Tags: Powell | Says | U.S. | Won't | Leave | Balkans

Powell Says U.S. Won't Leave Balkans

Wednesday, 11 April 2001 12:00 AM

"Yes, yes and yes," Powell said during a news conference when asked about U.S. willingness to stay in the region.

"We came in together, and we will go out together," Powell said of the European and U.S. troops participating in NATO "peacekeeping" in the region. "So yes, we are committed."

Powell said that Washington had already reduced the number of U.S. troops in the Balkans and that troop levels were under constant review, but "there is no end point, we have established no time by which U.S. troops have to be out."

Powell's remarks followed a Paris meeting with Russian and European counterparts on the turbulent situation in the Balkans. Formed in 1994, the six-nation contact group aims to consolidate peace in the region.

In a statement after Wednesday's talks, the foreign ministers denounced the fighting by Albanian separatists in Kosovo and Macedonia and said Macedonia's "territorial integrity and sovereignty must be respected." They also called for a peaceful solution to the conflict in southern Serbia and for elections in Kosovo this year.

"We hope this message of clarity, homogeneity is clearly heard ... by all the countries and by all the political forces in the region," said French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine. "And that everyone understands that it is completely useless to set one country against another, or one policy against another.

"One can say there is a real coherence in the international community to resolve the Balkans problems so these countries all know peace, stability, development."

The Balkans meeting comes at a particularly delicate time for the region. Former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic has been arrested for national offenses, but Belgrade has so far resisted calls by the United States and Europe that he be tried at the international tribunal in The Hague for crimes against humanity.

In Bosnia, the country's Croat politicians are threatening to back out of a fragile federation. Meanwhile, Macedonia and the Serbian province of Kosovo have been rocked by clashes against the area's ethnic Albanians. And Montenegro's President Milo Djukanovic continues to press for independence from Serbia - a move that would finally dissolve Yugoslavia, now composed only of Serbia and Montenegro.

But the Paris statement said the Contact Group members instead backed "a democratic Montenegro within a democratic Yugoslavia."

"It's the solution that appears to be the best, and it's the one we support," Vedrine said. "That means we don't support any other."

In his remarks to reporters, Powell expressed confidence that Milosevic would eventually be tried in The Hague.

"I don't know when Mr. Milosevic will be handed over," Powell said. "I believe he will ultimately be handed over, because I believe that Serbia and Yugoslavia realize that at the end of the day, they must comply with the will of the international community with respect to international justice."

Earlier Wednesday, Powell met with French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in his first visit to Paris as U.S. secretary of state. He is to meet this morning with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Paris before heading to the Balkans.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Yes, yes and yes, Powell said during a news conference when asked about U.S. willingness to stay in the region. We came in together, and we will go out together, Powell said of the European and U.S. troops participating in NATO peacekeeping in the region. So yes, we...
Wednesday, 11 April 2001 12:00 AM
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