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Crisis in Yugoslavia

NATO's Leaders Vow Not to Let Up on Yugoslavia

Summit: 'We are winning,' U.S. general tells 50th anniversary gathering. Alliance vows to continue air war for Kosovo peace. It dismisses Russian proposal.

April 24, 1999|TYLER MARSHALL and NORMAN KEMPSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON — In the opening session of NATO's 50th anniversary summit, alliance leaders vowed Friday to intensify economic sanctions and move toward a virtual oil blockade against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic while continuing their month-old air campaign against his regime.

According to one official who attended a three-hour opening gathering here of President Clinton and 18 other alliance leaders, it was U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark, NATO's military commander, who set the tone as he briefed leaders on the impact of airstrikes on Milosevic's nation.

"We are winning, he is losing, and he knows it," Clark told them.

Added NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, speaking to reporters at a later news briefing: "We are going to win this battle against Milosevic. . . . The 19 countries around the table today are determined that brutality cannot prevail in Europe and is not going to prevail."

On the diplomatic front, NATO leaders dismissed as inadequate a six-point Russian peace proposal for Kosovo, the Serbian province at the heart of the conflict. But they stressed the need for Moscow's involvement in resolving the crisis in Yugoslavia, where Serbia is the dominant republic. They also sought United Nations help for the first time, a step the United States had earlier opposed.

"The time has come to give a role to the U.N. secretary-general and the Security Council," Solana told a news conference after the session.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, announced that it is dispatching 2,350 more U.S. soldiers and heavy equipment to Albania to provide extra support for a just-arrived detachment of 24 Apache attack helicopters.

The additional forces, requested by Clark, include 15 tanks, 14 armored personnel carriers, mobile missile batteries, antitank and antiaircraft vehicles, combat engineers, military police, military intelligence personnel and various support units.

Officials said the additions, which will bring the Apache force--Task Force Hawk--to a total of 5,350 troops, is not aimed at building forces for a later invasion.

In other developments Friday:

* Alliance warplanes broadened their attacks in Yugoslavia to include a new set of targets, attacking Serbian state television, the powerful propaganda arm of Milosevic's regime, then cutting electrical power to some parts of Belgrade, the Serbian and Yugoslav capital, by striking two power transformers. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon said the state-run TV system was "as much a part of Milosevic's murder machine as his army."

* A senior Republican lawmaker said he had called off a joint mission to Belgrade by several members of Congress and the Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament, after top Clinton administration policymakers refused to support it. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) said the visit was designed to pressure Milosevic to agree to NATO's conditions for ending the military action. The group also planned to see three U.S. servicemen who have been held prisoner in Yugoslavia since March 31.

* Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic bluntly rejected a demand by Belgrade authorities that his administration yield control of its heavily armed police force to the Yugoslav army. "This is a direct threat of civil war, which would bring a catastrophe to Montenegro," Vujanovic said, responding to a demand by Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic. Such a move would basically transfer power in Montenegro to Milosevic from pro-Western, democratically elected politicians.

* After completing their meeting on Kosovo, NATO leaders gathered in Washington's Mellon Auditorium--the same building in which the original NATO treaty was signed--to commemorate the 50th anniversary of America's oldest, most successful military alliance. They signed a declaration recommitting themselves to defend their common values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Speaking at the signing ceremony, Clinton underscored the enormity of the stakes involved for NATO as it fights its first war, stating that the alliance will have no meaning "if it permits the slaughter of innocents on its doorstep."

Unity Exceeds Even Optimistic Forecasts

The series of forceful statements by summit leaders Friday demonstrated a degree of solidarity among NATO's 19 diverse democracies that even optimists would have found hard to predict at the start of an intense bombing campaign now in its second month.

But those same words--along with the somber faces--also reflected the unsettled mood of alliance leaders who are still adjusting to the unexpected difficulty of the fight they have taken on in the Balkans. They also face growing doubts among some citizens of their own countries that air power alone can force Serbian forces to retreat from Kosovo.

At times Friday, the strident rhetoric among the leaders seemed aimed as much at boosting their own confidence as it was at convincing others of the wisdom of their course. So far, the airstrikes have accomplished none of the alliance's initial objectives.

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