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Voice of America, 00-06-20

Voice of America: Selected Articles Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Voice of America <gopher://>





    INTRO: More than 200-thousand Kosovo Serbs are now living in Montenegro and Serbia after fleeing their homes in fear of revenge attacks by ethnic Albanians. And a recent upsurge in violence against Serbs has hampered efforts by the United Nations and NATO-led peacekeepers in Kosovo to encourage them to return to their homes. V-O-A Correspondent Eve Conant visited Kosovo's central Slivovo valley, where a few Serb families have come back to find their homes destroyed and their villages empty.

    TEXT: It has been more than one year since NATO-led peacekeepers replaced the Yugoslav army in Kosovo. An unintended consequence of the military action was that it drove out Kosovo's Serb population. As ethnic Albanians abandoned the refugee camps of Macedonia and Albania to return to their homes, the Serb families who had been living in Kosovo could be seen driving north -- out of Kosovo and away from the attacks they feared awaited them if they stayed. It is now one year later and the United Nations mission in Kosovo and peacekeeping troops are trying to encourage the Serbs to come back home. But an increasing number of attacks against Serbs and the security risk that faces those Serbs who dare to venture out from their heavily guarded enclaves is making the U-N's hopes of building a "multi-ethnic state" in Kosovo look naive. U-N representative Susan Manuel says she is distressed by the mounting violence against Serbs.

    /// MANUEL ACT ///

    A lot of people (Serbs) want to come back. There's some 210-thousand registered Kosovo Serbs in Serbia and Montenegro, but we're cautioning them that the security and other conditions have to be right first.

    /// END ACT ///

    Kosovo's Slivovo Valley, just one-half hour's drive from the capital, Pristina, was once a country side dotted both Serb and Albanian farming villages. The houses -- those that have not been destroyed -- are wooden with thatch roofs. Bales of hay and fields of blue and yellow wildflowers are all the eye can see in any direction. The villages that once housed ethnic Albanian families are thriving, those where the Serbs once lived stand empty. A peacekeeping officer, Lieutenant Douglas Soulsby, displays a map of the valley and explains how he and his men are trying to provide the security needed to encourage the rest of the Serb families to come back home.

    /// SOULSBY ACT ///

    The green areas mark Albanian areas. The red marks Serb areas. The hash marks indicate inhabited areas, the empty circles indicate uninhabited areas.

    /// END ACT ///

    The map is filled with red, empty circles -- villages the Serbs are afraid to return to. There is one village that is now inhabited, although only as of one week ago and only partially lived in. A winding dirt road leads to the valley where the village is tucked away. The homes here have been burned and looted by ethnic Albanians -- revenge for the damage done to their own homes by Serbs during the NATO airs-strikes. The citizens of this village are just two Serb men who sleep in the same destroyed house at night because they are afraid to sleep alone. This day, only one of the men is home, a 61-year old Serb man whose only company is a tiny transistor radio propped up in an empty window frame.


    He says he is lonely here in this empty village.
    I am afraid to be alone in my house. I am living here at my neighbor's (house) because the peacekeepers' house is just over there. Every night I am afraid someone will jump through the window and attack me. It is clear that the hope of creating a multi-ethnic Kosovo is far from being realized. The handful of peacekeepers guarding the one Serb man ask that neither his name nor the name of his village be used in this report. They worry he might be killed by ethnic Albanians should this radio report reveal a Serb man is alone in the area. The man, wearing a dirty black shirt and a dusty white cap, leads the way to his home, just one minute's walk down a grassy hill.


    As he gets to his front doorway, he shakes his head. There is little left of his home other than the walls and ceilings. The doors have been ripped out, along with the frames, leaving giant gaping holes in every room. The window panes have been removed, light switches meticulously unfastened, linoleum pulled up from the floor, what was once a living room is a concrete, empty square. He points to the only thing left, an Orthodox icon hanging in the far corner. As he speaks there is an echo in the room.
    This room was filled with things. The only thing they left behind was the icon, the looters did not touch it. That is all I have left. They even took the glass from the windows. The Serb man says he was not shocked to find his home in such a state when he returned. He says he knew he would find nothing left, because there was no one to guard the house or the village after its residents fled. His two sons and daughter are living in the Serbian enclave of Gracanica, he says he misses them but it is not yet safe for them to come home. The man says the Serbs might come back to this village if more peacekeepers are sent here. Until then, he will sleep with his neighbor in the burned and empty house that is close to the peacekeepers and therefore the nearest thing to what he can call home. (Signed)
    NEB/EC/JWH/KL 20-Jun-2000 12:15 PM EDT (20-Jun-2000 1615 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: European leaders have concluded their summit meeting in Portugal by reaching a long sought agreement on the issue of taxation of savings accounts held by non-residents. Ron Pemstein reports from the summit site in Feira, Portugal on the last-minute compromise.

    TEXT: This is a political compromise that may help end the European Union's diplomatic freeze against Austria. The Austrians had been the last obstacle to getting an agreement on a Union-wide exchange of information about bank accounts held by non-residents. For 12 years, including intensive negotiations over the last two years, taxation has been the most elusive issue in the European Union's drive for a single market. The Austrians insisted their opposition to a tax agreement was based on their bank secrecy laws, not on the political isolation that the 14 other governments have maintained against its center-right government. The diplomatic freeze was agreed last February when the right-wing Freedom Party became part of the Austrian coalition. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Gueterres denies there is a direct relationship between Austria dropping its opposition to the tax package and the Union ending its political isolation of Austria.

    /// Gueterres Act ///

    There was a very serious and constructive attitude by all member countries, and in particular by the Austrian government, in solving the problem of the tax package. It is very important for the credibility of the Union and that has nothing to do with any other kind of problem and we don't deal with European things in that way.

    /// End Act ///

    Portugal promises to consult with other European Union countries on a way to end the political sanctions against Austria during the last 10 days it holds the E-U presidency. French officials have made it clear they do not want obstruction from Austria during their six-month presidency of the Union that starts on July first. The tax package itself could take 10 years to put into operation. It calls for more negotiations to put detail into the directive. It calls for talks with other countries, including the United States and Switzerland, to see if they will support equivalent measures of exchanging information about bank accounts held by E-U citizens resident in their countries. Final approval of the system is not scheduled until the end of 2002 and it has to be approved unanimously at that time. The agreement provides for up to seven years after that for an exchange of information about bank accounts to become mandatory.

    /// Opt ///

    The Austrians settled for a statement that says Austria cannot accept a move to drop bank secrecy for non-residents because of constitutional reasons and can maintain its system for domestic residents.

    /// End Opt ///

    Despite the long time frame and compromise language, Portuguese prime minister Gueterres believes the tax package is a big step for the European Union.

    /// Gueterres Act ///

    It is not possible to have a credible Europe with a single market, with a single currency with an open method of coordination in the majority of economic and social policies as defined in the Lisbon summit and to do absolutely nothing in taxation. It was absolutely necessary for the credibility of Europe to achieve a result in Feira.

    /// End Act ///

    Though the last-minute tax compromise in Feira could take a decade to put into operation, there are predictions it should not take nearly that long for the 14 other countries to restore their diplomatic contacts with Austria. (Signed)
    NEB/RP/GE/JP 20-Jun-2000 12:43 PM EDT (20-Jun-2000 1643 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: Northern Ireland's largest pro-British paramilitary group threatened today/Tuesday to break its cease-fire unless attacks against Protestants in the province stopped. Lourdes Navarro in London reports that the threat by the Ulster Freedom Fighters (U-F-F) came just hours after an explosive device was found near the residence of Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Mandelson.

    TEXT: The Ulster Freedom Fighters said in a statement delivered to the news media that Protestants in north and west Belfast had endured a systematic campaign of intimidation from Catholic nationalists. They set a deadline of midnight local time (2300 U-T- C) after which they said they would shoot anyone attacking Protestant homes if nothing was done. A spokesman for the U-F-F's political wing, the Ulster Democratic Party, told the Reuters news agency that the cease-fire would not be broken if the attacks stopped by the deadline. A resumption of violence could seriously threaten the future of Northern Ireland's Catholic-Protestant government, revived in May. The Ulster Freedom Fighters was founded in 1971 and has more than 2 thousand members.
    NEB/LN/GE/KBK 20-Jun-2000 12:06 PM LOC (20-Jun-2000 1606 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: The United States Supreme Court has outlawed a Texas public school custom of delivering a prayer over the loudspeaker before football games. And the decision is causing a flood of editorials. Also in the editorial columns are more arguments for ending the economic blockade of Cuba. Also getting consideration are the results of Haiti's election and international loans to China. There are other comments on the Korean summit and the situation in Burma /// Opt /// as well as a new sports hero in America and the summer solstice in England. /// End Opt /// Now, here is _________ with a closer look and some excerpts in today's Editorial Digest.

    TEXT: On Monday, the U-S Supreme Court struck down a Texas school board's policy of allowing students to pray before football games over the public address system at the school athletic stadium. The U-S constitution decrees that the government must play no active role in religion, and the court's six-to-three ruling reaffirmed that doctrine. Two of the biggest newspapers in Texas agree with the court, and we begin with The Houston Chronicle.

    VOICE: The Supreme Court got it right in ruling ... that school districts cannot let students lead stadium crowds in prayer before high school football games. ... such prayers violate the constitutionally required separation of government and religion. ... It is not an anti- religion or anti-Christian ruling, as some claim. ... It's important to ... understand that it does not prohibit students themselves from praying anytime, anywhere.

    TEXT: The Dallas Morning News agrees.

    VOICE: Although the decision is bound to create controversy, the ruling is nonetheless proper. The issue is not whether students can or cannot express religious or spiritual opinions at school events, but rather that the school district's policy failed to maintain neutrality on the matter. That crucial distinction should not be lost as reasonable people debate the ramifications of the court's ruling. ///OPT /// This newspaper shares concerns that moral and spiritual values are important in the lives of students. ... But... the danger here is that the school's policy could promote sectarian favoritism.

    TEXT: In California, The San Jose Mercury News says school is the "Wrong place for [official] prayers," while The Seattle [Washington] Times explains the difference between private and government-sponsored prayer.

    VOICE: Prayer is everywhere at high-school football games. ... on the lips of parents huddled under ...blankets, in the players' silent whispers before the ball snaps,[goes into play] in the air itself beneath the Friday night lights. Prayer belongs there. But as the ... Supreme Court wisely ruled ... prayer should not become a pre-game show, a school-sanctioned ritual that rests comfortably with a religious majority while alienating everyone else.

    /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: Internationally, there are more calls for an end to the decades-long economic boycott against Cuba now that normal U-S trade with China appears a certainty. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin says a "reassessment of Cuba policy is overdue and badly needed."

    VOICE: A proposal to that effect has been made in Congress and ... deserves support. Senator Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, announced that he and Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia ... will introduce a proposal to establish a national commission on Cuban policy. ... The Connecticut Democrat said U-S policy aimed at bringing down Fidel Castro by strangling Cuba has remained mired in the Cold War era because of the political cloud of the Cuban exile community.

    TEXT: The [Trenton, New Jersey] Times concurs, pointing out inconsistencies between U-S policy toward China and Cuba.

    VOICE: The United States has diplomatic and trade relations with China, a communist country with a notoriously bad civil rights record. ... The United States is preparing to lift a broad set of economic sanctions that have been in place for half a century against communist North Korea, another former shooting enemy ... What's different about Cuba? Why does the United States, alone in the world, continue to maintain a tight economic, travel and diplomatic embargo against Fidel Castro's island?

    TEXT: And in Northern California, The San Jose Mercury News concludes its argument for change:

    VOICE: [Mr.] Castro, as dictator, thrived on America's hostility. Let's see how he does in its embrace.

    TEXT: Still in the Caribbean, Haiti's troubled recent parliamentary elections come in for scrutiny from Charleston's [South Carolina] Post and Courier.

    VOICE: Democracy appears to be doomed in Haiti, only a month after elections in which Haitians flocked to the polls. The high turnout demonstrated that the Haitian people had not lost hope for the future. But after international monitors certified that the voting process was honest, the ruling Lavalas Party spoiled the balloting by trying to rig the results to ensure an overwhelming majority in the new parliament. ... [Jean-Bertrand] Aristide, who is expected to win the presidential election in November by a landslide, will forfeit his already tarnished credibility as a democrat ... if he allows this fraudulent bid to increase his political power.

    /// BEGIN OPT ///

    TEXT: The Miami Herald agrees, complaining that:

    VOICE: With every step forward, Haiti's leaders stumble two steps backward in their agonizing march toward democracy. They tripped again this past weekend when the president of the electoral council fled Haiti after receiving threats on his life for refusing to sign elections results for last month's contested balloting. ... Yesterday the council postponed a runoff vote that originally was scheduled for Sunday. ... The united States, the Organization of American States and the United Nations, which have invested a lot of money and resources into establishing a democratic process in Haiti, must pressure Haitian leaders to get those elections back on track.

    /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: Turning to Asian affairs, The Boston Globe is concerned about a current World Bank plan to loan China money in order to resettle 58-thousand Chinese farmers into Tibet.

    VOICE: The World Bank ... under President James Wolfensohn, has striven to become more open and accountable. Much of that effort is being undercut ... by the bank's preparations to underwrite a project in China's western Qinghai province ... financing the resettlement of 58- thousand Chinese farmers on Tibetan lands and displacing the indigenous people who had been living there. Above all, the bank should not allow itself to become a collaborator in Beijing's colonialist policy of expunging Tibetan cultural identity.

    TEXT: And in another China-related development -- the death of 58 Chinese asylum seekers who suffocated in a truck carrying them across the English channel from France -- The Sun in Baltimore charges:

    VOICE: The atrocity ... mixed globalization with despair. ... In an overpopulated, shrinking world, the problem will only get worse as welcome mats are withdrawn and the temptation to flee poverty -- or to profit from those who try -- will increase.

    /// BEGIN OPT ///

    TEXT: Still in Asia, the hope of Korean-Americans for reunification with family members in the North, following last week's summit in Pyongyang, continues to generate editorial comment. The [Salt Lake City, Utah] Deseret [Editors: PRONOUNCED Dez -UH -ret] News concludes:

    VOICE: War can tear apart families, but it can never dissolve family ties. That lesson was made clear again by the recent historic meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea. Their agreement in general terms to begin working toward reunification and to allow families to reunite has spawned a flutter of hope among people who have been separated from loved ones for half a century or more. ... In communities across the United States, in nations all over the world in which Korean refugees settled, and in North and South Korea themselves, families are poised to begin the scramble to find themselves again.

    /// END OPT ///

    TEXT: In another Asian note, the Supreme Court has struck down a Massachusetts law that prevented the state from doing business with Burma because of that nation's human rights record. The national daily, U- S-A Today laments the decision. praises the state's "noble goal" and suggests:

    VOICE: ... now than an unsurprising Supreme Court ... has reasserted that only the federal government can set foreign policy, other means of pressuring Burma are needed.

    /// BEGIN OPT ///

    TEXT: Turning to U-S news, there is an outpouring of editorials on this country's newest sports hero, Tiger Woods, who scored a record 15-shot victory at the U-S Open golf tournament over the weekend. Allentown, Pennsylvania's Morning Call is one of dozens of papers saluting his feat.

    VOICE: Though considered to be still a decade away from reaching his prime, his third major championship Sunday included impressive records. He is the first player in the history of the U-S Open to finish 72 holes at double-digits under par... The U-S Open is the toughest test there is in golf, identifying the best player in the world. Mr. Woods left no doubt about that, never making worse than par over his final 26 holes and closing with a four under 67,the best score of the day. Certainly more than most players before him, Tiger woods has generated interest in the game among those who otherwise might not be interested ...

    TEXT: And on the eve of the summer solstice, this comment about Stonehenge, the great stone circle on the Salisbury plain in England, from the San Francisco Examiner:

    VOICE: For better or worse, Midsummer's Day is mostly ignored nowadays by major religions of the post-agrarian world. The exception is continuing controversy over neo-pagan rites ... at an ancient ring of upright boulders left on an English moor by solstice celebrants of 25 to 40 centuries ago. Stonehenge. ... To people of pagan inclinations from San Francisco to Sydney to Salisbury, Stonehenge is a temple of renewal, mystery and connection to the incomprehensible past.

    TEXT: The San Francisco newspaper hopes the unlimited access again allowed this year by the Stonehenge caretaker organization will not result in modern day pagans or Druids clashing with police as in the past.

    /// END OPT ///

    And on that note, we conclude this sampling of comment from the editorial columns of Tuesday's U-S press.
    NEB/ANG/JP 20-Jun-2000 12:08 PM EDT (20-Jun-2000 1608 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America



    INTRO: British and Dutch police say the 58-illegal immigrants who died in a sweltering truck while being smuggled into Britain are most likely Chinese. Lourdes Navarro in London reports authorities say the 58 died from respiratory failure.

    TEXT: Police have not officially divulged what they have learned from the two survivors of the tragedy, but news reports quoting hospital sources say the two young men have begun to tell their story. Trapped inside the airtight truck for hours, the two men reportedly said they clawed and banged on the walls of the truck and shouted, their desperation mounting as their companions began to pass out and die. Sixty investigators including Dutch police and forensic specialists are currently studying the truck and have not confirmed whether, as speculated, the refrigeration unit of the tomato truck was switched off. The two young survivors, believed to be in their 20's, are currently recuperating in a hospital and are under tight security. Police say their testimony will be of enormous value to the continuing investigation. The driver of the truck is also being questioned. Police have declined to comment on reports that Chinese gangs were behind the smuggling racket. But investigation-leader Detective Superintendent Dennis McGookin says police are looking into who had organized the immigrants' long journey.

    /// MCGOOKIN ACT ///

    Fifty-eight people lie dead in the back of a truck, two others survived. There were 60 young people there. Obviously there had to be some organization to actually get them from China onto the Dutch coast. This is another major line of inquiry that we will be following.

    /// END ACT ///

    Police in the port city of Dover, where the immigrants were discovered, are working with Chinese authorities. British police say they hope families of the victims will come forward to help identify the bodies. The disaster has prompted Britain to launch a major investigation into the immigrant smuggling trade. Customs officers find up to two-thousand illegal immigrants of all nationalities at British ports each month, and say they believe many more slip through security. (SIGNED)
    NEB/LN/JWH/RAE 20-Jun-2000 09:57 AM EDT (20-Jun-2000 1357 UTC)
    Source: Voice of America
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