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Yugoslavia: Bombing Continues; Allies Reject Primakov/Milosevic Offer

Bonn, 31 March 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russian Prime Minister Yegeny Primakov is due to fly back to Moscow today after meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder last night in Bonn with an offer from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw some forces from Kosovo and allow refugees to return if NATO halts its bombings. NATO has rejected the offer and the air bombardment of Yugoslavia is continuing into a seventh day. The official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug reports at least seven detonations were heard this morning near the Kosovo capital Pristina. There were also reports of explosions around Belgrade.

NATO said yesterday it would intensify its bombing campaign and will bomb "around the clock" to get Milosevic to agree to end repression against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. The alliance says it will focus attacks on military units and command posts in the Serb-run province.

Yugoslav Foreign Minister Zivadin Jovanovic, speaking on CNN this morning, said that Serb forces would not withdraw from Kosovo until the air strikes stopped. He accused NATO of committing a "crime against peace."

Primakov has said he is not deterred by the results of his mediation attempt and that he will continue to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis. In Moscow, Itar-tass reports that the Russian State Duma commemorated the victims of the "NATO aggression" in Yugoslavia with a minute's silence. Russia has remained steadfastly opposed to NATO attacks on Yugoslavia.

U.S. President Bill Clinton last night accused Yugoslav authorities of carrying out genocide against ethnic Albanians in the Serb offensive in Kosovo, the first time he has used the term since the NATO bombing campaign began a week ago. He said that Yugoslavia's scorched-earth campaign in Kosovo was jeopardising international support for Serb claims to the rebel province.

"We must not allow, if we have the ability to stop it, ethnic cleansing or genocide anywhere we can stop it, particularly at the edge of Europe," he told a dinner of the Electronic Industries Alliance on Tuesday night in appealing to Americans to support allied bombing raids.

Emma Bonino, the acting EU commissioner for humanitarian affairs, is due to visit Macedonia today to discuss the refugee crisis there. Thousands of ethnic Albanians have crossed the Kosovo frontier into Macedonia in recent days to flee a Serb crackdown.

Arben Xhaferi, the leader of the ethnic Albanian party in the Macedonian coalition government, said yesterday the country faces huge financial and organizational problems caused by the influx. He called on European Union countries to accept more refugees from Kosovo to relieve pressure on Macedonia.

In Washington today, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is expected to meet with Croatian foreign minister Mate Granic meet to discuss the air strikes against neighboring Yugoslavia. Croatia supports the NATO action and has allowed NATO warplanes to cross its airspace. Albright and Granic will also discuss ways to improve U.S.-Croat bilateral relations.

Granic said Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and President Clinton exchanged letters last week in which they pointed to a new reality in relations based on "partnership and alliance".

Correspondents say though that Croatian officials are seeking assurances from the U.S. after Croatia was the only country bordering Yugoslavia which did not receive a letter from NATO assuring the alliance would protect it in the event of a Yugoslav retaliatory attack.

At the Pentagon yesterday, officials made clear that the bombing campaign was nowhere near its objective of diminishing the Yugoslav military's ability to carry out atrocities against the Kosovo Albanians, who have been fleeing Serb forces by the tens of thousands into neighboring Albania and Macedonia.

Officials said NATO air strikes had damaged the Serbs' ability to launch surface-to-air missiles, destroyed more than half of Milosevic's advanced MiG-29 fighters and damaged ammunition depots.

At a briefing, an aerial photograph was shown providing what officials called evidence of Serb burning of a Kosovo village, including its burned-out mosque. Kosovo Albanians are nearly all Moslems.