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Friday, February 19, 1999 Published at 20:53 GMT

World: Europe

Bombers fly to UK

Six bombers are on their way

The US is sending six B-52 bombers, armed with cruise missiles, to Britain as part of the build-up for possible air strikes on Yugoslavia.

The Pentagon said the long-range jets will be based at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the warplanes were expected to arrive on Saturday.

Kosovo Section
Some 260 US aircraft, most of them already in Europe, have been assigned to possible action against Yugoslavia if no deal on Kosovo is agreed.

UK Defence Secretary George Robertson said: "Whatever the outcome of the talks, we must be in a position to enforce the NATO threat of airstrikes if this is the only option."

The BBC's Jackie Rowland: Hopes have dropped of a last-minute compromise
He also said about 2,225 UK troops will be sent to Greece and Macedonia next week as part of a possible Nato peace implementation force in Kosovo.

"I am still hopeful that the negotiations in Rambouillet will reach a successful conclusion," said Mr Robertson, adding that "If NATO ground forces are deployed the UK will be the largest troop contributor".

Earlier on Friday, the Foreign Office advised all British nationals to leave Yugoslavia amid fears of Nato air strikes.

Non-essential staff and their dependents are leaving the British Embassy in the capital, Belgrade, and heading for Hungary in convoy.

Canadian embassy staff will leave the country, too. The US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, said plans were also in place to evacuate US diplomats and other embassy personnel.

[ image: Canadian dependants prepare to leave]
Canadian dependants prepare to leave
A BBC correspondent says a pull-out is necessary to make the threat of air strikes credible.

Meanwhile, the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, has refused to see the chief American negotiator at the Kosovo peace talks, Christopher Hill, who flew to Belgrade in a last-ditch effort to persuade Mr Milosevic to reach a deal over Kosovo by noon on Saturday.

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has arrived in Rambouillet, near Paris, where talks are taking place between the Serbs and ethnic Albanians.

'Right down to the wire'

He said: "I am going to try to inject some momentum into the talks, and I have to say it is going to be tough.

"But we will take it right down to the wire to see if we can find a way of ending the conflict in Kosovo hopefully without military action.

"To achieve that we will need more give from Belgrade who will have to make more effort to meet is half way than they have shown so far."

The Serbs and Albanians are poring over a final draft of a plan which would give Kosovo autonomy for a three-year interim period. But there has been no sign of a breakthrough on military issues.

Mr Milosevic has continued to say Nato forces will not be allowed onto Kosovo soil to police the deal - a key clause in the peace plan drawn up by the six-nation Contact Group.

Madeleine Albright has said she will return to the talks at Rambouillet, near Paris, on Saturday.

She said she would tell the delegations they must seize the opportunity for peace, or Serbia would be hit very hard by Nato air strikes.

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