Although Milosevic still has not withdrawn all of his army and police units from the field in Kosovo, U.S. officials say he has agreed to accept a 2,000-man international observer force aided by aerial surveillance to monitor the pullback and make sure it is permanent.
Earlier Monday, Clark told his subordinate commanders that he might wait up to 48 to 72 hours before giving the order.
President Clinton Addresses The Nation.
The activation order came late Monday, but it included a 96-hour delay. President Clinton announced the NATO authorization of air strikes, saying "Balkan graveyards are filled with President Milosevic's broken promises."
The first phase of the strikes would involve cruise missiles launched from U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean and from B-52 bombers that arrived in Britain over the weekend.
Griffin said each of his B-52s is armed with eight air-launched cruise missiles. F-15 fighters would escort the bombers to their targets.
Despite the apparent breakthrough, U.S. officials expect NATO to issue the activation order Monday night in order to clear the way for air strikes while Holbrooke resumes talks with Milosevic, who then would be negotiating with a gun to his head.
Even as the talks were in progress the Serbs made a gesture of compliance to U.N. resolutions by pulling more police out of Kosovo, reports CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey.
However, Serb armor was still on the prowl.
To emphasize the gravity of the moment to Milosevic, the field of fire was symbolically cleared for air strikes by pulling out the few foreign diplomatic observers in Kosovo.
But that exposed targets for Milosevic. No foreign eyes means the estimated 250,000 ethnic Albanians displaced from their home can be attacked by Serb forces with impunity.
As much as they hate Milosevic, not even the refugees are completely sure air strikes are the answer to their problems.
Ethnic Albanians believe there are dozens of Serb tanks hidden in the hills surrounding them. If NATO is only going to bomb the big targets, one man said, it might be better for this place if they tried talking a little while longer.
The last few months have brought a sharp dose of reality to ethnic Albanians who paid a terrible price for their dreams of independence. These days, the people of Kosovo place more hope in friends than guns.
"We rely on NATO and the Europeans countries and America," said one man. "It's better to talk ten years than to fight one day."
Reported by David Martin and Allen Pizzey
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