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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO Answers Stalling With Bombs




BRUSSELS, Belgium -- NATO intensified air raids Monday, inflicting what it described as heavy losses on Serbian forces after Yugoslav military commanders refused to accept alliance terms for their withdrawal from Kosovo.


NATO was ready to talk again if the generals were prepared to "do business" by implementing in full last week's peace deal agreed upon with Belgrade, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea.


Shea described as "a little local difficulty" the suspension of weekend talks between the alliance's commander in Macedonia, British Lieutenant General Michael Jackson, and Yugoslav army commanders on NATO's demands for a Serb military pullout.


He said NATO had no intention of going to Yugoslav army chief of staff Dragoljub Ojdanic in Belgrade, or indeed to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic himself.


"These generals will sign what Milosevic tells them to sign," Shea said of the officers sent to talk to Jackson.


NATO made clear, however, that the generals did not come close to sharing the alliance's view of events over the past 11 weeks.


"I learned that yesterday [Sunday], in the discussions with General Jackson that the Serb generals participating in the meeting still claim 75 NATO aircraft have been shot down," said NATO military spokesman General Walter Jertz.


NATO says it has lost just two aircraft in combat.


NATO said it was now stepping up its attacks after reducing their intensity following the peace agreement.


"First reports indicate that Serb ground forces had to suffer some heavy losses," Jertz said.


NATO had shown the flexibility of its arsenal by diverting heavy bombers to hit troops as they appeared on the ground.


"We are capable of increasing the number of strikes. We can hit Serb targets harder and more often than we have done to date," he said.


NATO stressed that the weekend talks between Jackson and the Yugoslav generals were suspended and had not been broken off.


Shea said that "a channel of communication remains open" should it be required. "If the Yugoslavs are having second thoughts, they know which number to ring," he told a news conference.


Jackson remained in Macedonia and was prepared to meet the Yugoslav high command again. "The flap to his tent remains open," Shea said.


The talks, described by NATO as a handover of detailed pullout instructions to the Serbs, broke down early Monday over what Shea said was a Serbian "attempt to negotiate non-negotiable conditions."


Shea said Yugoslav proposals had failed to meet NATO's demands for a safe return of ethnic Albanian refugees, the protection of the people of Kosovo and the withdrawal of Serbian forces from the province.


There had been no movement by the Yugoslav military toward implementing the peace plan, Shea said.


NATO said its planes hit four tanks, 20 artillery pieces and 17 armored personnel carriers in continued attacks against Serbian forces over the previous 24 hours. Its planes flew 483 sorties including 142 strike missions. That was down from the level reached before last week's peace deal, when allied planes were flying more than 600 daily sorties.