Milosevic under pressure

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The Independent Online
THE LEADING world powers last night issued a four-point list of demands to Slobodan Milosevic for an end to the bloody crisis in Kosovo, only for Russia to break ranks by opposing any use of force by Nato to end the Serb offensive.

Three days before a trip by the Yugoslav President to Moscow, Russia also refused to join a ban imposed by the other five members of the contact group - Britain, the US, France, Italy and Germany - on flights by Yugoslav airlines to and from their countries.

The Russian foreign minister, Yevgeny Primakov, yesterday described as "potentially decisive" the talks he and President Boris Yeltsin will hold with Mr Milosevic next week. But he reiterated Russia's long-standing hostility to Nato airstrikes or any other military intervention.

The demands made by foreign ministers of the contact group, chaired by Robin Cook, are: An end to repressive action by Serb forces against the civilian Albanian population and the withdrawal of these units; unimpeded access for international monitors and observers; measures to help up to 50,000 displaced people to return home; and "rapid progress" in talks with the Kosovo Albanian leadership.

At the same time, Nato warned the Kosovo Liberation Army not to seek to take advantage of any Nato intervention. If they continued to operate once this had started, Nato would cease all military operations forthwith.

The key to events now lies largely in Moscow and the meeting between Presidents Yeltsin and Milosevic. There are two uncertainties: whether the Russians will present yesterday's contact group demands as forcefully as the other members would like; and, even more fundamental - over the extent of the influence which Russia has over events in Yugoslavia. On past form, Mr Milosevic will indulge in cat-and-mouse brinkmanship with the West until the last.