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Calls for ceasefire increase in Italy

[British] The Times, 17 May 1999

By Richard Owen in Rome


LEADING members of Italy's centre-left coalition joined calls by Green and far-left coalition factions for a "unilateral ceasefire" by Nato as the search for cluster bombs jettisoned by US warplanes in the Adriatic widened from the Venice area to waters off the tourist resorts of Rimini and Ancona yesterday.

Massimo D'Alema, the former... Prime Minister, said that a United Nations resolution imposing conditions on Belgrade with Russian and Chinese backing might be enough to "stop the bombing".

Walter Veltroni, head of the ruling Party of the Democratic Left (PDS), said Italy should take the initiative at the UN "on behalf of its Nato allies" to see if a suspension of the raids might restart diplomatic effort.

Signor Veltroni, a former Deputy Prime Minister, added: "We must make our voice heard." ...

Signor D'Alema, trying to contain a growing tide of pacifism among his supporters ahead of a critical parliamentary debate on Nato and Kosovo on Wednesday, said a ceasefire was "conceivable" if Russia and China signed up to a UN resolution based on conditions set by the Group of Eight industrialised countries including Russia. These include the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo and a return of refugees under an international force's protection.

This would be enough to justify a halt to the bombing, Signor D'Alema suggested, adding: "I have to say the air campaign has not so far had the results hoped for, and is producing repeated tragic episodes." He assured anti-war marchers at Assisi he wanted to make "an urgent gesture of peace". The Pope yesterday also called for an end to the bombing.

Italians have been dismayed by civilian casualties, including the deaths of 85 Kosovo refugees apparently used as human shields by the Serbs [blunt lie] at a military camp [another lie] at Korisa on Friday. The dumping of cluster bombs in Italian waters has brought the war even closer to home.

Enzo Fornaro, head of the Italian Adriatic Fishing Co-operative, was incandescent over injuries caused to three Chioggia fishermen last week when they hauled up bombs in their nets. Yesterday Vinzenzo Barbati, the Prefect of Venice, ordered the closure of beaches from the island of Pellestrina in the Venetian lagoon to the port of Chioggia, at the southern entrance to the lagoon.

Cypriot protest

Dhekelia: About 10,000 protesters marched on roads passing through a British military base in Cyprus yesterday demanding an end to Nato airstrikes on Yugoslavia. Greek Cypriots walked four miles in scorching sun past Dhekelia, one of two British military bases. They regard Yugoslavia as a traditional ally.

Policemen working for the bases walked with the protesters, who chanted "Nato killers" as British soldiers kept watch from a tower. The Yugoslav Ambassador also took part.

(End of quote).

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Last revised: May 26, 1999