Tadić: New war would lose us Kosovo

PREŠEVO -- The country's top defense brass and the president are visiting army and police in southern Serbia today.

Tadić meets the troops in the Ground Safety Zone (Beta)
Tadić meets the troops in the Ground Safety Zone (Beta)

President Boris Tadić, Defense Minister Dragan Šutanovac and Serbian Army (VS) Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Zdravko Ponoš are in Preševo, to tour army and Gendarmerie bases in the Ground Safety Zone along the administrative border with Kosovo.

During the visit, Tadić said that in the future, the VS will always be used in line with domestic and international law.

"We will never again push our soldiers into meaningless wars," the president said as he met the commander of the VS 4th Brigade, Col. Milosav Simović.

"There are many people who wish to see Serbia stumble into another war, new violence, which would in the end lead us to lose Kosovo and have more victims – that is something this government, this democracy in Serbia will not do," the president said.

Serbia, according to him, does not wish to be the source of new instability, but instead works to contribute to overall stability in the region and Europe.

As for the security in the area, Col. Simović told Tadić it was "good, but with possible attempts by individuals and small groups to breach it."

Army bases of Mađere and Ševadske Livade are also slated for the visit, as well as MUP's Gendarmerie base of Kodra Drenit, located some 12 kilometers from Preševo.

Army has its 4th Brigade stationed in the zone, which is a five kilometer stretch along the administrative line separating Kosovo from the rest of Serbia.

It was initially off bounds to army and police after the end of the 1999 war in the province, but after it became a safe haven for Albanian extremists the following year, in 2001 NATO allowed the Serbian troops back in the zone, which today hold a total of 11 bases in the area.

The Preševo Valley and its three municipalities are home to the largest ethnic Albanian community in Serbia outside of Kosovo.