Paris tries to steal US peace laurels from US

Bosnia settlement: In snub to Americans, French announce Balkan agreement brokered in Ohio will be called Elysee Treaty

Stepping up its drive to snatch the role of chief peace-maker in Bosnia, France yesterday announced that the Dayton accords would be transformed into the Elysee Peace Treaty when the agreement is formally signed in Paris next week.

At a meeting of Nato's foreign and defence ministers in Brussels, France also signalled that it intends to claim a new role in the "renewal" of Nato. Herve de Charette, the French Foreign Minister, confirmedFrance is to rejoin Nato's military and defence planning bodies, which it left in 1966, putting Paris back at the heart of the alliance's decision-making.

The French diplomatic drive dominated the Brussels meeting yesterday the purpose of which was to finalise plans for the deployment of the 60,000- strong Implementation Force in Bosnia. France's partners welcomed Paris's decision to resume its military connections with Nato, although scepticism was voiced about the claims that France could suddenly breathe life into the alliance.

US officials were also muted in their response to the France's unilateral announcement that the Dayton accords are to be transformed into the Elysee Treaty. British officials said there had been no consultation on the decision.

Britain will also try to share some of the Dayton limelight when it holds the London implementation conference this weekend, where plans for the rebuilding of the countries of the former Yugoslavia will be drawn up.

The French diplomatic offensive brings to the surface the under-current of transatlantic rivalry over who can lay claim to the success of the Bosnian peace agreement.

Paris and London were irritated at the way the US sidelined the Europeans during the negotiations and laid down the law over the Nato peace implementation operation. The Americans have privately dismissed European concerns, arguing that their failed efforts to broker a peace have been characterised by confusion.

Expanding on what he claimed was France's central role in the peace-making Charles Millon, the French Defence Minister, yesterday made the remarkable claim that this year's Bosnia peace negotiations had moved "from Paris to Paris", referring, apparently to an earlier inconclusive Paris peace conference, which Mr Millon suggested had led to the deal which is to be signed next week. Neither Mr de Charette or Mr Millon made any reference to the US role, referring only to the success of the "international community".

The rationale behind France's rapprochement with Nato appears to be an acknowledgement that full co-ordination of the Bosnia operation cannot come about if French generals are left out of the key planning bodies. "France is ready to work to the renewal of Nato, " Mr Millon said.

"France will assure the evolution of Nato so it can adapt to the conditions of our time."

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