A Peace Offer NATO Loved to Reject

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BRUSSELS: Thank God for bad first offers. Slobodan Milosevic had the allies where he wanted them -- on the offensive, while he called for peace -- but his opening bid was easy for NATO to turn down. Since a unilateral cease-fire of unspecified length comes nowhere near NATO's stated demands (Serb troop withdrawal, acceptance of allied peacekeeping troops and refugee repatriation, among others), NATO chief Javier Solana was able to exhale, reject the offer as "completely insufficient," and keep right on bombing.

All of which indicates that the raids, even at their current uptempo pace, aren't rattling Milosevic nearly as much as the allies hoped. "He's still keeping his air defenses, as well as most of his tanks and military vehicles, very well hidden," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "The idea is that he'll still have them intact when all this is over." Milosevic will continue to inch toward peace, hoping to crack the resolve of an Operation Allied Force that has already outlived its original mandate -- saving the Kosovars -- and is now sputtering through a desultory air war. But what must trouble NATO the most is that he's taking such a leisurely approach.