Finally, Something NATO and Slobo Agree About

Refugees fleeing the KLA are an embarrassment for the peacekeepers and a menace to Milosevic.

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After years of conflict, NATO and Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic at last see eye to eye on something: that Serb refugees must go back to Kosovo. KFOR troops escorted some 70 Kosovar Serbs –- accompanied by one of Milosevic’s ministers –- back to their homes in Pec Tuesday. And President Clinton, speaking at a refugee camp in Macedonia, urged ethnic Albanians to make nice with their neighbors when they get home. No one can be more relieved about NATO’s attitude than Milosevic. "The Kosovar Serbs had been Milosevic’s most ardent supporters, and now they’ve come back to Serbia with little to look forward to and a deep feeling of betrayal," says TIME Belgrade reporter Gillian Sandford. "So it’s in Milosevic’s interests to return them to Kosovo, because inside Serbia they’re an angry and potentially dangerous constituency." That much was confirmed Monday when about 200 demonstrated in downtown Belgrade, creating an uncomfortable situation for the Serb police, many of whom had recently returned from Kosovo themselves.

NATO certainly has no interest in saving Milosevic’s political hide, but the alliance doesn’t want to be seen to be sanctioning a reverse ethnic cleansing of Kosovo. And an ethnically pure Kosovo might make it more difficult to resist the KLA’s demand for independence, which would involve a redrawing of political borders unacceptable to most European NATO members. So Kosovar Serbs now find themselves in the unlikely position of being urged by both NATO and Milosevic to stay put. War, like politics, makes strange bedfellows.

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