|CAMPAIGN FOR KOSOVO|
Apil 30, 1999
JIM LEHRER: NATO launched its heaviest attacks of the war last night. The United Nations said it had clear evidence of a massacre in Kosovo, and Jesse Jackson met with three American GI's being held as prisoners of war. Tom Bearden again has our summary of the day's war news.
TOM BEARDEN: Downtown Belgrade was rocked by both explosions and an earthquake last night. The Yugoslav army headquarters was heavily damaged by bombs and missiles, so was a nearby residential district, hit by a missile that missed. Several houses were destroyed, and local media said three people were killed and three dozen wounded. Bombs also destroyed a 600-foot-tall television transmission tower that was considered something of a symbol of Belgrade. After two waves of air strikes, a moderately powerful earthquake registering 5.1 on the Richter Scale shook buildings in the capital. In the city of Devet Jugovica, NATO bombs set off a huge explosion at an oil depot, filling the night sky with flames. NATO has put particular emphasis on petroleum refining and storage facilities, and plans to impose an oil embargo on Yugoslavia. Yesterday at a port in Montenegro, there were no oil tankers unloading and evidence that a gasoline shortage is emerging. Warplanes also hit the town of Glogovac, not far from the Kosovo capital of Pristina. Eleven missiles heavily damaged this factory that produces iron and nickel compounds. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea:
JAMIE SHEA: Yesterday was the most intense day thus far in our air operations over Yugoslavia. Benefiting from more than double the number of aircraft that we had one month ago, benefiting also from a spell of good weather, which we understand is going to continue over the next few days, we were able to launch 600 sorties, and a large number of those being strike sorties. We hit a very impressive range of targets, at both the strategic and the tactical level.
TOM BEARDEN: For weeks, Shea and other NATO spokesmen have issued upbeat statements about the successes of the air campaign. Today, Shea was asked about published reports to the contrary.
REPORTER: Jamie, there's a report in the "New York Times" and elsewhere out of Washington today that, in contrast to what we've been hearing here, the Yugoslav army and its leadership is perhaps more united than at any time in recent history because of the bombing strikes. I wonder if you could try to square that with some of the contradictory remarks we've heard here in Brussels.
JAMIE SHEA: Well, Bill, I would say that one hears different anecdotal pieces of evidence from different sources, and I wouldn't conclude, based on any one story, that that is the full picture. What I can say is that there are certain signs that suggest that the Yugoslav army is not quite the phalanx of support that it's presented to be. What I would say is that, no matter what the situation is with the head, we have many indications that the rot is beginning to spread at the bottom, and at the end of the day, an army without troops or a general without troops isn't a very powerful general. We know that, for example, in Kosovo itself, one armored brigade-- I can't give you the number for operational reasons-- is having its combat effectiveness hampered through a number of desertions.
TOM BEARDEN: In Belgrade, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, seen here in limited-motion video transmitted by telephone, briefly met with the three US prisoners of war this afternoon.
REV. JESSE JACKSON: They appeared to be healthy. They say they are eating balanced meals. They are in isolation, not talking to each other, and they're not listening to radio or watching TV or reading. So to that extent, they were just kind of waiting and hoping against hope.
TOM BEARDEN: Jackson had hoped to negotiate their release, but was informed before the meeting that they would only be freed when the bombing campaign stopped. A huge new wave of refugees surged into Kukes, Albania. One UN official said it was due to the final cleansing of the Kosovo City of Prizren. People were crossing at the rate of about 1,000 per hour in what officials described as a state of panic.
SPOKESPERSON: There were a lot of people. And, you know, they told us that we had to leave for Albania, because they are looking for any refugees who are in Prizren, and they are expelling them out.
TOM BEARDEN: Some of the refugees are warning that Serb troops have begun militarizing the villages closest to the border in preparation for a ground war. The refugees continue to report that Serb forces are committing atrocities, and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees says it has clear evidence of a massacre of a large group of male refugees in the southwestern border of Meja earlier this week. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, denounced such atrocities in Geneva today, but also criticized the NATO air campaign.
MARY ROBINSON: Regrettably, the conflict victimizes innocent people on all sides, Serbs as well as Kosovars, and other nationalities, too. It is therefore all the more crucial and pressing that diplomacy and peacemaking be stepped up to bring about a peaceful resolution of the situation respectful of human rights precepts. Unless diplomacy succeeds, Kosovo will be thoroughly cleansed of Albanians, while Serbs will, on present performance, be bombed without end. There must be a better way. I call for reason to prevail on all sides, and for a return to diplomacy and peacemaking.
TOM BEARDEN: The United States will be receiving its first contingent of refugees from Kosovo early next week. Several hundred of the 20,000 refugees heading for the US will be brought to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for processing. After that, they'll be able to join relatives or hosts around the country. On the diplomatic front, Russian Balkans envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin met with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic again today. Earlier, the Yugoslav foreign ministry appeared to accept an armed peacekeeping force in Kosovo as part of an agreement to end hostilities and return the refugees, later, the ministry said it would accept only an unarmed UN mission. NATO has long maintained that peacekeepers be armed, and said the latest proposals were not worthy of serious consideration.
JIM LEHRER: We'll have more on Kosovo war right after the News Summary. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted out a Kosovo resolution today, but without a recommendation for passage or defeat. It urges President Clinton to "use all necessary force to prevail." The full Senate is expected to begin debate on that resolution Monday. The House, in a tie vote Wednesday, declined to endorse the NATO air campaign. President Clinton will hold a meeting on youth violence at the White House next month. It's in response to last week's Colorado high school shootings. People from the entertainment and gun manufacturing industries will be among those invited. The President made the announcement this afternoon in the White House Rose Garden.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: We should recognize the simple truth that there is no simple, single answer. We should not be fighting about who takes the blame. Instead, we should all be looking for ways to take responsibility. And we should be doing that together. As we have united in grief, now we should unite in action. If we ask the right question-- what can we do to give our children safe, whole childhoods -- then there will be answers, for parents and children, for teachers, communities, and for those who influence the lives and the environment in which our children live. But this should be a wake-up call for all parents. We can never take our children for granted. We must never let the lines of communication, no matter how frayed, be broken altogether. Our children need us, even if they don't know it sometimes. This terrible tragedy must not be an occasion for silence. This weekend I ask all parents, if they have not already done so, to sit down and talk to their children about what happened at Littleton and what is happening in their schools and their lives. Finally, I ask students to do more to help each other. Next week, if you have not already done so, I ask every student in America to look for someone at school who is not in your group. You know, there have always been different crowds in schools, and there always will be. This, too, is an inevitable part of growing up and finding your own path through life, but it should not be an occasion for disrespect or hostility in our schools. After all, our children are all on the same journey, even if they're trying to chart different paths, and this can be profoundly important in building a safer future.