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Wednesday, June 2, 1999 Published at 19:39 GMT 20:39 UK

World: Europe

Analysis: Bridging the diplomatic gap

By BBC News Online's Dominic Casciani

Belgrade has signalled that it may agree to the G8 principles on bringing peace to Kosovo, but there remain some differences between these and the five key demands which Nato has put to Belgrade.

Russia is seeking, in its mediation efforts, to bridge the gap between Nato's demands and the principles set out by the G8 (the world's seven leading industrial nations and Russia).

But there are crucial areas of difference - notably over the withdrawal of Yugoslav and Serb forces and what this means in practice, and who will command international forces in the province:

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Nato principle: "A verifiable stop to all military action and the immediate ending of violence and repression".

G8 principle: "Immediate and verifiable end of violence and repression in Kosovo."

There is agreement on this principle - though the means of ending the violence exposes differences.

While Russia has called for Nato to stop bombing Yugoslavia, the alliance continues to focus its attention on the key word "verifiable".

It wants firm evidence of a halt to Yugoslav military activities before it will even consider calling off air strikes.

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Nato: "The withdrawal from Kosovo of the Yugoslav army, the military, the police and the paramilitary forces."

G8: "Withdrawal from Kosovo of military, police and paramilitary forces."

A consensus on what withdrawal actually means remains one of the most difficult moves on the diplomatic chessboard.

Nato considers a withdrawal to mean a complete withdrawal of forces. This is a hardening of the position taken by western leaders in the Rambouillet talks when the principle of a Yugoslav presence was accepted.

Russia argues that the presence of Yugoslav forces is critical to Belgrade maintaining its sovereignity over the province.

President Milosevic rejects Nato's demands, regarding a complete withdrawal of forces as a green light to the Kosovo separatists that Belgrade has sought to crush.

There may be scope for agreement on a symbolic Yugoslav presence on the ground, working with international forces, while political negotiations on a final settlement begin.

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Nato: "The stationing in Kosovo of an international military presence."

G8: "Deployment in Kosovo of effective international civil and security presences, endorsed and adopted by the United Nations, capable of guaranteeing the achievement of the common objectives."

How and when international forces will enter Kosovo, their composition and who will be in command, remains the most critical area of difference.

Nato says it will not shift from its insistence on command and control of ground forces - the use of the word "effective" in the G8 principle can be read as diplomatic code for "Nato controlled". Russia is prepared to work alongside Nato but wants UN control.

Yugoslavia rejects the deployment of Nato forces which have been directly involved in the conflict - but the alliance argues that this would leave a peace deal open to abuse.

Nato also fears that ceding command to the UN could also lead to a de facto partition of the territory with alliance forces blocked from operating in northern Kosovo which borders Serbia.

A Russia-backed UN Security Council resolution providing an international mandate for a force is unlikely without agreement on this principle.

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Nato: "The credible assurance of Milosevic's willingness to work on the basis of the Rambouillet Accords towards a political solution for Kosovo in conformity with International Law and the Charter of the United Nations."

G8: "The establishment of an interim administration for Kosovo, to be decided by the Security Council of the United Nations to ensure conditions for a peaceful and normal life for all inhabitants for Kosovo."

The shape of a potential interim political agreement on the future of Kosovo is still open to bargaining.

President Slobodan Milosevic, who did not personally attend the Rambouillet talks, rejected the accord as ceding ground to the Kosovo separatist movement.

Nato believes the agreement, which calls for substantial autonomy for the province, remains a basis for stability.

Russia, treading a diplomatic tightrope between Belgrade and Nato, supports Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo and the disarming of the KLA, both points which are crucial to the Serbs.

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Nato: "The unconditional and safe return of all refugees and all the displaced persons."

G8: "The safe and free return of all refugees and displaced persons and unimpeded access to Kosovo by humanitarian aid organisations."

Everybody agrees that the refugees must be allowed home. But under what circumstances they would do so remains far from clear.

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