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Washington Journal: Clinton To Ask Congress For Kosovo Resolution

  • Frank Csongos

Washington, 12 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen says President Bill Clinton will seek a Gulf War-type resolution from Congress in support of NATO's military campaign against Yugoslavia.

Cohen said yesterday in a U.S. television interview (on ABC) that a resolution approved by both houses of Congress to support NATO and U.S. forces would be beneficial to a successful conclusion of the Yugoslav campaign.

In January 1991, Congress approved a resolution backing then-President George Bush to use military force to help drive out Iraqi troops from Kuwait. The resolution fell short of a formal declaration of war against Iraq.

Congress is returning from a two-week recess today (Monday) and is expected to begin a full-scale examination of the U.S. role in NATO's campaign against Yugoslavia.

Clinton himself is set to meet Republican and Democratic leaders from the House and Senate today (Monday) and will confer with a larger group of lawmakers tomorrow (Tuesday).

Cohen restated U.S. policy that NATO does not contemplate the use of ground troops to drive Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, a largely ethnic Albanian populated province of Serbia. Federal Yugoslavia is made up by Serbia and Montenegro.

General Hugh Shelton, the top U.S. military official, said in the same television interview that NATO early on made a assessment as to what it would take to drive Yugoslav troops from Kosovo. He said these estimates varied from 20,000 to 200,000 ground troops.

Shelton said the build-up of a force of this size would depend on how many entry points were used.

He said: "And (theoretically) we haven't excluded using more than one point of entry or numerous points of entry" -- including from the north.

Clinton has come under some criticism in Congress for refusing to at least consider the use of ground troops if the air campaign against Yugoslavia over its crackdown of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo fails to bring results.

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said (on Fox TV): "No option should be taken off the table." Kerry added that he sees the use of ground troops as a realistic possibility in order to achieve NATO objectives.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and presidential hopeful, said (on NBC TV) he advocates a congressional resolution authorizing Clinton to use "whatever means necessary to achieve victory."

McCain, a former Vietnam War prisoner, defined victory as the removal of Yugoslav troops from Kosovo, a return of Kosovo's refugees and a NATO peacekeeping force in the province.

Delaware Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden said he also would support a congressional resolution that authorizes Clinton the use of ground troops, if necessary.

But not all U.S. lawmakers were supportive of the military campaign.

In the House, some Republicans said they will push measures to try to block use of ground troops and to withdraw from the conflict.

Congressman William Goodling, a Pennsylvania Republican, said he is sponsoring a bill to cut off funds for ground troops. He said he thought the NATO air campaign was poorly conceived and added that bombing will not bring Belgrade to the peace table. Political observers say the measure is not likely to be adopted.

In Brussels, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said yesterday the air campaign continued without a pause.

" The concentration was on targets in Kosovo itself, particularly (against) petroleum, oil and lubricant facilities at Pristina and there was some cruise missile attacks against two radio relay stations. I stress, as always ,that these were strictly military targets. But as you can see, last night NATO had a night of relative restraint. We were mindful of the Orthodox Easter celebration."

Shea also said that there are signs the allied bombing are hurting the Yugoslav army.

"The Yugoslav armed forces continue to demonstrate signs of wear and tear as a result of our operations. One thing that we are tracking at the moment are the mobilization problems and the manpower call up problems that the Yugoslav army is facing."