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Saturday, May 8, 1999 Published at 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK

World: Europe

Analysis: Nato's diplomatic blunder

China's opposition to the bombing has been clear from the start

The bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade is highly damaging for Nato and comes at a time when Beijing's position is crucial.

Kosovo: Special Report
The bombing has made the search for a settlement in Kosovo infinitely more complicated.

Attacking a foreign embassy, especially one that has already expressed its hostility to Nato's actions, is a diplomatic blunder of the highest order.

Professor Paul Rogers and former US ambassador William Taft on the fall-out
Embassies are considered sovereign territory of the nation they represent and their diplomats protected by international convention.

In a month and a half of bombing, it is also not the first time that the alliance has been forced to express its regret over for accidental attacks on civilian targets.

'War crime'

[ image: Harsh words: China's ambassador confronts the US representative]
Harsh words: China's ambassador confronts the US representative
Chinese officials have condemned what they say is a war crime and a barbarian act, saying the government reserved the right to take further action in response to the bombing.

With Chinese students venting their anger outside the US embassy in Beijing, the bombing seems likely to strengthen pressure on the government to take a tougher line with Nato.

In New York, at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, Chinese ambassador Qin Huasun dismissed Nato diplomats' insistence that the attack was not deliberate saying the alliance should take responsibility for its actions.

UN council members from Nato countries were subjected to more than five hours of criticism as the political fallout from the bombing spread.

Spur for solution

[ image: US forces: Focus for condemnation]
US forces: Focus for condemnation
Russia's ambassador said the attack should spur the international community to find an immediate political solution to the crisis.

But from within Russia itself, condemnation was more harsh as President Yeltsin described the attack as "inhuman and barbaric".

Illustrating Moscow's displeasure with the alliance, Mr Yeltsin ordered the Russian foreign minister to cancel a visit to the UK.

His deputy said the Nato campaign had descended into "an orgy of violence."

The Russian Government will now almost certainly come under renewed domestic political pressure to take a tougher stance with Nato over Yugoslavia.

Moscow is unlikely to abandon its mediating role in the peace negotiations.

But it will almost certainly press harder now for a pause in the Nato bombardment.

Focus of anger

[ image: Beijing under pressure to take a tough stance]
Beijing under pressure to take a tough stance
This comes just days after diplomats hailed what was described as a major breakthrough in bridging the gap between Nato and Russia over Kosovo.

What exactly happened still has yet to be made clear, but most anger at the bombing has been directed at the United States, whose forces make up the bulk of the firepower deployed against Yugoslavia.

One senior official in the Russian defence ministry official said the US had thrown down a strategic challenge to the world community which could plunge the planet into an apocalypse.

[ image: Russia and China have veto powers]
Russia and China have veto powers
All this makes will make it more difficult for Nato countries to gather support amongst UN members for any alliance plan to end the conflict.

Both China and Russia have veto powers in the Security Council and their support is crucial to passing any resulution.

Nato's military planners are now investigating how such a disastrous error came about and how to prevent a repeat performance.

But the most difficult challenge falls to Nato's diplomats who must now try to minimise the damage done to their efforts at building international opinion against Yugoslavia.

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