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Saturday, April 24, 1999 Published at 05:11 GMT 06:11 UK


Hungary backs broadcasts to Serbia

Nato has targeted bridges linking Serbia with Hungary

Hungarian officials have confirmed reports that the country's airspace is being used by Nato military aircraft to relay radio programmes to Yugoslavia.

The Hungarian daily newspaper Nepszava reported that for the past few days, an airborne radio station on board a Nato aircraft in Hungary's airspace has been transmitting Voice of America and Radio Free Europe programmes to Yugoslavia.

The special plane was said to be flying at high altitude broadcasting around the clock on FM 100.5 and 106.5 in Serbo-Croat and English to Serb relay stations.

Although officials in Budapest have generally declined to comment on the issue, the Hungarian Foreign Ministry said any such transmissions aimed to give the population in Serbia more objective reporting than was allowed under what it called President Slobodan Milosevic's "restrictive" administration.

If there were radio transmissions from Hungary's airspace to Yugoslavia, they could only have been temporary, Foreign Ministry spokesman Gabor Horvath said, according to Hungarian media reports.

"If there was such an activity, its purpose was clearly to provide the Yugoslav public with objective and authentic information," he said.

Sensitive issue

The official Website of the US Department of Defence has reported that Nato started beaming TV broadcasts to Yugoslav viewers via a US Air Force Commando Solo psychological operations aircraft - a converted Hercules military transport plane.

According to VOA, the aircraft is "in the air and on the air again, this time somewhere near Serbia".

The airborne station calls itself the Allied Voice Radio and Television, and it is said to broadcast on 1003 kHz mediumwave and 87.9 and 106 .5 MHz FM.

Hungarian support for Nato action is potentially sensitive for the government, with Yugoslavia home to a sizeable minority of some 300,000 ethnic Hungarians.

A new poll of 500 telephone respondents published in one of Budapest's mainstream dailies showed a wafer-thin majority backing Nato air strikes in Yugoslavia, but more than two-thirds saying Budapest should not allow Nato forces on its soil for any campaign involving ground troops over the Kosovo crisis.

Hungarian airspace and airport facilities are already used extensively for Nato planes overflying the country on their way to missions in Yugoslavia.

Hungary, which joined the alliance along with Poland and the Czech Republic only 12 days before the bombing began, is the only Nato member bordering Yugoslavia.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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