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NATO Approves Kosovo Plans

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Aug. 14, 1998 – NATO authorities have approved plans for air operations aimed at ending the violence in Kosovo, and they are seeking support among the allies should military action become necessary.

If diplomacy fails to produce a peace agreement and NATO is called upon to use force, the alliance now has plans for a range of air operations, cleared Aug. 12 by the North Atlantic Council, Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said in Washington.

The options "go from short of what would be a show of force right up to significant military action," he said. "Right now, the primary consideration is on putting together a possible air force, if necessary." U.S. forces would participate, just as they did in the June NATO air exercise over Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bacon said.

NATO hasn't reached the stage of constituting a ground force yet, but the United States would strongly consider joining one to enforce a cease-fire or peace agreement, he added. "But that's a decision the president would have to make after discussing this with Congress."

Ground operations would only come into play if there were a cease-fire or a peace agreement, Bacon said. "They would be designed to support a negotiating success -- the success that we all hope will emerge from newly started talks."

He said NATO's top military commander, U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, currently is polling countries informally to see what they'd contribute should NATO order air operations. Bacon stressed, however, the alliance has not issued a formal order to put together a force.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana announced the alliance's authorization for the informal poll after the North Atlantic Council meeting here. He said NATO supports ongoing diplomatic efforts, but military action might be needed to end the fighting and to create the conditions for negotiations. Having plans for military operations ensures NATO can act swiftly and effectively if ordered, he said.

Later in the day Aug. 12, Ibrahim Rugova, leader of the ethnic-Albanian Kosovars seeking independence, announced an agreement with Serb authorities to have negotiating teams meet to work out a settlement. Solana responded to that news by calling for both sides to proceed quickly and in a spirit of cooperation.

"It is imperative that [Serb] President [Slobodan] Milosevic contributes positively to the process and creates an appropriate environment by ensuring that his security forces behave with restraint," Solana said. "This is a window of opportunity that must not be allowed to pass by."

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