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Western Press Review: Kosovo Smolders

By Don Hill/Dora Slaba/Alexandre d'Aragon

Prague, 11 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A smoldering dispute over Kosovo independence is showing threatening flickers of flame as Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic resists Western pressure to seek a negotiated solution.

NEW YORK TIMES: Only a concerted diplomatic effort by the United States can keep the conflict from escalating

Among Western press commentaries, an editorial in The New York Times Sunday called for a united Western stand against a violent crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and for greater NATO supervision. The Times said: "The long-simmering tensions in Serbia's province of Kosovo turned violent in recent weeks and threaten to ignite a wider war in the Balkans. Only a concerted diplomatic effort by the United States can keep the conflict from escalating."

The editorial said: "Since Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader, stripped Kosovo of its autonomy in 1989, Kosovo's overwhelmingly Albanian population has engaged in mostly peaceful resistance." It said: "International responsibility for dealing with the Kosovo crisis rests primarily with the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Russia. Acting together as the Contact Group, they are trying to force Milosevic to accept internationally supervised negotiations with the Albanians."

The editorial contended: "The White House has not ruled out the use of force to prevent Serbian aggression in Kosovo, but other, intermediate steps should be used before Clinton considers military action." It concluded: "NATO should also push Milosevic to accept NATO observers in Kosovo, which he might do if he fears the guerrillas are growing too fast. If Western nations cannot muster a clear and unified message to Milosevic to restrain his army, he will unleash a new round of ethnic killing in the Balkans."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: Milosovic seems to be unmoved by additionally sanctions

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung editorializes today that Western nations, sounding an uncertain trumpet, have failed to impress Milosevic with their serious intent. The newspaper says: "Milosovic seems to be unmoved by the additionally decided sanctions, a stoppage of Western investments. And the recent dispatch of the robust U.S. negotiator (Richard) Holbrooke does not seem to intimidate him either."

It says: "Milosovic seeks to exploit Russia's demonstration -- with its special attitude towards the Balkans -- of a demand for equality with the United States. He has given good conduct signals by offering diplomatic relations with Bosnia without strings. But nobody can be sure whether Milosevic, the chaos ruler, will submit to the restraints of international rules and norms at all. Also, the meaning of the West's threats and lures must be anything but clear to Milosovic. And so he continues to play poker on the powder keg of the Balkans."

CORRIERE DELLA SERA: Richard Holbrooke runs the risk of coming back empty-handed

Holbrooke, the tough guy of the Bosnia peace accords, looks like a no-win player in the hard Kosovo game, Corriere della Sera, Milan, says in an editorial today. The newspaper says: "Richard Holbrooke, the architect of the Bosnia Peace agreements, runs the risk of coming empty-handed from his second Balkanic venture-- the one in Kosovo. On Saturday, the American mediator met with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, but the only thing he got was a resounding no to any foreign interference in the Kosovo crisis. Even yesterday's talks in Pristina with Kosovar Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova didn't seem to gain any results. Holbrooke's mission continued in Tirana, Albania."

GUARDIAN: There are all the signs that a full insurgency is already underway

Writing today in The Guardian, London, commentator Jonathan Steele says: "The Yugoslav president, Slobodan Miloservic, continues to reject outside mediation in the Kosovo conflict." Steele writes: "On the backroads of Kosovo where the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) has no-go areas which the Serbs dare not enter, all the signs are that a full insurgency is already underway." The writer says: "Meanwhile, Kosovo's political parties are in crisis, riven by internal arguments and conscious that -- thanks to passivity, paralysis and corruption -- they are losing support in the villages."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: Holbrooke conceded he did not have a solution to offer

A Los Angeles Times news analysis by Tracy Wilkinson blames a Serbian crackdown for Kosovo-Albanian militance. She writes: "As sporadic fighting between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serbian police claimed more casualties, Holbrooke, architect of the peace accords that ended the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, quickly got a look at how far apart the two sides remain. He conceded that he did not have a solution to offer, noting that the Kosovo crisis is in many ways more complicated than Bosnia."

Wilkinson writes: "Alarmed at the prospect of a new war spreading through the Balkans, Washington sent Holbrooke into the Kosovo morass as the United States and four West European governments froze foreign investment in Serbia, in the latest twist of a tightening vise of economic sanctions designed to punish the Milosevic regime.

"The West does not support the Kosovo Albanians' plea for independence. But the Serbian government's fierce crackdown on armed guerrillas has pushed once-passive Albanians to the cause of independence at any cost.

"In Pristina, Kosovo's provincial capital, Holbrooke said that Rugova and his associates had warned him that 'violence is spreading like wildfire' and that the situation is deteriorating by the day and demanding of immediate international action."