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Yugoslavia: Missiles Strike Belgrade; Macedonia Guards Border


Belgrade/London, 3 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair said today that NATO will intensify its attacks on Yugoslavia until Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is defeated. Blair made his comments after NATO cruise missiles destroyed key police buildings in Belgrade overnight as the alliance launched its first strikes into the center of the capital. NATO says that if the forced expulsions in Kosovo continue at the present rate, the Serbian province will be emptied within 10 to 20 days.

Blair spoke of what he called NATO's "iron determination" to stop Milosevic's policies of ethnic cleansing. He vowed NATO will return Kosovar Albanians to their homes to live in peace.

Our correspondent says three additional towns northwest of the Yugoslav capital were also hit by NATO strikes overnight.

NATO spokesman Jamie Shea told reporters in Brussels that NATO is mobilizing all its resources to deal with the refugee flood. More international aid is being air-lifted into Albania and Macedonia to help with the escalating refugee crisis. NATO estimates that between 200,000 and 300,000 Kosovar refugees are now attempting to flee the province. NATO said more than 100,000 refugees fled Kosovo yesterday alone.

Macedonia today began calling up reserve soldiers to help guard its borders against illegal refugees and armed fighters crossing from neighboring Kosovo.

General Trajce Krstevski, chief of the Macedonian army headquarters, told a news conference in the capital Skopje today, that regular army and interior ministry forces can no longer adequately control the border. He did not give an exact figure for the number of reservists being mobilized.

Earlier today, the Macedonian government announced that from now on, it will allow onto its territory only those ethnic Albanians from Kosovo who have been guaranteed refuge in other countries. Our correspondent in Skopje says today's decision would appear to practically end the intake of refugees to Macedonia.

Macedonian government officials have emphasized that the influx of more than 100,000 refugees over the past few days threatens Macedonia's national security and has pushed the country into an economic crisis.

Russia today called NATO's bombing of targets in central Belgrade a barbaric act and accused the alliance of waging a war of extermination against Yugoslavia.

Russia has sent an intelligence-gathering ship to the Adriatic to defend Russian national interests. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said Russia may decide to send more warships depending on developments.

Meanwhile, reports say NATO is preparing to send several thousand trooops to Albania to supervise a major airlift of humanitarian supplies to the region. There has been official confirmation.

Italy said today the six-nation Contact Group for Yugoslavia will meet next week to discuss the Kosovo crisis, to be followed by a meeting of the G-7 highly industrialized nations plus Russia.

A Foreign Ministry statement did not say where or exactly when the Contact Group meeting would take place. The Contact Group consists of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia.

The statement also said a conference call between U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the foreign ministers of Italy, Britain, Germany and France had "resolved" to agree to a Russian proposal for a G-7 plus Russia meeting on Kosovo.

The statement said the G-7 plus Russia meeting will be held at the level of political directors.

Moscow called for an urgent meeting of the G-7 plus Russia after a Kosovo mediation attempt by Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov failed earlier this week.

France today said such a meeting would be useful. But the United States and Britain had said until now there would be no benefit in a G-7 plus Russia meeting.

The G-7 group consists of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
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