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Monday, October 12, 1998 Published at 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK

World: Europe

Preparing for Nato's bombs

Petrol supplies around Belgrade are dwindling

As diplomatic efforts continue to try to find a peaceful solution to the crisis in Kosovo, people in the province and in the rest of Serbia have been making their preparations for anticipated military action by Nato.

BBC correspondent Nick Thorpe hears opinions in Belgrade
In Serbia, air raid sirens are being tested in major cities and shoppers are contending with rising prices due to a new defence tax.

Government leaflets are being delivered to Belgrade homes, and being posted outside public buildings in other cities, giving advice on what to do in the event of an air raid. State television is broadcasting propaganda programmes showing Serbian soldiers as the nation's defenders.

Kosovo Section
Families living near military targets are making plans to move and hospitals are clearing beds.

Military experts have been discussing the state of preparedness of the air defences.

Despite rising prices, state-run shops are emptying as people stock up on non-perishable goods like dry biscuits, sugar, and cooking oil. Petrol is becoming increasingly hard to find.

[ image: An improvised bomb shelter]
An improvised bomb shelter
Supplies of anti-depressants and sedatives are running low, and hospital beds are being emptied of patients not needing essential treatment.

As part of the preparations independent media have been forbidden from rebroadcasting programmes by foreign radio and television stations, including the BBC.

The government has accused foreign media of waging a propaganda war against the country and of giving a false picture of events in Kosovo.

Kosovo waits

In Kosovo meanwhile, both the minority Serb population and ethnic Albanians are waiting to see if there will be air strikes, but have opposing views about the prospect.

Paul Welsh in Kosovo: "An uncertain future"
A BBC correspondent in Pristina says that in Serbian cafes the talk is of Nato and air strikes. Armed Serbs are threatening to retaliate against their ethnic Albanian neighbours if Nato bombing raids begin.

Accountant Miso Perovic said: "I have four rifles. Whatever happens, I'll go straight to kill the first Albanian I find."

Among local Albanians there is a mixture of nervousness and excitement.

Our correspondent says the Albanians are expecting air strikes but do not believe they will be affected, since they expect only military targets to be hit by Nato.

Despite the threat of air strikes, Albanians are still going out to Albanian-run bars and cafes.

One said: " Maybe they're drinking to forget, or going out to see friends. Everyone is waiting for D-Day. Maybe tonight is the last night."

'Now is the time for Nato to act'

About 225,000 refugees have been displaced during the six-month Serbian offensive in Kosovo - some are living in the woods less than 20km (12 miles) from Pristina.

BBC correspondent Paul Wood talks to ethnic Albanians
Lirim Greicevci fled his home village, Sankoc, three months ago and has been living rough since with about 100 other refugees.

He said: "We are not worried so much about being hit by Nato bombs as we are about the possibility that Serbs will try to take their anger at Nato out on us.

"I don't favour war but the Serbs have shown they will never make concessions on Kosovo unless they are forced.

"Now is the time for Nato to act so people can go home again."

Despite the risk, virtually everyone in the camp supports military action as the only way to ensure villagers are able to return home in safety before winter sets in.

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