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Yugoslavia: Russian Envoy Meets Chinese Leaders On Kosovo

Beijing, 11 May 1999 (RFE/RL) - Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russia's Balkans envoy, met Chinese leaders today in a bid to seek a solution to the Kosovo crisis. The official Xinhua news agency said Viktor Chernomyrdin met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin but gave no details of the talks. But Xinhua quoted Chernomyrdin as accusing NATO of "aggressive behavior" and condemning NATO's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on Friday as a "brutal act." U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott was scheduled to meet today with Russian officials in Moscow to discuss the Kosovo crisis. Yesterday, NATO countries reacted negatively to Yugoslavia's announcement of a partial withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo.

Chernomyrdin earlier today met Chinese Prime Minister Zhu Rongji. Zhu told the Russian envoy that China appreciates his efforts to find a solution to the Kosovo crisis. Xinhua also quoted Zhu as saying that a telephone conversation Jiang and Russian President Boris Yeltsin had yesterday reflected what the agency called "the mutual understanding and support" between the two nations.

At the start of the talks with Chinese officials, Chernomyrdin said that NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia is "only making the negotiating process more difficult and is leading to an impasse." China said at the United Nations last night that a halt to NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia was a precondition to any discussion by the UN Security Council on a peaceful resolution.

Concerning Yugoslavia's announcement of a partial withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, U.S. President Bill Clinton said Belgrade must agree to the deployment of an international security force in addition to withdrawing troops. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called the move a half-measure, and U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said he had seen no evidence that the forces had begun leaving Kosovo.

Britain, France, Italy, Albania and Germany also dismissed the Yugoslav announcement. The Yugoslav army's Supreme Command did not say how many troops would be withdrawn, but it spoke of the possibility of returning to "peacetime" force levels. Correspondents say that means some 30,000 troops could remain in Kosovo.

Serb media said NATO stepped up its attacks on Yugoslavia overnight, targetting industrial areas and infrastructure throughout Serbia. Serb state television RTS said NATO missiles hit what it called "civilian targets" in Kosovo Polje, a mainly Serb-populated town in Kosovo. It said no one was killed but many were feared injured in the attack.

Last night, the U.N. Security Council failed to agree on a Chinese statement strongly condemning NATO's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade as a violation of international law. China also is demanding a U.N. investigation of the bombing and wants NATO to accept responsibility for the casualties and damage and bring those responsible to justice.

The council couldn't agree on the Chinese text last night because the U.S., Britain, France and other NATO members are opposed to any condemnation of what they say was a tragic mistake.

Council President Denis Dangue Rewaka of Gabon said council members agreed to hold bilateral consultations on the statement. No date was immediately set for a further Security Council meeting.

In Beijing today, a few hundred demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. and British embassies to protest against NATO's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

Reports say the protesters did not throw stones or throw paint as they had done during the previous three days of violent protests. U.S. and British diplomats remained inside their embassies. Police lined the seven-block long government-sanctioned protest route.

Yesterday, China demanded a formal apology from what it called "U.S.-led NATO," an investigation, the publication of the results of the probe and severe punishment for those responsible for the attack. NATO called the incident a tragic mistake based on faulty information. Three people were killed and more than 20 injured in the attack.

Today, for the first time, China's official media reported apologies from U.S. President Bill Clinton and other NATO leaders for the NATO bombing. The apologies were not given prominence on television and in newspapers. It was not immediately clear whether Clinton's apology would satisfy the Chinese demands.