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Serbia unveils monument in memory of anti-Nato war

BELGRADE, Jun 13, 2000 -- (Reuters) Serbian President Milan Milutinovic on Monday unveiled a monument to his compatriots who last year defended the country from NATO's air attacks, and said the Western alliance had suffered "a military-political fiasco".

"Today, a year after the end of the aggression, there are ever stronger voices in the world, even in the aggressors' countries, testifying that NATO is a loser in that senseless and brutal war on our people and our country," he said at a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the end of the NATO bombing.

He then unveiled a 20-metre high white obelisk with an eternal flame on the top.

The inscription on the monument said the fire should burn eternally in the memory of the war that 19 countries waged against Serbia, in the memory of a heroic defense in which the whole nation took part, and "for the whole world".

Last year NATO waged a 78-day bombing campaign to drive Yugoslav forces out of Kosovo, paving the way for NATO-led peacekeepers and a UN administration to take control of the province and halt repression of the ethnic Albanian majority.

"They did not militarily accomplish their goal, politically they are totally degraded. NATO suffered a real military-political fiasco," Milutinovic told the crowd.

Hundreds of activists with banners gathered together with top Yugoslav and Serbian officials at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers in Belgrade.

Yugoslav Defense Minister General Dragoljub Ojdanic also addressed the crowd, saying that "no rockets and bombs, no matter how powerful they might be, can break the spirit of our freedom".

"This eternal fire is a reminder and a warning, a reminder of heroic defense and a warning to crazy thugs who think they can reach for deadly weapons," he said.

Both Milutinovic and Ojdanic, along with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia's Interior Minister Vlajko Stojiljkovic and a federal deputy prime minister, Nikola Sainovic, have been indicted by a UN war crimes tribunal for atrocities the army and police are alleged to have committed in Kosovo.



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