Crossfire War – RAPID FIRE NEWS=BELGRADE – ATHENS – TEHRAN WATCH – Southeast Europe Theatre: Belgrade – Moscow – Athens – Tehran – Banja Luka – Podogrica – Sofia – Bucharest – Budapest – Kosovska Mitrovica/(Brussels – Vienna – Warsaw)/Pristina – Tirana – Skopje – Ankara; Serbian Nationalist Candidate Leads in First Round of Presidential Election Over Pro-European Union Incumbent – Runoff Feb. 3 – Winner Determines Response to Kosovo Crisis
Night Watch: BELGRADE – France 24/AFP report Tomislav Nikolic, of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party, is leading in the first round of Serbia Presidential elections over pro-European Union (EU) incumbent Boris Tadic of the Serbia Democratic Party. Nikolic, a protege of Serbia President Slobodan Milosevic, who led Serbia after Yugoslavia’s division in 1991, has received 39.4% of votes counted as opposed to 35.4% for Tadic. The runoff is scheduled for February 3 and this time I would be surprised if the incumbent current President Tadic will win as he did in a close runoff in 2004. Kosovo is the difference this time with the province due to declare independence right after Serbia’s runoff and Nikolic reflects not only the Serbian opposition to independence, but also the intense anti-EU feeling among the vast majority of Serbs since most EU governments support Kosovo. [FRANCE24]
Serbians realize not only has their country heavily re-armed, with major assistance from Moscow, but two years ago, this month Belgrade signed a security agreement with Tehran and another one with Athens in November 2006. Athens also led the signing last year of the Tripartite Pact between Greece-Romania-Bulgaria in support of Serbia. The winner of the Feb. 3 runoff will determine the quickness of Belgrade’s military response to Kosovo’s declaration of independence and subsequent threats to the Serbian population that remains in the province.
Iran also has strategic relations with Albania which supports the Albanians in Kosovo as Tehran knows the fighting will be another way of not only keeping the West busy in another regional theatre, but war here will be a way for Tehran to end the investigation into Iran’s nuclear weapons program by the UN agency based in Vienna.