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Thursday, February 11, 1999 Published at 16:49 GMT

World: Europe

Kosovo breakthrough elusive

Only a quarter of what the mediators had planned has been achieved

British and French foreign ministers returned to the Kosovo peace talks in France on Thursday to urge rival Serbs and ethnic Albanians to speed up negotiations or face Nato reprisals.

Kosovo Section

The UK Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, and his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, met Serbian president Milan Milutinovic in the 14th-century chateau at Rambouillet, outside Paris.

Serb sources close to the talks say that Mr Milutinovic will urge Mr Cook and Mr Vedrine to exert pressure on the ethnic Albanian delegation to publicly sign a pledge to give up their long-held goal of independence for the province.

Bridget Kendall in Rambouillet: "Negotiators haven't given up"
So far, the talks have stalled over the failure of both sides to sign up to even an initial peace agreement.

But the BBC's Bridget Kendall says: "It is perfectly clear that the crunch time is coming."

President Milosevic warned ethnic Albanians on Wednesday that if they did not publicly give up their dream of independence, the Kosovo peace conference could fail.

Meanwhile, Russia said that US threats of airstrikes against Serbia if they allow the talks to fail, were unacceptable.


Sources from both the Serb and the ethnic Albanian sides say that not a single line of a proposed peace text has been approved.

[ image: Yugoslavia's deputy PM Draskovic accused ethnic  Albanians of trying create an ethnically pure state]
Yugoslavia's deputy PM Draskovic accused ethnic Albanians of trying create an ethnically pure state
A Western diplomat close to the talks said that only about a quarter of what international mediators had planned for the first four days of the talks has been achieved.

Goodwill compromise?

In what they see as a sign of good will, the Serbs are reportedly ready to unilaterally sign a set of basic principles that include preserving the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia but also a cease-fire in Kosovo and the amnesty and release of ethnic Albanian prisoners.

International mediators, however, have said that merely by attending the talks, the two sides have already agreed on the basic principles, which were drawn up by the six-nation Contact Group.

The ethnic Albanians are unlikely to agree to give up independence, which is their ultimate goal after a proposed interim three year period.

Their negotiators are calling for a referendum on independence, an immediate cease-fire and Nato guarantees for the eventual interim settlement.

Year of fighting

More than 2,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands left homeless in a year of fighting between Kosovo Albanian separatists and Serbian security forces in the southern province of Serbia, the dominant Yugoslav republic.

The rival sides came to the peace conference when Nato issued an ultimatum: If they refused to attend, the alliance would strike Yugoslavia and there would be toughened measures to cut off weapons and financing to the Kosovo rebels.

The two sides were given two weeks to reach a settlement.

Meanwhile at Nato headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, officials are mapping out plans to send up to 30,000 peacekeeping troops into Kosovo.

Britain and France have already volunteered troops and President Clinton says he is considering sending up to 4,000 American soldiers.

According to the BBC's Jacky Rowland, international monitors in Kosovo say they are investigating reports that unknown attackers have abducted two Serb police officers near the northern town of Vucitrn.

Last month, rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) held five Serbs captive in the same area, releasing them two days later.

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06 Feb 99 | Europe
Kosovo talks: The negotiators

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