Security Council expresses 'deep distress' over embassy bombing
NATO says bombed village was 'legitimate target'
May 15, 1999
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council has issued a statement expressing "deep distress and concern" over NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade a week ago. But it did not condemn the bombing, as representatives of China and Russia had hoped.
As explosions jolted the Serb town of Cacak, signaling NATO's continued bombing campaign in Yugoslavia thousands of miles away, the Chinese ambassador to the United Nations demanded early Saturday that NATO "unconditionally" stop bombing Yugoslavia.
Chinese U.N. ambassador Qin Huasun told the U.N. Security Council at the special late-night session that "the U.S.-led NATO has...unleashed a regional war in the Balkans."
In the name of humanitarianism, NATO "has created the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II," Qin said.
But Peter Burleigh, acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the real cause of the crisis was Yugoslavia's policy of ethnic cleansing. The number of refugees and displaced persons driven from their homes by ethnic cleansing has now reached 1 million, Burleigh said.
The exchange came a week after NATO bombs struck the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, killing three journalists, and injuring 20 other people. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea has called the attack "a terrible accident," saying NATO bombers "struck the wrong building."
On Friday, U.S. President Bill Clinton apologized to Chinese President Jiang Zemin in a telephone call. The president voiced "regrets and condolences" for the embassy bombing, said White House press secretary Joe Lockhart, and the conversation was "very constructive."
NATO defends attack on Serb village
NATO apologized again on Saturday for civilian loss of life from its bombing campaign.
But in a statement, NATO said that the attack the previous day on the village of Korisa near the city of Prizren was justified. "NATO has conducted an extensive review throughout the night of its operations in that area," according to the statement.
"This was a legitimate target. Serb claims of an attack involving cluster bombs against a non-military target are both false," NATO's statement said.
"NATO identified Korisa as a military camp and command post. Military equipment including an armored personnel carrier and more than ten pieces of artillery was observed at this location. The aircraft observed dug in military positions at the target before executing the attack," NATO spokesmen said.
Although Yugoslav Foreign Ministry spokesman Nebojsa Vujovic told CNN that 79 bodies had been pulled from the smoldering wreckage of a convoy of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo early Friday, NATO said it could not confirm those casualty figures.
Nor could it confirm the reasons why civilians were at that location at the time of the attack, the NATO statement said, adding that "NATO deeply regrets accidental civilian causalties that were caused by this attack."
Carefully worded statement
The wording of Saturday's statement was the subject of careful negotiation among Security Council members.
Read by Council President Denis Dangue Rewaka of Gabon, the statement expressed the council's "profound regrets over the bombing and deep sorrow for the loss of lives, injuries and property damage caused by the bombing" on May 7.
The council also expressed "deepest sympathy and profound condolences" to the Chinese government and victims' families.
Noting that NATO members had expressed apologies for the tragedy, the Security Council reaffirmed "the principle of the inviolability" of diplomatic personnel and property. It also called for a thorough investigation of the bombing. NATO has already begun an investigation.
Victims of the embassy bombing were honored in a moment of silence before the statement was adopted, and before a humanitarian resolution on Kosovo was approved, calling for the withdrawal of Serb troops from Kosovo and the deployment of an international security presence to ensure the safe return of refugees.
During lengthy discussions which preceded Saturday's action, China had tried to get the Security Council to condemn the embassy strike. With regard to the humanitarian resolution, both China and Russia wanted the council to call for an end to military action in Yugoslavia.
The discussions over wording provided insight into the kind of debate NATO members will face when the issue of a Kosovo peace plan is presented to the council.
The final text of the humanitarian resolution approved Saturday encourages the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and U.N. member states to continue to aid refugees from Kosovo.
It emphasizes that the humanitarian situation "will continue to deteriorate in the absence of a political solution to the crisis.
Video shows burned bodies
Despite the Yugoslav allegations that NATO bombs killed dozens of Kosovar Albanians, NATO pressed on with its bomb campaign overnight, unleashing attacks across Yugoslavia.
Several explosions early Saturday rocked an industrial zone in Cacak, a central Serb town about 60 miles (100 km) south of Belgrade that has endured intense NATO bombings throughout the military operation, Serb media reported.
Powerful explosions also were reported around the village of Ladjevci, near Kraljevo, a central Serb city of about 125,000 residents.
The new attacks came after Yugoslav government officials described cluster bomb attacks on what it said was a convoy of civilians, many of them ethnic Albanian women and children.
Video from the scene in the village of Korisa near Prizren showed bodies burned beyond recognition and the charred remains of tractors and other vehicles. Survivors said they were resting when the attack gutted the convoy.
Yugoslav Foreign Ministry spokesman Nebojsa Vujovic said 79 people were confirmed dead and that the death toll is expected to rise. He said 58 others were wounded.
NATO said it could not confirm the attack, but said it would launch an investigation. Officials also noted that there has been a lot of Serb activity and shelling in the region in recent days.
The 19-member military alliance said it attacked targets around Prizren, about 40 miles (65 km) northwest of the Macedonian capital Skopje, in the heaviest single day of NATO missions against Serb forces in Kosovo since the campaign against began in late March, with a total of 679 sorties flown.
If confirmed, the attack would be the largest known death toll from any single NATO air strike.
State Department urged skepticism
"The area looks like it was attacked. Whether it was artillery or bomb, I don't know," said U.S. Air Force Gen. Charles Wald, a top planning official for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In response to Yugoslav claims that cluster bombs were used, Wald said, "The little bit I could see on television, it did not look like cluster bombs to me at all." But, he added, "It's hard to tell unless you've been on the ground."
At the State Department on Friday, spokesman Jamie Rubin urged reporters to exercise "a high degree of skepticism" regarding the reported attack on Korisa. He said that in addition to the NATO air raids there was "substantial and significant Serb shelling in the area."
Yugoslav officials escorted a small group of journalists to the Korisa village for a first-hand look and news agencies shot videotape of the devastation that showed blackened, smoldering tractors and trailers, the most common means of refugee transport.
CNN's Brent Sadler, reporting from the region, said the reports that many ethnic Albanians were among the dead raised the question of whether they had returned there "of their own free will."
He said Kosovar refugees in Albania have said the Serbs have evicted scores of Albanians from that area in recent days. He said Yugoslav authorites told him as many as 500 refugees had returned to Korisa in the last 24 hours.
Alleged massacre described
At the NATO briefing, Shea showed pictures of Kosovar communities allegedly torched by Serb forces and said new evidence of mass graves have been found.
CNN obtained video from a Kosovo journalist that apparently shows the aftermath of a massacre of ethnic Albanian men by Serb soldiers inside Kosovo.
The journalist, Liri Loshi, and three witnesses said 127 Kosovar Albanian men were killed in the massacre in the village of Izbica on March 28. The video was taken three days after the alleged killings.
Loshi said he was fleeing the region after his house was burned down. He was hiding in the mountains when women from Izbica told him of what happened there.
He went to the town and found scores of "dead men massacred" and three men who claimed to have survived the attack, Loshi said.
"The Serbs came, began shouting, threw us out of our homes and took everything we had," one survivor said. "Then, they separated the men from the women and children and chased them out of the village. The men were kept back. We were put in three different lines. They began shooting."
Yugoslavia's Federal Minister Goran Matic denied the Yugoslav military has been involved in any mass executions. Matic said the video is another example of Western media manipulation by Kosovar Albanians.
The development comes as a United Nations humanitarian assessment mission, including representatives from the World Food Program and UNICEF, was scheduled to head for Yugoslavia Saturday to determine the extent of human catastrophe throughout the war-torn country.
NATO dismisses Serb pullout, knocks out electricity
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