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Yugoslavia: NATO Pilots Fly 600 Sorties On 49th Day Of Air Strikes

London, 12 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- A British military spokesman Rear Admiral Simon Moore says NATO aircraft have attacked six road bridges and a railway bridge in Yugoslavia over the past 24 hours.

He told a news briefing at the Ministry of Defense in London that the attacks were part of the alliance's effort to disrupt the supply lines of the Yugoslav army troops, special police and paramilitary forces inside Kosovo.

He said NATO aircraft flew 600 sorties on the 49th day of air strikes.

He said the targets included Yugoslav forces on the ground. The allied pilots hit tanks, trucks, artillery and armored personnel carries, and also struck at anti-aircraft and artillery positions.

Moore said the alliance fliers also hit petroleum storage facilities, three airfields and communications facilities. Other targets included an ordnance factory and two army barracks. During the attacks, five MIG/21 aircraft were destroyed at different locations, apparently on the ground.

He said the air campaign is an "incremental one" aimed at the gradual attrition of Yugoslav military assets on the ground in Serbia including Kosovo.

British Undersecretary of Defense John Spellar, who also spoke at the briefing, was asked whether the dismissal of Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov today would have any effect on the implementation of a political solution in Kosovo, particularly on a G-8 (the G-7 industrialized nations plus Russia) agreement reached last week in Germany.

Spellar said NATO had no indication yet from the Russians of any change in policy:

"The agreement of the G-8 was enormously important, and we've certainly had no indication that any internal changes, for their own internal reasons, inside Russia, projected, or in fact whether any have been announced. We've had no indication that that alters the firm desire of Russia to play a role in achieving an international settlement based on the principles that were agreed at the meeting of the G-8."

NATO has called for an end to the killing of ethnic Albanians, the withdrawal of Serb forces, the acceptance of an international military presence with NATO at its core, the safe return of refugees, and a permanent political settlement. It has said the air strikes will continue until Milosevic meets these demands.

Moore said there is no sign yet that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has carried out his pledge to withdraw half of his security forces in Kosovo.

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, on a visit to Macedonia, spoke via televised link-up to a later NATO briefing in Brussels.

He was asked about a statement today by Russian President Boris Yeltsin that Moscow may withdraw from diplomatic efforts to resolve the Kosovo crisis if its positions are not taken seriously.

Solana said that Russia's positions are being taken into account.

"We are working together with the Russians in very many places, in very many situations, and in particular in the G-8 where the positions of Russia, the ideas of Russia, are taken into consideration."

Solana expressed hope that a UN Security Council resolution can be agreed upon within days that corresponds with the plan offered last week by the G-8 on settling the Kosovo crisis.