NATO sees no sign of Yugoslav troop withdrawal
May 11, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- NATO officials said Tuesday there have been no signs of a pullout of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo since the Yugoslav government announced the withdrawal on Monday.
"Last night, (Yugoslav) President (Slobodan) Milosevic made what he called a peace offer. He said he was starting to withdraw his troops from Kosovo," British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said at a daily briefing.
"I have to report to you that as of this morning, there is no evidence of troops withdrawing from Kosovo. Indeed, the reports we have suggest that the fighting continues," Cook said.
Cook called the announcement that Yugoslav troops had begun to leave Kosovo on Sunday night "another cynical gambit" by Milosevic, who is "once again responding to military and diplomatic pressure."
"If Milosevic is pulling them out, there will be plenty of dust on the track," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said. "We'll know it when we see it."
Shea also said NATO sees no evidence that hostilities between Yugoslav forces and Kosovo Liberation Army rebels, who seek independence for the Serbian province, have ceased. Yugoslavia contended that such a cessation was behind its announced troop withdrawal.
"The Yugoslav army and special police seem to be trying harder than ever to capture the remaining Kosovo Liberation Army strongholds and secure their lines of communication," Shea said.
NATO insists that its bombing of Yugoslavia will continue until it can assure the safe return of ethnic Albanian refugees who have fled their homes by the hundreds of thousands. The alliance has demanded a complete withdrawal of Yugoslav forces.
However, on Tuesday, Cook left open the possibility of allowing a "token" Serb presence in Kosovo, protected by an international force with NATO at its core.
"Perhaps at the end of the day, we might not exclude some symbolism," he said, "(but we) are not going to agree to an outcome that leaves behind forces that can ... repress the local people."
Meanwhile, NATO's Operation Allied Force bombed Yugoslavia for the 49th day on Tuesday, with improved weather conditions allowing intensified operations overnight.
"We hit Serb forces in Kosovo hard and with good success," said Maj. Gen. Walter Jertz, NATO's military spokesman. "Serb forces have proven particularly adept at using tunnels, natural camouflage, and buildings and villages, to make it very difficult to locate and attack them from the air. Yesterday one of our attacks against a major tunnel complex near Pristina was particularly effective."
For the first time since NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade last week, NATO planes hit targets near the Yugoslav capital.
Yugoslav national TV reported that the city of Nis also came under attack Tuesday, and the main northbound highway toward Belgrade was damaged near Velika Plana. NATO planes also damaged a railway bridge toward Macedonia, it said.
The village of Staro Gradsko near Pristina was attacked with four missiles, said Belgrade TV, which reported that the bombs exploded in "exclusively civilian areas." Two people died in the attack, the report said.
In other developments:
Yugoslavia declares partial pullout from Kosovo
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
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