Back to Belgrade

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It's one minute to midnight in Kosovo, but President Slobodan Milosevic may be thinking that NATO's clock has stopped. U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke returned to Belgrade Thursday to issue yet another "last warning" to Milosevic. "Holbrooke returned in search of a deal," says TIME Central Europe bureau chief Massimo Calabresi. "But it's difficult for Milosevic to accept the large-scale withdrawal of Serb police demanded by the West, because that won't go over well with Kosovo's Serb minority."

Most of NATO is ready to strike, but Italy is suddenly demanding that the issue be referred back to the U.N. Security Council (where Russia would almost certainly veto a strike). Rome's support is crucial since Italy provides most of the air bases to be used in the strike, but demurring on Kosovo may be part of Prime Minister Romano Prodi's domestic strategy to keep a Communist faction from bolting his fragile coalition. NATO officials are confident of getting Italy on board, but the continuation of eleventh-hour talks in Belgrade suggest that there may yet be a compromise. Says Calabresi, "Holbrooke's return suggests that there must be something to discuss."