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Friday, April 30, 1999 Published at 00:09 GMT 01:09 UK


World: Europe

Hungary: Serbia's nervous neighbour

Watching Yugoslavia: Hungary is feeling uniquely vulnerable

By Orla Guerin in Budapest

Hungary, one of Nato's newest members, has said it will not allow a ground attack on Yugoslavia from within its territory.

It was ruled out by the country's foreign minister in an interview with the BBC.

Kosovo: Special Report
The move comes amid growing concern in Hungary about the war - partly because of the country's common border with Serbia, and also because there is a large Hungarian minority within Serbia itself.

These days, few pass through Hungary's frontier with Yugoslavia. Some 15,000 people used to cross this border each day. We found it all but deserted.

No other Nato member borders Yugoslavia. Hungary is uniquely vulnerable, and feeling it.

For now, the border area is quiet, but there is anxiety here that this may not last. Nato is bombing Yugoslav targets just a few kilometres away.


Orla Guerin reports: "Whatever comes next, Hungary has plenty to worry about"
The longer the conflict continues, the more Hungary is being sucked in, in spite of its reluctance.

But Budapest insists that its tanks and troops will never fight against Yugoslavia.

More than this, it will not be used as a back door for a Nato ground force, if the alliance ever decides to send one. Some sources say Hungary is the Pentagon's first choice, but the government here says: "Forget it."


[ image: Foreign Minister Martonyi ruled out ground troops in Hungary]
Foreign Minister Martonyi ruled out ground troops in Hungary
Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi told the BBC: "We said very clearly ... that this is not something that we could support."

Asked whether he ruled out any possibility that Nato ground troops would be allowed to enter Yugoslavia via Hungary, he replied: "Yes, I do."

There was no way that that option would ever be considered, Mr Martonyi added.

Whatever comes next, Hungary has plenty to worry about. Refugee camps here are starting to fill up with ethnic Hungarians.


[ image:
"All the Hungarians are afraid"
Fearing Serb reprisals, they have fled their homes across the border in the Yugoslav province of Vojvodina.

We found a family - safe but scared - at a camp in southern Hungary. Those they left behind expect the very worst.

One man says: "All the Hungarians are afraid. Everyone understands that when the Serbs are finished in Kosovo, they will begin in Vojvodina."

The conflict in Yugoslavia is dangerously close, and getting closer still. When Hungary joined Nato, with high hopes, in March, it did not bargain on all of this.



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