Parliament: Kosovo massacre: Send troops to Kosovo, say Labour MPs

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The Independent Online
DEMANDS FOR the Government to send peace-keeping forces into the war-torn province of Kosovo increased yesterday as Robin Cook said he was "shocked and repelled" by last Friday's massacre of 45 ethnic Albanians.

Ann Clwyd, the MP for Cynon Valley and long-standing human rights campaigner, led concerns, saying the West had been patient for long enough and sooner or later ground troops would have to go in.

Similarly, Martin Bell, the former BBC war correspondent and MP for Tatton, warned the time was approaching for the Government to decide whether to "stay all the way out" or "get all the way in".

"We either say to ourselves, `This is a faraway country of which we know little and care less,' and let them kill each other to the last drop of blood, or else with ... our allies we seriously prepare an active intervention force," he said.

David Winnick, the Labour MP for Walsall North, added: "Is it not time to stop giving warnings to Belgrade but to act along military lines and to bomb Serbian military installations?"

But, in a statement to the Commons after the massacre in the Kosovo village of Racak, the Foreign Secretary said he would be "very hesitant" to commit ground troops unless there was a "clear commitment" on both sides to reaching a political agreement.

"We contribute aircraft to the air verification mission, we contribute the second largest national contingent to the Kosovo Verification Mission on the ground.

"We cannot commit additional resources without knowing that both sides are committed to an outcome."

However, he reminded MPs the threat of Nato air strikes against the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, in November was "only suspended because of his agreement to cease fire, to withdraw part of his military units in Kosovo and to return the rest to barracks. Calling for an International War Crimes Tribunal investigation into last Friday's "appalling massacre", he added that neither side in the conflict could win the war. Political dialogue was the only way to restore stability to the region.

"It is simply not credible that those who were killed were the casualties of a military conflict. The eye-witness accounts of international observers make it only too clear that they were murdered. In any common sense understanding of the term, this was a war crime.

"To bring those responsible to justice would be the most fitting response to this atrocity," he maintained.

While the Kosovo Liberation Army, which until this weekend had been responsible for more deaths than the security forces, must "stop undermining the ceasefire and blocking political dialogue" Belgrade could not end the conflict by "atrocities such as we saw this weekend", the Foreign Secretary insisted.

Michael Howard, the shadow Foreign Secretary, backed demands for the murderers to be put on trial by international war crimes investigators.