Nato and Russia close to deal over peace force in Bosnia

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The Independent Online
SARAH HELM

Brussels

Russia and Nato are hoping to announce today a breakthrough that would allow Russian troops to join the Bosnia peace implementation force.

Last-minute negotiations were still under way last night, but expectations were high that William Perry, the US Defense Secretary, and Pavel Grachev, the Russian Defence Minister, would be able to announce an agreement after a meeting at Nato headquarters here today.

Although the Russians are being asked to accept less than joint command, Moscow now appears ready to compromise.

"The Russians are very keen to have a role in the peace enforcement force because they believe it will work," a Russian analyst said.

Nato, which has refused Moscow's demand for joint command and control, is expected to lay out a formula under which Russian generals have a place in the command structure but do not share overall control. The deal envisages giving the Russians more than a logistical role. Instead, it is expected to be confirmed that the Russians will send part of an airborne division.

A Russian general would probably be based at Nato headquarters in Brussels but would not have any control over rules of engagement. The Russians would not operate under a Nato flag, although it is unclear what their emblem would be. One option would be for them to fly a UN flag.

There has been strong concern in Moscow that by participating in a Nato- led force the Russian military might compromise its future relationship with Nato. The Russians "want to retain the ability to present Nato at home as a military threat," the analyst said.

However, Moscow has now recognised that to remain outside a successful Bosnian peace operation would be humiliating, and accepts that joint command and control would be vetoed by the US congress.

Nato ambassadors, meanwhile, failed to break the deadlock over candidates for the alliance's top job and adjourned their meeting until Friday.

Washington is said to be refusing to accept the former Dutch prime minister, Ruud Lubbers, while only Denmark, Iceland and Norway among European Nato members back the former Danish foreign minister, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen.

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