BELGRADE MONDAY WRAP

April 12, 1999

Voice of America, April 12 1999

INTRO: AT LEAST EIGHT CIVILIANS WERE KILLED MONDAY WHEN A NATO PLANE BOMBED A TRAIN IN SOUTHERN SERBIA. GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ARE OUTRAGED AT THE GROWING NUMBER OF CIVILIAN CASUALTIES AND YUGOSLAVIA’S PARLIAMENT HAS VOTED TO JOIN AN ALLIANCE WITH RUSSIA AND BELARUS. GUY DINMORE REPORTS

TEXT: FOREIGN REPORTERS, TAKEN BY THE YUGOSLAV ARMY TO THE SITE OF THE AIR RAID, DESCRIBED A SCENE OF UTTER DEVASTATION. CHARRED BODIES WERE BEING PULLED FROM THE BURNED-OUT WRECKAGE OF A CARRIAGE HIT BY ONE BOMB, WHILE DIVERS WERE SCOURING THE RIVER BELOW FOR MORE VICTIMS. BY LATE AFTERNOON SERBIAN OFFICIALS CONFIRMED THAT AT LEAST EIGHT PEOPLE, INCLUDING ONE CHILD, HAD BEEN KILLED AND 16 WOUNDED.

THE TRAIN WAS TRAVELLING NORTH FROM THE TOWN OF VRANJE THROUGH THE WINDING GRDELICKA GORGE MID-MORNING MONDAY WHEN, ACCORDING TO SERBIAN OFFICIALS, A BOMB DROPPED FROM A PLANE BROKE THE OVERHEAD ELECTRICITY LINES. THE TRAIN GROUND TO A HALT ON A BRIDGE, CLOSE TO ANOTHER BRIDGE USED BY ROAD TRAFFIC. THE PLANE RETURNED FOR ANOTHER SORTIE AND A SECOND BOMB HIT THE TRAIN DIRECTLY.

NATO CONFIRMED IT HAD TARGETED THE BRIDGE BUT SAID IT HAD NOT INTENDED TO HIT THE TRAIN.

SUCH NATO EXPLANATIONS WERE REJECTED BY OFFICIALS IN BELGRADE WHERE PUBLIC OUTRAGE IS MOUNTING ALONG WITH THE CIVILIAN CASUALTIES FROM MORE THAN TWO WEEKS OF NATO AIR STRIKES. SERBIAN NEWSPAPERS MONDAY PUBLISHED A PICTURE OF A BABY GIRL KILLED ALONG WITH HER FATHER IN ANOTHER AIR RAID SUNDAY.

DEPUTY YUGOSLAV PRIME MINISTER VUK DRASKOVIC SAID NATO WAS INFLICTING COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT ON THE SERB NATION BY TARGETING CIVILIAN INFRASTRUCTURE — SUCH AS FACTORIES, ROADS AND BRIDGES. HE SAID 70 MEMBERS FROM HIS PARTY ALONE HAD BEEN KILLED SO FAR. HE DID NOT HAVE OVERALL CIVILIAN CASUALTY FIGURES BUT ESTIMATED THAT SEVERAL HUNDRED PEOPLE HAD DIED IN THE RAIDS BY NATO.

ENCOURAGED BY THE PREVAILING SENSE OF ANGER AMONG THE SERBIAN PEOPLE, YUGOSLAVIA’S PARLIAMENT VOTED MONDAY TO APPLY TO JOIN AN ALLIANCE WITH RUSSIA AND BELARUS. THE MOVE IS LARGELY SYMBOLIC, AND UNLIKELY TO LEAD TO MOSCOW SUPPLYING MILITARY EQUIPMENT TO BELGRADE. BUT IT REFLECTS A STRENGTHENING OF NATIONALISTS IN SERBIA AND COMMUNISTS IN RUSSIA WHO SEE EUROPE RETURNING TO ITS COLD WAR DAYS. (SIGNED)
NEB/GD/JO
12-Apr-99 3:01 PM EDT (1901 UTC)
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Source: Voice of America

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