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U.S. Does Not Rule Out Attack on Serbs

By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service

Washington, March 16, 1998 – President Clinton's special envoy to the Balkans said the United States is not ruling out military action against Serbian forces if violence in the province of Kosovo continues.

During March 12 testimony before the House International Relations Committee, Ambassador Robert Gelbard said the Clinton administration is pursuing all options and ruling none out.

"We are watching the situation with extreme care," Gelbard told the committee. "We obviously want to try to find every possible measure -- both diplomatic [and] economic sanctions -- that can be used. But no options are ruled in or out."

Serbian police and paramilitary units have been blamed for more than 80 dead and more missing in Kosovo during the past 12 days. Gelbard said he will bring every tool necessary to bare on Serbian President Slobodon Milosevic.

"I can assure you that we are not going to stand by and watch 1991 unfold again," Gelbard said, referring to the extensive massacres which occurred in Bosnia and resulted in a U.S.-led NATO force being sent to the Balkan nation in 1995.

Gelbard met with Milosevic on March 10 and told him normal relations will not resume and sanctions will remain until he is committed to resolving differences with Kosovo peacefully.

Kosovo province is 90 percent ethnic Albanian, but the Serbian regime controlling Yugoslavia stripped Kosovo of its autonomy in 1989. U.S. and NATO officials have warned in the past that Kosovo's ethnic and political problems could spark a civil war that would draw in neighboring Albania, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Indeed, President Clinton has requested an extension of a peacekeeping force in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to help prevent the violence from spinning out of control. The mandate for the force expires Aug. 31 and extension requires U.N. Security Council approval. The United States may also try to increase the size of the peacekeeping force -- currently at 700, including 350 Americans, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said.

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