3 American Soldiers may be released today

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If it comes to pass, what do you think the NATO response will be?




Deal afoot to free captured U.S. soldiers?

From left, Ramirez, Stone and Gonzales

Cyprus leader en route to Yugoslavia

April 7, 1999 Web posted at: 8:27 a.m. EDT (1227 GMT)

------------------------------------------------------------------------ In this story:

'It is a delicate mission'


------------------------------------------------------------------------ NICOSIA, Cyprus (CNN) -- The acting president of Cyprus said Wednesday he was close to arranging the release of three American soldiers captured last week by Yugoslavia. Spyros Kyprianou left Cyprus for the Yugoslav capital of Belgrade, via Athens, Greece, to make the arrangements.

"I cannot say there is a final arrangement but I have to meet with (Yugoslav) President (Slobodan) Milosevic," Kyprianou said at a news conference before departing Athens on Wednesday. "The exchanges have been very constructive so far and the indications are that this mission will succeed. I am confident about it."

Earlier, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Panayiotis Beglitis said Greece would provide a plane to transport Kyprianou to Belgrade. Beglitis said the release was expected within the day, and that the three soldiers would be handed over in Cyprus to the U.S. ambassador there.

In Belgrade, a senior Yugoslav official confirmed to CNN that a delegation from Cyprus was expected.

Separately, a spokesman for the Yugoslav foreign ministry told CNN his country welcomed high-level visits from "friendly countries like Cyprus."

Kyprianou said Wednesday his mission was "purely a humanitarian one" and was strictly on his own initiative.

Cyprus and Yugoslavia, founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement, have had good relations over the years. Kyprianou developed warm ties with Yugoslav leaders, including Milosevic, when he was president of Cyprus from 1978 to 1988.

The Greek Cypriot public has backed fellow Orthodox Christians in Yugoslavia's clash with NATO over Kosovo. Kyprianou has led rallies denouncing the NATO bombing and accused the United States and NATO of double standards.

Earlier Wednesday, President Clinton's national security adviser told CNN the United States has "had some contact" with Kyprianou. But Samuel Berger would not confirm that a release was imminent. "We certainly hope that will be the case," he said.

In a telephone interview with CNN, Kyprianou said that "if all goes well, I will be able to bring the three American soldiers to Cyprus and to freedom. I will give them to anyone that President Clinton wants to send here to Cyprus or the ambassador or anybody else."

He said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had offered to return the three soldiers as a gesture of good will.

'It is a delicate mission'

Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez, 24, of Los Angeles; Spc. Steven Gonzales, 21, of Huntsville, Texas; and Staff Sgt. Christopher Stone, 25, of Smiths Creek, Michigan; were captured March 31 near the Yugoslav-Macedonian border.

NATO says they were noncombat troops under its command and were conducting a routine patrol along the Macedonia-Kosovo border. Belgrade says they were captured on Yugoslav territory.

The soldiers are being well-treated, Foreign Ministry spokesman Nebojsa Vujovic told CNN.

Kyprianou told reporters in Nicosia that Milosevic "...has conveyed to me his willingness to discuss the issue of releasing the three American captives and to hand them over to us."

"I am not saying the arrangements have been settled," he said. "It is a delicate mission and something could happen and things may not go smoothly. But based on the messages and information I have, if some preconditions are met the mission will succeed," the acting leader said.

He did not mention what the preconditions were, but said that it was essential that a cease-fire hold for as long as he was in the Yugoslav capital.

On Tuesday, Milosevic declared a unilateral cease-fire with ethnic Albanian rebels in the Serb province of Kosovo.

NATO ignored it, striking targets throughout Yugoslavia on Wednesday, the 15th day of airstrikes.

The 19-nation alliance demands that Milosevic accept terms of a U.S.-brokered peace accord and allow hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians to return to their homes accompanied by a NATO-led security force.

Kyprianou has emphasized his trip to Yugoslavia is "a humanitarian mission and has nothing to do with political negotiations or anything else for a political solution to the problem of Kosovo."

Correspondents John King and Alessio Vinci, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

-- Roland (nottelling@nowhere.com), April 07, 1999


This is a Y2K forum; it has nothing to do with the U.S. meddling in other countries. Why are you wasting our time and space with this irrelevant topic?

-- cody (cody@y2ksurvive.com), April 07, 1999.

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