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U.S., U.K. Defense Chiefs Discuss Kosovo

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 9, 1998 – NATO will look at military options in Kosovo, but the U.S. and British governments prefer a diplomatic solution to the unrest.

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and British Secretary of State for Defence George Robertson placed the onus for resolving the situation in Kosovo squarely on Serb President Slobodan Milosevic.

"The international community expects [Milosevic] to deal with this resolutely, nonviolently and diplomatically and that we will keep up the pressure to make sure that this takes place," Robertson said June 3 during a joint news conference with Cohen.

Cohen said NATO has decided nothing yet. NATO sent a team into Kosovo, Albania and the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia to assess alliance options. The assessment team should report in time for the NATO defense ministers meeting that starts in Brussels, Belgium, on June 11.

"It's incumbent on [NATO defense ministers] to examine what options would be available should military force be required," Cohen said. "So I don't think that one should draw any conclusions from the study itself, but rather this is prudent exploration on the part of NATO countries, and we would be abdicating our responsibilities if we simply ignored it."

The problems in Kosovo are a result of the policies of Milosevic and his government in Belgrade, Robertson said. A diplomatic settlement has to be found that considers the views of the ethnic Albanian Kosovars who make up 90 percent of the population of the Serbian province.

Cohen said outsiders cannot impose their will in Kosovo, and he pointed to NATO's involvement in Bosnia as an example. All Bosnian factions negotiated a diplomatic settlement before NATO stepped in.

"We have learned, obviously, from our experience in Bosnia," Cohen said. "There was a peace established in Bosnia. We are maintaining that peace. So we will look for ways in which we can help resolve this diplomatically and turn to military options not as a first resort, but a last resort."

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