Diplomats look for ways to defuse Ukraine crisis

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PARIS (AP) — The building blocks for a possible diplomatic solution in Ukraine have emerged today in Paris -- where top Russian and Western officials have been trying to defuse the crisis over Crimea. European and Ukrainian diplomats at the meetings have outlined ways that all sides could step back from the brink of a new global conflict.

But a top French diplomat says while Russia is open to international mediation, a major sticking point is the refusal of Russia's foreign minister to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart at those talks.

The diplomat says the elements of a possible solution are a "work in progress." Britain's foreign secretary says a key demand is for Russia's military to pull back to its Black Sea bases. But he's not pressing for a Thursday deadline as European diplomats had initially suggested.

On another diplomatic front, NATO ministers today met in Brussels with their Russian counterpart -- and decided to suspend most of the alliance's meetings with Russia. NATO is also reviewing all of its cooperation with Moscow.

The European Union today is preparing a $15 billion aid package for Ukraine. One analyst says the package creates some "breathing room" that could allow a de-escalation of the crisis.

The EU is also freezing the assets of 18 people held responsible for misappropriating government money in Ukraine, which has been on the verge of economic collapse.

%@AP Links

173-a-15-(British Foreign Secretary William Hague, in AP interview)-"talking to each other"-British Foreign Secretary William Hague says offiicials in Paris have been trying to get the two sides to discuss directly how to resolve the crisis. (5 Mar 2014)

<<CUT *173 (03/05/14)££ 00:15 "talking to each other"

143-a-09-(Secretary of State John Kerry, in remarks at an international meeting on the crisis in Ukraine)-"in its sovereignty"-At an emergency meeting of diplomats in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry read from a pre-existing document that ruled out Russian interference in Ukraine. Here's part of that agreement. ((note audio quality)) (5 Mar 2014)

<<CUT *143 (03/05/14)££ 00:09 "in its sovereignty"

APPHOTO MEU128: From left, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French President Francois Hollande, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, talk together during a break of a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Wednesday, March 5, 2014. Top diplomats from the West and Russia trying to find an end to the crisis in Ukraine are gathering in Paris on Wednesday as tensions simmered over the Russian military takeover of the strategic Crimean Peninsula. (AP Photo/Alain Jocard, Pool) (5 Mar 2014)

<<APPHOTO MEU128 (03/05/14)££

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