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Saturday, March 27, 1999 Published at 17:40 GMT


Hague's TV address - Full text

Hague: Bringing "an end to persecution and terror"

The full text of opposition leader William Hague's television address on the Nato air strikes against Yugoslavia.

"This morning, I read the words of a nine-year-old girl whose father is one of our servicemen, risking their lives in action against the Serbian dictator, Milosevic. `I am scared', she said, `and I want my dad to come home.'

Kosovo: Special Report
"To this girl, and to her father, we owe a great deal. So often, the decision to go to war depends on the physical courage of a few men and women and the mental courage of their families.

"Now, that courage is being put to the test once more. Put to the test to help people on our own continent who need it.

An end to persecution

"The prime minister told us last night why he made the difficult decision to commit our forces to action. My party has supported that decision, but I know that many people still wonder why we are involved in this at all. So, why are we?

"We are trying to bring an end to persecution and terror. Men, women and children dragged from their homes and slaughtered, their villages burned to the ground, families destroyed.

"All this in a country that is closer to home than Greece, Turkey and Cyprus and which was - less than 10 years ago - as popular a holiday destination as any of them - Yugoslavia.

Cannot ignore cries for help

"Once that country spanned Bosnia, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia, Kosovo: many peoples, one country. Now those peoples want independence, Slobodan Milosevic wants to stamp that out.

"We cannot ignore their pleas for help any more than we would ignore the cries of someone being beaten up across the street, saying that it didn't matter because we didn't know them.

"For months, our country and others have warned Milosevic to stop the killings and the terror. He hasn't listened. So now British servicemen and women - alongside our allies - are once again coming to the defence of peoples oppressed. Our prayers and thoughts are with them.

"But, as they demonstrate their courage in the cause of freedom, we owe them and their families calm and considered judgment, and a clear sense of where this war begins and ends.

"We owe them a clear sense of direction, a clear goal and honest reassurance that we do not intend to commit them to an open-ended ground war.

Need our help

"They need to know just what we expect of them. We have been assured that this difficult decision has been taken by the government and our allies on the basis of careful assessment. That is the basis on which we have supported it.

"Our forces need to know that we stand ready to help keep the peace when that peace has been made. But they need to know too that there is a limit to what we can achieve and to what we can ask of them.

"Last year, I went to neighbouring Bosnia. I saw for myself what the bravery and resolve of British troops can mean to people who are living in fear and despair.

"I felt proud of what they were doing on our behalf. It is right to do it. And it is right now, in these deepest darkest hours for Kosovo Albanians, we send our help and support."

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