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Sunday, April 4, 1999 Published at 22:40 GMT 23:40 UK


World: Europe

Massive relief effort underway

Many refugees need urgent medical help


Click here for live coverage on the crisis
Click here for map showing refugee movements

A huge international effort is gathering pace to help the tens of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees flooding out of Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
Meanwhile reports overnight from Kosovo say that Nato aircraft have bombed an airfield southwest of the capital, Pristina.

At the same time, several explosions have been reported in Novi Sad in northern Serbia. Nato has not confirmed the attacks.

Macedonia has now agreed to let Nato allies set up a refugee camp for up to 100,000 people stranded on the border without food or shelter.

Hundreds of refugees are now beginning to arrive at the sanctuary which will take immediate pressure off the border where at least a dozen people have died since Friday.

The former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia had closed its border after saying it could not take any more people in. But it agreed to the camp on condition most refugees are eventually sent to other countries until they can return to Kosovo.


Ben Brown in Macedonia: "People are dying here all the time"
Germany, Turkey, Britain, and the United States are among those now offering sanctuary to refugees.

But the Italian Prime Minister, Massimo D'Alema, on a visit to Albania, said dispersing them through Europe would make a success of ethnic cleansing.

And he praised the government there for letting all its refugees stay.

His fears were echoed by European Union Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Emma Bonino. "We should not disperse people all over. We should not co-operate in any way with ethnic cleansing," she added.


[ image: Apaches can be used for night attacks]
Apaches can be used for night attacks
Meanwhile, the US has announced it is sending 24 Apache helicopters and 2,000 soldiers to Albania.

A Defence Department spokesman said they would expand and enhance Nato's air operations against Yugoslav forces in Kosovo.

The helicopters, which can operate in all weathers, are low-flying attack aircraft used to fight ground troops and tanks.

In another development, a senior Serb official has said the three US soldiers captured by Serb forces will not go on trial. ''They will be sent home once this stupidity ends,'' said cabinet minister Milan Bozic. But the Yugoslav ambassador to the UN has said a trial is still a possibility.

Europe to take in refugees

European Union countries are considering offering sanctuary to over 100,000 refugees driven out of Kosovo by Yugoslav forces.


[ image: Battles for food: Supplies are scarce]
Battles for food: Supplies are scarce
EU officials are to hold an mergency meetings in Brussels to co-ordinate a plan on providing temporary shelter.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröeder stressed there should be a "fair division of the burden" to avoid the mistakes made during the Bosnian conflict.

Nato says its objective is for the refugees to return home safely in the long-run. Spokesman Jamie Shea said Germany would take 40,000 more Kosovo Albanians, and the United States and Turkey 20,000 each.

The UK Government says it will provide shelter for "some thousands" of refugees.

'Serb propoganda'

Mr Shea also said a surprise meeting shown by Serbian television earlier this week between moderate Kosovo Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had actually taken place two years ago.


[ image: Ibrahim Rugova: Nato says his message was distorted]
Ibrahim Rugova: Nato says his message was distorted
Quoting associates of Mr Rugova, Mr Shea said the politician's call for an end to Nato strikes had been faked and he had in fact asked for a cessation of violence in Kosovo.

Mr Rugova's house in Pristina was occupied by Serbian security police and he did not have freedom of movement, the Nato spokesman said.

Coup fears


[ image: A child gives the Serb salute]
A child gives the Serb salute
Meanwhile, in Montenegro, speakers at an open air pro-Serbian concert denounced Nato and called for stronger unity between Montenegro and Serbia, the two republics in federal Yugoslavia.

Officials feared the concert could be hijacked by Serb nationalists plotting a coup. Nato has also warned of a coup attempt after Mr Milosevic replaced the head of Yugoslav forces in Montenegro.

Air strikes on Belgrade


The BBC's John Simpson in Belgrade: "The pressure on journalists is intensifying"
Nato says its bombing raids are cutting deep into the Yugoslav war machine, causing increasing shortages of fuel and other vital supplies.

It launched further air strikes on Belgrade on Saturday night, targeting an army headquarters, an oil storage centre, a police academy and a heating plant.

Outside the capital, highway bridges and an ammunition plant were hit, Nato said. The Yugoslavs say three people were killed.


KLA spokesman, "Drini": "Guerrilla warfare is the best way we can fight."
Nato military spokesman, Air-Commodore David Wilby, said the latest reports from Kosovo suggest Yugoslav forces are moving westwards towards the Albanian border to engage the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army.

He said the KLA was rebuilding its forces in the west of the province. A KLA spokesman said "successful operations" were being mounted against Serb forces.

Borders under strain

At least 360,000 Kosovo Albanians have poured out of Kosovo since the air strikes began. Nato says at this rate the Serbs will empty their southern province within another 19 days.


Duncan Kennedy in Albania: "This wretched human spectacle continues"
The UN refugee agency estimates 204,000 people have fled or been expelled to Albania and 115,000 to Macedonia since 24 March. Disease is spreading and aid workers have reported the first deaths among refugees at the Albanian border.

Delivering his Easter message at the Vatican City, the Pope appealed to President Slobodan Milosevic to open a "humanitarian corridor".

"How can we speak of peace when people are forced to flee, when they are hunted down, and their homes are burnt to the ground," he said.


[ image:  ]





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