Victory in Kosovo declared

Yugoslav forces begin pullout from province, ending 78-day air war

British may enter tomorrow

U.N. Security Council votes 14-0 to allow 50,000 peacekeepers

War In Yugoslavia

June 11, 1999|By Tom Bowman and Jonathan Weisman | Tom Bowman and Jonathan Weisman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- President Clinton declared "victory for a safer world, for our democratic values and for a stronger America" last night after defeated Yugoslav forces began to withdraw from Kosovo and allied troops prepared to enter the war-torn province beginning as early as tomorrow.

"The skies over Yugoslavia are silent," Clinton said in a nationally televised address from the Oval Office, hailing an end to 78 days of withering NATO airstrikes. "Aggression against an innocent people has been contained and is being turned back."

As proof, Pentagon officials offered a grainy video taken from an unmanned aircraft that showed Serbian trucks, tanks and troops moving north toward the border. All 40,000 Serbian army troops, as well as police and paramilitary groups, must leave within 11 days or face renewed bombing.

Referring to reports that some Serbian troops were destroying villages on their way out, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen predicted that upon entering Kosovo, the West would find more evidence of mass executions and other atrocities committed by President Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslav forces.

"I think the world is going to be outraged at him and them," Cohen said. "I think you're going to see evidence of barbarity that we have not seen before."

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council voted to allow the 50,000-member international peacekeeping force, which will include 7,000 Americans, to move into Kosovo and to eventually ensure the safe return of more than 800,0000 ethnic Albanian refugees. Most of the refugees are huddled in teeming refugee camps in Albania and Macedonia. The U.N. resolution was approved 14-0, with China abstaining.

The resolution also calls for the United Nations to rebuild Kosovo and create a civil administration that would pave the way for an autonomous government, though the province would remain under Yugoslav sovereignty.

A triumph for NATO

Clinton hailed the "victory" achieved "in the face of ethnic cleansing and killing," even as he thanked others for what could prove to be his greatest foreign policy triumph. He praised U.S. troops, his national security staff and a NATO alliance that improbably held together over 78 days of bombing, saying they, not he, were the ones who had been vindicated by the air war's triumph. And the president stressed what he termed the righteousness of the Kosovo campaign.

"The Kosovars have been victims of terrible atrocities," Clinton said. "Their only hope was that the world would not turn away in the face of `ethnic cleansing' and killing, that the world would take a stand. Because we did, the Kosovars will go home."

But he also sought to prepare Americans for a long, arduous struggle to maintain the fragile peace in Kosovo.

"In the past four months, we have seen some of the worst inhumanity in our lifetime, but we've also seen the bravery of our troops, the resolve of our democracy, the decency of our people, and the courage and determination of the people of Kosovo," the president said. "We now have a moment of hope, thanks to all those qualities, and we have to finish the job and build the peace."

Warning of a devastated and dangerous landscape after fierce combat and 11 weeks of airstrikes, officials say refugees should not plan to return to Kosovo for at least two weeks after Serbian forces have withdrawn and an international security force has entered the province.

"This is all great news for us, but we urge the refugees and the displaced to be patient," said Dennis McNamara, the special envoy in the Balkans for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "We need a secure environment before we start moving people back."

Milosevic, who was indicted for alleged war crimes and saw his country and capital crippled by the airstrikes, was unbowed by the defeat and struck a victorious tone in a nationally televised address: "Happy peace to us all! We never gave up Kosovo."

The Yugoslav president made no mention of the NATO troops who will soon be occupying his country, focusing instead on the U.N. role. And he praised the efforts of citizens and particularly the military, adding: "We have shown that our army is invincible."

But Pentagon officials offered statistics showing widespread destruction of the Yugoslav army and defense industry, as well as the country's transportation infrastructure from the 23,000 NATO bombs and missiles.

About 50 percent of the Serbian artillery and one-third of the armored vehicles were destroyed, along with 60 percent of the army's facilities in Kosovo. The entire oil-refining capability was destroyed, as was 70 percent of the road bridges and half the rail bridges crossing the Danube River.

Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that 90 percent of the bombs were precision-guided, compared with just 8 percent used during the Persian Gulf war.

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