Stop the bombing... Stop the bombing... Stop the bombing... Stop the bombing...

Anti-Milosevic city asks...

'Why are you bombing us?'

"TWENTY minutes ago my city was bombed. The people who live here are the same people who voted for democracy in 1996, the same people who protested for 100 days after the authorities tried to deny them victory in the elections." Those were the words last week of Zoran Zivkovic, anti-Milosevic mayor of the Serbian city of Nis.

NATO's bombs are hitting people who have long fought the regime of Slobodan Milosevic. The Western media highlighted Milosevic shutting down Belgrade's last opposition radio station, B92. They were less keen to report B92's editor Veran Matic's words after the shutdown: Tension "The free media in Serbia has for years opposed nationalism, hatred and war. I call upon President Clinton to put a stop to NATO's attack."

The bombing also seems to be deliberately encouraging further ethnic tension in the Balkans. Some of the heaviest NATO bombing has been targeted on the Serbian province of Vojvodina—the furthest point from Kosovo in former Yugoslavia. This is the most ethnically mixed area of former Yugoslavia, with Hungarians forming around a third of the population, and big minorities of other groups including Croats.

NATO bombs have wrought havoc on the main city, Novi Sad. The ferry is now the only way to cross the River Danube which cuts through the city, because NATO bombs have destroyed all bridges. The bombed bridges have blocked the Danube, one of the key shipping routes across Europe from the Black Sea to Germany and beyond. The US news agency CNN reported that NATO bombs also targeted the Vojvodinan town of Subotica, hitting a densely populated part of the town.

The raids are angering ordinary Serbs who have no love for Milosevic. "If the devil were leading me I'd still be against NATO. This has nothing to do with Milosevic," says 28 year old Novi Sad resident Stanja Osinovic. The bombing is fanning ethnic tension between Serbs, Hungarians and Croats in Vojvodina, which risks widening the war. Nationalist politicians in Hungary are prepared to use the Hungarian minority in Vojvodina as an excuse to bang the war drum.

US president Clinton has recently been telephoning the leaders of Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, pressing them that they may have to accept NATO troops targeted at Serbia in their countries. The prospect of this terrible war spreading underlines why it is time to stop this madness.

NATO allies in action

ISRAEL: This US ally last week sent its army to bulldoze a village in southern Lebanon. The Israeli army has occupied southern Lebanon for nearly 20 years. It extended its occupation to the village of Arnoun where residents woke to find themselves behind barbed wire. One Israeli newspaper described the action as "cleansing the village". NATO said nothing.

TURKEY: Around 15,000 Kurds were arrested as they tried to attend an election rally in Diyarbakir last week. The Turkish state has oppressed Kurds for decades. Over three million Kurds have been driven from their homes. But NATO said nothing because Turkey is a key NATO member.

INDONESIA: The horrific violence in East Timor reached new heights after Indonesian backed militias attacked people in the capital, Dili, last week. Eyewitnesses say up to 30 died and a further 50 are unaccounted for. Irish foreign minister David Andrews was in Dili and said he was "shocked and horrified. The army and police were letting this all happen". Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, with US backing, and over 200,000 people have since been killed. The US and Britain continue to sell arms to Indonesia.

Simpson hits at New Labour

SENIOR members of the New Labour government have accused the BBC's John Simpson of "swallowing Serb propaganda" in his reports from Belgrade. Simpson has merely pointed out what every serious commentator does—that the bombing has united the Serb population behind Milosevic.

John Simpson rightly compared Labour's stance to the Tories' attacks on the media during the Falklands War, the bombing of Libya in 1986 and the Gulf War of 1991. "Fresh faced Labour politicos shook their heads at such foolish, panicky, illiberal behaviour," says Simpson. "They would do things differently, they said. They haven't."

Oil slick

DURING the 1991 Gulf War the West made propaganda capital out of oil wells set alight in the region. The claim was that it proved Saddam Hussein was a madman who would risk environmental disaster. Yet NATO now says oil refineries in Yugoslavia are legitimate military targets. NATO bombed a Belgrade petrochemicals complex last week. A 12 mile oil slick has flowed into the River Danube and threatens to affect Romania, Bulgaria and the Black Sea.

Unease in the pro-war camp

THE HOUSE of Commons finally discussed the war in Kosovo this week. Clare Short sickeningly described the 13 Labour MPs who refused to back the bombing as "an absolute disgrace to the party". The 13 with the guts to stand out against the war were: Tam Dalyell, Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, George Galloway, Neil Gerrard, Alice Mahon, Bob Marshall Andrews, Alan Simpson, Llew Smith, Bob Wareing, Audrey Wise, John McDonnell and Bill Michie. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the war. But even the Tory Daily Telegraph noted that in the pro-war camp "the speeches conveyed unease. Through all the conventions and compliments came an indelicate message: the NATO strategy could become the most frightful balls up."

Being careful?

NATO SAYS it goes to "extraordinary lengths" to avoid civilian casualties. But NATO bombs landed just 50 metres from a Belgrade hospital last week, reports Independent journalist Robert Fisk. The bombs blasted shards of glass into the patients' bodies. The hospital has a large red cross hung from the roof.

KLA's friends

THE KOSOVO Liberation Army (KLA) is presented by some as a fighting force to support. But the KLA admits it is being trained by the British SAS and US special forces teams. And the KLA is now negotiating a deal with Military and Professional Resources Ltd, a mercenary company run by former US officers.