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Yugoslavia: U.S. Reacts Strongly To Kosovo Killings

Washington, 20 January 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. is reacting strongly to the latest Serbian crackdown in Kosovo.

U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters on Tuesday that the possibility of NATO airstrikes is open because of the crackdown.

Rubin said the U.S. holds the Serbs responsible for the killing of 45 people at Racak last week and considers the situation a "very serious matter."

Rubin explained: "With respect to what will or will not yield a decision to take away the suspension of the activation order by the North Atlantic Council is not a decision for me to announce here. I can tell you that it is a very serious matter, that [U.S.] Secretary [of State] Madeleine Albright has engaged very seriously on it, that the administration has been discussing it intensively, and that we have very clear requirements from [Yugolsav] President Slobodan Milosevic."

Rubin said the requirements could be broken down into four parts.

First, Rubin says Milosevic must permit Ambassador William Walker, a U.S. diplomat heading the Kosovo Verification Mission, to stay in Serbia and fulfill his duties. Rubin says Serbia's 24-hour extension of Walker's expulsion is still "unacceptable."

Second, Rubin says Milosevic must allow the International Crime Tribunal to do its work and investigate who is responsible for the Racak killings.

Third, Rubin says Milosevic must identify who is responsible for the killings and ensure accountability.

And fourth, Milosevic must reverse the "growing pattern of deployment and violations" of the accords he agreed to with the West.

Rubin also said the U.S. is "outraged" not only by the killings, but by Belgrade's continued "confrontational and destructive response" to international anger at the incident, including the refusal to allow chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Louise Arbour from entering Kosovo and the expulsion of Walker.

Secretary Albright told reporters on Tuesday that she had spoken to several foreign ministers in recent days and has been encouraged by the uniformity and unity of the international community's response in denouncing the killings and protesting Walker's expulsion.

Albright said: "The main purpose here is for Mr. Milosevic to get the message."

In regards to possible NATO airstrikes, Albright responded: "The activation order is on the table."

Also on Tuesday, U.S. National Security Adviser Samuel Berger denounced the killings and told CNN that Milosevic is seeking to deprive the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo the right to self-government.

Berger said: "If he is going to do that by virtue of gross repression with these kinds of atrocious acts, then I cannot see the international community standing by."

Berger also warned that the threat of force is still "very much an option" in Kosovo.

On the legislative side, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) told reporters Tuesday that she is "very disturbed" at what is happening in Kosovo. But she added that if U.S. President Bill Clinton has any plans to expand American troops into Kosovo, the U.S. Congress would have to have a "much more comprehensive look at his plan."

Hutchinson said while she wants the possibility of NATO airstrikes in Kosovo kept open, she would also like to see other European nations doing more to alleviate the situation. On Tuesday, NATO's top two generals reportedly made little headway to persuade Yugoslav Milosevic to abide by his commitments on Kosovo or face a renewed threat of allied military intervention.

The generals met Milosevic for talks in Belgrade that lasted nearly seven hours. Neither side made any official comment afterwards and diplomats say the generals returned to Brussels to report to NATO ambassadors on their mission.