Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Unspoken Key to Kosovo Talks Serbs May Agree to NATO Troops If Sanctions End. New Deadline isTuesday

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Unspoken Key to Kosovo Talks Serbs May Agree to NATO Troops If Sanctions End. New Deadline isTuesday

Article excerpt

Hanging over the final days of the Kosovo peace negotiations in France is the so-far-unspoken issue of international sanctions that have throttled the economy of Yugoslavia.

Western diplomats, including many American officials, see Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's refusal to allow NATO peacekeeping troops in Kosovo as a bargaining chip that he wants to trade for relief from sanctions.

Should he persist in such brinkmanship, the United States and its partners would face a hard choice when the new deadline for reaching a political accord in Rambouillet, France, expires Tuesday at 3 p.m. On one hand, they could make a deal with the progenitor of four wars since 1991 in order to save the accord on self-rule for Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority; doing so would end fighting that threatens to escalate into a war that could engulf the region. Or, they could make good on their pledge to launch NATO airstrikes that could doom any chance for a negotiated settlement and mark the alliance's first attack on a sovereign state. Western diplomats say most European governments favor some kind of broad sanctions relief for Mr. Milosevic; Russia has openly called for ending them. The Clinton administration has indicated it may be willing to consider lifting measures, such as a ban on foreign investments and landing rights for the Yugoslav national airlines, imposed last June after Belgrade persisted in onslaughts against civilians in Kosovo, a province of Serbia. But the Clinton administration does not appear ready to lift what is known as the "outer wall" of sanctions that include bans on Belgrade rejoining international organizations, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These measures were imposed for Milosevic's sponsorship of the Bosnian Serb uprising in 1992. Many experts believe Milosevic is deeply anxious to win sanctions relief. It would not only help him to begin reviving an economy that has all but collapsed, threatening potential social upheaval. It would also allow him to show a tangible benefit for a decision to renege on his vow never to allow foreign troops into Kosovo, which Serbs cherish as the cradle of their medieval empire and Christian Orthodox faith. "I personally think Milosevic will let NATO come, or, more probably, let them strike for a day or two, then surrender," says Nejbosa Spaic, the director of the independent Media Center in Belgrade. "{Milosevic} is saying he will never let NATO come. When they come, {the Serbian people} will think their government did everything they could to prevent intervention." NATO intervention Western leaders have repeatedly threatened military action against whichever of the two sides they judged responsible for any breakdown in the talks, aimed at ending a year of violence in Kosovo. …

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