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Sunday, April 25, 1999 Published at 01:12 GMT 02:12 UK

World: Europe

Russia to ignore Nato embargo

General Clark is drawing up plans for the "visit and search" patrols

Russia looks set on a collision course with Nato after saying it will ignore calls by the alliance for an oil embargo against Yugoslavia.

Kosovo: Special Report
The alliance is drawing up plans to "visit and search" ships to try to prevent oil, arms and other vital supplies reaching the Serbian armed forces via ports in Montenegro.

US President Bill Clinton defended the sea searches, saying it was unreasonable to ask pilots to risk their lives attacking oil depots when Serbia could get fuel from ships.

President Clinton: "For this strategy to succeed we need ... vigorous execution and patience"
But Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that his country would ignore Nato's calls to prevent oil getting through and would continue supplying President Slobodan Milosevic's government with fuel.

"We cannot do anything to worsen the suffering of the people in Yugoslavia, and we will continue delivering oil in keeping with our international commitments," Mr Ivanov said.

Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, who returned from Belgrade with a fresh peace offer on Thursday, backed up Mr Ivanov.

Robert Parsons reports: "It was the response from Moscow Nato had feared"
"The blockade (idea) is bad. The strikes are bad. When people die, it's bad."

BBC Moscow Correspondent Robert Parsons says if the alliance decides to impose a sea blockade, it will have to decide whether to board Russian ships - risking sucking Russia into the conflict.

'Visit and search'

However Nato reiterated its resolve on Saturday to "switch off the oil tap completely" to Yugoslavia.

The BBC's Kevin Connolly: The Serbs have had the ability to import oil from Russia by sea
Nato spokesman Jamie Shea said: "Without oil, the Yugoslav military machine will come to a halt and very quickly."

Speaking at the alliance's 50th anniversary summit in Washington, Mr Shea confirmed that Nato leaders had agreed in principle to explore a possible search system to intercept oil supplies.

Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark had been asked to draw up details of how such a regime would work, its rules of engagement and how many warships would be needed to police it.

[ image: Anti-Nato protests outside the Washington summit]
Anti-Nato protests outside the Washington summit
Serb armed forces were now so desperate for fuel that they were siphoning off petrol from abandoned refugee cars, Mr Shea said. It was important to "switch off the oil tap completely", he added.

He also said General Clark would be given extra assets. The Nato commander had asked for extra aircraft to allow an intensive 24-hour war to continue, in particular tanker planes and reconnaissance aircraft.

The eight-vessel Nato fleet in the Adriatic may have to be stepped up to enforce an oil embargo, he said.

Nato under fire

Nato's plans to prevent fuel getting through have also been attacked by the Yugoslav Government.

Jonathan Marcus reports on the "visit and search" regime
Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic said the action would hit civilians.

"Nato is punishing those who are innocent. It means punishing poor Serbian civilians and forcing them to drive no car ... That's against people."

Nato air strikes, which began one month ago, have knocked out Yugoslavia's ability to refine its own oil, although considerable reserves remain, Mr Shea said.

In air attacks on Friday night, alliance missiles targeted oil refineries in the northern city of Novi Sad and Pancevo.

(Click here to see a map of Friday night's Nato strikes)

On the second day of the Nato summit, leaders of member countries also agreed on a new strategic concept to shape the alliance for the next century.

Roger Hearing reports: Nato's theme is intensification
The initiative is aimed at making Nato forces more mobile and increasing the accuracy of weapons systems.

Nato Secretary-General Javier Solana said a stronger alliance had been created, which would guarantee security in Europe and uphold democratic values and said Nato would support Russian efforts to find a solution to the Kosovo crisis.

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