|THREE WEEKS IN|
April 13, 1999
JIM LEHRER: Serbian troops invaded Albania for a short time today, NATO planes hit Yugoslavia's biggest oil refinery and other targets, and Secretary of State Albright sought diplomatic cooperation with Russia's foreign minister, on the 21st day of the war for Kosovo. Spencer Michels has our summary of the day's events.
SPENCER MICHELS: NATO planes continued to bomb Serbian and Kosovo targets, including the country's biggest oil refinery near Pristina, a plastics factory and a military barracks today. Meanwhile on the ground, Serbian infantry crossed the border into Albania, fighting a running battle with Albanian soldiers and border police. Albanian officials said the Serbs took control of the mountain village of Kamenica, but after a few hours they pulled back into Serbia. In Tirana, Albania's capital, the head of the Mission for the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, said several houses were set on fire by the Serbs.
DAN EVERTS, OSCE, Tirana: It's not a grave situation. But on the other hand, it should not be overdramatized. What has happened is that after a series of incidents in the last few days, in that particular area, and in the last few months, in fact, we see now a more heavy retaliatory move by Serb forces, light infantry, not involving a great number of people.
SPENCER MICHELS: Yugoslavia denied any of its forces entered Albania. The reported area of the fighting in Albania's northern frontier has been a prime staging ground for the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army. The Serbs have been beefing up their forces in the vicinity, apparently in preparation for a possible ground assault by NATO. The crossing at the border brought a quick response from US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: We have made clear within NATO and as well as the United States specifically, that the widening of this conflict by the Serbs to the other countries in the region would have serious consequences.
SPENCER MICHELS: President Clinton emerged from the White House today to reiterate American objectives.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: We want the Serb forces out of Kosovo. We want the refugees to be able to go home, protected by an international security force as they work towards self-government. This is Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, let us resolve not to let this ethnic cleansing and killing by Mr. Milosevic go unanswered.
SPENCER MICHELS: The President said the campaign is diminishing and grinding down Serbian military capabilities.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: We have weakened Serbia's air defense and command and control. We have reduced his ability to move, sustain and supply the war machine in Kosovo. We have damaged his refineries and diminished his capacity to produce ammunition. We are striking now at his tanks and at his artillery and have destroyed half his advanced MiG-29 aircraft. Now we are taking our allied air campaign to the next level with more aircraft in the region, with the British carrier joining our USS ROOSEVELT and French carrier in the area, our humanitarian effort is also increasing to meet the daunting challenge of providing food and shelter for the hundreds of thousands of refugees.
SPENCER MICHELS: The President said he would ask congress this week for additional money to pay for the conflict with Yugoslavia. NATO's commander confirmed he is asking for 300 more aircraft for the bombing campaign, plus additional planes from other NATO countries. That would more than double the number of allied planes. At NATO 's briefing today, General Wesley Clark, the NATO commander, said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic with 23 battalion-sized units in Kosovo has inflicted vast damage.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe: What was the result? Here are the destruction of Kosovar villages that we have reliable evidence on and we've had a lot of cloud cover. We don't have full coverage of this area. And of course no one is on the ground to verify this for us; next, 260,000 people internally displaced inside the country, driven out of villages. Yes, next. Here are the burned structures. You can see the houses without any roofs all over town. This is the symptom of the ethnic cleansing going in, throwing a grenade, starting a fire, turning on the gas before the grenade is thrown and it blows the roof off.
SPENCER MICHELS: General Clark also reviewed yesterday's bombing of a passenger train in Serbia where ten people died. Expressing regret for the casualties, he said a NATO pilot had twice hit a train on a bridge in southeastern Serbia in an uncanny accident.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK: This was a case where a pilot was assigned to strike a railroad bridge that is part of the integrated communications supply network in Serbia. He launched his missile from his aircraft that was many miles away. And in here you can see the -- this is the railroad bridge, which is a much better view than he actually had. You can see the tracks running this way. Okay, let's run it. Look very intently at the aim point, concentrate right there and you can see how if you were focused right on your job as a pilot, suddenly that train appeared. It was really unfortunate.
SPENCER MICHELS: At the White House, the President briefed 58 members of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said later he will be as supportive as he can.
SEN. TRENT LOTT: The bombing itself has not had the impact yet I would have liked for it to have had. They started off slowly. It is an incremental increasing. They are considering, I believe now adding additional planes, and they intend to move, I guess to the next phase. But I think there's a general feeling in the Congress and with the American people that they had hoped for more success with the bombing or a quicker resolution. I think, frankly, that was a pipe dream to begin with.
SPENCER MICHELS: Minority Leader Tom Daschle had a different view of the bombing campaign.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE: There have only been eight good days of air activity to date. It took us 44 days in the Persian Gulf. People need to be cognizant of the long period of time it takes to be successful. We shouldn't have this John Wayne mentality that we're going to walk in and at the end of the show, we're going to pull out, having devastated everything in our wake. We've got to understand this is going to take some time.
SPENCER MICHELS: Meanwhile, Britain said today that it is deploying 1800 more soldiers in Macedonia and Greece, saying it wants to bolster a peacekeeping force and not to invade Kosovo. On the diplomatic front, Secretary Albright met in Oslo today with Russia's foreign minister, Igor Ivanov. The Russians have been highly critical of NATO, saying negotiations cannot begin without a bombing halt. They've pushed for a conclusion in the peacekeeping force. Secretary Albright indicated today the make-up of that force was still at issue.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: There is agreement there needs to be some kind of an international presence that would, in fact, provide the security and confidence for the refugees to be able to return. What we disagree on, or have not yet reached agreement on is the character of that kind of a force.
SPENCER MICHELS: Secretary Albright elaborated on the US position.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: In order for the force to be effective and one that we could support, it has to have a NATO core, and it has to be able to so that the NATO command structure and -- can operate to the satisfaction of the military leaders. We have also said that such a core NATO force could have other forces associated with it in a variety of ways that can be discussed.
SPENCER MICHELS: The Russian foreign minister admitted differences. Russia objects to a strictly NATO force but said he thought its make-up could be worked out if the Serbs agree.
IGOR IVANOV, Foreign Minister, Russia: (speaking through interpreter) Any form of international presence requires the agreement of the leadership of Yugoslavia. Therefore, to speak now about a certain format until or before Belgrade agrees to something like this, this is very complicated.
SPENCER MICHELS: The refugee situation is also complicated. Ethnic Albanians continue to pour into Macedonia from Kosovo, 600 just today, with hundreds more across the border. UN officials say there has been no let-up in the stories of ethnic cleansings and atrocities that they have been hearing. President Clinton said the administration is trying to figure out how to help refugees still in Kosovo.