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Western Press Review: Storm Clouds Blacken Over Former Yugoslavia

Prague, 3 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Weekend violence in the Kosovo province of Kosovo rings alarm bells in the Western press. The New York Times writes of "dangerous implications," the Suddeutsche Zeitung of a "danger of a nationalist terrorist movement taking shape," The Financial Times in London of "an international crisis," and Vienna's Die Presse of "another horror that the world watched."

NEW YORK TIMES: Violence in the Kosovo province of Serbia has dangerous implications

The New York Times editorialized yesterday that the violence threatens to ignite the entire Balkan peninsula. It warns against reducing international vigilance in the neighboring former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It says: "Rising violence in the Kosovo province of Serbia has dangerous implications not only for Kosovo, but also for its neighbors. Ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of Kosovo's population, but they suffer severe repression at the hands of Serbia's Government. In the last six months a violent group of ethnic Albanians, the Kosovo Liberation Army, has stepped up its terrorist attacks in Kosovo, and claimed credit for two bombings in the neighboring country of Macedonia. That is why a Security Council resolution that cuts off the peacekeeping mission in Macedonia in August is a mistake."

The Times concluded: "New peacekeepers, possibly under the auspices of NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, must come in when the UN mission leaves. They should not be an exclusively military force, as a civilian component is needed to monitor possibly explosive internal events in Macedonia and to press the Government to respect minority rights and defuse ethnic conflicts. No one knows how serious the real threat of a new Balkan war would be without the peacekeepers. The world should not be too eager to find out."

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: It is all down to Milosevic

Suddeutsche Zeitung columnist Bernhard Kuppers writes today in a commentary from Sarajevo: "There is a danger of a nationalist terrorist movement taking shape in the heart of southeastern Europe. Over a decade ago Slobodan Milosevic used Serbian dislike of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo to gain power in Serbia and Yugoslavia. But the way in which he suppressed self-government in Kosovo led to fears in Slovenia and Croatia of Serbian domination. They in turn ushered in the bloodshed and the collapse of Yugoslavia. Now, after the brutal Serbian police raids in the operational area of a mysterious Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), frustration among the province's two million ethnic Albanians could lead to them closing ranks with terrorist freedom fighters."

Kuppers urges prompt international diplomatic intervention, at the least. He contends: "The global community has waited long enough. Now to protect Kosovo against terrorism and counter-terrorism it is all down to Milosevic as it was over the pacifying of Bosnia. He is the man at the root of the evil. There should at least be an attempt to test Milosevic, to see if he would act constructively in exchange for a relaxation of the remnants of the external wall of sanctions -- and notably access to international loans."

FINANCIAL TIMES: It is equally right to denounce the status quo

Kosovo long has been "the most dangerous flashpoint in the Balkans," the Financial Times editorializes. It says: "The international community cannot now let its gratitude to (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosvic for his recent conversion to supporting peace in Bosnia blind it to his repression in Kosovo." The newspaper says: "It is right not to condone independence for Kosovo because that would set the precedent for further balkanization in the region, but it is equally right to denounce the status quo."

DIE PRESSE: An armed conflict in Kosovo would be the horror that the world watched in Bosnia but potentially worse

The Viennese newspaper Die Presse says Kosovo could become a war worse than that in Bosnia. It says in an editorial: "An armed conflict in Kosovo would be the horror that the world watched in Bosnia (and did nothing about for years), but potentially worse. Serbian gangs have had nothing to do for a long time, and would flood into Kosovo without hesitation to begin their murderous handiwork again. On the other side are probably hundreds of Albanians -- all armed to the teeth -- who would stream over the border to help their besieged brothers. Belgrade has taken the position that Albanians in Kosovo, who suffered oppression and injustice for years, deserved no attention. Now comes its reward. Will Belgrade now finally listen to the voice of reason?"

LIBERATION: This flaring of violence may augur a new war 'like that in Bosnia' -- only worse

In the Paris daily Liberation today, Belgrade correspondent Victoria Stegic writes of "the explosion that many thought would happen" in Kosovo, "the province in south Serbia that is 90 percent populated by ethnic Albanians seeking to reclaim independence." She writes: "Yesterday, thousands of Albanians descended on the streets of Kosovo's capital Pristina to show solidarity with Drenica, where the clashes happened, and to protest against the regime of president Slobodan Milosevic, accusing him of practicing 'terror, violence and ethnic cleansing.' "

She writes: "This flaring of violence ends more than seven years of status quo in Kosovo and may augur, according to the most pessimistic analysts, a new war 'like that in Bosnia' -- only worse, as neighboring countries intervene -- if the international community does nothing to prevent it."

DAILY TELEGRAPH: The West has a moral obligation to redress the flaws of the Dayton agreement

Today's Daily Telegraph in London editorializes that Milosevic "has demanded that foreign countries do not interfere in an 'internal' affair." The British newspaper says, nonetheless, that "The first task is to persuade (Milosevic) to negotiate with Ibrahim Rugova, the moderate Albanian leader who was elected president of the self-proclaimed republic of Kosovo in 1992, an exercise held in defiance of the Serbian authorities."

The newspaper concludes: "Among the many flaws of the Dayton agreement was its virtual neglect of Kosovo, a fact which has helped to undermine Mr. Rugova's credibility and enhance that of the terrorists. The West has a moral obligation to redress that failure by doing all it can to thwart the dispatch of Serbian tanks against a largely defenseless Albanian population."

EL MUNDO: Milosevic has not learned his lesson

Madrid's El Mundo says in an editorial today that Milosevic is rewarming the old ethnic cleansing remedies for new application. The newspaper says: "Milosevic has not learned his lesson. All indications show that he wants to apply the same medicine in Kosovo (that) he did in Croatia and Bosnia. First, launch an operation of cleansing against the Liberation Army of Kosovo, by murdering 16 Albanians. And, yesterday, disperse by force thousands of Kosovans protesting the brutality of the action. (This) choice runs the risk of igniting the fuse. Neither of the two ethnicities is willing to renounce its position. Belgrade counts on force, Kosovo's Albanians on their demographic potential and the sympathy of the international community. Milosevic will commit a grave error if he (continues to) opt for the road of oppression."