The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.62/No.20           May 25, 1998 
Washington Pushes Through New Sanctions Against Belgrade  

Washington and four other imperialist governments approved a ban on investments in Serbia on May 9. The decision to impose new sanctions on Belgrade was announced at the meeting of the G-7 countries plus Russia that took place in Birmingham, England. The meeting included foreign ministers of the so-called Contact Group -made up of the governments of the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and Russia - that is supposed to oversee implementation of the Dayton accords. That was the agreement Washington forced the warring regimes in Yugoslavia to sign in 1995, setting the stage for the occupation of Bosnia by NATO troops.

The Contact Group has held three previous meetings, imposing an arms embargo on Yugoslavia and freezing Belgrade's assets abroad under the guise of supporting the struggle for national rights of Albanians in Kosova -formally a province of Serbia. Moscow, which okayed the arms embargo but balked at the freezing of assets, opposed the investment ban outright. The government of Japan, which attended the G-7 meeting, said it would study the measure. The governments of France, Germany, Italy, Canada, and the United Kingdom backed Washington on the new sanctions.

In their final communiqué, the foreign ministers of these countries, made clear that they support a measure of autonomy for Kosova within Serbia but not independence -the main demand of the Albanian majority there fighting against national oppression. UK foreign minister Robin Cook also stated that the Contact Group is opposed to the "terrorism" of Albanians in Kosova. He was referring to actions by the Kosova Liberation Army, known by its initials in Albanian as UCK, that has been waging a guerrilla struggle for independence.

The big-business press has been claiming that the UCK is getting aid from radical Muslim groups, as part of the imperialist propaganda campaign to smear those among Kosovar Albanians who do not abide by Washington's rules. "Radical foreign groups, some backed by Iran, are supplying arms to ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA)," said an article in the May 8 Financial Times of London. "According to western intelligence the KLA is being helped by pro- Iranian mujahideen groups which backed the Bosnian Moslems in the 1992-95 war in Bosnia. KLA access to a wider network could also enable it to open up other fronts, such as terrorism against Serb targets in Belgrade, one official warned."

Meanwhile, Washington dispatched to Belgrade Richard Holbrooke, a banker who was instrumental in crafting the Dayton accords, and U.S. envoy to the Balkans Robert Gelbard. The U.S. officials met with Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to reiterate their demand that Belgrade accept "foreign mediation" in talks with Kosovar Albanians on the province's status and to threaten a deeper intervention by Washington in the area. The Milosevic regime did not budge in its rejection of outside mediation in any negotiations, arguing the conflict in Kosova is an internal matter for Serbia.

NATO officials said in early May they were contemplating a joint exercise with Tirana's military in Albania. On May 7 an unnamed NATO official said the Atlantic military alliance, which is dominated by Washington, was also examining "a range of options that go beyond exercises," according to the Financial Times of London. The government of Albania has called for NATO to deploy troops at the Albania-Kosova border.

At the same time, the armed conflict in Kosova - where 90 percent of the population of 2.1 million are Albanians and 8 percent are Serbs - has intensified. The province has been ruled under a state of emergency since 1989 when Belgrade revoked Kosova's autonomous status.

On May 11 Albanian rebels attacked an armored police convoy on a hill overlooking the airport of Pristina, Kosova's capital, about eight miles from the city. No casualties were reported. Belgrade's forces killed at least 18 Albanians that day and the next in Smolice, a village of Gjakova, and in Klina, Rahovec, and Pristina - bringing the toll to well over 150 Albanians since February 28. That was when Serbian army and police forces launched a crackdown on Albanians demanding self-determination, killing 85 people in two assaults in the Drenica region near Pristina in less than a week. Belgrade's army has also continued a major buildup of troops, tanks, and artillery at the Kosova- Albanian border - claiming that "terrorists" are smuggling weapons for the UCK through that area.

In Pristina and elsewhere in Kosova, daily marches demanding an end to the terror by Belgrade, withdrawal of its special forces, and self-determination for the Albanian nationality have continued uninterrupted for a month. According to the Kosova Information Center, at least 100,000 marched in Pristina and tens of thousands in other cities throughout Kosova on May 9.  
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