Accessibility links

Breaking News

Yugoslavia: Refinery Hit Again; NATO Ministers Meet Today

Belgrade, 12 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO bombers and missiles struck again early today against a Yugoslav oil refinery and a weapons plant. NATO says a meeting of alliance foreign ministers in Brussels later today will affirm that NATO is ready to keep up air raids on Yugoslavia "for as long as it takes." Albania has called on NATO to broaden its strikes to attack Serb artillery just inside the Kosovo border. Yesterday, mortar bombs fired by Serb artillery killed two civilians in a northern Albanian village and wounded others. Officials in Albania said firing across the border continued early this morning. Montenegro's President Milo Djukanovic was quoted today as warning Belgrade that any attempt to overthrow his pro-Western government would plunge the southern Yugoslav republic into civil war.

In an interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, Djukanovic accused Yugoslavia's President Slobodan Milosevic of trying to "manipulate" the Yugoslav army into staging a coup in Montenegro.

Djukanovic said any coup attempt would be more tragic than just a conflict between the army and the police. Djukanovic can call on only about 10,000 police officers to defend his republic.

Montenegro is Serbia's junior partner within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. But Djukanovic has consistently denounced Milosevic's hardline, nationalist policies and condemned his treatment of Kosovo.

Meanwhile, Yugoslav media reported a new missile attack on the Danube river oil refinery at Pancevo, close to Belgrade. The oil refinery has been hit several times before and NATO said last week production had been severely damaged.

Another of today's targets was the industrial complex at Kragujevac, which produces both civilian and military vehicles and also weapons. Its assembly lines were said to have been badly damaged in raids last week.

Other targets in today's early morning raids included a military airfield at Batajnica and a military barracks at Novi Sad. Yugoslav media reported fires at the barracks but did not mention casualties.

In Brussels, NATO has expressed deep concern about aerial photographs which appear to show freshly-dug earth at Pusto Selo, near the Kosovo capital of Pristina. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said the photographs resembled those of mass graves taken during the Bosnian war. NATO has previously said it is worried about the fate of thousands of missing people in Kosovo, particularly young men.

NATO foreign ministers meet in Brussels later today to discuss NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia and the Kosovo refugee crisis. Shea told the BBC today that the meeting -- midway through the third week of the alliance's air campaign -- will be "a reaffirmation of strategy." Shea said ministers will also consider the "timing and conditions" of the deployment of a NATO ground force in Kosovo to help refugees return home, but that an "invasion" of the province is not being contemplated at the present time.

Arriving in Brussels late yesterday, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said the Serbian offensive against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo means fewer Serb troops will be permitted to remain in the province than previously proposed.

In another policy shift, Albright also did not rule out partitioning Kosovo as part of a settlement, provided there are ways to protect Orthodox holy sites. Albright also said she had seen "no indication" that Milosevic was prepared to comply with NATO demands. But NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana suggested yesterday that some kind of diplomatic progress might be expected soon.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said NATO was starting to consider a political settlement to the conflict and Russia had an essential role to play in reaching any deal.

Albright is due to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov tomorrow about the air campaign, which shows no signs of ending and increasingly threatens relations between the West and Moscow.

Meanwhile, Russian Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in Budapest early this morning after Hungary decided to halt a Russian aid convoy bound for Yugoslavia.

Some 70 Russian freight trucks left Moscow on Tuesday with food and medical supplies for Kosovo. But Hungarian customs officials on Saturday blocked the convoy at the Hungarian-Ukrainian border. They said the vehicles are armored and are carrying fuel, and are thus in violation of the United Nations embargo on Yugoslavia.

Before leaving Moscow, Shoigu said Hungary was breaking international agreements by stopping the convoy. He also said the vehicles are in accordance with U.N. specifications and that they had crossed the border dozens of times before.

Shoigu said Russian President Boris Yeltsin and the Russian government were "extremely disturbed by Hungary's position."