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Sunday, May 30, 1999 Published at 22:47 GMT 23:47 UK

World: Europe

Nato confirms bridge attack

Varvarin: Cars may have fallen into the water after the strike

Nato says its aircraft carried out an attack on a bridge in the south-central Serbian town of Varvarin, which Yugoslav reports say killed at least 11 civilians.

Kosovo: Special Report

At least 40 people were injured when four missiles blasted the bridge, the state run news agency Tanjug said.

In a separate report, Tanjug said foreign journalists travelling in a car in Kosovo were also subject to a Nato attack.

The agency said the driver was killed and one British, one French and one Italian journalist had been injured.

The UK Foreign Office said it had been informed that a journalist from The Times newspaper, Eve-Ann Prentice, was being treated in a hospital in Prizren.

A colleague at The Times said an interpreter travelling with the journalists had also been killed.

Nato issued a statement on Sunday, confirming four planes had attacked the bridge over the Velika Morava river at Varvarin. All "precision-guided ordnance" had hit the target, it said.

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The alliance described the bridge as a "designated and legitimate target", adding it was "unable to confirm the Serbian report of casualties, but never intentionally targets civilians".

Yugoslav media said the final death toll might rise, as some cars on the bridge fell into the river. The injured were reportedly taken to hospitals in nearby Krusevac and Paracin.

Nato is understood to have struck at 1pm local time (1100GMT) on Sunday, Tanjug said the area would have been crowded with people attending the town market.

BBC World Affairs Correspondent Hugh Schofield: "Bridges considered a legitimate target"
The agency also reported damage to a hotel and a local business centre.

The bridge is thought to be the sole remaining direct link from the north to the south central region of Serbia.

In two previous bridge attacks, injuring or killing civilians, Nato has admitted carrying out the strike in one case, but denied responsibility for the other.

Fresh atrocity stories

In a separate development, UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook denied newspaper reports that Nato defence ministers had discussed launching of a ground invasion of Kosovo when they met in Bonn on Thursday.

BBC Correspondent Mike Williams in Belgrade reports on the alleged bridge attack
The UK Government also denied that there were plans to call up hundreds of civilian doctors and nurses to serve in Kosovo.

Saturday was the 68th day of the bombing campaign. It coincided with a fresh exodus of refugees from Kosovo into Macedonia.

Many refugees told stories of atrocities and abuse at the hands of Serb forces. Men said they were held in a prison and attacked by their guards.

Orla Guerin reports: "The men tell of systematic abuse in Serbian prison camps"
The UN refugee agency says it has no reason to doubt the main points of their testimony and that some of the physical evidence speaks for itself.

Elsewhere, Italian coastguards rescued a group of about 500 Kosovo Albanian refugees whose fishing vessel ran into difficulties while they were being smuggled across the sea from Montenegro to Italy.

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

The refugees were taken to the Italian port city of Bari, where they have been given temporary asylum.

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The bombing continued on Saturday night despite the latest diplomatic mission to Belgrade by Russian envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin.

After his visit, Yugoslavia reiterated its "general acceptance" of the principles drawn up for a diplomatic settlement by Russia and the seven other G8 nations.

Nato has pressed Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to confirm this position, as another 68 US warplanes join the Nato force engaged against Yugoslavia.

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