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Yugoslavia: Kosovo Agreement With Russia Still Pending; G-7 Summit Opens Today

Helsinki, 18 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen says no agreement has yet been reached in his talks with Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev on the use of Russian peacekeeping forces in Kosovo. But Cohen says that the talks in Helsinki -- now in their third day -- are continuing. A meeting of NATO foreign and defense ministers in Brussels set for this afternoon has been delayed to allow more time for the Helsinki talks. Yesterday, the two delegations settled two key issues -- the command structure of the 50,000-strong international peacekeeping force and the question of control of Pristina's airport, now occupied by some 200 Russian soldiers. But they are still at odds over the question of a separate military sector for Russian forces in the province. Meanwhile, the annual summit of leaders from the world's seven major industrial nations (G-7) plus Russia opens today in the western German city of Cologne.

Cohen spoke to reporters during an afternoon break in the Helsinki talks. He said he is still hoping for an accord but that there is no guarantee one will be reached. Cohen said each side "has to be prepared to leave without an agreement."

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov are also in the Finnish capital trying to find a solution to Russia's demand for its own military sector in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, the annual summit of leaders from the world's seven major industrial nations (G-7) plus Russia opens today in the western German city of Cologne.

In Cologne later today, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will convene the G-7 summit's first session. Talks will focus on the world economy, particularly on an initiative to forgive some debts from the world's poorest nations. During the summit, our correspondent reports that leaders will also devote considerable time to Kosovo, including the possible role of Russian peacekeepers in the Kosovo peacekeeping force and a German-sponsored plan to aid reconstruction of the Balkans. Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin are due to hold talks on Sunday.

Participants will also discuss a German plan to improve transparency in international financial transactions to avoid future economic crises, such as what happened in Asia last year.

Later today, G-7 leaders plus Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin will meet for a working dinner to discuss Russian economic reform and further western financial support.

U.S. President Bill Clinton met this morning in Cologne with Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. Clinton said he is happy to hear news of growth in the Japanese economy. Japan has been prodded by other G-7 members to play a major role in helping Asian economies recover.

Security in Cologne is tight and access to the city's central area has been restricted. Police says they expect large protests tomorrow from groups who say the G-7's debt reduction plan does not go far enough in relieving economic pressure on developing countries.