|THE PROBLEMS OF PEACE|
June 15, 1999
JIM LEHRER: Tom Bearden has our Kosovo News Summary.
TOM BEARDEN: KFOR troops are finding new evidence of atrocities throughout Kosovo as they advance into the province. Dutch and German troops found some 20 charred bodies in the village of Alika Crusa near the City of Prizren.
CAPT. FRANK ENSCHERMANN, German KFOR Medic: There is a leg there and head there. You see a torso over there and it's very - it's horror, just a horror.
TOM BEARDEN: Three more mass graves were discovered just off a road in Koronica, six miles West of Jakovica town. Residents said they may contain as many as 150 bodies. Meanwhile, NATO said the withdrawal of Serbian military forces was continuing on schedule and will likely meet tonight's deadline for their complete evacuation of Southern Kosovo.
LT. COL. ROBIN CLIFFORD, KFOR Spokesman: Our close surveillance has indicated that by certainly yesterday evening about 20,000 Yugoslav personnel, half the total we were expecting to find in the area, were withdrawing or had already withdrawn. And we can also verify that over 115 armored personnel carriers, 65 artillery pieces and 37 tanks have with withdrawn, all this despite some severe traffic congestion, breakdowns, and shortages of vehicles, including heavy lifts.
TOM BEARDEN: Serb troops are apparently burning houses as they retreat. Reporters accompanying British troops photographed houses burning in the area near Podjevo. There are reports that the Kosovo Liberation Army is also burning Serb homes in other villages as residents depart. A scuffle broke out as a Serb convoy was departing the town of Niljane. French troops tried to keep back jeering Albanians who pelted a car. A hand grenade was tossed into the middle of the crowd and several people were wounded. The KLA claims to control Prizren, the second largest city in Kosovo outright; however, their commander said they would accept KFOR orders and would not harass Serbs.
REXHA EKREM, KLA Commander: We never hurt civilians, we never hurt children, females and old people. We never had against them -- nothing. All the men who have been involved in war crimes will be responsible for that activity. All others, they are free to stay. We don't make pressure to anyone but we will not keep anyone to do what is his wish.
TOM BEARDEN: The KLA are a potentially thorny problem for KFOR because the U.N. resolution that governs the international peacekeeping mission calls for the KLA to be demilitarized. But the KLA commander said they have wouldn't disarm without orders from Kosovo's provisional government. That issue was also on the mind of Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who met with Boris Yeltsin this morning. Later, he spoke with reporters about efforts to resolve differences with NATO over the role of Russian troops in the peacekeeping operation.
SERGEI STEPASHIN: (speaking through interpreter) In the coming days a meeting between Russian and U.S. defense ministers is due to take place. We hope that by the nd of the week all the difficulties will be solved. The main condition is the U.N. resolution on disarming Albanian armed groups, which are already performing some terrorist acts.
TOM BEARDEN: A contingent of about 200 Russian troops continues to occupy the airport at Pristina. They were resupplied today by a small convoy of trucks. And they asked for and received water from KFOR troops. At the State Department in Washington, Spokesman James Rubin cautioned against making too much of their presence.
JAMES RUBIN, State Department Spokesman: I know there is tendency for everyone to focus on the negative, but let's remember that this is 200 troops, and NATO's forces are now up to 16,000 and will soon be at 25,000, so this is a very tiny fraction of the peacekeepers in Kosovo. And they are basically staying in one place and now working on arrangements for their integration into a unified command structure.
TOM BEARDEN: Rubin said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen would meet with their Russian counterparts in Helsinki, Finland, on Thursday to discuss the Russian role. Kosovar Albanian refugees are lining up by thousands as the borders again, but this time to return, this despite pleas from United Nations aid officials who insist it is not yet safe it did so. One elderly woman was killed and her husband injured by a land mine when they tried to return to their home from Blace, Macedonia.
ASTRID KAHN, UNHCR Spokesperson: At present, there are more than a thousand people trying to return to Kosovo. Yesterday already 350 have returned. UNHCR is extremely concerned about this, because the situation is not safe at all in Kosovo. NATO is still deploying troops. They're trying to find out whether the areas are safe or not. There are a lot of mines everywhere and UNHCR is only just setting up their offices, and we cannot give protection at the moment to these refugees that are returning now.
TOM BEARDEN: U.N.-chartered aircraft have begun delivering medical supplies to the battered cities of the province as relief agencies work to restore the medical system.
OMAR RABIN, UNHCR Spokesman: In the last two and a half months, there have been no health facilities at all. The doctors have to run for their life, and there was no supply of drugs and the system has completely collapsed.
TOM BEARDEN: The U.N. will also begin using helicopters to deliver urgently needed food to the estimated 1.5 million ethnic Albanians that are homeless inside Kosovo. Officials of the World Food Program said some people in the hills are surviving on boiled grass and wild berries. Kosovar Serbs are also becoming refugees, abandoning their homes and moving towards Serbia.
DENNIS McNAMARA, U.N. Balkans Envoy: The Serb minority population are getting into tractors and covering themselves with plastic just like the Kosovars did a few weeks and months ago. That's a tragic sight for us.
TOM BEARDEN: In Yugoslavia, President Slobodan Milosevic made only his second public appearance since last October in the town of Alexinoc. The Serb leader said 30 civilians were killed by NATO bombs here and that the rebuilding of his country and reconciliation with the rest of the world would begin here. But in Belgrade, opposition leader Vuk Draskovic was calling for urgent political reforms for Serbia.
VUK DRASKOVIC: It means creation of a transitional democratic government, European-oriented, on republican level and on federal level.
TOM BEARDEN: At the same time, the influential orthodox church called for Milosevic's resignation.