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Serb butcher of Muslims facing trial at UN Court

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ImageFormer Bosnian Serb army General Zdravko Tolimir went on trial for genocide Friday for allegedly supervising the execution and burial of thousands of Muslims during the Bosnian War.

Prosecutors at the United Nations war crimes tribunal in the Hague accused Tolimir of authorizing the 1995 massacres in the enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa.  There, the Bosnian army killed some 8,000 Muslim men and boys and forced tens of thousands of women and children from their homes.

Tolimir pleaded not guilty and plans to conduct his own defense.

The army general was a top aide to Ratko Mladic, the commander of Bosnian Serb forces.  Mladic is the most wanted war criminal still at large from the Balkan wars.

Tolimir's case opened as the court ordered its biggest war crimes case to resume.  The court rejected a motion by the wartime leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, to postpone his trial until June.  Karadzic will make his opening defense statements on March 1 and 2.

On Tuesday, Serbian police searched the Mladic home in suburban Belgrade (Banovo brdo) after sealing off the surrounding area.

The Serbian war crimes prosecutor (Vladimir Vukcevic) ordered the search as part of an ongoing effort to capture the war crimes suspect, sought by the United Nations war crimes tribunal in the Hague.

Serbian authorities have repeatedly searched the homes of top war crimes fugitives and their relatives in recent years, in efforts to dismantle their support network.

Mladic and other top Bosnian Serb leaders went into hiding following the 1995 Dayton peace accord that ended the ethnic conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Murdered bodies of Kosovo Albanians dumped in massive graves in Serbia

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ImageSerb defendant Vlastimir Djordjevic who is facing war crime charges at the International Court in Hague testified before the judges that the order for "dumping" murdered Kosovar Albanian civilians in massive graves in Batajnica, a suburban area of Belgrade in Serbia in the spring of 1999, was given by the former Interior Minister of Serbia, Vlajko Stoilkovic.

Serbian general Djordjevic, who was then assistant minister and chief of public safety of the Serbian Interior Minister, is accused for war crimes commited against Kosovar Albanians.

Djordjevic said that he himself was not connected with organizing the transportation of the murdered bodies of Albanians from Kosovo and he was only following the orders of his boss, the Seriban former Interior Minister Stoilkovic.

Stoilkovic who was accused for war crimes in Kosovo in 1999 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia committed suicide in April of 2002.

Montenegro moving towards joining NATO

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ImageNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization - NATO offered neighboring Montenegro a formal plan to join the organization as a step toward full membership.

"With a sustained effort at further reform, today's invitation to join the Membership Action Plan will be a steppingstone to the ultimate goal: full membership in NATO," NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a press conference in Brussels.

"If Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina have the intention of providing their country security in the form of Euro-Atlantic integration, we can only welcome this decision," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Petro Poroshenko said.

The minister played down the importance of the MAP, calling it a "bureaucratic formality," noting many countries previously became NATO members without it, the Web site said.

Montenegro recently lifted EU visas for its citizens in a move the government hopes will signal democratic reform. But critics see these reforms mostly as being on paper.

"They are only interested in reforming the military and security structures. But once we get EU candidate status, maybe at the end of 2010 or early 2011, there will be more pressure on the government," said Momcilo Radulovic of the European Movement, a Podgorica-based non-governmental organization said.

Montenegro is located in Southeastern Europe, bordering Bosnia and Herzegovina to west and Croatia to the southwest, Serbia to the north, Kosovo to the east, Albania to the southeast, and access to the Adriatic Sea in the south. 

Albania, China leaders exchange greetings on 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations

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ImageAlbania President Bamir Topi and his counterpart Chinese President Hu Jintao exchanged congratulatory messages on Monday to mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

EU backs Albania's candidate status

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Map of Albania
Albania has advanced another step on the road to European Union membership, with EU foreign ministers on Monday, 16 November, officially accepting the Balkan country's request for candidate status.

The ministers gave the nod to Tirana after ambassadors from the 27 member states endorsed the move at a meeting in Brussels last week.

The ball is now in the court of the European Commission, which must assess whether Albania is ready to start talks. The assessment process can last up to one year.

Albania first applied for candidate status in April, shortly after having been admitted to Nato. The country's long wait for approval stands in contrast to Iceland's application, which was waved through in a matter of days.

The EU executive nevertheless felt that Albania had made progress in the last year. Albania has undertaken serious steps to fulfill the criteria to join the European Union.
If it does become an official candidate state it would join Croatia, Turkey and Macedonia, but will face a series of convergence tests over a period of years.

Croatia and Turkey began their membership talks in 2005.

In announcing its decision the EU also stressed in a statement that "the future of the Western Balkans lies in the European Union."

Anna Wiman

Anna Wiman
Freelance Writer and photographer

Elizabeth Gowing

Elizabeth Gowing
Co-Founder at The Ideas Partnership NGO

Henry H. Perritt Jr.

Henry H. Perritt Jr.
Professor of Law Chicago-Kent College

Drilon Gashi

Drilon Gashi
Comm. Counselor to the Prime Minister

Arlind V. Bytyqi

Arlind V. Bytyqi
New Kosova Report

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