Clinton: NATO must keep up air campaign
March 28, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- NATO must keep up the pressure on Yugoslavia, President Bill Clinton said Sunday, while U.S. military leaders said the allied air campaign there may be in for a long haul.
On the fifth day of Operation Allied Force, NATO's member countries are united in their determination to stop Serb attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Clinton said.
"The continued brutality and repression of Serb forces further underscores the need for NATO to persevere," Clinton said.
Earlier Sunday, Defense Secretary William Cohen said the allied air campaign against Yugoslavia could be a long one.
"This is not going to be quick; this is not going to be easy. It's a very tough environment: the weather conditions, the geography -- it's very hilly and mountainous," Cohen said on CNN's "Late Edition."
NATO officials announced Saturday that allied pilots and cruise missile crews would begin to attack Yugoslav troops and armored vehicles south of Belgrade in a second phase of the assault.
"We are now going to be in a position to go after more and more of those forces in the field, those that are conducting these offensive measures against the Kosovars," Cohen said.
The air raids are intended to force the government of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to sign a peace deal ending a year of ethnic strife in the Serbian province of Kosovo.
NATO says the bombardment won't stop until Milosevic ends his army's offensive against ethnic Albanians there. Representatives of the province's ethnic Albanian majority already have signed the peace accord.
Shelton: No plans for land force
Cohen and Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the airstrikes so far have targeted Yugoslav army facilities needed to continue the Serb offensive in Kosovo.
"The fuel, ammunition -- we've hit all of that," Shelton said on "Late Edition."
He displayed photographs of a base near Pristina, Kosovo's capital, pointing out a crater "where the headquarters used to be." The base was one of the sites targeted by cruise missile strikes Thursday, he said.
Calls for NATO to back up its air power with a land force in Kosovo have come amid increasing reports of Serb attacks on civilians and the mounting numbers of refugees in the region.
But unless both sides agree to a peace plan, "there are no plans right now to introduce ground force," Shelton said.
Under current conditions, NATO would need hundreds of thousands of troops to make peace in Kosovo, he said.
"NATO has in fact made an assessment of what it might entail, but there are no plans on the shelf or no planning under way at this particular time," he said.
The general joined other NATO officials in rebutting claims that airstrikes have prompted Serb forces to step up attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
"This had been ongoing long before the airstrikes started. The reason the airstrikes started was Milosevic would not accept a political settlement," he said.
Cohen, meanwhile, said the Air Force would not scale back its participation in the NATO operation because of the loss of an F-117 Nighthawk over Yugoslavia on Saturday. The pilot of the stealth fighter was rescued after the crash.
"The pilot was a very experienced pilot. He is in great shape, he's back at a NATO facility right now and is continuing to carry on with his military duties," Cohen said.
NATO investigating crash of U.S. warplane in Yugoslavia
TIME Daily: A Kosovo Primer
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