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Published by: ax-is on Feb 26, 2008
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February 23, 2008EditorialTrapped in the PastKosovo’s declaration of independence was never going to be easy. Still, it isalarming to see the Serbian government so unwilling to peacefully channel itscitizens’ anger and disappointment. Its failure to control rampaging crowds thatset fire Thursday to part of the United States Embassy compound in Belgrade — andattacked several other embassies — is a shocking and unacceptable abdication ofresponsibility.Russia’s willingness to fan those resentments is another sign that it is moreinterested in accumulating power than exercising leadership. On Friday —incredibly and dangerously — Russia’s envoy to NATO warned that Moscow might use“brute military force” if the alliance expands its peacekeeping force in Kosovo.Every effort has been made by NATO, the United Nations, the European Union and theUnited States to accommodate Serbian fears and sensitivities. Belgrade has neverdemonstrated any remorse for the carnage unleashed by former dictator SlobodanMilosevic on Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority — nor any willingness to negotiatethe province’s independence.When Kosovo declared its independence last week — after nearly a decade ofinternational administration — it did so with the full support of the UnitedStates and other major states under a sensible United Nations plan that includesinternational supervision and protection for its ethnic Serb minority.Kosovo’s future had to be settled so the Balkans could finally move beyond suchanachronistic hatred. Earlier this month, a slim majority of Serbians voted for abetter future — including conciliation and a place in Europe — by re-electingPresident Boris Tadic, a moderate who wants to plant Serbia firmly in the West.Since then, nationalist leaders have incited passions with anti-Western rhetoricand promises never to relinquish Kosovo.That made Thursday’s incident all the more suspicious. The Serbian police — whoare obligated under the Vienna Convention to protect diplomatic facilities — leftthe American compound unguarded, allowing protesters to force their way in and setpart of it ablaze.We are also disappointed that Mr. Tadic chose to be out of the country at such asensitive time. If he is to fulfill his own vision of a Serbia anchored in theWest, he is going to have to show more courage and a firmer hand.Serbian leaders have a clear choice: stoke this xenophobia and self-pity, andfurther isolate themselves, or tamp down these passions and accept Europe’s offerof economic and political integration.The European Union has offered Serbia an agreement that would begin to openEuropean markets to Serbian products and relax some travel restrictions as a firststep toward membership in the union. On Friday, the European Union’s foreignpolicy chief, Javier Solana, said negotiations would be delayed until the crisisabated. Belgrade has a lot to lose by ignoring such warnings.History has proved that Balkan resentments can trigger wider conflict. It must nothappen again.Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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