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Clinton: U.S. troops set for Kosovo peacekeeping force

February 13, 1999
Web posted at: 3:15 p.m. EST (2015 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, February 13) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton said Saturday that up to 4,000 U.S. troops would make up about 15 percent of a NATO peacekeeping force to maintain any cease-fire reached between Serbs and ethnic Albanians.

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"It is increasingly clear that this effort can only succeed if it includes a NATO-led peace implementation force that gives both sides the confidence to lay down their arms," Clinton said. "It's also clear that if there is a real peace, American participation in the force can provide such confidence, particularly for Kosovo's Albanians."

In his weekly radio address, delivered live from the Oval Office, the president said the United States needed to be involved at the front end of any peace settlement in order to keep the conflict from spreading.

Ethnic Albanians and Serbs, the warring parties in the Kosovo conflict, are negotiating a settlement in France. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was on her way Saturday to join the talks.

The parties have an informal deadline of February 20 for reaching an accord.

'Serious obstacles'

"There are serious obstacles to overcome," Clinton said.

The president said that a continuation of the conflict could lead to a massive loss of life and a huge refugee problem.

"The time to stop it is now," he said.

Clinton said that World War II taught the United States that it could not be secure "if Europe's future was in doubt."

He said that the NATO mission must be well defined and include a date when U.S. troops would return home.

"America should contribute to securing peace for Kosovo," he said. "America cannot be everywhere or do everything but we must act where important interests are at stake and where we can make a difference."

White House Correspondent Chris Black contributed to this report.




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Saturday, February 13, 1999

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