March 24, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As U.S-led NATO forces prepared airstrikes against Serb targets Wednesday, President Clinton was briefed by his national security advisers and telephoned Boris Yeltsin in an attempt to bolster U.S.-Russian relations despite sharp differences.
Clinton also planned more consultations with U.S. allies and congressional leaders.
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Clinton's message for Yeltsin was that "we should not allow a dispute on a single issue to derail the important work we're doing on a wide variety of issues."
Russia, a traditional ally of Serbia, does not support a NATO attack, and on Tuesday Prime Minister * registered his opposition by canceling a White House visit even as he flew to Washington.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen had breakfast at the White House on Wednesday with National Security Adviser Samuel Berger to discuss Kosovo, an administration official said.
There were indications the airstrikes could commence at nightfall on Wednesday, beginning with a volley of cruise missiles. But it also is likely, sources tell CNN, that the B-2 stealth bomber would make its combat debut.
The B-2 has the ability to drop 16 bombs, each weighing 2,000 pounds. The satellite-guided bombs would not be hampered by bad weather.
The administration and its allies argued that failure to act now against Yugoslavia and Milosevic could worsen a severe humanitarian crisis, accelerate Serbian acts of genocide against ethic Albanians, hold NATO up to ridicule and even spread the war to other countries such as Greece and Turkey.
A deeply divided Senate late Tuesday closed ranks behind the president, voting 58 to 41 to support airstrikes despite stark differences over aspects of his policy.
Correspondents John King and Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.
U.S., allied planes, ships ready for attacks on Serbs
TIME Daily: A Kosovo Primer
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