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U.S.: Milosevic Troops Low on Fuel

May 1, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Yugoslavia’s troops are running perilously low on fuel and other supplies as President Slobodan Milosevic sticks to a course that can only lead to ``a dead end,″ the Pentagon contended Friday.

Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, chief of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Yugoslav army in Kosovo has been unable to carry out some operations against what he called a ``resurgent″ Kosovo Liberation Army because of fuel shortages. He also said intelligence sources are reporting desertions among Yugoslav troops and other signs of declining morale.

Milosevic’s response to the NATO bombings, which hit a new peak of intensity Friday, has been to offer ``disingenuous″ peace proposals and to accelerate the violence against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Wilson said. That response, he said, ``leads, I think, to a dead end.″

President Clinton told White House guests Friday night he hopes Americans and Serbs can be reconciled once the conflict is over.

``One of the things we all have to learn is to affirm our common humanity, setting aside our legitimate historical grievances,″ Clinton said during an East Room ceremony honoring Friends of Art and Preservation of Embassies. ``That is what we are working for.″

Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Wald, a strategic planner for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that NATO warplanes had planned 650 air missions Friday, the most in the 38-day air campaign. About 600 NATO missions had been flown in the previous 24 hours.

Wald showed gun camera video from an Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle that dropped a 5,000-pound bomb on a tunnel near the Pristina Airfield in Kosovo on Thursday. It showed an explosion that Wald said almost certainly penetrated the tunnel and destroyed the aircraft hidden inside. He said it was the first use of the 5,000-pound GBU-28 ``bunker-busting″ bomb in the Kosovo conflict.

The Pentagon announced that 10 additional B-52 heavy bombers would leave U.S. bases Friday night and arrive in England on Saturday to join several B-52s that have been staging from there for missions against Yugoslavia since the campaign began on March 24. The additional bombers will add two types of attack capabilities, Wald said _ 500-pound iron bombs for attacks on troop concentrations, and precision-guided, Israeli-made missiles that carry 1,000-pound warheads.

B-52s have been firing long-range cruise missiles, the supply of which is running low.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Ryan said he had ``no reservations″ about NATO’s air strategy, which some retired military officers have criticized as a form of gradualism akin to the approach the United States took in Vietnam, with disastrous results.

Ryan defended the performance of Air Force crews and said they still face high risk from Serb air defenses. He said the Serbs in recent days have disconnected parts of their air defense system in order to make it less vulnerable to NATO attacks.

``We’re going to keep at it until they are completely disintegrated,″ Ryan said, referring to the air defenses.

As a fleet of 23 U.S. Army Apache helicopters based in Albania prepared to begin low-flying missions against Serb armor in Kosovo, an Army war planner said the greatest threat facing the pilots would be small arms and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft guns they are likely to encounter at close range.

``It has the potential of turning into a bit of a knife fight,″ said Col. Michael Hackerson, a former Apache battalion commander and now chief of the Army’s War Plans Division in the Pentagon.

In Kosovo, thousands of refugees streamed out of Prizren, the Serb province’s second-largest city, in what the U.N. refugee agency said was a Serb expulsion campaign targeting doctors, nurses and other professionals. Until now, Prizren had largely been spared the ethnic purges of other major cities in Kosovo.

In a hurry-up operation, 1,000 Kosovo refugees were to begin arriving in the United States next week, the first in a group expected to reach about 20,000.

On the diplomatic front, State Department spokesman James Rubin said efforts to work with Russia, which opposes the NATO bombing and has long-standing ties to Yugoslavia, were moving in a helpful direction.

``We do not have a full meeting of the minds, but we are closer,″ Rubin said.

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, the Senate moved toward a showdown vote on Monday, when it will act on a measure that would authorize President Clinton to use ``all necessary force and other means″ in the fight.

The legislation, which would allow the use of ground forces if necessary, was proposed by a bipartisan group led by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joseph Biden, D-Del. The measure would ``strengthen the president’s hand and NATO’s hand,″ Biden said Friday.

However, trying to limit the scope of the debate and cool some of the rhetoric,the Republican and Democratic leaders announced they would join forces in opposing the measure.

The air campaign needs more ``time to function, time to work,″ Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., told reporters. ``I believe that it is working.″

Also on Friday, a bipartisan group of 17 House members led by Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Calif., filed a lawsuit against Clinton in U.S. District Court. They assert that the air campaign violates the War Powers Act of 1973 and want a ruling to force Clinton to withdraw U.S. forces from the region or seek a declaration of war from Congress.

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