- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2000

Impatient on Kosovo

The Senate is losing patience with President Clinton's policy on Kosovo, even though it refused to force the White House to withdraw troops from the region, Sen. Gordon H. Smith told the administrations' Kosovo envoy Thursday.

The Oregon Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations' European subcommittee warned Ambassador James W. Pardew Jr. that "our ability to keep support" in the Senate "is not indefinite."

The Senate, on a vote of 53-47, last month rejected a proposal to force Mr. Clinton to withdraw troops from Kosovo unless Congress authorizes their continued deployment.

Mr. Smith Thursday urged the administration to endorse independence for Kosovo, widely supported by the ethnic-Albanian majority, but opposed by the Serbian minority.

Lately, Kosovo has been gripped by Albanian violence against Serbs, often in retaliation for Serbian atrocities that prompted NATO attacks a year ago.

Mr. Pardew, in testimony before the subcommittee, repeated the administration's goal of establishing autonomy for Kosovo within Yugoslavia.

However, he added, "it's impossible" to develop a "final status" for Kosovo as long as Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic remains the Yugoslav president.

"We are working with our allies in Europe … to undermine the Milosevic regime and to promote those forces that support democracy," Mr. Pardew said.

Mr. Smith dismissed the administration's policy as ineffective.

"The Serbs want Kosovo on their terms and the Albanians want independence from the Serbs," he said.

Mr. Pardew said the administration continues "to believe that some appropriate relationship with [Yugoslavia], yet to be defined, is better than independence."

Chechen angers Russia

The Russian Foreign Ministry has protested to U.S. Ambassador James Collins about the visit to Washington this week of Ilias Akhmadov, the self-styled foreign minister of Chechnya.

Meanwhile, in Washington, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms met with Mr. Akhmadov and criticized the Clinton administration for refusing to talk to the Chechen envoy about a proposed peace plan.

The Foreign Ministry complained on Tuesday to Mr. Collins that Mr. Akhmadov's visit violates an agreement signed last week by President Clinton and Russian President Vladimir Putin to fight terrorism and extremism.

Russia has rejected the Chechen peace proposal, which called for a withdrawal of Russian troops that started an offensive in October, access for humanitarian-aid agencies and an international committee to examine suspected war crimes.

"It's well-known which separatist initiative is acceptable to Russia surrender," Russian spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told reporters in Moscow.

In Washington, Mr. Helms blasted the administration for its "empty and weak rhetoric" in statements against Russia's campaign in Chechnya.

"I am dismayed by the refusal of Secretary of State [Madeleine K.] Albright and other senior government officials to meet with Mr. Akhmadov," the North Carolina Republican said.

"A meeting to discuss a legitimate peace proposal would not constitute a de facto recognition of Chechen independence."

Mr. Helms called the Chechen proposal "a framework for peace that deserves close consideration by Russia and the international community."

Hearings, hearings

The future of Lebanon and the proposed international criminal court will come up in separate hearings next week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Edward S. Walker, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, will testify on Lebanon Wednesday before the Near Eastern and South Asian subcommittee at 10 a.m.

The same day at 3:30 p.m., committee Chairman Jesse Helms will hear from former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and former U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick on how to protect U.S. troops and officials from prosecution before the proposed criminal court.

Both hearings are scheduled for Room 419 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

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