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News Archive 1999

Nobel Peace Laureates Call for End to War

By Jorge Piņa

ROME, Apr 21 (IPS) - Seven Nobel Peace prize-winners meeting in the capital of Italy called Wednesday for a halt to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) attacks on Yugoslavia and the "ethnic cleansing" carried out by Serbs in the province of Kosovo.

The call, signed by Guatemalan indigenous leader Rigoberta Menchú and former president of the defunct Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, was issued at the first "summit" of Nobel Peace laureates, organised by the municipality of Rome to mark the 2,752nd anniversary of the city's founding.

"I hope to go to Belgrade to meet the interlocutors of both parties to the war," said Menchú, awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1992 for her work in defence of the rights of indigenous people in Central America. "The United States and Great Britain should have sought another route before bombing Serbia on Mar 24", she stressed. "I wonder why the Americans have not also intervened in Tibet against China, or in Rwanda, if they are really the champions of justice, and why they have been accomplices in the holocaust in Guatemala," Menchú added. Guatemala "has also had its holocaust, like Kosovo. We have suffered hundreds of thousands of deaths and disappearances, thousands of people have had to flee to Mexico and abandon their land." The war in the Balkans was meant by the U.S. to demonstrate its strength, she said.

The "peace summit," an idea born two years ago to take stock of the state of humanity on the threshold of the new millennium, is focused on the war in Yugoslavia. Also among the seven Nobel laureates present in Rome, who will be received by Pope John Paul II on Thursday, figure former South African president Frederik De Klerk, Israel's Shimon Peres; Betty Williams and David Trimble from Ireland, and Poland's Joseph Rotblat.

Gorbachev said bombs could not resolve the problems plaguing the Balkans, and that NATO should immediately cease its attacks. He urged the convocation of a peace conference on the Balkans. The former president of the USSR pronounced himself in favour of a United Nations peace-keeping force. "After the USSR crumbled (in 1991) and the Cold War ended, it was necessary to establish new rules of the game which did not only respond to the interests of the strongest," he said. "A new equilibrium had to be established, with reforms of the United Nations and international organisations. However, a condescending man like Kofi Annan was found to lead the United Nations and a puppet - Javier Solana- for NATO," he said. Gorbachev said it was a "lie" and a "stupidity" to assert that negotiations would not have brought the "ethnic cleansing" lead by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo to a halt. "It is clearly just an excuse," he charged.

Source: Global Reflexion - Foundation for International Cooperation

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