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Yugoslavia: NATO Presses Air Campaign; One Third Of Kosovars Moving

Brussels, 2 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO said today it believes its air attacks on targets in Yugoslavia will make it increasingly difficult for Yugoslav forces to continue their campaign against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. NATO says about one-third of Kosovo's pre-conflict ethnic Albanian population of 1.8 million people is now on the move. The alliance said Serb forces have driven out some 30,000 people from the Kosovar capital, Pristina, in the last 24 hours. NATO military spokesman David Wilby said NATO aircraft hit a full range of targets last night, despite bad weather. He said NATO intends to push forward with the air strikes, now in their tenth day, until Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic halts his policies of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.British defense officials expressed concern that Milosevic might be planning to dislodge the elected government of Montenegro.

A Los Angeles Times newspaper correspondent in Pristina confirmed reports of Serb paramilitary groups forcing ethnic Albanians from their homes and loading them onto trains bound for Macedonia.

A British Defense Ministry spokesman, Edgar Buckley, told reporters in London that the British government has evidence to show Milosevic is preparing a coup against Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic. The official said NATO does not rule out any options to prevent a coup in Montenegro from happening.

Montenegro is the smaller republic which together with Serbia makes up Yugoslavia. Milosevic yesterday replaced the commander in charge of Yugoslav forces in Montenegro.

The British spokesman also said Britain holds Milosevic personally responsible for the safety of the three U.S. servicemen captured earlier this week by Serbian forces. He said that by parading the three men on TV, Serbian authorities have already breached international conventions.

Serbian authorities had said the three U.S. soldiers would face a military court in Pristina today. But Yugoslav Information Minister Milan Komnenic says he cannot confirm the three men will be court-martialed.

In Stockholm, the Swedish Foreign Ministry said that -- at the request of the U.S. State Department -- its diplomats in Belgrade will ask Yugoslavia to allow the International Red Cross to visit the three men.

In Belgrade, Milosevic today told a visiting group of parliamentarians from Russia and Belarus that it would be easier to defend Yugoslavia from NATO attacks with their support.

Itar-tass news agency reports from Moscow that Russia's armed forces chief of staff Anatoly Kvashnin said Russian military assistance to Belgrade is possible "depending on the circumstances."

A Russian intelligence-gathering ship today left the Black Sea port of Sevastopol for the Adriatic. Moscow says the ship will monitor events in Yugoslavia to safeguard Russia's national interests.

Meanwhile, Macedonian leaders said today the influx of Kosovo refugees into its territory now threatens its national security and public order.

Our correspondent says Deputy Prime Minister Radmila Kiprjanoba told a news conference in Skopje that the vast number of refugees "threatens to lead to a humanitarian disaster in the country."

Macedonia has already registered 42,000 Kosovar refugees in the last week. Kiprjanoba said 9,300 came across just yesterday, 80 per cent of whom had evidently been stripped of their passports and ID cards by Serb forces as they left Kosovo.

Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Trajkovski called the number now waiting at the border to get into Macedonaia a "stampede" whose exact numbers can no longer be estimated.

Trajkovski complained bitterly of the lack of concrete help the world has given Macedonia so far. He said the refugee crisis is "not a shame for Macedonia. This is a shame for the international community."

He said Macedonia cannot cope with the situation on its own and said it is now up to the international community to take responsibility. He told reporters, "This is not our war."