Major returns for crisis talks

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The Independent Online
JOHN MAJOR, the Prime Minister, is cutting short his holiday to chair a meeting of Cabinet ministers on Yugoslavia, writes Donald Macintyre.

The move comes as doubts grow over whether the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic, will take part in the peace conference that Mr Major is convening in London next week.

Ministers said the meeting of the Cabinet's overseas committee would discuss the conference and consider what, if any, form extra military protection for UN aid convoys would take if the aid agencies request it.

Mr Major, who heads the current British EC Presidency, will be told by Douglas Hogg, the Foreign Office Minister of State who met leaders of the main factions in Bosnia last week, that Mr Milosevic is still in two minds whether to attend the talks, or leave participation to Milan Panic, the Prime Minister of the rump Yugoslavia which Britain does not recognise.

A highly-placed government source said that ministers were still hoping strongly that Mr Milosevic would come.

Britain is pressing Alija Izetbegovic, the President of Bosnia, to reverse his decision to boycott tripartite talks with Croatian and Serbian leaders in the republic. Mr Izetbegovic said on Friday that the Serbs had to choose between negotiations and waging war.

Mr Hogg said yesterday: 'The most critical and important thing that should happen is for there to be talks. I don't think that there can be a sustainable ceasefire unless there are talks first.'

George Robertson, Labour's European spokesman, said yesterday: 'The break in Mr Major's holiday is only going to be worthwhile if sanctions-busting is on the agenda. No troops should be sent into Serbia and Bosnia unless the sanctions are made watertight.'

Mr Robertson added: 'The Cabinet must also consider how Britain is to share the burden of the costs of UN action.'