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Western Press Review: Kosovo, Clinton Draw Comment

  • Don Hill
  • Dora Slaba



Prague, 5 February 1999 (RFE/RL) -- In Kosovo, there is the possibility of a new Balkan peacekeeping force. In Washington, there is a possibility that the U.S. Senate will soon end the trial of President Bill Clinton. Both subjects occupy Western press commentary today. There is also commentary on U.S.-Azerbaijani relations and the plight of Turkish Kurd factional leader Abdullah Ocalan.

DIE WELT: The shape of a peace-keeping force is beginning to emerge

Commentator Ruediger Moniac writes in Die Welt that the United States in Kosovo is about to join the "Foreign Legion." He's commenting on the growing possibility that for the first time since World War Two U.S. leaders may agree to supply troops to serve under a foreign commander. Moniac writes: "The shape of a peace-keeping force is beginning to emerge. This will ensure that any peace accord agreed to in Rambouillet (near Paris) will receive the required military backing. Information made available by the various NATO capitals would seem to suggest that the contingent to be sent to Kosovo will be similar in numbers and tasks to the SFOR troops currently stationed in Bosnia. What is strikingly different, is that the new peace-keeping corps will not be commanded by an American."

NEW YORK TIMES: Now is the time for a reassessment of U.S. policy

In the New York Times, columnist Thomas L. Friedman calls for second thoughts. Kosovo may enmesh peacekeepers forever, he warns. Friedman calls on U.S. leaders to stop and reflect on the options before sending American troops to sort out the civil war in Kosovo.

Friedman writes: "If ever there was a time for an honest reassessment of U.S. policy toward Bosnia and Kosovo, it's now. And what that reassessment would conclude is that we should redo the Dayton accords -- otherwise we're going to end up with U.S. troops in Bosnia and Kosovo forever, without solving either problem."

He cited the fresh recommendation of former of European envoy Lord David Owen: to acknowledge that the Pale Serbs want out of Bosnia, so they can join Serbia, and that the Kosovo Albanians want out of Serbia, so they can be independent. Carrying Lord Owen's proposal further, he writes: "let's go to (Serb President Slobodan) Milosevic and say, every square mile of Kosovo you are ready to give up and turn over to the Kosovar Albanians, we will give you in return the same amount of square miles around Pale, which you can then annex to Serbia."

Friedman concludes: "The only way U.S. and NATO troops are going to get out of the Balkans, and stay out, is if a majority of people there are living where and with whom they want."

WASHINGTON POST: There is little likelihood of a just and sustainable settlement without the US

Former U.S. Senate Majority leader and presidential candidate Bob Dole offers what a Washington Post headline calls "A Plan for Kosovo." In a Post commentary, Dole says: "We need to keep in mind that no matter how much we would like to share the burden of the Balkans with our NATO allies, without U.S. leadership and the application of U.S. principles, there is little likelihood of a just and sustainable settlement."

He writes: "America must insist on democratic practices and democratic self-government for the Albanian majority in Kosovo." Dole adds: "It also is essential to create a safe environment -- safe for American and international forces and safe for civilians."

The commentary concludes: "Finally, the United States must ensure that any agreement reached in France will have built within it a real exit strategy. If this is truly to be an interim agreement, there must be a date certain for a referendum on Kosovo's final status. Also, the terms of the referendum must be established in advance and the results must be binding."

SUEDDEUYSCHE ZEITUNG: This must be a bugle call

Commentator Peter Muench writes in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Kosovo comprises a political test for Europe. He says: "The Europeans are faced with their graduation exam. In the Balkans, where they have experienced a fiasco in the Bosnian war, they are being given a second chance -- in Kosovo." He goes on: "The Europeans will set the tone in the castle Rambouillet, near Paris, when as from Saturday they will negotiate a concept of peace for the Serbs and Albanians in their turbulent province. They will not make any progress by plaintive sounds. This must be a bugle call."

TIMES: The Senate should seek to conclude the trial of President Clinton

On the Clinton affair, The Times of London offers some editorial advice to Britain's former colony across the ocean. The newspaper says that the Senate should end the U.S. president's ordeal. The Times says: "The Senate should seek to conclude the trial of President Clinton." The editorial says: "There is but one President and that individual is elected by the entire nation. The framers of the American Constitution did not design and did not desire a presidency based on direct democratic selection. This, though, is the nature of the institution that the Senate today faces. (Special prosecutor) Kenneth Starr has put forward the material against Mr Clinton; Congress has provided it a very prominent platform; Americans have chosen to spurn every single opportunity to endorse it."

The Times concludes: "Mr Starr will have his chance to pursue the President in the criminal courts but would be wise to wait until his term is completed. The Senate should decide to leave him to it."

NEW YORK TIMES: Clinton committed base and calculated offenses against the rule of law

In the United States, The New York Times concurs. Its editorial contends: "The fact that 25 Republicans joined with Democrats to vote against calling Monica Lewinsky for live testimony means that the Senate is intent on ending President Clinton's impeachment trial. That 70-to-30 vote also suggested that the majority leader, Trent Lott, feels he has stretched things out long enough to placate hard-liners in his party."

The editorial concludes: "Most Democrats, looking to their own futures, want to go on record as condemning Clinton. But they will have to do business with the Republicans, who are right on a key point. Clinton did not simply misbehave. He committed serious offenses that, while not rising to the level of removable high crimes, must be permanently recorded as base and calculated offenses against the rule of law."

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: They are all sweeping the Ocalan case under the rug

Denmark's Berlingske Tidende in Copenhagen decries what it calls European hypocrisy in comments on the Abdullah Ocalan odyssey. The newspaper says: "In the event Abdullah Ocalan is apprehended in some country, he must not be extradited to Turkey. First, because of the existing death sentence there, and again, because he would not receive a fair trial in a country with such meager democratic institutions. This does not mean that Ocalan is innocent. It would be appropriate for the UN to establish a neutral court to which countries could submit charges they want to bring against someone. The European countries' hypocritical circus appears as follows: All of them are sweeping the Ocalan case under the rug."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: The European powers seem hostile, cowardly and false

Writing from Istanbul in the Suddeutsche Zeitung, Wolfgang Koydl describes the Turkish viewpoint. He comments: "Seen from the Turkish point of view these days, Europe shows up in an unfavorable light. No matter whether they are dealing with the fly-by-night Kurdish rebel Abdullah Ocalan or the Albanian rebels in Kosovo -- to the Turks, the European powers seem hostile, cowardly and false. Hostile, because Europe is seen as a covert sympathizer with the terrorist boss and, moreover, far too easy on the Serbian butcher of ethnic Albanians, Slobodan Milosevic. Cowardly, because for fear of Kurdish demonstrators Europe did not have the courage to put Ocalan on trial, and because it faint-heartedly shrinks from letting bombs rain on Belgrade."

NEW YORK TIMES: Washington should pass up the offer of a military base

Finally, The New York Times editorially warns the United States against succumbing to oil-lubricated temptation against snuggling too closely to Azerbaijan. The Times says: "Seven years ago, a newly independent Azerbaijan emerged from the collapsing Soviet Union. Now Azerbaijan is offering to be host to the first American military base on former Soviet territory. Washington should pass up the offer. Basing American troops in Azerbaijan would needlessly complicate relations with Russia, Armenia and Iran. It would also bring the United States into too close a military relationship with Azerbaijan's autocratic ruler, President Heydar Aliyev."
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