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Wednesday, April 28, 1999 Published at 22:20 GMT 23:20 UK

World: Europe

Draskovic fired over Kosovo remarks

Vuk Draskovic was once the main opposition leader in Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia's Deputy Prime Minister, Vuk Draskovic, has been dismissed for opposing the government's position on the Kosovo conflict.

Kosovo: Special Report
The official Tanjug news agency reported that Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic had sacked his deputy because his public statements "were contrary to the government stands and jeopardising the respect of the federal government".

Mr Draskovic's outspoken comments in recent days have prompted Western leaders to talk of serious cracks in President Milosevic's regime.

John Simpson reports: "Mr Draskovic has been riding for a fall for some time"
The government has also tried to muzzle Social Democracy Party leader Vuk Obredovic, who told BBC Foreign Affairs Editor John Simpson that the Yugoslav leadership should be changed.

The authorities would not allow the BBC to broadcast footage of an interview recorded on Tuesday.

Cracks in the regime

Mr Draskovic's dismissal comes a day after he expressed his support for stationing international peacekeeping troops under UN control in Kosovo.

The former opposition leader, who joined the government in January, also attacked the state media for misrepresenting Yugoslavia's situation in the war with Nato.

He said publicly that the Serb leadership should recognise that "we cannot defeat Nato" and must respect the "reality" of facing a world united against it.

Speaking after his removal, Mr Draskovic denied accusations that he was supporting Nato's air campaign.

Kosovo - Key figures
"Nato is the aggressor - anyone who attacks my country, attacks me. I am a Serb," he said.

He also said he did not know why he was sacked.

"Maybe some people in the West believed that I could be the man of tomorrow with whom Nato could co-operate," he said.

Mr Draskovic said three other ministers, all from his own party, had resigned following his dismissal. They were named as: Internal Trade Minister Slobodan Nenadovic; Information Minister Milan Komnenic; and Minister without Portfolio Milan Bozic.

Jacky Rowland: "The fact that Draskovic has been fired will increase his significance"
A BBC Correspondent in Belgrade, Jacky Rowland, says that Mr Draskovic's departure from office removes one of the last remaining voices of moderation from the Belgrade leadership.

The US said that Mr Draskovic's removal demonstrated that President Milosevic had grown increasingly isolated from his own leadership.

National Security Council spokesman David Leavy said: "It's clear that even his own top leadership believes that he has to stop his repression, stop his deception, stop his manipulation of the media and comply with the demands of the international community."


Meanwhile, the US Congress has moved to limit President Bill Clinton's powers to widen the conflict.

The House of Representatives voted by 249 to 180 not to fund a ground invasion unless it was consulted first.

The House majority leader, Dick Armey, said Congress and the president together could define a mission with maximum effectiveness and minimum threat to the troops.

Rugova signs deal

In Yugoslavia itself, the moderate Kosovo Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova, is reported to have signed a deal with Serbian President Milan Milutinovic calling for a temporary government in Kosovo.

Under the terms of their agreement, direct talks - without Western mediation - will be held in the near future of the province, Tanjug reported.

(Click here to see a map of last night's Nato strikes)

[ image:  ]
For its part, Nato has admitted that one of its bombs hit a residential area after missing a military target during a raid on a town in southern Serbia.

Serbian television reported that up to 20 civilians had died in the attack on Surdulica on Tuesday.

Nato spokesman Jamie Shea said one laser-guided missile veered off course from the army barracks it was targeting and impacted 200 to 300 metres away in a residential area.

Mike Williams in Sudurlica: "This small town joins the list of places where Nato bombs have killed civilians"
"A precision-guided weapon failed to guide accurately to the designated target," said Mr Shea.

Massacre reported

The UN refugee agency, the UNCHR, on Wednesday warned of further deaths, saying it suspected that one of the most significant massacres of Kosovo Albanians so far had taken place around the north-eastern Kosovo town of Jakovica.

[ image: 2,000 refugees arrived in Albania overnight]
2,000 refugees arrived in Albania overnight
Refugees arriving overnight in Albania reported up to 200 people being rounded up and killed.

Some 2,000 people, most of them women and children, arrived in Albania on Tuesday night, and more than 3,000 refugees crossed into Macedonia on Wednesday, in the biggest refugee influx for more than a week.

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