Bartlett says Vienna trip 'went very well'

May 03, 1999|By BRENDAN KIRBY

A congressional delegation that included U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., struck an agreement with Russian legislators over the weekend to push for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Kosovo.

Bartlett, a vocal critic of the war, said he will pursue any means necessary to halt the bombing - including taking President Clinton to court.

Bartlett and 16 other members of Congress filed a lawsuit on Friday to block U.S. military action against the Serbian-led Yugoslav federation.

The congressional delegation that met with their counterparts from the Russian Duma on Friday and Saturday in Vienna, Austria, reached broad agreements, Bartlett said.


"I think it went very well," he said. "For the long term, the most productive thing we will have accomplished is to begin repairing a very damaged relationship with Russia."

Both sides issued a statement calling for:

* The release of all prisoners of war.

* The voluntary return of Kosovar refugees to their homes.

* An armed international peacekeeping force that would administer Kosovo after the withdrawal of Serbian troops. The makeup of the force would be determined by a consensus of the five permanent members of the U. N. Security Council.

Bartlett said the six-week-old NATO bombing campaign has severely tarnished America's relationship with a country that has 28,000 nuclear warheads.

Angering Russia in defense of vital national interests may be acceptable, Bartlett said, but he added that none exist in Kosovo. The bombing has led to anti-American demonstrations in Russia and has weakened the pro-West segment of Russian society, he said.

"That's not good for us," he said. "They, still, are a very formidable power."

Lawmakers from both nations said they will introduce a resolution in their legislatures embodying the spirit of the statement they hammered out on Saturday.

"I think that the House will pass this resolution," Bartlett said.

Bartlett said the American legislators wanted to go to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, but were unable to get permission from the U.S. State Department. He said the Russians and an envoy from Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic indicated that Milosevic intended to release three captured American soldiers to the delegation.

Instead, Milosevic released the soldiers to the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson. Bartlett said Milosevic received a copy of the lawmakers' statement two hours before he released the prisoners.

On the legal front, Bartlett said he hopes the lawsuit filed last Friday in U.S. District Court will get a hearing within the next few days or weeks.

The suit, initiated by Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Calif., argues that the bombing is illegal under the War Powers Act because President Clinton has not received approval from Congress.

Clinton, like his predecessors, has argued that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional.

The law has never been tested in court, although a similar suit was filed against President George Bush prior to the Persian Gulf War.

U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene ruled then that members of Congress have standing to sue. But he did not rule because Congress had not voted on the matter. Bush eventually sought and received congressional approval, making the suit moot.

This situation is different, however. The House failed to approve, by a 213-213 vote, a resolution supporting the air war.

Although some have argued that such a suit weakens the presidency, Bartlett said he simply wants Congress to retain the war-making authority granted by the Constitution.

"I'd like to see the president speak with as strong a voice as possible without violating the Constitution," he said.

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