War in the Balkans: Nato dismisses Yeltsin's threats West

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The Independent Online
THE UNITED States said yesterday that it expected Russia to honour its pledge not to get involved in the war in the Balkans, after suggestions that the Kremlin may be aiming missiles at Nato countries.

Conflicting reports came out of Moscow that Russia was pointing nuclear warheads at states bombing its Serbian ally and President Boris Yeltsin accused the West of planning to "seize" Yugoslavia. "They want to make it their protectorate, we cannot let that happen," he said. But Nato was unmoved by what it clearly regards as bluster designed for Mr Yeltsin'sdomestic audience.

The alliance's supreme commander, General Wesley Clark, said there would be no halt to the air strikes. "We're going to continue with the mission exactly as planned, regardless of political and diplomatic atmospherics," he said.

Warning that the allies expected another peace initiative from Belgrade, the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said: "It will take more than an empty gesture to stop Nato's military campaign. We will now only stop if [Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic makes an offer of real substance that meets Nato's key demands - a ceasefire on the ground and a halt to ethnic cleansing."

With no sign of peace breaking out, Belgrade also dashed Western hopes that it might release three US soldiers captured in Macedonia to the care of a visiting Cypriot politician.

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