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Mixed Signals Perplex Belgraders

October 14, 1998

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ There was relief but no celebration on the streets of Belgrade when President Slobodan Milosevic told his countrymen that NATO wouldn’t bomb Yugoslavia.

Milosevic made a rare television appearance Tuesday to declare he had reached an agreement with U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke to end the crisis in Kosovo.

But many Serbians don’t trust their president, and some said they feared the agreement will end up hurting them.

``I don’t know what Milosevic promised Holbrooke exactly. But whatever it is, we should wait and see if he (Milosevic) keeps his word,″ unemployed schoolteacher Dragan Petrovic said as he sipped beer in a downtown cafe.

For many, Holbrooke’s television appearance was the first word they had of a settlement to the Kosovo crisis.

State-run Serbian media didn’t even mention the breakthrough in the negotiations that emerged Monday. Of course, the media never carried the threats made over the past week by NATO and its allies, either, publishing only defiant Serbian reactions.

``Relief, that’s all I feel,″ said Marko Milosavljevic, watching in a cafe as state-run TV repeated Milosevic’s address over and over.

``There will be no bombing now, that’s for sure,″ he said, but added: ``It’s because I believe in Holbrooke, not Milosevic.″

State TV later carried reaction from unidentified people, hailing Milosevic’s statement as ``super,″ ``great″ and ``absolutely beautiful.″

However, state-run media did not report that the NATO alliance early Tuesday had given Milosevic four days to comply with international demands or face airstrikes.

``One would expect people to dance in the streets with joy,″ said Dragica Stankovic, mother of three. ``Instead, we are so passive _ we’ve been kept in the dark for so long while others decided our destiny.″

Still, there were some signs of cautious optimism.

``Perhaps I can breathe a sigh of relief now, maybe go and see a soccer game,″ said Danijel Bukumirovic, a radio reporter for the independent B-92 station.

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