Clinton’s visit to Camp Bondsteel in the southern town of Urosevac was the last stop in a tour of southeast Europe that also took him through Italy and Bulgaria.
Addressing a crowd of about 2,000 Kosovar schoolchildren and their parents, Clinton recalled the U.S. role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 78-day air campaign against Yugoslavia, whose Serb government forced hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians from their homes.
He urged Kosovars to remember the past, but to work for peace.
“You can never forget the injustice that was done to you,” Clinton said. “No one can force you to forgive what was done to you. But you must try.”
An 8th-grader introducing Clinton praised the U.S. for its role in the Kosovo conflict.
“You promised that you will bring us to our homes safe. You kept your promise,” he said.
Though the crowd gave Clinton a warm reception, his visit was preceded by a wave of negative press within Serbia.
The Serbian Socialists of Kosovo condemned the visit, saying Clinton is “only coming to this part of Serbia to encourage Albanian separatists and terrorists to continue their violence and terror and to commit new crimes.”
The party of Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic also characterized Clinton’s visit as the “arrival of the criminal at the scene of the crime,” a Yugoslav news agency reported.
Before leaving Kosovo, Clinton ate a pre-Thanksgiving meal with some of the 6,000 troops stationed at Camp Bondsteel. Referring to the ethnic diversity of the U.S. soldiers, Clinton said they could show ethnic Albanians and Serbs how to live together peacefully.
“The power of our weapons can win the military battle here in Kosovo,” Clinton said, “but the peace can only be won by the human heart.”
The president is expected to return to Washington Tuesday afternoon.