Succumbing to Albright -

Euro humanitarians extend sanctions as Yugoslav neighbors freeze

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by Diana Johnstone

  • BELGRADE - Snow-bound Serbia introduced on Tuesday sporadic power cuts and urged the nation to cut energy consumption to avoid a collapse of its strained grid as outside temperatures sank to -20 degrees Celsius. The freezing spell came only two days after blizzards swept across the country blocking roads and cutting off many villages. (Reuters 1/25/00)

On January 25, in the first month of this new humanitarian millennium, the inhabitants of Serbia were snowbound and freezing after blizzards swept the country and temperatures plunged to minus 20 degrees Celsius. Serbia's power grid, one third destroyed or damaged by NATO's bombing campaign, was unable to meet the demand for domestic heating. Repeated two-hour power cuts were introduced to prevent breakdown. The situation was reportedly critical in the central Serbian towns of Kraljevo and Kragujevac, once the site of Yugoslavia's proud modern automobile industry, wiped out by NATO bombs, leaving the population jobless and destitute. "There are no fuel reserves. We can only pray the skies have mercy on us", a senior Serbian oil company executive told Reuters news agency. Meanwhile, nearby, on earth, mercy was not on the agenda. On the very same day that temperatures were plunging to record lows in Serbia, European Union foreign ministers met in Brussels to decide whether to agree to a partial lifting of the sanctions, as requested by Italy, Germany, France and Greece. This could have allowed export to Serbia of such necessities as heating oil, medicines and items needed to repair vital civilian infrastructure. Most of the Europeans also wanted to end the ban on airline flights to Belgrade. But not all the Europeans let sentimental humanitarian considerations interfere with the humanitarian necessity of keeping up the torture of the Yugoslav people. Having still failed to practice democracy as dictated by Washington and London, the Serbs clearly require more lessons. The United States' most faithful European followers, Britain and the Netherlands, kept a stiff upper lip and vetoed the soft-hearted proposal of their EU partners to ease sanctions. "The sanctions will continue", the Foreign Office declared. "We believe that there will be no peace in the region so long as Milosevic is still President." As for "peace in the region", in recent days there have been mounting reports of armed ethnic Albanian incursions across the border from Kosovo into Southern Serbia. On January 18, the Muslim principal of the Muhovac village elementary school, near the city of Vranje in Southeastern Serbia, was assassinated in a hail of machinegun fire. The educator, Chemalj Mustafi, was vice president of the local branch of the Socialist Party of Serbia (Milosevic' party). There were other reports of mortars fired at police posts. The Kosovo Liberation Army, like other Albanian nationalists, demand the inclusion of more parts of Southern Serbia as well as Kosovo into a future Greater Albania.

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The independent Italian left daily newspaper "Il Manifesto" published the following comment on January 27, 2000:

TO DIE OF EMBARGO by Loris Campetti (Excerpts)

After the first undeclared war against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, NATO with the support of the European Union and thus of Italy has initiated a second war, this time declared. The old people and the children who are dying of cold and sickness only a short distance from our homes are not victims of the harshest of Balkan winters -- it is we in the West who are killing them with the embargo. Try to imagine what it means for a citizen of Belgrade to spend the night at 14 degrees below zero without heating because the sanctions prevent deliveries of fuel oil, without light because the electric power plants were bombed and are still closed for lack of fuel, without medicine because Serbia is the evil empire and its inhabitants are demons, their sin is deadly and deadly must be the punishment...

Serbia's roads are covered with three feet of snow, the means of transport are stuck in depots, stations, airports. The schools are closed. In your opinion, how do they feel, those hundreds of thousands of Serbs and Roma driven out of Kosovo for being Serbs or Roma, who have disappeared into freezing refugee camps in Serbia, huddled under plastic tents or in bombed-out factories. [...] Italy is not happy with this, but perfidious Albion pounded its shoe on the table and then what are you to do? patience, and wait till the next time. The Italians are so sensitive that they would have liked to come to the aid of some Serbs, at least those who live in cities administrated by the opposition (they others can be patient), but the English didn't want to. What can you do? patience, wait till next time. Let's put ourselves in the place of those old people and those children abandoned at 15 or 20 degrees below zero for whom there will not be a next time. What we are saying is that patience is at an end, and ours as well. We want to say to the knights of humanitarian intervention...humanitarian intervention, today, means saving the Serbian people and the Roma people. And what about you, Mr. Dini?

[ Note: Lamberto Dini is Italian foreign minister. ]

***

You who have tears, shed them. You who have a heart, act.

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