Biden Calls for U.S. to Intercede in Macedonia Conflict

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The new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee wasted little time yesterday in putting pressure on the Bush administration in one of the world's crisis spots.

Chairing his first hearing since his party took control of the Senate this month, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, called for the United States and NATO to take a more active role in containing ethnic violence in Macedonia.

"It is clear to me that the United States must increase its involvement," Mr. Biden said yesterday.

"Like it or not, the reality is that only the U.S. has the necessary military and political credibility to successfully manage and resolve crises in the Balkans," he said.

This month's shift in power in the Senate was perhaps most starkly illustrated in the changing of the guard in the Foreign Relations Committee, where the liberal Mr. Biden succeeds Sen. Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Republican who set a consistently conservative agenda as committee chairman.

Mr. Biden's ascension poses new problems for President Bush, complicating the confirmation strategy for several diplomatic nominees and giving one of the Democrats' most articulate speakers a new soapbox to press his views on issues in which he disagrees with the administration, from the Balkans to North Korea to missile defense.

The Senate hearing on the developing crisis in the Balkans yesterday came as Mr. Bush and other NATO leaders meeting in Brussels announced they were not ready to commit to a military role in Macedonia, where the government is battling an increasingly powerful insurgency by ethnic Albanian rebels.

Mr. Biden, who made a failed run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and has been rumored to be considering another run in 2004, has managed to forge a cordial working relationship with Mr. Helms.

Despite coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, the two were able to work together on a compromise U. …