|CAMPAIGN FOR KOSOVO|
April 29, 1999
JIM LEHRER: Congressional leaders exchanged harsh words today over what the House did last night on Kosovo. In a surprising tie vote, it turned down a resolution endorsing American involvement in the NATO air offensive. We'll have more on that story right after this News Summary. In the real war, NATO forces struck Montenegro and, accidentally, Bulgaria. Tom Bearden has our summary report.
TOM BEARDEN: NATO struck hard at the military airport in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica early this morning. NATO said it destroyed hangars, petroleum facilities, and several attack aircraft on the ground. The city hospital said one woman died and three civilians were injured in the attack. Montenegro is a tiny Yugoslavian republic with a democratically-elected government that has been trying to walk a fine line between Serbia and the West. NATO has avoided attacks for the last two weeks, hoping to keep the populace behind the government's neutral stance. But NATO Spokesman General Giuseppe Marani said there were military reasons for striking the airport now.
GENERAL GIUSEPPE MARANI: Aircraft driven from their main bases by NATO attacks are using the airfield as a dispersal base. As previously stressed many times, there shall be no sanctuary for forces engaged in and supporting the ongoing aggression in Kosovo.
TOM BEARDEN: Mirani also said an AGM-88 HARM, or High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile, had accidentally fallen in Bulgaria, which borders southeastern Yugoslavia. NATO said an F-16 fired the missile at a Serbian surface-to-air battery's radar system after it had locked onto the plane. A house was damaged, but no one was injured. Warplanes again attacked the oil refinery at Novi Sad as part of a continuing campaign to deprive Yugoslav forces of fuel and lubricants. NATO Spokesman Jamie Shea said the strategy was working.
JAMIE SHEA: I saw today that Belgrade is now rationing each car on the streets of Yugoslavia to 20 liters a month, down from 40 liters a month, as the army has to raid, if you like, the petroleum piggy bank of the country's citizens to continue to fuel its own activities. And you can't go very far, as you know, on 20 liters a month. So I think it's a sign that things are beginning to hit home.
TOM BEARDEN: Shea announced that 15 countries had volunteered to join the NATO-sponsored oil embargo against Yugoslavia, and said he hoped other countries would also join. In Washington this afternoon, Defense Secretary William Cohen said the US would send ten additional B-52 bombers to intensify the air campaign.
WILLIAM COHEN: We will start to attack during -- from more hours, more targets, and from more directions. And we intend to take advantage of pressing this campaign forward with the full support of our allies, in addition to moving forward on the interdiction of fuel supplies.
TOM BEARDEN: On Macedonia's border with Kosovo, relief workers continued to struggle to find room for a new surge of refugees. They're opening new camps, but are not keeping up with the flood of people.
RON REDMOND, UNHCR Spokesman: By tonight, we could have 6,000/7,000 people in this camp. The initial stage of it is supposed to hold about 5,000 people and was not supposed to be open until tomorrow, so in effect, this camp is going to be full before it was even supposed to be officially opened.
TOM BEARDEN: The UN Relief Agency appealed to the international community to cut down on bureaucracy and speed up evacuations from the camps, which they say are three to four times beyond capacity.
ASKIR TAHIRI, Kosovar Refugee: Every tent is overcrowded. And you can see all day in the street people walking because they really don't have anywhere to stay. It's too much people in here.
TOM BEARDEN: And relief workers had a new problem to deal with. Ethnic Albanian refugees are arriving with wounds suffered when they strayed into minefields lining the shepherd paths and trails they're using to flee the embattled province. On the diplomatic front, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow this morning. They pledged to work together for a solution to the crisis.
KOFI ANNAN: As the conflict escalates and spreads, so does the humanitarian tragedy. And we need to work as fast as we can to find a political solution. And I hope that the leaders in Belgrade and President Milosevic will respond to the concerns of the international community and we can work to find a solution.
TOM BEARDEN: But the adversaries appear to be far apart. Yeltsin said NATO would have to stop the bombing before negotiations could begin, something NATO has consistently refused to do. The Serbian deputy premier reiterated today that no foreign troops could be part of a post- bombing peacekeeping force, another point NATO insists upon. Troops started unloading tanks and other armored vehicles in Greece today. They're bound for Macedonia, where they will train in preparation for possible deployment in Kosovo. In Belgrade, the Milosevic government announced it had filed suit against ten NATO member nations in the International Court of Justice -- the UN's highest judicial body. The suit claims the bombing campaign violates international law, and asks the court to order it stopped. Presidential Spokesman Joe Lockhart:
JOE LOCKHART: Let me just say that it's one of the latest examples of an absurd concept to try to divert attention from the real issue. The real issue is the atrocious acts of violence and brutality against Kosovar Albanians who have been forced from their homes, who have had their towns burned, sacked.
TOM BEARDEN: The Reverend Jesse Jackson and a delegation of religious leaders arrived in the Balkans, en route to a meeting with President Milosevic. Jackson hopes to win the release of three American POW's, and hopes the visit will start a peace process. The Clinton administration does not sanction the trip.