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Yugoslavia: NATO Says Bombing Effective; Refugee Exodus Continues


Brussels, 16 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO's chief spokesman Jamie Shea says last night's bombing of targets in Yugoslavia was one of the most effective nights in the campaign. Speaking at the alliance's daily press briefing in Brussels, Shea said several tanks were destroyed, as well as a Mig-21 aircraft on the ground at Pristina airport, plus radar installations, an ammunition dump and rocket sites, as well as other military targets. He said life is becoming more unpleasant for Serbian forces on the ground. The U.S. Defense Department says it is considering calling up thousands of military reservists to strengthen its resources. Meanwhile, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic says a Yugoslav-prompted coup against him is not feasible now, but said Belgrade is doing all it can to undermine him.

NATO spokesman Shea also said the Serbians are being harrassed unexpectedly by guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), which he said is now gaining strength in Kosovo. He said the Serbs are having to step up their counter-insurgency operations against the UCK.

In answer to a question, Shea also referred to the confusion surrounding Wednesday's accidental killing of civilian refugees by a NATO air raid in western Kosovo. He said NATO is aware of only one incident -- about which it has already given details -- but that it is still investigating reports of other refugee convoys being struck.

Montenegrin President Djukanovic told a news conference that as long as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic remains in power, he will try to suppress and destroy democracy in Montenegro. Djukanovic added that he hopes Milosevic will not remain in power for much longer.

Western leaders warned last month that the Yugoslav army in Montenegro was planning to overthrow Djukanovic, who has tried to maintain a neutral stance in the conflict. Montenegro is the junior partner in the Yugoslav Federation.

Djukanovic accused both the West and Milosevic of committing serious mistakes over Kosovo. He said the situation in Kosovo is alarming and little by little is getting out of control. Djukanovic said there is a real danger the fighting in Kosovo could engulf the entire region.

In Belgrade, former Bosnian Serb general and indicted war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic today denied any involvement in Kosovo warfare. Speaking with a reporter from Reuters, Mladic said neither he nor his close associates have had any "direct or indirect" involvement in Kosovo. He said he has been living since the end of the Bosnian civil war in Belgrade, where he retired from the military.

Yesterday, British Secretary of Defense George Robertson accused Mladic of commanding Serb paramilitary forces in Kosovo.

Mladic has been accused of involvement in massacres of Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica in 1995 and other war crimes committed during the Bosnian civil war of 1992 to 1995.

Relief agency officials say fresh waves of refugees from Kosovo are arriving at both the Macedonian and Albanian borders today.

A U.N. relief agency (UNHCR) spokeswoman said that some 3,000 more people arrived in the first half of the day at the Blace border crossing to Macedonia. Many of them reportedly came by train from the town of Urosevac. Hundreds more were reported crossing at other Macedonian border posts.

Another official from the same agency said that "at very least" tens of thousands more refugees are on the move and are expected to arrive at the border.

In Albania, a spokesman for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe said about 2,500 people have arrived so far today at the Morina border crossing.

In Geneva, the UNHCR said the Yugoslavs appear to be quickening the pace and brutality of the expulsions of Kosovar Albanians, with the apparent aim of driving them all from the province.
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