Tuesday, June 9, 1998 Published at 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
Opinion: West must act early on Kosovo
Over the past ten years, Slobodan Milosevic has been ruthlessly suppressing the majority ethnic Albanian people of Kosovo.
Kosovo has for centuries been a source of contention and conflict, but its Albanian and Serb inhabitants have, for the most part, lived together in relative harmony. Under Tito's administration, the province enjoyed a great deal of autonomy, and Albanian Kosovars a large degree of freedom.
Since Milosevic's rise to power, any harmony that existed in the province has been shattered.
Tito's 1974 constitution has been repealed, the Kosovan assembly has been dissolved, the vast majority of Kosovar Albanians who held state jobs have been sacked, immunisation programmes for Kosovar Albanian children have been greatly reduced, and arbitrary arrest and police intimidation have become routine.
As Slobodan Milosevic's brutalisation of the Albanian population continues, there is now a chilling prospect of a full-scale military conflict in Kosovo.
Terrifying new problem
For a number of months, Western Leaders have been condemning the actions of the Yugoslav President, yet the shelling and burning of Albanian Kosovar villages continues and, indeed, increases.
Six years ago, when Britain last held the EU Presidency, we missed the decisive opportunity to agree to early action in Bosnia, with the terrible consequences that we all saw.
We must not miss that opportunity again, now that we are confronted with a terrifying new problem in Kosovo.
We must make it absolutely clear to President Milosevic that we will not tolerate the shelling of Kosovar villages and other fundamental breaches of human rights in the province.
There are three things that the West can do now to try and prevent any further escalation of the crisis in Kosovo:
This time the West must take strong preventative action early, rather than be left in a position of only being able to do too little too late.