BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) — With NATO poised to approve airstrikes, U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke consulted late into the night Monday with alliance ambassadors amid reports he and Yugoslavia’s president were near a breakthrough in defusing the Kosovo crisis.
Holbrooke traveled to Belgium while Western nations evacuated diplomats from the Yugoslav capital — adding to the sense that a last-minute deal was necessary to avoid military action against targets in the Serb republic.
Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev told journalists in Moscow that Milosevic had agreed to allow 1,500 international observers to monitor compliance with U.N. demands to halt the Serb crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, a province in southern Serbia, the main republic of Yugoslavia.
If true, that would represent a key last-minute concession by Milosevic that came only hours before NATO planned to authorize the attack against Milosevic’s forces.
There was no immediate confirmation of Milosevic’s reported concession. But Holbrooke told reporters in Brussels that he would return to Belgrade today for more talks with Milosevic.
Earlier Monday, U.N. chief Kofi Annan phoned Milosevic to urge him to comply with U.N. resolutions to end the Kosovo turmoil.
The United Nations has condemned massacres of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo but has not supported airstrikes.