Sharon urges U.S. Jews to oppose independent Kosovo

Special to World
Wednesday, April 7, 1999

JERUSALEM [MENL] -- Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon has urged U.S. Jewish leaders to oppose independence for the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

Sharon told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Monday that an independent Kosovo would merge with Albania and create a huge Muslim state in the heart of Europe. He said such a state would be aligned with radical Muslim elements and serve as a base of terrorism.

The foreign minister said the Kosovo Liberation Army has obtained significant aid from terrorist organizations backed by Iran, including the mujahadeen fighters in Afghanistan, Hizbullah and Osama Bin Laden, accused of blowing up two U.S. embassies in Africa last year.

Israel Radio quoted Sharon that an independent Kosovo would enable Islamic terrorism to spread throughout Europe.

Sharon appealed to U.S. Jewish leaders to call for an end to the fighting in Kosovo. "As faithful friends of the United States, we are expecting from it and NATO to do whatever they can to stop the suffering of innocent people and to renew as soon as possible negotiations and a mutual agreement between the parties," Sharon was quoted as saying.

Some Jewish leaders have expressed unease with the NATO air campaign. Last week, the Washington-based Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs, influential in U.S. defense circles, warned that the KLA is "armed by Iran and supports a fundamentalist Islamic state. Such a state wouuld destabilize the Balkans and exacerbate existing problems in areas of Europe with large Muslim minorities, including France and Germany. The Albanian Kosovars are already victims. American support for an Islamic insurgency in Europe would make them victims twice."

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, have not publicly echoed Sharon's warnings of an independent Kosovo. But privately, senior Israeli officials said Sharon's assessment is shared by government leaders.

"I don't think this [fear of a Muslim state] is the key issue now," Defense Minister Moshe Arens said. "The main issue is to do everything possible to stop the atrocities by Serbia."

In Gaza, Palestinian Authority Cabinet secretary Ahmed Abdul Rahman warned Israel to learn what he called the lesson of Kosovo. He said Israel could face the same international response now faced by Yugoslavia if the Jewish state refuses to allow fulfill its accords with the Palestinians and tries to prevent their plans for an independent state.

Five Israeli planes arrived on Tuesday in Albania and Macedonia as part of an Israeli humanitarian mission to aid Kosovo refugees. The planes flew 80 doctors and support staff to establish a tent camp near the Kosovo border and help distribute Israeli medicine, blankets and other supplies.

Wednesday, April 7, 1999

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