NATO triples airstrikes against Yugoslavia
April 13, 1999
LONDON (CNN) -- NATO tripled the number of planes flying bombing missions over Yugoslavia on Tuesday as airstrikes concentrated on cutting off the flow of fuel to the Yugoslav army in Kosovo.
"The new intensity of our air campaign represents a step change in our offensive against the Serb forces in the killing fields of Kosovo," British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said.
That word came as the United States announced plans to send several hundred more aircraft to participate in the air campaign in the Balkans. The new warplanes will bring the number of NATO aircraft in the operation to nearly 1,000.
The allied air war against Yugoslavia is aimed at forcing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to accept a peace agreement for the Serbian province.
"We are showing that the longer we go on, the stronger become our attacks and the weaker becomes Milosevic's war machine," Cook said.
Cook said Yugoslavia's petroleum supply is a "choke point" that NATO is attacking in order to hinder Serb-led Yugoslav troops and special police forces. The alliance says those forces have conducted a campaign against ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo.
Cook described that offensive as "a revival of fascism" that modern Europe could not tolerate.
"The Serb army now knows it has no real protection against our air attacks, and spends most of its time hiding and worrying," he said. "They know that with every passing day, the balance turns against them."
Serb TV also reported attacks against:
Gen. Charles Guthrie, the British chief of staff, said the air campaign is taking a toll on Yugoslav army morale.
"Our attacks are having a noticeable and destructive effect, and units are becoming increasingly isolated," Guthrie said.
Guthrie and Cook said instructions to NATO pilots have not changed in the wake of Monday's fatal attack on a Yugoslav passenger train. A U.S. fighter jet hit the train while attacking a rail bridge near Leskovac, in southern Serbia.
Cook said fliers are told to avoid potential injuries to civilians "even if it impairs the mission."
The attack killed at least 10 and left another 16 injured, Serbian authorities said.
"There's going to be an inquiry about that, that NATO is running, that will come to some conclusions about that," Guthrie said.
Meanwhile, the alliance was still pursuing diplomacy in hopes of finding a way to end the crisis in Kosovo, which has left nearly a million people displaced.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Oslo, Norway, on Tuesday in an attempt to improve recently strained relations between the two countries over the crisis.
NATO ministers met in Brussels, Belgium on Monday and renewed their commitment to continuing the air campaign. Cook said a political solution to the fighting "would be welcome," but must include the principles set out by the Western powers and Russia at peace talks in Rambouillet, France.
"It has to be on the basis of full Serb withdrawal and an international protection force for refugees to return," he said.
Cook also said that refugees' stories have bolstered earlier reports that young ethnic Albanian women were being systematically raped in a Serb military camp in Kosovo, near the Albanian border.
"Aid workers... have heard the same story from a number of women," Cook said. "The story has now come forward from a number of women and does, sadly, have the ring of corroboration," he said.
Yugoslav officials have denied allegations of rapes or other atrocities in Kosovo.
NATO hits new targets as U.S. increases fire power
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites
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