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World - Europe

Russia expels NATO staff; Greece calls for bombing halt

March 26, 1999
Web posted at: 12:27 p.m. EST (1727 GMT)

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russia expelled NATO representatives from Moscow, and NATO member Greece called for an end to the alliance's airstrikes as a third day of raids on Yugoslavia got under way Friday.

China's president repeated his call for an end to the bombing during a trip to Europe on Friday, while Russia's foreign minister went as far as calling for international criminal charges against NATO leaders.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced the expulsion of the NATO representatives -- German Col. Manfred Diehl and Alexis Chathahtinsky, a French civilian official.

Ivanov added that those responsible for launching air attacks on Yugoslavia should face an international tribunal on criminal charges.

"In accordance with international law, those who give such orders should be held responsible, including in a criminal way," Ivanov said. "The international tribunal on the former Yugoslavia should immediately look into this."

He did not specify who should stand trial.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana later said he was "a little concerned" about the Russian decision, but said Moscow was still working with Western countries to end the ethnic strife in Kosovo.

"Although they disagree with the tactics at the moment, they do not disagree with the strategy," he said.

Russia has historic ties to Serbia, the dominant republic in the Yugoslav federation, and bitterly criticized the United States for leading the airstrikes against Yugoslavia. Muscovites protested the NATO strikes with a city-sanctioned demonstration outside the U.S. Embassy.

"The protests and the anger against American actions has enveloped the vast majority of the Russian public," said Alexei Arbatov, a Russian member of parliament. "This is a grassroots feeling. It's no longer a feeling just of the political elite."

Russia has called for a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution demanding an end to the use of force in Yugoslavia and a resumption of negotiations. The resolution was expected to fail in the face of U.S. and British opposition.

Greece wants end to bombing

In Athens, meanwhile, the Greek government urged a return to negotiations in Yugoslavia.

"It is time to go back to political dialogue to seek a political solution to the problem and to stop the bombing," Greek government spokesman Yannis Nikolaou told reporters.

Greece shares Serbia's Christian Orthodox religion and is concerned the fighting could spread to its neighbors, Albania and Macedonia. Greece has said it would only provide logistical support to the NATO air campaign.

In Rome, Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema said he wants to see the campaign over as well.

Italy is home to the NATO air base at Aviano, where many of the jets that are attacking Yugoslavia are based.

"I believe the scenario is starting to emerge which should lead back to a political initiative," D'Alema said.

And in Bonn, calls for the bombing to end also came from members of German ChancellorGerhard Schroeder's ruling coalition.. The move by seven of 47 federal lawmakers from the leftist Greens party reflected unease among Germans that their military -- even under the alliance umbrella -- is on the attack for the first time since World War II.

But U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright downplayed any reports of dissent within NATO, and Solana said NATO remained united despite the comments from Greece and Italy.

"I had a meeting of the North Atlantic Council this morning, and all the 19 ayes were absolutely like one country," Solana said Friday. "Every country that belongs to NATO is behind the decision we have taken."

Chinese President Jiang Zemin repeated his demand for an end to the bombing Friday. Jiang's statements came as he was in Bern, Switzerland, meeting with Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss.

Jiang said all parties involved should "insist on peaceful negotiation to find a political solution to the Kosovo conflict. Otherwise, the Kosovo problem will only grow worse, and the situation in the Balkans will become even more turbulent."

Correspondents Jill Dougherty, Rebecca MacKinnon, Richard Blystone andReuters contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
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March 25, 1999
Yeltsin to meet with aides on response to bombings
March 24, 1999
U.S. defense secretary: No indication of NATO casualties
March 24, 1999
Operation Allied Force: Latest developments
March 24, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - Facts
Kosova Crisis Center
NATO Official Homepage
United Nations Home Page
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