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YUGO DISPATCH – WEDNESDAY (L-ONLY) BY GUY DINMORE (BELGRADE)

April 21, 1999

Voice of America, April 21st 1999

INTRO: FORMER RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER VIKTOR CHERNOMYRDIN IS HEADING TO BELGRADE (THURSDAY), BRINGING A POSSIBLE NEW PEACE PROPOSAL TO END THE KOSOVO CONFLICT. MEANWHILE YUGOSLAV OFFICIALS ARE ASSESSING THE LATEST BOMB DAMAGE INFLICTED BY NATO FORCES WEDNESDAY. MISSILES HIT A TOWER BLOCK IN BELGRADE THAT SERVED AS THE HEADQUARTERS OF YUGOSLAVIA’S RULING SERBIAN SOCIALIST PARTY. ONE RADIO AND TWO TELEVISION STATIONS WERE ALSO GUTTED. GUY DINMORE REPORTS.

TEXT: THE 23-STORY BUILDING ON THE CONFLUENCE OF THE DANUBE AND SAVA RIVERS WAS HIT BY THREE OR FOUR MISSILE JUST BEFORE DAWN (WEDNESDAY). THE EXPLOSIONS COULD BE HEARD ACROSS BELGRADE. THE BLASTS AND SUBSEQUENT FIRE CAUSED SUBSTANTIAL DAMAGE. // OPT // BUT EARLY REPORTS OF CASUALTIES COULD NOT BE CONFIRMED. // END OPT //

NATO CLEARLY INTENDED TO SEND A FORCEFUL MESSAGE TO YUGOSLAV PRESIDENT SLOBODAN MILOSEVIC. IT WAS IN THIS BUILDING IN 1986 THAT MR. MILOSEVIC STARTED HIS RISE TO POWER, BECOMING LEADER OF WHAT WAS THEN THE SERBIAN COMMUNIST PARTY. IT WAS LATER RENAMED THE SERBIAN SOCIALIST PARTY AND, UNTIL TODAY, OCCUPIED TWO FLOORS IN THE BUILDING.

THE MISSILES ALSO DESTROYED A RADIO AND TELEVISION STATION CALLED KOSOVA RUN BY MR. MILOSEVIC’S DAUGHTER MARIJA, AS WELL AS T-V PINK WHICH HAD CLOSE CONNECTIONS TO THE YUGOSLAV LEFT CONTROLLED BY MR. MILOSEVIC’S WIFE, MIRA MARKOVIC. SEVERAL PRIVATE IMPORT-EXPORT FIRMS, BELIEVED TO BE CLOSE TO THE RULING CIRCLES, ALSO USED THE BUILDING.

GORAN MATIC, A SENIOR OFFICIAL IN THE YUGOSLAV LEFT AND A MINISTER IN THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, LIKENED NATO’S ATTACK TO MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS (SUGGESTING AN ABSURD ACTION). THE TWO TELEVISION STATIONS WORKING THERE HAD PROVIDED AMERICAN MOVIES TO THE SERBIAN PEOPLE. IT WAS CLEAR, HE SAID, THAT NATO FEARED FREEDOM OF THE MEDIA MORE THAN THE YUGOSLAV MILITARY.

A FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN INSISTED WEDNESDAY THAT YUGOSLAVIA WOULD SOLVE THE KOSOVO CRISIS ON ITS OWN. NEBOJSA VUJOVIC RULED OUT NEGOTIATIONS WITH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES AND SAID DIALOGUE WOULD CONTINUE WITH IBRAHIM RUGOVA, LEADER OF THE MAIN ETHNIC ALBANIAN PARTY IN KOSOVO PROVINCE. HE DISMISSED REPORTS THAT MR. RUGOVA HAD HELD TALKS IN BELGRADE UNDER DURESS.

MR. VUJOVIC ALSO SAID 23-THOUSAND REFUGEES HAD RETURNED TO THEIR HOMES IN THE PODUJEVO AREA OF NORTHERN KOSOVO. STATE TELEVISION SHOWED FOOTAGE OF MANY ETHNIC ALBANIANS IN TRACTORS AND TRAILERS GOING BACK TO THEIR VILLAGES.

THE FORMER RUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER VIKTOR CHERNOMYRDIN IS EXPECTED IN BELGRADE THURSDAY BEARING A FRESH INITIATIVE FROM PRESIDENT BORIS YELTSIN. MR. CHERNOMYRDIN MAY PROPOSE THAT YUGOSLAVIA ACCEPT AN INTERNATIONAL PEACEKEEPING FORCE IN KOSOVO TO ENSURE THE SAFE RETURN OF SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSAND REFUGEES. BELGRADE HAS ALREADY REJECTED VARIOUS PROPOSALS THAT WOULD INVOLVE FOREIGN TROOPS ON ITS TERRITORY.(SIGNED)
NEB/GD/JO
21-Apr-99 6:50 PM EDT (2250 UTC)
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Source: Voice of America


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