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Yugoslavia: NATO Warns Of Long Air Campaign

  • Frank Csongos

Washington, 26 March 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The United States and its NATO allies say they are prepared, if necessary, to wage a sustained bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, supreme commander of NATO forces, said the allied air attacks on military targets would continue as long as needed to prevent what he called Yugoslav aggression against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The attacks entered the second day late Thursday.

The American general said at a NATO news conference in Brussels that the alliance is going to "systematically and progressively attack, disrupt, degrade and devastate" the Serbian military unless Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic complies with the demands of the international community and accepts peace in Kosovo.

At the White House Thursday, President Bill Clinton restated NATO goals concerning Kosovo.

Clinton said: "I want to say again that our purpose here is to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe or a wider war. Our objective is to make it clear that Serbia must either choose peace or we will limit its ability to make war."

Clinton said he believes that the majority of the American people will support his policy toward Kosovo.

Meanwhile, White House National Security Adviser Samuel Berger outlined possible scenarios on how the bombing would end.

Berger said: "I think there are two circumstances under which the bombing will end. One is that Mr. Milosevic embraces peace, and that means ending the fighting in Kosovo, and it means that the peace agreement (is accepted) within the framework of Rambouillet, which provides for a high degree of self-government for the Kosovars and a international presence to enforce it. That's one path. It is a path which is entirely in his hands. The other path, if he does not choose peace, as the president indicated both last night and today, is to engage in military action which will severely diminish his capacity to wage war against Kosovo."

At the State Department, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright warned Belgrade Thursday against broadening the Kosovo conflict or spreading violence and instability in the Balkans.

Albright said Milosevic must not attack Serbia's sister republic, Montenegro, which she says has a more rational and constructive approach to Kosovo. Albright also said the U.S. will not tolerate attacks on Americans or other foreigners, including foreign journalists in Serbia.

Albright said diplomatic channels remain open to Belgrade if Milosevic makes the choice for peace. She urged Belgrade to embrace the proposed settlement advanced in France earlier this month. The ethnic Albanians already have accepted it.

The secretary of state also explained American diplomatic objectives now that hostilities were under way.

Albright said: "Now that air strikes have begun, our diplomatic goals are four-fold. First, ensuring that the necessity for military action is understood around the world. Second, maintaining the unity of our coalition and planning next steps. Third, maintaining contacts with Russia and making clear that our differences over Kosovo need not disrupt progress on other fronts. And fourth, remaining in close communication with leaders in the region to address humanitarian concerns, respond to fears, and prevent unpleasant surprises."

Albright noted that both Russia and China are against NATO's air strikes. She said Russian leaders deserve credit for the efforts they made to persuade Milosevic to accept the Rambouillet peace accords. The proposed agreement would grant autonomy to Kosovo within Serbia and would call for NATO peacekeepers on the ground.

In the U.S. Congress, however, several lawmakers expressed doubts whether an air campaign alone could advance political objectives in the Balkans.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Jesse Helms, introduced legislation late Thursday that says the goal of U.S. policy should be the eventual removal from power of Milosevic.

A Republican from the southern state of North Carolina, Helms said his bill would provide $100 million to help support democracy and the development of a civil society inside Yugoslavia. It would also authorize increased broadcasting by the U.S.-funded radios Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and impose strict economic penalties on Yugoslavia.

Another Senator, Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, proposed providing weapons for the Kosovo Liberation Army so "they could have a fair chance" in fighting Serbian forces.