Chinese, Russians condemn embassy attack, call for bombing halt
Civilians killed in Nis hospital strike
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The bomb blast that struck China's embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, was a "crime of war," Chinese U.N. ambassador Qin Huasun told the U.N. Security Council's emergency session Saturday.
"The Chinese government expressed their utmost indignation and severe condemnation of the barbarian act," Qin said in an opening statement at the council's open session, held early Saturday.
NATO admitted that one of its pilots mistakenly targeted the embassy during an intense raid on the Yugoslav capital Friday night. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea called the attack "a terrible accident," and said NATO bombers "struck the wrong building."
Yugoslav state media reported many as four people were killed and 20 injured in the attack.
"U.S.-led NATO should bear all responsibilities arising from this," said the ambassador, who also demanded that NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia end.
Russia joined China's voice in condemning the attack and calling for a halt to the bombing.
At China's request, the Security Council met behind closed doors for three hours prior to the open session. Following the private meeting, the Security Council issued a statement expressing its "shock and concern" over the bombing.
"Members of the Security Council expressed their sympathy and condolences to the Chinese government and the families of the victims," said the statement, read by Council President Denis Dangue Rewake of Gabon.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said he was "shocked and distressed" at news of the embassy bombing, as well as over reports that a hospital was hit in Nis.
NATO said it used cluster bombs in Nis that might have gone astray during an assault on an airfield. Yugoslav officials said 10 civilians were killed in that attack. NATO said it has not confirmed those casualty figures.
CNN White House Correspondent John King, traveling with President Clinton in Texas, reported a senior White House official said if true, the embassy attack would be an "incredible accident."
In Beijing, both government officials and citizens on the street expressed outrage, and anger toward the United States, CNN's Rebecca MacKinnon reported.
The Yugoslav ambassador to the United Nations condemed the strike in harsh terms. He called the bombing "a war crime." He also said: "The targeting of China's embassy is not an accident, is not collateral damage." Ambassador Vladislav Jovanovic said NATO was waging "total war against Yugoslavia."
NATO sources said Belgrade was a prime target in air raids late Friday and early Saturday, but that the Chinese Embassy was not on the NATO target list.
The blast shattered all the windows of the two-story embassy building, and people on the second floor had to be evacuated by a ladder truck.
Serbian television showed the building smoldering, with piles of rubble, as fire fighters with flashlights cautiously searched for survivors.
Hotel Yugoslavia also struck
NATO officials said the overnight bombings in Belgrade were the most intense of the 45-day NATO campaign.
The Hotel Yugoslavia was struck during the overnight raids. NATO has claimed that it housed an underground bunker complex used by paramilitary leader and indicted war criminal Jelko Raznatovic, also known as Arkan.
NATO said it also targeted the Army and police leadership, as well as four power stations. The strikes on Belgrade followed a day of carnage in the southern city of Nis.
Yugoslavia said the hospital in Nis was hit during NATO attacks on an airfield. NATO said it used cluster bombs that might have gone astray during the assault on the airfield. Yugoslav officials said 10 civilians were killed and 15 wounded in that attack, in which a city market place also was struck.
CNN's Brent Sadler, taken to the scene of the alleged cluster bombings along with other international journalists, reported a bomb had exploded in a residential area of Nis as well as near the city center.
Cars were pockmarked, riddled with holes, with windows blown out, Sadler said. He said he saw the bodies of three people -- two men and a woman -- lying in pools of blood amid produce strewn about the market in central Nis. He said an elderly man lay dead outside his home in a residential area.
Serbian television showed hospital patients with severe wounds which it said were from the attack, including patients with bleeding abdominal wounds and missing limbs.
U.N. expresses 'shock and concern'
"We are outraged over this barbaric action," Sergey Lavrov, Russian ambassador to the United Nations," said early Saturday during the U.N. session to discuss the Chinese embassy attack.
"How many people must be killed. How many countries must be destabilized to punish that one person?" asked Lavrov. He said it was "essential" for NATO countries to shift to a political settlement, rather than military. Military action has plunged Europe into the past, he said. He called for an immediate halt to NATO strikes.
Lavrov also called the NATO action "barbaric" and said it cannot go unpunished.
But Dutch Ambassador to the U.N. Arnold Peter van Walsum said that "all collateral damage" is regrettable, but that any loss of life as a result of airstrikes was accidental.
He said NATO had "no choice" but to launch the airstrikes because of Yugoslavia's policy of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
"No civilized government could have foreseen the scope or ferocity" of the scope of ethnic cleansing, he said.
The strike on the embassy could add a new dimension to the Yugoslav crisis. China is a permanent member of the Security Council, which is expected to consider a new peace plan proposed by the Group of Eight nations. The Chinese have been strongly opposed to NATO airstrikes on Yugoslavia.
Belgrade plunged into darkness
The Chinese embassy was damaged during the first air raid on the Yugoslav capital in three days, which began with a series of explosions late Friday night.
Government officials said the headquarters of both the Yugoslav military and the Serb police were also struck. Both of those buildings have been previously hit by NATO firepower.
Air raid sirens went off and the explosions began about 10 p.m. (2000 GMT), plunging the entire city into darkness. It was the second major power blackout in Belgrade since the war began.
Around the same time, the power went out in Podgorica, the capital of the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro. The lights came back on about 45 minutes later.
Annan: NATO should reassess Balkan role
In other developments in the Kosovo crisis Friday, Annan called on NATO to reassess the role it has played in the Balkans and let the United Nations lead peacemaking efforts.
Annan praised the decision of the Group of Eight countries to seek U.N. approval of a multinational security contingent as part of a negotiated settlement of NATO's air war against Yugoslavia. The United Nations, not NATO, should make decisions about using force, Annan said.
"The Security Council should have primary responsibility for peace and security, and when it comes to the use of force, the council must be involved," he said before the emergency session.
In a question-and-answer session with contributors at CNN's World Report Conference, Annan said NATO countries' attempt, without U.N. backing, to force Yugoslavia to sign a peace agreement is not likely to lead the alliance into a role as a world police force.
"My own sense, and I could be wrong here, is that after what NATO has gone through in the Balkans, it is going to reassess its own approach. And I think it should," he said.
Annan praises G-8 initiative
The G-8 countries -- which include the largest NATO powers and Russia -- agreed Thursday to seek the Security Council's blessing for an international contingent in the Serbian province of Kosovo.
The plan includes calls for:
Yugoslavia has said it would not accept an international military presence on its territory, just a lightly armed contingent. Annan said any force under the U.N. flag should be "so credible that no one would want to challenge it."
While the United Nations -- not NATO -- will give its name to that detachment, NATO leaders insisted that their troops must form its core and leadership.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov joined his G-8 counterparts Thursday in Germany to endorse the new plan, but he emphasized Friday that it was only a first step toward ending the Yugoslav conflict. He repeated calls for a bombing halt as well.
"For now, it's a step in the right direction, but it's only a step," Ivanov said.
Russia maintains that Yugoslavia must approve of an international force, and Belgrade floated a proposal Thursday calling for a mix of soldiers from NATO countries, Russia and other nations.
Milosevic meets with Greek delegation
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic met with a Greek delegation in Belgrade and was said to be pondering details of the G-8 formula, although he reportedly still objects to NATO being at he core of any Kosovo peacekeeping mission.
Vladislav Jovanovic, the Yugoslav representative to the United Nations, said the G-8 plan was a move in the right direction. But he was still critical of the document's call for a Yugoslav withdrawal from Kosovo.
"If we respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Yugoslavia, no one could expect from us to evacuate entirely any part of our territory and to leave it in limbo to others to fill it," he said.
But Russia's support of the plan means Yugoslavia is increasingly isolated, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said Friday.
Correspondents Brent Sadler, Rebecca MacKinnon, Alessio Vinci and Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.
POWs beaten, shackled in Yugoslavia, military says
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
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