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Yugoslavia: German Greens Seek Suspension Of Bombing

  • Roland Eggleston

Bonn, 11 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The junior partner in Germany's governing coalition has indicated it will demand a suspension of NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia but will not endanger the coalition by threatening to withdraw.

This was the position taken by the federal leadership of the Green party after a long debate in Bonn yesterday. A spokeswoman said the leadership expects it to emerge as official policy after Thursday's special party congress in the city of Bielefeld.

However, the spokeswoman emphasized success is by no means certain. She said some factions in the party want an unconditional end to the bombing and a statement condemning the government for participating in the NATO campaign. Others are demanding the Greens withdraw from the coalition.

At yesterday's meeting in Bonn, the federal leadership of the party agreed to call for a unilateral suspension by NATO of the bombing campaign. The spokeswoman emphasized to RFE/RL today the party leadership is calling only for a "suspension" and not for an end to military actions by NATO.

A senior Green party official who did not wish to be identified told RFE/RL: "experience shows [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic is unlikely to end his repression or honor his side of a peace agreement unless there is a continuing threat of more military pressure."

The Green party, which is in the federal government for the first time in its history, is deeply split over the conflict in Kosovo. Many in the party are committed pacifists who remain convinced sanctions would have compelled Milosevic to stop the repression of Kosovo's ethnic Albanians.

In response to their demands, several provincial branches of the party say Thursday's congress should demand an end to the bombing. However, the approaches have differed.

Provincial branches in the former communist eastern Germany, such as the one in Mecklenburg Vorpommern, demand an immediate, permanent and unconditional stop to the bombing.

On the other side of the party are the self-styled "realists," led by Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who argue that Milosevic is a dictator and is unimpressed by democracy. The realists want an end to the bombing but argue NATO should retain the possibility of resuming it if necessary.

The motion proposed yesterday by the federal leadership is close to a policy suggested by Fischer about a month ago. Fischer's plan went a little further. He said the unilateral suspension of the NATO campaign should begin only after Yugoslavia began to withdraw forces from Kosovo and should be extended only if the withdrawal continued.

It was unclear today whether the withdrawals announced by Yugoslavia yesterday met this requirement. A foreign ministry spokesman said that Fischer had said the withdrawals must be verifiable and substantial.

The other Green minister in the German government, Environment Minister Jurgen Trittin, said today he believes the moderate line will be approved at Thursday's congress and the coalition government will survive.

Trittin, who has previously criticized the bombing, said the German government and the NATO alliance have shown their willingness to seek a diplomatic solution. In his view, this should defuse the critics. Trittin welcomes the plan proposed last week by the G-7 group of industrialized countries plus Russia. It calls for an end to Serb violence and the return of the refugees under protection of an international force.