|CAMPAIGN FOR KOSOVO|
May 6, 1999
TOM BEARDEN: The foreign ministers of the seven western powers and Russia met in Bonn for the first time since NATO launched its air war six weeks ago. The West and Russia agreed to present a plan to the United Nations in what some see as the beginning of a strategy to resolve the Kosovo conflict.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: The significance is that, as far as I know, this is the first time that the Russians have publicly said they would support an international security as well as a civilian force in Kosovo. This is a significant step forward and I was personally very pleased by it.
TOM BEARDEN: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright laid out the key points of the proposal.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Security forces must withdraw, permitting refugees to return. Belgrade must accept an international military presence, and the people of Kosovo must gain the democratic self- government they seek.
TOM BEARDEN: But both sides caution that many differences remain. The key sticking point is the composition of a post-war force inside Kosovo: Who will command it, what countries will participate, and how well-armed it will be. NATO insists that it be at the core of a powerful military force. Yugoslavia insists it must be lightly armed and that NATO countries not participate. Secretary of State Albright said the United States would not accept such a restriction.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: When you ask whether other countries can represent NATO, or that the US and Great Britain cannot, that is not acceptable, not for reasons of theology, but because of practical facts, and that is that part of what has to happen is that the Kosovar refugees have to be comfortable enough to come home, and they have to be capable of -- or they have to be demilitarized, and that will not happen if the United States is not part of the operation. Plus, our leadership role in NATO requires us to be present in this kind of an operation, with NATO at its core.
TOM BEARDEN: The Secretary said the Russians would likely play a role in the force. Kosovo's leading ethnic Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova, met with the Italian prime minister in Rome today. Released from house arrest in Serbia, Rugova and his family were allowed to fly to Italy. President Clinton said Rugova's release might signal that Belgrade is coming closer to accepting NATO's terms for a settlement. NATO's bombing campaign continued despite the diplomatic maneuvering. At a briefing this morning in Brussels, General Walter Jertz said the air campaign has forced Serbian forces in Kosovo to hunker down.
GENERAL WALTER JERTZ: Essentially, as of today, we have pinned, pretty much, them down. We have pretty much largely cut them off and are about to begin to take them out. We have achieved that by regularly and relentlessly harrying them in the field. As of today, with the exception of the Danube Bridge in Belgrade, all but two Danube bridges are destroyed, and this within a total of 31 bridges attacked throughout the area of operations.
TOM BEARDEN: But NATO Spokesman Jamie Shea conceded that the air campaign has not been able to meet its original goal: To halt the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanians.
JAMIE SHEA: Milosevic has gone on with his campaign of ethnic sectarianism and expulsions, so that's true. So which conclusion do you draw? Well, you could say, yes, we haven't succeeded there, but then it's all the more reason to go for the next logical objective, which is to say, fine, we couldn't stop it happening, but, my God, we are going to make that man pay a price for what he's done, a very heavy price. And every day that he continues, that price is going to become heavier and heavier.
TOM BEARDEN: People continue to flee Kosovo in large numbers. At the main crossing in Blace, thousands of refugees were stranded when Macedonian authorities closed the border in an apparent effort to force more international assistance. Macedonia said it would only accept new refugees in the same number as NATO moves people out of the country.
KRIS JANOWSKI, UNHCR Spokesman: We were told by the refugees who arrived that there were thousands more on their way, so we have to assume that on the other side, on the Serbian side of the border, we've got thousands of terrified people waiting to get into Macedonia and at the moment being unable to do so.
TOM BEARDEN: One refugee estimated that 10,000 people may be waiting to cross. More than 200,000 Kosovars have flooded into Macedonia, and the government of this country of about two million is concerned that their presence will upset a delicate ethnic balance. On a visit to refugee camps in Albania, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said she would tell Serb leaders face to face when she visits Belgrade next week that they will be held accountable for ethnic cleansing. Mary Robinson said she would be looking specifically at abuses directed against women and families.
MARY ROBINSON: Meeting a number of families who have suffered terrible violations, families who have lost family members, who have witnessed directly family members being taken away, and they've not seen them again, their homes destroyed, their papers taken from them -
TOM BEARDEN: This morning, President Clinton had an emotional discussion with Kosovar refugees who are temporarily living in Germany. He urged them not to be bitter about their treatment.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: You will go home again in safety and in freedom. (Applause) When you have gone through something as awful as this, it is very easy to have your spirit broken, to spend the rest of your life obsessed with anger and resentment, but if you do that, you have already given those who oppress you a victory.
TOM BEARDEN: The President concluded his visit to Germany and returns to Washington tonight. The three former prisoners of war received purple hearts for the injuries they suffered during their capture last month. And late this afternoon, the Pentagon officially concluded that the soldiers were abducted from Macedonia, and had not strayed into Yugoslavia, as the Serbian government had claimed. In Fort Dix, New Jersey, one of the 453 refugees who landed last night gave birth to a brand-new American citizen today. The father says he wants to name the seven pound eight ounce boy, "America," but said he had to check with his wife first.