Accessibility links

Breaking News

Yugoslavia: NATO Says UCK Still Offering Resistance

Brussels, 1 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, U.S. General Wesley Clark, said today that the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) is still putting up resistence to Yugoslav army forces in Kosovo, but he said Serb artillery is taking its toll on the separatist fighters. Speaking at a press briefing in Brussels, Clark also said Serb tank and artillery attacks are continuing on refugees in Kosovo's Pagarusa Valley. He said NATO is concentrating attacks against the Yugoslav forces there and that evidence of war crimes is being gathered against the military leaders of those forces.

Clark also accused Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic of interfering in the affairs of Macedonia, Albania, and Bosnia in an attempt to destabilize the neighboring governments. That allegation follows a warning by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook to Milosevic against trying to drag Montenegro into the conflict. Cook said NATO is increasing air raids to put an end to what he called the "killing fields" in Kosovo.

NATO Secretary General Javier Solana said NATO allies remain united and determined to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. He said air strikes are starting to have a major impact on Serbian forces.

In Moscow, Russian President Boris Yeltsin today demanded an emergency meeting between the foreign and defense ministers of the G7 industrial countries and Russia to find a political solution.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said NATO attacks against Yugoslavia "raised new objectives" for the Russian armed forces. Turkey, meanwhile, has agreed to let eight Russian warships pass through the Bosphorus Strait into the Mediterranean. Yeltsin has said that Russia will not be drawn into a Balkan conflict.

Meanwhile, Milosevic today replaced the commander in charge of Yugoslav army forces in Serbia's smaller partner in federal Yugoslavia, Montengro. The Serbian state news agency Tanjug reports that Second Army Corps Commander Gen. Radosav Martinovic has been replaced by Gen. Milorad Obradovic. The report says Martinovic has been named as an adviser to the Yugoslav Defense Ministry.

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, who opposes Milosevic's hard-line policies in Kosovo, has previously expressed concern that Belgrade many attempt to oust his government.

Montenegrin police, who are loyal to Djukanovic, indicated today that they would oppose any Yugoslav Army moves against Djukanovic's government.

Tanjug reports that Milosevic also appointed several other new senior military commanders. The Yugoslav Army is comprised of three army corps. The Third Army is active in Kosovo and other parts of southern Serbia while the First Army is based around Belgrade and in northern Serbia.

Also today, Serbian state television reported that Milosevic and Kosovar Albanian moderate leader Ibrahim Rugova had agreed to work toward a political settlement for Kosovo. But NATO Secretary-General Solana is discounting the reports. Solana says he does not think Rugova is in a position to act freely as long as he is surrounded by Serbian authorities in Belgrade.

Solana said he would feel much more comfortable to hear about any agreement directly from Rugova in Brussels, rather than through Serbian state media reports. Serbian television also broadcast pictures of what it said was a meeting between Milosevic and Rugova. The video showed Milosevic and Rugova shaking hands.

Albanian Prime Minister Pandeli Majko has questioned whether the meeting took place at Rugova's own free will. If so, Majko said Rugova would have been acting irresponsibly.

Rugova has led an ethnic Albanian campaign for passive resistance to Serbian rule in Kosovo for the past decade. He also took part in the recent Kosovo peace talks in France. He went into hiding when a Serbian-led crackdown began in Kosovo following the start of NATO air raids. He appeared last night on Serbian television saying he is "under the protection" of Serbian police.

Before surfacing in Belgrade, Rugova had called for NATO to send ground forces into Kosovo to stop reported massacres and ethnic cleansing there.

Meanwhile, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski says more than 156,000 ethnic Albanians have fled Kosovo in the last eight days and that hundreds of thousands more have been displaced inside the province. More than 100,000 refugees have fled to Albania.

Macedonian Interior Minister Pazle Trajanov said today 12,000 ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo are backed up at the Yugoslav border waiting to enter Macedonia.

He said Macedonia had deliberately slowed down the processing of refugees to prevent arms and explosives from being smuggled into the country.

He also said that in accordance with international regulations, Macedonia would not give refugee status to any UCK fighters.

Correspondents at the border crossings say that in recent days more young Kosovar men are coming across in addition to the women, children and elderly people who began fleeing last week.

Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Radmila Kiprjanova told a news conference in Skopje that nearly 6,000 refugees were admitted into Macedonia yesterday, roughly half of them without passports or identity documents.

She said Macedonia has now registered 35,000 Kosovar refugees, far more than the maximum of 20,000 it had said it could accept without destabilizing the country.

NATO says it's still investigating the abduction of three American soldiers by Serbian forces near Macedonia's border with Kosovo.

NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, U.S. General Wesley Clark, told reporters in Brussels the soldiers were on routine patrol when they came under fire and were surrounded before losing radio contact.

One of the main questions is where the soldiers were when they were captured. Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic said on ABC-TV today they were well inside Serbian territory.

But Pentagon spokesman Steve Campbell says they were in Macedonia. And Macedonia's Interior Minister told a news conference in Skopje the soldiers may have lost their way in an area disputed by Macedonia and Yugoslavia.

Clark also told reporters that NATO holds Milosevic responsible for the safety of the three soldiers, who were seen bruised and beaten on Serbian TV. In Washington, the White House demanded that Yugoslavia allow the International Red Cross to visit the soldiers.

But Draskovic said the soldiers will be treated humanely and their families should not worry about them.