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Yugoslavia: NATO Attacks Milosevic's Residence; Serbs And Albanians Exchange Fire

Prague, 22 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO attacked the residence of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade at dawn today after another night of air raids near the capital and in central Serbia. The official Tanjug news agency said the attack had leveled to the ground Milosevic's house in a residential Belgrade district. Video footage shown on Serbian television, however, showed the structure gutted but still standing and there was no apparent damage to nearby houses. Tanjug said Milosevic and his family were not inside the residence at the time of the attack. There was no word on casualties.

NATO officials confirmed the attack but called the building a "presidential command post" and a legitimate military target. They denied that Milosevic himself was targeted.

Milosevic this morning met Russia's envoy on the Kosovo crisis, Viktor Chernomyrdin. No details from their talks have been disclosed.

There were reports from Albania of an exchange of fire today between Serb forces and Albanian border guards near a village about 120 kms north of Tirana. The Albanian news agency ATA said Serb soldiers launched the attack near the village of Dobrune. Albanian border guards and police reportedly returned the fire and drove the Serbs back from the border.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said its own patrols in the area witnessed the shooting and said it lasted about one hour. An OSCE spokeswoman said there was no indication that the Serbs had entered Albania. The Albanian news agency said one villager was wounded.

In Washington today, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said NATO has no intention of sending ground troops into Kosovo unless there is a political settlement for the Serb province.

Cook made the remarks to reporters during a joint press briefing with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. He is in the U.S. capital to attend NATO's 50th anniversary summit that begins tomorrow.

Cook said it has always been NATO's intention to dispatch international peacekeepers once there is an accord for Kosovo. He said these troops would guarantee the safety of Kosovar Albanians.

Albright also reiterated the U.S. position that the air campaign would be sufficient to win the conflict against Yugoslavia.

Earlier today, the White House said President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair agree with NATO's decision to revive plans for the deployment of ground troops in Kosovo. But Lockhart added that neither country is in favor of using ground troops in a hostile environment.

In Bonn, Iran and its fellow members of the 55-nation Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) today expressed support for NATO goals in resolving the Kosovo crisis.

Iran's Foreign Minister Kamel Kharrazi, who met with German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, said he completely agreed with NATO's Kosovo goals of ending the violence, withdrawal of all Yugoslav forces, insertion of an international force, return of refugees and a political settlement in the province.

Kharrazi, who came to Bonn as head of the OIC delegation of eight other Islamic states, stopped short of endorsing NATO's airstrikes against Yugoslavia, stressing instead the need for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

In London today, senior European officials dealing with the refugee crisis in Kosovo met to discuss how best to assist the refugees. A spokesman said officials from Britain, Germany, France and Italy were discussing financial and other aid for the refugees and also where they could be temporarily accomodated. The U.S. Agency for International Development also took part.

The meeting is also discussing the transfer of some of the thousands of refugees in Albania and Macedonia to other countries.

The U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees said today that 402 refugees in Macedonia were flown yesterday to Turkey, Poland and Belgium. More are going today to Turkey, Austria and France.

The UNHCR said no refugees are known to have crossed into Macedonia this morning but at least 600 entered Albania this morning at the main Morini border point. Others were brought to Albania from Montenegro.

The UNHCR said Macedonia was still refusing to allow it to take food and blankets to several thousand refugees in and around the mountain village of Male Malina. A UNHCR team was turned back yesterday. It said negotiations are continuing with the Macedonian authorities.