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Yugoslavia: NATO Reports Anti-War Demonstrations In Serbia

Brussels, 18 May 1999 (RFE/RL) - A NATO spokesman says the alliance has evidence of two anti-war demonstrations by Serbian crowds in southern Serbia protesting the deployment of conscripts to Kosovo. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea says the protests took place yesterday in Krusevac and Aleksandrovac, both about 180 kilometers south of Belgrade. Montenegrin TV had earlier reported on the Krusevac protest. Shea said 3,000 demonstrators in Krusevac called for an end to the Kosovo conflict and a return of local reservists serving in the province. He said they stoned the town hall and parents carried pictures of their soldier sons lost in the conflict. In Aleksandrovac, Shea said 1,000 people turned out to wish farewell to reservists bound for Kosovo, but the mood turned "sour" and they called on the mayor to allow them to stay.

Shea also said NATO is reinforcing its air strength, planning to deploy an additional 75 F-15 and F-16 planes to Turkish bases by the end of May, and 18 A-10 aircraft in Italy.

NATO's military spokesman, General Walter Jertz, says in the past 24 hours NATO aircrew hit Serbian tanks, armored vehicles, and mortars in Kosovo. They hit three helicopters. The NATO jets also hit targets in other parts of Serbia, including three highway bridges, a TV transmitter, and an airfield south of Belgrade, destroying two MIG aircraft on the ground.

The NATO officials say two trains carrying 1,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees were prevented by Serbian forces from reaching Macedonia yesterday. They say there are reports that young male Kosovar refugees are being conscripted in Montenegro for the Yugoslav army. Meanwhile, two Yugoslav soldiers captured in Kosovo two months ago and held in Germany were released at a southeastern Hungarian border crossing point this afternoon and passed into Yugoslavia. The two soldiers were turned over to a representative of the International Red Cross.

A Red Cross representative in Budapest, Nadya Kebir said she had interviewed both prisoners and found them in good condition.

The two Serb prisoners, identified as Boban Milenkovic and Sefko Tairovic, were captured by ethnic Albanian guerrillas and later turned over to the U.S. The freeing of the two Serbian army privates follows the release earlier this month of three U.S. Army soldiers captured March 31 along the Kosovo-Macedonia border.

In the U.S., Defense Secretary William Cohen said the freeing of the two Serb prisoners should not be interpreted as a gesture of goodwill toward Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.