NATO presses on with systematic bombing of Milosevic's military
May 13, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- America's top military man Wednesday claimed NATO's attacks are "systematically and effectively" destroying Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's military machine, while Clinton administration officials reported a possible break on the diplomatic front.
In Belgrade, Milosevic acknowledged for the first time that the NATO campaign has inflicted "many" casualties among his armed forces. He did not elaborate.
As night fell in Yugoslavia, Serbian television said NATO attacked sites in the southeastern Serb town of Leskovac and Pirot, a town in eastern Serbia, about 30 miles (50 km) southeast of Nis.
Serbian TV later said the following areas in Serbia came under NATO attack overnight: Novi Sad; Batajnica airport near Belgrade; the town of Pancevo; Pozarevac, Milosevic's birthplace; and the town of Sabac.
The official Yugoslav news agency Tanjug said the state television headquarters in the Novi Sad district of Sremska Kamenica had been hit, sending a funnel of thick smoke into the sky. Novi Sad's oil refinery was also bombed once again, according to state radio.
Several towns in Kosovo were bombed on Thursday, TV reported. One missile hit Kosovo's small town of Srbac, while several bombs exploded in the border area between towns of Decani and Djakovica.
The center of the town of Prizren came under attack too, with bombs allegedly exploding near a railway station and a hotel. Another attack occurred on the Kutlovac hill, near the town of Kosovska Mitrovica, the TV reported.
The new attacks came on the heels of what NATO officials hailed as its most successful day of Operation Allied Force. Officials also reinforced the 19-member military alliance's resolve to press on with the military campaign.
"NATO's military objectives remain clear. Our cause is just, and our determination is unswerving," Gen. Hugh Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon.
Moving out of town
U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said there are signs Yugoslav military elite are moving their families out of Belgrade as the bombings continue to degrade the military.
"It tells you that there is a declining degree of confidence in what Milosevic has done and is doing," Cohen said. "This is a fight between good and evil, and NATO is not going to allow evil to prevail."
More than half of Milosevic's modern surface-to-air-missile radars have been damaged or destroyed, all of Milosevic's elite fighter MiG-29s have been struck and nearly 20 percent of his ground attack aircraft have been hit, Shelton said.
NATO attacks also have diminished Yugoslavia's ability to repair and maintain aircraft by 70 percent and ammunition production capacity by two-thirds. One-fourth of Milosevic's tanks and armored personnel carriers have been damaged or destroyed, and roughly 40 percent of Serb artillery in Kosovo has been "taken out," Shelton said.
"The Serb army and security forces are being systematically and effectively attacked by NATO air power," he said.
Solana: "This is the right course'
In Albania, NATO's Secretary-General Javier Solana, visiting Kosovar Albanian refugees, said, "Today, I'm more convinced than ever that this is the right course."
Yugoslav forces are blamed for the expulsion of more than 700,000 ethnic Albanians, or nearly half the pre-conflict population, from Kosovo. Hundreds of thousands of others have been displaced internally.
NATO has insisted on the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, the safe return of Kosovar refugees to their homes and the deployment of an international security force within Kosovo for the bombings to stop.
Milosevic earlier in the week announced Yugoslav forces have begun a partial withdrawal from Kosovo, but NATO has said there is no evidence of such a withdrawal.
Russia has continued to push for a diplomatic resolution to the conflict.
Chernomyrdin: China wouldn't veto U.S.-Russia peace plan
Clinton administration sources told CNN that Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin has given assurances to a top U.S. official that if Moscow and Washington reach a peace proposal on Kosovo and present it to the U.N. Security Council, China will not veto the plan.
Chernomyrdin relayed the message to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott while in Moscow.
U.S. officials said Chernomyrdin -- just back from Beijing -- told Talbott that Chinese leaders were enraged over the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. But, the U.S. sources say, Chernomyrdin also said the Chinese made clear they "would not get in the way" if NATO and the Russians were in agreement on a peace proposal.
China has publicly threatened to hold up the proposal if it is submitted to the Security Council and called for NATO to halt the bombing.
U.S. officials said they were encouraged by Chernomyrdin's report. They also said Chernomyrdin told Talbott he plans to head to Belgrade soon on another diplomatic mission.
The Russian news agency Itar-Tass said Talbott, who met with Finnish President Martti Ahtisarri in Helsinki Wednesday, will return to Moscow Thursday for another round of talks with Chernomyrdin on the Kosovo crisis.
French President Jacques Chirac met Russian President Boris Yeltsin on Thursday in Moscow for talks on the Kosovo crisis. The French leader was expected to underline support for Moscow's efforts to mediate between Belgrade and the West.
Chirac's visit coincides with a fresh political crisis in Russia after Yeltsin dismissed Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and his government on Wednesday and parliament met to debate the president's impeachment.
Apache training 'almost completed'
Earlier, Yeltsin said Russia could pull out of "negotiating interaction" on Yugoslavia if his proposals and intermediary actions are not taken into account.
"We are not taking part in this war, we didn't start this war," Yeltsin said. "Our calls, continual proposals obviously are not getting through."
In other developments, NATO said the fleet of tank-killing Apache attack helicopters in Albania may soon join the attacks.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said the training of the Apache pilots is "almost completed," and a Pentagon official told CNN the pilots are "trained and ready."
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson toured sites in Serbia, stopping along the way to evaluate the risk of visiting the city of Nis where NATO warplanes were again in action.
She arrived soon after a reported airstrike that Serb officials told her had inflicted injuries in residential districts, including reports of cluster bombs hitting the region.
The mayor of Nis, speaking through an interpreter, gave the investigating commissioner his account of NATO's recent raids on his city, saying the bombing comes every 12 hours and that more than 100 people have been injured.
Sources: Chernomyrdin says Beijing wouldn't veto U.S.-Russia peace plan
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