"France's reluctance to allow a precedent of NATO taking military action without direct Security Council authorization may even outweigh its concerns over Kosovo," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. Taking action through the U.N. could take a lot longer, despite the fact that Russia's traditional heel-dragging in defense of the Serbs will be undercut by its dire need for Western economic assistance. Serbia is certainly betting that Western action isn't imminent; its troops continued their offensive against Albanian separatists today, NATO be damned.
NATO is gathering its forces for an air strike against Serb targets in Kosovo, but the West can't agree over who gives the order to attack. Washington believes that Wednesday's U.N. Security Council resolution calling for Serbia to end its crackdown on Kosovo empowers NATO to order a strike. But France -- a NATO member -- disagrees, insisting that the Security Council is the only body competent to authorize military intervention in what remains, legally, a Yugoslavian domestic conflict.