NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark, who is stepping down early as NATO commander, clashed with Gen. Mike Jackson, the British commander on the ground in Kosovo, after the alliance's victory there, Newsweek reported Sunday.
The dispute arose, according to the report, after Russian troops unexpectedly set up camp at Kosovo's Pristina airport while NATO and Moscow were still negotiating a role for Russia's forces in the province.
Without citing sources, the U.S. magazine said Clark ``was so anxious to stop the Russians from stealing a march to Pristina airport that he ordered an airborne assault to take the field before them'' but Jackson refused his orders.
Newsweek said Clark subsequently asked U.S. Adm. James Ellis Jr., head of NATO's Southern Command, to order helicopters to land on the airport's runways to keep Russian Ilyushin transport planes from using them. Ellis balked, saying Jackson would not like that, according to the magazine.
``I'm not going to start World War III for you,'' Jackson is quoted as having told Clark later.
When both generals appealed to political leaders back home for support, Newsweek continued, Jackson got it and Clark did not, meaning that his orders as supreme commander had effectively been overruled.
The airport standoff was ultimately resolved through negotiations when NATO and Moscow agreed that the Russians, traditional allies of the Serbs, would not have control of its own sector in Kosovo, but would be divided among the American, French, and British sectors of the province.
Clark will step down as NATO's supreme commander in April, about three months early, it was revealed last week. The general, echoed by the White House and the Pentagon, called his departure ``a more or less routine personnel action.''
But Newsweek said Clark's Kosovo strategy had been unacceptably hard-line and his self-image as ``the lone warrior, the take-no-prisoners intellectual,'' had stirred antagonism.
Clark's ``legendary'' fights with other NATO commanders also involved the Apache helicopters sent to the Balkans but never used in the war, according to the issue of Newsweek available on the newsstands Monday.
Clark ``ordered up (the Apache) task force ... after going to the White House over the protests of the U.S. Army chief of staff,'' Newsweek said. ``The Army dragged its feet,'' taking almost a month just to move the anti-tank craft to the region, it added.
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