Belgrade Gets the Baghdad Treatment

Belgrade Gets the Baghdad Treatment

Belgrade Gets the Baghdad Treatment

What the foreign papers are saying.
April 4 1999 3:30 AM

Belgrade Gets the Baghdad Treatment

The lead story at most papers is that NATO has decided to begin bombing a wider range of government buildings, including some in downtown Belgrade. The Times of London runs the headline "Belgrade to get the 'Baghdad treatment.' " An editorial argues that airstrikes have been (and will continue to be) more effective at destroying the Serbian military than most people think. Nevertheless, the article concludes, if the strikes don't stop the atrocities in Kosovo within a "few days," ground troops should be sent in. Another editorial urges the United Kingdom to donate humanitarian supplies and eventually grant immigration visas to "our share" of the refugees.

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The Independent of London has posted a reporter on the border between Macedonia and Kosovo to interview the incoming flood of refugees. He writes:

The stories are too horrific to tell in detail. I heard of murder, rape, looting, and persistent abuse--by rifle-butt and boot. I heard of several hundred people hiding in a cave that once formed an old marble quarry, being taunted from outside by men firing machine-pistol volleys into the air. ...

There were a dozen, almost identical accounts of the operational technique of ethnic cleansing. First the roar of tanks coming down the valleys, then the sound of whistles being blown and the firing of automatic weapons, as the villages and hamlets that dot southern Kosovo ... are surrounded by regular soldiers who order the people to move.

Then come the hard men, often masked, who separate the important ones from the peasants. The peasants are forced south, taking only what they can carry, where they must brave further "checkpoints" in the form of armed robbers, before they reach the border. The "important ones" stay behind.

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The angry reporter complains that in the Macedonian capital, 15 miles away, NATO swells are eating "steak au poivre ... washed down with the fiery Macedonian wine." Meanwhile, no international agency has bothered to set up aid stations at the border to distribute hot porridge or first aid to the dehydrated and hypothermic refugees.

Most papers mention that three American servicemen were been captured by Serbian forces, though there are few details. The United States claims the men were in Macedonia when arrested; the Serbians say they had crossed the border into Serbia. A picture of the men--one with a badly bruised face--was displayed on Serbian TV and reproduced in newspapers around the world.

An article in the Moscow Times reports that Russia has sent a warship to the Mediterranean and is prepared to send six more. President Boris Yeltsin has promised not to intervene militarily in the Kosovo situation. Nevertheless, commenting on the ship movements, Yeltsin's defense minister ominously said, "The Defense Ministry is also considering more decisive actions that will be recommended to the leadership if the situation changes." Another article says that foreigners from NATO countries are feeling increasingly unsafe in Russia. The U.S. Embassy has been attacked, the windows of a restaurant called Uncle Sam's Café were smashed, and the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg urges Americans not to speak English too loudly on the street. The article interviews many Westerners who feel threatened, but none has been physically injured.

The Irish Times reports "speculation" that NATO is thinking about creating a "safe haven" in Kosovo. The area would be secured by ground troops. Amazingly, the article doesn't say who exactly is doing the "speculating." The news peg for the article is a visit to the Albania-Kosovo border by NATO's deputy commander.

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But the big news in Ireland is the peace negotiations between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. The latest news is that, after four days of negotiations, the two sides failed to agree on when the Irish Republican Army must disarm. Protestant leaders are refusing to share power with the IRA in Northern Ireland until the IRA disarms. IRA leaders want to create the coalition government before disarming. Talks will resume April 13.

Most Boring Headline Ever? "Capital Legislator Want More Facts on Daylight Savings Time" from Mexico's News. A close second is "Why Farm Sheep at All?" from the Falkland Islands' Penguin News.

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