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Friday, April 23, 1999 Published at 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK

World: Europe

Nato defends TV bombing

Nato says TV station was "the brains of Milosevic's military apparatus"

Nato has defended its bombing of Serbia's state television station, saying it was a legitimate target and a "ministry of lies".

Kosovo: Special Report
State TV went off air for several hours overnight after a Nato missile hit its headquarters in Belgrade, reportedly killing at least ten people and wounding 18.

The UK Government said the TV station had been a legitimate target because Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's media machine was part of the military machine.

Officials said it was a "ministry of lies" that over the years had been a recruiting sergeant for the Yugoslav leader's wars, stirring up ethnic tension and creating the climate for atrocities.

The BBC's Roger Hearing: "It was a blow against one of the main instruments used by Slobodan Milosevic"
Nato has also given a cool response to the latest moves for peace brokered by Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, who said that President Milosevic was prepared to accept an "international presence" in Kosovo.

The Yugoslav government have disputed Mr Chernomyrdin's version of the talks, saying only an unarmed force would be acceptable.

The UK Government said that Nato's conditions for Kosovo had to be met in full by the Serbs, and that the latest proposal "didn't come close".


The alliance's attack on the TV station was the latest in a series of high profile strikes on targets in the Yugoslav capital. Nato on Thursday destroyed one of the Yugoslav leader's homes there, and the day before launched missiles on a building housing the headquarters of his ruling Socialist party.

Tony Blair: "It is this apparatus that keeps Milosevic in power"
A Nato spokesman said the strike on the TV station "must be seen as an intensification of our attacks at the very brains of Milosevic's military apparatus and leadership".

And UK International Development Secretary Clare Short said the station "is a source of propaganda that's prolonging this war and causing untold new suffering to the people of Kosovo".

Yugoslavia saw it differently, however. Minister without Portfolio Goran Matic said the attack on the building of Radio and Television Serbia (RTS) was "a monstrous crime without precedent in history".

(Click here for a map showing latest strikes)

John Simpson: The body of a make-up artist was lying in a dressing room
BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson, who visited the scene, said the destruction was considerable.

"Offices are full of shattered glass, papers are blowing everywhere and video tape is fluttering from the branches of the trees outside the broken windows," he said.

[ image: At least 18 people were reported injured in the attack]
At least 18 people were reported injured in the attack
The station went off the air as a recorded interview with President Milosevic was being shown. Programming resumed six hours after the attack.

Several major television relay stations around the country were also reported hit during overnight Nato strikes, and Belgrade residents said they had been plunged into darkness after a reported strike on the Kanarevo Brdo power station.

State-run news agency Tanjug said Nato planes had attacked targets around the city of Novi Sad, as well as bridges and telecommunications targets in central Serbia.

Yugoslavia was dealt another blow on Friday with the news that the European Union had formally adopted a decision to impose a ban on deliveries of oil and oil products to the country.

Nato's cool response

Signs emerged on Thursday that Yugoslavia might be prepared to edge towards peace, after Russian envoy Mr Chernomyrdin said President Milosevic had agreed on the need for an "international presence" in Kosovo under the control of the United Nations.

However, it remained unclear on Friday whether such an international force would be armed.

[ image:  ]
Mr Chernomyrdin, who held day-long talks in Belgrade with the Yugoslav leader, stressed that President Milosevic had agreed to a military presence.

But Yugoslav Deputy Foreign Minister Nebojsa Vujovic said that President Milosevic only backs an unarmed force in Kosovo.

US officials said they will insist that Yugoslavia allow an armed force into the province.

"He has to be prepared to take his troops out, and he has to be prepared to allow a significant international Nato-led force in," said Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon.

US President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, meeting in Washington for Nato's 50th birthday, said the proposal floated by Moscow and Belgrade fell short of Nato's demands, according to a spokesman for Mr Blair.

Mr Chernomyrdin said he was ready to meet Nato leaders as soon as Saturday to negotiate an end to the Kosovo conflict.

Aid reaches refugees

Several thousand of the Kosovo Albanian refugees who have fled the province have finally received relief aid after being stranded in a snowbound village on the Macedonian border.

Aid workers described conditions in the mountain hamlet of Malina as medieval, with up to 100 people crammed into every house.

Macedonia border guards this week repeatedly refused to allow convoys through to the freezing refugees, saying the route crossed some 50 metres of Yugoslav territory and they could not guarantee safety.

However the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reported that a full convoy of blankets, food and water finally managed to get through on Thursday.

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