Lott: Senators 'shaken' by briefing on Kosovo military strike
'There's no real plan,' Senate majority leader says
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics) -- As NATO appears to be edging closer to military action against Yugoslavia to halt its crackdown in the rebellious Serbian province of Kosovo, the Clinton administration is running into domestic political fire over the prospect of sending troops and bombs into the Balkans.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said Sunday that both Republican and Democratic senators were "shaken" last week after they were briefed on plans for military action by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen.
"There's no real plan on how to carry this out," Lott said on ABC's "This Week" program. And he called it "curious" that after watching Yugoslav forces crack down on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo for seven months, military action is now being considered just weeks before an election.
"The genocide has been taking place. The damage has been done," Lott said. "Now and only now they prepare to take serious action. I think that is curious."
Former third-party presidential candidate Ross Perot was more blunt Sunday, saying he thinks President Bill Clinton would consider taking the United States into "a little war" to help his precarious domestic political situation.
"This man will let this country rot, he will let the economy go into an international decline, he will devastate millions of people, and, if necessary, he'll start a little war just to get a bump in the polls," Perot said on NBC's "Meet The Press." "That is just a lust for power."
Lott said the administration has prepared neither the Congress nor the country for the possibility that U.S. troops could be sent to Kosovo as peacekeepers.
"To suggest that we would have ground troops there without any plan of what that would mean, how to get out, I think is unacceptable," he said.
In response, White House spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said the administration is focusing on "ending the violence and creating the conditions for the safe return of refugees and serious negotiations toward a political settlement."
"If we get close to a peace settlement, we will consider what role, if any, the United States will play in its implementation," Chitre said.
Lott said he thinks any military action should be aimed not just inside Kosovo, where 90 percent of the population is ethnic Albanian, but elsewhere in Serbia. Kosovo is a province in Serbia, which is one of the two republics that make up the Yugoslav federation.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that while he would support an order by Clinton to strike militarily, he too thinks that targets in Serbia outside Kosovo should be targeted.
Speaking on CNN's "Late Edition," Kerry also said that United States should develop a policy that deals with the overall situation in Kosovo, not just intervention in the current crisis.
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is "playing us and the allies -- NATO and the U.N. -- like a fine fiddle at the moment," Kerry said. "He has achieved his objective already, which was to thoroughly disrupt the (Kosovo) Liberation Army; and I think the ethnic Albanians have been so badly hurt, he basically now has the ability to carry over until the spring, which is what he wanted."
CNN White House Correspondent Eileen O'Connor contributed to this report.
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