Washington/Belgrade; 25 May 1999 (RFE/RL) - The possible deployment of
NATO ground troops in Kosovo is expected to be the focus of talks today in
Washington between U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and German
Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said yesterday that it is still the view of U.S. military leaders that what he called a
"permissive" environment is required before NATO troops enter Kosovo. Rubin
said the NATO troops would then go in as an "implementation force," to control the province after Serbian forces had withdrawn or were in the process
Rubin said that once an operational plan is agreed to by the North
Atlantic Council, NATO's decision-making body, the alliance would deploy a force of 45,000 to 50,000 troops. That number is nearly double what had been previously planned. The Council is due to meet in Brussels this week to discuss plans for the possible deployment of the force.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said recently that sending NATO ground troops into Kosovo was "unthinkable." Schroeder said that Germany's opposition to a ground invasion would not change. Also on the diplomatic front, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott is due to arrive in Moscow today for talks tomorrow with Russia's Balkans envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, the European Union's Kosovo envoy.
Serbian media reported NATO air strikes late last night and early today hit a communications transmitter west of Belgrade, the Batajnica military airport and the Belgrade suburb of Rakovica, the site of a military complex. The reports said NATO also struck targets in Kosovo, around Prizren and Istok. Tanjug reported a NATO strike hit the Serbian Interior Ministry in Belgrade, although no explosion was heard.
Reports says two missiles which struck the ministry failed to explode. There is no independent confirmation of the reports.