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Yugoslavia: NATO Strikes In Montenegro; Russian Envoy Begins Diplomatic Mission

Belgrade, 29 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO has launched a series of air strikes against Yugoslav military targets in Montenegro since yesterday with three waves of bombing reported within the last 24 hours. The official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug described attacks near Podgorica as the "strongest" in Montenegro since NATO began its air campaign against Yugoslavia more than a month ago. In Moscow, Russia's special Balkans envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin left on a two-day diplomatic mission to European capitals this morning saying he has concrete proposals on how to end the war in Kosovo. Chernomyrdin met with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan this morning before leaving for Germany and Italy to try to seek common ground with the two NATO allies. He plans to meet with the Yugoslav leadership in Belgrade tomorrow.

Montenegrin television says a fuel depot at the Golubovci military airbase near Podgorica appears to have been destroyed. Other strikes reportedly targeted Yugoslav army forces in southern Montenegro, as well as facilities near the Adriatic port of Bar and the northern Montenegrin town of Danilovgrad.

Tanjug reports that NATO attacked the hometown of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for the first time overnight. The state news agency says a NATO missile hit the railway station near the center of Pozarevac, a town about 60 kilometers east of Belgrade where Milosevic was born.

Other state-controlled media reported overnight attacks on oil depots, at least two state television transmitters and two bridges over the Sava River. Belgrade was rocked by two separate series of explosions.

Meanwhile, Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov is asking NATO whether one of its planes had fired a missile that crashed through the roof of a house near Sofia. Stoyanov said the missile did not explode. NATO so far has said that it knows nothing about the incident.

In Moscow, the Interfax news agency quoted Chernomyrdin as saying President Boris Yeltsin has agreed to the proposals for ending the war. It did not give details. But it quoted the envoy as saying negotiations would be pointless unless NATO stops its bombing. This has been Moscow's position throughout the crisis.

A long day of diplomatic meetings with western envoys is planned in Moscow. UN Secretary General Annan is to meet with Yeltsin, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. The Canadian and Greek foreign ministers are also scheduled for talks with Russian officials.

Despite the diplomatic flurry, Annan said yesterday he does not expect a quick diplomatic solution to the crisis.

German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping and Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou were in Moscow yesterday, following closely on the heels of U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Later today, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy is due to arrive in town.

Amid the diplomatic flurry, there was a key political development yesterday -- the sacking of Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic who, according to the Yugoslav Information Ministry, publicly expressed views "in contradiction with positions of the Federal government."

Draskovic, the former opposition leader who joined the government in January, this week said in public that the Yugoslav government should stop lying to the Serbian people about Belgrade's conflict with NATO over Kosovo.

Spokesmen for NATO and the German government said Draskovic's sacking was a sign of a rift among the Yugoslav political elite. But U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said there was no way to know for sure what the move means to Belgrade's policies on Kosovo.