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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Major Nations to Offer Sanctions Deal to Serbia

LONDON -- Major Western powers and Russia will offer to ease some United Nations sanctions on rump Yugoslavia within weeks if Belgrade lets monitors check that rebel Serbs in Bosnia remain cut off from Serbia, diplomats said Thursday.

The diplomats from several European nations said the five members of the "contact group" on Bosnia -- the United States, Russia, France, Britain and Germany -- had agreed this approach at a meeting that ended in Berlin on Wednesday.

There were increasing signs Serbia could agree to monitors despite earlier refusals, because it badly wanted relief from the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations, they said.

Civilian air routes to and from Serbia could be reopened and sporting and cultural links might be re-established as an incentive to Belgrade, although there was no question at this stage of resuming oil supplies or trade, the diplomats said.

Serbia cut off supplies to the Bosnian Serbs last month, after they refused to endorse an international peace plan. The latest move by the contact group is designed to make sure heavy pressure is kept on the Bosnian Serbs.

"A process of gradually lifting sanctions, in a first stage, could be achieved within the next few weeks, on conditions now being discussed by the 'contact group'," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Thursday.

Juppe, speaking during a visit to Romania, gave no details but added: "We are ready to consider a progressive suspension of sanctions, on condition that the embargo declared by Belgrade against (Bosnian Serbs in) Pale is effective."

"We now have indications that Serbia may be prepared to accept monitors under certain conditions," said one European diplomat, who asked not to be identified. "There is agreement to move to a selective lifting of sanctions very quickly if those people are put in place and can see the border is closed," the diplomat added.

Officials from the contact group would now seek a commitment from Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic.

The monitors would not need to wear uniforms but must be able to provide credible information from the border with Bosnia, the diplomats said.

European Union foreign ministers will discuss the issue at a meeting in Germany this weekend.

Earlier on Thursday, German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said the contact group had agreed that Serbia's recent support of the peace process "should be honored appropriately" but no precise details have emerged until now on how this would happen.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vitaly Churkin has also said Belgrade should be rewarded for its action.

Any lifting of sanctions would require UN approval and Churkin said it would be discussed by the Security Council, where four of the contact group -- the United States, Russia, Britain and France-- hold four of the five permanent seats. China has the fifth.