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Yugoslavia: German Leader Optimistic About Kosovo Talks, But Participants Vague

Pristina/Bonn/Vienna, 1 February 1999 (RFE/RL) - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said today he is optimistic that the West's threat of force, combined with Russia's diplomatic efforts, will help bring about a peaceful solution to the Kosovo crisis. Schroeder was speaking in Bonn after meetings with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. He added that he expects peace talks called by the international community for this Saturday in France to start on schedule and to "reach a satisfactory result."

NATO's North Atlantic Council over the weekend granted Solana authority to order military strikes to back up pressure for a truce and talks between the Yugoslav government and ethnic Albanian separatists. Russia, which is close to the Yugoslav government, has opposed NATO air strikes.

However, Ivanov said after the talks with Schroeder that Russia and the Western powers have "common strategic goals" in the Kosovo crisis. Ivanov did not comment directly on the possible use of force by NATO, but stressed the need for international cooperation.

Meanwhile, in Vienna, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) expressed full support for the efforts of the international community to achieve a political settlement to the Kosovo conflict. The OSCE urged both sides to put down their arms and reach agreement within the deadline set by the international community.

But the Associated Press reports that U.S. and European envoys apparently failed to win a clear commitment today from Kosovo Albanian guerrillas to attend the peace talks in France. AP says that when asked after the meeting whether UCK leaders had agreed to attend Saturday's talks, rebel representative Adem Demaci would say only that an announcement would be made Tuesday.

Yugoslav Deputy Premier Vuk Draskovic told reporters the decision had not yet been reached. But, he added, "I believe our response must be 'Yes.' " However, Serbian Deputy Premier Vojislav Seselj said he is against attending the conference, "despite the threats" from NATO.