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Tuesday, May 18, 1999 Published at 06:51 GMT 07:51 UK

World: Europe

Nato differences emerge

Tony Blair with his Bulgarian counterpart Ivan Kostov

There are growing signs of differences between Nato countries over the future of the conflict with Yugoslavia.

Kosovo: Special Report
Greece called for a temporary halt to the bombing on Monday to aid the search for a diplomatic solution.

Greek Europe Minister Ganos Kranidiotis said there should be a 48-hour ceasefire.

"Now after so many days, after so many weeks of air strikes, we believe that it is time again to give diplomacy the possibility to work," he said.

Alistair Jackson reports on the differing signals emerging from Nato members
And Italy also admitted that the Nato bombing had so far not had the desired effect.

Italy's Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini said: "It has certainly not produced the results that had been expected - that is to say to convince (Yugoslav President Milosevic) that Nato countries were determined to go on with this."

'Whatever it takes'

However in a speech in Bulgaria on Monday evening, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted that the alliance would do "whatever it takes" to end the brutal acts being commited in Kosovo.

"Whatever it takes, we must succeed; the policy of brutal savagery that is ethnic cleansing must fail and be seen to fail," Mr Blair told his audience.

Mr Blair's words were backed earlier in the day by his Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, who said that Nato was now making detailed plans for a ground force in Kosovo.

His comments came as a senior Yugoslav army officer warned that forces trying to enter Kosovo would face "hell on earth".

General Nebojsa Pavkovic, commander of the 3rd Yugoslav Army, was quoted as saying that Yugoslavia's borders were secure and "engineering works" had been carried out for the country's defence.

Mr Cook indicated a limited land combat option was back on the alliance agenda.

He reiterated, however, that Nato was not contemplating a full-scale invasion of Yugoslavia, but was ready to send in ground troops once the "organised resistance" of the Yugoslav army had been broken by Nato aircraft.

The BBC's Peter Biles: "The search for a new diplomatic solution has taken a new turn"
Alliance Secretary-General Javier Solana "is reviewing when we can take advantage of the success we are having against them", Mr Cook said.

He also tried to dampen speculation of a split with the US over Nato tactics, amid British press speculation that President Clinton is less eager that UK Prime Minister Blair to send in ground troops.

Mr Cook insisted the alliance was still strong and Nato planes had had their most successful week to date in bombing Yugoslavia.

On the 56th night of bombing, Nato hit a bridge over Yugoslavia's main motorway just north of Nis, and targeted a handful of central and southern towns. Planes hit several fuel depots during the day on Monday.

(Click here to see a map of the most recent Nato strikes)

As the signs of Nato differences were beginning to emerge, European Union foreign ministers were nevertheless giving their backing to fresh diplomatic efforts to end the crisis over Kosovo.

They also criticised President Milosevic for not meeting the international community's conditions for ending the impasse.

The ministers said in a statement: "Half or partial measures which do not meet the conditions will fail to provide the guarantees necessary for the safe return of the refugees."

Finland steps in

They endorsed Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari, the latest name to emerge in connection with attempts to end the conflict.

The BBC's Paul Reynolds: "There is also the question of the timetable for moving troops"
His precise role is not clear, although he is expected to work with Russia's Balkans envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Mr Ahtisaari met German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder - the current president of the EU. After their meeting in Helsinki, Mr Schröder said: "We give our support to the Finnish President, and I give this support in my capacity as the German chancellor and as the country which chairs the European Union.

"This means that the Finnish president has the full support of the European Union in this work which he is carrying out together with Chernomyrdin."

Both Mr Chernomyrdin and US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott are scheduled to meet Mr Ahtisaari on Tuesday in Helsinki. The Finnish president has said he hopes this could lead to his going to Belgrade.

[ image: Mr Djukanovic met German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer]
Mr Djukanovic met German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
Correspondents say that despite Mr Ahtisaari's support of Nato air strikes, his position as president of a non-Nato country could make him palatable to Belgrade.

For its part, Russia reiterated its call for an end to the bombing, but said it will continue to work towards a diplomatic settlement.

After meeting his EU counterparts in Brussels, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said: "We believe that the bombing should be stopped very soon, but nevertheless we are prepared to work on a resolution at the (United Nations) Security Council and will do so," he said.

Backing for Montenegro

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic was among those at the EU on Monday. Foreign ministers reaffirmed their support for the pro-western president and promised him some $19m in aid.

Mr Djukanovic said he supported the idea of an international military force in Kosovo and blamed the crisis there almost entirely on President Milosevic.

"What we want is to develop democracy, implement economic reforms and make Montenegro integrate into Europe. We shall seek to do this within Yugoslavia with Milosevic or without him.

"Personally I would prefer to do this without him," he said.

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