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NATO: Alliance Reaffirms Kosovo Stance

By Kevin Foley, Jeremy Bransten and Julie Moffett

Washington, 26 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- On the first day of NATO's 50th anniversary summit in Washington, alliance leaders said they are more united than ever in their determination to continue the air campaign against Yugoslavia.

During a press conference at the summit on Friday, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said the future of Europe is at stake and the bombing will continue until Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic backs down.

"We are going to win this battle against Milosevic, and we are going to continue until we achieve the objectives that the international community has established; total determination and total unity in that end. The 19 countries around the table today are determined that brutality cannot prevail in Europe and is not going to prevail."

NATO issued a 17-point statement on Kosovo reiterating the conditions Belgrade must meet in order to stop the alliance's month-old bombing campaign. The alliance endorsed an oil embargo against Yugoslavia and reiterated the five conditions required to end the air campaign against Yugoslavia.

The conditions are: an immediate end to the violence in Kosovo and ethnic cleansing; withdrawal of all Yugoslav military and paramilitary forces in the area; an agreement by Belgrade to an international military force in Kosovo, with NATO as a core component; the safe return of all refugees to Kosovo; and a willingness by the Serbs to resume talks within the Rambouillet framework.

In their statement, the NATO allies said they will tighten economic sanctions against Yugoslavia in order to increase the pressure on Belgrade.

In a related development, on Friday, the European Union (EU) voted to ban oil shipments and sales to Montenegro and Serbia. EU membership candidates Romania and Bulgaria are also being asked to join in the embargo.

Yet while NATO increases the pressure on Milosevic, it is also offering to work diplomatically with other countries to resolve the crisis, especially those which have closer ties to Belgrade.

In his opening statement on Friday, U.S. President Bill Clinton said:

"We will seek to do this with our European partners and with Ukraine and with Russia."

The NATO statement singles out Russia by saying: "Russia has a particular responsibility in the U.N. and an important role to play in the search for a solution to the conflict in Kosovo." But NATO leaders underscored today that such a solution must be based on the conditions of the international community and that President Milosevic's offers to date do not meet this test.

On Friday, Britain advised Russia's Balkan envoy, former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, not to travel to Washington this weekend to meet with NATO leaders about his recent talks with Milosevic. The United States, Britain and France rejected Belgrade's offer, made after the talks with Chernomyrdin, to allow an unarmed United Nations force in Kosovo if NATO ends its attacks and withdraws troops from neighboring countries.

NATO's statement made a point to praise the "courageous support" some nations in the Balkans are providing to NATO and the fleeing Kosovar refugees, particularly citing Macedonia and Albania.

But, in the alliance's strongest warning to date, NATO told Belgrade it will not tolerate any threats to Yugoslavia's neighbors and will respond to such challenges. U.S. National Security Advisor Samuel Berger stressed that the allies mean the warning very seriously. But he refused to give further details.

Friday's statement on Kosovo also said that stability in southeast Europe is a top priority for the alliance, adding that NATO will work with the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and countries in the region to build a better future there.

NATO officials on Friday defended a missile strike against Serbian state television, saying that there is no sanctuary for those aspects of a regime that spread hatred and foster oppression.

The attack was questioned by the human rights group Amnesty International, which said there must be a direct link to the conduct of military operations for a site to be considered a legitimate military target. The New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists also condemned the attack, saying it jeopardizes the position of journalists as noncombatants in international conflicts, as provided for in the Geneva Conventions.

Yugoslav officials said at least nine people were killed in the attack, which took Serbian state television off the air for several hours before broadcasting resumed using an alternative transmitter.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma arrived in Washington on Friday. He will participate today in the first summit-level meeting of the NATO/Ukraine Commission. NATO has emphasized its desire to continue to build a strong relationship with Ukraine. The two sides will discuss opening a training base in Ukraine for Partnership For Peace activities.

On Sunday, the last day of the summit, NATO's 19 members will meet with the so-called "front-line states" -- Albania, Macedonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia -- to the Kosovo crisis to discuss the conflict.