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Yugoslavia: Germans Say Clinton Visit Heralds No Kosovo Breakthrough

  • Roland Eggleston

Bonn, 6 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The German foreign office says no diplomatic breakthrough is expected on the Kosovo crisis during U.S. President Bill Clinton's two-day visit, which began yesterday.

Ministry officials say Clinton will discuss the Kosovo situation with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and meet top military officials, but that there is no expectation the meetings will lead to any suggestion of compromise with Yugoslavia.

A senior Foreign Ministry official who did not wish to be identified tells RFE/RL: "there is a lot of talk about diplomatic initiatives but, frankly, [Yugoslav President] Slobodan Milosevic has not moved at all." The official said that "despite the talk, the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo is continuing at a rapid pace, as is shown by the thousands who have been forced out of Kosovo into Macedonia since the weekend."

Clinton arrived yesterday morning at a U.S. air base at Spangdahlem, near Trier. It's the biggest U.S. air base in Europe. Some of the U.S. pilots who fly missions over Yugoslavia are stationed there.

At a brief address to airmen and technicians at the base, Clinton thanked them for their efforts. He told them that Serbia's campaign in Kosovo is repugnant to Western values:

"Kosovo is an affront to everything we stand for. Two months ago there were 1.8 million ethnic Albanians living there. Now nearly one and a half million have been forced from their homes, their villages burned, their men often separated from their families and killed."

He said America remained committed to the basic goals of the air campaign: compelling Milosevic to allow the return of the Kosovo refugees to their homes under the protection of an armed international force:

"Our quarrel is with ethnic cleansing and systematic killing and uprooting and the bigotry and the death brought on by religious hatred. That is what we stand against and what we seek to reverse. But for that to happen and for [the Kosovar refugees] to go home and have self-government there has to be an international security force with NATO at its core that will protect everybody there. We will continue to pursue this campaign in which we are now engaged. We will intensify it in an unrelenting way until these objectives are met."

Neither U.S. nor German officials are saying whether Clinton will participate in a meeting tomorrow in Bonn of the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G-7) major industrialized nations plus Russia, which was convened largely to discuss the Kosovo crisis.

German officials say it's possible Clinton will meet with senior Russian officials, but they decline to provide details. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will attend tomorrow's meeting.

German officials place Clinton's visit and tomorrow's meeting of the G-7 plus Russia against a background of growing German importance in the diplomatic negotiations.

A Foreign Ministry official tells RFE/RL: "Germany is trying to use its ties with Russia to coax Moscow toward supporting NATO's demands in Kosovo." Apart from the return of the refugees, these include the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops and police from the province.

The German government, led by Social Democrat Schroeder, is under internal pressure to increase the pace of diplomatic negotiations with the goal of ending NATO's bombing campaign. The pressure comes largely from the Green party, which is Schroeder's coalition partner.

The Greens are traditionally pacifists and have called a party congress next week to consider the air campaign. Some are pressing for a motion calling for an immediate stop to the bombing and the resumption of diplomatic negotiations with Milosevic.

But other Greens, including Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, believe the bombing campaign is justified because of the humanitarian tragedy in Kosovo. Fischer has said he does not believe the congress will approve a motion to stop the bombing.

Before arriving in Germany, Clinton visited NATO headquarters in Brussels yesterday for a meeting with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, the alliance's supreme commander General Wesley Clark. He also met Germany's highest-ranking soldier, General Klaus Naumann, who retires this week as chairman of NATO's military committee.

At a farewell news conference this week, General Naumann said the air campaign was lasting longer than expected because of political constraints imposed by the 19 governments in NATO. General Naumann said NATO has been unable to use the full force of its military power because of its reluctance to hurt civilians.