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Yugoslavia: NATO To Give Oil Embargo Top Priority

Washington, 26 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO spokesman Jamie Shea says NATO political and military leaders will give top priority in Brussels this week to plans to interrupt the flow of foreign oil to Yugoslav ports through a search of ships. Shea told reporters in Washington today that NATO has already started working out details of the "visit and search program." Russia has repeatedly objected to the plan. Oleg Rumyantsev, the spokesman for Russia's Fuel and Energy Ministry said today his country will continue shipping oil to Yugoslavia despite the NATO plans. Rumyantsev said the oil has already been purchased by Yugoslavia and that "we cannot deepen the already difficult position of the Serbian people."

Earlier today, senior NATO General Klaus Naumann said NATO has no plans to use force in its inspections of foreign ships. Shea said NATO is using United Nations Security Council resolutions imposing an oil embargo on Belgrade as the basis for its action. He says there will be a senior level briefing in Brussels tomorrow.

In Belgrade, meanwhile, some 1,000 people gathered at a memorial service held for the six identified victims of a NATO airstrike on a Serb television building. Ten people are still missing and presumed dead after the NATO attack Friday. NATO says Serb TV is a legitimate military target, because it supports through propaganda Milosevic's regime.

Also today, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the Yugoslav government has authorized a full visit tomorrow by the ICRC to three U.S. soldiers in detention in Yugoslavia.

The ICRC said in a statement issued in Geneva that the ICRC delegation, which is to include a doctor, would have a private talk with the soldiers and would take their messages to families at home.

Earlier, Cornelio Sammaruga, head of the ICRC, said he had a brief talk today with the soldiers, who were detained near Kosovo's border with Macedonia on March 31. Sammaruga also told a press conference in Belgrade that he was concerned about the fate of Serb civilians affected by NATO airstrikes. He said he was unable to assess independently the number of civilian casualties from the bombing but said it was causing "serious" humanitarian consequences.