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Yugoslavia: NATO Says Three MiG-29s Downed; Warning For Milosevic

Prague, 25 March 1999 (RFE/RL) - General Wesley Clark, the supreme commander of Allied Forces in Europe, confirmed today that three Yugoslav MiG-29s have been shot down by U.S. and Dutch war planes. Clark said the aerial combat occurred last night in different locations over Yugoslavia -- some near Kosovo and another further north. Speaking at a press briefing in Brussels today, Clark also issued a direct threat against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He said that although downtown Belgrade was not targeted last night "there is no sanctuary for Milosevic or his military leaders" against future attacks.

Clark said 40 targets were struck in last night's aerial bombardments and cruise missile attacks -- including air defenses, radar sites, communications centers, weapons plants, aircraft repair facilities and ammunition warehouses.

He said NATO will "completely destroy" the Yugoslav army and its support facilities unless Milosevic ends an offensive against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and takes steps toward signing a western-backed peace plan on the province.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said early assessments show last night's air strikes were successful.

The Yugoslav army chief of staff has issued a statement saying ten people were killed and 38 wounded in the NATO air strikes.

Meanwhile, Russia today again denounced NATO's air raids on Yugoslavia as aggression and said it reserves the right to help Belgrade if the air strikes continue.

But asked at a news conference whether Russia might pull out of a United Nations arms embargo against Belgrade, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said Moscow does not intend to take retaliatory action in that way. He said the help Russia was offering Belgrade was political. Ivanov said Moscow cherished and did not want to break off its relations with the United States. But he said now was not the time to "even talk" about Russia's participation at a NATO anniversary summit in April in Washington.

Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov said the NATO air raids had made senseless a Russian parliamentary debate on the START-2 nuclear arms reduction treaty. A Duma debate on the 1993 treaty was set for next week.

NATO denied Russian claims that two NATO aircraft were downed during the air raids. Russia's chief of general staff, Anatoly Kvashnin, who made the claims, did not say where his information had come from.