|KEEPING THE PEACE|
June 17, 1999
JIM LEHRER: Making peace in Kosovo. Again, Tom Bearden first updates the day's developments.
TOM BEARDEN: British troops have cordoned off a five-story building they believe was a Serb-run torture center in the Kosovo capital of Pristina.
GEOFF HOON, British Foreign Office Minister: The British forces have found knives, rubber and wooden batons, baseball bats with Serb slogans carved into them, a wooden crate full of knuckle dusters, savage pornography and drugs, presumably used to sedate victims. The most chilling point about this building is that it does not appear to have been a special holding center for the Serb forces' victims. It seems to have been no more than an ordinary police headquarters. In other words, the barbaric acts carried out in this building were probably almost a matter of routine. We can expect similar discoveries elsewhere as NATO forces bring peace to Kosovo.
TOM BEARDEN: The Foreign Office said well over 10,000 people may have been killed in some 100 massacres by Serb security forces during the conflict. Other evidence of atrocities continues to emerge. Residents of the Village of Caraluk say 26 people were shot and their bodies burned in this house; 22 were from the same family. War crimes investigators were collecting evidence in Lukare, where 40 or 50 people are believed buried. There is concern that important forensic evidence may be lost as Albanian refugees return to their homes and begin laying their loved ones to rest.
PAUL RISLEY, War Crimes Investigator: The important and urgency that we face right now is to gather up surface evidence of these massacres where they occurred-the spent shell casings, articles of clothing, pieces of papers, pieces of identity documents that may be lying around at the sites of these sort of war crimes. For those sort of purposes and that sort of evidence our investigators must get to those sites as quickly as possible. There is a window that is rapidly closing between now as KFOR secure these sites, and when the refugees begin coming home in earnest, and when frankly, journalists and other parties learn of sites and begin picking up souvenirs, if you will, at the sites.
TOM BEARDEN: And return they are, by the tens of thousands. Border crossings and roadways are jammed. The Pentagon estimates that about 32,000 people have flooded back into Kosovo this week. Relief agencies are calling for help because of the risk of mines and booby traps left behind by retreating Serb forces.
SHAIP MUJA, Medical Coordinator, Provisional Kosovo Government: (speaking through interpreter) We quickly need more medical supplies because we have suffered many wounded by land mines. The land mines are spread all over the area. Yesterday, three children were killed.
TOM BEARDEN: Serb civilians jammed the bus station in Pristina, frantically trying to leave Kosovo, even as busloads of Albanian Kosovars began to arrive
SPOKESMAN: I believe that now the Serbian soldiers are gone, the Serbian people are getting pretty scared, so they are going ahead and moving out.
TOM BEARDEN: Tens of thousands of Serbs are fleeing Kosovo fearing reprisals, despite pleas from KFOR to remain.
LT. COL. ROBIN CLIFFORD: We asked them not to go. There is no reason for any of them to go. We are here to protect them as well.
TOM BEARDEN: In Helsinki, Finland, talks between Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Russian Defense Minister Igor Surgeyev over the Russian role in Kosovo continued for a second day. The sticking points: Russia wants its own sector to patrol and will not put its troops under NATO command.
WILLIAM COHEN, Secretary of Defense: I think we've made it very clear what needs to be done and we'll see if we can work out some creative arrangement, whereby the Russians can be integrated into the peacekeeping mission consistent with having a single integrated command structure. That's what we're working on now.
TOM BEARDEN: The U.S. doesn't want a Russian sector out of fear that it would be a de facto partition of Kosovo. But Russian President Boris Yeltsin was adamant.
BORIS YELTSIN: (speaking through interpreter) The majority of the questions went by peace offer. But one question that I would call the main one remains the sector. They don't want to give Russia a sector. I warned them to immediately go back and tell them that you've informed the President and the President's categorically opposed to that.
TOM BEARDEN: President Clinton arrived in France for talks with French President Jacques Chirac. He said that given the unreliable track record of President Slobodan Milosevic, the peace plan would work only with military forces on the ground, but he said NATO was not in a position to act on the United Nations' tribunal's indictment of Milosevic for war crimes.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I do not believe that the NATO allies can invade Belgrade to try to deliver the indictment, if you will, and I don't think we should be -- that does not mean that this is not an important thing or that there won't someday be a trial. But we need to focus on our obligations, our fundamental humanitarian obligations to get the Kosovars home and to continue to uncover whatever evidence of war crimes there is in Kosovo as well.
TOM BEARDEN: Serb forces returning to Yugoslavia from Kosovo received a warm welcome in the town of Kraljevo this morning. People lined the streets to greet the soldiers, who waved flags and rifles.