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Yugoslavia: Bombing And Diplomatic Talks Continue

Belgrade, 30 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - Russia's special envoy on Yugoslavia heads for Belgrade today to explore ways to narrow the gap between NATO and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. United Nations war crimes prosecutor Louise Arbour is scheduled to hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright later today in Washington. Arbour told reporters she would press the United States to give her access to the military and intelligence data needed to build a case over Kosovo. She also reiterated that any international presence policing a Kosovo peace settlement must provide muscle for her investigators. Rev. Jesse Jackson, an American civil rights leader, arrived in Belgrade last night in a bid to free three U.S. soldiers captured by Serbian security forces last month.

Former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin launched the new peace initiative yesterday, traveling to Bonn and Rome to promote what Moscow said was a new plan for ending the Kosovo crisis.

The plan reportedly includes an end to NATO bombing, guarantees for the return of ethnic Albanians driven from the province by Serb police and soldiers, and monitoring by an international presence under U.N. control and including substantial Russian participation.

But by late yesterday, Chernomyrdin said only that Russian and Western positions were drawing closer and that he had achieved progress, but NO breakthrough.

NATO insists that Milosevic first withdraw his forces from Kosovo before any stop of the bombing. The campaign continued unabated today, with a series of strong explosions rocking Belgrade.

First reports indicate that NATO hit the building housing the Yugoslav army general staff. Beta news agency reports the building in flames and said other nearby buildings, including the Yugoslav foreign ministry, were damaged. A Serbian radio station, Radio Novosti, reported that one policeman and two other civilians were killed in the strike on the army buildings. The radio report has not been confirmed.

The attack in Belgrade comes several hours after NATO jets bombed a 200 meter telecommunications tower atop Mount Avala, south of the capital, knocking Serbian state television off the air.

The United States yesterday ordered more bombers sent to the Yugoslav conflict, as the White House vowed to press on with the NATO miltary campaign.

Meanwhile, the pro-Serbian party of Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic says it will no longer take part in daily talks with the reformist government of Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic.

The talks -- launched a month ago after the start of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia -- had been aimed at preventing an outbreak of civil strife among the politically divided population of Montenegro.

Correspondents report that Predrag Bulatovic, deputy leader of the pro-Serbian Socialist People's Party, stormed out of yesterday's talks after accusing Djukanovic of abandoning Yugoslavia. The incident occurred after NATO launched three waves of intense air strikes against targets in Montenegro within 12 hours.

Djukanovic's government has ignored Belgrade's declaration of martial law and has urged young Montenegrins not to join the Yugoslav army. Those moves are said to have angered Milosevic and his supporters in Montenegro.

Meanwhile, U.S. Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the U.S. military Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said he will visit American and allied forces near Yugoslavia beginning today.

Shelton declined to say exactly where he would go, but U.S. officials said privately he is expected to travel to Bosnia, Albania and Italy, before returning to Washington on Saturday night.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson arrived in Belgrade on a private mission late Thursday, shortly after air raid sirens sounded, heralding another night of NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia.

Jackson and other religious leaders are in Belgrade against the advice of the U.S. government, which said their visit was dangerous and ill-timed.

Jackson told reporters on arrival that he planned to meet the three U.S. servicemen captured on the Macedonian border last month. He said he was also due to meet President Milosevic on Saturday.

Before Jackson's party left, White House spokesman David Leavey said that they did not have the authority to negotiate on behalf of the United States and Washington could not guarantee their safety.

In Canada today, Czech President Vaclav Havel is due to hold talks with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. Their discussions in Ottawa are expected to focus on Kosovo.

Yesterday, Havel addressed a joint session of Canada's two houses of parliament and emphasized the significance of the Kosovo conflict for human rights. Havel said NATO had no choice but to take on the regime of Milosevic. He also said NATO's airstrike campaign against Yugoslavia is being conducted in defense of humanitarian values.

Human rights, Havel said, are more important than the rights of states.