to become a fundamentalist and terrorist state?
Not a fundamentalist one, but surely they are in a state of disarray. I deeply deplore the situation in Albania. We would like to see it in a state of order rather than in a state of disorder and disarray.
Can you visualize Bosnia as a fundamentalist state?
Does that mean that you do not perceive any danger coming from fundamentalism in the region?
Some Mujaheedin have come to Kosovo and many of them, of course, had come to Bosnia.
Did they help the Bosniaks?
Yes, they did. Your agencies know this very well. They know that they ran training camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but when I speak of people in Bosnia, the Bosnian Muslims, I believe that they are not fundamentalist-oriented.
Does it mean that Mujaheedin helped in Bosnia?
Not only them but also the Saudis and other Muslim countries. These Muslim countries assisted them because they thought they were in danger as they were Muslims. That was not true. We have Muslims here in Yugoslavia and they have not for one moment felt threatened in any way. Quite the contrary. More than 150.000 Muslims of Kosovo are equal in their rights with the Serbs and they are on a collision course with the Albanian separatist movement there. This is something that the international public does not know or understand.
Don't you think that the KLA is growing stronger every day?
They grew stronger this summer, however they were defeated.
Will the fighting be reignited or will the ceasefire hold?
For all those living in Kosovo and Metohija, a peaceful political settlement should be a priority. As for terrorists or murderers and kidnappers, we hope that they will not be able to recover. Even if they do, and if they resume fighting, they will be routed. This is something that is not in doubt.
So, you are not concerned that there might be another bout of fighting in the spring?
No, I am not because they are no longer a military factor, nor will we ever again allow them to become one. They, however, still pose a security threat, because they may ambush and kill people. And this is what they do. They may abduct people. They killed an Albanian doctor in front of his home simply because he worked for a state medical facility in Pec. They then wounded a mother driving her three children in a car, even though they saw that she was alone with children. There is an endless list of their misdeeds.
Last night, I read that a Kosovo Albanian may be put in the dock just because he stood guard outside his home.
I don't know the details of that case.
This is a very important detail. If you and I were to stand outside our homes holding weapons, that would not constitute a crime. Why are then Albanian put on trial? The article says that he only guarded his home.
Even your country does not allow civilians to hold guns. To be able to do that in this country too, one has to have a police licence. Because of the situations brought about by the wars in Bosnia and Croatia, our police are not allowed to issue to civilians licences for long-barrelled guns. You may get a licence for a handgun, but not for an automatic weapon; thus you cannot do with it whatever you like.
This sounds to me pretty innocent. I don't see why it is a crime.
It is not a crime, but it is not innocuous either, given the present conditions, especially in Kosovo.
Don't you think that your biggest problem in the United States is that you are accused of some of the worst atrocities in this century?
I believe that the biggest problem we have with the United States is very bad propaganda and the media war that is waged against us.
What is the situation with facts?
All the facts are on our side. The problem is that the truth is not very popular.
And what about the ethnic cleansing?
If you are referring to Bosnia, all the warring parties there bear great responsibility. We have on numerous occasions condemned the practice of ethnic cleansing and we strongly opposed it, regardless of whether it was done by the Serbs, Muslims or Croats.
People say that the top officials in your country were those who gave orders to commit ethnic cleansing?
That is not true.
This is why they want to arrest Mladic and Karadzic, isn't it?
This is their justification, but Karadzic and Mladic did nothing that Izetbegovic and his Chief of Army Staff were not doing.
But they did not slit throats to thousands of people?
There is no evidence to support it.
But I saw it on television?
I also saw many things on television, including violence against the Serbs who were said to be Muslims, even when they wore distinctive boat-shaped caps, the so-called sajkacas.
Do you regret anything?
All I did was to search for peace. In that search many errors were made and no one is immune to it. I regret nothing in particular and my conscience is clear.
The stories which came from Bosnia were horrible, stories of thousands of people shot, and they all say that you had the power to stop it.
True, I used my power to stop it.
Didn't you control Karadzic and Mladic? When did you stop to control them?
I have never controlled Karadzic and Mladic. I first met Karadzic when he was the president of his party and when he ran a third of Bosnia and Herzegovina. At that time, they believed that an agreement would be reached with the Muslims and Croats. I must say to you that they were well on the way of achieving it. A special conference on Bosnia and Herzegovina was arranged in Lisbon, chaired by Portuguese Ambassador Cutiliero. That was before the war escalated. I remember very well the meeting of the International Conference on the former Yugoslavia in the Hague. The chair of the meeting was Lord Peter Carrington. At the outset of the conference, Ambassador Cutiliero briefed us all that tangible progress was made in the settlement of the problem between the Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Muslims. I remember what happened after Cutiliero had informed us about that positive development. Izetbegovic took the floor to ask that they be recognized as a state. I then warned that Ambassador Cutiliero had said that there had been positive development. Why spoil this by an early recognition of BiH that would create chaos. I had in mind that BiH was made up of three nations living there. The rump referendum was the basis for that request and should not have been initiated in the first place. This therefore spoiled the positive progress. I asked that they be given more time to make further progress instead of going ahead with a premature recognition that would only result in negative consequences. There are records and sound recordings to prove all this. A few weeks later, BiH was recognized as an independent state, in which the Bosnian Serbs did not want to be second-class citizens. They told me: we want to remain within our previous state. And that is all.
Do you see any difference between the Clinton and Bush administrations?
I am not an expert on US internal affairs. As far as its foreign policy is concerned, I believe that the Bush Administration was more responsible. My impression is that the Bush Administration knew well that the problems in Kosovo arose from a separatist movement and not from the lack of human rights and democracy.
Mr Eagleburger lived here for many years?
Yes, he did and I knew him very well. After a while, he was not well informed about the situation in Yugoslavia. The United States was not involved at the outbreak of the Yugoslav crisis. The Bush Administration maintained that Yugoslavia needed to be preserved. After that, faced with the failure of the Europeans to assist, they decided to join them.
Because Germans essentially wanted Croatia to be independent?
Yes, they wanted them to be independent and they effectively contributed to it.
That was at the beginning of the break-up of Yugoslavia?
That's right. They began with Slovenia. There are many articles in the papers on the preparations for it. You may take a look at those reports in the Western press. This is a rather long story and is not for this conversation.
Do you believe that the Serbs living in Kosovo would be willing to live under the local law. You say no. They have to live in accordance with the Serbian law and to go to trial before Serbian courts, is this the right interpretation?
Everything at the local level must be applied equally to all. The thing is that they must all participate on an equal basis. They will have their own laws while the legal system of Serbia will be applied in Kosovo. What is good to all Serbs, all Hungarians, all Slovaks, all Ruthenians, all Muslims and all others living in Serbia, why would it not be good for Albanians in Kosovo and Metohija as well. All that is applied in Serbia must be valid and applied to all its citizens.
Do you think that takes into account the interests and aspirations of Kosovo Albanians?
The state fully takes into account their interests, excepts for the goals of the separatist movement to bring about secession.
Do you think that the conditions of life there will improve in the foreseeable future?
Conditions of life will improve through economic development. I believe that if we achieve something similar to the proposed Joint Agreement, there will be no need to wage a war.
Are you referring to the Serbian plan put forward at the end of last month?
That is not a Serbian plan but the plan proposed by the Muslims, Roma, Turks and all national communities of Kosovo and Metohija, including representatives of two ethnic Albanian parties.
According to my information, that plan is not satisfactory for major Albanian parties.
That plan is not unacceptable for all Kosovo Albanians but only for some of their politicians who are leading the separatist movement, whose aim is to achieve independence for Kosovo and Metohija.
I know that a long time ago you used be a banker.
Yes, I was a banker until 1984.
Were you born in Belgrade?
No, I was not. I was born in Pozarevac, a town 73 kilometres southeast of Belgrade.
What was your father by profession?
He was a high school teacher and my mother was a primary school teacher.
Were you their oldest child?
No. I have an elder brother.
So, they had two children. Did you attend school in that town?
When I finished high school in Pozarevac. I came to Belgrade to study law at the University and I obtained my degree in 1964.
Was Tito in power at that time?
Yes, he was.
Yugoslavia was a moderate communist country.
We never belonged to the Eastern bloc, which criticized us for restoring capitalism. We were a very liberal country. I must say that as a banker in Tito's Yugoslavia I was free in doing my business. No one told me what to do and I was only accountable to my bank's founder members. We had an annual bank meeting and the Board of Directors and we had an excellent cooperation with many international banks. My bank used to have an income of 13 billion US dollars.
Did you begin to work for your bank immediately after you graduated from the University?
After I graduated, I spent a few years working for the Belgrade City administration. I then did my one-year military service. When I completed it, I found a job in the industry. I was employed by Tehnogas, a company dealing in technical gases. I quickly rose through the ranks and became Deputy General Manager and later General Manager. As a company we were shareholders of Beogradska banka and I was on its Board of Directors. I was elected President of this bank in 1977. In 1979 I opened a branch of my bank on Madison Avenue in New York, just opposite the General Motors headquarters. I did not work there. With my friends, like John Magilicardi of Mantrust and Tony Tuke of Barclay's, I helped to establish the Anglo-Yugoslav (AY) Bank. In my offices in Belgrade we signed a document setting up the AY Bank which still operates in London. We also established a Franco-Yugoslav bank in Paris and another bank in Frankfurt, Germany. We had many branch offices throughout the world. We were a very busy bank. At that time, the state did not influence the decisions made by banks. We operated in conditions of a market economy and explained that this was the only perspective of the economy to develop. The alternative was an unwieldy bureaucratic apparatus.
It is said in the media that your wife plays an important role.
She is a university professor and author of a number of books. You can read them, they are even translated in English. I even saw that one of them was translated in Farsi, in Teheran. On the cover is a photo of a woman without a scarf, which is something you have to wear there. That is quite unique. Her books are printed in China, India, Canada, Russia, Mexico. They have been translated in more than 20 languages. She is very active in public life, but she never tried to influence me concerning the State affairs. She does not want to be an influential wife. She has her own public life.
But people say that she did not like the Head of State Security.
That is not true. On the contrary. She has been in cordial relations with him for years.
So your wife does not have a lot of power?
The party she is in, has ministers in federal and Republican government, deputies in the federal and republican parliament.
As far as I understood, you are very tough towards your neighbour, Montenegro.
Montenegro is not a neighbour of Yugoslavia, it is a part of Yugoslavia.
To the gentleman that won the elections.
What is the problem?
That he wants to leave, that Montenegro wants to secede?
I don't think so. The people does not want that. It does not depend on one man or a group of people.
You are a very articulate man, you are in control. Why do you close down daily papers and why don't you let professors teach in your capital.
We have never closed down papers in this country.
You closed down some recently.
That is not true.
Mr. Miles said that.
Mr. Miles perhaps explained that some of the papers or journalists were fined for publishing lies.
But why do you do that? You used to let people write freely. Why did you change?
We use western solutions. We are using your democracy as a model.
They are not free if they are punished for writing something that one official does not like. If I was fined for what I had written so far, I would have gone bankrupt.
This is obviously a lack of understanding. They are not punished for their political or other views, but for falsehoods. What is in our Information law you can find in the French information law.
We do not have an Information law.
This is your problem. This is the law of Serbia.
But I know that you personally granted more freedom before.
Press is totally free in this country.
That is not true.
According to that law, the press is totally free. But you are held accountable if you publish a lie. For example, I am a journalist who claims that you stole a million dollars from a bank yesterday. If you say before the court that it is not true, I shall be fined, considerably less than for example in France. There is no prison term, or closing down of media.
But why can you not allow people to write what they want. Why can't this be a freer country?
People have to be protected from lies. The right to truth is one of the principles of freedom. By protecting citizens from lies and violence, we protect the most important interests of the citizens. Our country is free.
I do not think so. I think that you are not free if you have to pay fines. I think that you are able to protect your interests and that you do not need any assistance in that respect. I think that you can articulate your positions well.
I would like you to explain to me why someone is not free if the only prohibition is against publishing a lie.
But if you do not have enough money?
If you do not have such protection, how can you protect people exposed to lies. The lack of money to pay a fine is no excuse to forgive a lie, to ignore it.
I come from a very wealthy family. I was personally attacked many times and that is very unpleasant. I fully agree with you, but in America it is part of the game, part of life. You have to learn to live with it.
Madam, you talk about your family. I can tell you about my family. For the past ten years I was attacked countless times, as well as my family. I never denied anything. I never sent anyone to jail. I never closed down a paper.
That's what I heard.
This goes on for ten years.
But why did you change that?
Nothing changed regarding the freedom of the press. The Republic of Serbia only protects its citizens from lies. Papers are not closed down, fines are introduced if a shameless lie is published.
Will you allow that TV stations be opened?
They are open. They were not closed at all.
So, you will not allow the citizens to publish what they want?
What do you mean, what they want?