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Monday, August 17, 1998 Published at 01:45 GMT 02:45 UK

World: Europe

Nato sends Serbs mixed message

Nato exercises: seeking to promote regional stability

More than 1,700 troops and 50 aircraft are due to take part in a series of Nato manoeuvres in Albania starting on Monday.

Eleven Nato states and 15 other countries will join in peace-keeping exercises and air-strike rehearsals.

The exercises coincide with more battlefield successes for the Serbian forces fighting ethnic Albanian separatists in the neighbouring Serb province of Kosovo.

[ image: Serb action in Kosovo has alarmed Nato members]
Serb action in Kosovo has alarmed Nato members
BBC Defence Correspondent, Mark Laity, says the exercises are meant to demonstrate that Nato intends to maintain a military presence in this most unstable of regions, both to help Albania reform its ramshackle armed forces and to act as a warning to Serbia against going too far in Kosovo.

However, the operation cannot disguise the alliance's continuing dilemma over its Kosovo policy.

An air-power demonstration in May is credited with stopping a Serb offensive against the ethnic-Albanian rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army.

But more recently, the Serbs have launched further powerful attacks without Nato threats of intervention.

Nato has been unable to get authorisation for air strikes from the United Nations because of Russian opposition.

There have also been hesitations about backing the KLA, which wants full independence for Kosovo - something Nato opposes.

Our correspondent says this means these exercises - originally intended to show Nato's power - now also reveal its limitations.

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