NATO targets 'heart' of Yugoslav ruling party
April 21, 1999
LONDON (CNN) -- NATO airstrikes on Wednesday hit the last remaining bridge over the Danube River in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia's second largest city, and set ablaze the Belgrade offices of President Slobodan Milosevic's ruling party.
As NATO prepared for a fifth week of its air campaign against Yugoslavia, at least two cruise missiles struck the 23-story building that houses the executive offices of the ruling Socialist Party of Serbia. The building has a large radio and TV transmission unit atop it.
British Defense Secretary George Robertson said the building was "largely destroyed," calling it "one of the nerve centers of the regime which plans the killing in Kosovo."
"We are now striking at the very heart of that bloodstained regime and will do so again and again and again," he said.
Robertson and Air Marshal John Day, Britain's deputy chief of staff, said Yugoslavia's army now sees no hope of beating the alliance. Though Yugoslav air defenses remain active, "NATO's aircraft can operate almost with impunity in the region," Day said.
Yugoslav army troops and Albanian security forces clashed along the Albanian border in a seven-hour firefight, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said. One Albanian soldier was wounded in the first confirmed exchange of fire between soldiers from the two countries since the conflict began.
And Croatia's Defense Ministry said Yugoslav troops had crossed into a U.N.-controlled zone at the border with Montenegro, blocking the border crossing point.
The new strikes on Belgrade came on the eve of a visit by Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is scheduled to arrive Thursday in another effort to end the conflict. Wednesday's attack on the Socialist Party headquarters was considered a strike at a symbol of Milosevic's power.
Also inside the building are the offices of TV Pink, a popular entertainment studio that has been involved with recent anti-NATO protests, and Kosava radio and TV, owned by Milosevic's daughter Marija.
There were no immediate reports of injuries, but a woman who works an earlier shift in the building told Serbian TV that there is an overnight crew that works in the building.
The height of structure made firefighting difficult, Yugoslav authorities reported. The building's two top stories and bottom three were ablaze. Lights were still burning on the structure's middle floors after the attack.
Serbian TV reported an attack on the southern city of Novi Pazar, 110 miles (176 km) south of Belgrade.
Serbian TV reported strikes on a camp for Serbian refugees from Croatia outside Djakovica in Kosovo. It said three people were killed, including children, and several wounded.
Serbian TV reported the Krusik factory, a repeated target in Valjevo, was hit again. The report said a residential area was struck, injuring one person, and that it was the strongest attack in Valjevo, about 45 miles (70 km) southwest of Belgrade, since the bombing campaign began in late March.
Novi Sad, Yugoslavia's second-largest city, reported attacks on an oil refinery, a railway bridge and a Serbian TV transmitter that knocked out television broadcasts in the region.
Serbian TV said the Zezeljev bridge in Novi Sad is now impassable except to pedestrians. Television footage showed the bridge was damaged, but not destroyed.
No consensus on ground troops
In Washington, officials said there is no NATO consensus for sending in ground troops and, with the campaign focused on airstrikes, the strategy now is to explore the tightening of sanctions against Yugoslavia, especially ways to bar oil shipments from getting in the hands of Milosevic.
"We will consider new economic measures designed to deny Belgrade the ability to wage war against its own people, such as an embargo on oil products," Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said.
Defense Secretary William Cohen said: "We think it's important that all sources of resupply of fuel and energy be eliminated. How that is to be achieved is a matter of discussion. ... We're looking for the most appropriate and expeditious way of doing it."
In Brussels, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea echoed those sentiments when asked about reports of oil still coming into Yugoslavia from other countries. Shea said NATO was still working on ways to cut that flow, but no decisions had been reached.
Shea said that the Yugoslav army were driving people out of their homes and toward southern Kosovo in a "safari operation" but not allowing them to cross the border. He said on Monday a train was sent south from Pristina but stopped near the border and sent back.
"What we are seeing is a safari operation ongoing by Serb security forces against Kosovo Albanians," Shea said.
He said Milosevic was driving people to the south apparently so he could cause a "surge" of refugees and that there is evidence that indicates Yugoslav forces were engaged in ethnic cleaning inside Montenegro.
Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon said Pentagon officials are looking into those reports.
"These are obviously extremely disturbing and we're looking further at them," Bacon said.
Bacon said airstrikes are making life difficult for Serb forces, but NATO still has plenty of work to do.
"Nothing we've seen so far is a clear stop to their operations. What we're seeing is signs that we're grinding them down, but it's slow, and it will require a lot more attacking on our part and NATO is prepared to do that," he said.
British PM vows no deal
Earlier on Tuesday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed there will be "no deal" with Milosevic, and U.S. and NATO officials pledged to seek tighter sanctions "to deny Belgrade the ability to wage war against its own people."
In other developments:
"I am sure the full range of issues involving Kosovo will be discussed, but I believe that the consensus in NATO very clearly is to stay the course," National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said
The official said Yeltsin agreed that U.S. and Russian diplomats, including Albright and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, should continue to talk on a possible solution for the security force.
"It is an alternative that has serious prospects for potentially working," the official said.
In London, asked about NATO's determination in light of the fact that Milosevic has shown no sign of giving in, Blair was emphatic that there is no room for a deal.
"There is no question of making some deal or compromise with Milosevic. We have set out our demands and objectives and they will be met in full because they are the minimum demands that we can, in all humanity, make," said Blair.
"I think there is a proper sense of moral outrage at what Milosevic has done that we should not shy away from but should be proud of feeling."
Correspondent Brent Sadler contributed to this report.
Blair: 'No deal' for Milosevic
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