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Tuesday, February 23, 1999 Published at 16:42 GMT

World: Europe

Partial deal in Kosovo talks

No guarantees that the fighting can be stopped

Kosovo Section
The warring sides in Kosovo have reached conditional agreement on substantial autonomy for the province and will meet again in three weeks to discuss implementing the deal.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall reports from the peace talks
The chairman of the peace talks near Paris, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, said the Serbs and ethnic Albanians had agreed to attend new talks in France on 15 March.

Mr Vedrine said the six-nation Contact Group was calling for an immediate ceasefire, adding that those who provoked hostilities or prevented the completion of an interim peace accord would be held accountable.

But US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said full agreement had not been reached on either a political or a military deal.

[ image:  ]
"We have decisively broken the stalemate that hung over Kosovo for so long," Mrs Albright said.

"Unfortunately (Yugoslav) President Milosevic and his delegation failed to seize the opportunity for progress," she added.

Mrs Albright said the ethnic Albanians had agreed in principle to sign the political accord in two weeks, but the Serbs had not agreed to the political deal, and "had not engaged at all" on the deployment of a Nato-led force in the region.

Bridget Kendall in Rambouillet: 17 days haven't got them very far
Mr Vedrine said the Albanians had said yes in principle but needed to consult their people at home, while the Serbs had said yes but had a set of points they wanted to discuss further.

Talks co-chairman UK Foreign Minister Robin Cook insisted that impressive progress had been made, with provisions for both Kosovo's self-government and the protection of the ethnic Serb population living in the province.

"We have created a process. Today is not the end of that process but only the end of phase one of that process," he said.

Robin Cook: "A good deal for both sides"
He stressed that the two sides would be expected to sign a political and military agreement in March.

Air strike threat remains

[ image: Nato troops remain on standby]
Nato troops remain on standby
The partial agreement was reached after 17 days of intense negotiations.

Nato had threatened Belgrade with military action if it caused the talks to fail.

"Whether Nato bombs or not ... that depends upon the actions of the Serbs," US President Bill Clinton said earlier.

International negotiators had worked through the night on a new version of the political part of the proposed peace deal.

Clashes continue

As the talks ended, Serb police forces and ethnic Albanians clashed in the north of the province, leaving seven wounded.

Five Serbian policemen and a Yugoslav photographer for the Associated Press news agency were wounded in the fighting at the village of Bukos, according to the Serbian media centre in the provincial capital, Pristina.

The KLA news agency Kosova Press said one KLA guerrilla had been wounded.

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