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Yugoslavia: NATO's Air Campaign Enters Third Month

Prague, 24 May 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia entered its third month today with air strikes against electrical power installations that crippled Serbia's power and water supplies. Yugoslav media said after NATO overnight bombing most of Serbia was without power and that water reserves in the capital Belgrade were down to less than 10 percent. British Defence Secretary George Robertson said more NATO troops could be sent to the Balkans soon to ensure a safe return to Kosovo for ethnic Albanian refugees. German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping, on a tour of refugee camps in Macedonia, said his country may soon deploy more peacekeeping troops in the region but also urged "a little more patience" before NATO defeats Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

NATO said there was no evidence of a withdrawal of Yugoslav troops from Kosovo as Belgrade claims but that -- on the contrary -- new Serbian recruits were moving into position in the western town of Pec.

Russian Balkans envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin warned of a "catastrophe" if peace efforts on Kosovo fail. Chernomyrdin may fly to Belgrade later this week after a new round of talks with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. The UN refugee agency said it was expecting up to 7,000 more ethnic Albanian refugees to arrive today in Macedonia after UN aid workers managed to defuse a standoff overnight with Macedonian authorities who were trying to re-route to Albania an earlier group of arrivals. And Sergio Vieira de Mello, the head of a UN humanitarian team which visited Kosovo, said the situation in Kosovo was "revolting" with clear evidence of ethnic cleansing by Serbian forces.

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer departed today for Washington where he is to meet U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to discuss ways to accelerate diplomatic efforts to end the Kosovo crisis. Ludger Volmer, a state secretary in the German Foreign Ministry, said talks with Albright scheduled for tomorrow would focus on diplomatic areas where a breakthrough might be possible. Volmer said diplomatic efforts are reaching a decisive point but the difficulty is getting all those involved synchronized "to take a courageous step."