NATO says bridge was legitimate target
Yugoslavia says civilians killed
May 31, 1999
BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO said its planes were justified in bombing a bridge in central Serbia, but Yugoslav officials said Monday that 12 civilians were killed in that attack and more died in other raids.
Yugoslavia said more than 30 people died in NATO air raids Sunday and Monday, including those killed in a raid Sunday on the Varvarin bridge over the Velika Morava River.
"This was a major line of communication and a designated and legitimate target," NATO said in a statement from its supreme commander, Gen. Wesley Clark.
The alliance said it was unable to confirm civilian casualties from the attack on the bridge, but said it does not intentionally attack noncombatants. As Yugoslav news reports play up reports of civilian deaths, however, many Serbs don't believe it.
Those reports continued Monday as Yugoslavia's Beta news agency said at least 20 people were killed when NATO bombs hit a sanatorium and retirement home in Surdulica, in southeastern Serbia.
Despite the attacks, Orthodox Christians in Serbia celebrated Dukhovi, the third-holiest day in the Eastern Orthodox calendar. The holiday honors the dead, and the faithful observe it by lighting candles and placing gifts at graves. Some hung wreaths on their doors, hoping to ward off bombs.
The report came as NATO aircraft struck far and wide Sunday night and Monday, heavily bombing the Yugoslav army in Kosovo. Targets included 12 tanks, seven artillery pieces, six armored personnel carriers and two mortar positions, plus other vehicles and troops in the field, NATO said.Also hit were:
NATO says Yugoslav troops on the move
NATO's military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Walter Jertz, said Sunday there were indications that Yugoslav military units were on the move.
"We have reports of relocation and replacement of artillery units, in particular the 203rd battalion operating northwest of Nis, an indication that NATO air force has struck those forces successfully in the past," he said.
NATO spokesman Jamie Shea denied a published report in London that the alliance would consider introducing ground troops into the campaign if it had not succeeded by mid-June.
"I think we are talking about the success of the air campaign, not the defeat of the air campaign," he said.
Shea welcomed Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's reported acceptance in principle of conditions to end the bombing set forth by the G-8 nations, the seven leading industrial countries and Russia. But NATO remained wary.
"Details are very important here," Shea said. "Anything that means that Belgrade moves towards those five (NATO) conditions is something that we will welcome, but at the same time we will remain cautious, because details in this business are everything."
Finnish President Marrti Ahtisaari, who serves as the European Union envoy to Yugoslavia and accompanied Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin to Belgrade last week, said a Kosovo peacekeeping operation would be similar to another in the Balkans.
"We are talking about an operation that resembles the one in Bosnia-Herzegovina," Ahtisaari said on "Late Edition."
Shea reiterated that any peacekeeping force introduced in Kosovo must be controlled by NATO -- a provision not outlined in the G-8 proposal that Milosevic reportedly agreed to in principle.
"The refugees will not move unless they see a very strong NATO presence in that force," he said. "We know fully well that only a very strong NATO force will be able to provide the security that's necessary for the reconstruction of Kosovo."
Clark said any move toward peace by Milosevic was prompted by the airstrikes.
"This winning of the air campaign is what's propelling the more or less frantic diplomatic efforts that President Milosevic is attempting to engage in now in an effort to get a bombing pause. So it's clear which way this campaign is going," he said.
Clark dismissed suggestions NATO should halt the bombing, which some NATO critics contend has stymied diplomatic efforts, in particular those by Russia.
"It will give them a chance to reconstitute and refit their forces. It will raise the risk to our NATO pilots when we resume operations over Kosovo," Clark said.
A top Yugoslav official said NATO has other reasons for not stopping the bombing.
"The insistence of the continuance of the bombing is crystal clear, that they are opposed to a peaceful resolution of the problem," said Vladislav Jovanovic, Yugoslavia's charge d'affaires to the United Nations.
"They are still decided to win one unwinnable and unauthorized war." Jovanovic said on "Late Edition."
"This is very bad because it is an ominous sign that peace efforts ... have very powerful enemies in NATO and in some circuits of the U.S. government," he said.
Meanwhile, NATO plans to again boost its air forces in the Balkans. The deployment of 68 more aircraft beginning next week will bring to 769 the number of U.S. aircraft operating in the Balkans, Pentagon officials said. NATO forces will have 1,089 aircraft when the deployment is completed.
Britain plans to redeploy Tornado fighter-bombers from Germany to the French island of Corsica to shorten the flying distance to Yugoslavia.
Yugoslavia reports more civilian casualties in NATO attacks
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
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