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Tough talk from Washington as Kosovo peace hopes wane

Serbian soldier
Serb troop movements fuel skepticism that Yugoslavia will sign the peace proposal
CNN's John King reports the White House wants to show Congress a clear plan for U.S. forces in Kosovo
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March 18, 1999
Web posted at: 8:17 p.m. EST (0117 GMT)

From White House Correspondent John King

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As the Kosovo peace talks in France appeared to run out of steam Thursday, President Bill Clinton's national security team was quick to deliver a blunt warning to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

"If Belgrade doesn't reverse course, the Serbs alone will be responsible for the consequences," said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "I would just like to remind President Milosevic that NATO stands ready to take whatever measures are necessary."

Administration officials went to Capitol Hill to brief a skeptical Congress on NATO's plans to strike Serb military communications centers, supply depots and barracks.

"We need to be briefed more. We need to be advised what the risks are, and the American people need to have a better understanding what the United States' national security interests are, if any," said Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.

Administration sources tell CNN that airstrikes would not begin until next week at the earliest. And officials aren't completely ruling out the possibility of a last-minute diplomatic breakthrough.

"As we know in the past, from our past dealings with President Milosevic, he often doesn't act until he feels he has to," said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart. "This is a decisive phase."

Some 350 to 400 NATO aircraft are poised for action, including American F-117 stealth fighters and B-52 bombers. In addition, seven ships capable of launching cruise missiles -- six American and one British -- are on standby.

U.S. and NATO forces

Sources say any strikes would begin with missile launches because Serb anti-aircraft batteries, difficult terrain and marginal weather all pose significant risks for pilots.

"This is a robust, highly integrated, well-equipped air defense system, operated by well-trained people," said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon.

New movements of Serb troops and anti-aircraft artillery to the Kosovo region have only added to administration doubts that Milosevic will join Kosovo's ethnic Albanians in signing a peace proposal

While six NATO nations are involved in plans for airstrikes, the United States would carry by far the biggest burden and assume the greatest risk.

Kosovo peace talks appear on brink of collapse
March 17, 1999
Serbs set new conditions for Kosovo peace accord
March 16, 1999
Diplomats ratchet up pressure for Serbs to sign Kosovo accord
March 15, 1999
Kosovo peace talks set to resume
March 14, 1999
Kosovo violence grows before Paris talks
March 13, 1999

Kosova Crisis Center
NATO Official Homepage
Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR)

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