NATO rejects Yugoslav unilateral cease-fire offer
Wants firm peace commitment first
April 6, 1999
BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO on Tuesday immediately rejected an offer by Yugoslavia for a unilateral cease-fire to mark the Orthodox Easter.
The alliance insisted that the bombing would continue until Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ends the crackdown on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and allows the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees.
"To honor the biggest Christian holiday, Easter, all actions of the army and police will stop in Kosovo against the terrorist organization KLA, starting April 6 at 8 p.m. (2 p.m. EDT)," said a government statement carried by Serbian TV.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Nebojsa Vujovic confirmed to CNN what he said was an open-ended cease-fire.
He also told CNN that Yugoslavia would be approaching international aid agencies to discuss the return of the Kosovo refugees.
However, NATO has insisted that Milosevic first prove he is serious about peace before the NATO air campaign would stop.
"We've made very clear that any hollow, half measures will not stop the bombing," David Leavy, spokesman for the National Security Council, said in Washington in an immediate response to the cease-fire offer.
Earlier Tuesday , NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said that NATO allies were anticipating an offer from Milosevic to end hostilities that would fall well short of Western demands.
"At this stage we are not ready to settle for anything less than our objectives," Shea told a news conference.
Shea told a NATO news conference in Brussels Tuesday that NATO airstrikes were successful in cracking down on Yugoslav armed forces and would continue unabated.
CNN confirmed that at least four civilians were killed when apartment buildings were hit in a town south of Belgrade during overnight NATO raids.
"Any unintended damage ... is very much regretted," he said.
British Defense Minister George Robertson, speaking in London, said if reports of civilian casualties were true, "then this is, of course, regrettable. But as we've always said: Despite all our efforts, such casualties will occur in a campaign of this size and complexity."
NATO's overnight raids hit targets throughout Yugoslavia, including bridges, airfields, petroleum installations, police headquarters and air defense installations, Wilby said.
However, two large explosions also tore through apartment blocks and what appeared to be civilian homes in the mining town of Aleksinac, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Belgrade.
CNN correspondent Brent Sadler reported that at least four people were killed and that a medical clinic used by civilians had also been hit.
Taken to the scene by Yugoslav officials, Sadler said elderly men and women were among the casualties. One woman said she had saved two of her children but had to leave other family members beneath the rubble.
Fire crews were trying to put out blazes at gutted apartment blocks, Sadler reported.
The Belgrade-based Tanjug news agency said Tuesday that 10 apartment buildings were destroyed and an entire street was obliterated in Aleksinac, a town of 17,000.
Wilby said a technical failure, or anti-aircraft fire, could have caused the weapon to miss its intended target, which was a nearby military post housing an artillery unit.
In Novi Sad, Yugoslavia's second-largest city, an orange fireball lit up the sky overnight. Serbian TV said an oil refinery had been hit.
The city's only standing bridge was also hit by missiles but not destroyed, Serb officials said.
The main road linking Belgrade with the Serb province of Kosovo was also hit, and British officials -- speaking at a news conference in London -- showed gun camera video of a fuel dump at Pristina being struck by bombs.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright -- speaking at an event in Washington to mark NATO's 50th anniversary -- accused Milosevic on Tuesday of masterminding a "nightmarish cycle of murder and mayhem" in the Balkans.
"President Milosevic has seized every opportunity to advance his own power by attacking first Slovenia, then Croatia, then Bosnia-Herzegovina -- and now the people of Kosovo," she said.
Shea, NATO's civilian spokesman, said in Brussels that the alliance now had strong evidence that Milosevic and the Yugoslav authorities were responsible for systematic human rights violations in Kosovo.
Shea said the evidence was based on many accounts from the tens of thousands of refugees pushed out of Kosovo by Serb forces.
The violations included looting of homes and businesses, detentions and "disappearances" of "many, many, many men of military age" in Kosovo and summary executions in at least 50 towns.
NATO has said the alliance will hand over evidence to the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and Shea said that there would be "no impunity, no hiding place" for those responsible of human rights violations and war crimes.
British defense officials said that an estimated 1.1 million Kosovo Albanians, out of a total population of 1.8 million, had been driven from their homes by what London described as the Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Yugoslavia says the ethnic Albanians are leaving Kosovo because of the NATO airstrikes.
In Moscow, Yugoslav Ambassador Borislav Milosevic, the brother of President Milosevic, said 300 civilians had been killed and 3,000 others wounded in the 14-day NATO bombing campaign.
NATO rejects Yugoslav cease-fire offer
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