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Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK


World: Europe

Kosovo solution 'closer'

Russia is seen as the best hope for an end to the conflict

Russia and the US have signalled progress in the search for a solution to the Kosovo conflict.

Kosovo: Special Report
President Bill Clinton said there could be a suspension of the bombing, but only if Yugoslavia accepted Nato's basic demands.

He was speaking before talks with Russia's Balkans envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin, in Washington on Monday.

After the meeting, Mr Chernomyrdin said the sides were now "closer" to a diplomatic solution, but White House officials stressed there had been no breakthrough.


The BBC's Stephen Sackur: Air strikes will continue
Mr Clinton encouraged the Russians to keep trying. He also said that Washington was not interested in total victory over Yugoslavia.

The talks apparently focused on Nato's conditions for ending the air war against Yugoslavia.


[ image:  ]
Mr Chernomyrdin said: "It is a very complicated issue. We will keep on working. We remain hopeful."

He is due to travel to New York on Tuesday to see the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

In a sign of improving relations, the US said it was considering releasing two Yugoslav soldiers it is holding, following appeals from civil rights leader Jesse Jackson - who on Sunday secured the freedom of three Americans.

But after a meeting with Reverend Jackson, Mr Clinton turned down a suggestion that he contact Mr Milosevic directly.

Talks continue

Mr Chernomyrdin brought President Clinton a letter from the Russian President Boris Yeltsin which he said contained concrete proposals to end Nato's air war against Yugoslavia.

Before leaving Moscow, Mr Chernomyrdin said he would be offering what he called "variants" for a settlement and indicated that he might return to Belgrade after his US visit.


Stephen Sackur in Washington:"Every indication that Bill Clinton is interested"
On Monday, the US State Department spokesman, James Rubin, said Washington wanted to find out from Mr Chernomyrdin if there was any difference between what Yugoslavia had been saying in public and what was going on in private.

Mr Chernomyrdin was also due to meet briefly with Japan's Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.

TV building hit

Mr Chernomyrdin's visit came as Nato planes carried out the quietest night of the alliance's bombing campaign on Yugoslavia.

On Monday night, Serb media reported damage to a TV station in northern Serbia and a military airport near Belgrade.

Two missiles struck a television station in Novi Sad just after 2000GMT, setting it on fire but causing no injuries.

Explosions were also heard in the Belgrade suburb of Rakovica and near the city of Kraljevo in central Serbia.

The all-clear sounded in Belgrade early on Tuesday morning.

Bus bombed


[ image:  ]
On Monday, a Nato missile was reported to have struck another bus in Kosovo, causing fatalities to women and children.

Belgrade radio and television stations said 20 people had been killed and 43 injured.

The bus was reported to have been hit while on the road from Pec in western Kosovo to Rozaje in neighbouring Montenegro.

Montenegrin radio reported that five other vehicles - three civilian and two police - had also been hit.


John Simpson in Belgrade: Civilian casualties seem likely to go up
Nato said it had no information on the report.

The latest incident followed what Nato said was a tragic accident on Saturday, when one of its missiles hit another bus in Kosovo, killing at least 24 people.

Prisoners reunited


[ image: The three US soldiers: Celebrating freedom with Jesse Jackson]
The three US soldiers: Celebrating freedom with Jesse Jackson
The soldiers freed by Rev Jackson - Staff Sergeant Christopher Stone, Staff Sergeant Andrew Ramirez, and Specialist Corporal Steven Gonzales - have been reunited with their families at a US medical facility in Germany.

They are undergoing debriefing and medical examinations.

The three made a brief appearance with relatives on a hospital balcony, saying they felt "great".

President Clinton may pay a visit to them during a visit to Germany on Wednesday and Thursday to hold talks with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.


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