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Monday, March 29, 1999 Published at 22:36 GMT 23:36 UK

UK Politics

Nato bombing 'unpardonable folly'

Demonstrations: Serbs and Albanians focus protests in London

Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond has become the first leading UK politician to speak out over the air strikes against Serbia, calling them counter-productive.

Kosovo: Special Report
In a televised address to the Scottish people, Mr Salmond said that the military campaign was failing to do anything but strengthen Serb resolve and threaten the lives of ethnic Albanians.

And as Nato launched another night of raids against targets in Yugoslavia, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, also called for talks to replace bombing "as soon as possible".

'Dubious legality'

Mr Salmond said: "It is an act of dubious legality, but above all one of unpardonable folly."

Emily Buchanan: The consensus over Kosovo is breaking up
The bombing "may make matters even worse for the very people it is meant to be helping".

The nationalist leader said Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic bore "prime responsibility" for human rights violations carried out on ethnic Albanians living in Kosovo.

Alec Salmond's special broadcast on the Kosovo crisis
"However, if we are to sanction intervention in Serbia then the policy must be capable of achieving two things," he said.

"It must be capable of weakening Milosevic and helping Kosovo. A bombing campaign will do neither, indeed the chances are it will make both worse."

[ image: The SNP wants an end to the bombing]
The SNP wants an end to the bombing
But reacting to the breaking of ranks among domestic politicians, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook accused Mr Salmond of being "unfit to lead".

"He (Alex Salmond) fails to see the clear distinction between the resolve of a democracy defending itself against dictatorship and a dictatorship engaged in ethnic cleansing," he said.

But Plaid Cymru leader Dafydd Wigley also questioned the Nato bombing in his address to the Welsh nation, asking whether the action was actually exacerbating a human catastrophe.

Carey calls for talks

Dr Carey later called for talks to replace confrontation "as soon as possible".

He told BBC's One's Nine O'Clock News that Nato had been right to act but negotiations must restart to save civilian lives.

[ image: The SNP wants an end to the bombing]
The SNP wants an end to the bombing
"The evils of ethnic cleansing and the dispersed populations are factors that no civilised person can be happy about," he said.

"We are seeing on our screens appalling pictures of suffering.

"Negotiation must replace confrontation as soon as possible. Nato was correct to take the action, howbeit regretfully - we must all regret that very deeply.

"But it is vitally important that we get people around that negotiating table as quickly as possible in order that civilian lives may be saved."

Riot police flood Whitehall

Meanwhile, London experienced more protests, leading to riot police moving in to keep opposing demonstrators apart.

Hundreds of officers closed off Whitehall as a demonstration of more than 1,000 Albanians in Trafalgar Square neared Downing Street where Serbs were protesting against the air strikes.

The square was filled with pro-Kosovo demonstrators carrying banners declaring: "No appeasement, no compromise, no surrender".

Serbs held placards denouncing Mr Cook as a murderer - but despite fears of a clash the noisy demonstrations ended peacefully.

At one point Union flag-waving Kosovans allowed two Serb women through, escorted by riot police, to attend their rival demonstration.

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