PARIS -- President Clinton said Thursday that the U.S.-led Western alliance will not raid Yugoslavia to arrest Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic on war crimes charges.
Clinton's remarks came as the British-led international military force in Kosovo continued to find suspected mass graves and charred bodies apparently linked to the murderous campaign by Yugoslavia's Serbians to rid Kosovo of ethnic Albanian Muslims.Allied troops would arrest Milosevic and other indicted Yugoslav war criminals only if they come across the suspects in Kosovo or elsewhere in the world, Clinton told a joint news conference with French President Jacques Chirac before flying to Cologne, Germany, for the annual summit of the world's seven largest industrialized de- mocracies and Russia.
"But I do not believe that the NATO allies can invade Belgrade to try to deliver the indictment, if you will," he said. "If he remains in Serbia, inside the confines of Serbia, presumably he's beyond the reach of the extradition powers of the other governments."
Prosecutors from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia charged Milosevic and four of his lieutenants last month with four counts of crimes against humanity, including deportation, murder, and persecutions.
It was the first time in history that an international war crimes tribunal has indicted a head of state.
Clinton praised the decision to indict Milosevic but urged caution in pursuing the next step. "But sometimes these things take a good while to bear fruit," Clinton said.
Clinton's concession that Milosevic would remain free inside Serbia could help nail down a U.S.-Russian compromise on the role of 10,000 Russian troops expected to serve with the 50,000-member allied force in Kosovo.
Russian officials oppose war crimes' prosecutions of Yugoslav leaders. The communist-controlled Russian parliament has even suggested putting NATO Secretary General Javiez Solana on trial for war crimes because of NATO's accidental bombings of civilians during the allies' 78-day bombing campaign across Yugoslavia.
The United States and Russia struggled to clinch an agreement giving Russia a peacekeeping role in Kosovo under NATO command. In Paris, President Clinton predicted a "successful conclusion" to the talks, but Russian officials insisted Moscow would not make its troops subordinate to NATO.
"The atmosphere is pretty positive and pretty hopeful," Clinton said. Nonetheless, he said the NATO allies would not abandon their insistence that all peacekeeping forces in Kosovo -- Russian or otherwise -- operate under a single command.
The talks at the presidential palace in Helsinki appeared to have produced a preliminary understanding on joint use of the airport at Pristina, where about 200 Russian troops are holed up, but there were mixed reports on the degree of progress on the two major sticking points -- command of Russian troops and their location within Kosovo.
Heading the negotiations were Defense Secretary William Cohen and Russian Defense Minister Marshall Igor Sergeyev.
In the early afternoon, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in Helsinki to join the talks.
Cohen told reporters that he could not predict the outcome. He said "creative arrangements" were being pursued.
Abandoned by his main political allies and facing unprecedented calls for his resignation, Milosevic appears increasingly desperate to salvage his rule.
Milosevic this week promised a war-weary public he will rebuild their bomb-ravaged country.
By controlling Serbia's police forces and state media, Milosevic still looks firmly in control. And, being a master of self-preservation, he is likely to use force against any legal or popular moves to unseat him.
But, apparently fearful of an increasingly restive military, he showered Yugoslav army officers with medals and promotions on Tuesday. The poorly paid military has shown signs of dissent in the wake of the NATO air campaign that cost the lives of thousands of soldiers and devastated their facilities, from barracks to airports to sophisticated air-defense systems.
Milosevic still has the support of rural, uneducated Serbs, whose backing has played a key role in preserving his 10-year autocratic rule. But even that support has been eroded by the NATO bombing campaign and the exodus of tens of thousands of Serbs from Kosovo, considered their medieval heartland.
The influential Serbian Orthodox Church demanded Tuesday that Milosevic and his government resign. Although it has criticized him before, the church has never called for his resignation.
But Milosevic's loss of Kosovo, the seat of the Serbian Patriarch, and the exodus of some 50,000 Kosovo Serbs who fear reprisals by rival ethnic Albanians, have appalled the church hierarchy. The church has political authority, especially among Serb nationalists, who could mount the biggest challenge to his rule.
Adding to Milosevic's troubles, his chief political ally, the extreme nationalist Radical Party, has announced it is quitting Serbia's coalition government because Milosevic "surrendered Kosovo without a fight."
Without the Radicals, Milosevic has no majority in Serbia's 250-seat parliament, and his government won't be able to function.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.