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Yugoslavia: NATO Sees No Evidence Of Serb Troop Withdrawal From Kosovo

Brussels, 11 May 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO says it has seen no evidence so far that Yugoslav forces are withdrawing from Kosovo, as claimed by Belgrade. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea told reporters in Brussels today that any substantial withdrawal by the Serbs will be pretty obvious because "there will be plenty of dust on the track." He added, "We'll know it when we see it." Shea said NATO expects a "visible and verifiable" pullout of the 40,000 troops and more than 300 tanks that are in Kosovo. He said if Belgrade begins a genuine withdrawal NATO will not impede it. Until then, says Shea, there will be no letup in air strikes.

He said part of NATO's strategy is to "effectively encircle Yugoslavia 360 degrees," saying partner countries have so far supported the alliance in the endeavour.

In London, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Yugoslavia's announcement that it had started a withdrawal on Sunday night was a "cynical gambit" by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He said the truth was that Milosevic is responding to military and diplomatic pressure.

NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia intensified in the past 24 hours, with attacks against targets that included tanks, bridges, airfields and army barracks. The British military said today that since the airstrikes began more than six weeks ago, the alliance has flown more than 18,800 sorties, of which more than 4,800 were attack missions.

Meanwhile, China has rejected a U.S. explanation that a NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade over the weekend was a mistake.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao told a Beijing press briefing today that three missiles hit the embassy from different angles and that it was not convincing for NATO to describe the affair in such a "dismissive" way. He said China solemnly demands a full investigation into the attack, which killed three people and injured 20.

Zhu said that even Western media had questioned how the intelligence sources of the biggest power in the world could have mis-identified a large diplomatic mission flying a national flag. Zhu also said China could not consider proposals for peace in Kosovo unless NATO immediately halted air strikes on Yugoslavia. China, which has a veto right on the UN Security Council, is able to block any resolution on Kosovo.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott arrived in Moscow today for talks with Russian leaders on diplomatic efforts to resolve the Kosovo crisis. He will meet tomorrow with Russia's special Kosovo envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin, who returns to Moscow today from talks with Chinese leaders in Beijing.