Monday, April 5, 1999

Firstly, it is important to recognise that the primary responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo rests firmly with President Milosevic and the thugs who have supported him in carrying out criminal acts against the Albanian population of the province. People's understandable concerns about NATO's actions must not be allowed to deflect attention from his guilt.

The abuse of human rights in Kosovo cannot be tolerated, and the protection of ethnic Albanians must be secured. But I believe that NATO has embarked upon a high risk and dangerous strategy.

Bombing Serbia cannot solve the humanitarian crisis in Kosovo, only exacerbate it, as events in recent days have demonstrated. I cannot and do not support the bombing of civilians. The Serbian people as a whole should not be punished for the actions of their leaders. But I share the views of Ken Livingstone - the only difference between Milosevic and Hitler is that whilst Hitler murdered the Jews, Milosevic is murdering Muslims.

I am also concerned that this military action was undertaken without the full support of the United Nations. Although the action has not been condemned by the United Nations Security Council, the relationship between NATO and the UN has been undermined.

As a member of the Human Rights Committee of the Council of Europe, I spent most of last week in discussions with other members talking to people who could influence the outcome of this terrible conflict. (This included an audience with the Pope, who condemned both Serbian atrocities and the NATO bombing).

The crisis in Kosovo, like the earlier conflict in Bosnia, show that war, violence and ethnic cleansing remain possible in Europe. Our ability to handle these crises effectively is weakened by our dependence on the United States to guarantee our security. If Europe is to be able to take effective action ourselves in the face of threats to peace, then we will need to look at a pan-European security force based on the Western European Union rather than on NATO.

Whilst the influence of individual Members of Parliament is limited, I shall continue to lobby for a peaceful and diplomatic solution to this crisis which seeks to avoid further violence whilst ensuring that criminal aggression and ethnic cleansing are not allowed to succeed.

Christine Mccafferty, MP

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