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Massacre in Kosovo is Europe's business; Serbia's challenge: Milosevic should be held to agreements, not allowed to start ethnic war.


NATO should hold Serbia's dictator, President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia, to his agreements. It is not his sovereign right to uproot Albanians from their homes in Serbia's Kosovo province, to order them killed or to replicate the massacres that forces under him committed in Croatia and Bosnia earlier in the decade.

Organized Europe is determined not to let Mr. Milosevic disturb the peace of the continent just to strengthen his grip on Serbia. That means not allowing him to start a war of nations on religious grounds, Orthodox Christian against Muslim, across southeastern Europe.

For that reason, the deal was struck that brought unarmed monitors from the 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to Kosovo. It is not for Mr. Milosevic to oust the group's leader, William Walker, a U.S. diplomat. It is not for Mr. Milosevic to have Serbian pathologists declare that the 45 Albanian shooting victims in Racak on Friday were not assassinated.

Nor is it for Mr. Milosevic to bar Louise Arbour, the Canadian chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, from investigating the Racak massacre. The U.N. Security Council assigned her to do so.

NATO may launch a punitive bombing raid on Serbia, after Mr. Milosevic slighted U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark, its commander in Europe, and German Gen. Klaus Naumann, when they went to reason with him. This would not be to avenge the dead of Racak. It would be to protect OSCE personnel and the authority of the U.N. Security Council and the international war crimes tribunal.

The number of people murdered at Racak is small compared with the 7,000 captives slaughtered in Srebrenica in Bosnia in 1995 by forces under Mr. Milosevic's chain of command. NATO has no desire to be a de facto ally of the secessionist Kosovo Liberation Army. But Mr. Milosevic should not overplay his hand based on that reluctance.

There are sound arguments for keeping Kosovo within sovereign Serbia, but Mr. Milosevic is destroying them. Under the late Communist dictator Tito, Kosovo was autonomous, with majority ethnic Albanians in charge. Mr. Milosevic destroyed that, and lives with the consequences.

He should restore the Kosovo majority's autonomy, not kill and displace and intimidate.

Pub Date: 1/21/99

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