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Stop Serb Exploitation

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THE systematic killing and displacement of Muslims by Serbs in the newly recognized state of Bosnia-Herzegovina was rightly described as a "humanitarian nightmare" by Secretary of State James Baker last week, as he put the United States in the lead on isolating Serbia in the world community.

With European Community nations paralyzed by a new war on their doorstep, an outside party had to take the lead. The US has paved the way for EC nations to block Serbian travel to Europe, implement a trade embargo, and support freeing NATO troops for limited UN-based "Chapter 7" actions in Bosnia (as with air cover of Iraqi Kurds last year).

Not a minute too soon. Helped by Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade, the butchery of peaceful European Muslims who have lived with Serbs and Croats in Sarajevo for 500 years is at least as bad as the nightmare Kuwaitis faced when Saddam Hussein invaded.

Nor, if Mr. Milosevic continues his power-hungry course, is the bloodletting in the Balkans likely to end in Bosnia. On Sunday, Albanian Muslims in the Serbian province of Kosovo voted to secede from Serbia. Kosovo is 90 percent Muslim but is Serbia's fervently loved mystic heartland. In 1987 Milosevic made his name by defending the Serb minority there. He reincorporated autonomous Kosovo into Serbia, took away Muslim weapons, and now runs Kosovo as a police state.

Kosovo is a time-bomb with a lit fuse. If it goes off, other Muslims in the Balkans - in Albania, Turkey, Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria - won't sit still. If Kosovo blows, the shreds of sanity still left among Serbia's leaders may disappear, making retreat from a larger, messier war more difficult.

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