Support for ground troops swells in Congress
U.S. will open doors to 20,000 Kosovo refugees
April 4, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As the Pentagon announced Sunday that it was sending Apache attack helicopters and some 2,000 support troops to Albania as part of NATO's Operation Allied Force, some key members of Congress said that ground troops are needed to end the conflict in Kosovo.
"It's time for him (President Clinton) to stop saying he won't put them on the table," Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Delaware) said on CNN's "Late Edition." "It's time for him to say that ground troops are a possibility."
Two weeks ago, Congress authorized U.S. participation in NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia. Leading lawmakers say Congress is now ready to up the ante.
"The diplomacy won't start until our president stops saying no ground troops. We really have to get over that," Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) said on ABC's "This Week."
"I hope if the Congress returns that we convince him to do his job -- to be commander-in-chief -- to win the war," Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said.
That tone was echoed by Democrats.
"The world and the Balkans will look very different when we return to the Senate next week than it did when we left last week," Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"Last week, there was no support for American or NATO ground forces. Next week, I think there may be, because we understand more," said Lieberman, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Lawmakers said that by keeping the door shut on ground troops, President Clinton has encouraged Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to ravage Kosovo.
But a top Clinton adviser said keeping U.S. troops on the sideline is in the nation's best interest.
"Mounting a ground invasion here with hundreds of thousands, with tens of thousands of soldiers fighting from village to village, week by week, with untold numbers of casualties is not something we think is in our national interest," National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said Sunday.
America will get a closer look at a byproduct of the conflict in Kosovo when the United States opens its doors to some war refugees.
The United States has offered to shelter 20,000 of the Kosovar Albanians who fled Serb assaults inside Kosovo. But officials stress the invitation is limited.
"These people have to go back, otherwise there are no people in Kosovo," Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said.
"I mean at the moment, Kosovo is practically depopulated of Albanians, and that is not what we think is an appropriate end," said Albright.
The Pentagon said it hadn't decided where the refugees would be housed, but stressed that the measures would be temporary.
"Our goal is not to relocate refugees permanently onto U.S. territory," Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said.
"It is to relieve the congestion in FYROM, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, temporarily and then ... create the conditions that will allow these people to return home, which is where we believe they want to be," Bacon said.
Yugoslav Foreign Minister Nebojsa Vujovic accused Western media of concocting a "so-called humanitarian crisis," saying ethnic Albanians are welcome to come back to the region. He placed the blame on NATO and urged the 19-member military alliance to stop the bombing.
Ethnic Albanians "are citizens of our country and they are welcomed back to their country," Vujovic told CNN. "Bombs have to stop immediately. ... The whole Serbian nation is united behind its leaders because we are defending our territorial integrity."
A visiting Serbian Orthodox Church official criticized the NATO assaults on Yugoslavia during a service Sunday in Washington attended by Serbian-Americans from across the country.
"We strongly condemn the illegal and the unjustifiable aggression against a small sovereign nation, our Serbia and Yugoslavia, by NATO in the name of peace," Bishop Mitrophan said at St. Luke's Serb Orthodox Church.
The bishop also urged President Clinton and NATO leaders to halt the bombing during Easter, one of the holiest days on the Christian calendar. The Orthodox Church celebrates Easter on April 11.
More than 1,000 protesters went from the church service to a rally in Lafayette Park across from the White House on Sunday to protest the Clinton administration and NATO.
The demonstrators waved signs and banners such as "What Adolph Hitler started -- Adolph Clinton won't finish, sincerely Belgrade." Another read, "NATO bandits I accuse you for crimes against humanity."
At other church services across the country, prayers were said for the three U.S. soldiers being held in Yugoslavia.
Bacon said one report out of Yugoslavia indicates the men are now being held as prisoners of war and would be released at the end of the hostilities.
But it still unclear whether the captive U.S. servicemen will be put on trial, as Belgrade had said earlier this week.
Milan Bozic, a Yugoslav federal minister and deputy mayor of Belgrade, told ABC, "Of course they will not be tried."
However, Yugoslav's ambassador to the United Nations, Vladislav Jovanovic, told "Fox News Sunday" that "whether they are going to be brought to justice before a military court, it will depend on the result of the investigations which are now under way."
Yugoslavs say NATO missiles hit two bridges
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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