Britain adds carrier to NATO armada
Belgrade marks Easter amid bombs
April 11, 1999
LONDON (CNN) -- NATO continued to bomb Yugoslav army units in Kosovo on Sunday, the Orthodox Church's Easter, as Britain announced it would send additional ships and planes into the air campaign against Yugoslavia.
British, Dutch and Belgian planes participated in Sunday's raids, which were carried out despite persistent bad weather in the region, said Air Marshal Sir John Day, Britain's deputy chief of staff.
"All our aircraft returned safely," British Foreign Minister Robin Cook said at a London news conference.
To bolster the NATO force in the Balkans, Britain said it would send the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible to the Adriatic Sea, along with a destroyer and a support ship.
The assignment of the Invincible comes a day after the United States announced plans to move an additional 82 strike planes, transports and tankers into the region.
"It is a visible demonstration to our commitment to completing the job and forcing (Yugoslav President Slobodan) to reverse the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo," Cook said.
Invincible's air wing includes seven Harrier attack jets, among other aircraft. The ship will be the third carrier in the NATO fleet, along with the U.S. Navy carrier Theodore Roosevelt and the French carrier Foch.
British military officials said the air raids -- now nearly three weeks old -- have cut into the Yugoslav army's fuel supplies so sharply that its tanks and armored vehicles are kept parked to save gasoline.
Belgrade ushered in Orthodox Easter with the Yugoslav capital under air raid warnings early Sunday as NATO rejected pleas to ease its bombardment during the religious holiday.
In Belgrade, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriach Pavle, served midnight mass to hundreds, many of whom said their faith was strengthened by the hardships of war.
The Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches and NATO member Greece had asked the 19-member military alliance to pause the bombing during Easter as a gesture of goodwill to Yugoslav civilians.
"We thought this was a good idea, but unfortunately it wasn't accepted," Alexander Philon, the Greek ambassador to the United States, told CNN.
Air raid sirens sounded across Belgrade late Saturday as well.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered on the Branko bridge over the Sava River, which divides old and new Belgrade. Pop music concerts and speeches on key bridges around the city have become almost nightly rituals of defiance in the Yugoslav capital.
NATO says the bombardment will continue until Milosevic agrees to all the terms of a peace plan outlined for Kosovo, which aims to end fighting between Serb forces and ethnic Albanian rebels in Kosovo.
The terms include an end to attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the withdrawal of Yugoslav troops and the admission of a NATO-led peacekeeping force. Yugoslav authorities have consistently refused to allow an international contingent on its soil.
Meanwhile, a Yugoslav diplomat Saturday denounced as "slanderous" accusations of atrocities against civilians in the Serbian province of Kosovo.
"It is totally one slanderous accusation that we have to do anything with that," Vladislav Jovanovic, the Yugoslav charge d'affaires at the United Nations, said Saturday. "We are not at all turned against our people."
On Saturday, Serbian television showed pictures of moderate Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova meeting with top Belgrade officials -- the fourth time he has been seen on TV here since the NATO campaign began more than two weeks ago.
Yugoslav authorities have said Rugova plays a pivotal role in negotiating a peaceful settlement to the Kosovo crisis. NATO is skeptical whether Rugova is free to speak his mind -- and says officials may be coercing him into making positive statements.
The NATO air armada arrayed against Yugoslavia will soon include some 700 aircraft, including heavy bombers based in Britain, fighter-bombers flying from Italy and strike planes on U.S., British and French carriers in the Adriatic Sea.
The new U.S. forces coming into the fight include 24 F-16CJ anti-radar aircraft, four more A-10 ground attack planes, six EA-6B electronic warfare planes, 41 aerial tankers and seven transports.
"Basically, it will allow us to increase the intensity of the air campaign over Kosovo and Yugoslavia," Bacon told reporters at the Pentagon.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said NATO bombs and missiles have badly damaged the central command system for Yugoslavia's air defense and wiped out about half of the country's fleet of top-of-the-line fighter jets, the Russian-built MiG-29.
"In the last two weeks we have inflicted a hell of a lot of damage, quite frankly, on the Yugoslav armed forces," he said.
NATO unity appeared strong Saturday as top allied diplomats prepared for a Monday meeting in Brussels.
Art Eggleton, Canada's minister of National Defense, voiced his country's continuing support and involvement in NATO airstrikes on Saturday after a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen at the Pentagon.
And fears that Russia might intervene on behalf of its historic allies, the Serbs, seemed to ease slightly Saturday.
Russia has strenuously objected to the NATO campaign, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin warned Friday that the conflict could lead to a world war.
But on Saturday, Russia's foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, assured British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook "that Russia had no intention of becoming involved in any confrontation in the Balkans and no wish to see any escalation," British Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson said.
NATO strikes Yugoslavia as more planes ordered
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