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Thursday, March 25, 1999 Published at 21:12 GMT

World: Europe

Russia seeks Kosovo talks

Mr Yeltsin has ordered Mr Ivanov to set up a Contact Group meeting

Russia has tabled a resolution at the United Nations calling for an end to the Nato action against Serbia, and for a return to the negotiating table.

It will be discussed in the Security Council on Friday.

Kosovo: Special Report
Correspondents say the draft motion, which invokes the mandatory provisions of Chapter Seven of the UN Charter, would appear to have little chance of being adopted, since three of the permanent members with veto power - the United States, Britain and France - are members of Nato.

Russia and China are the other permanent members of the 15-nation council, and both oppose the action.

Rob Watson describes Russia's attempt at the UN to stop Nato's attacks
The US envoy at the UN, Peter Burleigh, said he would actively oppose it.

"If it were adopted, it would prolong the crisis in Kosovo, would encourage (Yugoslav President Slobodan) Milosevic to pursue his current course. We totally reject it," he said.

Meanwhile the US Secretary of State Madeline Albright maintained that "diplomatic channels remain open" over Kosovo.

Speaking at a State Department news conference, Mrs Albright said Ambassador Christopher Hill was available should the Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic decide to negotiate.

"He knows how to get in touch with us," she said.

Contact Group

Russia is also pursuing its search for a negotiated peace in Kosovo elsewhere.

President Boris Yeltsin has called for a meeting of the six-nation Contact Group on Yugoslavia, as part of the search for a diplomatic end to the Kosovo crisis.

During meetings at the Kremlin on Thursday, Mr Yeltsin ordered his Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, to organise a meeting of the six in Moscow.

However Mr Ivanov said that would only be possible if the military action was stopped.

The group, comprising Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the US, was responsible for drafting the peace plan for Kosovo which has been rejected by Belgrade.

Italian support

[ image: Massimo D'Alema: Time for diplomacy approaching]
Massimo D'Alema: Time for diplomacy approaching
Mr Yeltsin's call has received support from the Italian Prime Minister, Massimo D'Alema.

He told reporters at a European Union summit meeting: "The scenario is opening up for initiatives to return to the political track.

"I think therefore that the time to give politics and diplomacy their say is approaching."

After speaking to the Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov from Berlin, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that they had agreed to differ on the issue of the Nato attacks.

"There's never been any doubt the Russian have their own position," he said.

"They are opposed to military action but their view of the ends, though they disagree with the means, is the same."

Tony Blair said that a diplomatic solution was always preferred but that it would not come about without movement from Mr Milosevic.

Meanwhile the French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine was also said to be "favourable" to Russia's idea of organising a meeting of the Contact Group.

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