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Yugoslavia: NATO Preparing Force For Albania

Brussels, 8 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO spokesman Jamie Shea told a briefing in Brussels today that the alliance will soon deploy some 8,000 troops to northern Albania to provide military support for its humanitarian mission to aid refugees from Kosovo. Shea also said that NATO refugee camps in neighboring Macedonia are now sheltering 43,000 Kosovars, though many more still need to be housed. British Air Commodore David Wilby told the same briefing that NATO's air campaign against Serbian forces is continuing in earnest. Wilby said Serbian forces in Kosovo remain active, despite a unilateral cease-fire announced by Belgrade earlier this week.

Wilby said that widespread damage to Kosovo's provincial capital Pristina, reported yesterday by some Western journalists, was not caused by allied bombs. He said NATO struck only Serbian police headquarters in the city center and a number of carefully selected military targets on the city's outskirts.

Asked whether the alliance was planning to hit Yugoslav state television transmiters, Wilby said they were an instrument of propaganda and repression and thus a legitimate target. He refused to elaborate.

International officials in Albania and Macedonia say Serbian forces have begun laying mines close to the main border crossings from Kosovo, but the purpose of the step remains unclear. The border crossings were closed yesterday, stopping the flow of refugees.

Spokesmen for the OSCE and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said Serbian forces had apparently dispersed refugees waiting to cross the border. Meanwhile, Russian President Boris Yeltsin reiterated today that Moscow will not deliver military equipment to Yugoslavia and will not be drawn into any Balkan conflict.

At the same time, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said Russia simply does not have the economic ability to participate in any military actions in Yugoslavia. Russia strongly opposes the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia and has stepped up its diplomatic efforts to try to end the conflict. Earlier today in Moscow during a meeting with Knut Vollebaek, Norway's foreign minister who chairs the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Russia called for a new European security structure in light of the latest events in the Balkans.