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Wednesday, June 9, 1999 Published at 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK

World: Europe

Belgrade hopes for end to bombing

Smoke rises over the Danube from Pancevo refinery

By BBC World Affairs Editor, John Simpson, in Belgrade

With luck, this may be the last heavy destruction of 11 weeks of conflict.

On Monday evening, an oil refinery in the Belgrade suburb of Pancevo went up. Tens of billions of pounds worth of damage has been done to the industry of this country in order to force an agreement which President Slobodan Milosevic could have had back in March.

The cost in human life has been high. Something like 1,400 civilians are said to have been killed, most of them by accident, though the myth that Nato deliberately targets civilians in order to break the country's spirit has become generally accepted here.

Just about over

[ image: Hopes for a return to peace]
Hopes for a return to peace
Now that it seems to be just about all over, you don't get any sense at all here of elation or anything like it.

The BBC's John Simpson: "Milosevic appeared on TV for only the second time in the war - to claim victory"
This country suffered a good deal in the last few weeks and the ending of the whole thing has been pretty humiliating. The overwhelming feeling seems to be one of longing to get back to some kind of normal life.

As people waited for the number seven tram to go home on Tuesday evening, they knew they'd almost certainly spend the night free of bombing.

No more fear, no more hurrying to the shelter. It was a considerable relief.

One woman said all people here want is to live like other people all over the world. Other people worry about what will happen after the war is over.

'We negotiate in good faith'

The agreement which has brought the war to an end was explained, after a fashion, by the Foreign Ministry spokesman Nebojsa Vujovic. He had rushed back to Belgrade from the military talks in Macedonia.

"As far as we are concerned, there are no problems," said Vujovic."That's because we negotiate in good faith to implement each and every point contained in a political document. We are not backpeddling. But the other delegation tried to backpedal."

He meant Nato, of course, but he never mentioned the name once. It was as though Yugoslavia had done a deal with the UN instead. It's part of President Milosevic's strategy to persuade people here that he's somehow won a moral victory.

[ image: Children play in dry fountains in the Yugoslav capital]
Children play in dry fountains in the Yugoslav capital
Mr Milosevic himself hasn't appeared in public or even on television since Wednesday when he met President Ahtisaari of Finland and gave in to Nato's demands. Now he's beginning his fight back to try to ensure he stays in power.

But for now, this country is cleaning up after 77 days of bombing. On Monday night, presumably by mistake, Nato hit a farm in eastern Serbia. Two men and a woman were killed. Hopefully, these are the last collateral victims of this war.

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