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Yugoslavia: Solana Says Belgrade Offer Of Ceasefire 'Clearly Insufficient'

  • Ben Partridge



Brussels, 7 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said last night that a unilateral ceasefire proposed by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the government of Serbia earlier is "clearly insufficient."

A Solana statement issued at NATO headquarters in Brussels said that before any ceasefire can be considered, "President Milosevic must meet the demands established by the international community." The statement followed reports that NATO ambassadors had met informally to discuss the new development.

Earlier, the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug had reported that Belgrade had offered a unilateral ceasefire in Kosovo apparently aimed at a cessation of the two-week-long NATO air strikes against Serb military and logistical targets and a return to the negotiating table..

Tanjug said the Yugoslav army and Serbian police would stop fighting against the last remaining units of the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army to mark the Orthodox Easter.

Solana's statement said: "NATO's current action against the FRY is in support of the political aims of the international community: a peaceful multi-ethnic democratic Kosovo in which all its people live in security." It said: "These aims can be achieved by the return of all refugees and therefore the deployment of an international security presence, the withdrawal of Serb military, police and paramilitary forces, and putting into place a political framework for Kosovo on the basis of the Rambouillet accords."

Solana's restatement of the long-standing NATO position was seen as a clear signal that the two-week campaign of NATO air strikes against Serb military targets within Kosovo and elsewhere in Serbia was set to continue overnight.

The Tanjug statement had said the Belgrade initiative followed talks between Milosevic and moderate Kosovar Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova on April 1 and April 5.

It said both sides agreed on the need for a political settlement and a return of refugees with the assistance of the UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

However, earlier this week NATO officials reported that Rugova's home was occupied by Serb security forces, that he had to report several times a day to local police, and he was unable to move freely. They also said that Serbian TV had apparently shown two-year-old film footage of Rugova meeting with the Yugoslav president.

In addition, they said a transcript of Rugova's remarks calling for an end to the violence in Kosovo was altered so it seemed to be an appeal for an end to the NATO bombings.

U.S. envoy Strobe Talbott will brief NATO ambassadors in Brussels today about his tour of countries neighboring former Yugoslavia, including his talks about how to resolve the refugee exodus from Kosovo. His tour of Balkan countries was part of an ongoing allied effort to reassure Balkan countries of alliance support to stop a "spillover" of the conflict and to prevent the area being destabilized by the outpouring of refugees.

NATO officials say another 40,000 refugees have flooded out of Kosovo, almost all of them into neighboring Albania and Macedonia, both struggling to cope with one of the worst humanitarian crises since World War Two.

NATO ambassadors welcomed what they said was Albania's "quick and very important" decision to authorize the stationing of U.S. Apache attack helicopters in Albania, which would strengthen the allies' ability to hit Serb tanks and armor.

But NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said that the alliance would view with the "utmost seriousness any attack by Yugoslavia on Albania particularly as a consequence of its support for alliance operations." He also denied that the planned introduction of the U.S. helicopters represented a decision to open up a new front in the Kosovo conflict.

He said: "Albania has been threatened in recent months. Its air space has been violated, shells have been fired across the border. I don't believe Albania's very welcome decision to show solidarity with the alliance changes fundamentally the security situation of Albania, which was something we were keeping a close eye on."

NATO officials are coordinating an emergency airlift of food, shelter, tents, clothes and bedding to the hundreds of thousands of Kosovar Albanian refugees, many of them clustered in the open in border areas of Albania and Macedonia.

NATO Deputy Secretary General Sergio Balanzino, who is ending a four-nation tour of the Balkans countries, will tomorrow go to border areas of northern Albania to inspect the refugee crisis at first hand. He has visited Bucharest, Sofia and Skopje.

NATO's military spokesman Air Commodore David Wilby said yesterday that the air operation against Serb military and logistical targets in Serbia, and Kosovo itself has intensified in the past two days, taking advantage of clearer skies over the Balkans.

He said NATO planes overnight on Monday hit a bridge, air defense radars, communications, airfields, a police headquarters and petroleum storage facilities.

But he said the NATO fliers are having difficulty actually seeing Serb military targets on the ground. He said: "It's a cunning enemy out there."

He said the FRY military know when the NATO pilots take off from the reports of western TV and radio news reporters stationed outside air bases in western Europe.

He said: "During those times, they go into their hideaway positions. But our operations have intensified." Wilby disclosed yesterday that one of the NATO weapons targeted on a Serb artillery brigade overnight Monday may have caused collateral damage.

He said: "It is possible that one of our weapons fell short of its target."

He added: "Whatever the reason, any unintended damage to civilian property or loss of life is very much regretted."

Shea said yesterday that the bulk of the ethnic Albanian population of Kosovo has been driven from their homes, including an estimated one million people who are displaced within the province. He said: "The Serb claim that this is the result of NATO air strikes is the latest version of "the big lie." Belgrade has claimed that the Kosovar Albanians are fleeing what it has called the "criminal" attacks of the NATO fliers. But, as Shea noted, this is denied by the "deportees" themselves who tell of being driven out of their villages at gunpoint, being forced onto trains and buses, and deprived of their identity documents.

Shea said Serb paramilitary forces have been looting homes and businesses in Kosovo to ensure that the local inhabitants have no incentive to return. He said houses rented by OSCE monitors, formerly in the region, have been burned in this operation.

He said there is evidence that many ethnic Albanian men of military age have "disappeared" after being systematically separated from their families.

He added: "We don't know the numbers of the 'lost generation' of young males in Kosovo. It could be anything from tens of thousands to l00,000."

He said NATO has received reports from many of the refugees of detention centers in a sports complex at the regional capital, Pristina, and at a soccer stadium in Kosovo's second largest city, Pec. Shea also said many of the refugees "have been reporting summary executions in at least 50 towns and villages throughout Kosovo." But it has been impossible to independently corroborate the refugees' allegations.

Shea repeated that the NATO alliance is determined to limit any spillover of the Kosovo conflict into neighboring Balkans countries. He said: "President Milosevic has not been able to destabilize the surrounding countries even though he has tried. NATO stands beside those countries and we will assist them in any way we can."

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