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Thursday, June 3, 1999 Published at 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK

World: Europe

The problems now facing Nato

Nato ground forces: British tanks could be sent in from Macedonia

By BBC Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus

Some analysts believe that the real test for Nato is not so much the winning the war in Kosovo, but how the alliance manages its aftermath now that an end to the conflict may be approaching.

Kosovo: Special Report
The decision by the Serbian parliament in Belgrade to back a peace plan to end the war in Kosovo signals that the conflict could be drawing to a conclusion.

Nato has long insisted that the first key step towards a deal must be a verifiable withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo.

If such a withdrawal begins it will trigger rapid diplomatic and military steps to bolster the fledgeling peace deal.

UN mandate

After months of conflict the implementation of a peace deal could take merely a matter of days.

[ image: Nato inists Yugoslav forces must withdraw fully]
Nato inists Yugoslav forces must withdraw fully
But Nato has already made it clear that its air campaign will not be halted until it is certain that Belgrade has accepted all of its demands.

The alliance is insisting upon actions rather than words. It wants to see the start of a verifiable withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo.

One key problem is to ensure that Yugoslav units that re-group prior to pulling-out are not attacked. But once a withdrawal is underway this will trigger a pause in the Nato onslaught.

Things will then begin to move swiftly on both the diplomatic and military fronts. At the United Nations in New York a resolution will have to be passed to provide the mandate for the international peace force that will go into Kosovo.

Rebuilding Kosovo

Meanwhile Nato will have to bolster its forces in Macedonia ready to fill the vacuum in Kosovo once Yugoslav forces leave.

Russian troops will also be involved and Nato and Moscow do now seem to have agreed on the command arrangements for the force that will satisfy the Alliance's demand for a unified chain of command and Moscow's insistence that it will not put its troops into an explicitly Nato force.

Then of course the real work will begin to rebuild Kosovo's shattered infrastructure and to allow the Kosovo refugees home.

Only then will the scale of the catastrophe that has befallen the Kosovo Albanians become clear.

The waves of refugees have destabilised the whole region. Getting them home is an urgent priority and some analysts believe that the real test for Nato is not so much the winning of this conflict, but how the Alliance manages its aftermath.

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