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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yugoslavia Calls Truce, West Says It's a Sham




BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- President Slobodan Milosevic's government declared a unilateral cease-fire Tuesday with rebels in Kosovo, but NATO members swiftly rejected it and vowed to intensify the bombing until Yugoslavia meets all the West's demands.


Russia welcomed Belgrade's announcement of a cease-fire f to begin at 8 p.m. Tuesday in honor of next weekend's Orthodox Easter f saying it fitted in with Moscow's own efforts to end the crisis.


Western officials had expected Milosevic to make such a gesture because his forces have routed the Kosovo Liberation Army in an aggressive campaign that has forced an estimated 400,000 Kosovo Albanians to flee to neighboring countries.


They anticipated what they see as a political gambit from Belgrade, designed to split the West and make it harder for NATO to continue its two-week-old air campaign, and were ready with quick rebuttals.


The White House promised an "undiminished, unrelenting and unceasing" NATO air campaign. "We've made very clear that any hollow, half measures will not stop the bombing," said David Leavy, spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council.


U.S. President Bill Clinton said Milosevic "could end it now by withdrawing his military ? and paramilitary forces, ? by accepting the deployment of an international security force to protect not only the Kosovo Albanians ? but also the Serbian minority ? and by making it possible for a ll the refugees to return."


A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "We have expected a diplomatic ploy from Milosevic. We won't fall for it."


Even in advance of Belgrade's statement, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said the Western alliance would not settle for less than its objectives or accept some "sham proposal" that in reality would reward Milosevic for the havoc he had wrought.


Fifteen minutes after the unilateral cease-fire went in effect in Kosovo, air raid sirens sounded Tuesday in the Yugoslav capital, signaling another night of bombings.


In a statement broadcast on Belgrade television, the Yugoslav government said that "all actions of the army and police will stop in Kosovo against the terrorist organization KLA." The government offered to forge a "temporary agreement" with moderate ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova, which would be the basis for a "final agreement" on Kosovo "within Serbia and Yugoslavia."


The statement also pledged that the government would work for the return of ethnic Albanian refugees together with U.N. institutions. "In this way all the acute issues in Kosovo would be solved, peace stabilized, return of refugees enabled, self-rule established and equality of all citizens promoted," the statement added.


French, German, Italian and Turkish leaders also said Milosevic had to do more than declare a cease-fire.


"I would like to say to the Serbian authorities that the cease-fire they seem to envisage is essential but insufficient," French President Jacques Chirac said.


German Chancellor Gerhard Schr?der also said the cease-fire was "essential but not sufficient."


"What is decisive is the actual behavior of Yugoslav troops on the ground in Kosovo," Schr?der said in a statement.


He said NATO still demanded an immediate end to all military activity and murders, a retreat of Serb forces from the region and for international forces to be stationed in the region to allow refugees to return home.


"Only by meeting these conditions can the humanitarian catastrophe come to an end and lead the way to a peaceful, multi-ethnic and democratic Kosovo, where its inhabitants can live in peace," Schr?der said.


Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, though, hailed the Yugoslav decision. In a statement, Ivanov said the truce represented a "chance for the establishment of long-sought peace in Kosovo, which must not be missed."


Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic sought to make the initiative more credible by raising the prospect of an amnesty for guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army, pledging that Serb troops would start to withdraw once negotiations began and inviting refugees to return to Kosovo.


But he stopped short of meeting Western demands, saying: "We are ready for negotiations with the international community, with the Security Council of the United Nations, to find the best way for approaching a political settlement with foreign participation in the implementation."


German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, speaking shortly before the cease-fire was announced, said foreign ministers from the major Western powers and Russia could meet as early as the end of this week to discuss the war in Yugoslavia.


Moscow, which has fiercely criticized the NATO bombing, has called for meetings of the Group of Eight industrial powers and the six-nation Contact Group on Balkan diplomacy to explore peace initiatives.


But while Germany and Japan have backed the idea, the United States, Britain and France have so far resisted it as premature.


Fischer told reporters in Bonn that senior foreign ministry officials from the Contact Group would meet on Wednesday. The Contact Group includes all G-8 states except Japan and Canada. He gave no venue but they had been expected to meet in Brussels.


U.S. Vice President Albert Gore called Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov on Tuesday and they spoke for 45 minutes, Interfax reported.


Primakov insisted that NATO's military operation in Yugoslavia cease immediately and that the conflict be resolved by political means, the report said.


Both men expressed a willingness to maintain the existing level of relations between Russia and the United States, Interfax said.


British Defense Secretary George Robertson said earlier Tuesday that the success of NATO airstrikes was probably behind "rumors" that Yugoslavia might be considering a cease-fire.


Oil analysts in London said that NATO airstrikes have hit at the heart of Serbia's ability to produce or import key heating and transport fuels, with both of the country's oil refineries targeted in weekend raids.


The destruction by NATO of three key bridges crossing the Danube may also impede deliveries of oil products by barge from the Black Sea, they said.


"Fuel is the life blood of any armed forces and depriving Serbia of its independent capacity to produce refined products certainly puts pressure on Milosevic," said Ruslan Nickolov, London-based oil and gas analyst with Nomura Securities.