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Clinton Says NATO Will Prevail Against Milosevic

4/12/99- By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton told service members gathered at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "should be under no illusions that we will end [the air campaign] from weariness. We are determined to continue on this mission, and we will prevail."

Clinton praised the military members for their efforts over Yugoslavia and their efforts on behalf of the more than 500,000 ethnic Albanian Kosovar refugees forced from their homes. Clinton traveled to the base April 12.

Clinton said the United States must stand firm with the 18 other NATO allies to ensure the 21st century does not match the 20th century for blood.

"We would like to nip this conflict in the bud before it destabilizes all of Europe," Clinton said. "And we don't want American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to die on distant battlefields in large numbers because we walked away from these ethnic, religious and racial atrocities."

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Army Gen. Henry Shelton, Acting Air Force Secretary Whitten Peters, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Ryan and a congressional delegation from Louisiana and Texas accompanied Clinton.

The president said all those in positions of responsibility are committed to supporting service members, not only in their efforts against Milosevic, but in other areas.

"I listened very, very carefully today when the crew members talked to me about the challenges of maintaining a long-term career in the military today," Clinton said. He said the aircrews were candid about the challenges they and their families face. He understands the pay, medical care and housing problems service members have.

"We are working on that," Clinton said. "We know that now that we have downsized the military, and the economy in the civilian sector has picked up, we're going to have to work harder to get and keep good people. Our new budget provides for an increase in pay and more money for housing and other quality of life supports, for more support and training and equipment."

Clinton told the service members he is signing an executive order granting 1999 tax benefits to Americans serving in/or in support of combat operations in the former Yugoslavia. He also announced an automatic extension for those involved in Operation Allied Force for filing 1998 taxes. Defense officials said later they will have more details in a few days.

The president praised NATO members for sticking together to confront Milosevic. "There are a lot of people who didn't think that an alliance of 19 countries could do what we have done and could stay together as we have stayed together," he said. "But when American B-52s like the ones here at Barksdale take to the skies, they're joined by British Harrier jets, German and Italian Tornadoes, French Mirages, Canadian and Spanish F-18s, Dutch, Danish, Belgian, Norwegian, Portuguese and Turkish F-16s. We are united in this effort."