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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

GOP congressman returns from Belgrade

By Bob Franken/CNN

April 22, 1999
Web posted at: 6:23 p.m. EDT (2223 GMT)

WASHINGTON (April 22) -- Rep. Jim Saxton returned Wednesday night to Washington after a four-day trip to war-torn Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The New Jersey Republican traveled without approval from President Bill Clinton or his administration. Saxton attempted, but failed, to obtain the release of the three U.S. soldiers captured by Serbian forces along the Kosovo-Macedonia border.

Although it never materialized, at one point in his visit Yugoslav officials offered to allow Saxton to visit the prisoners. Saxton views the offer as a positive sign.

"We were disappointed that we couldn't see them, but what that means again is, that unless they are very good actors they were considering (doing) that -- which leads me to believe that if they were really considering it, then the individual soldiers must be in pretty good shape," Saxton said.

He did not meet with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, but he did talk with several high officials in his government, including the Foreign Minister Vukasin Jovanovic, legislative leader Yubisha Ristic and Deputy Prime Minister Duk Draskovic.

"They claim to be very heavily fortified, they said there is no question that a force ... that represents 590 million people can eventually wear down and defeat a force that represents 11 million people," Saxton said. But he said one official warned him, "you may eventually win, but you may be very surprised at what it takes to do so."

Saxton also spoke with others who warned of the Serbs' resolve.

Relating the story of one of his interpreters, Saxton said at one point during a conversation with a local mayor, the woman stopped translating and said, "I have always promoted Western culture in Yugoslavia ... I want you to know that the Yugoslav people will defend themselves with knives and forks if necessary."

Saxton readily admits he made his own arrangements with the Yugoslav government. When asked if he had any authorization from the U.S. administration Saxton answered: "None whatsoever ... I frankly knew or believed that if I discussed this with the administration, they would do whatever they had to do to keep me from going."

He did inform House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who, according to Saxton, merely asked him to 'be careful.'

And Saxton says he didn't worry that what he was doing could undermine the administration.

"I talked with the secretary of State this morning to report to her what I had learned there and she seemed to be very appreciative," Saxton said.


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President Bill Clinton speaks on Kosovo (4-28-99)


John King reports: Clinton says Yugoslav initiatives fall short, but still hoping for diplomatic breakthrough (5-4-99) video Windows Media: 28K | 80K

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Strike on Yugoslavia

The Conflict:

  • From TIME: The Kosovo Catastrophe: In Pictures
  • Kosovo Primer

    Message Board:

  • Your thoughts...


    Thursday, April 22, 1999

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