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NATO Sets 96-Hour Deadline, U.S. Deploys B-52s

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Oct. 13, 1998 – NATO voted to take military action Oct. 12 and gave Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic 96 hours to comply with a U.N. Security Council resolution on Kosovo.

The NATO order is a significant step toward ending the crisis in Kosovo, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said Oct. 13 while en route here from Kuwait. "This shows that the NATO countries are fully capable and prepared to go to war if necessary to force compliance with the U.N. Security Council resolutions," he said.

The United States deployed six B-52 bombers, an aerial tanker and a reconnaissance plane to England Oct. 10 to be available to the alliance if needed. The planes, from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., are among about 260 the United States has committed to NATO air operations. Most of the other aircraft are based in Europe or aboard the carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, in the Mediterranean.

NATO's decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, approved the activation order, authorizing both limited air strikes and a phased air campaign in Yugoslavia. NATO authorities delayed action for 96 hours based on Milosevic's pledges to comply with U.N. demands.

Announcing the council vote in Brussels, NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana said time is running out for Milosevic. "Even at this late hour, I still believe diplomacy can succeed and the use of military force can be avoided," Solana said. "The responsibility is on President Milosevic."

In Washington, President Clinton praised his special envoy to Kosovo, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who negotiated an agreement with the Yugoslav president. "This is only the second time in NATO's history that it has authorized the use of force, and the first time in the case of a country brutally repressing its own people," Clinton said.

Based on the U.S.-brokered agreement, Milosevic said he will comply with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1199, calling for a cease fire and withdrawal of military and police forces conducting an offensive against Kosovar civilians. He also must allow refugees to return to their homes and humanitarian agencies to provide relief to displaced people.

Along with meeting these U.N. demands, Milosevic has agreed to allow international inspectors to verify his compliance and to set a timetable for completing interim autonomy talks with Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leaders.

These commitments "can provide the basis for peace and progress," Clinton said. "But, let me be very clear, commitments are not compliance. Balkan graveyards are filled with President Milosevic's broken promises."

The United States and NATO will determine if the Yugoslav leader "follows words with deeds," Clinton said. "We will remain ready to take military action if Mr. Milosevic fails to make good on his commitments this time."

The agreement is "not just a piece of paper," Cohen told reporters here. "It's backed up by the [activation] order of the NATO countries that they will participate in a fairly substantial campaign to force compliance or to reduce his capacity to inflict damage upon the Kosovars."

In the meantime, Cohen said, "We will have sufficient means to verify the movement of [Milosevic's] troops and where they're going."

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