NATO pounds Milosevic's residence
April 22, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- NATO destroyed one of residences in an airstrike early Thursday, taking its war against Yugoslavia directly to its president.
Milosevic and his family were not inside the house in Belgrade's luxurious Dedinje district at the time of the 4 a.m. (0200 GMT) attack, Tanjug news agency said.
NATO confirmed it had targeted the home, saying the structure was part of the Yugoslav military's command and control operation.
The Tanjug report said the residence on Uzicka Street, one of two Milosevic maintains in Belgrade was "leveled to the ground."
Serbian TV showed footage of what it said was the home. It showed significant damage to what was clearly a large house in a leafy district.
NATO officials have said they believe Milosevic regularly sleeps in different premises in Belgrade.
In addition to the reported attack on Milosevic's house, Yugoslav authorities were assessing the damage Thursday from a night of attacks that reportedly targeted a military airport and a key factory region.
The latest wave of air attacks came as Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin prepared for talks in Belgrade Thursday with Milosevic.
The former Russian prime minister is expected to examine ways that might bring an end to the conflict over Kosovo.
In an interview aired Wednesday night in the United States, Milosevic said a diplomatic solution was possible once NATO ceased its attacks which have bombarded Yugoslavia for 30 days.
"I believe that when the aggression stops, when the bombing stops, then it will be very easy to continue the political process," Milosevic said
Early Thursday, a series of large explosions jolted an area just outside Belgrade. Serbian TV reported that the key military airport Batajnica, just outside the capital, was hit. Explosions also were heard in central Belgrade.
In Valjevo about 45 miles (70 km) southwest of Belgrade, an independent radio station Studio B said 12 missiles struck the Krusik factory, a repeated target of NATO's strikes. The report said the air raids were the strongest attack on Valjevo so far and that a number of houses and buildings near the factory were damaged.
The attacks heralded in Day 30 of NATO's Operation Allied Force and follow strikes a day earlier that NATO officials said was aimed at "striking at the heart" of Milosevic's "bloodstained regime."
In Washington, sources told CNN that NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana has authorized Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Wesley Clark and alliance military planners to "update the assessment" for the possible use of ground troops in Yugoslavia.
A previous assessment of the possible use of ground troops estimated that more than 200,000 NATO troops would be required for any ground war in Yugoslavia.
The issue will be a topic of discussion this weekend at NATO's 50th anniversary summit. The three-day summit begins Friday.
The sources described the move as routine and logical nearly a month into the conflict -- and said it in no way suggests a move toward seeking approval from the 19-member military alliance for a ground combat operation.
The White House said earlier in the day it would support such a review of the previous assessment, but also reiterated its view that the air campaign would ultimately be successful.
In testimony before Congress, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said that if, or when, Solana called for a reassessment of ground troops that "can happen very quickly."
The first wave of the long-awaited Apache tank-killing helicopters arrived in Albania Wednesday to beef up NATO's operation in Kosovo to "attack the enemy in the field."
Eleven Apaches touched down in the Albanian capital of Tirana after days of delays from bad weather, along with an escort of Blackhawk helicopters and Chinooks.
The Apaches, a terrain-hugging helicopter, uses natural features like trees and hills to screen itself from the enemy before popping up to shred tanks and troop concentrations.
Twenty-four are to be in Albania by Thursday. Officials say 2,615 U.S. troops from bases across Germany will staff the Apaches and other helicopters as well as provide force protection.
In addition, 615 personnel from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, including 550 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne, are to be based in Tirana. About half have already arrived, with the rest expected to depart by this weekend.
Many of the Apache pilots sent to Albania are combat veterans, including some who saw action during the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989.
"We are going to attack the enemy in the field that could be hidden in tree lines. They could be hidden by buildings. They could be in semi-populated areas, possibly they're harder to find," Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Wald said.
"This is the type of mission the Apache is good for. It's out rooting around trying to find armor and destroying those," he said.
But defense officials said "we should not look to the Apaches as being some kind of a silver bullet."
On another front, the Clinton administration reversed course and said it would allow up to 20,000 Kosovo refugees into the United States where they could apply for political asylum. Sources said plans to use the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as an emergency refugee camp are being dropped.
Meanwhile, authorities in Albania are encouraging refugees to move away from the border with Yugoslavia. International teams have started airlifting some refugees to camps further inland.
Aid workers say they expect another wave of refugees from Kosovo to cross into Albania in the next few days.
European Union Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs Emma Bonino told CNN Thursday it was necessary to move the refugees inland for their own security.
She warned "they can be attacked by Serb army or paramilitary groups" if they remained close to the border.
In another development, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she has been in close contact -- "practically every day" -- with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to try "to get the Russians on the side of the rest of the allies in pressing Belgrade."
"We agree on all the principles ... except one. And that is on the international security force. They are pressing for just 'an international force,' which might be something like OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) without weapons," she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "That is a non-starter."
"We are saying that the force has to have NATO at its core so that our command structure is in place and so that the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) will disarm. They will not disarm if NATO and the U.S. are not a part of it," Albright said.
CNN INDEPTH SPECIAL SECTION:
NATO beefs up firepower, doubles targets in Yugoslavia
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