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Mr. Robin Cook: May I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for what I take to be the support of the Opposition for the Government's line? I rather think he failed conspicuously to rise to what is a major international challenge, and I am glad that we managed to achieve more unity out of our 15 NATO colleagues than we can achieve with the Opposition in this Chamber.

Let me deal with the particular questions that the right hon. and learned Gentleman asked. First, there were extensive consultations with the Kosovar Albanians: indeed, that is exactly why Dick Holbrooke went repeatedly to Pristina and why Christopher Hill, accompanied by our British ambassador, went to Pristina.

On the question of a deadline, I am not quite sure what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is referring to as a deadline, but the decision that was taken by the North Atlantic Council on Friday was to extend the order authorising air strikes against Serbia. I should have thought that anybody who wanted to maintain pressure on President Milosevic would welcome the fact that that authorisation remains in force for a further 10 days and, indeed, would have denounced us if we had dropped it on Friday.

On the question of current troop movements within Kosovo, at present we have no independent corroboration, but we are urgently seeking information from our monitors on the ground. The difficulty of getting precise data on what is happening there instantaneously underlines exactly why it is so important that we get 2,000 monitors in with the right to be in every town and in every village in Kosovo in order that we can be sure exactly what is happening in terms of compliance with these agreements.

Finally, let me pick up the right hon. and learned Gentleman's comment about delay in reaching this point. I dare say that, if the topic were not so tragic, his criticism would be comic in its hypocrisy. Many of us remember exactly how the last Conservative Government dithered for three years while Bosnia burned. The right hon. and learned Gentleman sat in the Cabinet for those three years, and the only reference to Bosnia that we have been able to find for that period is a statement that Britain should not take any more refugees from Bosnia. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman really wants a remedy for those three years of shameful delay, the best thing that he can do is support, not oppose, the Government's efforts to bring security and self-government to Kosovo.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): May I offer the Government my support for the agreement and the

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statement that we have just heard? Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the expression "better late than never" would have been a very accurate description of the last Government's actions in relation to Bosnia?

Does the right hon. Gentleman feel some concern about last week's statement by the president of the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal, deploring the fact that the Milosevic Government are refusing to surrender three individuals against whom indictments have been made? Will he confirm that it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government that Mr. Milosevic must co-operate with the war crimes tribunal, as called for in the United Nations Security Council resolution of 25 September, and that any reports to the contrary are unfounded?

If the reports of continued use of military force today are found to be correct, what response does the right hon. Gentleman think NATO is likely to make? Finally, if the monitors are to be deployed on the ground without military protection, what is to prevent them from being subject to the same kind of intimidation as was found by the representatives of UNPROFOR during the Bosnia conflict?

Mr. Cook: I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for his support in regard to the war crimes tribunal, about which he has written to me separately. The agreement with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which has been signed by Belgrade, states explicitly that the purpose of the OSCE verification mission is to verify full compliance with resolution 1199, which calls on Belgrade to co-operate fully with the war crimes tribunal.

The three individuals to whom the hon. and learned Gentleman referred have indeed been indicted. We want them to be surrendered, but we should be clear that they were indicted for offences relating to Vukovar in 1995, not to activities in Kosovo. Nevertheless, I assure the House that the Government will continue to take the most robust approach to bringing indicted war criminals to justice. I do not believe that there can be peace and reconciliation in the Balkans unless there is justice against those who have committed atrocity in war. We now have a majority of those indicted under arrest awaiting trial, and we shall continue our pressure to ensure that the rest are brought to trial.

As I am currently unable to corroborate precisely what movements are taking place in Kosovo, it would be wrong to predict what NATO should do in response; but President Milosevic should be well aware that that activation order is still in place, and the planes are still on the runway.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield): Is my right hon. Friend aware that, although there is unanimous horror at the repression, tragedy and bloodshed in Kosovo, NATO's threat to bomb Serbia is contrary to the charter of the United Nations which provides that only the Security Council can authorise military action? It is contrary to article 1 of the NATO treaty that commits NATO to the United Nations charter; it would be likely to trigger a Balkan conflict, and a restart of the cold war; and it is in marked contrast with the total neglect of the plight of the Kurdish people in north Cyprus, and their treatment by the Turkish Government.

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Is my right hon. Friend also aware that NATO is not the international community, and that to talk as if he and the United States speak for the world is to undermine the authority of the United Nations itself?

Mr. Cook: The whole strategy of the past month has been built around a partnership between NATO and the contact group, which included Russia. It has also been based on Security Council resolution 1199, which was passed overwhelmingly by the Security Council and was voted for by Russia. We are seeking to obtain from President Milosevic compliance with that United Nations Security Council resolution.

As I said, I do not imagine for one minute that we would be this far forward with a commitment by President Milosevic to meet resolution 1199 if he had not believed that the threat of military action by NATO was credible. I vigorously regret the fact---as does my right hon. Friend--that we are dealing with someone in power in Belgrade who only understands the language of force, but, so long as that is the case, we are right to make it clear that we are not prepared to allow him to turn his back and to ignore the reasonable demands of the United Nations.

Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster): I am, perhaps a little improbably, vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Albania. Perhaps less surprisingly, I am on the all-party parliamentary group on refugees. When, during the Labour party conference, the Foreign Secretary referred on the "Today" programme to a string of Foreign Office successes throughout the summer, was he including Kosovo in the list?

Mr. Cook: Again, I welcome the reserved support offered by the Opposition on this issue. Throughout the discussion on Kosovo today and over the past few weeks, I have eschewed any talk of triumphs or victories. What should animate us all is the humanitarian crisis among the refugees in the hillside. I condemn as offences against humanitarian law the atrocities that occurred in the villages in which the paramilitary police took action. They should be of concern to all members of humanity. I would warmly welcome it if just one Opposition Member joined us in that concern.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that, although President Milosevic has now agreed to a move towards some kind of autonomy, the Kosovar Albanians have not? The Kosovo Liberation Army wants complete independence. What pressure is being put on the exiled organisations that fund the KLA to ensure that attacks by the KLA do not undermine this process, and do not make it impossible for the OSCE to do its work?

Mr. Cook: I must correct my hon. Friend on one point: the stated objective of the Kosovo Liberation Army is not to achieve independence for Kosovo, but to forge a greater Albania. There is no place on the international map for a greater Albania--any more than there is for a greater Serbia or a greater Croatia. As I stressed in my statement, that is why the objective of our policy is to ensure that the elected, democratic politicians of Kosovo, and not the gunmen, are left in control of Kosovo.

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Resolution 1199 calls on all members of the United Nations to co-operate in halting the funding and supply of weapons to the Kosovo Liberation Army. It is important that we put every possible effort into establishing law, order and security throughout Albania, because that country has provided a springboard for the KLA.

Through this agreement, we have provided a basis on which we can take forward a political process leading to self-government for Kosovo. If any force is needed to ensure that that agreement sticks, it should be force authorised by the international community. It should not be force provided by the Kosovo Liberation Army, which, far from making the agreement stick, would undermine it and pull it apart.

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