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Friday, February 19, 1999 Published at 22:32 GMT


World: Europe

Clinton warns Serbs

Six B-52 bombers heading to the UK

US President Bill Clinton has given a fresh warning to Serbia that Nato is ready to attack it if President Milosevic refuses to accept a peace agreement to end the conflict in Kosovo.

Kosovo Section
"We ... stand united in our determination to use force if Serbia fails to meet its previous commitment to withdraw forces from Kosovo and if it fails to accept the peace agreement," he said at a news conference with French President Jacques Chirac.


President Clinton: "United in our determination to use force"
With pessism growing over whether agreement can be reached by the noon deadline (1100 GMT), Mr Clinton said he believed it would be a mistake for there to be any further extension.

President Chirac said the time had come for President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia to choose the path of wisdom rather than war.

Peace negotiations between the Serbs and the Kosovo Albanians have been taking place in France for the last two weeks.

Milosevic standing firm


Diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall: "No-one is feeling optimistic"
Just hours earlier, the chief American negotiator on Kosovo, Christopher Hill, failed to secure a meeting in Belgrade with President Milosevic.

Mr Hill saw the Yugoslav foreign minister instead and told him that Belgrade must sign a peace deal for Kosovo or face the consequences.


[ image:  ]
Shortly before Mr Hill's arrival in Belgrade, Mr Milosevic said his country would not give up Kosovo, even if it is bombed.

And he repeated his opposition to ''a foreign occupation'' of Nato troops to police any settlement in Kosovo - a key clause in the peace plan drawn up western leaders.

The Pentagon has ordered six B-52 bombers, armed with cruise missiles, to fly to bases in the UK in preparation for possible strikes.

On Wednesday, the US announced it was sending more than 50 additional military aircraft to Europe, in case strikes were ordered.

Bleak prospects

BBC Diplomatic Correspondent Barnaby Mason, who is at the talks, says they are going on into the night but the prospect of an agreement is bleak.


Diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall: Extension to deadline unlikely
He says both the Serbs and ethnic Albanians have now raised objections to the revised text covering the constitution of a self-governing Kosovo.

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said on returning to to the talks at Rambouillet, near Paris, on Friday evening that he would try to inject momentum into the talks but it would be tough..
[ image:  ]
"We're going to keep on working right down to the wire to see if we can find a way of ending the conflict," he said

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has said she will return 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.

Embassy staff leave

Western embassies in the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, are withdrawing staff as the deadline for the Kosovo peace talks approaches.

The Canadian and British embassies have already started evacuating dependents and non-essential personnel and the United States may follow suit later in the day.


[ image: British embassy staff are going to Hungary]
British embassy staff are going to Hungary
The US has already given permission for non-essential diplomatic staff and their families to leave the province and is urging other American citizens to do likewise, but there is no official evacuation order yet.

Germany has also warned its citizens to leave Yugoslavia. The Netherlands is pulling out non-essential diplomatic staff and Denmark has reportedly put its diplomatic personnel on standby to leave.

Russian warning

Russia has voiced disagreement with its fellow members of the Contact Group - the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy - on the issue of Nato strikes.


Mark Laity reports on the options facing Nato
Russian President Boris Yeltsin said he had warned his American counterpart Bill Clinton not to use force against Yugoslavia.

The Western nations in the Contact Group want Belgrade to allow a 30,000-strong Nato force to police any accord on the ground.

But Moscow says there can be no Nato deployment in Kosovo without Belgrade's full approval.



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