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Yugoslavia: Ranieri: "Sanctions were of no use"

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by Marco Berti

Eight months ago NATO declared war on the Milosevic regime. It did so in order to put an end to the ethnic-cleansing being conducted by Belgrade against the ethnic Albanian Kosovars. This objective was achieved, but Milosevic is still firmly in control in Serbia. Belgrade is in chaos and another wave of persecution is taking place in Kosovo, albeit on a lesser scale than before, perpetrated this time by the Albanians against the Serbs. "It became inevitable", comments the under-secretary for foreign affairs Umberto Ranieri, "to resort to war, because Milosevic refused to accept any proposal for a peaceful solution".

Q. Right honourable Ranieri, can we say for sure, now that it is over, that the war was of any use?

A. "The war put an end to an ethnic-cleansing campaign that had been going on for months. Hundreds and thousands of men, women and children were wandering around Kosovo on the run from the Serbian special police. Right up to the last minute, we tried to avoid the use of force, but Belgrade was intractable. I think that the authorities in Belgrade still owe the Serbs an account for having preferred destruction rather than a settlement in Rambouillet under which they would have gained far more than what they obtained with the war".

Q. But now in Kosovo more persecution is taking place, in the opposite direction this time, plus clashes between conflicting factions and instability that the peace-keeping forces are having trouble controlling.

A. "The UN resolution 1244 that put an end to the military operations must be implemented in its entirety, in particular with regard to the points laying down the respect of coexistence between the different ethnic groups. We cannot accept the idea of a Kosovo reduced to a mono-ethnic region. The rights of all minorities must be respected, including the Serbs and the Roms, who have been the victims, since the end of the war, of violence and vendettas by the Albanian community. The KFOR and the international police force are even obliged to use force, if necessary, to make sure their rights are respected. Work must also be done towards organising local elections. To do so the Serbs who have fled must be enabled to return. Moreover, power must be entrusted to the most balanced local forces, such as the movement led by Ibrahim Rugova".

Q. Will Belgrade sooner or later have to return to normality too?

A. "What we propose is to lift the sanctions adopted by the international community against the Milosevic regime. Sanctions only make the living conditions of the citizens worse and do not harm the regime. At the same time elections must be called and held under the control of international organisations. It is important too for the opposition forces to adopt a common platform".