Clinton accuses Yugoslav leader of plotting new campaign of terror
March 30, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Accusing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of atrocities in Kosovo, the United States and its NATO allies vowed Tuesday to continue airstrikes against Yugoslavia after a reported cease-fire deal mediated by Russia fell "far short" of what's needed to halt the campaign.
After returning from Belgrade on Tuesday, Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said Milosevic was willing to participate in new Kosovo peace talks -- but only if NATO airstrikes stop.
"We regard this suggestion as falling far short of what is necessary in order for NATO to stop its air campaign," State Department spokesman James Rubin said at a news briefing Tuesday.
"Our position is clear. Milosevic must halt the offensive against the Kosovar Albanians, withdraw his forces and embrace a settlement based on the Rambouillet framework," Rubin said.
Rubin said that President Clinton had spoken to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Tuesday afternoon after his meeting with Primakov, who arrived in Bonn to brief the German leader on his six-hour meeting with Milosevic.
Rubin said that Schroeder agrees with Clinton that the NATO bombing campaign must continue. It is not clear if Clinton will speak directly to Primakov about the Belgrade meeting.
Rubin also said that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called President Milo Djukanovic of Montenegro on Monday to express her deep concern about the large influx of ethnic Albanians fleeing Kosovo.
Albright pledged to increase U.S. humanitarian assistance to help Montenegro deal with the refugee crisis and also expressed concern about a "possible attempt by Belgrade to oust his government."
Rubin warned that any such attempt "will only fuel wider regional instability ... and escalate the conflict with NATO."
Montenegro chose to remain united with Serbia when the six-member Yugoslav Federation broke apart in 1991-1992, but has been critical of Milosevic in the past.
Rubin noted NATO efforts to "exercise restraint and care in targeting Yugoslav military capabilities in Montenegro."
Earlier Tuesday, Clinton blamed Milosevic for "atrocities against innocent people" in Kosovo, and said the United States and NATO allies are "determined to stay with our policy" of airstrikes against Yugoslavia.
"The NATO military operation is continuing today against an expanded range of targets, including Serbian forces on the ground in Kosovo," Clinton said.
Responding to critics who say seven days of bombing have intensified the attacks on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Clinton said Serb assaults had increased before the air war began.
He said Serb attacks had left more than 500,000 homeless in the past year, and the NATO strikes were designed to stop what he said was clear evidence of atrocities.
"Countries from throughout the Balkans, from Greece to Turkey to Romania to Bulgaria, are helping us meet the mounting humanitarian crisis," Clinton said, and he thanked those countries for their aid.
Clinton accused Milosevic of "pretending" to participate in recent peace talks on Kosovo while plotting a "new campaign of expulsions and executions" of ethnic Albanians.
"We have credible reports that his troops are singling out for murder the moderate Kosovar leaders who supported a peaceful solution," Clinton said.
Milosevic, he said, incited "ethnic and religious hatred as a justification for uprooting and murdering completely innocent, peaceful civilians to pave (his) path to absolute power."
The U.S. president also suggested that Milosevic's actions are increasing support for an independent Kosovo.
"Today, he faces the mounting cost of his continued aggression. For a sustained period, we will see that his military will be seriously diminished; key military infrastructure destroyed; the prospect for international support for Serbia's claim to Kosovo increasingly jeopardized," Clinton said.
"We must remain steady and determined with the will to see this through."
Yugoslav officials say the thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees leaving Kosovo are fleeing not from atrocities, but from fighting between the Yugoslav army and Kosovo Liberation Army "terrorists."
The KLA seeks independence for Kosovo, a province in southern Serbia.
Clinton made his comments during a ceremony unveiling a portrait of former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who presided over the 1995 accords that ended the war in Bosnia.
U.N. to airlift aid to refugees in Albania
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