NATO delivers new warning on Kosovo

 

As NATO planes bring back the first data on the withdrawal of forces from Kosovo, Gen Wesley Clark, NATO's supreme commander in Europe, is due in Belgrade today to again warn President Slobodan Milosevic that air strikes remain an option if he fails to comply with UN demands.

Although the US State Department describes the first reports from the high-flying U2 planes as "encouraging", compliance is far from complete. Only two of the seven Yugoslav army battalions which are supposed to leave the war-torn province have done so.

On the ground, the unarmed observer mission, set up under a parallel accord on Friday by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), is taking longer to deploy. The first 20 members arrived in Pristina, the Kosovo capital, yesterday.

The challenge for the OSCE force will be to bring stability to troubled Kosovo quickly enough to attract ethnic Albanian refugees back to their homes before winter falls. Some aid convoys were back out on the road at the weekend and men were returning to their villages with belongings.

The scale of the task facing the verification mission was underlined at the weekend when three Yugoslav soldiers were killed and two wounded in an Albanian guerrilla attack near the village of Orlate.

The British Foreign Secretary, Mr Robin Cook, flies to Skopje tomorrow to meet Albanian political leaders from Kosovo and urge them to accept the American peace plan for enhanced autonomy for the province.