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Thursday, April 29, 1999 Published at 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK

World: Europe

Congress sends mixed signals on Kosovo

The strikes will continue despite the vote

A US House of Representatives committee is to debate whether to increase the funding for the Kosovo campaign - the day after the full house delivered a rebuff to President Clinton over the issue of ground troops.

President Bill Clinton has asked for $6bn to fund the mission in Kosovo, but a committee is to discuss whether to double the amount.

The chair of the appropriations committee, Republican Bill Young of Florida, said the $12.9bn request in the Kosovo Emergency Supplemental Bill "recognises that we are more deeply involved in Kosovo that we were led to believe."

Mr Young said the increase was necessary to aid the estimated 1 million refugees expected to be displaced from Kosovo in the coming month.

The debate comes the day after the House voted 249 to 180 to require the president to seek Congressional permission to send ground troops.

In a largely symbolic vote, the House also withheld its support for Nato's strikes in a vote which dealt a sharp blow to President Bill Clinton's policies.

Kosovo: Special Report
It refused to approve the bombing campaign when a Democrat motion failed on a 213-213 tie.

Twenty six Democrats broke ranks to oppose the motion which was itself backed by 31 Republicans.

State Department spokesman James Rubin "Nato countries do not consider themselves at war with Serbia"
The votes showed the bitter divisions on American participation in the war, now in its sixth week. However, the White House vowed to press on with the military campaign against Yugoslavia.

Democrats had warned that Congress was sending a mixed message to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, and Mr Clinton appealed for the nation to speak "with a single voice".

Democrat David Obey called the decision an "appalling lack of judgement and an appalling abandonment of the troops in the field".

The resolution foundered despite the Republicans' plans to double Mr Clinton's own request for $6bn to finance the military action in the Balkans.

The House Appropriations Committee is planning to vote on Thursday on a $12.9 billion spending bill for the conflict.

'Punishing blow'

Despite the lack of approval for the strikes, the White House vowed to carry on bombing.

"We're going to continue to prosecute the air campaign. We're going to continue to intensify it, and we're going to continue to deliver day-by-day a punishing blow to [Milosevic's] military," David Leavy, the National Security Council spokesman, said.

Complicating Wednesday's debate were two proposals by California Republican Tom Campbell that sought to force Congress to choose between formally declaring war against Yugoslavia or withdrawing US forces from the Balkans.

Both proposals were rejected after being forced to a vote under provisions triggered by the 1973 War Powers Act, a piece of Vietnam-era legislation.

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