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World - Europe

NATO halts second night of airstrikes

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According to Belgrade TV, fire from Thursday's strikes burns in Kraljevo, Yugoslavia

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March 26, 1999
Web posted at: 12:44 a.m. EST (0544 GMT)

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- NATO air bases and warships fell silent early Friday, as NATO ended a second night of "severe" airstrikes that hammered Yugoslav air defenses and army barracks across the Balkan nation.

The attacks are expected to resume sometime Friday evening unless Yugoslav leaders accept NATO demands to stop cracking down on ethnic Albanians and sign a proposed Kosovo peace plan.

Satellites and reconnaissance planes will collect data for bomb-damage assessments during daylight hours Friday, providing NATO military planners with an updated set of targets for a planned third round of strikes.

In Thursday night's attack, at least 23 cruise missiles were launched from U.S. warships in the Adriatic Sea beginning at about 8 p.m. local time (2 p.m. EST). Dozens of NATO jets took off from air bases along the Italian coast.

Pentagon sources said the new strikes were primarily carried out by aircraft, including U.S. F-117A stealth fighters and B-2 stealth bombers.

After hours of air raids, defense officials said the second wave of strikes had ended and "all NATO planes are accounted for."

"We have been able to carry out a successful operation to date. More is to come," U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen told CNN's "Larry King Live."

Asked what Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic could do to stop the bombings, Cohen said, "He could do the right thing and that is to call off the forces that are trying to slaughter the Kosovar Albanians."

But there were no signs of that Thursday. U.S. intelligence officials told CNN Serb troops were moving through villages in Kosovo, driving ethnic Albanians from their homes -- as one official put it, "The Serbs are rolling up a lot of villages."

The officials said Serbs may have drawn up a hit list of prominent intellectuals, including lawyers and doctors, who are now being targeted.

A newspaper editor, who was one of four Kosovar Albanians to sign the Rambouillet agreement, has gone into hiding after his paper was attacked and the doorman murdered, officials said.

A leading human rights lawyer was abducted along with his two teen-age sons, according to Human Rights Watch, a non-profit international human rights group. A moderate Kosovar political party said 10 men were executed Wednesday.

In Washington, President Clinton said Milosevic must stop his offensive and accept the interim Kosovo peace plan, including a NATO-implementation force of 28,000 troops. .

"He has to choose peace or we have to limit his ability to make war," Clinton said before the second wave got under way.

Videotaped remarks by President Clinton to the Serbian people will be transmitted by satellite from the United States Information agency at 8:30 a.m. Yugoslavia time (2:30 a.m. EST). The remarks will be available in English and dubbed in Serbian and Russian.

Tanjug news agency reported that Milosevic met with top Yugoslav officials to discuss the air strikes and concluded that the raids "were a grave crime against the people of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."

Witnesses in Belgrade saw a white light streaking across the sky, followed by an explosive flash on the ground about 5 kilometers (3 miles) west of the capital. Five or six detonations resounded shortly afterward.

Local radio reported that the suburb of Pancevo was the target of that attack. An aircraft factory there was damaged Wednesday.

Anti-aircraft fire erupted in western Yugoslavia near the Croatian border and planes were heard overhead, CNN Correspondent Tom Mintier reported from the region.

The Pentagon denied a report by Yugoslavia's official Tanjug news agency claiming that three NATO planes had been shot down.

"All NATO airplanes are accounted for," one Pentagon official said.

NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana said there had been "no positive response" from Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic following Wednesday night's strikes. "That's why the attack will continue," he said.

NATO attacked when it became clear that Serb leaders would not accept a U.S.-drafted Kosovo peace plan that would grant ethnic Albanians local autonomy but not independence. Belgrade has adamantly opposed a key provision of the plan: allowing NATO-led peacekeepers into Kosovo to police the peace.

U.S. National Security Adviser Samuel Berger said Thursday a Serb offensive against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo had "increased somewhat." He also said Serb forces had fired shells into neighboring Albania.

"There have been some further burnings of villages, further sweep operations, some shelling into Albania," Berger said.

'A very terrible day' for Yugoslavia

Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic said his country had severed diplomatic ties with the United States, Britain, France and Germany.

"This is a very terrible day in my life," Draskovic told CNN. "We are the nation of dreams, but never we dreamed about the possibility Americans -- our war allies from the First and the Second World War -- could bomb Serbia as allies of Albanian terrorists."

NATO commanders warned Milosevic there was "no sanctuary" for himself or his military.

"We will systematically and progressively attack, disrupt, degrade, devastate and ultimately -- unless President Milosevic complies with the (peace) demands of the international community -- destroy these forces and their facilities and support," NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Wesley Clark said earlier Thursday.

Assessing the mission's first wave of attacks, launched Wednesday, Clark said NATO had hit 40 ground targets and destroyed three Yugoslav Air Force planes.

The Yugoslav government said Thursday that at least 10 civilians were killed and more than 60 wounded in the NATO attacks.

White House sources said the president sent messages to more than a half dozen world leaders, including Chinese President Jiang Zemin, whose country has sharply criticized the attacks.

The White House also is playing down reports out of Italy and Greece that those two NATO countries believe it may be time for more diplomacy.

NATO launched Operation Allied Force Wednesday after Yugoslavia refused to sign onto an interim peace agreement for Kosovo and continued its military attacks against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo province.

In Moscow, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said that Russia would not take any "extreme measures" in response to the NATO bombing. He said that because of the bombing, Russia held a "morally higher position" than the United States.

Yeltsin ordered his foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, to gather ministers from the six-nation Contact Group in Moscow to search for a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Correspondents Tom Mintier, Martin Savidge, Jim Bittermann and David Ensor contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Pentagon: All NATO planes safe as second day of strikes ends
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March 25, 1999
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In U.S., Albanian-Serb divide evident
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Refugees continue to flee Kosovo fighting
March 25, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Independent Yugoslav radio station B92
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - Facts
Kosova Crisis Center
NATO Official Homepage
Kosovo and Metohia
U.S. Navy
  • Photo of missile firing Wednesday
Kosova Liberation Peace Movement
The Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR)
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