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Yugoslavia: Serbs Close Borders; Three Mass Graves Identified

Brussels, 7 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - British Air Commodore David Wilby, speaking at today's NATO briefing in Brussels, said alliance fighter planes struck a column of Serbian tanks and other military vehicles in Kosovo for the first time yesterday. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said 42,000 ethnic Albanians left Kosovo yesterday and 50 villages in Kosovo have been torched since Saturday. Three mass graves have been identified in Kosovo and reports of scores of atrocities are being investigated, said Shea. Our correspondent in Macedonia reports that the chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Knut Vollebaek, says that Serbia closed its borders with Albania and Macedonia this morning. Vollebaek, who is also Norway's foreign minister, said the OSCE is greatly concerned about the fate of Kosovo refugees who have been turned back at the border by Serbian forces.

Shea told today's briefing that the alliance wants Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to fulfill five conditions before NATO halts its raids. Shea said these include a cessation of all Serb combat operations, the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo, permission from Belgrade for an international monitoring force in Kosovo, the return of all refugees to Kosovo and a political settlement for the province based on the Rambouillet accords. Shea said that so far, Milosevic has not answered these demands. He reiterated that an announced unilateral Yugoslav ceasefire was insufficient.

Wilby showed slides of Pristina's airfield being damaged, along with evidence that three Serbian MiGs had been destroyed.

Shea said 900,000 ethnic Albanian Kosovars have been displaced since March. Temporary NATO headquarters followed by a NATO force will be dispatched to Albania very soon to help deal with refugees, he said.

The OSCE's Vollebaek told a news conference during a short visit to the Macedonian capital, Skopje, that he fears many ethnic Albanian refugees may die if they have to repeat journeys of as long as two weeks on foot to get back to the border.

Earlier in the day, Macedonian officials said they had unconfirmed reports that as many as 50,000 or 60,000 refugees have been forcibly sent back into Kosovo from the Serb side of the Macedonian border.

Vollebaek said he will travel to Moscow tomorrow to meet Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to discuss Russian efforts to find a solution to the Kosovo crisis.