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Thursday, June 3, 1999 Published at 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK

World: Europe

Hope for Kosovo peace plan

Expectations are high for the first joint EU-Russian peace mission

Russian and EU peace envoys are meeting for a second day with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, trying to persuade him to accept a peace plan for Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
Russian Balkans envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin and his European counterpart Martti Ahtisaari arrived in Belgrade on Wednesday with the proposals, which Yugoslav negotiators have been studying overnight.

In a move being interpreted as preparation towards acceptance of the peace plan, it will be discussed on Thursday morning by the Serbian Parliament.

The plan provides for a peacekeeping force for Kosovo with Nato troops working alongside Russian soldiers.

The BBC's Jon Leyne: "It's a take it or leave it peace plan"
Shortly after the talks ended on Wednesday evening, air raid sirens sounded in the capital. But Nato planes concentrated on other targets, sparing the capital altogether.

Putting further pressure on the Serbian leader, the Pentagon announced that President Clinton would meet his military chiefs on Thursday to discuss the possible need to mount a ground invasion of Kosovo.

He also announced the US would contribute 7,000 troops to the force deployed in Kosovo if Mr Milosevic accepts a peace agreement.

David Shukman reports: "Emphasis has been on finding a common ground"
A Russian spokesman said the talks in Belgrade were "pretty productive" but that no decisions on the draft were taken.

Mr Chernomyrdin, speaking before he left for Belgrade on Wednesday, said there was now a realistic chance for peace.

And UK Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted that military action against Yugoslavia must continue.

"There is no way that diplomacy, unless it is backed up with force, will ever work with Milosevic," he told the BBC.

Gap narrows

Mr Chernomyrdin signalled significant changes in Russian policy. He said:

  • A pause in the bombing should come once a withdrawal of Serb forces was verified, not earlier.

  • Nato should choose the national composition of its peacekeeping force in Kosovo.

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This is the first time that Russia has indicated it would be prepared to accept US, British and other forces from countries engaged in the air strikes as part of the force in Kosovo.

Mr Chernomyrdin said Russian troops may also be sent into Kosovo, operating separately from Nato under a different command.

"The peacekeeping process should be under United Nations auspices. We underlined that we need to create the conditions (for the refugees) to return and live in safety," he said.

The BBC's Mike Williams: "Signs of Yugoslavia moving towards a peace deal"
"It is most important that a document is worked out between Yugoslavia and Nato covering withdrawal of Serbian forces and the timing of the deployment of peacekeepers."

Russian television later reported that Russian military delegates on Mr Chernomyrdin's mission felt he had given too many concessions to the West.

Belgrade blacked out

Most of Belgrade was in darkness on Wednesday night as a result of previous Nato attacks on power supply and distribution networks. But with the joint Russian-EU peace mission in town, the capital was spared any bombs overnight.

Instead, Nato planes concentrated on Yugoslav telecommunications, attacking sites in Serbia and Kosovo.

(Click here to see a map of latest Nato strikes)

According to Yugoslav media, television transmitters were targeted in the towns of Srbobran, 125km (80 miles) north of Belgrade, and Kraljevo, 100km (65 miles) south of the capital. And in Kosovo, a transmitter site in Pristina was attacked.

Nato continued to target Serb ground troops in action against KLA forces in southwestern Kosovo, near the Albanian border.

Extra US planes

US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said that with broad agreement on Kosovo between Russia and the West, it was up to Mr Milosevic to make the next move. "The ball is in his court," she said.

[ image:  ]
President Clinton has announced that 68 more US aircraft are to be deployed in the Balkans.

Mr Clinton also said that an extra 3,000 US troops, taking the total to 7,000, will be joining the peacekeeping force that Nato wants to be stationed in Kosovo as part of a peace settlement.

BBC Washington Correspondent Stephen Sackur: "Tough talk from the White House"
Delivering a speech to cadets graduating from Colorado Springs Air Force Academy he said: "Our European allies will provide the vast bulk of peacekeeping troops, but America will also contribute.

"We have a moral responsibility to oppose crimes against humanity.

"We cannot grow weary of this campaign because Mr Milosevic did not capitulate when the first bombs fell."

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Internet Links


Serbian Ministry of Information

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Kosovo Crisis Centre

Eyewitness accounts of the bombing

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