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BELGRADE THURSDAY BY GUY DINMORE

April 8, 1999

Voice of America April 4 1999

INTRO: SPYROS KYPRIANOU, THE ACTING PRESIDENT OF CYPRUS, HAS FLOWN TO BELGRADE HOPING TO NEGOTIATE THE RELEASE OF THREE US SERVICEMEN CAPTURED BY YUGOSLAV FORCES ON THE BORDER WITH MACEDONIA LAST WEEK. THE SUCCESS OF HIS MISSION MAY DEPEND ON WHETHER NATO LAUNCHES ANOTHER NIGHT OF AIR RAIDS ON THE YUGOSLAV CAPITAL. GUY DINMORE REPORTS

TEXT: PRESIDENT KYPRIANOU ARRIVED ABOARD A GREEK MILITARY AIRCRAFT FROM ATHENS AND IS SPENDING THE NIGHT IN BELGRADE. HE HAS A MEETING SCHEDULED WITH YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC FRIDAY BUT IT IS FAR FROM CERTAIN THAT THE THREE U-S SERVICEMEN WILL BE RELEASED.

DIPLOMATS IN BELGRADE WEDNESDAY EXPRESSED HOPE THAT MR MILOSEVIC WOULD FREE THE PRISONERS OF WAR AS A GESTURE OF GOOD WILL TO MARK ORTHODOX EASTER ON SUNDAY (4/11). BUT THAT WAS BEFORE NATO LAUNCHED ANOTHER RAID WEDNESDAY NIGHT ON CENTRAL BELGRADE — DESTROYING AN EMPTY GOVERNMENT BUILDING AND DAMAGING A NEARBY HOSPITAL.

DIPLOMATS NOW SPECULATE THAT SERB OFFICIALS INTEND TO USE THE PRISONERS TO PUT PRESSURE ON NATO TO HALT ITS AIR CAMPAIGN, AT LEAST FOR 24 HOURS. UNUSUALLY NO AIR RAID SIRENS HAD SOUNDED IN BELGRADE BY MID-EVENING THURSDAY.

YUGOSLAVIA SAID ITS FORCES CAPTURED THE THREE MEN — JAMES STONE, ANDREW RAMIREZ AND STEVEN GONZALES — ON ITS SIDE OF THE BORDER WITH MACEDONIA. NATO INSISTS THE SOLDIERS, PART OF A PROPOSED PEACEKEEPING FORCE, WERE ABDUCTED FROM INSIDE MACEDONIA AND SAYS THEY SHOULD BE RELEASED UNCONDITIONALLY.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT’S RAIDS WERE THE SECOND ON CENTRAL BELGRADE SINCE NATO LAUNCHED ITS AIR CAMPAIGN ON MARCH 24 IN AN ATTEMPT TO FORCE MR. MILOSEVIC TO ACCEPT A PEACE DEAL FOR KOSOVO PROVINCE. THE RAIDS HAVE ENRAGED SERBS IN BELGRADE EVEN FURTHER. SOME HAVE VENTED THEIR ANGER ON ABANDONED WESTERN EMBASSIES IN THEIR CITY. THE STATE-CONTROLLED MEDIA HAS NOT EVEN REPORTED MR KYPRIANOU’S ARRIVAL.

STATE TELEVISION FOCUSED INSTEAD ON CLAIMS BY BELGRADE TO HAVE HALTED ITS OFFENSIVE AGAINST ETHNIC ALBANIAN REBELS IN KOSOVO, IN ACCORDANCE WITH SERBIA’S DECLARATION OF A UNILATERAL CEASEFIRE TO MARK EASTER. US OFFICIALS SAY THESE OVERTURES BY MR. MILOSEVIC COULD BE THE FIRST SIGN THAT YUGOSLAVIA IS TRYING TO EXTRICATE ITSELF FROM THE WAR WITH NATO. BUT THE SERBIAN GOVERNMENT MAINTAINS IT WILL NOT CAPITULATE TO NATO’S DEMANDS, WHICH BELGRADE SAYS WOULD LEAD TO INDEPENDENCE FOR KOSOVO PROVINCE. (SIGNED)
NEB/GD/JO
08-Apr-99 3:46 PM EDT (1946 UTC)
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Source: Voice of America

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