Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Yugoslav Military Forces Nearing War Goals in Kosovo

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Yugoslav Military Forces Nearing War Goals in Kosovo

Article excerpt

Rather than retreating to escape NATO air attacks, Yugoslav military forces can afford a partial withdrawal from Kosovo -- announced yesterday -- because they have accomplished most of their war aims and can trim their operations without losing control of the province, Western intelligence and defense officials say.

During the past seven weeks, 40,000 security forces have nearly completed a yearlong project, reducing a separatist rebel army to scattered enclaves.

The action has forced all but 10 percent of the province's 1997 population of 1.7 million ethnic Albanians from their homes, and more than 700,000 of them into exile.

As a result, Yugoslav troops are devoting much of their effort to digging in for a long stay in Kosovo, often using forced ethnic Albanian labor to build bunkers, trenches and other defensive earthworks to prepare for a NATO ground invasion, according to intelligence officials.

"There's no one left; it's time for peace," a top U.S. military officer said with sarcasm yesterday.

The United States and its NATO allies dismissed the partial withdrawal as insufficient and said air attacks on Yugoslavia would continue until Belgrade meets all their conditions to resolve the Kosovo crisis.

President Clinton said he welcomed "any little daylight, any little progress." But, he said, "I think that the conditions that we set out are the minimal ones to make this work."

The announcement -- which said the pullback began Sunday but provided no further details -- appeared to be part of a new diplomatic offensive by the Serb-led government to force an end to the allied air strikes in the aftermath of Friday's errant NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy.

New, unreleased information obtained by Western sources has convinced NATO officials that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ordered a military offensive in Kosovo with the explicit goal of slashing the province's majority population of ethnic Albanians to reinforce Serbian control. …

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