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Tuesday, April 27, 1999 Published at 17:37 GMT 18:37 UK

World: Europe

Red Cross sees US soldiers

The soldiers appeared battered and bruised on Serb TV

A Red Cross team has made its first formal visit to the three captured American soldiers being held in Yugoslavia, after more than a month of diplomatic manoeuvring.

The two-man delegation - including a doctor - said their condition was satisfactory.

Kosovo: Special Report
On Monday, a delegation led by Red Cross President, Cornelio Sommaruga, made initial contact.

Now that the first formal meeting under the terms of the Geneva Convention has been carried out, the Red Cross hopes to visit the prisoners of war on a regular basis.

The Red Cross had been trying to meet the men for nearly a month, since they were captured on the Yugoslav-Macedonian border on 31 March.

Bridget Kendall: "Yet again, bombs struck the heart of Belgrade"
Repeated delays by the Yugoslav authorities, coupled with the men's battered appearance on Serb television earlier this month, led to mounting concern about their safety.

Our correspondent says the visitors were able to stay as long as they wanted with the soldiers, checking their personal details and relaying messages from their families.

The International Committee of the Red Cross was granted permission to resume operations in Kosovo on Monday. Hundreds of thousands of people are reported to be in desperate need of humanitarian aid there.

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

[ image: Mr Scharping said the deeply shocked observer had to be persuaded to hand the photographs over]
Mr Scharping said the deeply shocked observer had to be persuaded to hand the photographs over
In Bonn, Germany's Defence Minister, Rudolf Scharping, has shown reporters "shocking" pictures, which he said proved that Serbian atrocities started in Kosovo before the Nato air campaign began.

The pictures, taken by a German member of the international OSCE observer mission, show some 15 bodies lying in what appears to be a farmyard in the village of Rogova.

Mr Scharping said the photographs were taken on 29 January shortly after the killings occured. "This makes clear the degree of brutality used when all this began and which is continuing," he said.

More talks

The United States and Russia have promised to keep working together to resolve the Yugoslav crisis.

The BBC's John Simpson: "There is movement here, politically"
Speaking after talks in Moscow, the American Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, said they had been open, serious and constructive, but gave few details.

The BBC Moscow correspondent says it is clear that Russia and Nato still disagree on many important points, and the talks seem to have ended without any major breakthrough.

The Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, again criticised Nato plans for an oil embargo on Yugoslavia.

Oil shipments

At a Nato briefing on Tuesday, however, Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark said that 10 ships a day were unloading oil in the Montenegrin port of Bar.

Prior to international moves to block shipments of oil and oil-based products to Yugoslavia in a bid to starve President Slobodan Milosevic's military machine of fuel, only two to three ships a day were seen at the port.

It was this increase in shipping that had prompted proposals for Nato's "visit and search" policy for ships in the area, General Clark said.

[ 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
In Yugoslavia itself, Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic has said Russia and the West must agree on a binding deal that would go before the United Nations Security Council.

Correspondents say it is not clear how far his views are shared by President Milosevic.

The BBC's John Simpson: "Draskovic senses a back down"
Mr Draskovic earlier told journalists the Yugoslav army had taken control of the privately-run Studio B television station.

Mr Draskovic, whose party is affiliated to the station, said if Mr Milosevic was behind the move, he would consider organising street demonstrations against him.

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

HQ hit again

Nato' s attacks continued on Monday night, with a second attack on the Socialist Party building, which also houses the state-run television station.

The BBC's Bridget Kendall: The Apache helicopter "embarrassingly caught on camera"
It appears that a cruise missile destroyed the transmitter on the roof. There were no reports of casualties.

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.

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