EU chief backs US criticisms over Kosovo

A SENIOR European Union official yesterday fuelled a transatlantic row over the world's response to the crisis in Kosovo, saying she backed American criticism of European inaction.

Emma Bonino, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid, said she "agreed" with Christopher Hill, the US envoy to Kosovo, who at the weekend said Europeans were fiddling while Kosovo burned.

Mr Hill accused Western European governments of being so absorbed in plans for a single currency that they had failed to intervene to stop the bloodshed in their backyard.

The transatlantic divisions worsened as the Austrian presidency of the EU said it was preparing to lodge a formal protest with the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in response to Mr Hill's remarks.

But Ms Bonino, who visited the Serbian province recently, is said by her officials to be dismayed at Europe's failure to halt the "ethnic cleansing" of the province's Albanian majority by the Serbs.

"She feels embarrassed that this has had to come from the mouth of an American but she shares Mr Hill's concern," sources close to Ms Bonino said. "She fears we are reliving the nightmare of Bosnia all over again."

The commissioner last week warned of a humanitarian catastrophe by the winter if the Serbian military campaign against the Albanian uprising in Kosovo continues.

The EU's humanitarian aid wing, led by Ms Bonino, is trying to channel aid to the refugees but access has been limited by Serbia's refusal to

co-operate with aid agencies on the ground.

With the international community in disarray over Kosovo, European governments seem resigned to a policy of caution on the war, while attempting to mop up the refugee crisis it is causing.

Yesterday two senior American envoys in Serbia, John Shattuck and Robert Dole, tried without success to put pressure on the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic.

After a meeting with Mr Milosevic, Mr Dole, a former US presidential candidate, accused the Serbs of "waging war against civilians for political purposes".

Mr Milosevic tossed his visitors a conciliatory bone by saying representatives of the International Red Cross could visit Albanians detained by the Serbian military and police. But he refused calls for an independent investigation into atrocities in the province.

His office indicated he had no intention of stopping his crackdown. His spokesman said Albanian "terrorism in Kosovo will be suppressed and eliminated", and called for international condemnation of the KLA rebels.

Fears have been growing about the fate of numerous male Albanians who have been separated from columns of refugees and taken away by the Serbs. In the war in Bosnia in 1992-5, the Serbs frequently separated Muslim and Croat families in this way, and thousands were never seen again.

In an apparent effort to avoid some of the international criticism, Mr Milosevic's security forces were reported to have released about 500 men taken captive in the latest offensive.

Kris Janowski, spokesman in Geneva for the United Nations' refugee body, the UNHCR, talked of a "major disaster" on the way in Kosovo. He said that funds for humanitarian aid are urgently needed but was pessimistic about the prospects.

Around 15 per cent of Kosovo's two million population are reckoned to have been forced out of their homes, and Mr Janowski warned: "We're running out of time. Winter is just around the corner."

The pressures have already spilled beyond Kosovo. Tiny neighbouring Montenegro, junior and increasingly restless partner in Mr Milosevic's rump Yugoslav federation, has received around 40,000 refugees in recent months. In addition, tens of thousands are still hiding in the woods, afraid to return home. Around 120 villages have been destroyed.

Despite the talk of mass graves, there is as yet no documented evidence of events comparable to the massacre of civilians in Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia in 1995.

One human rights observer who visited the site of an alleged mass grave in the town of Orahovac in central Kosovo said that the number of those who died was probably closer to 100 than to the 600 claimed by the Albanians.

Many of the Albanian civilians who died appear to have been shot as they attempted to flee the town when it was retaken by Serb forces from the Albanian guerrilla force, the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Another tragedy: Review, page 4

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power