The world will not allow a repeat of the Bosnian war in Kosovo, NATO's chief declared Thursday, even as Kosovo's top ethnic Albanian leader pleaded again for intervention.
But U.N. Secretary-General Javier Solana, speaking in Sarajevo during a tour of the Balkans, said the focus now is not on Western military action to halt fighting between rebel Albanians and Serb security forces but on diplomatic efforts to obtain a cease-fire in the troubled Serb province.NATO forces, which staged a display of air power in the region last month, are continuing to prepare for possible further action in the Kosovo conflict, Solana said before leaving for Tirana, Albania.
"The situation we had in Bosnia should not be repeated," he said. "The international community will not allow that to happen."
Ethnic Albanian leaders have been pressing for military intervention to halt the months-long campaign by Serb security forces to crush militant resistance in Kosovo, which is populated predominantly by Albanians.
Ibrahim Rugova, the Kosovo Albanians' leader, said after meeting visiting U.S. congressional staffers Thursday that the Serb actions are "aimed at ethnically cleansing Kosovo."
"International intervention is needed to protect the people of Kosovo and create conditions for the start of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade," Rugova said.
Officials in Serb-led Yugoslavia say the Kosovo offensive is aimed at wiping out "terrorists" and restoring order to the province. They also accuse the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army of attacking Serb civilians.
Members of Kosovo's 16 ethnic Albanian political parties failed to agree Wednesday on a joint approach to cooperation with the KLA. But they did agree to meet again Sunday to try to meld the militant struggle with their nonviolent independence campaign.
Hundreds of people, mostly ethnic Albanians, have died in Kosovo since Serb security forces launched an offensive Feb. 28 to try to halt growing resistance to Serb rule.
The Clinton administration on Wednesday backed off its demand for an immediate pullback of Serb forces in Kosovo, saying there probably will have to be a cease-fire first.
The shift was Washington's second major move in the past week to try to revitalize its diplomatic approach to the Kosovo conflict. The other step was opening talks with the KLA.