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NATO: Military Option Open In Kosova

Washington, 17 July 1998 (RFE/RL) -- NATO Secretary General Javier Solana says the alliance is prepared to militarily intervene in Kosova if it would help bring about a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.

Solana made the comment at a press conference in Washington Thursday. He was in the U.S. on a one-day trip to meet with top U.S. officials, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of Defense William Cohen and National Security Adviser Samuel Berger.

Solana also had an unscheduled meeting with President Bill Clinton when Clinton dropped by a meeting Solana was having with U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger.

White House spokesman Michael McCurry told reporters that Clinton and Solana discussed preparations for the NATO 50th anniversary summit --- scheduled to take place in Washington in April -- as well as the situation in Kosova.

McCurry says Clinton stressed the importance of having NATO military options available to help resolve the crisis in Kosova.

Earlier, during his morning press conference, Solana told reporters he believes the restraint being shown by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Kosova has a lot to do with NATO's statement that the organization is prepared to act "if necessary."

Solana stressed that the situation in Kosova would be best solved diplomatically, but warned: "If, in order to get a diplomatic solution, it becomes necessary for us to use the capabilities that we have, we will be prepared to act in order to help a diplomatic solution."

When asked whether Russia might try to interfere with a NATO operation in the region, Solana said it would be "very difficult" for any country to stop it. But he emphasized that NATO will act in an "appropriate, legal" manner to resolve the crisis.

In regard to Russia-NATO relations, Solana says he is "very pleased" with the way that relationship has developed over the past year, but says that it is time to look ahead and try to construct an "even deeper" and more productive relationship.

But Solana acknowledged that difficulties in the relationship still exist.

Explained Solana: "I wouldn't say all the truth if I do not complement my words by saying that sometimes we may have different opinions, and we have in our relations ups and downs. But the important thing is we are already engaged."

When asked whether the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland may be admitted into the alliance as early as January 1999, Solana said he was "taken aback" at the suggestion.

Recently, leading Polish officials, including Polish Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz, have said NATO may want to admit the three new members earlier than expected, partly to avoid placing Russian President Boris Yeltsin in a difficult position.

But Solana says reports in the Polish press were premature. He adds it was impossible to predict when legislatures of all of NATO's 16 member countries would complete the ratification process needed to admit the new candidates.

The United States has formally completed ratification of NATO enlargement that would welcome the three countries into the alliance.

NATO is expected to officially induct Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland into the alliance during the Washington summit next April.