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Western Press Review: Kosovo Cauldron Continues To Rumble

  • Don Hill

Prague, 28 May 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Western commentary and analysis examines growing conflict in the Serbian province of Kosovo between Serb forces and those of majority ethnic Albanians seeking autonomy. Analysts reach differing conclusions about the likelihood of NATO involvement.

DIE WELT: No solution will come out of the North Atlantic Council meetings

Analyst Lothar Ruhl contends today in the German newspaper Die Welt that whatever decision NATO makes it won't be completed at the North Atlantic Council meeting in Luxembourg this weekend. Ruhl writes: "The question of how further bloodletting in the Balkans can be stopped will dominate talks among North Atlantic Treaty Organization foreign ministers in Luxembourg this week, but no solution will come out of the North Atlantic Council meetings. For one thing, there is no agreement -- and will be none after the two days of discussions end (tomorrow) -- on any specific actions. That follows from what is seen as an insufficient basis for any hard decision on a series of options."

The analyst says: "The allied foreign ministers must issue 'political guidelines' aimed at answering several questions: the orientation, the goal and the desired outcome of any actions, as well as their risks and the likelihood of success. Also, the extent of any deployments and their rules of engagement, the assignments and guidelines for observation missions and cooperation with the United Nations, OSCE, and the European Union."

Ruhl concludes: "According to which range of options is ultimately chosen, NATO and its associated partners -- for example Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, but also Romania or the Baltic states -- could expect to deploy anywhere from 7,000 to 23,000 troops. A tricky diplomatic and political problem is the participation of Russia, which has already offered a brigade. But Moscow's close relationship with Serbia and Russian conditions for the political goals of any operations and the joint control of troops could cause problems which would affect any mission's effectiveness."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: NATO has left intervention on its list of possible measures

But an International Herald Tribune analysis by Joseph Fitchett says today: "NATO is set to authorize (today) the deployment of alliance forces, possibly in units numbering several thousand men, in countries bordering Kosovo in a bid to prevent the conflict there from escalating, according to officials at NATO headquarters."

Fitchett writes: "NATO is also set to 'examine' -- a term that in practice means prepare an allied force involving about 7,000 troops that could be sent to Albania if needed to help the authorities patrol their frontier. Macedonia and Albania have called for NATO troops to help them avoid being sucked into the fighting between Serbs and the local Muslim majority of ethnic Albanians.

The analysis says: "NATO has left intervention as an option on its list of possible measures, a European policymaker said, adding that, 'We believe, along with the Americans, that the text shows that we mean business, including very tough business.' The message is meant mainly for Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader. Many Western officials fear that Mr. Milosevic is playing for time in talks with Ibrahim Rugova, a Muslim leader in Kosovo who advocates a peaceful solution based on autonomy."

WASHINGTON POST: Every option remains open

R. Jeffrey Smith, writing in The Washington Post, says: "A NATO survey team has concluded that the Western military alliance could police the mountainous border between Albania and the troubled Yugoslav province of Kosovo only by deploying an estimated 7,000 to 20,000 soldiers, dimming any chance that NATO will agree to make such a deployment soon, according to senior U.S. officials."

Smith writes: "The issue of whether and how NATO might respond to the Kosovo crisis is to be discussed Thursday and Friday at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Luxemburg. The Clinton administration's official position has been that every option remains open for dealing with the Kosovo crisis, including a possible Western or U.S. military deployment on the border or even inside Kosovo if circumstances warrant."

DIE WELT: NATO is piling on the pressure for a political solution

Another analysis in Die Welt, by Boris Kalnoky, says that U.S. diplomacy is trying to strengthen the hand of Kosovo's Albanian leadership by orchestrating a meeting in the White House in Washington. Kalnoky says: "Ibrahim Rugova, the unofficially-elected president of the Kosovo Albanians, will meet U.S. President Bill Clinton on Thursday in Washington to discuss possible solutions to the armed conflict in Kosovo. Rugova will be accompanied by Veton Suroi, whom the Americans regard as their man among the Albanian Kosovo politicians. Clinton has also invited Fehmi Agani, head of the Albanian Kosovo delegation which is negotiating with the Serbian leadership, and Bujer Bukoshi, head of the Geneva-based Kosovan government in exile. Bukoshi's presence in Washington is interesting because the relationship between him and Rugova is not without conflict. It is said that the Americans more or less politely forced Rugova to take Bukoshi with him."

The writer says: "Since the start of negotiations between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs, the latter have stepped up security force pressure in the Kosovo crisis regions. On Tuesday 29 Albanians were murdered by Serb police in the village of Ljubenica. By making demonstratively threatening military gestures in the direction of Belgrade, NATO is piling on the pressure for a political solution to the Kosovo conflict. (Yesterday), one day before NATO's spring conference in Luxembourg, diplomats in Bonn reported that the planned instructions to the military did not rule out the possibility of armed intervention in Kosovo."

NEW YORK TIMES: America's closest European allies are upset

New York Times writer Steven Erlanger in Washington analyzes a different facet of the Kosovo tangle, what he describes as U.S. diplomacy's wavering course. He writes: "America's closest European allies are upset that Washington has changed tack yet again on the issue of Kosovo, pushing to ease the pressure on the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, despite his intensified repression in the province. To induce Milosevic to begin dialogue with Ibrahim Rugova, the moderate leader of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, the allies, at Washington's urging, recently suspended the economic sanctions that would hit Milosevic the hardest - measures Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had insisted on in the first place in the name of international cohesion."

Erlanger writes: "The American shift originated with Richard Holbrooke, the former diplomat who is the architect of the Bosnian peace settlement. Holbrooke, known for his strong relationship with Milosevic and his flexible tactics, was invited to help, and visited the Balkans with Robert Gelbard, the American special representative for the former Yugoslavia earlier this month."