China Unleashes Fury
Against NATO At UN
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - China on Saturday unleashed its full fury against NATO, calling for the western alliance to be punished for war crimes after the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
At an emergency overnight UN Security Council session called by China to debate Friday's bombing, Chinese Ambassador Qin Huasun demanded an immediate halt to the seven-week NATO air campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
He read out a Chinese government statement condemning the attack -- which killed at least two people -- as a "barbaric act" by NATO which violated international laws.
The five North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries on the UN council -- Britain, Canada, France, the Netherlands and the United States -- put up a united front, expressing regret for the bombing casualties but ignoring calls to halt the campaign.
They stressed that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was primarily responsible for the conflict's dragging on, and urged him to seize the opportunity to negotiate a settlement based on terms defined by the leading industrialized countries.
The 19 speakers who took the floor during the debate, including all but two of the 15 UN Security Council members, expressed deep regret and stressed that Friday's bombing should not derail efforts towards a diplomatic solution.
US Ambassador Peter Burleigh said there was "no confirmation" that the missiles which flattened the Chinese embassy were fired by NATO.
If an investigation showed that they had done so, the United States would be "deeply sorry," he said.
Burleigh urged council members to look at the "big picture" and Milosevic's role in the year-long conflict during which about 1.5 million ethnic Albanians have been forced from their homes in the Serbian province of Kosovo.
Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov, in a scathing response, said that the "big picture" was rather NATO's attempt to destroy existing world order through "military adventurism."
"The humanitarian slogan has been used to cover up and conceal the attempt by NATO to destroy the present world order which is based on respect for international law and for the charter of the United Nations," said Lavrov.
"And that is what the big picture is, not the fact that one single person is responsible for all of this."
Qin, who said that the entire embassy, "from the fifth floor to the basement" had been destroyed, accused NATO of a "very serious breach" of Geneva conventions.
"That is a crime of war and should be punished," he said. Lavrov called for NATO to pay the "consequences" of its action.
Dutch Ambassador Arnold Peter van Walsum argued that NATO could not be accused of breaching the international convention on the protection of diplomats because the attack on the embassy was not deliberate.
Qin, responding to Van Walsum's "astonishing" assertion, retorted: "are we to understand that a killer, merely by arguing that he did not commit the killing deliberately, can escape the punishment of law?"
"We strongly demand that NATO carry out an investigation on that serious incident and account for it. NATO must assume all responsibilities on this," he said, warning that China reserved the right to take further action.
Yugoslav charge d'affaires Vladislav Jovanovic agreed that the embassy bombing was a war crime and accused the alliance of waging "total war."
He said that a total 1,200 Yugoslav civilians had been killed, and more than 5,000 wounded since the NATO air strikes began on March 24.
Cuba and Iraq were among the eight countries that spoke in favour of an immediate halt to the bombing. Non-permanent council member Namibia joined China and Russia to seek an end to the military campaign.
The Cuban delegate, referring to the US experience in the Vietnam war, expressed the hope that "we won't have to wait 20 years to discover that the war was a lamentable mistake."
Saturday's open debate took place after the council spent four hours in closed session discussing how to react publicly to the embassy bombing.
The restrained press statement issued after the meeting did not attribute the bombing to NATO, and noted that an investigation was under way.
The council members in that statement "expressed their shock and concern over the casualties and damage apparently caused by missiles which hit the Chinese embassy."