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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Op-Ed on the Crisis in Kosovo in Diario Las Americas
Miami, Florida, April 4, 1999
U.S. Department of State

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Last week, the United States and its NATO allies began a military campaign to reduce President Milosevic's ability to make war on the people of Kosovo.

After European and American mediation efforts had foundered on Belgrade's intransigence, and as President Milosevic set in motion a strategy of violence and ethnic cleansing, a NATO operation was the Euro-Atlantic Community's last option to oppose killing, terror and instability in our midst.

For more than a year Kosovo has been visited by destruction and death. Fear and flight have become a daily reality. Too many people have died and too many hopes have been squandered.

We could not sit idly by while security forces were used to commit atrocities against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.

There are terrible reports about men being separated from women and children, then being taken off and executed; of villages being torched; of people arriving across the border, in the snow, with no shoes. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are pouring into the neighboring countries of Albania, Macedonia, Hungary and Montenegro.

This is not just oppression. It is barbarism.

Our objective in Kosovo is to stop the killing and achieve a durable peace that prevents further repression and provides for democratic self-government for the Kosovar people.

For ten years, the international community has tried to resolve the crisis without military action. For the last six months, Americans, Russians and Europeans worked together to seek a negotiated solution.

That process produced the Rambouillet Accords, an interim agreement designed to provide democratic self-government, peace and security for everyone living in Kosovo.

This plan would help build democracy and protect the rights of everyone in Kosovo. Kosovo's status would remain unchanged . And a NATO-led force would protect both Serb and Albanian civilians.

Tragically, Serb leaders rejected the agreement, renewed the campaign of terror in Kosovo, and forced NATO to begin airstrikes.

It is now clear that as the Kosovar leaders were saying yes to peace at Rambouillet, Mr. Milosevic was planning a new campaign of expulsions and executions in Kosovo. He started carrying out that plan as the talks ended, increasing our sense of urgency that the air strikes NATO had threatened for some time must begin.

NATO's objective is not to harm innocent Serbs, but to stop the attacks in Kosovo.

The United States and our partners in the international community have tried everything to bring about a peaceful solution that protects the legitimate rights of all Kosovo's people. We pressed Belgrade to end its offensive actions in Kosovo and urged both sides to refrain from using force and stop targeting innocent civilians. But the continued brutality and repression by the Serb forces further underscores the need for NATO to persevere.

Seeing democracy established across all of Europe -- as well as in Asia, Africa and the Americas -- matters very much when we seek partners in promoting peace and freedom around the world. And fighting for justice matters tremendously to our chances of bequeathing safer, freer, better lives for our children.

[End of Document]

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