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Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 12:53 GMT 13:53 UK

World: Europe

Nato denies bombing bus

Serb media said 20 people died in the explosion

Nato has denied bombing a bus carrying civilians in Kosovo on Monday, in which Serb sources said 20 people had died and 43 had been injured.

Kosovo: Special Report
Nato spokesman Jamie Shea said that after a comprehensive review there was no evidence to link Nato activities with the incident.

The alliance said that although several Nato aircraft were in the general area, film of the bus indicated that it had not been attacked from the air.

Yugoslav plane shot down

Nato said on Tuesday that one of its aircraft had shot down a Yugoslav warplane in an air battle.

A Pentagon spokesman said the Yugoslav MiG-29 was shot down over Yugoslavia by an F-16 fighter.

Nato also said that it had carried out its most extensive strikes on Yugoslav forces and Serb police units on the ground in Kosovo.

"We also struck 40 fixed targets elsewhere in Yugoslavia. No part of the Yugoslav army was spared," Mr Shea said.

He said Serbian forces in Kosovo had resumed ethnic cleansing on a "massive scale". Mr Shea said the arrival in Macedonia on Monday of 11,600 refugees, mostly from a town in the north of the province, was the biggest one-day exodus for a month.

On the bus incident, a Nato source said there had been a number of skirmishes between the Kosovo Liberation Army and Yugoslav forces in the area - 10km to 12 km northwest of the town of Pec, near the Montenegrin border.

The BBC's Lisa Holland: "Sources suggest Nato was not involved"
Mr Shea said Nato commanders made a thorough check of all gun cameras from planes operating in the area and interviewed all pilots.

The bus was reported to have been hit while on the road from Pec in western Kosovo to Rozaje in Montenegro.

Montenegrin radio reported that five other vehicles - three civilian and two police - had also been hit.

The incident followed what Nato said was a tragic accident on Saturday, when one of its missiles hit another bus in Kosovo, killing at least 24 people.

G8 to meet

The Group of Seven major industrial powers plus Russia - G8 - are due to meet in Bonn on Thursday to discuss solutions to the Kosovo conflict, the German Foreign Ministry has announced.

In Bonn, sources close to the German Government said Russia had agreed to a G8 proposal for the "deployment of an international civil and security presence" in Kosovo.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Avdeyev as saying: "For the first time an agreement is reached on all the future international presence in Kosovo under the UN flag."

Overnight strikes

On Monday night, Serb media reported damage to a TV station in northern Serbia and a military airport near Belgrade.

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

The BBC's Mike Williams: Serbs are saying Nato was responsible
Two missiles struck a television station in Novi Sad just after 2000GMT, setting it on fire but causing no injuries.

Explosions were also heard in the Belgrade suburb of Rakovica and near the city of Kraljevo in central Serbia.

The all-clear sounded in Belgrade early on Tuesday morning.

Solution 'closer'

The bombing came as Russia and the US signalled progress in the search for a solution to the Kosovo conflict.

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President Bill Clinton said there could be a suspension of the bombing, but only if Yugoslavia accepted Nato's basic demands.

He was speaking before talks with Russia's Balkans envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin, in Washington on Monday.

After the meeting, Mr Chernomyrdin said the sides were now "closer" to a diplomatic solution, but White House officials stressed there had been no breakthrough.

Mr Clinton encouraged the Russians to keep trying. He also said that Washington was not interested in total victory over Yugoslavia.

The BBC's Stephen Sackur: Air strikes will continue
The talks apparently focused on Nato's conditions for ending the air war against Yugoslavia.

Mr Chernomyrdin said: "It is a very complicated issue. We will keep on working. We remain hopeful."

He is due to travel to New York on Tuesday to see the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.

In a sign of improving relations, the US said it was considering releasing two Yugoslav soldiers it is holding, following appeals from civil rights leader Jesse Jackson - who on Sunday secured the freedom of three Americans.

But after a meeting with Reverend Jackson, Mr Clinton turned down a suggestion that he contact Mr Milosevic directly.

President Clinton may visit the released US soldiers during his trip to Germany on Wednesday and Thursday, where he is due to hold talks with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

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