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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Milosevic Reviews New Plan For Peace




BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Russian and European Union envoys on Wednesday carried a plan to President Slobodan Milosevic meant to end the Kosovo crisis and the linked NATO bombing campaign. But differences persisted between Moscow and Washington on how to police any peace.


Talks with Milosevic began in the early evening amid indications that Russia - Yugoslavia's main ally - was solidly behind the West in wanting agreement on the newest plan.


"It is necessary for the Yugoslav leadership to accept this document,'' said Valentin Sergeyev, spokesman for Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, commenting in Moscow to Interfax.


The talks were adjourned at around 8 p.m. about two hours after they started, with plans to resume Thursday morning, according to reports by Russian and Yugoslav news agencies.


Earlier statements from senior Russian, European Union and U.S. officials all indicated that the three powers backing the plan were closer than ever to agreement on what it would take to establish peace in Kosovo and end over two months of allied air strikes.


"We think the areas of agreement are sufficiently large to justify a joint trip,'' said U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin, of the mission to Belgrade by Chernomyrdin and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, the EU envoy.


Ahtisaari said talks with Chernomyrdin and Deputy State Secretary Strobe Talbott had ended in a "largely common position.'' And at the end of those talks and before departure for Belgrade, Chernomyrdin spoke of a "realistic chance that the war will end.''


In Germany, the envoys' scheduled morning departure for Belgrade was delayed while they discussed disagreements on peace principles set out last month by the Group of Eight nations - the major industrial powers and Russia.


The envoys attained a "very far-reaching measure of agreement,'' said Michael Steiner, foreign policy adviser to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. "Now we'll have to see how Belgrade reacts.''


U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin also said the ball was now in Belgrade's court.


But there were differences of opinion on the Kosovo peacekeeping force, charged with overseeing refugee returns and security after any peace agreement.


Rubin, speaking in Washington, said it was an "open question'' whether Russia would participate in a plan to send peacekeepers under NATO command and with NATO at its core to Kosovo after a settlement to protect returning refugees.


Chernomyrdin appeared to rule out that option.


"There will be two separate presences in Kosovo, a NATO presence and a Russian presence,'' he said before departing for Belgrade, stressing that Russian troops would not be under NATO command.


Britain, in turn, rejected that approach as effectively partitioning Kosovo in separate parts under Russian and NATO supervision.


Additionally, Russian delegates cited differences over how to coordinate a halt to NATO's bombing, the pullout of Serb forces from Kosovo and the deployment of an international peace force under the plan.


Russia and NATO have differed sharply over the Kosovo crisis, with Moscow repeatedly demanding at least a pause in the alliance's bombing campaign. NATO also insists that it command Kosovo peacekeepers and that its troops form the majority of such a force - something Belgrade has strictly rejected in the past, with Russian support.


In Bonn, Talbott, the American envoy, said differences with Russia were bridgeable, adding the two envoys were bringing an "unambiguous set of signals'' to Milosevic.


Chernomyrdin, however, sought to dampen hopes of an immediate breakthrough from Wednesday's talks, saying they would likely not be the last.


"Everything will depend on the political will of the West, and of the Yugoslav president,'' he told Itar-Tass. "Perhaps ... more meetings will be required, but these meetings will already be [peace plan] working meetings.''


In the same vein, Ahtisaari, speaking on Finnish television after arrival in Belgrade, said: "I don't believe any document as such will [now] be signed. Instead, we'll discuss the peace offer that exists.''


The Yugoslav government contends that the NATO airstrikes violate international law. But the World Court in The Hague, Netherlands, on Wednesday rejected its request for an immediate cease-fire while it considers Belgrade's lawsuits, a process that could take years.


NATO, for its part, showed no letup in the air bombardment it launched March 24, striking Serb military targets across Kosovo and hitting several locations - including power lines, fuel depots, and TV relay stations - in and around Belgrade late Tuesday, triggering heavy explosions.


Yugoslav media reported strikes on the central Serbian towns of Jagodina and Cuprija. And officials at alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, said that NATO jets had struck hard at Serb forces in Kosovo during the previous 24 hours - most heavily in southwestern Kosovo near the Albanian border, where heavy fighting continues between Serb forces and the Kosovo Liberation Army.


While Yugoslavia has said it accepts the "principles'' of the G-8 plan, it remains unclear whether Belgrade will sign off on two key Western demands: an armed military force with NATO as its core in Kosovo to police the peace agreement and supervise the return of 850,000 ethnic Albanian refugees, and the complete withdrawal of Serb security troops from the province.


British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Wednesday those demands are nonnegotiable and that Milosevic must take "visible steps within a strict timetable'' to comply if he wants the bombing to end.