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Friday, February 5, 1999 Published at 16:01 GMT

Analysis: Dayton revisited?

Rambouillet castle near Paris: Venue for another try at peace

By World Affairs Correspondent Nick Childs

The attempt to persuade the two warring sides in the Kosovo conflict to discuss a peace deal at talks in France has prompted parallels with the Dayton process of 1995 which ended the war in Bosnia.

But can the formula be repeated, and how valid is the comparison?

[ image: The six-nation Contact Group says it has learnt the lessons of the past]
The six-nation Contact Group says it has learnt the lessons of the past
There has been much criticism of supposed international procrastination over Kosovo, but Western diplomats say they have learnt the lessons of Bosnia.

Among the signs of that, they say, are the Dayton-style peace talks to which the warring parties have been summoned, and the very tight deadlines the Contact Group and Nato have imposed.

But whether those talks get off the ground and make any progress is still very uncertain.

Kosovo Section
With Dayton, the West had already intervened with air strikes.

There was a ceasefire in place, and the Serb side may have been forced to agree to the ceasefire and go to the negotiating table because the fighting on the ground seemed to be going against them.

[ image: Four years on Nato forces remain in Bosnia]
Four years on Nato forces remain in Bosnia
The Kosovo situation remains much more fluid. Nato may yet have to back up its warnings with some sort of action. But the Alliance also concedes that it will be difficult to put pressure on the KLA.

In the case of Dayton, a detailed plan already existed for a settlement. The same is true for Kosovo - the negotiators would not be starting with a blank sheet of paper.

And, as with Bosnia, the west accepts any settlement will have to be enforced by a sizeable Nato-led force.

The American role

But here the two approaches diverge. Dayton was very much under US auspices, and on US soil. Agreement, when it finally came, was only reached after massive pressure from the Clinton administration.

The Americans have been the driving force again. But the actual talks set for Rambouillet in France appear a more collective effort, with a more prominent role for the Europeans.

[ image: The military situation in the troubled province remains fluid]
The military situation in the troubled province remains fluid
If they do go ahead, the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, and his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, will be the formal co-chairmen. The talks will be driven by a joint US, European Union, and Russian team.

That might preserve international coherence. But whether it will have enough diplomatic clout is another matter.

The Americans may yet have to step in again more forcefully.

Also, Dayton was very much a top-level summit. It is unlikely the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, will himself go to Rambouillet.

There are doubts, too, as to whether the Kosovo Albanians can produce a cohesive delegation.

Over Kosovo, there is clearly pressure on all sides, including the international community - whose credibility remains on the line.

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