Serbs accuse NATO of deliberate attack on refugees
May 15, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- The Serbian government accused NATO on Saturday of purposefully bombing Kosovo Albanians to prevent them from returning to their homes.
The safe return of the refugees, the government said, would eliminate NATO's rationale for the air campaign against Yugoslavia.
"NATO, whose bombs and support for the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army have displaced the refugees in the first place, is not allowing their state-supported return, as it upsets the criminals' strategy where the refugees are the pretext for the aggression," said the statement, which was issued after a meeting chaired by Serbian Prime Minister Mirjo Marjanovic.
"In their efforts to prove that they alone can bring the refugees back home and that only by force, the NATO fascists are murdering all those who wish to return on their own or with the Yugoslav government's help," the statement read.
Serbia is the dominant republic in the Yugoslav federation. Kosovo, where Yugoslav troops have been fighting the ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army, is one of its provinces.
The government met to discuss NATO's bombing of the village of Korisa on Friday, which Serbs say killed at least 80 ethnic Albanians.
NATO has defended the attack on Korisa, saying the village contained a legitimate military target.
"This was an assigned mission. This was a target that we knew to be a military target -- a command post with artillery pieces and other equipment," NATO spokesman Peter Daniel told reporters Saturday morning.
NATO issued a statement of regret for "accidental civilian casualties" and said it could not confirm Yugoslavia's report that scores of civilians died in the raid. Nor could the alliance explain why the village was packed with ethnic Albanian refugees at the time of the attack.
"We have reports that soldiers were also involved in the casualties, not simply civilians," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea told BBC radio.
Despite the Yugoslav allegations, NATO unleashed new attacks across Yugoslavia overnight Friday and into Saturday,
Several explosions early Saturday rocked an industrial zone in Cacak, a central Serb town about 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Belgrade that has endured intense NATO bombings, Serb media reported.
Powerful explosions also were reported around the village of Ladjevci, near Kraljevo, a central Serb city of about 125,000 residents.
Early Saturday, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement expressing "deep distress and concern" over NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade a week ago. Three Chinese journalists died in the attack, and 20 other people were injured.
NATO said the bombing was a "terrible mistake" caused by faulty intelligence information.
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.
China and Russia, both members of the Security Council, had hoped for a more strident condemnation of the bombing. Both nations abstained from the Saturday vote.
Correspondents Brent Sadler, Jamie McIntyre, Matthew Chance and Amanda Kibel contributed to this report.
Security Council expresses 'deep distress' over embassy bombing
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