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Yugoslav Brass Backs Ouster of Army Chief

Balkans: Support for new commander comes a day after top general was fired. He had vowed to fight his dismissal.

June 26, 2002|From Associated Press

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia — Top generals endorsed a new armed forces chief Tuesday, indicating that they accepted President Vojislav Kostunica's dismissal of the previous commander and averting a potential power struggle between the military and the head of state.

Gen. Nebojsa Pavkovic had refused to accept his ouster Monday. The onetime ally of former President Slobodan Milosevic had vowed to challenge the presidential decree sending him into retirement, although he promised not to prevent his successor from performing his duties.

But the decision by more than a dozen generals and admirals to back Pavkovic's replacement appeared to decisively weaken his chances of holding on.

Although some senior government leaders criticized the president for acting unilaterally, the commanders said in a statement that they were "completely united in supporting" Gen. Branko Krga as chief of staff of the army.

A few hours later, state-run television reported that Pavkovic had handed over his duties to his successor.

Kostunica fired Pavkovic by special decree, saying that he wanted to ensure "civilian control over the army" and that Pavkovic "believed that he is above the army and above the state."

But Pavkovic said Kostunica had no authority to fire him.

Appointed by Milosevic, Pavkovic led the army during its 1999 confrontation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization over Kosovo, a province of Serbia, Yugoslavia's dominant republic. But he later played a key part in the overthrow of Milosevic in October 2000, when he refused to use force against pro-democracy leaders and demonstrators.

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