The Countdown on Kosovo

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Don't expect the Cruise missiles to fly before next Thursday: Despite the familiar "time is running out" warning to a defiant President Slobodan Milosevic Friday, NATO's attack plan still has a few steps to go. The Western alliance needs its 16 members to sign an "activation order," which mandates the generals to give the attack order. That can't happen before Germany's new parliament convenes, which is unlikely to be before Monday. And then there's the matter of getting a signature out of Italy, whose government collapsed Friday. "Despite resigning, Romano Prodi could sign the order on his way out, but he may be reluctant to do so if he thinks it'll impede his attempts to make a comeback," says TIME correspondent Douglas Waller.

Washington should be able to garner the necessary signatures by early next week, at which point they'll be used in a last-ditch attempt to force the Serbs to back down. "Milosevic hasn't given much ground in this week's meetings with Richard Holbrooke," says Waller. "NATO is hoping that having the activation order in his back pocket will give Holbrooke more leverage." So the West plans to cock its guns but keep them holstered to give Milosevic -- for real, now -- his last chance.