Magazine article Newsweek

To the Brink-And Back : Threatened with Strikes, the Serbs Still Won't Yield

Magazine article Newsweek

To the Brink-And Back : Threatened with Strikes, the Serbs Still Won't Yield

Article excerpt

It is slobodan milosevic's favorite role. Every now and then the Serb dictator gets to play a Very Important Person, taunting the world with his special brand of brinkmanship. As a bonus, he often tries to make someone from Washington look silly. His specialty this year is exploiting the divisions within NATO as it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in April. And last Saturday his No. 1 victim was U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Albright flew to France early Saturday in a last-minute effort to forge an agreement over the renegade province of Kosovo. Prompted by the slaughter of 45 Albanians in the town of Racak last month, the talks had dragged on for two weeks. While the sides were close to a deal to grant semi-autonomy to Kosovo, Milosevic refused to even discuss a peacekeeping deployment of NATO troops in Kosovo. With only six hours remaining before a noon deadline for NATO strikes, Albright arrived at the table. As the deadline passed, the negotiations wore on for seven and a half more hours. Finally, it became clear that the Serbs wouldn't budge on the troop issue, and Albright did what the Clinton administration had said it would not: extend the deadline. Now negotiators have another three days, until 3 p.m. Tuesday, to cut a deal. Once again the West appeared to come up short in a test of wills with Milosevic. "Clearly, we are going into overtime," said one dejected U.S. official.

Serbian intransigence was to be expected. But it turned out that NATO's own members weren't entirely on board over the question of strikes, either. …

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