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Yugoslavia: NATO Hits Serbian TV; Casualties Reported

Belgrade, 23 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO today struck the headquarters of Serbia's state television (RTS) in Belgrade, reportedly killing an as yet unspecified number of people. CNN reporters confirmed there were casualties and quoted Yugoslav officials as saying at least 15 people had been killed in the attack. But the number of casualties has not been independently confirmed. NATO has said it considers television studios and transmitters legitimate military targets.

In a wave of air raids, NATO also hit transmitters elsewhere in Belgrade, taking all RTS channels off the air. But several hours later the station resumed broadcasting from another transmitter.

The attacks came hours after Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had made "important compromises" in talks yesterday in Belgrade. Chernomyrdin said Milosevic had agreed to a UN-controlled "international presence" in Kosovo. But he has not made clear whether that meant Milosevic would permit an armed international force.

U.S. President Bill Clinton and Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair said what Milosevic was apparently offering at that stage fell far short of NATO demands.

Chernomyrdin said he was ready to meet with NATO leaders as soon as tomorrow to try to negotiate an end to the war in Yugoslavia. NATO leaders are meeting in Washington to mark the 50th anniversary of the alliance and to discuss the Kosovo crisis.

At a joint White House news conference yesterday with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, U.S. President Bill Clinton said he believes a vigorous prosecution of the air campaign along with intensified economic pressures and diplomatic efforts will achieve NATO aims against Yugoslavia.

Clinton repeated the alliance's intention not to commit ground troops in Kosovo against Serb forces. But the president said he is supportive of a new NATO decision to examine the issue of ground troops.

Clinton also said Serb forces have pushed nearly 1.4 million ethnic Albanian people from their homes -- about 75 percent of the population living in the province.

The president said NATO wants all refugees and displaced persons to return home protected by international peacekeepers. He said President Milosevic can either accept this outcome or watch his war machine crippled.

Clinton said NATO would welcome troops from Russia, Ukraine and other Slavic countries to be part of the international peacekeeping force.

Solana said if Europe is to enjoy stable peace, it is essential that Western values prevail in Kosovo. He said ethnic cleansing is a crime that must be reversed.