Annan calls for U.N. to lead peacemaking efforts
May 7, 1999
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- NATO should reassess the role it has played in the Balkans and let the United Nations lead peacemaking efforts, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday.
Annan praised the decision of the Group of Eight countries to seek U.N. approval of a multinational security contingent as part of a negotiated settlement of NATO's air war against Yugoslavia. The United Nations, not NATO, should make decisions about using force, Annan said.
"The Security Council should have primary responsibility for peace and security, and when it comes to the use of force, the council must be involved," he said.
In a question-and-answer session with contributors at CNN's World Report Conference, Annan said NATO countries' attempt, without U.N. backing, to force Yugoslavia to sign a peace agreement is not likely to lead the alliance into a role as a world police force.
"My own sense, and I could be wrong here, is that after what NATO has gone through in the Balkans, it is going to reassess its own approach. And I think it should," he said.
The G-8 countries -- which include the largest NATO powers and Russia -- agreed Thursday to seek the Security Council's blessing for an international contingent in the Serbian province of Kosovo.
While Annan praised the G-8 initiative, which incorporates the basics of the plan NATO wanted Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to sign, he warned that a quick resolution to the conflict was unlikely.
"We still have a long way to go. I cannot say that peace is around the corner," he said.
In an effort to find a solution to the Kosovo crisis, Annan has named former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt as one of two special envoys. Bildt will join Eduard Kukan, Slovakia's foreign minister, as U.N. representative to the Balkans.
Annan said his envoys will work with others, such as former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, to "pool our efforts" in search of a diplomatic solution. Chernomyrdin is expected to travel to Belgrade soon to discuss the G-8 offer.
The G-8 plan includes calls for:
Yugoslavia has said it would not accept an international military presence on its territory, just a lightly armed contingent. Annan said any force under the U.N. flag should be "so credible that no one would want to challenge it."
While the United Nations -- not NATO -- will attach its name to that detachment, NATO leaders insisted that their troops must form its core and leadership.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov joined his G-8 counterparts Thursday in Germany to endorse the new plan, but he emphasized Friday that it was only a first step toward ending the Yugoslav conflict. He repeated calls for a bombing halt as well.
"For now, it's a step in the right direction, but it's only a step," Ivanov said.
Russia maintains that Yugoslavia must approve of an international force, and Belgrade floated a proposal Thursday calling for a mix of soldiers from NATO countries, Russia and other nations.
"One has to act with respect, just as with any sovereign government," Ivanov said.
Yugoslav officials were said to be considering the offer. Milosevic met with a Greek delegation in Belgrade and was said to be pondering details of the G-8 formula, although he reportedly still objects to NATO being at the core of any Kosovo peacekeeping mission.
Vladislav Jovanovic, the Yugoslav representative to the United Nations, said the G-8 plan was a move in the right direction. But he was still critical of the document's call for a Yugoslav withdrawal from Kosovo.
"If we respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, no one could expect from us to evacuate entirely any part of our territory and to leave it in limbo to others to fill it," he said.
But Russia's support of the plan means Yugoslavia is increasingly isolated, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said Friday.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the "common ground" provided by the agreement is a plus for NATO.
"But it makes no difference to the fact that our bombing campaign goes on until our demands are met. The NATO demands are clear, and they must be met and met in full," Blair said.
NATO officials said Friday that the latest attacks hit hard at Yugoslav forces in Kosovo, but Yugoslavia said NATO bombs killed at least 10 civilians in the southern city of Nis.
Yugoslav officials said NATO struck a heating plant at a hospital in Nis overnight and hit a marketplace Friday morning, leaving 10 dead and 15 injured. Journalists at the scene reported seeing bodies among pockmarked cars and scattered pieces of produce.
In Brussels, NATO said it had attacked a radio relay station and an airfield in Nis but it had no indication that bombs also crashed on the hospital and marketplace.
"I've seen press reports on that. We are checking," NATO military spokesman Gen. Walter Jertz said.
"For sure I can tell you we did not target civilian hospitals. We do not target any civilian targets whatsoever. We will be very honest. If anything has gone wrong we will address it," the spokesman added.
Vice Adm. Ian Garnett, Britain's chief of joint operations, said the Yugoslav air force was now "singularly incapable of offering any effective defense" to NATO attacks.
NATO strikes hit 30 pieces of heavy military equipment in Kosovo, including seven tanks and 12 artillery pieces, Shea said. Airstrikes also focused on targets in 10 other locations, Shea said.
"By any standards, yesterday was a bad day for President Milosevic," Shea said Friday.
In Kosovo, Garnett said more than 300 Yugoslav army vehicles -- including tanks, troop carriers and trucks -- have been destroyed, along with 50 percent of the army's ammunition supply; 70 percent of its fuel stocks; and 31 bridges used as supply lines. In addition, he said half of the military's communications facilities have been destroyed.
No lull in bombing; Yugoslavia ponders peace plan
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
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