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Western Press Review: Tension Escalates In Kosovo, Ocalan Leaves Italy

By Larry Holland, Dora Slaba, and Anthony Georgieff

Prague, 18 January 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The Western press focuses much of its editorial comment today on the situation in Kosovo, where tensions have escalated following the discovery over the weekend of the bodies of about 45 ethnic Albanians. Western officials are blaming Serbian forces and warning Belgrade once again of the possible use of NATO force. Editorials today also focus on the departure of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan from Italy -- his whereabouts are, once again, unknown. There is also comment on the continuing trial in the U.S. Senate of President Bill Clinton.

DAILY TELEGRAPH: Western policy should accept the inevitability of Kosovo's independence

London's Daily Telegraph writes in an editorial today that the deaths in the southern Kosovar village of Racak mean that "the inevitable re-ignition of the Kosovo crisis has come sooner than expected. Optimists had hoped that the winter might put the killing on hold for a few months, giving the American (peace) plan for the province a chance to work."

The paper continues: "The incident has blown away the fiction that a shaky ceasefire was in place. Any lingering faith that the political path might be leading somewhere has been extinguished." It argues that if it is proven that Serb forces were responsible, Yugoslav President Slobodan "Milosevic should face indictment" because he has "ultimate responsibility for their actions."

The Daily Telegraph notes that the U.S. plan for Kosovo is based on the assumption that peace can be established without independence for Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian majority. The paper writes that: "The Racak massacre is further evidence that this is no longer the case", adding that "western policy should accept" what it calls the "inevitability" of Kosovo's independence.

GUARDIAN: The Americans and Europeans must put in their soldiers

London's Guardian writes in an editorial that "the Racak massacre almost certainly represents a point of no return. If there was a (small) possibility before it that Kosovar (Albanians) might agree to continue to be ... a part of Serbia, there is surely none now."

The paper says that the incident "makes it even more obvious that Serbs and Kosovar (Albanians) will fight unless a substantial third force, armed and determined, stands between them."

The Guardian argues that international observers from the OSCE have done some good in Kosovo, by ending a particular burst of fighting or getting prisoners released. But it concludes that "if the Americans and Europeans want to prevent war" in Kosovo, they must "put in their soldiers."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE: Nobody is really interested

Today's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, in an editorial, notes that the dead in Racak included "a child, a young woman and a number of older people" and calls "outrageous" the "claim made by the Serbian authorities that this was the deed of the rebels of the Kosovo (Liberation Army)." The paper writes that the incident "will go down in history as a Serb bloody deed in the Balkans."

The FAZ says that the massacre "took place under the very eyes of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) observers, whose mission must be regarded as a failure". It asks: "Can one expect more (western) diplomatic and military activity after Racak?" The paper suggests the West will do little. It writes that: "Kosovo, unlike the Persian Gulf, is a tiny piece of land outside the world economic system. Nobody is really interested."

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: NATO should go back to military threats

The Danish daily 'Berlingske Tidende' editorializes today that "The Serbian massacre of (Kosovar) villagers must unequivocally be condemned in the strongest possible terms." The paper argues that NATO must "react vehemently to the brutal killings if it is to preserve its credibility in the Balkans."

The paper writes that despite the West's -- mainly America's -- energetic diplomatic efforts, neither Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic nor the ethnic Albanian separatist UCK have made substantial concessions. The paper says "the current developments create the feeling that both parties have used the cease-fire as just a war time-out, waiting for the winter to recede and for the snow to melt in order to start the fighting again."

The Berlingske Tidende concludes that if NATO lets the war flare up again the alliance will be revealed "as a paper tiger." It says that "If its requests to the warring parties are not met fully and unconditionally, it should go back to the military threats of the kind it articulated last autumn. It must simply finish the work it began then."

AKTUELT: NATO is likely to behave with caution

Another Copenhagen daily, Aktuelt, writes in an editorial that "NATO was quick to condemn the new Serbian atrocities in Kosovo but the chances for immediate action to bring the warring sides to talk to each other are slim." The paper writes that: "The situation (in Kosovo) is very complicated, not least because the OSCE unarmed observers are on the ground in the province. Under all circumstances, NATO is likely to behave with caution in order not to compromise their security. Instead of military action, NATO will probably opt for a new, and possibly last, diplomatic effort to find a peace solution for Kosovo."

Several papers remark today on the departure from Italy of Abdullah Ocalan, whose PKK has fought for autonomy in southeast Turkey since the 1980s.

SUEDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG: There is widespread discord over Bonn and Rome's handling of the matter

A commentary in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung by Klaus Brill and Hans Leydendecker is titled: "Ocalan has Gone and Everyone Breathes a Sigh of Relief."

They noted that "In the end events took a fast turn" with Ocalan stepping into a car on Saturday, being taken to an airport near Rome by an Italian official and leaving the country in a private plane. They write: "When the departure was announced by the Italian prime minister's office, Ocalan had been gone for eight hours." They write that "the war of nerves, which was also hard to bear for the German government (which refused to act on a German arrest warrant and request his extradition) is settled for the present." But the writers note that there is widespread "discord and uneasiness" over Bonn and Rome's handling of the matter. They add that there is also a return of a question heard often late last year: "Where is Ocalan now?"

LA REPUBBLICA: A lack of solidarity prevails

Rome's La Repubblica writes in an editorial criticizes some of the developments that have taken place in the "New Europe" since the single currency -- the euro -- was introduced. These developments have confirmed that on a political level national egoism is still stronger than common interests. A lack of solidarity prevails."

CORRIERE DELLA SERA: Ocalan has given preference to leaving

Milan's Corriere della Sera writes that "Following 65 days in Italy and following the related dispute, Ocalan has given preference to leaving. The PKK chief has understood that he no longer enjoys the political support which allowed him to land in Italy."

Prosecutors from the lower house of the U.S. Congress concluded their presentation over the weekend in the trial in the upper house, the Senate, of President Bill Clinton. Clinton has denied charges that he committed perjury or obstructed justice in an effort to conceal a relationship with a former White House intern.

NEW YORK TIMES: Removing Clinton would sacrifice the orderly transfer of power

The New York Times, in an editorial on Sunday, wrote that it agreed with the prosecutors that Clinton "lied under oath and tampered with the legal process." But it then argues that Clinton "should finish his term because his failures are not of a scale to qualify under the constitution" as a justification to remove him from office.

The NYT wrote that it agrees with Clinton's lawyers that removal should be reserved for cases where a president commits "offenses against the system of government." The paper says that "here Mr. Clinton is saved by the lowness of his conduct. His offenses lack the requisite constitutional grandeur."

The NYT argues that removing Clinton on the offenses for which he is accused would sacrifice something too important -- the orderly transfer of power on a four-year schedule.