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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test