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House Debate: Troops In Kosovo

U.S. troops in Kosovo will be at issue in the House Thursday, according to Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

The House will debate deploying U.S. troops to the region, despite appeals for a delay from Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.

Dole, a former Senate majority leader, and Albright cautioned that divisive congressional debate could undermine already-fragile chances of reaching agreement when peace talks resume Monday in France.

Â"If you want to throw cold water on a possible agreement, you vote no,Â" Dole said.

The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to send 4,000 U.S. troops to Kosovo as part of a NATO peacekeeping force, as President Clinton has proposed.

Â"We have a solemn duty to have this vote,Â" said Hastert. Â"The American people deserve to hear from their elected representatives when the federal government sends their sons and daughters into an armed conflict."

A Senate vote is expected as early as next week.

The House was considering a nonbinding resolution by House International Committee Chairman Benjamin Gilman, R-N.Y., that asks members whether they believe U.S. troops should go to Kosovo to enforce a peace agreement.

Â"Many members of Congress have serious reservations about deploying our armed forces to Kosovo as peacekeepers. Others strongly support the president's policy,Â" Gilman said.

While the resolution is nonbinding, Â"It does mean something when Congress has passed a resolution,Â" Dole told a House hearing Wednesday.

At the president's request, Dole has served as a special U.S. envoy to the Albanian side in the Kosovo dispute.

Despite the upcoming peace talks between Kosovo's ethnic Albanians and Serbs, prospects seemed further dashed Wednesday when special U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke failed to persuade Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to sign onto the deal.

Dole, speaking to the House International Relations Committee after reports that Holbrooke's mission had failed, said, Â"Why should Milosevic sign it? The Albanians haven't signed it.Â"

Dole went to the Balkans last weekend to persuade rival Albanian factions to sign onto the accord. He left without getting the consent of Kosovo's hard-line guerrillas.

Albright, earlier Wednesday, told a separate House hearing, Â"A vote at any time to oppose an authorization would be taken by both sides as a green light to resume fighting.Â"

However, Milosevic's latest defiance seemed to build support in the GOP-led chamber for the administration position rather than diminishing it.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., who prosecuted the House impeachment case against Clinton, indicated he probably would support the administration this time.

Gilman conceded that Â"any political agreement to prevent further suffering in Kosovo will very likely reqire an international military force to ensure the implementation of the agreement.Â"

But Gilman also questioned the willingness of the rival factions to support such a pact.

NATO has threatened air strikes against Serb positions if the Albanian side agrees and the Serbian side, led by Milosevic, declines.