20/12/2001 - Trepça.net

Interview : General Wesley Clark

General Wesley Clark: Albanians best hope for independence lies in full participation of the Serb minority in Kosova's political process


The following are excerpts from an exclusive interview General Wesley Clark gave to the US correspondent of the Prishtine-based weekly magazine, Zeri.

Gen. Clark was the Supreme Allied Commander who directed the NATO war against Serbia in March, 1999.

Washington, December 19, 2001

"ZERI" Magazine, Prishtina / KOSOVA 



Zeri: General Clark, first in the name of the readership of Zeri and the entire Albanian people everywhere, I would like to express the deepest sympathies for the tragedy caused by the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Clark: Thank you very much.
Zeri: Sir, as you are well aware, the place you helped liberate from the former regime in Belgrade, has just held its first parliamentary elections. The vote was called "the best in the Balkans".  However, the leaders there - Rugova, Thaci, Haradinaj -- have not been able to follow the example of the voters. They are having difficulty in forming a new administration. Any friendly advice for them?

Clark: I think that they have to set aside small differences and compromise on where they want to go. The basics of forming a new government are as such that you give up your personal ambitions. Even if you let a party in to take junior posts, and you all pitch in to see how you can help the government
Zeri: Although Albanians may disagree about different issues, one thing they all seem to agree on, is that of Independence. The US seems to be following the European Union lead in trying to keep some sort of Yugoslav Federation together, comprising of Serbia, Montenegro and Kosova. Is that a viable solution in your opinion?

Clark: Before the final status can be resolved, changes still have to be done inside Serbia. They have to follow through with the democratization process inside Serbia. The war criminals have to be indicted, the Albanians that are missing have to accounted for - to my knowledge they have not been yet - and the remnants of the Milosevic regime have to be taken out of power. Following that - and that's going to take several years -- there is an opportunity for reconciliation between the Serb and the Albanian people.  And I think that's very important - more important than the political process at this point.
Zeri: Is there anything Albanians can do to convince the international community to recognize their independence?

Clark: Their best hope for independence lies in the proper and full participation of the Serb minority in the political process in Kosova.
Zeri: The Europeans have been talking about the reduction of the troops in the Balkans in order to establish their so-called Rapid Reaction Force. How will that affect the US policy - if any?

Clark: Well, I think the troops there are going to be reduced no matter what in a relatively brief period of time. There has been an election, there is democracy there. It's time for Kosova to stand on its own two feet.
Zeri: When do you think the American forces will begin their withdrawal?

Clark: I couldn't make that prediction, because that's a matter for the US government to decide. But I would hope that there will be a prolonged period of transition.
Zeri: If the US troops leave, will there be war in the Balkans again?

Clark: I don't foresee war in the near term. But it's important that all the fears and insecurities generated over the recent years be put aside. That's going to require the active participation of the leadership of the countries in the region. Otherwise the region will not be hospitable to the
international development. And the key to the stability in the Balkans is going to be replenishing the infrastructure and bringing in jobs.
Zeri: Speaking of jobs, do you think UNMIK has done a good job so far?

Clark: Yes, in general, I do.
Zeri: What are some of the specifics that you are not happy with, if any?

Clark: There has always been challenges in applying peacekeeping. But I think in UNMIK we have established a new standard for close and effective cooperation between the civil and military authorities. I think they (in UNMIK) have been very effective in trying to protect minorities, as well as
the majority's rights. In general they deterred a return of Serb forces to Kosova during the days right after they came in, and I think those are very important.
Zeri: What about those who say that UNMIK has been acting too much like an authoritarian institution? There have been complaints that UNMIK officials have not been allowing the local population to make their own mistakes.

Clark: From what I've seen thus far in Kosova - and I haven't been there since the new UN special representative of the Secretary General, Hans Hackerup has been there - so I haven't had the chance to talk with him, although I know him well from his time as a minister of defense of Denmark.
But setting that fact aside, I was very pleased with the work that they (in UNMIK) were trying to do.
Zeri: Turning to the issue of  war crimes.  A couple of months ago you were asked by Albanian-Americans in New York to help  locate three brothers -- three American citizens of Albanian decent who were fighting alongside the Kosova Liberation Army but went missing into Serbia at the end of the war. Shortly after you learned about the missing brothers; you discovered their tragic fate -- they had been shot and thrown into a mass grave with other Albanian victims from Kosova. As a military man and as an American, how did that make you feel?

Clark: I felt very, very sad for the young men and their families. I think it was a terrible tragedy, which illustrated once again the unjustness of the (former) regime in Belgrade.
Zeri: In the recent days, France has convicted one of its military people on charges of treason accused of leaking secret information to the Serbs about NATO targets. The French have been accused of similar incidents before. Can France be trusted when it comes to military and political alliances with the US and NATO?

Clark: I am delighted that this man was found guilty of treason. He is a traitor. (On the other hand) I've always had great confidence in the French despite the occasional problems. Every nation has problems.
Zeri: Milosevic has dismissed the charges that he committed genocide. You've seen some of his actions from close-up. Do you think he has committed genocide?

Clark: I am going to be given the opportunity - I hope - to testify in his trial. At that point the position will be made clear. I can testify to what I know the facts to be, but it will be up to the legal staff to determine whether it's genocide or not.
Zeri: The Hague prosecutor Carla del Ponte has recently complained before the UN Security Council about the lack of interest by the international community to arrest indicted war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Why do you think they have not been arrested yet?

Clark: In so far as one of them is inside Bosnia, I think it's an intelligence collection problem.  Not enough priority, not enough attention has been given to the intelligence collection of them. In so far they are inside Serbia, I think that's a matter that should be taken up with President Kostunica.
Zeri: Do you think he's (President Kostunica) done enough to cooperate with the international community?

Clark: No, I do not.
Zeri: What should he do next?

Clark: I would like to see him arrest all indicted war criminals. Also, provide all information and full evidence to the International Criminal Tribunal on those who are currently charged. As I recall the system, the state of Yugoslavia was actually paying for the defense of these men in front of the Hague Tribunal. It was hiring lawyers on their behalf. Why should the state of Yugoslavia pay for their defense, when these people were charged with illegal actions. The state of Yugoslavia needs to provide all the evidence to the Tribunal.
Zeri: In Macedonia the problems seem to persist. Do you think the current Slav leadership there is doing enough to stabilize the situation with Albanians?

Clark: It's difficult to assess it from here. But I know the current Macedonian leadership, and I'm sure they are doing the best they can under the circumstances. It's difficult for all parties there.
Zeri: You are in favor of NATO enlargement. What would countries like Albania have to do to be admitted?

Clark: All of these countries who want to be part of NATO and have applied -among the nine applicant nations, Albania is one of them - all of them areworthy of consideration. But NATO political leaders will have to make the decision based on current information as to who is more ready and select those who are most ready. But I would hope that Albania one day would be a member of NATO.
Zeri: What is your hope for the Balkans, as we approach of the end of the year?

Clark: Of course I have hope. There are wonderful people in the Balkans, and I am sure that when the danger of war recedes, and they fully understand the opportunities that are there, the Balkans will flower.