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End not yet in sight, Bennett says

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, says the Balkans conflict isn't really over. In fact, he says the end is so far away that it isn't even in sight.

"Americans must recognize that we are in Kosovo for a very long haul, working against very long odds, if we are ever going to help the various factions achieve any hope of living peacefully side by side," Bennett told the Senate Monday.He said a quote from Winston Churchill about when the United States entered World War II may best summarize the situation now in Kosovo and Yugoslavia.

Bennett noted Churchill said, "It is not the end of the war. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning."

Bennett said, "The refugees are still not back in their villages. Their homes are still not rebuilt; their economy, which will permit them to feed themselves, is still in shambles."

So, he asked, "What do we still have to do? Our first priority should be the humanitarian relief required to alleviate the suffering in both parts of Yugoslavia, Serbia as well as Kosovo."

Also, he said, "our hardest challenge is to keep the killing from breaking out again on both sides." He noted that Kosovar Serbs could be endangered as ousted Kosovar Albanians return, and some may seek revenge against that ethnic group.

"The biggest long-term burden NATO's occupying force bears is the responsibility to see that no new round of ethnic hatred and retaliation takes place, whoever initiated it and whatever its supposed justification," Bennett said.

He also said celebration by some that the war is over and that it accomplished its goals is misplaced.

"As happy as we are with today's headlines, let us remember that we failed to meet our initial objectives. Secretary (of State Madeleine) Albright told us we had to bomb to prevent widespread atrocities in Kosovo and a flood of refugees over its border into neighboring countries. The bombing failed to do that."

Bennett added he feels the only reason the bombing eventually inflicted enough damage on the Serb Army to force change was that the Serbs had to leave fortified positions to handle an on-ground offensive from the Kosovar Liberation Army.

"This is a time to be glad because with an unexpected strong assist from the Kosovar Liberation Army, we have made a deal whereby the bombing has been stopped and the rebuilding can start. It is not a time to cry, 'Hooray, we won,' " he said.

Bennett added that it is not "a time to suggest that the problems of the Balkans are at an end or even that an end is in sight."