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Byline: Elizabeth Becker The New York Times

After two days of tense negotiations, NATO officials on Sunday night failed to get Yugoslav military officials to agree to terms for a Serbian withdrawal from Kosovo, throwing into doubt the peace deal reached last week by political leaders and prompting NATO to promise to intensify bombing.

The breakdown appeared to be caused by the Serbian demand that the U.N. Security Council first approve a peacekeeping force before NATO troops enter Kosovo as well as by several details of the withdrawal plan itself, which Serbian officials felt impinged on Yugoslav sovereignty.

Both sides said they would be willing to meet again but gave no indication of what must change in order for talks to resume. In the meantime, officials said, NATO would intensify its bombing of Yugoslavia.

NATO officials presented the Yugoslav delegation with a six-page document on Saturday, which they said was non-negotiable. The document outlined the terms for the withdrawal of the Yugoslav army, the Serbian paramilitary and the Serbian police from Kosovo and for NATO's entry to establish and maintain peace in the province, where Milosevic's forces oversaw the worst mass deportation in Europe since World War II.

``Our job has been to translate the political agreement into a workable military reality on the ground,'' said Lt. Gen. Michael Jackson, the commander of the NATO's Kosovo peacekeeping force, in a statement read under klieg lights at a French air base in Macedonia about 3 a.m.

``The Yugoslav delegation presented a proposal that would not guarantee the safe return of all the refugees or the full withdrawal of Yugoslav forces,'' he added.

Demonstrating the seriousness of the occasion, Jackson then vowed that ``NATO therefore has no alternative but to continue and indeed intensify the air campaign until such time as the Yugoslav delegation is prepared to implement the agreement and without ambiguity.''

Both Jackson and the Yugoslav delegation presented this clear setback as a conflict over the basic agreement reached in Belgrade last week by President Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia, a special Russian envoy and the president of Finland.

In Washington, chief Pentagon spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon said, referring to the group of world's top industrial powers: ``We will continue to work with our NATO allies and the G-8 to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, the air campaign will continue.''

Nebojsa Bujovic, a deputy foreign minister of Yugoslavia, spoke immediately after Jackson and said the NATO proposal raised questions about ``the full respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, of which Kosovo is an integral part.''

Pointedly, Bujovic said Yugoslavia interpreted the agreement to include ``deployment of an international security presence under the auspices of the U.N. or a presence established under a Security Council mandate.''

After 10 weeks of the air campaign, NATO dramatically reduced its bombing missions against Yugoslavia after last week's peace agreement. With Sunday night's failure to settle how that accord should be carried out, NATO made clear that it would step up the air attacks that have already devastated much of Yugoslavia's infrastructure in an attempt to stop the expulsion of Albanians from Kosovo.

Throughout the day on Sunday, NATO spokesmen underlined that the air war would be considered a success only when all of the hundreds of thousands of Albanians who became refugees in the last few weeks were returned safely home. The Yugoslav delegation raised four major points Sunday that they said made it difficult to sign the agreement, according to a NATO official. Above all, they said, they could not withdraw within seven days as stipulated, asking for an extension of two weeks.

``There are an awful lot of little details to settle,'' said Lt. Col. Robin Clifford, the spokesman for NATO's Kosovo peacekeeping force. ``Vehicles broken down, shortage of fuel, and roads that are impassable.''

The Yugoslav delegation also said that they would need more than 48 hours to remove the anti-aircraft defense system in Kosovo, according to a NATO official, and that they wanted mines cleared by NATO, not by their own forces as required under the document.

In discussing those and other differences, NATO officials acknowledged that they were making changes in what they had previously said was a non-negotiable agreement.

``There may well be changes in words and phrases to make sure the points are clear,'' Clifford said. ``But there will be no changes in the substance.''

Included in the questions under negotiation as the session entered its 13th hour were the number of Serbian policeman to be allowed in Kosovo after the initial withdrawal and whether Serbia would accept the buffer zone between Kosovo and its border with Montenegro and Serbia, according to a NATO official.

Also at issue, according to NATO officials, was the size of any Russian contingent in the peacekeeping force and where it would be deployed. Russia has proposed that its troops be concentrated along the northern sector of Kosovo, a proposal that NATO rejected for fear that it would lead to the partition of the province.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 7, 1999

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