No evidence of Yugoslav troop withdrawal from Kosovo, NATO says
May 11, 1999
Brussels, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO officials said on Tuesday they have seen no evidence of any pullout of Yugoslav troops from Kosovo.
The Yugoslav army announced Monday it would begin a partial withdrawal of military and police units from Kosovo.
However, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, officials said NATO reconnaissance units had seen no military convoys heading out of Kosovo, CNN"s John Raedler reported.
The Yugoslav army had said it would make a partial withdrawal from Kosovo because it said its campaign against the KLA has been "completed" and it would now consider a U.N. mission in Kosovo -- but not a NATO peacekeeping force.
Meanwhile, overnight, NATO continued its bombing campaign against Yugoslavia, striking munitions storage facilities, petroleum storage units, armored tanks and communications facilities, officials reported Tuesday.
The Yugoslav capital of Belgrade, however, got a rare reprieve from NATO bombardment, which alliance officials said was due to unfavorable weather rather than fallout over the accidental NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which occurred during the weekend.
Details of reported withdrawal unclear
U.S. and NATO officials had reacted skeptically to the annoucement of the partial troop withdrawal.
The announcement did not say how many troops were being withdrawn or how the manuever was taking place. U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen later said he had seen no evidence of a troop withdrawal.
The Yugoslav Army said the partial pullout from Kosovo began Sunday night. Such an order could not have been issued without the approval of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, CNN Correspondent Brent Sadler reported.
In Washington, White House officials also said they've seen no evidence of withdrawal. One senior administration official said "half gestures won't do it. He knows what he has to do," referring to Milosevic.
"I have just heard a report that he was going to withdraw half his forces from Kosovo," Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told reporters at the State Department. "If there ever was a definition of a half-measure, that's it."
A KLA official in Albania told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the Yugoslav government's announcement "means nothing to us."
"It is aimed at stopping NATO airstrikes and buying time for repositioning of Yugoslav forces, which are disorganized and are disbanding. It would be a great mistake for NATO to stop bombing.
"Today there's been fierce fighting between the KLA and Serb forces in Kosovo, especially fierce in the southern part of Kosovo," the official said.
Albright, Cohen and NATO spokesman Jamie Shea all said the bombing of Yugoslavia would continue until Milosevic meets all NATO demands -- including complete withdrawal of Yugoslav troops from Kosovo, safe return of ethnic Albanian refugees forced from their homes and a NATO-led peacekeeping force.
Shea said the alliance was investigating the "validity" of the Yugoslav claim, adding, "If Milosevic has indeeed ordered a withdrawal of his troops," this would be proof that the air campaign now in its 48th day has been a success.
Cohen said there would have to be "demonstrable evidence" that Yugoslavia was meeting those demands before any pause in the bombing would be considered.
Sadler said the announcement by Belgrade could be seen as a "tactical step" Yugoslav officials hope would be interpreted as a "goodwill gesture" designed to show a willingness to negotiate a diplomatic solution.
No U.N. Security Council condemnation of NATO embassy bombing
Monday evening in New York, the U.N. Security Council failed for a second time to approve a Chinese request for a strong condemnation of NATO for its bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.
The bombing, which NATO said was accidental, and the result of "faulty information" killed three people. China has demanded an apology from the United States, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
In New York, after two hours of discussion, the divided Security Council was unable to agree on language for a resolution regarding the embassy attack. The Chinese pushed for strong condemnation, but the United States, Britain and the allies would only agree to an expression of regret.
French diplomats offered a compromise under which the Security Council would have taken note of all of the apologies issued by NATO governments and acknowledged that an error had been made. The Chinese did not accept.
Clinton again conveys apologies
In Washington, on Monday, President Clinton reiterated his regret over the bombing.
"I have already expressed our apology and our condolences to President Jiang (Zemin) and the Chinese people and I have reaffirmed our commitment to strengthen our relationship with China. But I think it's very important to remember that this was an isolated tragic event, while the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo ... is a deliberate systematic crime."
China issued a list of demands that included an "open and official" apology, a thorough investigation and "severe punishment" for those responsible for the embassy bombing that left three journalists dead and injured about 20 other people.
Shea took exception to China's demand that somebody be punished.
"We've clearly identified where the problem came from" and taken precautions to make sure a similar mistake won't happen again, Shea said. "This was the mistake of a system, not a mistake of an individual."
However, Cohen indicated that the investigation into what went wrong was continuing and that if "there is culpability to be found, then we could consider appropriate action at that time."
Correspondents Brent Sadler, Christiane Amanpour and John Raedler contributed to this report.
Yugoslavia declares partial pullout from Kosovo
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