War In The Balkans: How a deal was done

AGREEMENT CAME after a very late night, a two-page document and several meetings with Slobodan Milosevic. Yesterday the man who brokered the deal that may have brought peace to Kosovo, the Finnish President, Martti Ahtisaari, said his talks with the Yugoslav President and indicted war criminal were "very business-like". There were, Mr Ahtisaari added, "no voices raised in the discussions. We went through the paper. I tried to clarify the issues that were raised."

The two other key players were the Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin and the US deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott. The first, crucial task had been to get agreement between them so a united front could be presented to Belgrade. There were four meetings, two in Helsinki, one in Moscow and one near Bonn on Tuesday. Mr Ahtisaari told Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that he thought the prospects of progress were slim. That prediction proved wrong, although it was only by working until 3.45am that an agreement was reached.

Mr Ahtisaari arrived in Belgrade on Wednesday carrying the two-page document. The meeting with the Serbs began at about 5pm and lasted until 9.30pm. The questions raised were largely technical, and Mr Milosevic's indictment for war crimes was not mentioned.

The Yugoslav Parliament met yesterday at 10.30am. At 1.10pm Mr Ahtisaari was told formally that parliament had given its approval.