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Thursday, October 8, 1998 Published at 20:00 GMT 21:00 UK

World: Europe

Albright: 'Kosovo diplomacy reaching its limits'

After being briefed on the earlier talks, Madeleine Albright asked Richard Holbrooke to return to Belgrade

Jim Fish: "Time has all but run out"
United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has warned that diplomatic pressure to resolve the Kosovo crisis is approaching its limits, and says that the next step is for Nato to authorise military force against Yugoslavia.

The ethnic Albanian guerilla group the Kosovo Liberation Army has meanwhile declared a ceasefire, saying it wanted to create conditions for the fulfillment of United Nations demands for the pullback of Serbian forces.

Kosovo Section
"One of the keys to good diplomacy is knowing when diplomacy has reached its limits, and we are rapidly approaching that point now," Mrs Albright warned.

She was speaking after US Balkan envoy Richard Holbrooke returned to Belgrade to put further pressure on Yugoslavia to comply with international demands.

Madeleine Albright: "The minimum is not good enough"
"I have asked Ambassador Holbrooke to return to Belgrade to convey a very clear and simple message to President Milosevic: he must comply in a manner that is both durable and verifiable, with the longstanding political humanitarian and military demands of the international community, or face the gravest consequences," Mrs Albright warned.

Watch Madeleine Albright's speech in Brussels
The secretary of state sent Mr Holbrooke back to Belgrade after he briefed her and the Nato Secretary-General, Javier Solana, in Brussels about the failure of talks the previous day, which failed to change Mr Milosevic's position.

Mr Holbrooke left Brussels immediately, and was expected in Belgrade by early afternoon.

Mrs Albright said Mr Milosevic had failed to understand the gravity of the situation. She reiterated international demands on Kosovo:

  • An end to military action
  • The withdrawal of troops and paramilitary police in Kosovo to their bases.
  • Access for international observers
  • A timetable for a political settlement for the province

    "I believe it is time for the [Nato] alliance to move to the next phase of its decision making: to take the difficult but necessary decision to authorise military force if Milosevic does not comply," the secretary of state said.

    Clinton warns war could spread

    President Clinton: Danger of a wider war in Europe
    US President Bill Clinton has warned that the violence in Kosovo could spill over into neighbouring countries, and that tens of thousands of refugees faced starvation, unless Yugoslavia complies with international demands.

    The BBC Diplomatic Correspondent says it is increasingly unlikely that Nato will be able to back down from military action unless President Milosevic reverses his present policy, with the language of Mrs Albright's address leaving little room for blurring issues.

    [ image: Ethnic Albanians wait for news of Nato action]
    Ethnic Albanians wait for news of Nato action
    Mrs Albright later flew to London for a meeting of the six-nation Contact Group on Yugoslavia, which is divided over whether there should be Nato military action against Belgrade. Delegates from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the US are expected to attend.

    Russia, a Serbian ally, has said it will oppose any use of force over the issue of Kosovo. The Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, met President Milosevic in Belgrade before going on to the Contact Group meeting.

    Although Nato member states seem to be moving towards a common position, some European countries still have to seek parliamentary approval for using force against Yugoslavia.

    Nato is also to debate the legal basis for acting without a further UN resolution, a concern still held by some European states. However, with Russia saying it will veto any UN authorisation, Nato sources say that any member insisting on UN authorisation knows that it is effectively saying it would prefer to do nothing, and there is optimism a consensus will emerge.

    Nato is nevertheless holding out for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. As Mr Holbrooke returned to Belgrade on Thursday, Nato Supreme Military Commander Wesley Clark insisted that "this is a period in which we are still assessing [Yugoslavia's] compliance".

    First talks fail
    [ image: Kosovo observers gauge the security situation]
    Kosovo observers gauge the security situation
    After 12 hours of talks with Mr Holbrooke on Wednesday, President Milosevic said the threat of air strikes and a foreign media campaign were "obstructing the continuation of the political process" towards a settlement in Kosovo.

    According to an official Yugoslavian statement, the talks identified differences between President Milosevic's and Nato's assessment of the situation in Kosovo.

    The US Defence Secretary, William Cohen, has been giving details of military preparations in the event of Nato deciding to go-ahead with air strikes against Serbia.

    Nick Thorpe reports on the situation in Belgrade
    Mr Cohen said more than half the Nato force of over 400 aircraft could be American. But Washington has virtually ruled out sending US ground troops to Kosovo, a senior US State Department official said on Thursday.

    The BBC Defence correspondent says there are signs that Belgrade is also readying its armed forces. He says that Belgrade's potential to fight back means that a Nato attack would need to knock out Yugoslav defences in one blow.

    Embassy staff leave Belgrade

    British Ambassador in Belgrade, Brian Donnelly: "We leave immediately"
    Non-essential British embassy staff have left Belgrade along with the dependants of resident diplomats. A convoy of 14 cars left the city on Thursday morning, heading to Budapest.

    Around 10 diplomats remain in the British mission and they plan to leave the city if the situation deteriorates.

    A number of Australians and American non-essential staff and are also thought to be leaving on Thursday. Aid organisations are also winding down their operations.

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