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CRISIS IN YUGOSLAVIA

U.S. Calls Up Reservists to Boost Air War

Balkans: Washington, Moscow narrow gap on a way to get Yugoslavia to accept NATO terms for ending bombardment.

April 28, 1999|NORMAN KEMPSTER and MAURA REYNOLDS and CAROL J. WILLIAMS | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Tuesday summoned 2,116 reservists, the first of 33,100 who eventually will be called up, to provide the fliers and ground crews for hundreds of additional aircraft as NATO's aerial assault on Yugoslavia shaped up as a long war of attrition.

President Clinton signed the activation order for the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard personnel.

On the diplomatic front, U.S. and Russian officials inched closer to a common approach that both sides hope will persuade Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to accept NATO's conditions for ending the alliance's 5-week-old bombardment. The allies demand in part that Milosevic abandon his campaign of "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo, a province of Serbia, the dominant Yugoslav republic.

Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott met in Moscow with Russian peace envoy Viktor S. Chernomyrdin. Although wide gaps remain between the U.S. and Russian positions, a senior State Department official said the talks had moved them closer to a common ground that could produce a diplomatic solution in Kosovo.

But, like the air war, the diplomatic effort will require patience, U.S. officials said. They warned that there were no solutions imminent through either military or diplomatic means.

Pentagon spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon said the reservists, including members of an air refueling wing in Northern California, will allow NATO to wage "more robust, 24-hour-a-day operations and to hit a broader range of targets."

All the reservists summoned Tuesday operate the tankers used in aerial refueling operations. In addition to the 250 reservists and as many as eight KC-135A Stratotanker aircraft from the 940th Air Refueling Wing at Beale Air Force Base in Marysville, north of Sacramento, reservists come from Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The Air Force also is invoking authority to halt departure from the service of personnel who were planning to retire or resign but whose skills are now in demand because of the air war.

Under the call-up order, the Air Force can activate 25,000 people and the Army 6,500. The others will come from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. It was the largest reserve call-up since President Bush activated 239,000 troops during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The reservists may be required to serve 270 days on active duty if needed.

General Guarantees a NATO Victory

At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels, U.S. Gen. Wesley K. Clark, commander of alliance forces, delivered a resolutely upbeat scorecard on the air campaign. He asserted that allied forces were demolishing the Yugoslav military "step by step, bit by bit." Inclement weather and efforts to avoid civilian casualties have slowed the bombardments from reaching their desired effect, Clark acknowledged, but he said systematic damage inflicted on the Yugoslav war machine guarantees that "NATO can't lose."

In other developments Tuesday, the 35th day of the bombing campaign:

* The House International Relations Committee turned down an attempt by Rep. Tom Campbell (R-San Jose) to force Congress to invoke the 1973 War Powers Resolution by either declaring war or requiring Clinton to withdraw all U.S. forces within 30 days. The committee votes were 30 to 19 against withdrawal and 49 to 0 against a declaration of war. Under House rules, the resolutions must go to the floor for a vote despite the committee's disapproval, but they are thought to have no chance of passage.

* The House Appropriations Committee agreed to act Thursday on Clinton's request for emergency Kosovo funding. Congressional leaders expect to move the measure through the Senate and House by the end of May. The committee's Republican leaders announced that they would try to increase Clinton's $6-billion request to at least $12.9 billion. Of the nearly $7 billion in extra money, about $2 billion would finance a military pay raise and $3 billion would improve military readiness.

* NATO airstrikes apparently claimed more civilian casualties as missiles fell on a residential area of Surdulica, a town in southern Serbia, killing at least 11 people, a civil defense official there said by telephone. Serbian state television said the death toll could go as high as 20. A state television reporter in the town said as many as 11 missiles were fired on the town, which is about 175 miles southeast of Belgrade, the Yugoslav and Serbian capital, but two missiles apparently caused most of the damage. The missiles may have been intended for an army barracks about four miles outside town.

* Refugees arriving in Kukes, Albania, said Yugoslav soldiers had ordered all the men and older boys from their caravan somewhere between the Kosovo towns of Djakovica and Prizren and lined them up by the side of the road. As the refugees fled, they heard gunfire behind them but did not see whether their male relatives had fallen.

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