November 1, 2007 - 15:47 AMT
U.S. will try to persuade Moscow to soften positions on CFE, Kosovo and Iran
The United States is prepared to offer concessions to Russia over the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty to try to persuade Moscow to soften its positions on Kosovo and Iran, diplomats said Monday.

The concessions are part of a complex package Washington is pursuing as it tries to overcome Russian opposition to independence for the Serbian province of Kosovo and to gain support for new sanctions against Tehran that the Bush administration announced last week.

With time running out for a deal on Kosovo - the deadline for an agreement between Serbia and Kosovo's ethnic Albanians expires on Dec. 10 - and with the United States trying to win support for further sanctions against Iran, the administration is pressing to bring Russia on board.

Haunting the United States and the Europeans is Russia's threat to withdraw from the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which has been considered a cornerstone of European security since the end of the Cold War. President Vladimir Putin made the threat in response to U.S. plans to deploy an antimissile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic that Washington says would protect against attacks from Iran.

The Bush administration suggested to Russia two weeks ago that it could cooperate in the missile shield and that a similar Russian system in Azerbaijan could be linked to the U.S. project. Putin turned down the offer.

If Moscow refuses to yield on Kosovo, the United States and most European Union countries might recognize its independence anyway. That move could further destabilize the Balkans, worsen relations with Moscow and lead to a Chinese-Russian veto in the United Nations Security Council to block new sanctions on Iran, diplomats said.

Daniel Fried, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for European affairs, told NATO ambassadors this month that the Bush administration "had put some new ideas on the table" when Defense Secretary Robert Gates was in Moscow two weeks ago.

Fried said the ideas involved breaking "the impasse which has blocked ratification of the adapted CFE Treaty" but he would not give details. "The Russians had acknowledged that these were quite interesting and they said they wanted to work from them. We hope for some intensive diplomacy and movement before Dec. 12th," Fried said, the International Herald Tribune reports.