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Thursday, April 29, 1999 Published at 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK

World: Europe

Russia pushes peace plan

Nato hit targets in Podgorica, Montenegro

Russia's Balkan envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin is on his way to Belgrade with what he says are "concrete proposals" to end the conflict in Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
He left after an hour and a half of talks with the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan in Moscow.

"If we do this under the aegis of the UN, we will be able to make real progress towards a political settlement," Mr Chernomyrdin said before starting his two-day round of shuttle diplomacy taking him to Germany and Italy before Belgrade.

According to the BBC's correspondent in Moscow, Rob Parsons, Mr Chernomyrdin's proposals do not appear to be susbstantially different to a deal which failed to interest Yugoslavia's President Milosevic a week ago.

Kofi Annan is due to meet President Boris Yeltsin, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in a round of intense diplomatic activitiy focusing on Russia's role as a peace-maker.

The BBC's Jon Leyne: Russia is being courted as a potential mediator
The Greek and Canadian foreign ministers are also in Moscow for talks about Kosovo.

Before leaving for Russia, Mr Annan said he hoped to narrow the differences in the UN Security Council over Nato's bombardment of Yugoslavia.

Correspondents say Russia believes its attempts to broker an agreement are gathering momentum, although President Boris Yeltsin and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov are expected to tell Mr Annan of their strong opposition to Nato's bombing campaign.

American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson is also due in Belgrade to meet Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and to try to secure the release of the three captured American servicemen.

The US says it is trying to dissuade Mr Jackson, from visiting Belgrade because it could complicate the current peace initiative.

Bombs drop outside Serbia

The initiatives follow another night of bombing raids on Yugoslavia.

The alliance attacked the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, for the third time in 24 hours.

A Nato spokesman said the raid was planned after the discovery that the Yugoslav military had moved forces there.

According to Nato, there were almost 30 strikes, with attacks on military aircraft, radar facilities, control towers, hangars and fuel storage facilities at the Podgorica military airport.

Montenegrin state television reported bombing in Golubovci, about five kilometres southeast of Podgorica.

A fuel storage and one fuel tank were hit, Montenegrin state television said.

The Nato spokesman said the attacks went ahead despite Nato's desire to spare Montenegro as much as possible.

Michael Voss: Our hotel shook to the sound of explosions
Montenegro is Serbia's junior partner in the Yugoslav Federation, but the government is opposed to forced expulsions in Kosovo, and has remained neutral throughout the crisis.

A BBC Correspondent in Podgorica, Michael Voss, says Nato is concerned that oil products and fuel are reaching Serbia from ports along the Montenegrin coast - a claim the government denies.

(Click here to see a map of recent Nato strikes)

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At the same time, residents in Belgrade said at least five explosions hit the Yugoslav capital.

Earlier, the Yugoslav state news agency, Tanjug, said a strong explosion had been heard of the outskirts of the southern Serbian town of Surdulica.

Nato has admitted that a residential area in the town was hit during an air raid on an army target on Tuesday; Serbian television reported that up to 20 civilians had died.

Explosion in Sofia

The Bulgarian capital, Sofia, has also been hit by a powerful explosion, which the Bulgarian authorities said might have been caused by a stray Nato missile.

President Stoyanov visited the scene and ordered forensic tests to determine the cause of the blast.

A Nato spokesman said he was aware of the incident, but knew nothing about the cause. Sofia is about 60km from the Yugoslav border.

Congress split

In the United States, the House of Representatives has withheld its support for Nato's strikes.

It refused to approve the bombing campaign when a Democrat motion for a largely symbolic after-the-fact blessing failed on a 213-213 tie.

It also voted 249 to 180 not fund a ground offensive without prior approval.

State Department spokesman James Rubin "Nato countries do not consider themselves at war with Serbia"
Correspondents describe the decision as a warning shot, with the Republican controlled House - politically opposed to US President Bill Clinton - worrying about the possibility of the conflict in the Balkans escalating.

Republicans are still said to be angry at not being consulted before the NATO bombing campaign began five weeks ago.

However, Congress is planning to double Mr Clinton's request for $6bn to finance the military action in the Balkans.

Yugoslav sacking

The US in-fighting came after Belgrade sacked Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister, Vuk Draskovic, for opposing the government on the Kosovo conflict.

John Simpson reports: "Mr Draskovic has been riding for a fall for some time"
Mr Draskovic's outspoken comments in recent days had prompted Western leaders to talk of serious cracks in President Milosevic's regime.

The government has also tried to muzzle Social Democracy Party leader Vuk Obredovic, who told BBC Foreign Affairs Editor John Simpson that the Yugoslav leadership should be changed.

The authorities would not allow the BBC to broadcast footage of an interview recorded on Tuesday.

Massacre reported

Renewed stories of atrocities by Serbian forces in Kosovo are being told by thousand of refugees arriving in Macedonia.

[ image: 2,000 refugees arrived in Albania overnight]
2,000 refugees arrived in Albania overnight
Macedonian officials said a group of about 50 refugees ran into a Serbian minefield as they tried to reach the border and at least five were killed.

The United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, earlier said refugees who arrived in Albania on Tuesday reported that up to 200 people had been rounded up by Serbian forces and shot dead around the Kosovo town of Djakovica.

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