Letter: Kosovo shame

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your leading article (1 October) rightly highlights the lamentable response of the international community to the unfolding tragedy in Kosovo.

The reaction to the catalogue of atrocities by Serbian forces has been a lethal mixture of bluster, indecision and prevarication. Only now does it seem that military action may be taken.

You are wrong, though, to implicate both political parties in your criticisms.

As long ago as March I called for wider economic sanctions if Serbia did not abide by the terms then laid down. At the same time I emphasised the need for unimpeded access for international monitors. The events of the weekend highlight just how important such access was.

And it is nearly four months since I made it clear that those charged with implementing decisions should be given the political and military support necessary to carry out their tasks. Clearly this did not happen.

In June the Foreign Secretary gave Milosevic his "last warning". Since then, we were told repeatedly that Nato was preparing "contingency plans". Yet absolutely nothing was done.

In July, I challenged the Foreign Secretary once again. I was told that the reason for our inaction was that President Milosevic "has not returned to the major military offensive" he was conducting at the start of June. A major military offensive was launched shortly afterwards.

Two months later, the Government even had to be dragged against its will to introduce an immediate ban on Serbian aircraft. Its earlier assurances that it had done so were shown to be false. It claimed that there were legal reasons requiring a year's notice. Yet after I and others expressed outrage at this decision, the legal reasons mysteriously vanished and the ban was at last implemented.

Incredibly, the Foreign Secretary told BBC radio today [1 October] that it was "beginning to look" as if Milosevic only listened to the threat of force.

Is this something that Robin Cook has only just realised? Why was this lesson not clear from day one of the conflict in Kosovo? Indeed, was the genocide in Bosnia not sufficient grounds for drawing such a conclusion about this man?

Now, at last, Nato appears to be preparing for air-strikes. Alas, it will almost certainly be too little, too late. Far from being an example of an "ethical foreign policy", the Government's record on Kosovo is a stain on the reputation of Britain.

MICHAEL HOWARD MP

Shadow Foreign Secretary

Conservative Central Office

London SW1

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