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Athens meeting condemns NATO bombing of Balkans

By Deirdre Sinnott

Athens, Greece

The writer attended the Athens conference representing the International Action Center.

The European Conference for Peace in the Balkans met in Athens April 23-24. Representatives from political parties and organizations from 17 European countries and the United States discussed actions against NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia.

The conference adopted several proposals opposing the war--including one to hold demonstrations throughout Europe on May 8, the anniversary of the end of World War II, and on June 5, the international day of action proposed by a representative from the U.S. anti-war group the International Action Center.

During the conference NATO bombers destroyed a Serbian television station, killing many workers and crew members. The Athens conference issued a statement in solidarity with the news media workers in Yugo slavia, condemning the murderous attack.

The Greek political group Synapismos--the Coalition of the Left and Progress, formed in 1992--sponsored and hosted the meeting. Other participants included members of their national parliaments, two members of the European Parliament and other leaders of parliamentary parties.

Greece is the NATO country whose population is strongest against the war. Ninety-five percent of the people have shown their opposition in polls.

Some soldiers and sailors have refused to serve. The rail union leader asked workers not to transport NATO goods from Salonika to Macedonia.

And tens of thousands have demonstrated in Athens and Salonika, called out by groups ranging from the Greek Communist Party to the Orthodox Church.

While the Greek government is not directly participating in the air war against Yugoslavia, as a NATO member it is giving logistical support to the war effort.

Synapismos held a demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy in the days before the conference. Greek police attacked. As the conference began 100 participants were still in jail. Others at the conference showed injuries they suffered when police attacked them as they waited for their comrades outside the police station.

On April 25, the day after the conference, Synapismos sponsored a demonstration that took the traditional 28-mile route from Marathon to the U.S. Embassy in Athens. Protesters marched 10 hours through intermittent rain.

Chants denounced the NATO bombing and the U.S. government as 1,000 people marched past the heavily guarded embassy.

Speakers hold NATO responsible

At the conference, Cyprus Member of Parliament Andreas Christou, who is also a member of the political bureau of AKEL, said: "The U.S. and NATO are responsible for the flow of refugees. We must look for a political and diplomatic solution to the problems in Kosovo. There can be no division of Yugoslavia.

"This barbaric invasion concerns all the people of the Balkans. We need to go into the streets with a massive mobilization."

Professor Jovan Lazarev, general secretary of the Socialist Party of Macedonia, announced that the Macedonian Parliament had passed a declaration to stop the use of Macedonian soil as a staging area for either a ground war or an air war.

Lucio Manisio, a member of the European Parliament for the Party of Italian Communists and member of the PdCI Presidency said: "The bombing of the TV station was a crime against humanity. We need to protest and to not get involved in the coming ground war.

"The Italian government must make a solemn oath not to commit ground troops. The U.S. is working very hard to introduce ground troops. The Italian left must fight against this evil war."

Professor Dr. Lothar Bisky of the German Party of Democratic Socialism said: "We won't tolerate the replacement of international law with the law of the strongest. We believe there should be no war and no army ever again from German soil. Nothing will be as it was after this war.

"In Eastern Germany mothers who have sons in Macedonia in the German army are organizing to go there and get their sons back. Public opinion is changing in Germany; more people are now against the war."

Groups from Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Hungary, Norway, Romania, Spain, Switzerland and Russia also participated.

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