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Yugoslavia: NATO Targets Serb Forces In Kosovo

Prague, 29 March 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO intensified air strikes on Kosovo and its capital Pristina Sunday night after the alliance said it was targetting Serbian forces directly. The latest strikes during the fifth straight night of NATO's air attacks came amid reports of worsening repression against ethnic Albanians in the province. Thousands of Kosovar Albanian refugees are fleeing to neighboring countries, raising the possibility of a humanitarian crisis. In Belgrade last night, three leading Russian politicians held talks with Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic in an attempt to mediate a peaceful end to the conflict

There were reports of NATO strikes on other parts of Yugoslavia overnight, but NATO says it is now focusing more of its fire on Serb forces inside Kosovo. Serbian media reported that a police building in the center of Pristina was hit by a missile. Television reports showed a building in flames, and said it was the police station.

Meanwhile, thousands of Kosovar Albanian refugees-- many with unconfimed stories of systematic Serb brutality--continue to flee into neighbouring Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro and officials have asked for international aid to help prevent a humanitarian crisis.

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said yesterday that Serb forces had pushed some 50,000 ethnic Albanians from their homes in Kosovo over the weekend in an effort to create a new situation on the ground which Belgrade hopes will be irreversible.

Albania's President Rexhep Mejdani called on NATO yesterday to deploy ground troops as quickly as possible in Kosovo as thousands of refugees flee into his country. NATO has said it has no plans to deploy troops in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, in Belgrade, three leading Russian liberal politicians -- former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar and former Deputy Prime Ministers Boris Nemtsov and Boris Fyodorov -- held talks overnight with Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic on the country's standoff with NATO.

The three men, who are allied in a new political group called "The Right Cause," hope to mediate a peaceful end to the conflict. The Russian government has strongly condemned NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia, which is aimed at forcing the country to sign a peace deal on Kosovo. But Western powers, including France, are urging Moscow to use its influence with Belgrade to end Serb military operations in Kosovo.

There was no word on the outcome of the talks. But Reuters reports that state-run Serbian television lashed out at Gaidar, Nemtsov and Fyodorov, calling them traitors and "human trash." The three met with U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke in Hungary, yesterday, which the television said was proof of their disingenuous intentions.

In Belgrade last night, thousands of defiant Serbs attended an anti-NATO outdoor concert despite air raid sirens signalling renewed missile attacks.