Milosevic faces stark choice of war or peace

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The Independent Online
By David Usborne in New York

SERBIA'S PRESIDENT, Slobodan Milosevic, was facing a stark choice between war and peace last night as America's special envoy brought grim news to the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, that Belgrade had made no concession to avert air strikes.

The envoy, Richard Holbrooke, was flying to Brussels, and London, from the Serbian capital, last night, after delivering an ultimatum to Mr Milosevic to stop his offensive against the Kosovo Albanians.

But in Belgrade the Serbian authorities last night indicated that there had been no breakthrough in the talks. A statement said that Mr Milosevic had warned Mr Holbrooke that Nato threats of air strikes "were obstructing the continuation of the political process [in Kosovo]".

Even as Western capitals awaited Mr Holbrooke's assessment of his mission to Yugoslavia, which comprises Serbia and Montenegro, preparations for military intervention continued at full speed. In a sign that military action may be imminent, Britain advised its 117 citizens registered as living in Yugoslavia to leave without delay "in view of the increasingly volatile situation".

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who is in China, said the moment to order air strikes might be approaching. "There is no doubt at all that we have to take action to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo," he said in Peking. "We have to judge the timing [of military strikes] - that is a matter for us. But I think it is pretty clear that this issue is coming to a point of urgency."

Air strike decision, page 18