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Thursday, April 1, 1999 Published at 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK

World: Europe

Pope's envoy on Belgrade mission

The Pope has sent a special message to President Milosevic

A personal envoy of the Pope has arrived in Belgrade on a peace mission.

Kosovo: Special Report
The Vatican Foreign Minister, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, is carrying a special message from Pope John Paul II.

Archbishop Tauran is also expected to urge Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to begin peace negotiations.

The archbishop is also due to meet leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

Nato gave Archbishop Tauran's plane special clearance for his mission.

But the Western alliance has ruled out any suggestion of suspending the bombing over the coming Easter period.

Appeals for peace

The Pope has made several public appeals to the combatants in the Kosovo conflict to return to the bargaining table.

Plans for the peace mission were announced shortly after Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, held talks with a group of Russian politicians, including former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, who met President Milosevic earlier this week.

Church officials say the Pope wants to see an end to fighting and the re-opening of diplomatic channels.

The Pope is said to be extremely concerned about the effects of Nato bombing, and believes his views are shared by public opinion in many Nato countries.

Leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church, the Church of England, and the World Council of Churches have also called for an end to the strikes.

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