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Thursday, April 1, 1999 Published at 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK

World: Europe

Doubt cast on Nato reports

Mr Rugova said he had no information about Agani or Hadziu

By Diplomatic Correspondent, Barnaby Mason

American diplomatic and Kosovo Albanian sources have contradicted earlier Nato reports that two prominent Albanians were executed in Kosovo on Sunday by Serb forces.

Kosovo: Special Report
The sources suggested that Fehmi Agani, a member of the Kosovo Albanian delegation at the Rambouillet peace talks, and Baton Hadziu, a newspaper editor, were in fact alive.

Reports that the men had been killed broke on Monday when a Nato military spokesman in Brussels quoted reliable sources as saying that five prominent Kosovo Albanians, including Fehmi Agani and Baton Hadziu, had been executed the previous day.

Now, serious doubt has been cast on the report, with both American diplomats and some Kosovo Albanians saying they believe the two men are still alive.

Unreliable reports

Nato spokesmen are now being accused of relaying unreliable information about what is going on inside Kosovo.

There were also fears for the safety of the main civilian political leader, Ibrahim Rugova, but on Wednesday he spoke to journalists at his home in Pristina, where he said he and his family were under Serbian police protection.

[ image: Serious doubt is now cast on Nato's report on Mr Hadziu]
Serious doubt is now cast on Nato's report on Mr Hadziu
Mr Rugova said he had no information about his colleague Mr Agani. If the Nato report was wrong, it raises questions about other information put out by western spokesmen over the past few days.

Some of it comes from the guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army - for example the report relayed by State Department spokesman, James Rubin, that Serb forces were using artillery to shell thousands of civilians in the Malisevo district.

Ethnic cleansing

The KLA has a clear interest in maximising the horrors which the Serbs are inflicting on the civilian population, and so does Nato - with the additional need to demonstrate that it is not the air strikes which have caused the suffering.

Accounts from the tens of thousands of refugees pouring out of Kosovo paint a consistent picture of ethnic cleansing carried out brutally on a huge scale.

There are also reports of killings, though no hard evidence of the scale on which they are being carried out.

The danger for Nato is that it may undermine its case in demonising President Milosevic and comparing the situation with the Cambodian killing fields.

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