The United States, which holds Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic politically culpable for the recent bloodshed in Kosovo, moved Friday to ensure an international war crimes tribunal can determine responsibility for the killings.
The State Department announced a $1 million contribution to help the tribunal do its work in Kosovo as soon as Serbian authorities issue visas to independent forensic experts and investigators.State Department spokesman James Rubin also warned that instability in Kosovo, a Serbian province, could affect U.S. national interests and reiterated that "we're not ruling out any options at this stage," including military action, to deal with it.
Rubin, at a news briefing, refrained from branding Milosevic a war criminal, according to the legal definition of the term.
That would be for the Hague-based tribunal to decide, he told reporters.
"But certainly at a political level, what goes on in that country, we believe he is in a position to shape," he said.
The $1 million contribution, announced in a statement by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, was meant to underscore her remarks in London earlier this week, Rubin said.
At that time, she said, "We are not going to stand by and watch the Serbian authorities do in Kosovo what they can no longer get away with doing in Bosnia."
The contribution - an unusually speedy attempt to help the tribunal get moving in Kosovo - was also meant to increase pressure on Milosevic to end the violence.
Many blame him for also unleashing the war and ethnic cleansing that tore Bosnia apart until a peace accord was signed in 1995.
"President Milosevic is responsible for - politically responsible - for what goes on in his country. And therefore, it's hard for us to believe that these kinds of crackdowns could occur over his objections," Rubin said.
At a minimum, the administration hopes the contribution will "be a powerful reminder to those who might be asked to conduct such operations in the future about what they might face," the spokesman said.
Rubin noted that increasing numbers of indicted war criminals from the Bosnia war are in jail and facing prosecution at the Hague.
Serbia, the dominant part of the former Yugoslavia, used police to crack down on a separatist movement by ethnic Albanians in its Kosovo province.
At least 80 people were killed over 10 days, raising international alarm that the conflict could engulf Yugoslavia and spill over into neighboring countries.
U.S. officials have said the bloodshed amounted to "ethnic cleansing" and have laid primary blame on Milosevic.
Serbia in 1989 stripped autonomy from Kosovo, whose population is 90 percent ethnic Albanian. Large Albanian communities also live in neighboring countries.