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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mediator Cites Raids for Failure to Get Soldiers Freed

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Former Cypriot President Spyros Kyprianou said Friday his mission to win the release of three U.S. soldiers held by Yugoslavia failed because of "intensified heavy bombing'' by NATO forces.

Kyprianou met Friday with President Slobodan Milosevic for 90 minutes and afterward told reporters that he had failed to secure the soldiers' release.

"The intensified heavy bombing of the last couple of days and made my humanitarian mission more difficult,'' Kyprianou told reporters in his hotel.

He noted that the attacks occurred in the Belgrade area and elsewhere within hours of his arrival Thursday in the Yugoslav capital.

"It was expe cted ... that during my stay at least some respect should have been shown and some understanding until I had finished my consultations,'' he said.

The United States has demanded the unconditional release of the three servicemen, Staff Sergeant Andrew Ramirez, 24, of Los Angeles; Staff Sergeant Christopher Stone, 25, of Smiths Creek, Michigan; and Specialist Steven Gonzales, 21, of Huntsville, Texas. They were seized March 31 along the tense border between Yugoslavia and Macedonia.

Washington said it was not surprised by the failure of Kyprianou's mission.

Kyprianou, currently speaker of the Cyprus Parliament, has longtime ties with Yugoslav leaders. Both countries share the Orthodox Christian faith and were founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement.

During the visit, Yugoslav officials took the opportunity to present their case that they - and not the ethnic Albanians of Kosovo - are the real victims of the 14-month Kosovo crisis and the NATO air campaign.

"As a result [of air attacks] 20,000 people have become homeless, and there have been many victims,'' Kyprianou said. "As a result, there has been no result in my mission, and I am disappointed, of course. The discussion on the three American soldiers remained without result.''

He said he would "stop my effort because for the time being'' since "it is impossible to achieve any results in the present climate. But I cannot exclude anything in the future, depending on developments.''

Earlier Friday, the Yugoslav authorities took Kyprianou to see destruction in civilian areas of the Serbian town of Cuprija, which was hit Thursday morning.

Kyprianou said the Kosovo crisis could not be solved by the air campaign, which began March 24.

"I am not a military expert, but this is my own view after having heard things from people, and after my visit to the bombed cities earlier today, where I have seen things that shocked me,'' he said.