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Thursday, April 8, 1999 Published at 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK

World: Americas

Albright denies prosecuting 'personal war'

Madeline Albright: "This is not my war"

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has denied leading the US into military action over Kosovo because her political judgement had been clouded by her childhood experiences as a refugee in post-war Europe.

Kosovo: Special Report
Rejecting claims that she was the hawkish figure who had been determined to press the Clinton administration into bombing Yugoslavia, Ms Albright said that the Kosovo conflict was not "her personal war" but the US rightly standing up for its values.

The secretary of state's move to defend herself in an interview with CNN came as Nato air strikes entered a third week with bombing raids on the Yugoslav capital Belgrade. Fears are also growing for the plight of Kosovo Albanian refugees trapped inside the Serb province's closed borders.

With Yugoslav forces still on the move in Kosovo, Wednesday's Washington Post led criticisms of Ms Albright.

BBC Washington Correspondent Katty Kay: "US public anger has been inflamed by pictures of refugees"
In an article quoting anonymous officials, the newspaper reported that Albright allegedly told the adminstration that President Milosevic would back down like a "schoolyard bully" when confronted with the first wave of bombings.

Mrs Albright and her aides have also been attacked in the US press for underestimating the Yugoslav president's readiness to move ruthlessly against the Kosovo Albanian population.

US commentators have closely identified Ms Albright with hawkish foreign policy in the Balkans, often prodding a reluctant administration to take tougher action.

Some critics have dubbed the conflict "Albright's War".

'First quarter'

[ image:  ]
Speaking on CNN's Larry King Live programme, Ms Albright said: "It is very evident that we did not think this was going to be a one-day event."

The struggle against President Milosevic was only in the "first quarter," she added.

Sources quoted by the Washington Post said Ms Albright's foreign policy had been "indelibly tainted" by her background, a child of war-torn Czechoslovakia who was herself twice a refugee - including a period spent in Serbia.

"I know that much has been made about my background," Ms Albright told CNN.

"But I think that any American who has the privilege to live in this country understands the importance of standing up for values and not allowing ethnic cleansing to reoccur.

"This is not my war.

"This is America's fight for our values."

Poll backs bombing

Critics argue if Ms Albright and President Bill Clinton were serious about winning a confrontation with President Milosevic and saving Kosovo Albanians from ethnic cleansing, they should have deployed ground troops - an option the administration continues to reject, fearing a public backlash.

[ image:  ]
But a poll claimed that more than half of Americans favour sending ground troops if the refugee exodus continues and 64% support Nato's bombing campaign of Yugoslavia.

Seventy-three per cent of respondents said they would favour sending ground troops if it was the only way to stop the fighting, the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll said.

When people were asked whether they would choose to continue, to strengthen or to reduce military action, three-quarters said they would continue or strengthen it, the poll found.

Only 27% of Americans polled were against Nato air strikes while 38% polled rejected the idea of ground troops to stop the expulsion of Kosovo Albanians.

The poll of 509 people has a margin of error of 4.5%.

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