NATO commander says helicopters to see action soon
Serb television comes under attack again
April 25, 1999
TIRANA, Albania (CNN) -- NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Wesley Clark says U.S. Apache helicopters will soon be in action inside Yugoslavia, stepping up the level of NATO firepower available to attack Serb forces on the ground.
"I don't have a specific date when we will be in operations, but ... it won't be too long," he said Sunday after reviewing NATO military operations in Albania, where the helicopters will be based.
Seven more Apaches arrived Sunday, bringing the number of the sophisticated aircraft in Albania to 18. They are supported by 3,000 U.S. troops, with another 2,000 expected shortly.
Meanwhile, in the hills above the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade, early Sunday, a generator powering a transmitter belonging to Serbia's state-run television was hit by a NATO strike -- marking the second time in three days that NATO has taken aim at Serb TV. Broadcasts ceased for a short time but eventually resumed.
In Belgrade, searchers continued to look Sunday for bodies buried in the rubble of a building housing the headquarters of Serb television and radio, which was struck by a missile Friday. Authorities say at least 11 people died and 18 were injured in the attack.
The alliance has defended attacks on Serbian television by calling it a propaganda tool for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
There is evidence that the attacks on broadcast facilities are having some effect. News programs are less frequent than in the past, and, in Belgrade, the signal has gone on and off.
Increasingly, commercial channels are becoming an important source of information. Officials say more than 100 local TV stations and some 400 radio stations have been unaffected by the strikes against transmitters and relay stations.
Meanwhile, in Washington, NATO leaders pledged economic and military support to seven non-NATO countries that border Yugoslavia, citing their support of NATO's operations. Those countries are Bulgaria, Albania, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Romania.
"They share our determination to prevail and to see this through, and they are willing to put up with the short-term inconveniences resulting from the Kosovo crisis," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said Sunday that NATO will probably step up the use of Hungarian bases in the air campaign. Hungary is the only NATO nation that borders Yugoslavia, which has a substantial Hungarian minority in the northern province of Vojvodina.
But Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov, in Washington for the NATO summit, ruled out the use of Macedonian territory to launch a ground invasion of Kosovo. He criticized NATO and the European Union for being too slow to accept for resettlement ethnic Albanian refugees who have flooded into his country.
In raids early Sunday and late Saturday, NATO struck a variety of targets:
NATO has now pledged to target oil supplies bound for Milosevic's "military machine," ordering its military staff to draw up plans to search ships bound for Yugoslavia.
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.
However, Russian officials say they will not honor the embargo, raising the possibility of confrontations on the high seas between NATO warships and Russian tankers.
The embargo also has raised concerns in Montenegro, the other, pro-Western republic that makes up the Yugoslav federation with Serbia.
All of Yugoslavia's sea access is in Montenegro. Oil lands there and is shipped in trucks to Serbia because there are no pipelines and rail links have been bombed.
Montenegro's Western-leaning government fears that an embargo could interrupt trade and further polarize and destabilize the republic. Government officials say NATO should instead try to cut off the overland supply lines to Serbia.
Yugoslav officials condemned the U.N. effort to cut off its oil supply.
"The oil embargo would be another illegal, unauthorized activity by NATO, in addition to its aggression and a number of other actions in the field of economic strangulation of Yugoslavia," said Vladislav Jovanovic, the charge d'affaires at the Yugoslav mission to the United Nations.
"So the whole international community should react in the appropriate way in condemning that action and requesting that NATO act and behave in line with international law, and not as a wild and political and military alliance acting on its own and against the charter of U.N.," Jovanovic said.
Shea said Saturday that the procedures determining how ships will be searched and which will be boarded will be developed over the next few days by 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.
Correspondents Alessio Vinci, Satinder Bindra and Nic Robertson contributed to this report.
French waver on NATO plan to choke Yugoslav oil imports
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