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Thursday, April 1, 1999 Published at 07:37 GMT 08:37 UK


UK: Nato is not going away

Refugees are flooding out of Kosovo

 Click here for live coverage on the crisis

UK Defence Secretary George Robertson has told Parliament that Nato's attacks on Serb forces would "strengthen, continue and become increasingly painful", as the conflict enters its second week.

George Robertson: "The most horrific crimes are being perpetrated"
In his last address to the House of Commons before it rises for Easter, Mr Robertson said the strikes would go on unless the repression of Kosovo Albanians ceased.

He described Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic as "huddled in his bunker, wondering how he can possibly extricate himself from his predicament".

Kosovo: Special Report
He rejected outright Mr Milosevic's peace offer made on Tuesday, saying: "It's not a peace move, it is a panic move."

On Tuesday, a peace mission to Serbia headed by Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov failed to negotiate an end to air strikes.

Nato's terms for ending the bombing are an immediate and permanent end to the killing in Kosovo, the verified withdrawal of Serb forces and a political settlement allowing refugees to return home, Mr Robertson said.

[ image: George Robertson: Bullish performance]
George Robertson: Bullish performance
In a bullish statement, the defence secretary said Nato air strikes were the "only salvation" for Kosovo Albanian civilians, after reports of increased Serb violence and evictions.

He quoted a statement by a Kosovo Albanian representative that said: "People in Kosovo are fully in accord with Nato action...they only hope and desperately ask for an increase in Nato activity."

Mr Robertson said that "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo was "not just murder - it is premeditated murder", based on Nato intelligence that Serb forces had begun action against the ethnic Albanian population weeks before air strikes began.

[ image: A-10 Thunderbolt 'Tank busters' are ready for action]
A-10 Thunderbolt 'Tank busters' are ready for action
Evidence on war crimes suspects had been passed to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague, he told MPs.

"We know who they are, where they live and what they are doing now."

He confirmed that one RAF Hercules carrying tents, plastic sheeting and blankets has been sent from RAF Prestwick to Skopje in Macedonia in order to help alleviate the escalating refugee crisis.

The UK is spending £10m on relief for refugees, as the United Nations warns that those inside Kosovo could begin to starve in less than two weeks.

On Thursday the next of several further UK aid flights is to leave Copenhagen for Tirana.

Flights will leave from different European and African locations where crisis supplies have been assembled.

More bombers

Latest figures suggest that Kosovo Albanian refugees are flooding into surrounding countries, with an estimated 90,000 in Albania, 20,000 in Montenegro and 15,000 in Macedonia.

[ image:  ]
Mr Robertson said five US Air Force B1 warplanes were being sent to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, which will "add considerably to Nato's ability to hit military targets".

He revealed that Nato had carried out 100 attacks on 70 sites, seriously damaging Serb air defences.

RAF Harriers had attacked two facilities, destroying a total of five targets.

More sorties had been flown, he said, but some bombs had not been dropped in order to limit "unnecessary collateral damage and civilian casualties".

"Milosevic may randomly kill, be we operate to higher standards," he said.

George Robertson in heated debate with the BBC's John Humphreys on the deployment of ground troops
Nato said that air operations continued to be hampered by adverse weather conditions, with high winds grounding several planes on Wednesday.

Speaking on BBC News 24 after Mr Robertson's statement, Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said he was "disappointed".

"I wish he'd said that there's going to be a renewed effort to involve the United Nations and try and get a ceasefire so that the Kosovars can return to Kosovo itself and the bombing can stop," he said.

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