`Best day' of attacks reported

U.S. expands sanctions on trade to Yugoslavia

War In Yugoslavia

May 02, 1999|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Trumpeting the "best day of bombing" yet in NATO's five-week air war, with attacks on 70 targets, the United States increased pressure on Yugoslavia yesterday by formally expanding trade sanctions to include most goods and services, including oil.

Taking advantage of clear weather, U.S. and allied pilots have been conducting their heaviest series of attacks to date, flying 600 sorties during each of the last two days.

The more than 70 new attacks reported yesterday included strikes against command and control targets and fuel storage sites, bridges, tanks and vehicles.

The day's military success was marred, however, by Serbian reports, confirmed by NATO, that a bomb had struck a civilian bus north of Pristina, killing scores of passengers, many of them children.

The private Beta news agency reported 60 people dead while the state-run Tanjug agency said that 40 people had been killed.

The attack occurred in the village of Luzane about 12 miles north of Kosovo's provincial capital, Pristina. Four passengers survived the attack, Beta said.

NATO also reported early today that a U.S. F16 had crashed in western Serbia. A spokesman said that the pilot had been rescued and was undergoing medical examination at an allied base. The cause of the crash, the second NATO has acknowledged since the campaign began, was being investigated.

Military developments were overshadowed by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson's negotiations over the release of three U.S. servicemen who havebeen held as prisoners of war in Yugoslavia.

Jackson's announcement came as the Pentagon disclosed that NATO was holding a second Serbian soldier who apparently fell into the alliance's custody in the last 24 hours. The other soldier was caught and turned over by ethnic Albanian rebels. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon was unable to provide any information on the new prisoner.

After weeks of seeing its air campaign hampered by bad spring weather in the Balkans and producing only stubbornness on the part of Belgrade, military authorities relished the chance yesterday to describe real damage being inflicted against the Yugoslav military.

"Two nights ago we attacked the brains behind the brutality in Belgrade, and yesterday we went after the nervous system that keeps the Milosevic machine informed and in touch," said NATO spokesman Peter Daniel, briefing reporters in Brussels.

Nine radio transmitters used to coordinate military action in Kosovo and seven bridges that provide key supply links to its ground troops in the embattled province were destroyed, NATO said.

"The combination of the weather and the campaign as it's going now has given us the best day of bombing we've had since the start of the campaign," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles F. Wald, vice director for strategic plans and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Announcing the expanded trade embargo early yesterday, President Clinton said in a statement, "With these strengthened sanctions, we will diminish the Belgrade regime's ability to continue its campaign of repression and defiance."

The sanctions bring U.S. policy essentially in line with that of the European Union, particularly in blocking any sales of oil to fuel the Yugoslav war machine.

There has been scant trade between U.S. companies and Yugoslavia since the NATO air campaign began on March 24. Texaco acknowledged that a tanker delivered 65,000 barrels of gasoline from its British oil refinery after the air war began.

The new rules require an export license for U.S. companies wanting to send goods to Serbia. Requests will be rejected except for licenses to ship humanitarian items, officials said.

Humanitarian goods such as food and medicine would be allowed only if the U.S. company exporting the items could guarantee the supplies would not go to Yugoslav military forces.

Meanwhile, a threatened blockade of Yugoslav ports still hasn't materialized.

Meeting in Washington last weekend, NATO leaders ordered military authorities to cut off shipments of oil to Yugoslavia by land and sea.

But objections from more than one of NATO's 19 members -- apparently over the amount of force that NATO ships would be allowed to apply -- have prevented these plans from being approved by the full alliance.

It was unclear whether the increased military and economic pressure is what prompted Milosevic to free the prisoners. NATO officials have been reporting signs of desertions and declining morale in the Yugoslav military, but other accounts suggest that Milosevic's army is, if anything, more unified.

At the same time, Milosevic could see clear division within the United States government, with the House last week withholding support for the air war and voting to bar the use of ground troops without congressional approval.

Milosevic has used the past week to advance his own diplomatic agenda, outlining a seven-point proposal for a settlement over Kosovo.

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