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Saturday, May 20, 2000

Kosovo withdrawal
measure was unwise

Bullet The issue: The Senate has defeated a proposal setting a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. peacekeeping troops from Kosovo.

Bullet Our view: The authors' intention to put pressure on European allies to increase their contributions to the Kosovo operations was sound but Congress should not tie the president's hand on such issues.

GEORGE W. Bush looked like a man who expected to be elected president and didn't want Congress to restrict his ability to make foreign policy decisions when he sided with the Clinton administration on a measure dealing with the U.S. military presence in Kosovo.

The measure, attached to a military construction spending bill, would have set a deadline for the removal of U.S. troops from Kosovo. It was narrowly defeated in the Senate Thursday.

Bush agreed with President Clinton that the language in the measure amounted to "legislative overreach" and asked Congress to back away from the proposed withdrawal deadline.

About 5,900 U.S. troops are part of a 37,000-member NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo. The peacekeepers moved in after the 78-day air war last year to drive Yugoslav troops out of the province.

Hawaii's senators split their votes, with Daniel Akaka voting to remove the restrictive language and Daniel Inouye supporting its retention.

The measure would have ended U.S. participation in the Kosovo peacekeeping force on July 1, 2001, unless the president requested and Congress approved an extension. The White House threatened to veto the $8.6 billion bill unless the language was removed.

Vice President Al Gore, Bush's Democratic rival, made a rare appearance in his capacity as president of the Senate to cast a tie-breaking vote if necessary. To force a U.S. withdrawal, Gore said, would have "demoralized our allies...and handed (Yugoslav) President Milosevic a victory that he could not win through military force."

The authors of the withdrawal language, Armed Forces Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., are among the Senate's most highly respected members.

They maintained that their purpose was not to force an end to U.S. participation in the Kosovo mission but to ensure that the European allies were carrying their fair share of the financial burden. They said they also wanted to ensure that Congress played its constitutional role in sanctioning the mission.

The measure would have required the president to submit periodic detailed reports describing U.S. financial and manpower contributions in Kosovo and determining whether the Europeans were meeting their commitments.

The provision also linked funds for Kosovo this year to Europe meeting contribution targets for reconstruction and humanitarian aid.

THE United States bore the brunt of the air war over Kosovo and should not continue to bear a disproportionate share of the burden of NATO operations. But Congress should leave it to the administration to press the Europeans to increase their contributions as it deems appropriate. Forcing the issue in this manner would tie the president's hands and could have unintended consequences.


Convention center
proves itself

Bullet The issue: The Hawaii Convention Center faced skepticism when it opened but is attracting increasing numbers of conventions.

Bullet Our view: The center is fulfilling its promise and is a clear success.

TWO years ago when the Hawaii Convention Center opened, there were cries of "white elephant" because initial bookings were slow. Not anymore.

The Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau says it has made 26 definite bookings for this year plus another eight tentative bookings, while helping to generate dozens of other meetings that will be held in hotels.

In 1997, seven convention center bookings were made, in 1998 33, in 1999 44. The HVCB says it is approaching its goal of closing 40 to 55 contracts each year for future convention center events.

As the Star-Bulletin's Russ Lynch reported, the convention-visitor count is up strongly from last year. In the first three months more than 170,000 people came to Hawaii to attend meetings, conventions or incentive-group activities -- an increase of 17 percent over the same period of 1999.

The number of visitors this year coming only for convention center activities is expected to exceed 100,000, much higher than the 67,000 of 1999.

The Lions convention next month is expected to attract 18,000 to 20,000 people to the state and will be the biggest convention of the year, followed by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans in October with an expected attendance of 13,000.

LAST October's American Dental Association convention drew about 30,000 people -- the largest convention the center has handled.

The convention center also hosted the annual meeting of the Pacific Basin Economic Council, a major plus for promoting Hawaii as a place to do business. On the agenda for next year is the annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank.

Three definite center bookings were made last month for meetings to be held next February and March and in February 2002, bringing an expected 9,300 visitors. Verbal commitments were made this month for five center events between May 2003 and March 2010.

Already the HVCB has 12 definite convention center bookings for 2001, with a total of 31,000 attendees, plus 20 tentative bookings. For 2002, there are 13 definite bookings with 46,000 attendees and 17 tentative bookings.

What happened to all those cries of "white elephant" and "boondoggle"? What happened is that the center has proved itself to be a winner.

Published by Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership

Rupert E. Phillips, CEO

John M. Flanagan, Editor & Publisher

David Shapiro, Managing Editor

Diane Yukihiro Chang, Senior Editor & Editorial Page Editor

Frank Bridgewater & Michael Rovner, Assistant Managing Editors

A.A. Smyser, Contributing Editor

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