March 29, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Amid indications that "genocide is unfolding in Kosovo," the U.S. State Department on Monday welcomed a new Russian diplomatic effort to resolve the crisis, but said the only way to stop NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia would be for President Slobodan Milosevic to accept a U.S.-brokered peace plan.
President Clinton, after being briefed by his international policy advisers, called two European leaders Monday afternoon to discuss the situation in Kosovo and planned to talk with others in the evening, an administration official said.
After Clinton's afternoon calls to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the official said the three were in "complete unity" that Milosevic has only two paths: either "a path of peace or a path of more conflict."
State Department spokesman James Rubin said reports of killings and mass expulsions of Kosovo Albanians "continue to accumulate" and are "credible."
He accused the Serbs of "abhorrent and criminal action on a maximum scale" and he detailed reports of executions of ethnic Albanian schoolteachers, a negotiator, an editor and hundreds of unarmed civilians.
Refugees continue to stream out of Kosovo and into neighboring areas, Rubin said. At least 60,000 had entered Albania "in the last 48 hours, according to the United Nations, and to a lesser extent into Montenegro and Macedonia," Rubin said.
He also disclosed that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spoke again by telephone Monday with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov after conferring with him Sunday night.
In her conversations with Ivanov, officials said, Albright outlined NATO's demands that Milosevic pull his troops out of Kosovo before "a change in the diplomatic situation" can be reached.
The commitment from Milosevic would have to be "more than a momentary glimmer of hope," one official said.
During their phone conversations, sources said, Albright told Ivanov -- who is one of the delegates ordered by Russian President Boris Yeltsin to head to Belgrade in an effort to stop NATO airstrikes -- that once the Yugoslav offensive ends and troops are withdrawn from Kosovo, the political process could go forward.
One senior U.S. official said it "doesn't necessarily have to be Rambouillet."
According to the Rambouillet deal signed earlier this month by the Kosovar Albanians, Kosovo would be entitled to autonomy for a three-year interim period and NATO would send a 28,000-member peacekeeping force into Kosovo.
"Nobody's going to say we'll pass on the opportunity to get them to stop until they say the word Rambouillet," one official said.
"If Yugoslav forces were to have a realistic pullback," said another senior administration official, "that would build up momentum within NATO to take a little break."
At his briefing Monday, Rubin said that while U.S. officials wished the Russians success, "NATO will continue air operations until such time as President Milosevic halts his offensive and commits to a settlement based on the Rambouillet accords."
Milosevic, whose forces last year reportedly began a crackdown on those he calls Albanian "terrorists," objects to the peace plan provision calling for NATO peacekeeping troops in Kosovo.
NATO authorized the airstrikes last week after Milosevic refused to call off the attacks.
The White House insisted, meanwhile, that NATO airstrikes were not responsible for inflaming ethnic hatred in the Balkans.
Spokesman Joe Lockhart said U.S. officials believed Milosevic would have aggressively repressed Kosovar Albanians -- a process Lockhart and others in the administration have called "ethnic cleansing" -- no matter what.
Based on "everything we know about Milosevic and the Serbs, they were going ahead with this. And we were faced with a choice here. Do we act or do we not act?" Lockhart said.
By acting now, he said, the NATO allies are making the Yugoslav leader "pay a price that he will not be able to sustain," he said.
Also Monday, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole urged NATO to "expand the target list of their ongoing bombing campaign."
In a written statement, Dole said the target list should include "top-level military, paramilitary, and police command-and-control and communications installations in Belgrade."
He also urged the use of "military means at our disposal to end Serbian atrocities immediately and to ensure that they cannot resume."
He concluded that he has "every confidence" in the U.S. military to help "end genocide in the Balkans once and for all."
Dole was enlisted by the Clinton administration as a special envoy to help convince the Kosovar Albanians to sign on to the Rambouillet accord.
NATO estimates that 500,000 ethnic Albanians have fled their homes over the past year of conflict and, as thousands more refugees streamed out of Kosovo on Monday, telling harrowing tales of atrocities by Serbian forces, Rubin again raised the specter of war-crimes trials.
He said even Milosevic could be held accountable and subject to imprisonment for life. "We have no doubt that he bears political responsibility" for the killing and uprooting of civilians, Rubin said.
The State Department spokesman also said Washington was "in close contact" with Russian authorities investigating Sunday's attack at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
A gunman, who remains at large, sprayed the building with automatic gunfire in an attack apparently linked to Russian protests against NATO airstrikes. No one was hurt and the embassy was open for business on Monday.
U.S. skeptical of Russian peace bid in Yugoslavia
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