Milosevic home a legitimate target, British say
April 22, 1999
LONDON (CNN) -- British military officials said the Belgrade home of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, which was hit in NATO airstrikes early Thursday, was a legitimate military target, but denied they were trying to kill Milosevic.
"The house has been used as a command and control facility, and therefore it became a part of the military machine," Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson said.
Asked if NATO considered the Yugoslav leader a target, Henderson said, "The Milosevic military machine is the target, and there is no other target."
The residence that was attacked is one of two residences Milosevic keeps in the Yugoslav capital. Milosevic and his family were not inside the house, located in Belgrade's luxurious Dedinje district, during the 4 a.m. (0200 GMT) attack, the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug reported.
Serbian TV showed footage of what it said was the home. It showed significant damage to what was a large residence in a tree-lined neighborhood.
NATO officials have said they believe Milosevic regularly sleeps in different places around the capital.
Russian diplomat arrives after raid
The latest wave of air attacks came as Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin prepared for talks in Belgrade Thursday with Milosevic. Chernomyrdin arrived in Belgrade a few hours after the attack on the residence.
Serb television later showed pictures of Milosevic welcoming Chernomyrdin at the "White Palace," another building used by Milosevic for welcoming delegations and for official functions.
The former Russian prime minister is expected to examine ways to end the battle over Kosovo. Russia has strongly objected to NATO's air war against Yugoslavia.
In an interview aired Wednesday night on Houston, Texas, television station KHOU, Milosevic said a diplomatic solution was possible once NATO ceased its attacks, which began March 24.
"I believe that when the aggression stops, when the bombing stops, then it will be very easy to continue the political process," Milosevic said.
Milosevic denied that his troops have carried out a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo, a province of Serbia, Yugoslavia's dominant republic.
"There was never policy of this country and my policy to expel any citizen of Yugoslavia from any part of this country," he said.
Henderson, the British Armed Forces minister, on Thursday cxhallenged Milosevic to explain why 600,000-plus Kosovo refugees have flooded other countries. And he said that NATO would only stop its campaign when Milosevic agreed to a peace agreement that allowed those refugees to return safely, protected by an international force.
Additional strikes around Yugoslavia
In addition to the reported attack on Milosevic's house, Yugoslav authorities on Thursday were assessing the damage from a night of attacks that reportedly targeted a military airport and a key factory region.
Early Thursday, a series of large explosions jolted an area just outside Belgrade. Serbian TV reported that the key military airport at Batajnica, just outside the capital, was hit. Explosions also were heard in central Belgrade.
In Valjevo, about 45 miles (70 km) southwest of Belgrade, the independent radio station Studio B said 12 missiles struck the Krusik factory. The plant has been a repeated target of NATO's strikes.
The report said the air raids were the strongest attack on Valjevo so far and that a number of homes and other buildings near the factory were damaged.
Military to review campaign plans
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana has authorized Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Wesley Clark and alliance military commanders to "update the assessment" for the possible use of ground troops in Yugoslavia.
Despite that, Henderson said the allies remain committed to the air campaign, which he said is bearing fruit.
"The difficulty of a land force invasion of Kosovo against an undegraded Serb military machine are formidable, but all options are always kept under review," he said.
Earlier estimates suggest that more than 200,000 NATO troops would be required for any ground war in Yugoslavia. Military officials told CNN that that number likely would be higher after the "assessment."
Sources in Washington described the reassessment as routine and logical. They said it in no way suggests a move toward seeking approval from the 19-member military alliance for a ground combat operation.
The White House said earlier in the day it would support the review, but also reiterated its contention that the air campaign would ultimately be successful.
The possible use of ground troops will be a topic of discussion this weekend at NATO's 50th anniversary summit, which begins in Washington on Friday.
Apaches await action
The first wave of the long-awaited Apache tank-killing helicopters arrived in Albania Wednesday to "attack the enemy in the field."
Eleven Apaches touched down in the Albanian capital of Tirana, after days of delays from bad weather, along with an escort of Blackhawk helicopters and Chinooks.
The Apaches, terrain-hugging helicopters, use natural features like trees and hills to screen themselves from the enemy before emerging to attack tanks and troop concentrations.
Twenty-four are to be in Albania by Thursday. Officials say 2,615 U.S. troops from bases across Germany will pilot the Apaches and help protect the helicopter forces.
Many of the Apache pilots are combat veterans, including some who saw action during the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989.
In addition, 615 personnel from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, including 550 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne, are to be based in Tirana. About half have already arrived, with the rest expected to depart by this weekend.
CNN INDEPTH SPECIAL SECTION:
NATO beefs up firepower, doubles targets in Yugoslavia
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