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Yugoslavia: Thousands Of Refugees Enter Albania Via Montenegro

Koplik, Albania; 21 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - A record 2,500 Kosovo refugees, mainly from Pec and Djakovica, entered Albania yesterday via Montenegro at a border crossing on Lake Shkodra. A police spokesman in nearby Koplik told the Albanian state news agency ATA that this is the highest figure of new arrivals via Montenegro in recent days. In the past two weeks, some 15,000 refugees have entered Albania via Montenegro. The latest arrivals are being accommodated in a tobacco factory in Shkodra.

Yesterday's sudden wave of refugees follows the killing by Yugoslav forces over the weekend of six ethnic Albanians -- five of them Kosovo refugees and one of them a Montenegrin citizen -- in a northern Montenegrin village. Yugoslav forces closed off Montenegro's border with Kosovo and occupied three Montenegrin villages near the border for several days this week, forcing some 400 residents, including displaced persons from Kosovo, to flee to the district town of Rozaje.

The Yugoslav forces withdrew from the area yesterday, two days after claiming to have killed four insurgents of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK).

In Yugoslavia, a NATO attack early today hit the headquarters of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's Socialist party in Belgrade. There were no immediate reports of casualties, but Serb television showed several storeys gutted by fire. The high-rise building also houses three local television and radio stations. Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Marjanovic condemned the attack and said it "cannot break" the Serbian people.

In another attack, two NATO missiles hit the last remaining bridge over the Danube at Novi Sad, 70 kilometers north of Belgrade. The official Tanjug news agency said the bridge was not brought down but was damaged to the extent that neither trains nor vehicles could cross it. The report did not say whether there had been any victims in the strike on the bridge. Serb television said the oil refinery at Novi Sad, a frequent target of NATO attacks, had been hit again and set on fire.

The attacks came as the NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia enters its fifth week. NATO says the air raids are aimed at degrading Yugoslavia's military installations and are designed to minimize the risk of civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says Russia will not attend NATO'S 50th anniversary celebrations due to begin in Washington tomorrow. Ivanov made the announcement today after meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the Kremlin.

Ivanov says there is no common position among CIS member states on attending the Washington summit, adding that it is up to each member state to decide whether to attend. Boycotting the summit reflects Russia's frustration with NATO's expansion and the Kremlin's anger with NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia.

Ivanov says Yeltsin has ordered a redoubling of efforts to find a political solution to the Balkan conflict. He says presidential Balkan emisssary Viktor Chernomyrdin may travel to Belgrade tomorrow for talks and that the search for a political solution will be high on the agenda of talks in Moscow next week with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

On leaving Kyiv for Moscow today, Chernomyrdin said that Russia, together with other CIS member states, will undertake actions to resolve the Yugoslav conflict, in part through joint peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.

"The positions of Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia coincide in regulating the conflict -- solving problems by bombing attacks is a dead-end situation," said Chernomyrdin.

Earlier this morning, a large cargo jetliner (Il-76) of the Russian Ministry for Emergencies departed Moscow for Skpoje with 31 tons of humanitarian aid, including tents, blankets, personal hygiene articles, and food for Kosovo refugees.