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Friday, May 21, 1999 Published at 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK

World: Europe

Analysis: The shifting diplomatic scene

US, EU and Russian envoys are continuing with intensive talks

By Diplomatic Correspondent Barnaby Mason

The past few days have seen differences between Nato governments on public display.

Kosovo: Special Report
Britain again raised the possibility of an operation by ground troops in Kosovo, Germany scornfully dismissed the idea and the United States sat on the fence, reportedly resentful at being put under pressure by the British.

Italy pushed the idea of a pause in the bombing even before all Nato's demands were met.

American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook mounted a media offensive in Washington to insist there was no split between them.

In a BBC interview, Mrs Albright said she did not believe an early bombing pause was being considered.

'Action plan'

[ image: Madeleine Albright:
Madeleine Albright: "No split"
"As an action plan we are continuing a sustained air campaign which is working and which is causing considerable damage to the Serbian military structure," she said.

But the diplomatic scene is also shifting - intense debate is going on about the timing of any suspension of air strikes as one of the steps towards a political settlement.

Italy would be prepared to see it come at an earlier stage than the US and Britain, which insist that Belgrade must first accept an international military force in Kosovo and demonstrate that it is withdrawing its forces.

These points are at the heart of the negotiations with Russia too, which demands a halt in the bombing before a Security Council resolution setting out a settlement can be passed.

Constructive talks

In Moscow, senior American official Strobe Talbott said his late night talks with Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin had been constructive and serious enough to justify him returning next week.

He added that Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari would also be back. Mr Ahtisaari represents the European Union and plans to make a visit to Belgrade with Mr Chernomyrdin if a joint position can be agreed.

Further efforts are being made in Bonn by senior officials of the G8 big power group to finalise the draft Security Council resolution.

But both Russian and western sources say agreement is still some way off.

Differences include the composition and command of the international force, how many Serb troops would be allowed to stay in Kosovo, and the right of the war crimes tribunal to investigate alleged atrocities.

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