Washington, 23 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - The NATO military alliance opened its 50th anniversary summit in Washington today by declaring that it will continue its military campaign against Yugoslavia until the alliance prevails. In an opening statement, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said the Kosovo crisis represents a fundamental challenge to democracy, the rule of law and the values of NATO's 19 members. He says the ultimate aim of NATO's air offensive against Yugoslavia is to secure a just solution to the crisis in the Balkans.
The leaders of the 19 member nation delegations are expected to spend several hours discussing the latest developments in the Balkans and NATO's ongoing response.
U.S. President Bill Clinton said the summit session on Kosovo will send a message to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic that the alliance will continue its air campaign for as long as it takes to succeed.
NATO's air war against Belgrade overshadows the 50th anniversary gathering and has changed it from a celebration to what officials are calling a commemoration.
Meanwhile, the U.S., Britain and other NATO countries say the latest proposal on Kosovo from Milosevic does not go far enough.
After talks with Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin yesterday, Milosevic reportedly said he would accept an unarmed United Nations presence in Kosovo, with the participation of Russia to be matched by the withdrawal of NATO's forces in neighbouring countries.
A British spokesman said President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed that Milosevic's proposals failed to meet NATO's demands. These include a guaranteed return of the ethnic Albanian refugees to their homes with an armed international force to protect them and the withdrawal of all Serb military, paramilitary and special police units.