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Yugoslavia: NATO Leaders Vow To Continue Strikes

Brussels, 12 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO Secretary General Javier Solana vowed today that the alliance's air strikes on Yugoslavia will continue until Belgrade agrees to all the demands of the international community on Kosovo. Solana was speaking at a press conference in Brussels after a meeting of foreign ministers from NATO member states. Solana listed the conditions, including allowing Kosovar refugees to return and the establishment in the Serbian province of an international military force to oversee peace. Solana also said the alliance shares a common interest with Russia in finding a political solution to the Kosovo crisis, and it wishes to work contructively with Moscow toward this end.

Answering a question, Solana said that the international military force does not have to be called a NATO force, and that non-NATO elements would be included in it. But he said NATO powers would almost certainly be the biggest contributors. Milosevic has refused to accept a NATO force in Kosovo.

Solana also said the alliance is starting to look beyond the present Kosovo crisis to a time when the Balkans will be successfuly brought into the mainstream of Europe. He said years of confrontation in the Balkans must end, or the people of that region will have no future.

He said NATO will play a full part in helping stabilize the region, with a view to opening the door for the Balkans to share in future in Europe's prosperity. He noted that there are already initiatives from the European Union and elsewhere aimed to improve economic conditions in the Balkans.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright attended the Brussels talks and later said the plight of the displaced people inside Kosovo represented a "potential humanitarian disaster." She said they could number up to 700,000 people.

Albright said it is the responsibility of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to ensure they do not starve or die from lack of medicines.

Meanwhile, Serbian forces today expelled a new group of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo to Macedonia, the first such expulsion after the Serb border had been closed for several days.

Our correspondent in Macedonia saw several hundred refugees arrive by bus at the Brazda transit camp at Stenkovec. They looked bewildered and many were crying after being transported from the Kosovo-Macedonia border by the Macedonian authorities.

A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, the UNHCR, said in Skopje that details of the expulsion are sketchy. But according to initial reports, about 300 to 400 ethnic Albanians were taken from the village of Urosevac and transported by train to the border.

The UNHCR is very concerned about the fate of thousands of Kosovar Albanians prevented from crossing into Macedonia by Serbian forces last week. A UNHCR spokesman said in Geneva today that there is still no trace of them, and deportees who had arrived at the border since then had reported seeing no large group of civilians. There were reports that the missing Kosovars had been driven back into Kosovo's interior.

The UNHCR says some 1,100 Kosovars have arrived in Montenegro since yesterday. The UNHCR now estimates some 517,000 Kosovars have fled to neighboring countries, many to Albania. Tens of thousands more remain displaced inside Kosovo.

First elements of a planned 8,000-strong NATO-led force to support relief efforts in Albania arrive in Tirana and at the port of Durres later today. Meanwhile, efforts continue to fly Kosovar deportees to other countries. Germany says it has so far received almost 5,000. Israel today was flying in 100 from Macedonia.

German foreign minister Joschka Fischer is quoted as saying NATO underestimated how far President Milosevic would take ethnic cleansing.

Fischer tells the latest issue of the U.S. weekly news magazine, "Newsweek," that it was a real shock for the public and the decision makers that Milosevic was ready to fight a war against the existence of a whole people.

Drawing a parallel with the "primitive fascism" of Nazi Germany, Fischer said the western democraacies cannot accept a return to the 1930's and realize they have to fight and win this war.

Fischer described the conflict in Kosovo as a "direct attack against the security of Europe."