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Pressure shifts to Serbs to sign Kosovo deal

Ethnic Albanians say 'yes' to pact. US has to persuade allies to renewairstrike threat.

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Bowing to the wishes of their people and threatened by a cutoff of money from moderate backers in Europe and America, ethnic Albanian rebels accepted a US-brokered peace plan for Kosovo that denies them independence from Serbia.

The decision averted a major diplomatic disaster for the United States and its partners - France, Britain, Italy, Germany, and Russia - who immediately turned their attention to pressuring Serbian negotiators to accept the plan for self-rule for Kosovo.

But there was no sign that Belgrade was ready to drop objections to key provisions, including the deployment of 28,000 NATO-led peacekeeping troops in Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian-dominated province of Serbia.

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's intransigence poses a fresh test for transatlantic relations. The US faces the tough task of persuading European allies to resurrect a NATO airstrike threat against the Serbian leader unless he changes his mind.

"I would encourage Mr. Milosevic to agree to the terms as well so we can avoid further conflict and bloodshed," President Clinton urged. "If he shows intransigence and aggression, I think that from our point of view we would have little option" except to launch NATO airstrikes.

State Department officials say they believe that now the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) has accepted the plan, the US can rebuild "a critical mass" of allied support for airstrikes. "The reality is that there is not that much work to do with the allies," says one official. But another warns that some allies remain deeply opposed to NATO action without a mandate from the United Nations. "The Germans are not with us," he contends.

Dejan Anastijevic, journalist for the respected weekly Belgrade magazine Vreme, thinks that Milosevic does not want airstrikes because "it's not certain that the political system would survive.... He really wants to politically profit. He won't do so from bombing. He wants a bigger carrot."

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