Once Ignored, Moscow Is Now Kosovo Central

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Moscow, sidelined and ignored as NATO went to war in the Balkans, is suddenly teeming with Western leaders seeking to negotiate their way out of the Kosovo stalemate. German defense minister Rudolf Scharping discussed Kosovo with top Russian officials Wednesday, following U.S. envoy Strobe Talbott's Tuesday talks with Russia's foreign minister Igor Ivanov and Kosovo envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin. Greek foreign minister Georgios Papandreou and U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan were due to arrive for talks later in the day, while Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy was due to join the diplomatic party on Thursday.

Despite the flurry of talks, peace remains elusive. "Moscow wants to see more concessions from the NATO side in order to be able to broker an agreement," says TIME Moscow correspondent Andrew Meier. "But NATO won't offer anything until the Russians can show some movement from Milosevic toward meeting NATO's demands, particularly on the nature of a peacekeeping force for Kosovo." Awkward as it may be, the diplomatic dance may be the only show in town. Even as NATO mounted new air raids and Washington ordered 33,000 reserves into the theater to support an escalated air war, NATO commander Wesley Clark acknowledged that the air campaign has had little effect on Serb operations in Kosovo. And its political cost may grow as the alliance acknowledged Wednesday that one of its precision-guided bombs had missed its target in southern Serbia and landed in a residential area, where at least 17 civilians were killed. Both sides now appear to be ready for a peace deal, as long as each can spin it as a victory.

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