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Western Press Review: Kosovo Central To Current Affairs

By Lawrence Holland/Dora Slaba/Anthony Georgieff

Prague, 3 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Western newspapers continue to focus most editorial comment on the continuing crisis surrounding Serbia's Kosvo province.

FINANCIAL TIMES: Any international force for Kosovo must have NATO troops at its core

London's Financial Times runs an editorial noting that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic released three U.S. soldiers this weekend and reportedly had agreed in principle to the deployment of an armed international force in Kosovo -- something which he has long resisted and which is a key NATO aim. But the paper argues that despite these developments, it would be "foolish, to believe that the prospects for the Kosovo crisis have substantially brightened this weekend."

The FT notes that word of Milosevic's willingness to allow an armed international force came only from "a personal friend with dubious political clout" and was floated at a meeting of Russian and American legislators in Vienna. The paper says "a credible proposal must come from Mr. Milosevic's own mouth" and must be communicated directly to NATO leaders.

The paper argues that any international force for Kosovo must, as NATO insists, have NATO troops at its core. It asks "How else could refugees feel safe to return?"

WALL STREET JOURNAL: New seriousness is required to address Balkans problem

The Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial that Kosovo is adding to significant political strains in Washington.

It says "last Wednesday's votes in the U.S. House of Representatives on the Kosovo conflict [when the body refused to endorse NATO's air campaign] come about as close as it gets under America's system to a no-confidence vote in the Clinton government." The paper goes on to argue that a lot of the discomfort over Kosovo stems from Clinton's reduced standing with Congress following the impeachment vote and debate earlier this year.

The paper then says that the lack of confidence also extends to Clinton's cabinet, namely to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Defense Secretary William Cohen, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. The paper accuses the four of having "fed the president's worst political instincts, conducting foreign policy by managing the next news cycle."

The WSJ says that "without a clear signal of new seriousness, there is little hope of the American government addressing not only the Balkans, but its long-run relations with China, Russia, or even its NATO partners." The WSJ says "Mr. Clinton should ask for resignations, and he should then appoint a senior, bipartisan national-security team to replace them."

NEW YORK TIMES: The future of Kosovo is now mainly at stake

The New York Times also focuses on the votes last week in the lower House of the U.S. Congress, and says they made clear the need for President Clinton to provide "a plain and compelling rationale for the war." The paper says that Clinton has outlined military and political objectives for Kosovo. But it says he has not connected "those aims with larger U.S. interests in a way that convinces the majority of his countrymen that war with Slobodan Milosevic is warranted and may have to be waged for months."

The NYT says that the situation inside Kosovo has changed dramatically since NATO began air strikes 40 days ago. It notes that "one of the original objectives of the air war, protecting the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo from Yugoslav aggression, has proved unrealistic and unattainable. Each day brings a new wave of bedraggled refugees to Albania and Macedonia [with] stories of unspeakable abuses and killing by the Yugoslav forces...."

The expulsion of refugees from Kosovo, the NYT argues, "means that this war is now being fought primarily over the future of Kosovo, a cause that is harder to define and more difficult to sell to Americans than the defense of innocent civilians under brutal attack."

But the paper says a convincing case for American involvement can still be made. It writes that "if America and its NATO allies are prepared to let a tyrant in the Balkans slaughter his countrymen and overrun his neighbors with hundreds of thousands of refugees, other combustible regions of Europe may face similar upheavals."

INFORMATION: To halt the catastrophe the brown-red government must be toppled

Copenhagen's daily 'Information' continues to back NATO's principle stated aims for Kosovo. In an editorial, the paper writes that "first, the 600,000 Kosovo Albanian refugees [must be] allowed to safely return home. To make this possible, a strong international military force with substantial NATO participation should be located in Kosovo, the Serb forces should ... be driven out, and the province should become an international protectorate."

But the paper says something that is not a stated NATO aim is necessary if the conditions are to be created to rebuild the Balkans: "Slobodan Milosevic must be removed [from power] and Yugoslavia must be democratized." The paper says that "the peace agreement for Kosovo that must sooner or later be reached will probably be negotiated with the sitting powers in Belgrade. It is imperative, therefore, that Milosevic and his brown-red coalition come out of the conflict weakened."

'Information' concludes that "it is important for the political groups in Serbia proper and in Montenegro to understand that Milosevic's plans for a Greater Serbia have led the country from one fiasco to another, and that to halt the catastrophe the brown-red government must be toppled. With Milosevic at the top, stability and security in the Balkans will be impossible to achieve."

INDEPENDENT: We do not regard the catastrophe of the Kosovo Albanians as worth a single NATO life

Commentator Robert Fisk, writing in Britain's 'Independent' argues that NATO is showing too little concern over civilians killed in its bombing of Yugoslavia.

Fisk says that over the weekend, as many as 60 civilians were killed when the bus they were riding was hit by a NATO bomb as it crossed the bomb's target -- a bridge. In light of that, he argues that the alliance's statements of regret aren't enough.

Fisk asks "how much longer will NATO get away with these dreadful attacks? Aleksinac, Cuprija, the train massacre at Grdelica, the assault on the civilian center of Pristina, the bombs dropped near Belgrade University, the slaughter of Albanian refugees near Djakovica, the mass killings in the air raid at Surdulica and now the bus blown apart on the Lujanc bridge."

Fisk argues that the West believes that the plight of Kosovar Albanians justifies the bombing, even with the "collateral damage." But he notes that "not a single NATO life has been lost in five weeks of war in the Balkans -- because we do not regard the catastrophe of the Kosovo Albanians as worth a single NATO life."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: Western powers are fighting for an ideal

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung runs a commentary by Guenter Nonnenmacher which states that NATO's operations are being conducted with "reticence and without the will to destroy the opponent." He says that's because "the Western powers are not promoting their interests but are fighting for an ideal, for the human rights of the Kosovar Albanians."

Nonnenmacher continues that "The West must consider what they actually wish to achieve at the end of the fighting.... It is highly probable that Kosovo will not remain as part of Serbia. If, after the war, Montenegro refuses the remain a part of the Yugoslav state, then this too will have to be accepted and supported."

FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: The current freer climate can hardly be reversed without the regime risking turbulence

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung also runs an editorial on the vote in the Iranian parliament over the weekend not to impeach the reformist Minister of Culture Culture Ayatollah Mohadsherani.

The newspaper says that "Mohadsherani used brilliant rhetoric containing theological elements, to defend the freedom of the press -- especially against extreme conservatives. The latter fear an erosion of Islamic values, as they interpret them, while Mohadsherani, who adheres to the ideas of President Mohammad Khatami, has good grounds to claim that the suppression of freedom of expression is damaging."

The FAZ argues that "only a greater openness has a chance with the majority of the Iranian public. The current freer climate can hardly be reversed without the regime risking turbulence on a grand scale."