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Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Belgrade, 23 August (AKI) - Serbia's foreign minister, Vuk Draskovic has reacted with undiplomatic vehemence to remarks made on Tuesday by an Albanian official that Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro were "unnatural creations," and that all Albanians living in the region should unite to form a 'natural Albania' by 2013. The comments made by Albanian prime minister Sali Berisha's political adviser, Koco Danaj, to Kosovo Albanian language daily Epoka were - surprisingly - ignored by press in the Serbian capital, Belgrade. However, Draskovic’s ministry immediately issued a sharp statement upbraiding Albania for its "expansionist" aspirations.

"The message was sent through the premier’s political advisor, so that if it causes furore in the region, as well as in Europe and the United States, they can claim it was Danaj's personal opinion," Draskovic said in a statement issued late on Tuesday.

"However, it is not a ‘personal stand,’, nor a testing of the water, but an official strategy," Draskovic said, adding that Albanian foreign minister, Besnik Mustafaj, made a similar statement several months ago. In his remarks carried by Epoka, Danaj said that the unification of all Albanians was a "natural drive for a sort of final agreement for the Balkan states with ethnic Albanian populations."

Though Danaj didn't mention Greece in his statement, Draskovic said it was also "an indirect message" to Athens that Greece, with a sizable ethnic Albanian minority, was an "unnatural creation." Peace and stability in the Balkans could be preserved primarily by preserving the existing borders of all states in the region, Draskovic argued.

Draskovic's statement also commented on the Serbian province of Kosovo, where most of its overwhelmingly ethnic Albanian majority wants independence - a position the international community now appears to be backing. "Isn't it finally clear that breaking up the territorial integrity of Serbia, by giving Kosovo the status of independence will directly lead to a Balkan drama of dangerous and unforeseeable dimensions?" he asked.

"As foreign minister of Serbia, I ask the Contact Group for Kosovo, the European Union, United States, NATO, the UN Security Council and [UN special envoy for Kosovo] Martti Ahtisaari this," Draskovic said. The Contact Group for Kosovo includes the United States, Germany, France, Italy, Great Britain and Russia.

Draskovic cautioned that the creation of Greater Albania would become reality if the international community doesn’t become aware of the problem and if "the Balkan states, whose territory is threatened first and foremost, sit twiddling their thumbs."

Serbian officials have been saying that ethnic Albanians’ drive for independence in Kosovo is part of a wider strategy to unite all Albanians living in the Balkans and the creation of a 'Greater Albania." These warnings that have been played down by the international community.

Kosovo has been under UN control since 1999 after NATO military strikes drove Serb forces from the province. Ongoing UN brokered talks on its future status are being headed by Ahtisaari, a Finnish diplomat, who has said he wants the question settled by the year's end. Belgrade and the tiny remaining Serb minority in Kosovo remain adamantly opposed to its independence, offering ethnic Albanians broad autonomy instead.
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