There is a certain symmetry between current events in Afghanistan and the elections held in Kosovo last weekend.
The NATO campaign that brought to an end Serbian aggression in Kosovo was primarily conducted by high-flying US Air Force bombers and much the same tactics have brought a halt to one stage of the anti-terrorist campaign against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

The Kosovo elections were therefore a hopeful and timely sign that out of necessary aggression can come the benefits of democratic process.
The victory of the Democratic League of Kosovo over hardline nationalists led by the former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army will have been welcome both to the reformed Serbian government in Belgrade and to the members of the NATO alliance who undertook the military action in 1999 only after Slobodan Milosevich had authorised ethnic cleansing that came near to genocide. The election was also a considerable success for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe which arranged and supervised it.

Some 800'000 went to the polls - a turn-out of about 65 per cent among ethnic Albanians and 46 per cent among Serbs.
However, the election is only the first step on a long road to permanent stability in Kosovo which is still, constitutionally, a part of Serbia. In his victory statement the leader of the Democratic league, Ibrahim Rugova, said that his main priority was the achievement of independence for Kosovo.

It was not surprising that he said this but he knows, of course, that this possibility is specifically ruled out by the relevant United Nations resolution which refers to the possibility of autonomy while excluding independence.

Ray Fleming

Heathrow go-ahead

It has taken eight years for the government to reply to the British Airport Authority's application for a fifth terminal at Heathrow. Yesterday's approval announced by Stephen Byers, the transport secretary, was entirely predictable.

An exhaustive and expensive enquiry lasting five years had recommended this course; the only possible reason Mr Byers could have found for rejecting the enquiry's findings or postponing a decision would have been the uncertain future which commercial airlines are facing after September 11.

But the expectation must be that public confidence in air travel will return and Heathrow needs a new terminal to handle the extra 30 million passengers annually that are predicted for the end of the decade. Anyone who uses Heathrow at all frequently will be inclined to think that the government has made the right decision.

Those who live in the environmental catchment area of the airport will not agree, of course, but they have probably by now recognised that although lip-service will be paid to their complaints nothing serious will be done to address them. Referring to the noise-level reductions and other concessions made by Mr Byers, a spokesman for BAA said: “It's too simple to say that similar promises were broken over Terminal 4. Recommendations were made but circumstances changed.” Circumstances will change again, we can be sure of that!



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