This report in The Daily Telegraph on 10 October 1998 is a good example of the misinformation that was being spread at the time by politicians and others.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair refers to “carnage in Kosovo”. UN General Secretary Kofi Annan denounced “appalling atrocities”.
But, as we now know, there was not a shred of proof behind these allegations. Far more people were killed in Kosovo by NATO bombing than by fighting between Serbs and Albanians. There were no “appalling atrocities”.
Blair and Cook threaten Serbs
By Christopher Lockwood, Diplomatic Editor
TONY Blair made it clear yesterday that Britain “will not hesitate to use force” against Yugoslavia if the carnage in Kosovo continues.
The Prime Minister was briefed at Downing Street by Gen Sir Charles Guthrie, Chief of the Defence Staff, who told him that preparations for possible action were nearing completion.
Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, said after a hastily convened Cabinet committee meeting: “We are getting ready for Nato action and later this week we will expect a decision to be taken.” President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia had “only a few days to listen to the international community”.
The United Nations also stood on the brink of authorising air strikes against the Serbs, as a report by the Secretary General, Kofi Annan, denounced the “appalling atrocities” in Kosovo. But the report stopped short of formally declaring Mr Milosevic to be in material breach of Resolution 1199, which 12 days ago demanded an immediate ceasefire, peace talks and the free movement of aid.
Had Mr Annan done that, the way to a new resolution, authorising the UN to force Mr Milosevic into compliance using “all necessary means” – the formula used in the Gulf war – would have been clear.
Mr Annan’s report said that the humanitarian situation in Kosovo was deteriorating rapidly. The report said: “In the last few weeks the international community has witnessed appalling atrocities in Kosovo, reminiscent of the recent past elsewhere in the Balkans. It is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that the great majority of such acts have been committed by security forces in Kosovo acting under the authority of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.”
But Mr Annan said he did not “have the means necessary to provide an independent assessment of compliance, as required by the Security Council”. He suggested that its 15 members might want to make their “own judgment in this respect”. This will happen at a meeting today.
Britain, which is chairing the Security Council, was in no doubt last night that Mr Milosevic had failed to meet his obligations. A senior source said: “Anyone who believes that he is moving towards compliance is deluding himself.” America takes the same view. The US special envoy Richard Holbrooke, who arrived in Belgrade for urgent talks last night, said: “We hope to make clear to President Milosevic and the people of Yugoslavia the extreme gravity of the situation.”
Mr Holbrooke met the Nato Secretary General, Javier Solana, and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Wesley K Clark, in Brussels earlier. He said they told him that “significant military forces, regular forces and military uniformed police remain in Kosovo”.
Any UN decision to use force will have to overcome the risk of a Russian or Chinese veto. Russia was stepping up its efforts to avert a showdown with Mr Milosevic who, as a Slav and a barely-reformed communist, holds some residual appeal for Russian nationalists.
When the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, and defence minister, Igor Sergeyev, met Mr Milosevic on Sunday, they told him that air strikes could occur “if decisive measures are not immediately taken for a radical improvement of the situation”, according to a Russian spokesman.
To avoid such an attack, the Serbs must end the hostilities, withdraw their forces, take urgent measures to overcome the humanitarian crisis and take part in peace talks, the spokesman said. However, a contradictory note was struck by Mr Sergeyev, who said that any Nato attack on Yugoslavia “would mean a retreat to the Cold War” and would sabotage attempts to get the Start-2 nuclear arms reduction treaty ratified.
President Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro, Yugoslavia’s other republic, called on Mr Milosevic to accept demands for peace “to avert a clash with the whole world, which we are bound to lose”.