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Thursday, May 27, 1999 Published at 05:52 GMT 06:52 UK

World: Europe

Analysis: Muddying the diplomatic waters

First serving head of state to be indited as war criminal since 1945

Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has long been suspected of involvement in war crimes in Bosnia.

Kosovo: Special Report
But until now he has also been the focus of international efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the war in Kosovo.

With his indictment by the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal, all that changes, most analysts agree.

He has now been turned from a possible negotiating partner into a suspected war criminal.

And that could make it much harder to negotiate an end to the conflict.

Milosevic cornered

Not only is it unfeasible for Nato to negotiate with someone who has been indicted for war crimes, but Mr Milosevic is less likely than ever to accept a deal on Nato's terms.

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As an indicted war criminal, Mr Milosevic could never leave Serbia or Montenegro.

If he gives up power, a successor regime could turn him over.

So if Mr Milosevic were to co-operate with Nato, he would want an amnesty - but that Nato could neither politically nor legally provide.

Many analysts say that the only option that remains for him is to fight until the bitter end.

"Now he has no further incentives to make compromises," says Dr Jonathan Eyal from Royal United Services Institute.

Nato's dilemma

Nato, meanwhile, must continue to find a way out of the crisis.

According to chairman of the British Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Donald Anderson, the indictment comes amid evidence that Serbian resistance was on the verge of crumbling.

If Nato wants to continue to bring diplomatic pressure to bear on the Serbian authorities, it will have to find someone else with whom to negotiate.

Talks could still be held with Mr Milosevic's close advisors - as happened at Rambouillet, in February, when the President of Serbia, Milan Milutinovic, represented Yugoslavia.

There are already signs that hawks on both sides of the Atlantic are hoping to make an eventual peace, not with Mr Milosevic, but with someone else.

The Yugoslav Ambassador to the UN, Vladislav Jovanovic, says the latest move is designed to turn the people of Yugoslavia against its government.

He also says the move makes the War Crimes Tribunal "an accomplice to Nato as an aggressor".

But it is far from clear whether the move to indict Mr Milosevic will help or hinder the alliance's efforts to secure peace.

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