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Yugoslavia: Clinton To Visit Refugee Camp; G7 Meets Today


Frankfurt, 6 May 1999 (RFE/RL) - U.S. President Bill Clinton is due to visit a Kosovo refugee camp in Germany today. In New Jersey last night, Hillary Clinton, the president's wife, welcomed the first wave of Kosovar refugees -- more than 450 women and children -- to the United States last night, saying America's hearts and homes are open to them. Macedonia closed its border to new refugees yesterday, saying it will only accept as many new refugees as are flown out each day. The U.N. says up to 1,500 refugees who were refused entry into Macedonia were handed over to Serb authorities, who herded them away and out of sight. Foreign ministers from seven western powers (G7) and Russia will meet today near Bonn, Germany, to discuss diplomatic solutions to the conflict in Kosovo.

President Clinton arrived in Germany yesterday on a two-day stay to visit U.S. army bases and talk to U.S. military personnel taking part in the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia.

Today, Clinton travels from Frankfurt to a refugee processing center in Ingelheim, where he will meet with a group of ethnic Albanian refugee families. There are about 300 refugees housed at Ingelheim, a former youth dentention facility.

Last night, Clinton told members of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Base to always remain sensitive to the plight of refugees. He told them to remember that the help they give every day reflects the U.S. commitment to ending the carnage and destruction in Kosovo.

At the Fort Dix army base in the eastern state of New Jersey last night, Mrs. Clinton told the 450 refugees -- mostly women and children -- that the U.S. and its NATO allies will not allow Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to succeed in keeping them from their homes in Kosovo. The U.S. has pledged to take in 20,000 Kosovar Albanians.

Mrs. Clinton did not personally meet the refugees because of what U.S. officials told reporters were "health concerns," including the threat of tuberculosis.

Macedonia is struggling to cope with some 210,000 refugees. In Paris yesterday, western donors pledged $252 million in emergency aid to Macedonia.

In New York, the head of the U.N. refugee agency, Sadako Ogata, warned that international organizations must begin preparing for the possibility of hundreds of thousands of refugees spending the winter in camps in Macedonia and Albania. She said a decision to prepare for winter will have to be taken by early June.

In Rome last night, Kosovo's most prominent ethnic Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova, held talks with Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema and Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini.

Rugova and his family arrived unexpectedly in Rome yesterday with Belgrade's approval to meet with Italian leaders. He had been reported under house arrest in Yugoslavia.

A statement from D'Alema's office called the talks "long and cordial" and said they focused on the possibilities of a diplomatic solution to the Kosovo crisis. The statement said Rugova will now be able to "contribute as a free man" to the search for such a solution.

In Washington, State Department spokesman James Foley called Rugova's arrival in Italy "a positive development."

Dini is expected to brief his counterparts about the Rugova talks at a meeting in Bonn today of foreign ministers from the G7 western powers and Russia.

The ministers -- from the U.S., Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia -- are expected to make public the outlines of a broad political agreement for Kosovo acceptable to everyone in the so-called Group of Seven (G7) nations plus Russia. But correspondents say differences still remain and that with Belgrade refusing to accept NATO demands, an early end to the bombing campaign is unlikely.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said yesterday that Russia and the West have narrowed their differences over Kosovo. But Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov cautioned against any thoughts of a breakthrough. Ivanov and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright are due to meet separately today ahead of the summit to discuss the crisis.

President Clinton yesterday said he wants to intensify the attacks on Yugoslavia until NATO demands are met. Clinton meets today with Schroeder.

Meanwhile, Serbian state media are reporting that NATO planes bombed fuel depots overnight in the southern city of Nis, as well as targets in the central Serbian towns of Kraljevo and Uzice and the Danube port of Prahovo, near the Romanian border. It was the 43rd night of NATO bombing.
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