Starting From Scratch in Kosovo

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RAMBOUILLET, France: Suddenly, the Kosovo peace talks have one villain too many. With the new peace-or-else deadline set for 3 p.m. (9 a.m. ET) on Tuesday and the Serbs still unyielding on the subject of foreign peacekeepers, the Kosovar rebels have joined their enemy on the sidelines. The KLA now wants what the U.S. is unwilling to give: a future Kosovo-wide independence referendum written into the deal. It was left to Madeleine Albright to remind the rebels that the best way to get what they want -- NATO air strikes to pummel Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic into a peaceable mood -- is to start acting like the good guys.

Special Report "If this fails because both parties say no, there will not be bombing of Serbia and we will try to figure out ways of trying to deal with both sides," Albright said Sunday. Milosevic has a habit of caving in at the last moment once a sufficiently august personage comes calling in Belgrade, and NATO diplomats weren't ruling out such a visit (although Albright doubted it would be her). But that last moment can't come unless the KLA is on board and NATO's finger is on the trigger. Mediators now have until Tuesday afternoon to nudge the two sides -- at each others' throats after skirmishes broke out in Kosovo over the weekend -- back to that brink. It won't help that the "hard deadline" feels so much softer this time around.

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