Accessibility links

Breaking News

Yugoslavia: NATO Bombs Industrial City; Alliance Expands Role, Encourages New Members

Belgrade/Washington, 25 April 1999 (RFE/RL) - NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia, now in their second month, last night hit Belgrade and the industrial city of Nis and knocked Serbian television off the air for the second time. The state-run news agency Tanjug reported heavy damage in the southeast and southwest of the country on the 32nd night of bombing. In Washington today, NATO leaders conclude a three-day summit after approving a blueprint that charts the course of the alliance into the next century and keeps the door open to new members. Under a plan called the Strategic Concept, approved in Washington yesterday, NATO leaders agreed to expand the alliance's focus beyond members' borders. The concept sets out a new role for NATO in fighting ethnic conflicts and terrorism and is the first time NATO has updated its strategic concept since the end of the Cold War.

In Yugoslavia, the independent Beta news agency reported that four missiles struck Nis last night, damaging an industrial area and also a large number of family houses. No casualties were reported.

Other Serbian media reports say NATO missiles also struck the power supply for a television transmission tower, knocking Serbian TV off the air. NATO aircraft on Friday bombed the broadcasting studios of state television (RTS) in Belgrade.

In other developments today, Russia's envoy on Yugoslavia, Viktor Chernomyrdin, is preparing for talks with NATO leaders after the alliance said it wants to cooperate with Moscow over the Kosovo crisis. And NATO commander General Wesley Clark is due in Albania today to visit NATO troops.

In Washington yesterday, NATO leaders recognized the growing role of the European Union in security and defense policy and the EU's right to approve military action where the alliance as a whole is not engaged. They also formally agreed to consider admitting new members.

In a communique last night, NATO said it welcomes the progress of Romania, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania toward gaining eventual membership. NATO praised what it called positive developments in Bulgaria and Slovakia and it said it was grateful for the help of Macedonia and Albania in the Kosovo conflict.

The communique said the alliance will keep the enlargement process under continuing review. It said the next NATO summit is to be held no later than 2002, during which a review will be made on admitting new members.

NATO military commanders meanwhile have begun drafting a controversial plan to search ships in the Adriatic as part of an oil embargo against Yugoslavia.

France has warned such searches of ships on the high seas could violate international law. Russia says it will ignore any oil embargo imposed against Yugoslavia.