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World - Africa

NATO weighing military options for Kosovo

An ethnic Albanian arrives in Albania after fleeing from Kosovo  

Cohen: 'Accelerated planning' for possible intervention

June 11, 1998
Web posted at: 4:09 a.m. EDT (0809 GMT)

BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO defense ministers are meeting in Brussels this morning to consider options for possible military intervention to stop the ongoing violence in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo.

U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen said Wednesday there is "a general consensus there should be accelerated planning" and that "all NATO members feel an increased sense of urgency."

"It is important ... to end this scandal of the bombing and shelling of innocent people. We will work to achieve it at every level -- diplomatic, economic and, hopefully, not military. But we're not ruling it out, either," Cohen said while visiting Rome.

Asked if NATO should be preparing for air strikes against the Yugoslav federation, Cohen responded, "NATO should examine all military options. I would not confine it to air or land or sea or any combination of the three."

Kosovo is a province within Serbia, one of the two republics that make up the Yugoslav federation. Yugoslav forces have been battling separatists seeking autonomy for Kosovo, which is about 90 percent ethnic Albanian. More than 250 people have died in the fighting, which has intensified over the last fortnight.

Ethnic Albanians protest in 2 cities

On Wednesday, thousands of ethnic Albanians demonstrated in Pristina, the capital of the troubled province, and in Skopje, the capital of neighboring Macedonia, calling for direct NATO intervention.

A sign hoisted during a protest rally in Pristina asks NATO to intervene in the conflict  

In response to the most recent violence, the United States and the European Union have slapped new economic sanctions on the Belgrade regime. Members of the six-nation Contact Group, which monitors crises in the Balkans, conferred in Paris Wednesday.

The Contact Group plans to propose a "phase of persuasion," during which Russia, a traditional Serb ally, would help negotiate with the Yugoslav federation and the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, said Jacques Blot, the group's French representative.

If Yugoslav leaders do not respond, Blot said the Contact Group would consider other measures that it has agreed upon.

Blair leans toward using military force

In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed his view that military force is a prerequisite for a diplomatic solution of the Kosovo crisis.

Britain is leading an effort to win U.N. Security Council approval of a resolution authorizing "all necessary means" to deal with the situation in Kosovo. The United States is backing the plan, but Russia has so far opposed the idea.

With the Yugoslav army beefing up its forces in Kosovo, NATO defense ministers will meet amidst a growing conviction in the West that military force may be the only way to convince Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to end the offensive against the ethnic Albanian separatists.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin termed Milosevic's credibility "a waning asset."

Still, despite the recent crackdown, American officials are trying to restart talks between the Yugoslav government and ethnic Albanian leaders, with Rubin observing that Milosevic "delivered" during the talks that ended the civil war in Bosnia.

"[It would be] very easy to simply say, 'Let's not do business with [Milosevic,]' unless you don't want a negotiated outcome. If you want a negotiated outcome, you need to do business with the person able to deliver," Rubin said.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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