Assault On The Serbs: Little clarity on objectives

US Reaction
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The Independent Online
THE US pledged yesterday that Nato air attacks would continue for as long as it took to achieve the operation's military objectives - but there was still little clarity about exactly what those objectives were.

In a publicity blitz designed to follow up Bill Clinton's address to the nation the previous evening and the bare military reports from the Pentagon, a succession of administration officials, from the President down, appeared on television to hail the first night of Nato air strikes and justify their aims.

Mr Clinton, speaking from the White House where he had just concluded a meeting withnational security advisers, made humanitarian concerns paramount. "Our purpose here," he told reporters, "is to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe... Our objective is to make it clear to Mr Milosevic he must choose peace, or we will limit his plans to make war." He would not clarify, however, whether this meant forcing the Yugoslav President to accept the peace accord negotiated at Rambouillet and already accepted by representatives of Kosovo's Albanians.

Editorials and commentaries in the American press reflected widespread scepticism that bombing alone could force anyone, let alone Serbia, to do something that it deemed to be against its national interests. For the political right, this observation was an argument never to have embarked on the project in the first place. For the left, it was a warning that ground troops might have to be deployed if Mr Milosevic was to be humbled.

The Defense Secretary, William Cohen, told a breakfast television programme the administration was "satisfied with the progress of the military operation", which was just in its first phase. He said the operation would continue until "we are successful in achieving our military objectives... What we are trying to do is indicate to Mr Milosevic that he has an opportunity to pursue the path of peace at any time. This is a signal to him that we are serious."

The White House spokesman, Joe Lockhart, said: "There's ample diplomatic channels for President Milosevic to send the message... He knows what he needs to do and it's now up to him to decide."