Serbia, NATO on Collision Course

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NATO is about to be dragged into a messy war in Kosovo that it doesn't want but may be unable to avoid. In a fierce battle Wednesday, Serb forces ousted the insurgent Kosovo Liberation Army from the coal mining town of Belacevac and prepared for an onslaught on the besieged town of Kijevo -- dubbed "the most dangerous place in Europe" by U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke last week. "A full-scale Serbian offensive against the KLA will force NATO to take action against the Serbs," says TIME correspondent Douglas Waller, who last week accompanied Holbrooke on a futile peace mission in the region. "Although the Serbs could easily squash the KLA, that would trigger a bloody civil war throughout the region" -- a war NATO fears would destabilize the region and create a massive refugee problem.

Holbrooke got President Milosevic to hold back on his offensive last week in the hope that the U.S. could broker a deal with the KLA. "But in the end, Holbrooke could offer Milosevic nothing from the KLA," says Waller. "Right now, the U.S. can't even find the organization's leader."