|NATO STRIKES -- DAY 20|
April 12, 1999
Listen to the latest on the NATO
JIM LEHRER: NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels today to show solidarity over Kosovo. They did so as NATO planes and missiles struck targets in Serbia overnight. Spencer Michels has our summary of today's bombing-related events.
SPENCER MICHELS: NATO planes and missiles continued to inflict damage on Serbia today, despite poor weather. Yugoslav state media claimed that a passenger train traveling from Belgrade to Solonika, Greece, was hit by NATO air strikes or missiles as it crossed under a bridge. Yugoslav authorities said the attack killed up to nine passengers and hospitalized sixteen others. US Major General Charles Wald said the bridge was a legitimate military target.
MAJOR GENERAL CHARLES WALD, US Air Force: I can't tell you the circumstances. I can tell you that NATO has released the fact that a bridge was attacked, and there was an indication there may have been a train on that bridge. They're reviewing that right now but I'll reiterate again, Ivan, that we do everything we can, as you know, to avoid any collateral damage, planned for the minimum collateral damage. This is not risk-free. It is not risk-free to the Serbians. And it's certainly not risk-free to our forces, as well.
SPENCER MICHELS: Serb television showed scenes of several factories in flames, some of them targets which had been hit before. This is identified as an oil refinery northeast of Belgrade. And a thermal heating plant also apparently was hit. Serb TV claimed civilians had been injured in the attack. The TV station showed hundreds of people apparently acting as human shields standing on the last remaining bridge across the Danube River in the northern city of Novi Sad, a tactic which has also been used in Belgrade. In a town south of Belgrade, the Serbs claimed NATO missiles were responsible for damage to residential areas and for the deaths of a baby and her father.
WOMAN: (speaking through interpreter) We were sleeping. Nobody expected this -- the house, me and my husband and my little girl.
SPENCER MICHELS: On the Albanian border with Kosovo, Serbian forces clashed with Kosovar rebels and claimed to have killed 150. Yesterday, the Albanian government, besieged by 300,000 refugees, asked NATO to prevent attacks on its borders. Today, NATO reportedly bombed the Kosovar border town of Jacovo. Journalists in Albania reported they saw several truckloads of Kosovo Liberation Army soldiers heading for the Kosovo border. In Belgrade, a well-known independent journalist who published a paper often critical of President Slobodan Milosevic was shot and killed by masked gunmen. Slavko Curuvija was shot in the back as he entered his apartment, and his companion was pistol whipped. Serb police said they were investigating. At the Pentagon this afternoon, reporters asked General Charles Wald if he had seen any signs the Serbs were hunkering down against a possible ground attack.
MAJOR GENERAL CHARLES WALD: I think they're kind of hunkering down a little bit next to some of the villages. And whether that's because they're concerned about being attacked from the air or whether they're running out of fuel or whether that's their tactic remains to be speculation, I think. But I would say the fact that they're not moving around a lot demonstrates they are probably concerned about being attacked.
SPENCER MICHELS: On the diplomatic front, the Yugoslav parliament voted to formally join an alliance with Russia and Belarus. Yugoslavia has never before joined an alliance with a foreign nation. At the same time, Russian President Boris Yeltsin spoke by phone with French President Jacques Chirac, who praised Moscow for continuing contacts with the West, despite Russia's friendship with Serbia. In Brussels, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with NATO's foreign ministers in a show of unity. They reiterated their demands that Kosovo Albanians be allowed to return home protected by NATO troops, and that the Serb troops leave Kosovo. The organization's secretary-general, Javier Solana, sounded optimistic.
JAVIER SOLANA: Milosevic is losing, and he knows he's losing. NATO's united. We have justice and right on our side. And we will prevail.
SPENCER MICHELS: Secretary Albright in response to a question denied there was any plan to split up or partition Kosovo between the Serbs and the ethnic Albanians.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, Secretary of State: On the question of partition, there is no discussion of that, or that is not an option that is being considered, certainly not an option that I favor. And there are a number of ways that people are looking at what a future state would look like, but while there are kind of discussions exploring various modes, the idea of partition is not one that has a lot of favors.
SPENCER MICHELS: Another question concerned the possibility of NATO ground troops. British Foreign Minister Robin Cook said it was still not an option.
ROBIN COOK: If you mean by that did we decide to prepare for such a fighting force to invade Kosovo or Serbia, the answer is no. We have no intention of carrying out such an invasion. We have no plans to do such an invasion. There's been no change in our policy on this question. Indeed, I have repeatedly myself stressed that even if we were to contemplate it, it would be two or three months before we would assemble such a force. We cannot wait two or three months. That is why the most immediate, direct way we can change the balance of forces in Kosovo is by intensifying our air campaign.
SPENCER MICHELS: President Clinton reflected on the human toll; at a ceremony to thank B-52 crews involved in the Balkans mission, he called the stories he was hearing truly chilling.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Serb security forces hurting Albanian villagers together, gunning them down with automatic weapons, and setting them on fire, telling villagers, "Leave or we will kill you;" separating family members; seeking literally to erase the presence of these people in their own land forever -- we must not let that happen.
SPENCER MICHELS: The President said, "We must nip this conflict in the bud before it destabilizes all of Europe."
PRESIDENT CLINTON: And I say to all of you, I am very proud of you. I hope you are proud of your mission. This is America at its best. We seek no territorial gain. We seek no political advantage. This is America trying to get the world to live on human terms so we can have peace and freedom in Europe and our people will not be called to fight a wider war for someone else's madness. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
SPENCER MICHELS: As the President spoke, refugees continued to seek shelter.-- 350 arrived by train in Montenegro. But with an increasingly desperate lack of places in there, 2,000 Kosovo Albanians crossed the border into Albania today, and they told now-familiar tales of woe.
MAN: (speaking through interpreter) My brothers were in, but they fled and nobody knows where they have gone. Racak is empty. Only some dogs are left.
SPENCER MICHELS: NATO estimated that 700,000 people have been displaced in the conflict so far. Yugoslav authorities said that in the last three weeks, 300 people have been killed, and 3,000 people injured by NATO bombs.