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Saturday, May 15, 1999 Published at 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK


World: Europe

Nato regrets civilian deaths

Serbs say refugees had been spending the night in Korisa

Nato has said that it attacked the village in southern Kosovo where up to 100 civilians died on Friday.

Kosovo: Special Report
The Alliance confirmed at a briefing on Saturday that it dropped 10 bombs on the village saying it was a "legitimate military target".

Nato said the village of Korisa had been used as a military camp since April and deeply regretted any accidental civilian casualties.


Nato Spokesman Jamie Shea: "We attacked a legitimate military target"
Speaking on the BBC, Nato spokesman Jamie Shea said: "We have reports that soldiers were also involved in the casualties, not simply civilians."

BBC Correspondent Jacky Rowland, who visited the village on Saturday, said she saw no evidence of any military equipment in the area although if there had been any it could have been moved over the past 24 hours.


Jacky Rowland: "Our ability to investigate is quite limited"
Nato also denied Serbian reports that it dropped cluster bombs on the village.

Meanwhile, a committee of UK MPs has condemned a United Nations' agency for its handling of the Kosovo refugee crisis.


[ image:  ]
They said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had not coped well when the crisis first broke, and was still failing to meet refugees' needs.

And the UN team heading for Kosovo, has left Geneva for the first part of its humanitarian mission to Yugoslavia.

Sixteen people from the UN's main agencies as well as the British Save the Children Fund, are on the way to Zagreb, where they'll travel overland to Belgrade.

The team expects to be in Belgrade on Sunday and in Kosovo by the middle of next week.

The Mission spokesman, David Chikraidze, said the team, which would be escorted by Yugoslav police, had been assured access to some of the towns where refugees had spoken of systematic ethnic cleansing.

Grieving relatives


BBC World Affairs Correspondent Kevin Connelly: "This situation will leave a lot of questions to be answered"
Yugoslav officials insist there were no military targets in the Korisa area. If the Serb account is confirmed, Korisa would be the worst Nato blunder of its air campaign in terms of fatalities.

Pictures shot by foreign television crews showed a number of charred bodies - including those of at least two children - smouldering buildings and burned out tractors.

Grieving survivors remained in the area with around 50 women and children huddled, weeping in the cellar of a nearby house.


[ image:  ]
According to the Serbian authorities the majority of those killed and injured were women, children and the elderly. They say the victims were part of a convoy of 500 refugees travelling to Albania.

It is reported that about 80 bodies have so far been removed from the scene but Serb authorities say the final death toll could be higher.

The news of the devastation at Korisa came as Nato gave details of what it said was its heaviest 24-hours of bombing in the campaign against Yugoslavia so far.

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

The alliance says it has been increasing the frequency and force of its bombing in Kosovo, targeting the heavy armour of the Yugoslav military and special police units there, while taking all measures to avoid civilian casualities.


[ image: Nato has denied evidence of a Serb withdrawal from Kosovo]
Nato has denied evidence of a Serb withdrawal from Kosovo
Nato warplanes attacked several targets in Serbia on Saturday, Tanjug news agency reported.

Explosions were reported by the Yugoslav state news agency, Tanjug, at Cacak and, 120km southwest of Belgrade, Kraljevo, 150km south of Belgrade.

Tanjug also reported that villages near Kraljevo were attacked.

Fall-out clears

The diplomatic fall-out from the Nato bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade appears to be easing.


The BBC's Virginia Eastman: "Nato says that they are determined to go on"
After repeated US apologies Chinese President Jiang Zemin and US President Bill Clinton held their first telephone conversation since last Friday's attack which Nato said was a result of using outdated maps.

The UN Security Council has also expressed "profound regret and deep sorrow" for the attack, after a week of bitter wrangling in which China's proposed text was diluted.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has announced that he will visit Macedonia and Albania next week, to assess the needs of the refugees there, and to show solidarity with their suffering.


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Internet Links


Nato

Serbian Ministry of Information

Kosovo Crisis Centre

UNHCR Kosovo news

Eyewitness accounts of the bombing

OSCE

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs


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