War in The Balkans: Clinton urged to stop the conflict

US Reaction
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The Independent Online
PRESIDENT BILL Clinton faces growing pressure to back down from the war in Kosovo, as domestic divisions increase and diplomatic activity towards a solution spreads. While Nato points to splits within the Serbian regime, there are looming problems with unity in Washington as well.

Yesterday the President was faced by pleas from the Rev Jesse Jackson for peace, new proposals from the Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, and a deal struck by United States Congressmen in a freelance negotiating effort in Vienna. And the US Congress once more displayed signs of deep ambivalence towards both the President and the war.

Mr Chernomyrdin was due to arrive in Washington to meet the President, bearing a letter from the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin. "These are key meetings," he said, adding that he could go straight to Belgrade if needed. A group of US Congressmen also returned from Vienna, where they agreed a peace framework with members of the Russian Duma and Serbian advisers. A few hours later, Mr Jackson was due to fly to Washington bearing a letter from Slobodan Milosevic.

Mr Jackson's support was crucial to the President during the impeachment process. It will not be easy to brush off his entreaties for an end to the conflict. "I read it [Nato's response] in some sense as the arrogance of power. We've shown that we have the power to bomb, the power to fight," Mr Jackson said before leaving.

The President is also under siege in Washington, where divisions over the war are multiplying. Neither house ofCongress has been able to agree to support the President over the conflict and somelegislators have taken him to court over his undeclared war.

The cause of the divisions is partly genuine policy disagreements, but it has been fed by hatred of the President among Republicans and their own ideological splits.

Under the Constitution, the President is the Commander-in-Chief, but only Congress can declare war. This situation was meant to have been resolved by the 1973 War Powers Act, but it has only caused more confusion. The US Senate met yesterday to try to agree a motion that would authorise the President to use "all necessary force and other means" to resolve the conflict. But with no consensus on the issue, an effort was under way to kill it off, leaving policy drifting in the wind.

The House of Representatives last week failed to agree on a similar motion, voted down measures that would have declared war or ended the conflict, and then shocked the White House by failing to support even the current air war.

A split emerged in the Republican Party between Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House and in theory the top Republican, and Tom DeLay, the House Whip. Mr Hastert backed the administration, only to see his work undone by Mr DeLay, a right-winger who was foremost among Republicans who wanted Mr Clinton thrown out off office earlier this year.

Some of the Republicans are opposing the White House simply because they loathe President Clinton, observers believe. "It is very personal," said one Washington official. Democratic Senator John Kerry called the House votes "gutless and craven". The Congress "voted `no' on going forward, `no' on going back, and tied on standing still," said a White House spokesman.

One House Republican, Tom Campbell from California, has begun a court case against the President to clarify the war powers process. In theory, the President has 60 days from the start of a conflict to gain congressional approval, a deadline that would run out in three weeks' time. But the President and the White House do not call the conflict a war, maintaining it is something else. Republicans call it "Clinton's war", emphasising their opposition.