NATO defends record, continues bombings
Embassy strike 'was a mistake'
May 9, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- NATO officials remained tight- lipped Sunday about how its warplanes mistakenly bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, as airstrikes against Yugoslavia continued and angry protests intensified in Beijing.
"I don't see anything ... which suggests this was a catastrophe. It was not. It was a mistake. And no more than that," said NATO spokesman Jamie Shea in Brussels.
The Saturday strike killed three Chinese journalists and injured at least 20 at the compound in Yugoslavia's capital.
NATO officials, maintaining an intelligence gathering error was responsible for the bombing, said they may not have more to say on the matter.
Shea defended the record of NATO in the air campaign against Yugoslavia. Since it began on March 24, the alliance has dropped about 9,000 missiles and bombs and only 12 have "gone astray," he said.
"If you do a mathematical computation, you're talking about a fraction of one percent. So we continue to be accurate," Shea said.
But Yugoslavia's charge d'affaires, Vladislav Jovanovic, disagreed.
"When one commits something once, twice, three times it can still argue that it committed a mistake ... but when mistakes committed many, many times ... then it is a style, it is a policy," Jovanovic said on CNN's "Late Edition.
In Belgrade, as dignitaries from Yugoslavia, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus laid wreaths at monuments to mark the anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, a delegation of leaders and others from China walked through the heavily damaged Chinese Embassy compound.
The father of one victim, holding a bloodstained bed cover, wept uncontrollably in the room where his daughter and son- in-law died.
The delegation, lead by the deputy foreign minister, has been guaranteed safe passage by U.S. officials as they prepare to take the dead and wounded back to China by airplane.
However, apologies and overtures from NATO and the United States have done little to stem outrage from Chinese protesters in Belgrade and Beijing.
In the Yugoslav capital, hundreds of Chinese demonstrators were joined by Serbian sympathizers who denounced the NATO attack and called for an end to the war.
And in China, protesters hurled gas bombs, rocks and insults at diplomatic missions of the United States and other NATO countries, as tens of thousands protested in Beijing and provincial capitals throughout the country.
The attack was the result of "faulty information," U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and CIA Director George Tenet said in a joint statement.
NATO believed the building housed a Yugoslav military facility, not the Chinese Embassy.
"Those involved in targeting mistakenly believed that the Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement was at the location that was hit," the statement said.
U.S. President Bill Clinton sent a letter to Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Sunday making clear the U.S. government's deep regret over the attack.
The CIA made the initial target suggestion that led to the bombing of the Chinese Embassy, a U.S. official told CNN on Sunday. Maps of the area showed the Chinese Embassy in a former location; it moved four years ago.
China joined a chorus of voices from Russia and Yugoslavia calling for an end to the bombing. But officials from NATO repeated their assertion that the air campaign would continue until the safe return of Kosovo refugees can be assured.
"The air campaign is going to continue," NATO Secretary- General Javier Solana said. "The Yugoslav government hasn't done anything positive."
NATO flew more than 500 sorties Saturday overnight into Sunday, an alliance military spokesman said.
Russia's special Balkans envoy, making the rounds in Europe in search of a peaceful resolution to the Kosovo crisis, said that the bombing must end.
"Bombing won't resolve anything," former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said in Germany. "It has to be a political resolution."
Chernomyrdin returned to Moscow on Sunday with "new factors" to be discussed with President Boris Yeltsin. He did not elaborate, but said he had spoken with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic by phone about them.
"I can say there are some encouraging results from the conversations with Milosevic, but I will not say anything yet," the Itar-Tass news agency quoted Chernomyrdin as saying.
While in Germany, Chernomyrdin met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova and U.N. Balkans representative Carl Bildt.
He postponed a trip to Belgrade, part of his "shuttle diplomacy," after his meetings in Bonn.
NATO said Sunday that Kosovo Liberation Army fighters were providing some protection for displaced persons inside Kosovo, as thousands of refugees continued to flee the province.
In Kukes, Albania, refugees on foot and tractors streamed across the border. Mostly women, children and the elderly, they brought more tales of atrocities, and said Serbian forces had abducted many of their men.
One KLA fighter stood at the border, offering encouragement and advice to the refugees.
Unexpectedly, he found some members of his own family huddled on one of the tractors. He called for his daughter Beta, and embraced his mother, Rabisha, soothing her as she cried and talked of her dead sons, and those she had seen killed before her eyes.
POWs beaten, shackled in Yugoslavia, military says
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