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Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 16:15 GMT 17:15 UK

World: Europe

Serbs 'must end rights abuses'

Tens of thousands have fled the violence in Kosovo

Yugoslavia must end its "vicious human rights violations" in Kosovo, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, has said on a visit to Belgrade.

Kosovo: Special Report
But she was also critical of Nato's bombing campaign, saying its targeting policy was much too wide.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin has also attacked the alliance's air raids, telling French President Jacques Chirac that unless they are stopped Russia will review its participation in peace efforts.

Nato's overnight attacks were hindered by poor weather, but a spokesman said the alliance had maintained the pressure on Serb forces in Kosovo on Wednesday.

In a statement, Mrs Robinson said Yugoslavia had to commit itself to the unconditional and safe return of all refugees.

BBC Belgrade Correspondent Mike Williams said the commissioner was annoyed that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had refused to meet her.

The BBC's Jon Leyne: "There is evidence that the propaganda offensive continues"
She did see Yugoslav Foreign Minister, Zivadin Jovanovic, on Thursday morning and raised with him a number of refugee accounts of ethnic cleansing.

She also said Nato bombing had brought cruel suffering to innocent civilians in Yugoslavia and that she had been very concerned to see the impact of the alliance's attacks in the southern town of Nis.

She said the cruel suffering caused by both sides made her conscious of the need for a political resolution to the conflict.

'Advancing towards peace'

On the diplomatic front, Mr Chirac said his talks with Russian leaders had brought some progress. He said he was sure Moscow would not end its bid to mediate in the crisis despite threats to do so.

"I think that I can say we have progressed and that the days to come will show that we are advancing towards peace," he said after meetings in Moscow with President Yeltsin, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin.

[ image: Joschka Fischer was bombarded with red ink]
Joschka Fischer was bombarded with red ink
Mr Ivanov said earlier on Thursday that Mr Yeltsin had warned his French counterpart that Russia might reconsider its role in peace efforts if Nato continued to bomb Yugoslavia.

In Germany, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer urged his Green Party, the junior party in the coalition, to vote down a resolution for an immediate Nato ceasefire - or risk undermining the German Government.

Arriving for the meeting, Mr Fischer encountered angry anti-war protesters who threw a paint bomb at him. He was later taken to hospital for checks.

Bombing to intensify

Despite Russian and Chinese opposition to the bombing, the United States has said Nato is to step up its aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia, with the Pentagon deploying a further 35 aircraft.

(Click here to see a map of last night's Nato strikes)

Nato's attacks on Wednesday were concentrated in the southern and western regions of Kosovo.

Elsewhere, the alliance said it had destroyed another five Serb aircraft on the ground, bringing the total to 100.

Overall, Nato said it had destroyed 40% of artillery, 25% of armour and most of the ammunition and fuel for the forces operating in Kosovo.

[ image: Nato denied evidence of a Serb withdrawal from Kosovo]
Nato denied evidence of a Serb withdrawal from Kosovo
It also said it had indications that the number of Serb troops killed was considerably higher than first estimated.

The alliance on Thursday played down reports that 250 Serb troops had pulled out of Kosovo.

Nato's military spokesman, General Walter Jertz, said the alliance had no proof of any pull-out and that any troop redeployment was a tactic forced by the air strikes.

He said: "We have not detected any evidence that Serb ground forces are leaving Kosovo so far.

"However, we strongly believe that the effectiveness of our recent airstrikes against ground forces in Kosovo has caused some tactical redeployment in forward areas, probably to seek better refuge or to regroup."

Tribute to Serbian forces

[ image: Yugoslavia admitting to military casualties]
Yugoslavia admitting to military casualties
In Belgrade, President Milosevic paid tribute to the efforts of many members of Serbia's security forces who he said had been killed defending Yugoslavia in the Kosovo conflict.

The statement, read out on state-run television, gave no exact figures, but it was a rare reference to casualties.

Correspondents said the statement could represent an increasing understanding on the part of Belgrade that it may be impossible to defeat the Western alliance.

President Milosevic also said that the armed forces had successfully crushed the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army.

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