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Monday, May 3, 1999 Published at 04:36 GMT 05:36 UK

World: Europe

Power back in Serbia after Nato raid

Anti-aircraft fire defending Belgrade from one of Nato's earlier attacks

Nearly seven hours after Nato bombs cut electricity to most of Serbia, power was restored to central Belgrade.

Kosovo: Special Report
The bombs fell at the end of the day when President Milosevic released three US soldiers, who had been held in Yugoslavia since the beginning of April.

The soldiers were handed over to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who is now on his way to meet President Clinton in Washington with a letter from the Yugoslav president.

Mr Clinton is also expected to meet the Russian special envoy for the Balkans, Viktor Chernomyrdin, on Monday, followng a telephone conversation between Mr Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Mark Connolly reports on the night the power went out in much of Serbia
But Rev Jackson's call for a night of peace to mark the release was not heeded by Nato.

While the attempts to find a diplomatic end to the crisis continue, so does the exodus of thousands of Kosovo Albanians.

Fergal Keane at the Morina border crossing: "One of the crimes of the century is being perpetrated"
At the Morina crossing into Albania there have been fresh reports of Serb police telling refugees to go home and be used as human shields. Some were told to return to Prizren and "face Nato's bombs".


Reports from Yugoslavia said wide areas were in darkness after Nato war planes hit a power plant 20 miles (30km) west of Belgrade.

The blackout was described as the most extensive since the start of the Nato attacks.

Serbian state radio and television went off air, and water supplies were reported to have been cut.

Michael Williams reports from a darkened Belgrade
An official of the Serb electricty utility said the cities of Cacac in the southwest, Kraljevo in the south, Bor in the southeast and Pristina, the capital of Kosovo had their own generating plant and would have maintained their supplies.

In Belgrade only international hotels and some institutions with emergency generators were still functioning normally.

Residents in Belgrade reported anti-aircraft fire lighting up the night sky.


[ image:  ]
The three US soldiers released by President Milosevic are in Germany undergoing medical checks and a military debriefing.

They landed at Ramstein army base, where they were given a rousing welcome by a colour guard.

Relatives and friends of the soldiers are expected to arrive at the base for an emotional reunion on Monday.

The soldiers were handed over earlier on Sunday to American civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson, who visited Belgrade to make a personal plea for their freedom to President Milosevic.

President Bill Clinton said: "As we welcome our soldiers home, our thoughts also turn to the over one million Kosovars who are unable to go home."

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy: "The aerial attacks are getting more intense"
Staff Sergeant Christopher Stone, Staff Sergeant Andrew Ramirez, and Specialist Corporal Steven Gonzales were driven to Zagreb, in Croatia, from where they flew to Germany.

The men said that they were not mistreated during their time in captivity.

Message home

Shortly after the men were officially handed over to Rev Jackson each of them used his mobile phone to ring relatives.

Correspondent Mike Williams describes the men's release
Rev Jackson said: "All of them said 'I'm free' and 'I love you'. That was their message home."

Yugoslav news agency Tanjug reported on Saturay: "The president took the decision in support of Jesse Jackson's peace efforts.

[ image: Phoning home: Staff Sgt Christopher Stone]
Phoning home: Staff Sgt Christopher Stone
Rev Jackson said he hoped the soldiers' release would bring a diplomatic response, not just a military one.

Mr Clinton is expected to see both Rev Jackson and the Russian special envoy for the Balkans Viktor Chernomyrdin on Monday.

The civil rights leader will deliver a letter from the Yugoslav president to Mr Clinton, which is said to offer a face-to-face meeting between the two presidents.

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

Nato officials have welcomed the release of the soldiers.

Two planes lost

In other developments, Nato has admitted losing two warplanes and accidentally attacking a bus carrying civilian passengers, with heavy loss of life.

An F-16 crashed over western Serbia during an overnight raid.

Diplomatic Correspondent Humphrey Hawksley: "No let up in Nato's campaign"
Nato says it suffered engine failure, while Serbian media reported it shot down.

The pilot was rescued by allied forces after he ejected in an area near the Croatian border.

A few hours after the crash, Nato admitted losing another plane - this time an American Harrier. It was said to have crashed in the Adriatic while on a training mission. The pilot was rescued.

The F-16 is the second warplane Nato has acknowledged losing over Yugoslavia since it began its air attacks more than six weeks ago. The first was an F-117 Stealth fighter on 27 March.

On the diplomatic front, a US Congressional delegation says it has secured agreement with a team of senior Russian lawmakers and an adviser to President Milosevic on a framework for resolving the Kosovo crisis.

Congressman Curt Weldon says the plan complies with Nato's conditions for stopping Operation Allied Force but also takes into account Russian and Serbian concerns.

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