Serbian TV goes dark, NATO strikes reported near transmitter
April 25, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- NATO airstrikes slammed an area near Yugoslavia's largest transmitter early Sunday and Serbian television went off the air shortly afterward.
Yugoslavia's official Tanjug news agency said NATO struck a generator serving the Avala transmitter in the hills outside Belgrade shortly before 3 a.m. local time (9 p.m. EDT)
The attack ushered in Day 33 of NATO's Operation Allied Force. NATO bombed Serbian TV headquarters in overnight raids Friday, torching the building housing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's main media outlet and knocking it off air for at least six hours.
The alliance defended the attack because of what it claims is Milosevic-spread "propaganda."
In other overnight raids Sunday, a chemical factory in the central Serb town of Lucani was struck, a Belgrade news Web site, beograd.com, said.
At least six missiles reportedly hit near a bridge in Nis, a city about 125 miles (200 km) southeast of Belgrade that has faced relentless bombardment.
There were reports of explosions in Cacak, about 62 miles (100 km) south of Belgrade, and planes were spotted over Kragujevac, the town about 60 miles (100 km) southeast of the Yugoslav capital where NATO struck the Zastava car plant earlier in the campaign.
Sites around the town of Loznica, southwest of Belgrade near the Bosnia border, were reportedly hit early Sunday and Saturday evening.
With NATO strikes against Yugoslavia now in its second month, alliance officials pledged Saturday to intensify its air raids and choke off Milosevic's oil supply from reaching his "military machine."
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said NATO's "unanimity is total" on the decision to try to keep oil shipments from entering Yugoslavia's ports.
Clark to develop search procedures
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said Saturday that the procedures for how ships will be searched, and which ships will be boarded, will be developed over the next few days by NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Wesley Clark. His plans will then be submitted to the alliance's political leadership for approval.
Shea did not give a date for when the so-called "visit-and-search regime" to interdict oil shipments would begin.
Of particular concern is the possible reaction of Russia if any of its ships were to be intercepted. Russia has been a major supplier of oil to Yugoslavia.
"I hope that will not be necessary," said Solana, of the possibility of intercepting a Russian vessel. He said NATO officials would begin immediate discussions with the Russians in an effort to get them to honor the embargo.
"I hope very much we will get a common position with the Russians," he said.
Shea said NATO considers oil "arms-related material" that is covered by a U.N. arms embargo imposed on Yugoslavia.
"It's very important to us to continue ... to tighten the taps -- to switch off the oil taps completely," Shea said. Yugoslavia's two oil refineries have been rendered inoperable by a month of NATO airstrikes and about 70 percent of its oil supplies have been destroyed, he said.
At a press conference Saturday afternoon, U.S. President Bill Clinton defended the decision to intercept oil shipments.
"How can we justify risking the lives of the pilots to go up and destroy the refinery and the supply capacity of Serbia and then say, 'But it's okay with us if people want to continue to supply this nation and its outlaw actions in Kosovo in another way,'" Clinton said.
In what NATO believes is an illustration of the growing fuel problems in Yugoslavia, Shea said there have been reports that the Yugoslavs are siphoning gasoline from cars abandoned by ethnic Albanians who have fled Kosovo.
"That's the final act of robbery that they seem to be perpetrating against the Kosovar Albanians who have been forced to flee," he said.
While the alliance ordered Clark to carry out intensified attacks on oil pipelines and tanker trucks in Serbia, he was instructed to stop bombing facilities in Montenegro, the other, pro-Western republic that makes up the Yugoslav federation.
Clark arrives Sunday in Tirana, Albania, to visit troops sent there to protect a fleet of Apache attack helicopters that arrived earlier in the week.
After touring the facilities and meeting with U.S. military personnel needed to fly and support the Apaches.
With more of Taskforce Hawk's personnel and equipment expected to arrive during his visit, Clark may take the opportunity to declare the unit operational. This status, however, does not guarantee the immediate introduction of the Apaches into NATO's ongoing airstrikes.
Strikes go on despite bad weather
Despite bad weather, NATO launched a series of strikes late Friday and early Saturday that included an attack on an oil refinery in Novi Sad, a fuel storage facility in central Serbia, three airfields and radio and television transmission towers.
Military vehicles in Kosovo were also hit, said Col. Konrad Freytag, a NATO military spokesman.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Saturday that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has put a number of high-ranking military officers -- including generals -- under house arrest. Shea confirmed that report, characterizing the arrested generals as retired.
"There are many retired generals in Yugoslavia, because Milosevic retires generals all the time. He doesn't seem to have much trust in them. I wonder if they have much trust in him, and that is the real reason," Shea said.
In Belgrade, several thousand people turned out Saturday to mourn journalists and technicians who died in a NATO missile attack early Friday on the building housing Serbian state television. Yugoslav officials said at least 12 people died.
Clinton defended the decision to bomb the headquarters of Serbian TV, saying NATO military planners had determined that it was "an essential instrument of command and control" for military forces.
"It is not, in a conventional sense, a media outlet," Clinton said.
With leaders of NATO countries in Washington for the alliance's 50th anniversary summit, several hundred pro-Yugoslav demonstrators held a rally Saturday in Lafayette Park across from the White House.
They carried Yugoslav flags, waved the three-finger Yugoslav salute and chanted anti-NATO protests, including "Stop the bombing. Stop the War" and "Hey, hey, U.S.A., how many kids have you killed today?"
Many in the crowd wore T-shirts bearing bulls-eye targets, which Yugoslavs have adopted as a show of defiance.
Shea also said Saturday that NATO defense ministers have agreed to give Clark "all of the operational assets that he requires in terms of extra assets to prosecute the air campaign with maximum effect."
He also confirmed that Clark has been given additional "operational flexibility" to attack a wider range of military targets without having to first seek approval from NATO's political leaders. But Shea said that does not include any decision to introduce ground forces into Kosovo.
In an interview with CNN, Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said his country would be willing to let NATO use its territory and facilities to launch a ground offensive against Yugoslavia.
"We have a responsibility to collaborate with NATO" as a member of the alliance's Partnership for Peace program, Milo said.
But Shea again emphasized that while NATO is reviewing contingency plans for the possible use of ground troops, any talk of a ground offensive is "premature."
"The air campaign is our best means of achieving our objective of degrading substantially the Yugoslav forces and obliging them to quit Kosovo," he said. "There is no other option that can do this as quickly and as decisively."
NATO diplomats tell CNN that the question of deploying ground troops has not been raised by any of the leaders at the NATO summit, despite public suggestions by Britain and France that ground troops should be used.
Diplomatic sources said there would be no move toward ground troops because major allies say they do not have public support for the deployment of combat forces in Kosovo.
In another diplomatic development, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy said he may travel to Moscow in an effort to move forward efforts to resolve the Kosovo crisis.
Axworthy told reporters that he will carry no "secret plan" or initiative but rather will exchange ideas with Russians on recent peace proposals put forward by former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and others.
French waver on NATO plan to choke Yugoslav oil imports
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
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