|CAMPAIGN FOR KOSOVO|
May 4, 1999
JIM LEHRER: Now the day's news from the bombing war against Yugoslavia. Tom Bearden has our summary.
TOM BEARDEN: NATO says the last 24 hours have seen the heaviest strikes since the war began, concentrating on tanks and artillery, and fixed targets ranging from airfields to command posts.
SPOKESMAN: I am very pleased to report that since yesterday, we have experienced one of our most successful military operations against fielded forces in Kosovo. We hit the 125th motorized brigade in Western Kosovo, and the 233rd in Eastern Kosovo especially hard. We engaged various fielded forces, including many armored vehicles and artillery positions, military vehicles, command posts, two radars, and surface-to-air missile support vehicles.
TOM BEARDEN: A US F-16 shot down a Yugoslav Air Force MiG-29, both seen here in file footage, after the Russian-built fighter rose to challenge the American plane near the border between Bosnia and Serbia. It was the first air-to-air combat since the early days of the war. Yesterday, Yugoslavian media reported that some 20 civilians died as the result of a NATO missile or bomb attack on this bus. This morning, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea denied responsibility.
JAMIE SHEA: We spent all of yesterday afternoon and all of the night doing a check on this. We interviewed all of the pilots who were flying over that area yesterday, we looked at all the cockpit videotape available, we looked at all of the intelligence available, and we still have no indication linking NATO to that incident.
TOM BEARDEN: Shea said NATO has been quick to acknowledge responsibility in six earlier incidents where civilian casualties resulted. NATO sources said the bus might have been ambushed by Kosovo Liberation Army forces. Meanwhile, Yugoslavia sharply raised its estimate of casualties, saying 1,200 people have been killed in the bombing campaign, and 5,000 wounded. The outgoing chairman of NATO's military committee said the air war has been hampered by NATO's avoidance of collateral damage. German General Klaus Naumann said not using overwhelming force at the outset has prolonged the campaign.
GENERAL KLAUS NAUMANN: We need to find a way to reconcile the conditions of a coalition in war with the principle of military operations such as surprise and the use of overwhelming force. We did not apply either in Operation Allied Force, and this cost time, effort, and potentially additional casualties, and the net result being that the campaign is undoubtedly prolonged.
TOM BEARDEN: The United Nations says the refugee crisis along Kosovo's southern border worsens as each day passes. People are arriving much faster than shelters can be constructed. UN Refugee Commission Spokesman Ron Redmond says Serbs are forcing people to board trains that dump them near the border with Macedonia.
RON REDMOND: Last night, we had more than 11,000 people show up here for the first time since the beginning of this crisis, when a huge number was pushed out. We saw three trains turn up in one day-- one very early in the morning, another at midday, and another one late last night. So it appears to us that the Serbs in Kosovo are working overtime to push these people out, particularly from areas up around Pristina and some of the cities to the South.
TOM BEARDEN: Relief workers are reluctantly preparing to move people out of Macedonia and into Albania to relieve overcrowding, something they had hoped to avoid.
RELIEF WORKERS: NATO has agreed to build a campsite for approximately 60,000 people in Albania, so we may have to consider this option as long as we can guarantee that this movement is a voluntary one and one that's clearly very organized so that families are not separated.
TOM BEARDEN: But Albania has its own human flood. Thousands are arriving at Kukes on foot, in tractors and cars, many exhausted and in extreme distress. They talk of Serb forces demanding money, and gunning down those who don't comply.
WOMAN: And the people who are doing this-- I hope I am not too strong, but I wouldn't call them people-- I cannot believe that a human being can shoot a 60-year-old man just on the head for nothing, just asking for money or jewelry, or I don't know what, and just because they are Albanians.
TOM BEARDEN: The first batch of some 20,000 Kosovo refugees the U.S. Has pledged to accept will depart tomorrow. About 400 people will be flown to Fort Dix, New Jersey, for processing before being released to relatives in the interior of the country. On Capitol Hill, the Senate tabled a resolution authorizing the use of all available force in the Balkans. Its sponsor, Arizona Republican John McCain, who is a presidential candidate, blasted President Clinton just before the vote. The resolution was viewed as an effort to push the administration toward the use of ground troops.
SPOKESMAN: The President of the United States is prepared to lose a war rather than do the hard work, the politically risky work of fighting it as the leader of the greatest nation on earth should fight, when our interests and our values are imperiled. We all know why this resolution is going to lose in a few minutes. It's going to lose because the President and members of his cabinet have joined with the opponents to the war and lobbied hard for the resolution's defeat.
TOM BEARDEN: Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle pushed to table the motion.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE: It isn't just the President, it is all of his Joint Chiefs of Staff, it is everybody in the Pentagon who advises the President who has said "This is not the time. We do not want to commit the resources, Mr. President. Don't request them," and he has not.
TOM BEARDEN: Majority Leader Trent Lott also moved to kill the measure, and many Republican Senators were also opposed. President Clinton flies to Europe tonight to hold talks with NATO officials in Brussels. Just before he departed, he repeated the conditions that Yugoslavia would have to meet to end the bombing.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: This is not a defeat for Serbia we're seeking. What we're seeking is the simple right of the Kosovar Albanians to live in peace on their own land, without fear of cleansing because of their religious or their ethnic background, and a simple statement that in Europe there will be no more ethnic cleansing. We will not usher in the 21st century with the worst nightmares of the 20th.
TOM BEARDEN: Clinton's 48-hour trip includes a visit to a US Air base in Germany, where he will meet with pilots and the three released POW's.
JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight: NATO's targeting of TV outlets, reservists on their way, and an Anne Taylor Fleming essay.