LONDON, Oct. 8 -- The United States and NATO are taking another shot at reaching a diplomatic solution to the tense standoff with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic over his refusal to withdraw forces from the ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo. Meanwhile, the Kosovo Liberation Army rebels said they are enacting a provisional cease-fire, starting Friday, that will stand during all NATO actions in the province. The official KLA communique said, 'The KLA has approvedthe decision of self-restraint, in order to offer its contribution for realization of UN demands.' The statement included a provision reserving the right of return fire. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said today in Brussels that she has decided to send Balkan envoy Richard Hoblrooke, who just completed three days of talks with Milosevic, back to Belgrade for more consultations. Holbrooke is due to arrive Friday morning in Belgrade. Albright then flew to London with Holbrooke for consultations with the British, Italian, French, German and Russian foreign ministers -- the so-called Contact Group that has taken the lead on managing Balkan matters -- in an effort to win support for NATO air strikes against Yugoslav forces in and around Kosovo. Russia is flatly opposed to military action, while the German and Italian governments have expressed deep reservations about it. NATO cannot act unless there is a consensus among its members. The contact group gave its strong support to Holbrooke, who departed for Belgrade immediately after the late-night meeting here, but made absolutely no mention of of any military action should Milosevic fail to meet their demands.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said after the meeting that NATO was the proper body to consider such action, and told reporters the alliance would eventually endorse the use of force. 'If Milosevic does not comply, he will be responsible for the consequences, and they will be grave,' Cook said. Despite the clear divisions on a decision Albright said would be a 'crossroads' for the Western alliance and for the Balkans, the secretary of state predicted that the other 15 NATO nations would activate specific forces for duty 'in the next few days.' Clinton formally took that step today when he signed what is known in NATO parlance as an 'activation order,' which places troops on alert but does not authorize them to act. All 16 alliance leaders must take similar action and authorize a 'strike order' as well before NATO could launch air raids. U.S. officials in Washington, who declined to be named, told United Press International today that Clinton activated some 260 combat aircraft for the operation. They said that force would include two B-2 Stealth bombers, 12 F-117 Stealth fighters, six B-52 bombers, various aircraft based on the USS Eisenhower in the Mediterranean Sea as well as F-16 and F-15 jet fighters stationed around Europe. They said targets for the operation would include air defenses, heavy weapons and troops in Kosovo and in Serbia proper. 'Time is all but gone,' Albright said after meeting in Brussels with Holbrooke and NATO Secretary General Javier Solana. 'We need to act now.' The U.N. Security Council has called on Milosevic to withdraw troops from Kosovo, begin autonomy negotiations with Kosovar leaders, allow some 100,000 refugees to return to their homes and grant humanitarian agencies access to them. Albright and the Contact Group today added to the list that the Yugoslav President must also comply with a U.N. panel in The Hague investigating crimes against humanity during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Albright said Milosevic is attempting to divide the international community and dupe them into thinking he has complied by presenting a 'televised show' of withdrawing some forces from Kosovo. But she said Washington and its allies will not be satisfied unless all aspects of the demands are met in a fashion that is 'verifiable and irreversible.' Senior American officials traveling with Albright said intelligence satellites and international monitors reveal that Milosevic has withdrawn only 60 percent of his regular army troops and 10 percent of his special police from Kosovo. Although there has been 'no Yugoslav military activity' over the past week, the officials said Belgrade's forces have begun 'digging in for the winter' along major arteries into Pristina, the provincial capital of Kosovo. The officials, speaking under conditions of anonymity, said Milosevic was still holding his ground in the talks with Holbrooke and 'continues to see NATO's threat as unjustified.' The Kosova Information Center reported renewed hostilities earlier in the day, with Serb forces launching an artillery attack against the outlying Albanian villages. There was no independent confirmation of the attack. (With reporting by Juliette Terzieff in Pristina, Yugoslavia.)NEWLN:---
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