Parliament Peace talks: Cook warns of Kosovo failure

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The Independent Online
ROBIN COOK, the Foreign Secretary, will return to the Kosovo peace talks at Rambouillet after warning the Commons that the negotiations could end in failure.

Mr Cook will meet his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine, to review progress and try to push the Serbs and ethnic Albanians towards a settlement to stop the fighting. However, speaking in the Commons yesterday, Mr Cook warned that a successful outcome was far from assured.

"In my statement to the House two weeks ago, I warned that I could not guarantee that the talks would necessarily end in agreement. That remains the case today," he said.

The international powers have set a deadline of noon on Saturday for a deal at the peace conference in the 14th-century chateau outside Paris. Serb negotiators appear to have backed down on the key demand to allow the ethnic Albanians wide-ranging self-rule.

The Kosovo Albanians also seem ready to sign a three-year interim agreement and tone down their demands for independence.

However the sticking point is whether the Serbs will agree to a Nato- led force coming into Kosovo to enforce the deal - which both the Albanians and the Americans have insisted upon.

The talks continued as the first contingent of British tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery destined for a possible role in a Kosovo peacekeeping force set sail.

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