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Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK

UK Politics

Blair: Cast out Milosevic

Tony Blair meeting refugees at a Macedonian camp during his trip

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has compared Serbia to Hitler's Germany, stressing it could re-join the international community.

In a speech to the Romanian Parliament, Mr Blair urged Serbians to "cast out" President Slobodan Milosevic and embrace democracy.

Bridget Kendall reports on the scenes that greeted Tony Blair in the refugee camps
The British prime minister, at the end of a brief tour of the Balkan region, acknowledged the impact of the Kosovo conflict on Yugoslavia's neighbours.

But he chose to use his address in Bucharest to speak directly to the Serb people.

Kosovo: Special Report
He said: "In 1945, Germany was still under Hitler. Within 10 years it had re-established its democracy, re-built its cities, joined Nato, and was in at the birth of what is now the European Union.

"Germany reconstructed itself within a decade as a peace-loving nation and an impeccable member of the international community, and today is a resolute and leading player in Operation Allied Force.

"Serbia can re-join the world community too. But that prospect will only be a reality when corrupt dictatorship is cast out and real democracy returns to the former Republic of Yugoslavia."

'Halt the killing'

Before work could begin to rebuild Yugoslavia, the Serb leadership had to accept certain demands set down by Nato, Mr Blair said.

Brits in Balkans
"First, we have to prevail in Kosovo: Halt the killing and repression, get Serb forces out and put an international military force in so that the refugees can return in security and re-build their lives.

"These demands are not excessive, they must be met."

The prime minister acknowledged countries such as Romania felt the effects of the air strikes more keenly than Britain.

He appealed to Romanians to accept the need to ensure ethnic violence was not tolerated in Europe.

[ image: Tony Blair also met British troops in Skopje]
Tony Blair also met British troops in Skopje
"This is a crisis for us in Nato but it is an even greater one for Romania and other countries on the front line."

Mr Blair promised the United Kingdom would lead the push to bring Romania into the European Union at the Helsinki summit in December.

International assistance would also meet some of the economic cost of the conflict in Romania.

Nato's air attacks have blocked the river Danube, which is one of the Balkans' most vital trade arteries

"This crisis on your doorstep has inflicted a heavy economic price. Oil exports halted, trade with Yugoslavia disrupted, shipping up the Danube to your big markets in Western Europe blocked by the bridges we have had to destroy - all these costs build up.

"I recognise that, and we will do what we can internationally to help you absorb them."

Aid boost

Mr Blair flew into Bucharest, the Romanian capital, on Monday night after spending the day in neighbouring Macedonia touring a refugee camp and visiting a Kosovo border crossing.

[ image: The plight of refugees strengthened the UK prime minister's determination]
The plight of refugees strengthened the UK prime minister's determination
He returned to London later on Tuesday after his trip aimed at boosting support for Nato's campaign against Yugoslavia.

Mr Blair saw for himself the plight of those Kosovo Albanians who have been displaced from their homes.

He crossed into no-man's land on the Kosovo border on Monday after promising to double aid to the area to some £40m, and take in more refugees.

He said afterwards: "We must redouble our commitment to these people".

In his speech to the Romanian Parliament, he described more of the horrors of the refugee camps and the images he had seen there.

"Their message was simple and it was dignified. We are leaving for now, but please, please help us to go back," he said.

"I felt an anger so strong, a loathing of what Milosevic's policy stands for so powerful, that I pledged to them as I pledge to you now: that Milosevic and his hideous racial genocide will be defeated."

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