CONFRONTED by Russia siding with the EU to draw up a settlement over Kosovo, Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic was deemed by jubilant observers to have had no cards left to play when he agreed the terms last week.

How right, then, were the warnings of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton that the deal must first be put into practice - with an international force moving into Kosovo and all Serb forces leaving within seven days - before it could indeed be called a deal.

For, yet again, Milosevic, like the crooked player he is, revokes.

We find the Serb generals, who were supposed to be following the terms of their master's agreement in Belgrade with the EU-Russian plan, now trying to tear it up.

They are refusing to accept international forces in Kosovo without a United Nations resolution - despite it being agreed that they would be there by the UN's mandate. They are bickering over the timetable and totality of their pull-out and over the NATO role in the peace-keeping force.

In short, they are ratting on virtually everything in the Belgrade deal.

The return and the safety of the Kosovar Albanians - about whose rights this whole war has been fought - have no guarantee at all amid this reneging. Indeed, if a measure of the Serbs' sincerity and trustworthiness was needed after all the earlier examples of them breaking their word, was it not displayed in their troops shelling Albania while their generals were supposed to be working out with NATO commanders the logistics, not the terms, of the peace deal their leader was supposed to have accepted last week?

There can be only one response to this duplicity - the iron fist.

And since the Serb army and its generals are the instruments of Milosevic's evil aggression and ethnic cleansing and the prime guarantor of his tyrannical rule, it is against them in Kosovo, as much as against the industrial infrastructure of Yugoslavia, that it must come down most hard - and if need be, on the ground as well as from the air.

It seems that Milosevic is gambling that amid the confusion he has deliberately sowed by back-tracking on the Belgrade deal, the NATO allies may become divided over launching a ground invasion.

He needs to be swiftly and firmly disabused as to their resolve to finish this war by fully achieving its goal of Kosovo being the permanent and safe homeland of the people he has evilly sought to purge from it.

This double-dealing is but Milosevic's desperate bid to cling to power and to escape punishment for his criminality.

He must at once be deprived of each hope.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.