Milosevic Taunts NATO With Albania Attack

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Slobodan Milosevic believes a ground war in Kosovo is NATO's worst fear, and he's amplifying the threat. Serb forces Tuesday crossed the border into Albania, engaged that country's police and seized a border town in a region used as a staging ground by the Kosovo Liberation Army. But before the Albanian military or NATO could respond, the Serbs withdrew. "Milosevic may have been trying to send a message to Albania over its support for the KLA, and to increase fears in NATO that the Kosovo crisis could escalate into a messy ground war," says TIME correspondent William Dowell. "He's signaling that the conflict has the potential to quickly spiral out of control." Although NATO remains opposed to committing ground troops, if Milosevic escalated the conflict by attacking his neighbors, "NATO would be unlikely to simply stand by and watch," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson.

The Serb incursion occurred in a region where no NATO or Albanian forces had been stationed. "Milosevic's forces would find it tough to hold ground in Albania if NATO chose to evict them," says Thompson, "but that would involve messy ground fighting." As diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict moved into high gear this week, Milosevic appears to be showing NATO that he is capable of acting even crazier than he has done until now.

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