Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Decries U.S. Missile Attacks




In strong angry words, President Boris Yeltsin upbraided the United States on Friday for its cruise missile strikes against targets in Afghanistan and Sudan, saying a peaceful solution should have been found.


U.S. allies mostly reacted favorably to the attacks ordered Thursday by President Bill Clinton, although many Arab nations condemned them.


U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called it the beginning of a "long-term battle'' against terrorists who bombed two U.S. embassies in Africa. She and others said the military action was aimed at preventing further terrorist attacks, but acknowledged it almost certainly would provoke a terrorist response.


U.S. ships in the Red and Arabian seas fired six Tomahawk missiles at a suspected chemical weapons plant in Khartoum, Sudan, and more than 70 at a militant training complex in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border, according to Senator John McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The U.S. reported "moderate to heavy" damage.


A spokesman for Afghanistan's Taliban regime said 21 people were killed and 30 injured at the Zhawar Kili Al-Badr base near Khost. The strike apparently left unharmed Osama bin Laden, accused by the United States of being behind the Aug. 7 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that left more than 250 people dead.


The aim of the attack on the chemical plant was to destroy it with as few casualties as possible, and television images from Sudan indicated the mission was accomplished. The governor of Khartoum said several people were killed or injured in the strike.


"I am outraged, and I denounce these actions," Yeltsin said in televised comments from the Arctic port of Murmansk.


"Negotiations should have been conducted to the end, and all countries concerned should have been involved in them," he said, adding: "I did not know this strike would be delivered. It looks like the whole world did not know about it. That makes it even more indecent."


Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky, however, toned down Yeltsin's words, saying the president was mostly put out because he had not been informed ahead of time.


"We are well aware of the pain of losses suffered by the Americans, particularly in Kenya," Yastrzhembsky said on television news broadcasts. "Undoubtedly we did, and we will continue to coordinate moves in fighting world terrorism."


In the State Duma, parliament's lower house, the criticism was sharper. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said the United States was "moving toward a policy of state terrorism."


Gennady Seleznyov, the Duma speaker, said such strikes came at high risk. "Any kind of war may be triggered in this way," he was quoted by Interfax as saying.


At the White House, press secretary Mike McCurry said, "We just disagree with President Yeltsin. We don't think that you negotiate with terrorists.'' McCurry added that sometimes action must be taken without prior notice to other nations, and that Clinton had sent Yeltsin a written message shortly after the strikes.


The Duma passed a resolution urging the government to consider canceling the summit between Yeltsin and Clinton in Moscow on Sept. 1-3, but there was no indication this would be done.


The State Department urged U.S. citizens abroad to exercise caution, and an official at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said security measures at the embassy had been stepped up.


In the Afghan capital, unidentified gunmen wounded two UN workers Friday. An Italian and a Frenchman were shot as they drove through Kabul, but it was unclear if the attack was in retaliation for the U.S. missile strikes.


U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering said Friday the main point of the strike was to curtail impending terrorist attacks. At the same time, he acknowledged that hitting the terrorist targets could bring reprisals.


"In life, there is no perfect security,'' Pickering said at a State Department briefing.


"We do not expect that these strikes will in themselves end the threat, but they are important because they clearly show that we are in this for the long haul,'' Pickering said. "There may be more such strikes. We will act unilaterally when we must in order to protect our citizens, but we invite other nations of the world to stand with us in this battle.''


Initial polls in the United States showed most Americans approved of the strikes.


"We will not yield to this threat. We will meet it no matter how long it may take,'' Clinton said in an Oval Office address. "This will be a long, ongoing struggle.''


Most senior Republicans praised the strikes, calling them necessary and even overdue. But a few other Republicans suggested Clinton timed the strike to deflect attention from his admission Monday that for seven months he had misled the nation by denying a sexual relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.


Increasingly firm intelligence collected by the CIA since the embassy bombings formed the basis of Clinton's decision, according to senior administration officials.


The El Shifa Pharmaceutical Plant in Khartoum, said by Sudanese officials to be a manufacturer of antibiotics, was believed by the CIA to produce the key ingredient in the deadly nerve gas VX.


The sites in eastern Afghanistan made up what a senior intelligence official called the largest and most extensive "terrorist university'' in the world. Pentagon officials said the attacks encompassed six separate targets in Afghanistan.


Pakistan, still condemning the U.S. action, retracted its earlier claim that one cruise missile had strayed into its territory and killed at least five people. Pickering said that it now appears that the Pakistanis killed in the strike on Afghan targets were terrorists.