Kosovo peace talks falter as ethnic Albanians balk at disarmament

AS NEW and fierce fighting broke out in northern Kosovo yesterday, the US piled the pressure on ethnic Albanians to sign up to the proposed peace agreement and save the faltering Rambouillet conference from total collapse.

But, less than 24 hours before today's deadline of 1400 GMT, Madeleine Albright, the American Secretary of State, appeared to be making only the slowest of progress.

And without the assent of the Albanians, it is impossible to get Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav President, where Washington wants him, facing a stark choice between the acceptance of Nato peace keepers or the certainty of allied airstrikes.

There are two big stumbling blocks for the Kosovo Albanians: the plans to disarm the Kosovo Liberation Army, which has led the bloody guerrilla war against Belgrade for the last year; and the absence from the final draft document of any mention of a referendum that would guarantee the independence the Albanians are seeking. Last night General Wesley Clark, Nato's supreme commander in Europe, arrived unexpectedly in Rambouillet, apparently to reassure the Albanians that they would be adequately protected by the alliance even without the KLA, and even if - as seems increasingly possible - a peace keeping force contained a large contingent of Russians, traditional allies of the Serbs. Yesterday Igor Ivanov, the Russian Foreign Minister, raised this very option by declaring that Russian troops could join the force if it was authorised by the United Nations and had the approval of Belgrade.

But Nato's line, reiterated at the alliance's Brussels headquarters yesterday, is that the 28,000-strong force must be Nato-led and unencumbered by any type of "dual key" arrangement which fatally undermined the Western troops supposed to keep the peace in Bosnia before the 1995 accord.

The Serbs, meanwhile, continued their strategy of trying to separate the political and military parts of the deal, and play upon Western divisions over the use of force, growing more obvious as the final negotiating showdown approaches. Speaking before another session with Mrs Albright yesterday, Milan Milutinovic, the Serbian President, said Belgrade might be ready to talk about foreign troops once a political agreement granting autonomy but not independence for Kosovo had been reached.

That would be the ultimate quandary for the West: what to do if Mr Milosevic signed up to the political agreement and put foward suggestions for a peacekeeping force, less directly controlled by Nato? Almost certainly Italy, and perhaps France, would oppose any airstrikes.

As the frantic diplomacy continued in France, it was fighting as usual in the southern Balkans. Yugoslav armour and KLA fighters clashed for more than three hours near Vucitrn, north of Pristina, sending hundreds of civilians fleeing for their lives.

And, in a sign that hostilities may be about to intensify, it was reported in Kosovo that the KLA had chosen Suleiman Selimi, 29, a radical hardliner, as its supreme commander.

What will Happen Next?

If both Serbs and ethnic Albanians accept the big powers' peace plan

28,000 NATO troops would be deployed in Kosovo, and a new constitution would be introduced amid preparations for elections in nine months. Some sanctions would be lifted on Yugoslavia. Kosovo would receive international aid.

If the Albanians accept but the Serbs do not

THIS WOULD open the way to Nato air strikes against Yugoslav targets, and guarantee Nato protection for Kosovo.

If the Serbs accept, but the Albanians do not

THE WESTERN nightmare. The Kosovars would be told they have to face the Yugoslav army alone, with the near certainty of massive bloodshed.

If both the Serbs and the Albanians refuse

RAMBOUILLET WOULD have been a complete failure, and the West would restart the search for a solution from scratch.

If the Albanians accept, and the Serbs say 'Yes, but...'

THE TRICKIEST of all for the West. Suppose Mr Milosevic agrees to the political side, but says he wants UN, not Nato peacekeepers? The West says the package is all-or-nothing. But can we really bomb Belgrade over a dispute about who keeps the peace?

News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
scienceHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Voices
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

PHP / MySQL Developer (PHP, MySQL, AJAX, JQuery, MVC, HTML, XML

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: PHP / MySQL Developer (PHP, MySQL...

C# Back-End Developer (C#, .NET, ASP.NET, SQL, MVC-4, TDD, BDD)

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C# Back-End Developer (C#, .NET, ...

Web Developer (C#, HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, JQuery, XML) London

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Web Developer (C#, HTML5, CSS3, J...

C# Software Developer (C#, front-end, Java, JavaScript, VB)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C# Software Developer (C#, front-...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried