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Sunday, February 21, 1999 Published at 20:08 GMT


World: Europe

Tough going in Kosovo talks

KLA rebels tune in for news from the talks

The US led intensive diplomatic efforts on Sunday to try to seal a Kosovo peace deal by the new deadline of Tuesday afternoon.

Kosovo Section
At the same time, Nato allies continued preparations for military strikes on Yugoslavia should the talks in France fail.

Early on Sunday evening, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the Kosovar Albanians were "working very hard", moving towards a yes.

But she said the Serbs were "refusing to engage in a basic part" of the deal, the military aspect.


The BBC's Bridget Kendall: "All sides are preparing themselves for military action"
She added that talks were continuing and that both sides understood the importance of "dedicated work".

Mrs Albright had returned to the talks in Rambouillet, near Paris, on Sunday morning and held talks with the ethnic Albanian side.

But at the end of the 90-minute meeting she failed to persuade them to accept an autonomy agreement which does not guarantee them an independence referendum at the end in three years' time.


[ image: Madeleine Albright lays out the options]
Madeleine Albright lays out the options
Mrs Albright later met Serbian President Milan Milutinovic.

The US State Department spokesman, James Rubin, said the US was trying to "push both sides over the finishing line" in the talks.

On Sunday morning Mrs Albright arrived at Rambouillet saying "there is an awful lot of work to be done".

"We always knew that these talks were going to be very difficult discussions," she said.

Time running short

Mr Milutinovic warned on Sunday morning that the three-day extension granted by international mediators was not long enough.


[ image: Mrs Albright arrived at Rambouillet to get both sides to move]
Mrs Albright arrived at Rambouillet to get both sides to move
Correspondents say the US was hoping to get an agreement with the ethnic Albanians so it could turn the pressure up on the Serb side to accept a Nato force to implement an accord on the ground.

Nato says it will take military action against Yugoslavia if the talks end without agreement.

The BBC Correspondent in Belgrade, Jacky Rowland, says politicians and analysts in Serbia are interpreting the extension of the Rambouillet talks as a victory for President Slobodan Milosevic.


The BBC's Jacky Rowland in Belgrade: "President Milosevic trying to extract another concession"
International peace monitors in Kosovo say the situation is calm after Saturday's fighting.

Speaking on the BBC on Sunday, the UK Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said the Kosovar side was also blocking a constitutional settlement for a self-governing Kosovo.


[ image:  ]
"In that context, air strikes on Belgrade are not going to help," he said.

Mediators at the talks on Saturday cited "substantial progress" as a reason for extending the negotiations beyond the original deadline of 1100 GMT on Saturday.

But observers said the US team only approved the extension under pressure from Russia and France, which are reluctant to resort to air attacks.





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