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Yugoslavia: Refugee Flight Continues; UCK Still Fighting


Brussels, 18 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO's chief spokesman Jamie Shea says good weather over Yugoslavia has contributed to a highly successful series of air strikes within the last 24 hours. Some 24,000 Kosovar refugees entered Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro overnight and this morning, despite two fatal incidents that killed six on the Kosovo side of the Morina border crossing to Albania. Britain has had disturbing reports that Serb forces trying to cover up massacres in Kosovo have been using unarmed people, all dressed in red, almost certainly prisoners, to clear up. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder alleged today that a pipeline running through new NATO member Hungary is supplying Belgrade with oil.

Speaking at the daily press briefing in Brussels, NATO spokesman Shea said attacks have now reduced Yugoslavia's air defences to a makeshift and ad hoc basis. He said 13 Yugoslav armoured vehicles had been hit in raids overnight, as well as the Pancevo oil refinery, supply depots and other installations. He said that as from today, the Yugoslavs no longer have the capacity to refine crude oil.

Air Marshall Sir John Day, deputy chief of the British defense staff, said all NATO aircraft returned safely to base after the 25th night of bombing raids on Yugoslavia. Sir John said NATO was cutting rail and road routes into Kosovo as part of its effort to weaken Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's military capability. But he said Milosevic still had some 40,000 troops and 300 tanks in Kosovo "so this (NATO) campaign has some way to go."

Shea said that on the ground in Kosovo, the forces of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) are far from defeated. He said reconnaissance shows that fighting is going on not only in the west of the province, near the Albanian border, but also in the central, east and north of Kosovo. He said the UCK may not hold much terrain, but obviously retains the capacity to harrass the Serbian forces.

Shea also said that there are increasing reports that the notorious Serb field commander known as Arkan, and his unit known as the Tigers, is operating in the area of Pec.

Shea also said today that the Kosovo crisis will lead to a change in the emphasis of next week's Washington summit, which was originally called to celebrate the 50th anniversary of NATO. Answering a question at the daily press briefing, Shea said the NATO summit now will be looking beyond the present conflict to map out a future path for the Balkans. He said it will consider ways to bring the Balkans into the European mainstream, and how to bring the present NATO partnership counties closer to the alliance. Partnership countries, such as Romania and Bulgaria, are not presently members of the alliance.

In other news, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in Geneva today some 24,000 Kosovar refugees entered Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro overnight and this morning, despite two fatal incidents on the Kosovo side of the Morina border crossing to Albania. Five people were killed when their car drove over a landmine in one incident. One refugee was killed and 22 others were injured when Serb forces fired a mortar shell on a column of refugees in the no-man's land between the Serbian and Albanian checkpoints.

Britain's Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson said today there were reports that Serb forces in Kosovo were using prisoners to clean up and cover up massacres. He told reporters at a Defence Ministry briefing that Britain also had some disturbing reports that Serb forces trying to cover up massacres in Kosovo have been using unarmed people, all dressed in red, almost certainly prisoners, to clear up. Henderson said the clearing up process has included transporting bodies to places well away from where the massacres occurred. He gave no more details.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder alleged in an interview today with the Washington Post that a pipeline running through new NATO member Hungary is supplying Belgrade with oil. Schroeder says NATO members are also failing to prevent Yugoslavia from receiving fuel supplies by sea.

"This is unacceptable -- we cannot be at war against a country and let a pipeline that runs through a NATO member country supply the adversary with fuel," he said.

Schroeder also called on the international community to "tighten" the embargo against Yugoslavia over the Kosovo crisis.

Meanwhile, the Swiss-German Sonntags-Blick newspaper today said Yugoslav President Milosevic has put millions of Swiss francs into Swiss bank accounts belonging to members of his family.

Swiss federal police spokesman Folco Galli says the accounts were not in the name of Milosevic.
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