Saturday, June 19, 1999

Serbs should remove
Milosevic from office

Bullet The issue: Criticism of Milosevic is growing within Yugoslavia.
Bullet Our view: Milosevic has been a disaster for Serbs as well as the ethnic Albanians.

YUGOSLAV President Slobodan Milosevic is fooling no one with his preposterous claims of victory in Kosovo. Quite the reverse: His hold on power seems to be slipping.

Serbia's influential Orthodox Church has called on Milosevic to resign, saying the country needs new leaders "acceptable at home and abroad." A statement signed by the church's bishops said, "Every sensible person has to realize that numerous internal problems and...the isolation of our country on the international scene cannot be solved or overcome with this kind of leadership."

Since accepting NATO's conditions for ending its bombing campaign, Milosevic has been fighting for his political life. President Clinton and other Western leaders have demanded his removal as president as the price for reconstruction aid to any part of Yugoslavia except Kosovo.

The United States is also reaching out to Yugoslav opposition figures. Clinton will meet Milo Djukanovic, the pro-Western leader of the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, during his visit next week to Slovenia, which declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said the meeting with Djukanovic, one of the most outspoken Yugoslav critics of Milosevic, will "demonstrate our support for the steadfastness that he has shown during this period."

Also this week the hawkish Serbian Radical Party quit Milosevic's ruling coalition, eliminating its majority in the Yugoslav parliament and putting the president's position in jeopardy. The Alliance for Change, comprised of opposition parties and nongovernmental organizations, has called for Milosevic's resignation.

Last month the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia indicted Milosevic and four aides on charges of ordering atrocities in Kosovo.

Although it is not clear whether he will be brought to trial, the indictment itself makes him an international pariah. The grisly evidence discovered by the arriving NATO troops provides irrefutable confirmation of the charges.

Milosevic has brought Yugoslavia into international disgrace, has lost control of Kosovo, a province considered the symbolic heartland of Serbia, and provoked the NATO bombing that has devastated much of Yugoslavia.

As the magnitude of Milosevic's crimes sinks in, it is difficult to believe that the Serbs will permit him to remain in power.


Clash on gun control
divides Congress

Bullet The issue: Congress is divided on gun control proposals in the wake of high school shootings.
Bullet Our view: Requiring background checks for all sales at gun shows is needed to close a loophole in the law.

THE gun-control issue, which was revived by the high school shootings in Colorado and Georgia, has Congress sharply divided. The chasm widened yesterday as the House rejected, 280-147, legislation that would have weakened some current restrictions while imposing others.

Most of the no votes were supplied by liberal Democrats objecting to a National Rifle Association-backed provision that would have eased restrictions on the sale of weapons at gun shows. But some conservatives objected because the bill would also have required safety devices to be sold with all handguns.

The House vote was a defeat for the Republican leadership. A few hours earlier, Speaker Dennis Hastert said he wanted an all-out effort to pass the bill, but the vote wasn't even close.

The night before the NRA had prevailed on an amendment sponsored by John Dingell, D-Mich., to loosen restrictions on gun show sales, but the victory for gun-control opponents proved short-lived.

Members approved amendments strengthening gun control by banning the import of large-capacity clips and magazines and prohibiting persons under 18 from possessing semiautomatic assault weapons.

The House also approved an amendment to permit the Ten Commandments to be posted in schools and state public facilities -- a gesture that would do nothing to address the problem of too many guns in society. Moreover, it would face a court challenge on constitutional grounds if enacted.

The Senate last month, with Vice President Gore casting a tie-breaking vote, approved stronger restrictions, including a requirement of background checks on all buyers of firearms at gun shows.

The House rejection leaves the fate of gun control legislation highly uncertain. Compromise talks between the two houses are expected this summer.

The requirement of background checks for all purchases at gun shows is needed to close a loophole in current law. Such checks are already required for sales at gun shops under the Brady Law.

This is a modest step toward more effective gun control, which the public is demanding. Conservatives who bow to the gun lobby in defiance of public opinion may find their re-election hopes shot down.

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