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Yugoslavia: Refugees Flood Over Borders; UN May Request Airlift

Skopje/Tirana, 17 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO's supreme commander General Wesley Clark says Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic cannot win his battle with NATO and his military machine will be destroyed if he does not back down. Talking to reporters in Macedonia after a meeting with President Ljubco Georegijevski, Clark said Milosevic was losing and he knew he was losing. He promised that NATO would steadily increase and intensify its air campaign to destroy all military targets in Kosovo and in Yugoslavia. International relief organisations in Albania say more than 18,000 Kosovo refugees have arrived in the country since early yesterday. More than 8,000 crossed the border this morning. Officials of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said it appeared that the Serb armed forces had begun a massive effort to clear out the remaining ethnic Albanians from the Kosovo region as soon as possible. A U.N. spokesman says an enormous new wave -- more than 100,000 refugees -- is believed bound for Macedonia.

General Clark emphasized that the aerial campaign was not aimed against the Serb people but against the policies which had caused the humanitarian tragedy in Kosovo.

Later today, the NATO commander will go to Albania for talks with the government. NATO officials say he may also talk with some of the thousands of Kosovo refugees who have crossed into Albania in the last 24 hours.

The U.S. is deploying 24 anti-tank Apache helicopters in Albania. NATO is also deploying more than 7,000 troops in Albania on a humanitarian mission to help Kosovar Albanian refugees.

Reports say between 4,000 to 5,000 refugees braved terrible weather and crossed the Morini border checkpoint from Kosovo into Albania after midnight. Relief officials say many of the latest arrivals were in the worst condition they have seen so far.

Andrea Angeli -- a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- said the refugees had been arriving "relentlessly" all night. He said 10,000 refugees had already crossed into the Albanian town of Kukes in the past 24 hours. He described the situation in the town as miserable and said authorities are having great difficulties coping with the latest influx.

Refugee officials say at least 5,000 more refugees crossed into Macedonia yesterday. And a U.N. spokesman says an enormous new wave -- more than 100,000 refugees -- is believed to be bound for Macedonia.

U.N. officials say they may be forced to call for a mass airlift out of the region if the tide of refugees continues to swell. Refugee agency spokesman Paul Stromberg said Macedonia is resisting creating new camps and that the U.N. is trying to enlarge existing camps to meet the demand.