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World - Europe

Airstrikes on Yugoslavia suspended, more attacks likely

The first Tomahawk missile launched against Yugoslavia is fired from Adriatic Sea Wednesday
British Prime Minister Tony Blair backs airstrikes:

In support of NATO's decision AIFF or WAV
(392 K/30 sec. audio)

On the effects of war on Europe and neighboring countries AIFF or WAV
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President Clinton addresses the United States on Wednesday evening
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Defense Secretary William Cohen and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton
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U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan comments late Wednesday on the NATO action
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11 p.m. Belgrade time (5 p.m. EST): First video of reported damage from airstrikes
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At the Pentagon, CNN's Gene Randall outlines the scope of the operation
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For more video see our Multimedia gallery


NATO strikes Yugoslavia: Day one

Yeltsin to meet with aides on response to bombings

KLA goes from splinter group to potential giant-killer

Operation Allied Force: Latest developments

Clinton calls NATO strikes a 'moral imperative'

Yugoslavia claims civilian casualties

March 25, 1999
Web posted at: 6:01 a.m. EST (1101 GMT)

In this story:

Emergency talks

Targeting the enemy

Russia, China oppose attacks


BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia were suspended shortly before dawn Thursday (Yugoslavia time) after 10 hours of attacks were launched in retaliation for Serb refusals to sign a Kosovo peace plan.

Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic told CNN Thursday that "more than 10" civilians had been killed in the attacks. He said a further 60 were seriously wounded.

Asked if there had been any change in Belgrade's position over a Kosovo peace deal, Matic said: "No, it isn't true. The NATO attacks represent acts of aggression....We are ready to fight against the aggressors."

The minister refused to answer questions about what, if any, military targets had been hit.

He said there were also fresh attacks on Yugoslav communications systems "near and in Belgrade itself" on Thursday morning.

He went on to claim that two NATO aircraft and "several cruise missiles" had been "brought down". NATO says all aircraft returned safely to their bases.

Matic said a session of the Yugoslav government was likely to be held Thursday. Air raid sirens sounded across Belgrade Thursday morning but it was not clear if it was in response to renewed attacks.

Yugoslav television Thursday broadcast images of women and children being treated at a hospital in Belgrade, Yugoslavia's capital.

Meanwhile, a military briefing is expected at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium at about 9 a.m. EST Thursday. U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark, Supreme Allied Commander of the NATO forces is expected to lead the briefing and provide some details of the results of the strikes.

A senior Pentagon official told CNN the details of damage inflicted were not known but that all NATO and U.S. aircraft were accounted for, out of harm's way and returning to bases by about 11:45 p.m. Wednesday EST (5:45 a.m. Thursday Yugoslav time).

The official said the daylight hours were being used for overhead reconnaissance assets including U-2 spy planes and satellites to supply the military with details of the damage inflicted

It is likely that a fresh round of strikes will be launched Thursday night against additional Yugoslav positions, but officials refused to provide details.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said on Thursday air strikes against Yugoslavia's air defenses would probably continue for a few days after military chiefs assess the impact of the first bombings.

"We will probably continue for a few days in the first stage which is to try do away with (Yugoslavia's) air defenses and cut its air force capacity," Solana told Europe 1 radio.

The attacks followed months of diplomatic efforts to secure a peace deal for Kosovo and came only after 11-hour talks between U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic failed to get Yugoslavia to sign onto the interim plan.

"If President Milosevic will not make peace, we will limit his ability to make war," President Clinton said in an address to the nation. "Ending this tragedy is a moral imperative. It is also important to America's national interest."

Solana said an assessment of the damage caused by the first wave of bombings, which he said were carried out by a roughly equal number of U.S. and European aircraft, would be available around midday (1100 GMT).

"I believe the first day's mission has been fulfilled but we must carry out an assessment to see if we must continue," he said.

He said NATO would limit itself at the moment to a first tactical stage targeting only purely military objectives "without collateral damage." Going on to a second stage would need consultation among NATO members.

Asked when the overall offensive against Yugoslavia would be completed, he said: "It is very difficult to give a precise duration. I hope it will be very soon. We are talking about days, not months," he said.

The Yugoslav government declared a state of war. Yugoslav Charge d'Affaires to the U.N., Vladislav Jovanovic, called the airstrikes a "terrible precedent" in clear violation of international law.

The attacks followed months of diplomatic efforts to secure a peace deal for Kosovo and came only after 11-hour talks between U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke and Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic failed to get Yugoslavia to sign onto the interim plan.

"If President Milosevic will not make peace, we will limit his ability to make war," President Clinton said in an address to the nation. "Ending this tragedy is a moral imperative. It is also important to America's national interest."

The Yugoslav government declared a state of war. Yugoslav Charge d'Affaires to the U.N., Vladislav Jovanovic, called the airstrikes a "terrible precedent" in clear violation of international law.

Emergency talks

At the United Nations, an emergency meeting of the Security Council was called into session at the request of Russia, outraged by the airstrikes.

Serbian TV showed images of people it said were injured during the airstrikes   

"If the aggression will not be stopped, the precedent of such unpunished aggression would sooner or later lead to the aggression against a number of other smaller and medium sized countries. The real question is, which country is next," Jovanovic said during the session.

Clinton said the military strikes have three objectives: to demonstrate NATO's resolve, to deter Belgrade from launching more offensives against Kosovar Albanians and to degrade Yugoslavia's military capabilities of carrying out future attacks.

"Right now, our firmness is the only hope the people of Kosovo have," Clinton said.

But he also emphasized the mission would not be easy and that American military personnel were putting their lives on the line. "There are risks in this military action -- risks to our pilots and the people on the ground."

He added that if Yugoslavia retaliates against its neighboring countries, "we will deliver a forceful response."

NATO launched Operation Allied Force around 8 p.m. Yugoslav time (2 p.m. EST). U.S. ships and a British submarine in the Adriatic fired volleys of Tomahawk cruise missiles, followed by a barrage of air-launched cruise missiles from B-52 bombers.

Two U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bombers took part in the raids, marking the first time the bombers have seen combat. The stealths are capable of dropping satellite-guided, 2,000- pound bombs on as many as 16 different targets.

Daloni Carlisle, an official based in the Kosovo capital of Pristina for the International Committee of the Red Cross, told CNN plumes of smoke could be seen hanging over the city as people emerged from their homes Thursday after a night of bombardment.

Ms. Carlisle said electricity supply, which had been lost at the beginning of the attacks, returned about 5 a.m. (Yugoslavia time, 6 a.m. GMT).

She said the people of Pristina were scared and craved security. "There's a lot of fear around," Carlisle said.

She said some, but not all, businesses had opened -- apparently in accordance with the wishes of Milosevic who appealed Wednesday night in a televised address for people to go about their lives despite the attacks.

The attack is NATO's first action against a sovereign nation in its 50-year history.

The Yugoslav General Command said at least 20 targets had been hit but insisted their air defenses were not damaged.

Nebojsa Vujovic, the Charge d'Affaires of the Yugoslav Embassy in the United States, told CNN he has been in constant contact with the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry and that many bridges and military apartments were reportedly hit. He said there have been "many deaths."

"We think that the NATO military action against Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is a crime against a sovereign, independent nation," he said. "It's a total breach of international law and order."

Vujovic said the Western-backed peace plan was unacceptable to the Yugoslav government, but his country is "ready to reach a comprehensive agreement" when it deems a solid proposal is offered.

He called the interim peace deal signed by Kosovar Albanians "a political document which they see as a vehicle to achieve secession."

Targeting the enemy

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said Yugoslavia's air defense system and its command and control centers were among the principle targets of the operation.

"We are attacking the military infrastructure that President Milosevic and his forces are using to repress and kill innocent people. NATO forces are not attacking the people of Yugoslavia," Cohen said.

While stressing the attacks were ongoing, Cohen said, NATO "aircraft have returned safely from the region."

He said the stealth bombers performed an "extraordinary mission." He would not comment on specific targets but said the "target list is extensive."

In addition, Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there were no NATO casualties.

Gen. Wesley Clark, the supreme allied commander Europe, also denied to CNN a Belgrade radio report that a NATO fighter had been shot down.

NATO and the Pentagon said at least two Yugoslav MiG fighter planes had been shot down.

Maj. Dave Conley, an American pilot who participated in the initial attack, told CNN upon returning to his base in England, "We had our orders to go out and strike targets today, and that is just exactly what we did."

Two orange explosions lit up the sky outside Belgrade in the direction of a military base. There were reports that a military airport near the city had been hit with fires and secondary explosions being seen.

In addition a weapons factory about 100 km from Belgrade was said to have been hit and Belgrade television said an aircraft factory at Pancevo north of the city was also damaged.

On the outskirts of Pristina, two huge explosions sent flames high into the nighttime sky and rattled windows on buildings in the city's center. Overhead, jets screamed by.

Pristina was plunged into darkness shortly after the attacks began, and sporadic automatic weapons fire was heard across the city. There were no signs of outgoing anti-aircraft fire.

Belgrade television said that ethnic Albanians were attempting to take advantage of the situation, launching attacks on Serb forces in at least three towns in Kosovo.

Reports out of the region also said a military barracks in the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro was hit.

The official Tanjug News Agency said there had been civilian casualties, including women and children who had taken refuge in a military barracks.

The attacks were launched after the Yugoslav government refused to sign an interim peace agreement for Kosovo. Kosovar Albanians had signed on to the agreement which would have provided autonomy, but not independence, for the troubled region over the next three years.

Russia, China oppose attacks

In Moscow, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, whose country has long opposed NATO strikes, called the attacks "outright aggression against Yugoslavia" and that his nation reserves the right to take "adequate measures including military ones to ensure its security and that of Europe."

However, Yeltsin said Thursday Russia would not use "extreme measures" to stop the U.S.-led NATO attacks.

Russia also recalled its NATO ambassador from Brussels.

In Beijing, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Sun Yuxi said, "The Chinese government urgently demands the immediate halt to military actions against the Yugoslavian government."

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana defended the airstrikes, saying "in the last months the international community has spared no efforts to achieve a negotiated solution in Kosovo. But it has not been possible."

In France, President Jacques Chirac said, "Serb authorities have had an unacceptable behavior for too long with regard to the Kosovo Albanians."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he would not have taken military action if he didn't think it was the right course to take.

Earlier, Milosevic vowed to defend his country but urged the citizens of Yugoslavia to remain calm.

He told his nation that the Yugoslav parliament made the right choice to reject international troops on its soil, but added, "We want to continue constant efforts for a peaceful resolution of the problem in Kosovo and Metohija (a district in Kosovo)."

He said in the long-run the problems of Kosovo could only be "resolved in a peaceful and political manner."

Serb military officials in Pristina said they had repositioned their troops in the region to put their heavy weapons in less vulnerable spots. They said they wanted avoid being provoked by the Kosovo Liberation Army and to avoid the expected strikes.

NATO intelligence reports showed a continued buildup of Yugoslav troops, Serb police and military hardware in and around Kosovo. There were indications Yugoslav tank battalions had moved a further 16 tanks into the Kosovo province itself. A NATO official said that move is a clear indication that Yugoslav forces are poised "for a full-scale offensive" against Kosovo's Albanians.

Meanwhile, thousands of refugees from Kosovo and elsewhere in Serbia headed south to take refuge in neighboring Macedonia.

Correspondents Carl Rochelle, Brent Sadler and Christiane Amanpour contributed to this report.

Operation Allied Force: Day One
March 24, 1999
Clinton: NATO strikes will 'defuse a powder keg'
March 24, 1999
Yeltsin to meet with aides on response to bombings
March 24, 1999
KLA goes from splinter group to potential giant-killer
March 24, 1999

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