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Thursday, April 22, 1999 Published at 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK

World: Europe

Land corridor opens for Nato troops

By Ray Furlong in Prague

Kosovo: Special Report
The Czech Parliament has voted to allow Nato to transport ground forces through its territory and use its air bases for supply missions.

The vote follows a similar decision by the Slovak Government and means that there is now a land corridor for Nato to move ground forces from Germany to Hungary.

The debate in the Czech parliament was a stormy one and outside a crowd of about 150 people whistled and chanted "traitors" in protest at supporters of Nato policy.

Delaying tactics by Communist deputies meant the debate dragged on and it was not until late on Wednesday that parliament finally voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing Nato to use Czech air bases and transport equipment or troops through Czech territory.

A similar decision was made several hours earlier by the Slovak Government, opening for the alliance a land corridor from Germany to Hungary.

Opposition to Nato

The Slovak Prime Minister, Mikulas Dzurinda, then made a televised address to the nation in which he said the core of the problem in Yugoslavia was genocide being carried out on the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo. He added that Nato forces were trying to prevent this.

But public opinion in Slovakia and the Czech Republic is largely opposed to Nato air strikes and even more so against intervention by ground forces.

Perhaps for this reason the Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, stressed that Prague would only support a limited ground engagement in Kosovo and that Czech forces would not take part.

Mr Kavan also said he still considered Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic a partner for negotiations and that he would be bringing unspecified peace proposals to this weekend's Nato summit in Washington.

  • Romania's parliament has voted overwhelmingly to grant Nato unrestricted use of the country's airspace to pursue its air campaign. The parliament asked the government to seek guarantees for Romania's security and territorial integrity and outside help to eliminate the "negative effects" of the Yugoslav conflict.

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