Moscow's Threat to Quit Falls on Deaf Ears

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Slobodan Milosevic may have called for the check, but NATO isn't ready to settle up -- and the Russian waiter is threatening to go home. Hours after firing his government Wednesday, President Boris Yeltsin threatened to end Russia's mediation of the Kosovo crisis unless both sides accept Moscow's plan for a simultaneous halt to NATO bombing and Yugoslav troop withdrawal from Kosovo. But the alliance completed its heaviest night of bombing yet on Wednesday, rejecting Belgrade's claim that Serb troops are withdrawing from Kosovo and vowing to attack even retreating units until Milosevic accepts NATO's demands. "There's intensifying pressure on the West for a diplomatic solution, and that may actually be deterring Milosevic from negotiating seriously," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson.

Although the NATO-Russia peace plan is open-ended on the size of Yugoslav withdrawal from Kosovo, NATO insists that all of Belgrade's forces must leave the province. Belgrade has said it is prepared to reduce its forces in Kosovo to "peacetime levels," and NATO suspects any movement out of Kosovo will simply be troop rotation. "The question now is who is going to give up the most in reaching a settlement," says Thompson. Which may mean the bombing will continue for some time, as both NATO and Milosevic look for cracks in the other's resolve. And Viktor Chernomyrdin keeps racking up those frequent-flyer miles.

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