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Tuesday, April 6, 1999 Published at 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK


World: Europe

Analysis: Belgrade resolve weakens?

Civilians in the Serbian town of Aleksinac were killed by Nato bombs

Does Belgrade's new initiative mean that Nato's air strikes have worked? The BBC's Balkan specialist Gabriel Partos, draws up a brief balance sheet.

Kosovo: Special Report
Nato is taking advantage of better weather conditions and the arrival of another aircraft carrier in the Adriatic to intensify its attacks on Yugoslavia.

Air strikes have already knocked out army and police installations, command centres, air force bases as well as many infrastructure facilities, such as bridges, railways and fuel depots that serve both the security forces and the civilian population.

Nato's successes include what French General Xavier Delcourt described on Tuesday as the neutralising of the Yugoslav air force. But anti-aircraft defences remain in place.

Nato setbacks

The Serbs have been able to make much of the capture of three American servicemen and the downing of a Stealth F-117 fighter. In addition, Nato admited that one of its bombs may have fallen short of its target and hit a block of flats in the town of Aleksinac on Tuesday morning. A number of civilians were killed.


[ image: Nato says it wants the refugees to return to their homes]
Nato says it wants the refugees to return to their homes
Meanwhile, Nato's air offensive has so far made apparently very little difference to the wholesale expulsion of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo which has been continuing unabated.

Nor has it produced - until Tuesday's ceasefire announcement - any signs of a change of policy in Belgrade on the whole Kosovo issue; in particular, a willingness to accept the international peace plan offered in France.

Serbs rally to Milosovic

In some important respects, the air strikes have solidified public support behind President Slobodan Milosevic.

Serbs have rallied around their leadership - as any nation that was under attack would. In addition, the air strikes have also confirmed to many Serbs what their political masters have been telling them for years, that much of the the world is out to destroy Serbia.

Few people have made the connection between the Serbian forces' repression of Kosovo Albanians on the one hand, and Nato's air strikes against Yugoslav targets on the other.

Signs of change

Serbia's continued resistance to the peace deal holds out the prospect of a long and devastating conflict. Yet there are those who expect that the Belgrade leadership can't hold out much longer.

One of these is Foreign Minister Branko Perovic of Montenegro - Serbia's uneasy partner in the Yugoslav federation.

Mr Perovic says in Tuesday's edition of the Italian daily, La Repubblica, that there are some indications the Serbian leadership will soon give in.

Belgrade's ceasefire offer may be a hint of a change in policy; but so far it's a long way from meeting NATO's demands.

If genuine change is on the cards, the question still remains as to who in Belgrade is likely to make this policy switch because Mr Milosevic's political career seems now to be linked inextricably to a final show-down in Kosovo.

No politician has dared to distance himself publicly from Mr Milosevic since the air strikes began; and in any case the political opposition is non-existent.

So the initiative, if it comes, would be more likely to be launched from within the top ranks of the repeatedly-purged army command.



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