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Tuesday, April 27, 1999 Published at 01:14 GMT 02:14 UK


World: Europe

Red Cross 'to return to Kosovo'

Despite the flood of refugeees leaving Kosovo thousands remain in the province

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it has been granted permission to resume operations in Kosovo, where hundreds of thousands of people are reported to be in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

Kosovo: Special Report
Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had been "very positive" about the return of the ICRC to the Serbian province.

But Mr Sommaruga said after a meeting with the Yugoslav president that the two sides still had to agree on how the Red Cross would operate there.

He also spoke of his shock at the impact of Nato air strikes on Yugoslavia.


[ image: The first attack on the tower block left the transmitter standing]
The first attack on the tower block left the transmitter standing
Belgrade was under Nato fire again on Monday with a fresh attack on a building housing the headquarters of President Milosevic's Socialist Party.

It is the second time that the tower block, which also houses the state-run television station, has been targeted.

BBC correspondent Mike Williams says it appears that a cruise missile destroyed the transmitter installed on the roof of the building.

One of the aircraft expected to play a major role in the Nato campaign, a US Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, crashed on a training mission at Albania's Tirana airport on Monday night. The Pentagon said the two crewmen escaped from the wreckage.


The BBC's John Simpson: "There is movement here, politically"
In a separate development, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic has told foreign journalists in Belgrade that the Yugoslav army has taken control of the privately-run Studio B television station.

Mr Draskovic, whose party is affiliated to the station, described the move as undemocratic.

He said it was probably in response to an interview he gave to the station on Sunday, in which he criticised the state-run media.


[ image: The Pentagon said the Apache landed short of the runway]
The Pentagon said the Apache landed short of the runway
He has also said that the government would be prepared to accept a UN presence in Kosovo that could include Nato troops.

He said he believed he was expressing the views of President Milosevic, who has previously refused all calls for foreign troops in Kosovo.

But Mr Draskovic told Germany's ZDF television network that Nato would first have to stop its air campaign.

Red Cross deal

The Red Cross breakthrough came after ICRC President Sommaruga visited Yugoslavia to see the results of Nato's Operation Allied Force.


BBC's Jacky Rowland: ICRC said Milosevic responded positively
In a BBC interview Mr Sommaruga said that in the heavily bombed city of Novi Sad half the population - 90,000 people - were without drinkable water.

He said Mr Milosevic had agreed that Yugoslav forces would try to keep Red Cross workers safe when they returned to Kosovo but that their safety could not be guaranteed.

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

The Red Cross pulled out of Kosovo after Nato air raids began on 24 March.

The group is concerned at the plight of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Kosovo as well as the effects on the civilian population in Serbia as a whole.

The Red Cross president also visited three American soldiers taken prisoner by Yugoslav forces at the end of last month.

He gave no information about the soldiers' condition but said a Red Cross doctor would be visiting them on Tuesday.

Draskovic talks peace

Western officials have seized on comments by Mr Draskovic as proof that the air campaign is demoralising Serbian resistance.


Mike Williams: Vuk Draskovic said Mr Milosevic shared his views on a UN presence
Mr Draskovic's statement that his government might be ready to allow forces from Nato countries into Kosovo followed an outburst on Sunday when he publicly criticised his country's handling of the Kosovo crisis.

Mr Draskovic, a former opposition politician, is a long-standing rival of the hard-line Serb nationalist politicians who dominate the government.

In his interview with Studio B television station, Mr Draskovic dismissed as unrealistic the belief that Russia would intervene to help the Serbs overcome Nato, or that the alliance would collapse.

US State Department spokesman James Rubin said the comments were a "recognition of reality".

But BBC Correspondent Jacky Rowland, who is in Belgrade, said Mr Draskovic is a maverick figure and that his comments do not necessarily reflects the views of the leadership.

Moscow role

The US Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, has arrived in Moscow for talks with Russian leaders, who have been working for a diplomatic resolution to the Kosovo crisis.

Before Mr Talbott's arrival, senior officials, including Russia's envoy to the Balkans, Victor Chernomyrdin, worked out what they called a basis for the discussions ahead.

They gave no details. BBC Moscow Correspondent Robert Parsons says expectations of the talks are not high.

Russian concern over the conflict in Kosovo has grown since the alliance announced plans for an oil blockade to intensify economic pressure on Serbian forces.

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