Milosevic's Next Test

History records many leaders who thrived on brazen risk-taking. It also notes many who overplayed their hand. Whether Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic joins the latter depends on his strict adherence to the deal forged Oct. 13 with his chief Western interlocutor, American Richard Holbrooke.

True to form, Mr. Milosevic went to the brink of confrontation with NATO before bowing to the UN Security Council demands that Mr. Holbrooke insisted on.

Now, presumably, Yugoslav troops and special police will be withdrawn from the smoldering Serbian province of Kosovo. Humanitarian relief, including rebuilt housing, will reach thousands of civilians driven from their villages by Milosevic's blitz against rebels who want independence for Kosovo's Albanian majority. Talks will begin on autonomy for the Albanians. And - a key concession by Milosevic - some 2,000 international monitors will verify compliance with these conditions.

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On-the-ground verifiers will be joined by noncombat aircraft keeping an eye on troop movements within Kosovo. Their work should quickly indicate Milosevic's good faith. That's not a quality easily associated with the Yugoslav leader, whose inflaming of Serb nationalism ignited Balkan violence following the fragmenting of Yugoslavia in the late 1980s.

Despite eventually bending to demands put forward by the US, Europe, and the UN, Milosevic has accomplished his immediate goal in Kosovo. The rebel Kosovo Liberation Army has been crushed. But that outcome has little bearing on talks concerning Kosovo's future. Genuine self-government in such realms as education and local policing must be restored if separatist fires are not to be rekindled.

Most Balkan states are sharply aware of this. Meeting this week in Antalya, Turkey, major players in the region - Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia - endorsed Kosovar self-government. Russia, too - Serbia's traditional protector - welcomed the Holbrooke-Milosevic pact.

That deal is only a start, however. Economic sanctions, as well as military threats, should stay in place until Milosevic demonstrates his readiness to allow healing in Kosovo.

This deal is only a start. Will the Yugoslav leader allow real healing in Kosovo?

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