Serb officials say Yugoslavia 'ready to cut a deal'
May 18, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Yugoslavia is "ready to cut a deal" to end the conflict with NATO over Kosovo, a Yugoslav Foreign Ministry official said in Belgrade Tuesday.
Nebojsa Vujovic offered no details, however, about whether or not the Serbs were willing to accept NATO's conditions for ending the bombing campaign that began March 24.
Those conditions include a complete withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, the safe return of ethnic Albanian refugees to their homes and an international peacekeeping force with NATO troops at its core.
CNN's Walter Rodgers said in Belgrade that the Yugoslav government, believing NATO's unity to be fraying, appeared to be "positioning itself to claim a moral victory" over the alliance.
The Foreign Ministry issued a "categorical denial" of NATO claims that the Yugoslav army is using civilians as "human shields" against NATO bombs, Rodgers said. But, he said, the government claimed to have more than 1,000 names of civilians killed in NATO attacks.
Those air raids on Yugoslavia picked up overnight after two days of cloudy weather kept most of the alliance's planes on the ground.
Yugoslav media reported Tuesday that NATO bombed the city of Nis, hitting an industrial zone and a key road linking the city to Belgrade.
NATO also targeted sites in Kosovo, including Djakovica and Prizren in the west; Srbica, Donje Obrilje and Likovac in the central Drenica area; and the southern outskirts of the provincial capital Pristina, the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug said.
"Despite the bad weather, we were still able to successfully hit a number of ground targets in Kosovo," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said in Brussels.
While the bombing continued, NATO allies stressed the plight of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
David Scheffer, the U.S. ambassador at large responsible for war crimes issues, accused the Serbs of a "range of criminal behavior" so wide "it represents almost a textbook example of how not to wage war."
"With the exception of Rwanda in 1994 and Cambodia in 1975, you would be hard-pressed to find a crime scene anywhere in the world, since World War II, where a defenseless civilian population has been assaulted with such ferocity and criminal intent," Scheffer said.
Scheffer also repeated reports that most of the civilian deaths from NATO attacks may have come about because Serb troops deliberately placed them in harm's way.
"This has become a shell game of civilians, manipulated by Serb forces, bopped around, moved around the countryside in a shell game strategy to expose them to the risk of military conflict," he said. "And that, folks, is illegal. That's a war crime."
In London, British Defense Secretary George Robertson said a "crack in the facade of the Yugoslav regime" had appeared. Montenegrin television, he said, reported a rally of about 5,000 people in a central Serbian village demanding that Yugoslavia bring its troops home from Kosovo
In other developments:
Brussels Bureau Chief Patricia Kelly contributed to this report.
NATO says 'human shields' account for bombing deaths
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
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