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World - Europe

NATO: Yugo ground troops may be targeted

Clark says an objective of the NATO mission is to destroy Yugoslavia's military capability unless Milosevic agrees to peace initiatives

Wesley Clark biography

Objective of the NATO airstrikes

Can you name NATO's 19 member countries?

A profile of NATO's supreme commander, U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark, from CNN's Patricia Kelly
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NATO's Supreme Commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, spoke with CNN's Christiane Amanpour Friday
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March 26, 1999
Web posted at: 9:50 a.m. EST (1450 GMT)

In this story:

NATO facing little resistance


MONS, Belgium (CNN) -- With a third day of airstrikes against Yugoslav air defenses set to begin, NATO's military leader told CNN on Friday that the long-range attack strategy also targets Yugoslav ground troops.

"We will do this ... as rapidly as we can," NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark said without giving a specific timetable. "It's part of the campaign plan," the U.S. general said.

NATO, he said, seeks to destroy the Yugoslav military unless President Slobodan Milosevic ends his offensive in Kosovo and agrees to a peace plan for that Serbian province.

Clark said that the targeting of Yugoslavia's air defenses was not only to protect NATO aircraft, but also a "preparatory step" before going after Milosevic's ground forces.

"It was always understood, from the outset, that there was no way we were going to stop these (Serb) paramilitary forces who were going in and murdering civilians in these (Kosovo) villages," Clark said in an interview in Mons, Belgium, where NATO's military headquarters is located.

"What we're going to do is act to degrade his command and control over the heavy military forces and the uniformed police forces," he said. "I can't predict what day it's going to be done."

NATO facing little resistance

Also in the interview, Clark said:

  • NATO had not lost any aircraft since the strikes were launched on Wednesday, denying Yugoslav reports overnight that three planes had been shot down.

  • NATO pilots have not met heavy resistance, although Yugoslavia has used anti-aircraft radar and has launched some surface-to-air missiles at NATO planes. "I can't tell you why they haven't launched more," he said.

    Bomb damage in Yugoslavia from NATO airstrikes  

  • There were "accurate" reports, verified by Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitors, of Albanian villages across the border from Kosovo being shelled by Yugoslav forces.

Clark said such firing had occurred before. "This will be something which the Serbs will see what they can get away with provided they think there are targets across the border in Albania."

It "wouldn't be surprising," he added, if Serbian forces even crossed the border into Albania on raiding missions.

Clark, 54, is a Rhodes scholar who graduated in 1966 at the top of his class at the U.S. Military Academy. At Oxford University in England he studied politics, philosophy and economics.

The Little Rock, Arkansas, native has been the supreme U.S. and NATO commander in Europe since July 1997, moving there after commanding the U.S. Southern Command in Panama, where he was responsible for U.S. security policy in Latin America.

Correspondent Christiane Amanpour contributed to this report.

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Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
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