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Wednesday, May 26, 1999 Published at 06:23 GMT 07:23 UK

World: Europe

Troops boost for Nato

Nato troops will eventually help refugees to return to Kosovo

Nato is stepping up the pressure on Belgrade by almost doubling the size of its peacekeeping force destined for Kosovo.

Kosovo: Special Report
The force, named Operation Joint Guardian, is expected to number about 50,000 troops, although the exact figure and composition of the mission will be determined by military commanders in the course of the week.

Kosovo Albanian refugees are on the move once again in Kukes in northern Albania, at the start of a new more organised phase of the relocation process.

The BBC's David Shukman: Kosovo will be far more hazardous than at first thought
And Nato planes have been launching daytime raids against Yugoslav targets, striking at television and radio relay stations, Yugoslav media sources report.

In Belgrade, three aid workers - two Australians and a Yugoslav national - are to go on trial on Wednesday, charged with espionage.

Nato plans

Nato says its plan to boost the size of its peacekeeping force from 28,000 was extensively discussed by member countries over the weekend.

Nato spokesman Jamie Shea: This is what I call our Teddy Roosevelt force
The troops will be heavily armed and ready to head into Kosovo as soon as Serb troops leave the province.

Non members will be briefed by Nato and asked if they are interested in taking part.

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

Although it is not intended to fight their way into Kosovo, the peacekeepers could provide the core of such a force should a decision on that be taken in the future.

Mark Laity at Nato HQ: The force will escort the refugees and then defend them
The BBC correspondent in Brussels, Nick Childs, says the reinforcements will take the heat out of the debate over ground troops, but possibly not for more than a few weeks.

Refugees on the move

Some 200 Kosovo Albanians from a Kukes refugee camp were transported to other parts of Albania early this morning in a Dutch Nato vehicle.

[ image: The UN wants Kukes to be just a transit area]
The UN wants Kukes to be just a transit area
Several hundred who crossed into Albania in the last 24 hours were also being moved on without delay.

The UN refugee agency hopes the voluntary movement of refugees to better equipped will lead to the eventual closure of the refugee camps around the northern town of Kukes.

The border area is considered unsafe because it lies within range of Serbian artillery positions in Kosovo.

Orla Guerin on the Macedonian border: Macedonia is near breaking point
Meanwhile, in Macedonia, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is warning of a potential new crisis as refugees continue to arrive at the border.

UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said 8,500 refugees had entered the country on Monday and a similar number was expected on Tuesday.

"The camps are once again going to be overstretched," he said.

Aid workers on trial

Steve Pratt and Peter Wallace of the charity Care Australia who go on trial in Belgrade alongside a Yugoslav colleague, were arrested at the end of March as they tried to leave Serbia.

Steve Pratt is accused of organising an espionage network and the other two are charged with providing him.

But officials from Care Australia insist none of the men are spies and that the information they gathered was used solely to ensure the security of those who worked for the charity.

There have been a number of failed attempts by diplomats and officials of the charity Care Australia to secure the release of the three men.

If convicted by the military court they face long prison sentences.

Deserters face courts martial

The Yugoslav army is reported to have banned anti-war demonstrations and warned deserters to return to their units or face courts martial.

[ image:  ]
The Montenegrin daily, Vijesti, reported the army had issued a statement ordering deserters to return by midday on Tuesday or face a court martial by a so-called War Court.

Reservists began returning to their homes in southern Serbia last week after relatives protested about the continuing war, prompted by the return of the bodies of conscripted soldiers.

Over the weekend, the Commander of the Yugoslav 3rd Army, General Nebojsa Pavkovic, arrived in the town of Raska, offering to treat the soldiers' absence as extended leave if they returned to their units.

However, soldiers joined civilians in large demonstrations against the war in Krusevac and Aleksandrovac on Monday. Four prominent anti-war protestors were reported to have been arrested in the nearby town of Cacak.

Rape allegations

A new United Nations report documents allegations of widespread rapes by Serbian soldiers in Kosovo.

The report for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was based on interviews with 35 ethnic Albanian women in refugee camps in Albania.

It says the women from Djakovica, Pec and the Drenica region reported being raped sometimes for days.

They said they were taken in groups of five to 30 women and locked up in houses where the Serbian soldiers lived.

The report says women who were released had lacerations on their chest and evidence of beatings on their arms and legs. It says other rape victims were systematically killed.

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