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Yugoslavia Allows Red Cross To Visit Three NATO Soldiers

By Daniel Williams

Washington Post -- Belgrade, Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia allowed the head of the Red Cross to meet for the first time today with three American soldiers captured along the Macedonian border last month, as a prominent Yugoslav official said the Serb-led government must be prepared to accept foreign peacekeepers in Kosovo, even if they include NATO troops.

In a visit that indicated Yugoslavia may treat the three Americans as prisoners of war under international law, Cornelio Sommaruga, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said he looked each soldier in the eye, “warmly” shook their hands and conversed with them briefly. Sommaruga said nothing about their condition, though he said a doctor would meet with the three captives on Tuesday.

Sommaruga also criticized both Yugoslavia for its forced expulsions of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, and NATO for its bombing attacks on civilian targets such as television facilities.

Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic, a moderate, said the government must be willing to give ground to NATO on a key issue by permitting armed international peacekeepers to enforce a possible peace settlement in Kosovo. Although he holds a senior post, Draskovic is a longtime opponent of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, so it was unclear whether he was speaking for the government. Western officials suggested Draskovic's comments reflected growing dissent in Belgrade, but an independent Yugoslav politician said Milosevic may be behind the statement.

As government and opposition politicians in Belgrade digested Draskovic's remarks, the United States and its NATO allies continued their bombardment of Yugoslavia, now in its fifth week, and the accompanying buildup of military forces in the region.

The final six of the U.S. Apache AH-64 attack helicopters being deployed for attacks against Serb forces in Kosovo arrived in Albania. One Apache crashed at 10:20 p.m. (4:20 p.m. EDT) last night about 40 miles northeast of the Tirana airport in Albania, Pentagon officials said.