War In The Balkans: Capitol Hill - US Congress splits on Kosovo

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The Independent Online
A GROUP of US Congressmen has launched an effort to negotiate peace in Kosovo, a sign of fragmenting political support in the US for the war.

The Congress split in its first debate on the issue, and failed to back the present strategy, leaving Washington unusually divided over the campaign.

Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican, is to lead a bipartisan group that will meet members of the Russian Duma and advisers to President Slobodan Milosevic in Vienna today. "The goal is to avoid having to put US and British forces into Kosovo," said Pete Peterson, a spokesman for Mr Weldon.

In another example of freelance diplomacy, the Rev Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader, is heading to Belgrade against the White House's wishes to see religious and political leaders.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted by 249 to 180 to force President Bill Clinton to gain congressional approval if he wants to deploy ground forces. A resolution to support the air campaign failed on a tied vote of 213 to 213.

The war has also resulted in some anti-British commentary. In The Washington Post, the columnist Robert Novak quotes angry right-wing Republicans. James Inhofe of Oklahoma criticised Tony Blair for backing the air war, saying it "is easy for him to say. We have 365 airplanes over there. He has 20."