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Friday, April 9, 1999 Published at 01:51 GMT 02:51 UK

World: Europe

Nato retracts media ultimatum

Strategic targets including fuel depots have previously been attacked

Nato has backtracked from an announcement that it was prepared to target Serbian television and radio transmitters unless western news was given equal airtime.

Kosovo: Special Report
Alliance spokesman Jamie Shea said radio relay transmitters being used for military purposes were on Nato's list of legitimate targets.

He distanced the organisation from earlier comments that TV transmitters would also be targeted unless the authorities allowed uncensored western news broadcasts to be broadcast.

But Mr Shea admitted television transmitters sharing sites with military relay equipment might be damaged in attacks.

Earlier, at a daily Nato news conference, Air Commodore David Wilby described the Serb broadcast media as "an instrument of propaganda and repression".

"It is has filled the airwaves with hate and with lies over the years and especially now. It is therefore a legitimate target in this campaign," Mr Wilby said.

He also demanded air-time for western news broadcasts.

"If President Milosevic would provide equal time for Western news broadcasts in its programmes without censorship, three hours a day between noon and 1800 and three hours a day between 1800 and midnight, then his TV could become an acceptable instrument of public information," Mr Wilby said.

Pristina devastation denied

[ image: Nato denies causing random damange in Pristina]
Nato denies causing random damange in Pristina
Mr Wilby denied that its aircraft and missiles were responsible for all the damage witnessed in Pristina by a group of western journalists.

The journalists were taken to the Kosovo capital on Wednesday by Serbian authorities and filed pictures and reports of significant damage to the entire city.

David Wilby: Nato has not caused random damage
"I can absolutely assure you that whilst Nato has attacked military targets around Pristina... Nato has certainly not caused the reported widespread and random damage which we believe has been orchestrated by Serbian forces," Mr Wilby said.

He said that he believed close forensic investigation would reveal the truth behind the ruins.

Aid efforts continue

Nato also said it would send 8,000 ground troops, and a mobile headquarters to Albania to provide "military support" to the humanitarian aid efforts for refugees.

[ image: Nato will support the refugee effort]
Nato will support the refugee effort
Nato spokesman Jamie Shea said the deployment, to be known as Operation Allied Harbour, would get under way by the end of next week.

He said 14 nations were involved in planning the operation.

In the meantime, Nato has continued to fly aid into Macedonia and Albania.

Mr Shea said a helicopter supply route was in place between Tirana and Kukes in Albania.

He said a Nato enabling force had established five camps in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, accommodating 43,400 refugees and displaced persons.

Nato soldiers had distributed 87,000 food rations together with building latrines, building a field hospital and providing drinking water, he said.

400 sorties

Summing up the Nato attacks over Yugoslavia in the previous 24 hours, Air Commodore Wilby said "operations are ongoing with even greater success against fielded forces".

He said Nato had made the most of improved weather, flying nearly 400 combat missions over Serbia and Kosovo including attacks on Serb forces on the ground.

"Our operation tempo and effectiveness continues to increase and I believe that our momentum is building with encouraging pace," Mr Wilby said.

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