What Does Milosevic Want?

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Slobodan Milosevic may order crimes against humanity as easily as the rest of us order breakfast, but his game plan also appears to involve new negotiations on Kosovo's future. Milosevic Thursday held a surprise meeting in Belgrade with Ibrahim Rugova, a leading member of the ethnic Albanian delegation to the Rambouillet peace talks. Although NATO had feared for the safety of Kosovo's leading moderate, Rugova had announced Wednesday that he remained at his home in Pristina under the protection of Serbian police. "While there was concern that Rugova had been coerced into seeing Milosevic, the White House really didn't know what to make of the meeting," says TIME correspondent Douglas Waller. It suggests that Milosevic wants to ensure that there's some leadership left with whom he can negotiate a political settlement once his "ethnic cleansing" has brutally altered Kosovo's population-distribution facts on the ground.

Neither the Serbs nor the ethnic Albanians showed much enthusiasm for the Rambouillet formula of Kosovar autonomy within Serbia, and that scheme is unlikely to survive the current violence. Milosevic may be aiming to force the Kosovars and NATO to negotiate some form of partitioning, in which the Serbs keep control of some parts -- particularly those of emotional significance to Serbian nationalism -- while the Kosovar Albanians are given independence in others. But negotiating with Milosevic isn't currently on NATO's agenda. At least not before the alliance's bombers have done some altering of the facts on the ground of their own.

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