NATO strikes knock out Serb electrical power
Refugee flow into Macedonia increases
May 3, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Belgrade was lit only by moonlight overnight after NATO airstrikes knocked out electrical power to much of Serbia.
NATO confirmed striking power plants in Serbia, including a facility near Belgrade. CNN's Brent Sadler, reporting from the Yugoslav capital, said "Belgrade is now in darkness for as far as the eye can see." Officials later reported that power had been partly restored.
NATO's Jamie Shea said Monday the strikes were designed to damage facilities that distribute power to the military machine of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, and that care had been taken "to ensure that important civilian facilities, like hospitals, had ... back-up transformers to keep their systems running through these power outages."
"We regret the inconvenience that power outages have caused the Serb people," Shea said in Brussels, "but we had no choice to continue attacking every element of the Yugoslav armed forces until such time as President Milosevic meets the demands of the international community."
NATO bombs damaged a power plant in Kostolac, 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Belgrade along the Danube River, which supplies electricity to all subsidiary power plants across Serbia.
An official government source said NATO planes also hit a plant in the southern city of Nis and another in Obrenovac, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of Belgrade.
State-owned Serbian television, a repeated target of NATO airstrikes, went off the air around 9:45 p.m. (3:45 p.m. ET), as did all other television and radio stations.
Diplomatic efforts heat up
The latest bombing runs came just a day after Yugoslavia released three American soldiers held captive for more than a month. U.S. and NATO officials said they were pleased , but said the release would have no bearing on NATO's air campaign.
Milosevic must fully accept NATO conditions for a resolution to the civil conflict in Kosovo between separatist ethnic Albanians and Serbian forces before the alliance halts the airstrikes, the officials said.
Milosevic has thus far refused to accept the NATO terms, which include an armed international peacekeeping force in Serbia.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, an American civil rights activist who secured the release of the three American prisoners, is heading Washington from Germany carrying a letter from Milosevic to U.S. President Bill Clinton. The letter is reportedly the Yugoslav president's latest overtures to peace.
Clinton is also being pressed by Russia to negotiate an end to the conflict over Kosovo. Former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin will meet Monday with Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, a presidential spokesman said.
CNN's Betsy Aaron in Moscow said the visit is timed to take advantage of a diplomatic initiative which includes the prisoner release.
Yugoslav official: Strikes hurting Serbs
Meanwhile, a top Yugoslav official indicated that the strikes are causing hardship throughout the country.
Sounding fatigued and upset, Health Minister Leposava Milosevic told CNN in a telephone interview broadcast live that many hospitals had lost power and were functioning on backup generators which could fail within hours, affecting hospitalized patients, including infants in incubators.
"We have a very great problem with supplying water," she said. "The supplying is not possible without electricity." Leposava said she expected the power difficulties to be resolved, but added that "We also expect new attacks" from NATO.
"We have bombing every night, every day -- permanently," she said. "They hit the fuel, they hit everything we need to distribute the food -- everything the refugees need."
Leposava said Yugoslavia has 700,000 refugees within its borders from various regions but added that "You are caring just about Albanian refugees. You are not caring about other refugees."
Macedonia refugee plight worsens
But the ethnic Albanian refugee plight continued to worsen Monday. An overnight train arrived at Blace, Macedonia, on Monday, bringing the total number of refugees stalled at the border crossing to 11,000.
Some 5,000 were already at a holding camp at the border. A UNHCR official said another 2,000 arrived during the night, along with 4,000 on the train and buses.
"We had the first night train since the crisis began," said UNHCR spokeswoman Paula Ghedini.
Ghedini said the new arrivals will be put into the camp at Cegrane, which is still under construction.
"Many will have to sleep out in the open again," she said."
Around 80,000 refugees are currently in Macedonia, said British Brigadier Tim Cross, commander of the U.K. National Support Element, with 45,000 to 50,000 in the two main camps.
"The camps were never built for that sort of number on a long-term basis," Cross said Monday during a British Defense Ministry briefing. "They are in fact at about double their capacity.
The situation, Cross said, will only worsen as summer brings hotter weather.
"This is not a happy situation," he said, "but at least they have food and they have shelter."
Correspondents Brent Sadler, Jonathan Karl, Betsy Aaron, Amanda Kibel, Tom Mintier and Jane Arraf contributed to this report.
NATO strikes knock out Serb electrical power
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