Yugoslavs offer peace -- but no peacekeepers -- in Kosovo
April 30, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Yugoslavia offered a seven-point peace plan Friday to end NATO's air war, but the plan does not provide for an armed international peacekeeping force -- a key NATO demand.
Nebojsa Vujovic, a spokesman for Yugoslavia's foreign ministry, said the plan would allow only unarmed observers into the strife-torn Serbian province of Kosovo. He cited the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's pre-war observer mission as a model.
"We are speaking about a U.N. international mission, not a force - an unarmed civilian mission," Vujovic said.
The United States quickly rejected the proposal, saying it falls short of NATO conditions for ending the war.
NATO countries have said repeatedly that an international military force with NATO troops at its core will be needed to oversee any peace agreement. Vujovic ruled out that demand, characterizing it as an occupation.
"NATO is an aggressor that has committed terrible crimes against civilians," he said.
NATO also wants Yugoslav troops to begin withdrawing from Kosovo before the alliance considers a cease-fire. The Yugoslavs propose only to discuss "adjusting" forces in Kosovo once NATO withdraws troops from Albania and Macedonia.
The rest of the plan would keep Kosovo as part of Yugoslavia; initiate negotiations between ethnic Albanian separatists and Yugoslav authorities without international mediators; provide for equal status for all ethnic groups; and allow free access would for humanitarian organizations to help resettle refugees.
Vujovic said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic had discussed the proposal with Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin. The former Russian premier came to Belgrade on Friday in hopes of reaching a settlement of the five-week-old Balkan war.
On Thursday, Chernomyrdin met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Bonn, and Schroeder indicated that a pause in the bombing might be possible if Belgrade agrees to one of NATO's key demands -- that Serb military and police forces withdraw from Kosovo.
If a withdrawal of Serb forces could be guaranteed, "it is reasonable to think about the limited suspension of airstrikes," said Schroeder, who is also president of the European Union.
Additional aircraft coming
The proposal came after NATO on Friday struck a number of targets in Belgrade that a British official called "the brains behind the brutality" in Yugoslavia. Britain announced it would put additional aircraft into the air campaign.
The new aircraft will allow NATO to attack targets in Yugoslavia with "greater frequency and intensity," Guthrie said.
"They also demonstrate Britain's commitment to continuing the campaign at an increased intensity until our objectives are achieved," he said.
Friday's bombardment was the heaviest to date in the Yugoslav capital, torching the main Yugoslav army headquarters and other targets that drive the country's military machine. NATO officials said at least one bomb went astray and hit a residential area of Belgrade.
"The point we made last night is that we will go for the head as much as the feet in this operation," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said.
NATO pilots flew 600 sorties Thursday and Friday in the heaviest round of bombardment since the air war began March 24, Shea said.
And adding to the rough night in Belgrade was a moderate earthquake that hit the city early Friday. Belgrade Radio said a magnitude 5.5 quake shook the region, with its epicenter near Valjevo, 40 miles (60 km) south of Belgrade.
NATO's targets Friday included five in downtown Belgrade, including the top offices of the country's armed forces. Yugoslav Army headquarters and two Ministry of Defense buildings were hit, as well as two buildings housing special police offices for the Yugoslav federation and Serbia, Guthrie said.
"Many of these targets are indeed the brains behind the brutality going on in Kosovo today, part of the apparatus that is driving this ethnic genocide that is going on inside this part of former Yugoslavia," British Defense Secretary George Robertson said.
NATO officials accuse Yugoslav troops and special police of carrying out a campaign against ethnic Albanian civilians in Kosovo -- a charge Yugoslavia denies.
Homes destroyed in Belgrade
Friday's attacks began with a series of explosions that roused the capital in the early morning hours, sending bright orange flames and thick smoke high into the sky above Belgrade.
Authorities also said two houses and a restaurant in a civilian neighborhood were damaged. CNN's Brent Sadler toured the area immediately after the bombing and reported "considerable" damage in what appeared to be the first destruction of civilian property in the city.
The strikes left thousands of gallons of water from broken underground mains rushing through the streets of Belgrade.
In the Vracar neighborhood, authorities said two NATO weapons destroyed two houses and a restaurant. There was no immediate report of casualties.
"I can see a lot of debris, a lot of rubble in what is a civilian area," Sadler said. "There is a considerable amount of damage."
NATO acknowledged hitting a Belgrade neighborhood, but said the strike was accidental.
"I wish to emphasize that we only target military facilities and take every precaution to avoid civilian casualties and damage to civilian property," said Brig. Gen. Giuseppe Marani, NATO's military spokesman. "Civilians and civilian infrastructure are not our intended targets."
Serbian television resumed broadcasts, but then went dark again during the pre-dawn attacks, just after finishing a newscast.
Targets around Yugoslavia included an army facility in Novi Pazar; a militia station in Srbica; border posts in Krstac and Jasika; police headquarters in Prizren; and two surface-to-air missile sites in Pancevo.
Better weather has allowed NATO to step up the pace of its attacks on Yugoslav troops in Kosovo, Marani said.
"All over Kosovo you can expect that targets have been hit," he said. "Being mobile targets, they have been hit where they have been found."
NATO strikes 'brains' of Belgrade; Britain sends more planes
Extensive list of Kosovo-related sites:
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