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US

Clinton: 'Serbia must choose peace'

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 ALSO:
U.S. military 'satisfied' with airstrikes

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March 25, 1999
Web posted at: 1:55 p.m. EST (1855 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As NATO prepared a second wave of bomb and missile assaults on Yugoslavia, President Clinton on Thursday declared the first night of attacks a success and said airstrikes would continue if Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic does not "choose peace."

"I'm very grateful that our crews returned safely after their work last night," Clinton said at the White House just before a briefing from his senior international policy advisers. They were to plan future action as well.

NATO officials in Brussels said allied aircraft "destroyed" three Yugoslav jet fighters in Wednesday's first round of air combat -- two shot down by U.S. F-16s and the other by a Dutch F-16. Forty ground targets were hit.

The airstrikes, involving bombs and air and sea-launched cruise missiles, were authorized late Tuesday after Milosevic refused to call off attacks against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo who have signed a peace deal rejected by the Yugoslav government.

"Our purpose here is to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe or a wider war," Clinton said Thursday. "Our objective is to make it clear that Serbia must choose peace or we will limit its ability to make war." (249K/9 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said "ample diplomatic channels" remain open to Milosevic if he wishes to signal a readiness to discuss peace. Removing Milosevic from power, Lockhart said, "is not one of the objectives of the campaign right now."

Lockhart would not go beyond Clinton's statement on Wednesday night that U.S. troops would only go into Kosovo as part of a NATO peacekeeping force.

"I do not intend to put our troops in Kosovo to fight a ground war," the president said in an address to the American people.

If Milosevic refuses to accept the peace plan, the bombing was likely to continue for more than a week if that's what it takes to significantly weaken Yugoslavia's military capabilities.

In his Wednesday night address, Clinton said the attacks were necessary to "defuse a powder keg" that has engulfed Europe in war before.

"We act to protect thousands of innocent people in Kosovo from a mounting military offensive," the president said.

  • Background Information


    Correspondent John King contributed to this report.

    RELATED STORIES:
    Clinton to get damage assessment briefing
    March 25, 1999
    Clinton: NATO strikes will 'defuse a powder keg'
    March 24, 1999
    Clinton calls NATO strikes a 'moral imperative'
    March 24, 1999
    Annan: U.N. should have been consulted
    March 24, 1999
    Operation Allied Force: Day One
    March 24, 1999

    RELATED SITES:
    TIME Daily: A Kosovo Primer
    Kosovo - Information Agency
    Kosova Crisis Center
    NATO Official Homepage
    Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
    The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR)
    www.kosovo.com
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