April 28, 1999
JIM LEHRER: A NATO air strike missed its target, killing 20 Serbian civilians. The Yugoslav deputy prime minister was fired for his outspoken comments, and diplomatic efforts to end the crisis in Kosovo intensified. Tom Bearden has our summary of the day's war news.
TOM BEARDEN: Rescue workers spent the night combing the rubble of dozens of houses in the small town of Surdulica, looking for more bodies. NATO confirmed that at least one laser-guided bomb missed its target, a military barracks 200 to 300 yards away. State television called the attack "barbaric," and NATO expressed regrets.
MAJ. GENERAL CHARLES WALD, US Air Force: There's lots of reasons why a bomb could fall short. But we've said this many times -- when we started this, we said there was going to be risks not only to our air crew but to people on the ground. We understood that. The difference is, is we're doing everything we can to avoid damage to people on the ground, whereas, Milosevic, obviously, has no problem with that. One thing I will say, that for over 4,000 weapons dropped, we've had three incidents, and very unfortunate, but three incidents where the bombs have caused some damage that we didn't really want to cause.
TOM BEARDEN: Some 3,000 ethnic Albanians entered Macedonia today on the heels of 5,000 yesterday, the highest totals in weeks. They were apparently the leading edge of a major exodus touched off by intensified ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The UN says many are in bad shape.
RON REDMOND, UNHCR Spokesman: Some of them have been shot. We have found people with bullet wounds. There was a ten-year-old boy whose leg was broken in two places. He was apparently running away from a threat to his village. This was some days ago. He was in agony. We have taken him to a hospital.
TOM BEARDEN: The overcrowding in some refugee camps is so serious, the UN Is worried there might be riots. The US Agency for International Development said the US is working on fulfilling its commitment to take 20,000 Kosovar refugees, but that processing has not yet begun.
BRIAN ATWOOD, Administrator, USAID: We have a team in Macedonia and Albania now, they will be returning on Thursday, who are looking at how we can process these refugees in the region. Now, a lot of you have seen reports that they will be coming into places like Fort Dix. We would like to avoid that. We will be taking people who will be reunited with their family, or cases where there are serious health problems, initially. I don't know exactly when the first people will be coming, but it will not be in the next days. We're hoping that we'll be seeing those people coming very soon.
TOM BEARDEN: In Washington, President Clinton met with some 40 members of Congress this afternoon and urged lawmakers to quickly approve his request for more than $6 billion to continue Operation Allied Force, a request some Republicans want to double.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I told them that now is the time to pass the supplemental funding for Kosovo that I requested nine days ago. We need it to maintain our military readiness. Just as important, we need to sustain humanitarian relief and support for the front-line nations that have absorbed the brunt of this emergency. Let me stress that my request fully funds our military and humanitarian needs in Kosovo. Congress should resist the temptation to add unrelated expenditures, even important ones, which could delay the process, because that would undermine the very goals that this funding is intended to meet. We must get a Kosovo funding measure passed and to my desk now.
TOM BEARDEN: The man that NATO thought represented the first crack in the solidarity of the Yugoslav regime lost his job today. Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic was fired by President Slobodan Milosevic this afternoon. Serb TV said Draskovic lost his job because he expressed views in contradiction with the positions of the federal government. Yesterday, Draskovic expressed support for stationing an international peacekeeping force in Kosovo and said the Milosevic government was lying to the public. State Department Spokesman James Rubin had this reaction:
JAMES RUBIN, State Department Spokesman: We believe that Draskovic was speaking for large numbers of people when he said that NATO was more united; when he said that Milosevic should stop misleading and lying to the people of Serbia about what Serb forces are doing in Kosovo, about the weakness of the Serb ability to withstand NATO's intensifying military pressure; and the fact that NATO, following the summit, has only gotten stronger, and that with every passing day, NATO gets stronger, and Milosevic's regime gets weaker. We think that Vuk Draskovic's ouster is a sign of complete contempt by President Milosevic for those who speak the truth.
TOM BEARDEN: The pace of diplomatic efforts to resolve the Kosovo crisis has increased dramatically. Greece's foreign minister led a procession of leaders to Moscow today. George Papandreau met with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. He will be followed by the Canadian and Belgian foreign ministers, and by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The families of the three American prisoners of war received messages from their sons, relayed by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Staff Sergeant Andrew Ramirez of Los Angeles wrote his mother, "I am healthy and doing okay." In Huntsville, Texas, the family of Specialist Steven Gonzales were told he was in good condition. And Staff Sergeant Christopher Stone of Smiths Creek, Michigan, asked his family and the public to pray for the POW's. The Reverend Jesse Jackson and a group of religious leaders depart for Yugoslavia tonight, hoping to meet with President Milosevic and secure the POW's release.
JESSE JACKSON: We want to do more than see them and take messages from their relatives, with whom we have talked. We want to gain their freedom. We would think that their release would be a circuit breaker in the cycle of expanding war in the area. We hope that this is a strategic moment where Mr. Milosevic will see the advantage of getting back to a commitment of stopping the violence in Kosovo.
TOM BEARDEN: The administration says it does not support Jackson's private mission, and says the bombing campaign will not be halted to accommodate it.