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Friday, May 7, 1999 Published at 20:13 GMT 21:13 UK

World: Europe

Kosovo: Can diplomacy succeed?

KC-135 tanker jets line up in Budapest to refuel

By Diplomatic Correspondent Peter Biles

The peace plan for Kosovo, drawn up by G8 foreign ministers at their meeting in Germany on Thursday, has brought no let-up in the round-the-clock bombing of Yugoslavia.

This is because Nato is pursuing a twin-track approach.

On one hand, the leaders of the alliance are encouraging diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict.

But at the same time, they are also determined to intensify the military action.

Nato may have reduced the fighting strength of the Serbian security forces but its more than six weeks of air strikes have so far failed to stop the ruthless programme of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

In a speech in Berlin on Friday night, Nato's Secretary General, Javier Solana, said: "There is _ for the time being _ no alternative to the dual approach of diplomacy backed by military strikes."

On the diplomatic front, Nato's strategy now is to ensure the total political isolation of Yugoslavia.

Russia backs Nato demands

To the relief of Nato countries, Russia has come into line on the key demands laid down by the alliance for an end to the conflict.

This opens the way for a United Nations Security Council resolution that Russia will be able to approve.

Nato did not seek specific UN authorisation for military action at the start of the air campaign because Russia was opposed to the use of force and would have vetoed any resolution.

Nato and Russia still have disagreements on some of the finer detail of the peace plan, but this week's G8 statement has been hailed by Nato as an important step forward.

"We very much welcomed the results of the G8, we believe it sends a strong signal to President Milosevic that the road he is on is now truly a dead end", Nato's spokesman, Jamie Shea, said on Friday.

Annan mission 'unlikely'

With the United Nations likely to play an increasingly important role, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has appointed two special envoys to assist him in dealing with the Kosovo crisis.

They are the former Swedish Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, who was involved in the peace process in Bosnia, and Eduard Kukan, Slovakia's foreign minister.

However, it is unlikely that in the current climate, Mr Annan himself will embark upon a diplomatic mission to Belgrade in the forseeable future.

Nato acknowledges that there is still a lot of hard work ahead in narrowing the differences with Russia over the issues of when to call a halt to the bombing and how to work out the composition of the "international civil and security presences" in Kosovo.

The visit to Britain this weekend by the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, at the invitation of his British counterpart, Robin Cook, will allow Nato leaders a chance to gain a clearer picture of the current Russian thinking.

Cautious welcome

The Yugoslav authorities have given a cautious welcome to the latest peace moves, but in common with Russia, Belgrade wants to see an immediate end to the Nato bombing.

Placing the peace plan within the framework of the United Nations has raised the possibility of Yugoslav compliance with a Security Council resolution.

However, at this stage, it's still hard to imagine that the Serbs will accept an international force in Kosovo with "a Nato core", as the alliance is demanding. Furthermore, Russia has said that there cannot be Nato troops in Kosovo, without Belgrade's agreement.

The diplomatic process looks certain to be protracted.

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