The war in Yugoslavia continued to eclipse all other news across Europe Wednesday, with the Guardian of London leading its front page: “Day 21: more bombs, more death, more despair.” The paper said the war “showed ominous signs of widening” with the Serb incursion into Albania Tuesday. In the British tabloids, though, the dominant war issue was rape. “The Rape Factory” was the main front-page headline in the Sun, which added the rider, “Slobba sinks to a new evil.” “The rape camps” was a headline in the Daily Mail.
The reports were based on a statement Tuesday by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook that young ethnic Albanian women are being herded into an army camp in Kosovo and subjected to systematic rape by Serbian security forces. In the London Evening Standard, conservative historian Andrew Roberts warned against the demonization of Slobodan Milosevic, because it would increase his support among the Serbs. He is, of course, “a vicious, ruthless tyrant, but so are many people in the world whom Nato has chosen not to bomb. To equate him with Hitler, who really did threaten the West in a way Milosevic never could, can only flatter and strengthen him.”
The Daily Express of London splashed an exclusive report on its front page that the British Conservative Party had received “substantial” donations in the 1997 election from a Serbian-owned company with close links to the Milosevic regime. Two payments of about $14,500 each were made by Metalchem International, “a British-registered metal trading company which was under United Nations sanctions and remains on a U.S. blacklist because of its financial ties with Serbia.” In an editorial, the Express said the Conservative leadership should “immediately and without question repay to Metalchem or to the Serbian government the money they gave.”
In other British press editorials Wednesday, the conservative Daily Mail said that “public opinion is swinging in favor of an invasion” and that “the launch of a ground offensive seems likelier every day”; the Times “that it may take ground troops, backed by massive air power, to drive them [the Serbian forces] out of Kosovo”; the Daily Telegraph that Bill Clinton and Tony Blair should rapidly sanction “the Nato ground offensive that would be required to bring Serbia to heel”; and the Guardian that the West was sending a signal to Belgrade “that ground action is becoming an available option for Nato, should the air campaign bring no acceptable result, but that an opportunity remains for settlement before a decision on ground action is made.” The Financial Times, on the other hand, devoted an editorial to the argument that “the US should engage Russia more. That means accepting more than a token Russian presence in the international force that may accompany the refugees back to Kosovo. Failure to do this risks turning a split over Yugoslavia into another cold war.”
Meanwhile, a report in the Independent said that the United States might offer Iraqi Kurds full military protection against President Saddam Hussein if they allowed the Iraqi opposition to base itself in the area they control. The story quoted Hoshyar Zibari, a leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls western Kurdistan, as saying, “We would need to have a no-fly, no-drive zone protecting our cities from Iraqi government retaliation if we were to co-operate with the Iraqi opposition.” U.S. officials are “seriously considering” the matter, he claimed.
In Iceland, the daily Morgunbladid reported that a plan to sail an Icelandic Viking ship to North America as part of next year’s millennium celebrations is in jeopardy because lack of funding has delayed the preparations. The original plan was for a crew of nine or 10 people to take the Vlkingur, a replica of a Viking vessel, to Newfoundland, Canada, and to New York “to commemorate the 1,000th anniversary of Leifur Eiríksson’s discovery of North America.” the paper said. But now, if the voyage goes ahead at all, the ship will sail only to Halifax, Nova Scotia. A final decision will be made this week.
The Irish Times of Dublin carried a front-page picture caption, “The Lord God omnipotent raineth on choir in Fishamble Street.” This was above a picture of members of Our Lady’s Choral Society in pink raincoats and waterproof hats trying to sing Handel’s Messiah outdoors in a hail shower. The first performance of the Messiah was held in Fishamble Street in 1742.