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Thursday, April 22, 1999 Published at 21:49 GMT 22:49 UK

World: Europe

Russia proposes peace deal

Nato troops: The alliance still has confidence in air strikes

Belgrade is ready to accept an "international presence" in Kosovo under the control of the UN, according to Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Kosovo: Special Report
Mr Milosevic agreed to the presence, which would include Russian participation, in a meeting with Mr Chernomyrdin on Thursday, according to Russia's Itar-Tass news agency.

Mr Chernomyrdin gave no details on the nature of the proposed international presence, nor whether this would be an armed force.

He told Itar-Tass negotiations were expected to continue on Friday with Nato leaders by telephone or with a Nato representative in Moscow.

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Correspondents say it is not clear yet what conditions would be attached or whether Nato countries would be allowed to join.

But they say if President Milosevic does support such a proposal it could represent a significant move forward. Until now he has refused to accept foreign troops on Yugoslav territory.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he "eagerly awaited the details of Mr Milosevic's offer.

But Britain and the United States say it "falls well short" of Nato demands.

The offer was discussed by US President Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair during a 20-minute telephone call.

A statement from Milosevic's office made no mention of any international force and gave no indication the Yugoslav leader had softened his hard-line stance.

The statement said Yugoslavia and Russia were committed to "jointly work for a peaceful resolution of the problems in Kosovo, and that can be achieved only through political means".

Ground troop review

The US and UK Governments have backed a review of Nato's plans for the possible deployment of ground troops in Kosovo.

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright confirmed the decision at a joint news conference with UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in Washington on Thursday.

But she stressed that the alliance had complete confidence that air strikes would achieve Nato's aims.

"We do not favour the deployment of ground forces into a hostile environment in Kosovo. We do, however, feel it is prudent to update our plans and assessments," she said.

Military commanders were earlier instructed by Nato Secretary-General Javier Solana to revive plans for a ground intervention in the province.

Mr Solana told the Washington Post the decision to update alliance's ground forces option was to show the Yugoslav Government that "all options are on the table".

US Defence Secretary William Cohen acknowledged on Wednesday that a ground offensive "can happen very quickly".

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He said while a ground assault was not being considered, such a campaign could include 200,000 or more Nato troops for a full invasion of Yugoslavia, or 75,000 troops for a limited ground operation in Kosovo.

However, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair denied the alliance had changed its position on the use of ground forces.

He said the objectives for the conflict were clear. "They were set out in the beginning, they have been repeated all the way through and they are quite simply that Milosevic must get his forces and his paramilitaries out of Kosovo.

"We must have an international military force that goes in to allow these people to go home."

Michael Williams reports on the bombing of the Milosevic residence
A decision by both the Czech and Slovak Governments on Wednesday will allow Nato to transport ground forces through their territory. The alliance now has a vital strategic land corridor from Germany to Yugoslavia's border with Hungary.

The Romanian parliament also voted overwhelmingly to grant Nato unrestricted access to the country's air space for its air campaign.

The Yugoslav president said in a US TV interview on Wednesday evening that it would be easy to find a solution to the Kosovo crisis if Nato stopped the bombing.

But he said that the province's problems could only be solved in direct talks between those who lived in Kosovo, without intervention by the Yugoslav Government or international bodies.

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