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Thursday, March 25, 1999 Published at 06:20 GMT


History in the making

There is a sense of history in the UK's papers on Thursday, with detailed coverage of the bombing raids on Yugoslavia.

For the headline of three papers, Nato's action is an "onslaught" although others are more original.

Few who have followed The Sun's coverage of such events in the past will be too surprised by its front page.

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"Clobba Slobba: Our boys batter butcher of Serbia in Nato blitz" says the paper, in a stinging attack of its own on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Meanwhile the Daily Star's message to President Milosevic - and what it calls his "family from hell" - is almost as stark.

"Serbs you right" reckons the paper on its front page, although inside it warns that "we risk becoming bogged down in a terrifying war of attrition".

The Mirror's front page is more reserved, although no less dramatic.

"Europe at war" cries the paper before sternly warning that "Russia threatens military reprisals".

The Daily Mail announces "for the first time since Hitler, Europe goes to war - and on a massive scale".

But like other papers its detailed explanation of the crisis goes back much further in time to analyse a situation it describes as a "timebomb with a 500-year fuse".

The Sun also sees this as "the worst moment Europe has faced since 1945".

But it also points out a striking contrast to the Second World War as "Top Gun RAF pilots" took to the skies alongside "German Luftwaffe aces".

Eyewitness reports

"On the run in Kosovo with a price on my head" is the headline of a front page article in The Times.

Reporter Anthony Loyd claims: "I now know what it is like to be an ethnic Albanian on the run from the forces of an oppressive regime."

He describes how he realised it was unsafe to stay in Kosovo as "gangs of armed Serb civilians" singled out journalists for attack.

Mr Loyd's journey to get out took him through a country "on the brink of war" to the border with Macedonia, where he was allowed through.

There he "realised that the difference between me and two million Kosovo Albanians was that I could escape".

The Guardian's reporter Jonathan Steele remains in the Kosovan capital Pristina and describes the contrasting feelings of the city's two communities.

While some Serb families turned off their lights in line with instructions from the authorities, Kosovo Albanians watched from their balconies "in excitement mixed with foreboding".

Meanwhile in the Daily Telegraph there are reports from Belgrade and Pristina as well as RAF Wittering in Cambridgeshire, home of the Harrier GR7 jump jets involved in the action.

Wednesday, says the paper, was "a day of great tension" for the base and the village.

The next step

The Guardian is one of the papers most supportive of the action and even calls for "discreet but serious" preparations for a ground war.

It also suggests this might be easier than many analysts believe.

"Serb strength has been overestimated. Milosevic's time has passed," insists a leading article.

The Financial Times is a great deal more circumspect and warns politicians in Nato countries not to abdicate responsibility to their armed forces.

A heavy-handed approach could splinter Nato unity, fuel Russia's opposition and contribute to widening the war, it says.

The Express admits that the conflict was inevitable, but like many papers it wants to know "what comes next?"

"Nothing is more counter-productive than a threat not followed through," it admits, before warning that Nato must have a contingency plan should the air strikes fail.

The Independent sees the decision to attack as a "deadly gamble", albeit one that had to be taken.

It also points out that anxieties are high in neighbouring states such as Macedonia and Albania, and even in Greece, Turkey and Italy, where air defence batteries have been set up on the south-east coast.

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