Yugoslavs send mixed message about peace plan
Would have U.N.-backed force
May 6, 1999
BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (CNN) -- Yugoslav officials are responding with mixed signals to a peace plan for Kosovo put forward Thursday by foreign ministers of the Group of Eight countries, which calls for an international "civil and security presence" in Kosovo.
Government sources in Belgrade suggest that the Yugoslavs might accept an international force split three ways -- between NATO, Russia and a group of other countries.
But Yugoslav officials insist they cannot withdraw their own forces from Kosovo until NATO bombing stops and until NATO pulls its forces from neighboring Albania and Macedonia.
While agreeing on a peace plan during their summit in Germany, G-8 ministers reached no agreement about ending the air war against Yugoslavia, now in its seventh week.
Key Serb hard-liner rejects plan
Deputy Prime Minister Vojislav Seselj, considered a hard-liner in the Serbian government, said his government "will never accept" an international force that is armed, or one that contains troops from NATO "aggressor countries."
In New York, Vladislav Jovanovic, Yugoslavia's charge d'affaires at the United Nations, said he "disagrees with the approach" set force in the G-8 peace plan but added that it hasn't been rejected outright by Yugoslavia.
Even as the peace plan was being put on the table, the Pentagon announced Thursday that it was sending an additional 176 U.S. warplanes to Europe for use in the air campaign against Yugoslavia.
Many of the planes will be stationed in Hungary, the first time the country has been used as a base during the campaign, giving NATO another angle of attack on Yugoslavia, Pentagon officials told CNN.
Hungary is the only NATO member that borders Yugoslavia.
U.N. Security Council to review plan
The G-8 plan would allow the safe return of hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled the strife-torn Serbian province; preserve the current borders of Yugoslavia and its neighboring states; and disarm the Kosovo Liberation Army -- the ethnic Albanian guerrilla movement that has fought for independence for Kosovo for more than a year. It would also set up a U.N. administration for Kosovo and a framework for its autonomy.
The G-8 countries -- the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Italy and Canada -- will soon present their plan to the U.N. Security Council for its authorization, which the plan is expected to receive.
"Today we have agreed on these principles. Much is left to do," said German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer. "There are differences of opinion on whether to stop the bombings."
"We have discussed the principles today," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov added. "Now we will start to go to the practice."
Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin is expected to return to Yugoslavia at some point after the G-8 meeting to present the peace formula to Milosevic.
Albright: Russian agreement significant
Thursday's talks were the first between G-8 member Russia and NATO powers, which make up most of the group, since the conflict began in late March.
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Russia's agreement was the most significant point of Thursday's proposal.
In return for Russia's acceptance that a military force is needed in Kosovo, the agreement drops any reference to NATO's role in the proposed military contingent, dubbed "KFOR." Albright said she expected the Russians to be included "in the way they have participated in Bosnia."
However, ministers from NATO countries made it clear that their troops will make up the core of the force. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said ethnic Albanian refugees would not agree to return to the province without the protection of a peacekeeping force with "teeth."
"Those teeth will be supplied by the NATO countries," Cook said.
The international force will be set up under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, which allows a "robust" force and denies a veto to the host country.
"It will be a Chapter 7, and it will have NATO at its core, and it will have other countries associated with it," Albright said.
All Yugoslav troops and Serbian special police must withdraw from Kosovo under the agreement, she said. NATO sources told CNN that they will retain the option to strike at all times during this process, to attack when threatened and to hit any targets they still perceive as "legitimate."
Military equipment, oil supplies hit
Despite bad weather, NATO strikes Wednesday and Thursday hit oil supplies in Nis and Pozega, in southern Serbia. Other strikes focused on airfields around Serbia, a missile site near Novi Sad and Yugoslav troops in Kosovo, said Maj. Gen. Walter Jertz, NATO's military spokesman. Bridges, roads and radio relay stations were pounded as well.
Jertz said long field duty, lack of sleep, poor food and fear of attacks are taking their toll on the morale of Yugoslav troops in Kosovo.
"As for commanders, they live with the growing knowledge that they are on the losing side," he added.
Jertz outlined a pattern of damage NATO has inflicted on Yugoslav forces. NATO attacks have cut all but one link across the Danube River in Belgrade, and only two other bridges remain standing over the river, he said.
NATO says all four major road and rail lines into Kosovo have been cut by allied attacks; about half the Yugoslav army's ammunition stocks have been destroyed; 70 percent of its oil supplies have been destroyed, and all of its refining capacity has been shut down.
NATO says its strikes have hit about 300 pieces of equipment, including tanks, trucks, armored troop carriers and artillery -- about 20 percent of what NATO estimates was in Kosovo. Jertz said the fielded forces are now dispersing into smaller units and digging in to protect their equipment.
"Far from moving with impunity, they can now move only furtively and with fear," he said.
Rugova in Rome
Meanwhile, in Italy on Thursday, ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova said he wants to go home -- but only when there is an international military force in Kosovo to protect returning refugees.
At a news conference in Rome, Rugova endorsed U.S. calls for NATO participation in an international peacekeeping force for Kosovo. He said all Kosovars were seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict, including the KLA.
But he avoided saying whether he supported the NATO bombing campaign. Nor did he say whether meetings he had held with Serb leaders had been conducted under duress.
Rugova also said Serb forces had to withdraw from Kosovo so that all ethnic Albanian refugees could return safely.
Rugova arrived in Italy unexpectedly Wednesday with members of his family. After NATO airstrikes began, he appeared occasionally on Serbian television with Yugoslav officials in events NATO dismissed as staged or faked.
The French-educated Rugova is the elected "president" of the self-declared Republic of Kosovo. A pacifist, he has never openly backed the KLA's armed uprising against Belgrade.
In Tirana, a KLA spokesman said the organization was suspicious of Rugova's peace efforts, and said it would not disarm even if a peace deal was reached with Belgrade.
Correspondents Brent Sadler, Ralph Begleiter and Alessio Vinci contributed to this report.
G-8 countries endorse Kosovo plan
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