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Friday, June 18, 1999 Published at 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK

World: Europe

US-Russia talks falter

Russia has hinted at a compromise over its peacekeeping force

A third day of negotiations over Russia's role in the international peacekeeping force in Kosovo is continuing in Helsinki with no sign that an agreement is about to be reached.

Kosovo: Special Report
"We are hoping that we can have a final agreement but that remains to be determined," US Defence Secretary William Cohen said in a short break on Friday.

Earlier on Friday, President Clinton said almost all matters had been resolved with Russia, and a deal was not far off.

But according to Mr Cohen, the Russian and US delegates should "be prepared to leave without an agreement".

The day began with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joining Mr Cohen and his Russian counterpart, Igor Sergeyev.

Friday's summit meeting of the Group of Seven industrial nations in Cologne is likely to focus on Kosovo when Russian officials join the meeting at 1700 GMT.

Delegates are expected to devote much of their time to repairing ties with Russia following disagreements over Kosovo, and discussing stabilising the situation in the Balkans.

According to one official, approval of a financial package for Russia to be discussed at the meeting will be connected to the situation in Kosovo.

German economic advisor Klaus Gretschmann said the proposed deal was "interlinked" to solving the deadlock.

Intense negotiations

Mr Cohen and Mr Sergeyev wound up a second day of talks in Helsinki shortly after midnight, but their military experts worked around the clock to settle differences.

[ image: Cohen and Sergeyev meet again on Friday]
Cohen and Sergeyev meet again on Friday
Discussions were thought to focus on Nato's rejection of Moscow's demand for its own sector. Kosovo has already been split into five zones run by US, UK, French, German and Italian forces, but Russian troops took unilateral control of Pristina airport last weekend.

Two key issues were resolved: the command structure for the 50,000-member peacekeeping force, and for Pristina airport.

Nato is worried that giving Russia its own sector would seem to offer a haven to Serbs, who are strong traditional allies of Russia, while deterring Kosovo Albanian refugees from resettling. This could effectively partition Kosovo.

Nick Childs: "Russia's behaviour has raised concerns over who is in charge in Moscow"
The Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, said the sides were trying to distinguish between an "area of responsibility" and a peacekeeping "zone" for Russia.

US officials said they welcomed Russian participation in K-For, adding that the Nato alliance is prepared to do the job without Moscow, if an agreement cannot be reached. K-For would continue to assemble even if the talks on Russia's role failed.

The US State Department spokesman, James Rubin, said that Mr Cohen and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright could go to Brussels on Friday to get approval from Nato if a tentative agreement was struck In Helsinki.

'Positive atmosphere'

Russia's President Boris Yeltsin said in Moscow that his country would not drop its demand that Russian peacekeepers control their own sector, and he relayed that stance when he spoke by telephone from Moscow with Mr Sergeyev.

"In principle, most of the issues have been resolved peacefully," Mr Yeltsin said in comments broadcast on television. "But one question, which I would undoubtedly call the principal one, is sectors. In other words, they don't want to give Russia a sector."

Nonetheless Mr Clinton has predicted a "successful conclusion".

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