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Yugoslavia: Refugee Exodus Continues; NATO Admits Missile Went Astray


Blace/Kukes/The Hague/Berlin, 28 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - Thousands of refugees from Kosovo arrived today in Albania and Macedonia, increasing pressure on the two countries' meager resources of humanitarian aid. The U.N. refugee agency in Albania said several thousand refugees crossed at the Morina border checkpoint. Many of them alleged Serb atrocities in the Gjakove region, about 60 kilometers from the border. NATO planes, meanwhile, continued their assault on targets throughout Yugoslavia today, bombing targets in Montenegro and Kosovo. The bombing came as NATO admitted it accidentally hit a residential neighborhood in the town of Surdulica in southern Serbia during an attack on army barracks there. Serbian media report that between 10 and 20 people were killed. The figures cannot be independently confirmed.

British Defense Secretary George Robertson said he regrets the strike. He said NATO does not intentionally target civilians but that the Yugoslav military does.

In today's attacks, NATO planes bombed an airfield outside Montenegro's capital, Podgorica, this afternoon. Belgrade's official Tanjug news agency said NATO also bombed several targets around Kosovo's capital, Pristina, and again targeted Yugoslavia's second-largest oil refinery in Novi Sad. News reports say Yugoslav army ships stationed in the Montenegrin port of Bar fired anti-aircraft guns and rockets at NATO planes. No planes are believed to have been hit.

In Macedonia, the U.N. agency's spokesman Ron Redmond said as many as 4,000 refugees arrived today at the Blace border post. He said there has been no sign of a let-up, with thousands more said to be trying to reach Macedonia from Kosovo.

France's ambassador to Macedonia, Jacques Hintzinger, told French television today there is an urgent need to create a "humanitarian corridor" to help refugees flee directly from Kosovo into Albania because Macedonia has reached the limits of its refugee capacity.

Meanwhile, the U.N.'s top war crimes prosecutor, Louise Arbour, said today in The Hague that she intends to meet tomorrow with senior U.S. officials to press for access to evidence of atrocities committed by Serb forces in Kosovo.

In Berlin, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he is close to selecting a team of envoys to seek a political solution to the conflict. Annan made the announcement following talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

Annan says he sees no swift political solution to the Kosovo crisis and that the search for one could be long and difficult. He said there was no consensus yet on the U.N. Security Council about how to proceed in Kosovo.

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