It will take real diplomacy to stop the war spreading

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The Independent Culture
THE MOST ominous development of the war in Kosovo has come with the news that the Serb forces in the province are shelling Albania. The great danger now is that the war will spill over into Macedonia and the Yugoslav province of Montenegro, leading to more burnt villages, dispersed families and an acceleration of the violence.

As Nato talks about "tightening the screws" on Slobodan Milosevic, President of Yugoslavia, his army is continuing to ignore Nato bombs and wage the war on its own terms by shelling the towns of Tropoja and Padesh in northern Albania. This is hardly surprising given that Albania has recently handed over control of its airspace and ports to Nato. Albania is now the base from which Nato has decided to land its punches on Serbia. President Milosevic is thus justified to regard his regime at war with Albania. While this now forces Nato to protect Albania, Nato must ensure that the fighting does not to spread to Macedonia and Montenegro.

To ensure that this does not happen, Nato needs to hold fast to its political objectives. At yesterday's meeting in Brussels, the 19 Nato members pledged to attack President Milosevic until he "accedes to the demands of the international community". The most important of these demands is that the Yugoslav regime allows Kosovars to return to their homeland and live there in tranquillity. This will be impossible without an army to keep the ethnic Albanians and Serbs from each others' throats. There will have to be a Nato element in that force if the ethnic Albanians are to accept it. The establishment of a protectorate will be difficult enough without having to cope with an all-out Balkan war.

The Western governments are tortuously manoeuvring towards accepting the inevitability of using ground troops through double negatives and what they leave unsaid. Tony Blair is carefully leaving open the opportunity to authorise a land invasion. The Pentagon has admitted that there are plans for an invasion. And despite the politicians' platitudes that invading Kosovo will be dangerous, Nato will win the war.

The greatest threat to the successful prosecution of an invasion is doubt in the minds of Kosovo's neighbours about Nato's aims. The support or at least the acquiescence of Greece, Macedonia and Montenegro are all important to the success of a limited war. The swiftest way to provoke their hostility is to instil the suspicion that the Nato protectorate in Kosovo will lead to the creation of a greater Albanian state. The Western governments must announce that the external borders of Yugoslavia are not in question. The West must ensure that the war is being fought to defend the Kosovar people and will be ended only with the use of infantry.

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