Kosovo diplomacy grinds on
Chernomyrdin meets with Annan Tuesday
May 4, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton's hint that NATO -- "under the right circumstances" -- might consider a pause in the bombing against Yugoslavia represents no change in the alliance's demands, British officials said Tuesday.
"If there were to be clear and unambiguous evidence that (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic was meeting the conditions, and that he seemed to be doing so, then we would consider a bombing pause to allow an orderly withdrawal of his forces," British Defense Secretary George Robertson said at a news briefing.
"That has been our position all along, and the pause in these circumstances would be simply in line with what we had said. Our terms remain unchanged."
Clinton commented on the possibility of a bombing pause following a meeting Monday with Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin.
"Under the right circumstances, we would be willing to have a bombing pause," the U.S. president told reporters. "But we would need acceptance of the basic principles and at least the beginning of the withdrawal of the Serb forces."
'Closer' to a solution?
Clinton said earlier that current initiatives from Milosevic fall far short of what it will take to end the NATO strikes.
"Our air campaign cannot stop until Mr. Milosevic shows that he is ready to end the nightmare for the people of Kosovo," Clinton said.
Chernomyrdin, who has met with top Belgrade officials, including Milosevic, said he and Clinton had "come closer to a diplomatic solution." He was to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Tuesday.
Asked if Clinton had shown any willingness to pause the bombing, he said: "Naturally. That's the main issue. We need to think of the circumstances and issues on which it could be enacted."
But, Chernomyrdin said, Yugoslavia remains vehemently opposed to an international peacekeeping force to protect returning Kosovar refugees.
Russia strongly opposes NATO's bombing campaign, and Chernomyrdin's efforts are part of an intensified Russian effort to find a peaceful end to the conflict.
Jackson brings letter from Milosevic
Shortly after the Clinton-Chernomyrdin meeting, the Rev. Jesse Jackson -- fresh from his Belgrade mission to free three U.S. soldiers captured by Yugoslav forces -- went to the White House and hand-delivered a letter from Milosevic.
The civil rights leader urged Clinton to phone the Yugoslav president -- an effort administration sources said the president has rejected.
Jackson also said the United States should free the two Yugoslav prisoners of war who were taken captive in April by Kosovo Liberation Army rebels and handed over to the United States. U.S. administration officials said that request is under review.
"A gesture of diplomacy deserves some reciprocity," Jackson said, adding that Milosevic released the U.S. soldiers despite internal pressure to keep them as "trophies."
"We have the power to fight; we must show the strength to negotiate and to break this cycle of violence and this gulf of distrust," Jackson said.
The three freed U.S. soldiers -- Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez, 24, of Los Angeles; Staff Sgt. Christopher Stone, 25, of Smiths Creek, Michigan; and Spc. Steven Gonzales, 22, of Huntsville, Texas -- are recuperating at a U.S. Army hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, where they were reunited with family members.
Europe pushes for resolution
Meanwhile, European Union president-designate Romano Prodi, citing fears that a prolonged conflict could hurt Europe's economy, called for an international conference on the Balkans.
"Growth in the European economy is slowing down," said the former Italian prime minister. "Europe is involved in a war, the grave consequences of which will be felt at its borders for many years to come."
In France, officials called for an urgent meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers to bring Russia closer to the heart of the search for peace. But French president Jacques Chirac urged caution.
"One cannot trust the government in Belgrade," he said.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has emerged as the most hawkish of the NATO leaders, said Tuesday that Serbia could only rejoin the international community when it was rid of "corrupt dictatorship" -- an obvious reference to Milosevic.
"Milosevic and his hideous racial genocide will be defeated. NATO will prevail," Blair said in a speech to the Romanian parliament in Bucharest.
NATO pounds Yugoslav targets after flurry of diplomacy
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
|Back to the top||
© 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.|
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.