Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Rich' Kosovo Costly for Serbs

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Rich' Kosovo Costly for Serbs

Article excerpt

Despite its rich mines, fertile land, and a consumer market of 2 million people, the southern province of Kosovo appears to be a money loser for Serbia.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has used Kosovo's economic potential as one reason to justify his costly campaign against ethnic Albanian separatists in Yugoslavia's poorest region. His police and military forces are spending an estimated $2 million per day in the five-month-old guerrilla war, according to Serbian media reports and analysts in Belgrade.

But the hefty price tag is unlikely to be earned back by Kosovo - even if a peace settlement is reached.

The region's factories are outdated, the infrastructure cannot handle the population, and pollution from the few working industrial plants limits agricultural potential.

"There is a lot of exaggeration about what Kosovo can give to an economy," says Ognjen Pribicevic, a professor of politics at Belgrade University. "The government wants to say Kosovo is economically valuable to justify the fighting. But that is not true."

According to Mr. Pribicevic, the myth of economic wealth in Kosovo is part of a campaign by Mr. Milosevic to convince his people, and the world, that Kosovo is the very heart of Serbia, the dominant republic of Yugoslavia.

Though Serbs view Kosovo as their spiritual and historical homeland, it is inhabited by a 90 percent ethnic Albanian population with centuries-old claims to the land.

The ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is fighting for independence in a low-level conflict that has already cost more than 400 lives, mostly ethnic Albanian civilians.

Diplomatic efforts to stop the fighting have been stymied by the KLA's lack of a political wing with which to negotiate.

But in a sign that ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova may be open to working with the KLA, last week the Kosovo Albanian parliament, which is led by Mr. Rugova's Democratic League, recognized the KLA for the first time.

The KLA has begun to shift its military focus from villages to cities, claiming they will make their way to the provincial capital of Pristina. …

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