WASHINGTON -- Undeterred by calls from China and Russia to halt the bombing, U.S. and allied forces pounded targets across Yugoslavia last night as NATO leaders vowed to continue the air war until President Slobodan Milosevic agreed to meet all their demands.
After relatively quiet nights of bombing after the strike on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade late last week, NATO aircraft hit 37 targets overnight Monday and, with clearing skies, pressed their attack virtually without pause throughout yesterday and into the night, U.S. and NATO officials said.
Rebuffing Yugoslavia's announcement that it had begun withdrawing army and police units from Kosovo, NATO warned that it would continue attacking those forces, even those that might be retreating, until Milosevic agreed to remove all his troops and allow hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees to return to their homes under the protection of an international force.
Officials at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the Belgian capital, and in Washington said there was no evidence Yugoslav forces had left the province, dismissing the announcement as a ploy by Milosevic to capitalize on the international outrage over the bombing of China's Embassy.
"No. 1, we have seen no evidence of any partial pullout," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told members of the Senate's Appropriations Committee yesterday. "No. 2, a partial pullout would mean a total victory for him. A partial pullout is not acceptable."
Diplomatic efforts to end the NATO bombardment remained mired in the political fallout from NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy.
Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, Russia's envoy in the crisis, who had been trying to play peacemaker before the embassy attack, met with China's top leaders in Beijing yesterday and offered no real sign of progress.
Cohen said the Chinese government was taking advantage of a mistake that the United States and NATO had acknowledged. He noted that Chinese media only yesterday reported President Clinton's apology.
"There is a difference between righteous indignation and calculated exploitation," Cohen said.
Also yesterday, the Turkish Foreign Ministry announced that Turkey has authorized its military authorities to provide air bases for NATO in response to a request by the alliance to extend airstrikes on Yugoslavia, according to wire reports.
The Turkish statement said NATO did not specify which bases would be used nor how many warplanes would be deployed.
NATO officials earlier said alliance war planes would fly strike and airborne refueling missions from bases in Turkey and Hungary to increase NATO attacks and vary its entry points into Yugoslavia.
As NATO's campaign entered its 49th day, there was no easing of the bombing.
Throughout the day American and allied aircraft -- including American B-1s, B-52s, plus F-117s and B-2s, respectively "stealth" attack jets and bombers -- crisscrossed the skies over Yugoslavia. They struck radio and television towers, oil storage tanks, bridges and an army barracks in Cacak, officials said.
Yesterday's strikes followed an intensive night that included at least one strike in Belgrade, an army barracks at Mount Avala, the officials said. It was the first strike in the capital since the bombing of the embassy, but officials strongly denied that there had been any change in the attack plans because of the bombing.
Last night, explosions again rocked the edges of Belgrade, and new strikes were reported in Pancevo, the industrial city whose oil facilities have been been repeatedly struck by NATO warplanes.
In the latest strikes, officials reported having success against tanks, artillery and other armored forces in Kosovo, though they acknowledged that taking out those forces was difficult and painstakingly slow, especially since many are now well hidden, taking advantage of natural features like forests and caves, as well as man-made tunnels and bunkers.
After seven weeks of bombardment, officials here say the forces in Kosovo are clearly suffering, especially from the shortage of fuel, which has been reduced to a relative trickle. One official said the forces "are in fuel extremis."
But there are few signs they are ready to break. "They're dispersing themselves very well," a senior defense official said. "They have prepared defensive measures."
Despite Yugoslavia's claims to have vanquished Kosovo's rebels, Pentagon and NATO officials said that Yugoslav troops have been pressing their attacks against rebel strongholds in the region. They said there was fighting in the north, particularly along the roads from Pristina to Podujevo and Mitrovica.
Pub Date: 5/12/99