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Tuesday, April 27, 1999 Published at 13:41 GMT 14:41 UK

World: Europe

Talks bid to stop Kosovo suffering

Six TV staff died in the first attack on the broadcast centre

The US envoy, Strobe Talbott, says he has had constructive talks with the Russians over Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
Mr Talbott, the US Deputy Secretary of State, held a three-hour meeting with Russia's special envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and a 90-minute meeting with foreign minister Igor Ivanov.

He said afterwards that differences remained, but they now understood each other very well.

He said earlier his talks with Mr Ivanov had been "extremely intense and constructive".

Reports say the Russians, who strongly oppose Nato air raids on Yugoslavia, are pushing for a peacekeeping operation made up of troops from several Eastern European countries.

Meanwhile, Nato is investigating why a US Apache attack helicopter crashed during a training exercise in Albania. The two crew were taken to hospital.

Russian role

Last week, Mr Chernomyrdin tried to negotiate a peace deal with the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic.

Bridget Kendall: "Yet again, bombs struck the heart of Belgrade"
Our correspondent says Nato was anxious to find out more about Russia's proposals and to make sure that any future negotiations with Belgrade were closely coordinated.

BBC Moscow Correspondent Andrew Harding says Mr Talbot's objectives included:

  • Finding out what the Russians can contribute to peace negotiations

  • Reassuring Moscow that it has a unique role to play in any settlement, as the only major power with access to President Milosevic

  • Ensuring that Russia does not actively challenge a possible Western oil embargo against Yugoslavia

  • Persuading Russia to contribute to international efforts to solve the Balkan crisis, rather than attempting a unilateral solution

HQ hit again

[ image: The first attack on the tower block left the transmitter standing]
The first attack on the tower block left the transmitter standing
Nato' s attacks continued on Monday night, with a second attack on the Socialist Party building, which also houses the state-run television station.

It appears that a cruise missile destroyed the transmitter on the roof. There were no reports of casualties.

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

Other Nato targets on Monday night, according to the Yugoslav media, were:

  • TV transmitters south of Novi Sad in northern Serbia
  • A bridge linking the towns of Backa Palanka and Ilok
  • Targets in the towns of Sombor and Uzice.

Army takes TV station

The BBC's John Simpson: "There is movement here, politically"
The Yugoslav army has taken control of the privately-run Studio B television station, according to Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic.

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

[ image: A US Apache helicopter crashed on a training mission in Albania on Monday]
A US Apache helicopter crashed on a training mission in Albania on Monday
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.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says it has been granted permission to resume operations in Kosovo.

Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said President Milosevic had been "very positive" about the return of the ICRC during a meeting on Monday.

Hundreds of thousands of people are reported to be in desperate need of humanitarian aid there.

But Mr Sommaruga said the two sides still had to agree on how the Red Cross would operate there, and what safety guarantees it could be given.

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

In a BBC interview, Mr Sommaruga also spoke of his shock at the impact of Nato air strikes on Yugoslavia.

BBC's Jacky Rowland: ICRC said Milosevic responded positively
He said that in the heavily bombed city of Novi Sad half the population - 90,000 people - was without drinkable water.

The Red Cross president also visited three American soldiers taken prisoner by Yugoslav forces at the end of last month. A Red Cross doctor is due to visit them on Tuesday.

Japanese aid

Japan, meanwhile, has pledged $185m in humanitarian assistance for Kosovo refugees, taking its whole commitment to $200m.

Chief government spokesman Hiromu Nonaka told a news conference that the magnitude of the refugee crisis had prompted the move.

"The problem of Kosovo refugees is the most serious currently facing the international community," he said.

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