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Allied Planes Said To Hit Bus

May 3, 1999

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ NATO blacked out Belgrade with a precision strike on a major power grid, saying Slobodan Milosevic would get no ``reward″ for freeing three U.S. POWs. Yugoslav media reported allied warplanes mistakenly hit a bus today, causing heavy casualties.

Workers restored power today to some parts of Belgrade and other parts of Yugoslavia, but at dusk many residents faced a second night without electricity. It was impossible to determine how much of the capital was without power. State TV remained off the air tonight, and traffic lights were off throughout Belgrade.

NATO said it had no information on the reports of a noontime airstrike on a bus traveling from the western Kosovo city of Pec to Rozaje in neighboring Montenegro.

A Montenegrin government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 17 people were killed and 21 were wounded.

Montenegro’s Montena-fax news agency said three civilian and two police cars also were destroyed in the attack 12 miles north of Pec. The target was thought to have been a nearby police and army checkpoint, Montena-fax said.

The Serb Media Center quoted officials in Pec as saying the bus was full of women and children and that rescue teams were unable to reach the bus right away because airstrikes continued. The reports could not be confirmed independently.

A Russian diplomatic mission moved to Washington today with its special Balkan envoy carrying a Kosovo peace proposal ahead of a meeting with President Clinton.

Clinton, meanwhile, thanked the Rev. Jesse Jackson for his free-lance diplomatic effort to secure the release of the U.S. servicemen. But he said the NATO campaign will not end until Slobodan Milosevic ``shows he is ready to end the nightmare for the people of Kosovo.″

``When will these people see their home again, with the safety and rights Mr. Milosevic has often pledged but never delivered?″ Clinton asked.

The freed POWs, wearing big smiles and wolfing down American food for the first time in weeks, celebrated their freedom with their families today at a U.S. base in Germany.

The three were seized March 31 along the Macedonia-Yugoslavia border, roughed up, then suddenly freed by Milosevic after not being allowed to be seen by Red Cross officials for a month.

They were examined today at a military hospital, where doctors found a stitched-up wound on the top of the head of Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez, 24, of Los Angeles, done while he was in Yugoslav captivity.

Medical tests revealed Ramirez has two fractured ribs, one on each side, as well as swelling of his lower right leg but the injuries have begun to heal so no surgery is planned.

Staff Sgt. Christopher J. Stone, 25, of Smiths Creek, Mich., was found to have a broken nose following a CT scan to examine more closely the bruises and abrasions on his face. Doctors said Spec. Steven Gonzales, 22, of Huntsville, Texas, ``turned out fine″ in initial checkups.

Jackson left the men and flew to Washington today on a U.S. military jet with a letter to Clinton from Milosevic proposing a face-to-face meeting.

But the White House and NATO said there can be no deal until Milosevic meets all their demands, including ordering his forces out of Kosovo, a halt to mass expulsions of ethnic Albanians and accepting a Western plan that calls for 28,000 NATO troops to enforce peace in the province.

Former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was sent to Washington by President Boris Yeltsin. Chernomyrdin has been shuttling between Moscow, Belgrade and various western European capitals in an effort to mediate an end to the conflict that began March 24.

NATO attacked the Belgrade power grid late Sunday, and also struck at Kostolac’s power grid 50 miles east of the capital, which supplies much of eastern Serbia. The alliance said about 70 percent of the power to Yugoslavia was knocked out by the airstrikes.

NATO bombers hit electric transformer yards as well at Nis, Novi Sad, Drmno, Obrenovac and Banina Basta on the 40th day of allied bombing.

This shows that ``NATO has its finger on the light switch in Yugoslavia now and we can turn the power off whenever we need to and whenever we want to,″ NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said today.

Another NATO official said allied forces used a ``soft bomb″ on the transformer stations that explode in the air, dispersing graphite strips that cause a short circuit. This kind of weapon also was used in the Gulf War, the official said.

NATO kept its pledge to continue the bombing campaign, despite an appeal by Milosevic for a pause after he released the U.S. soldiers Sunday.

``What he’s got to understand is that the decision that’s going to impress us most is the decision to order troops out of Kosovo″ and ``clearly and unambiguously″ accept an armed international force, Shea said, adding there would be no ``reward″ for the soldiers’ release.

Dozens of NATO bombs rained down on the Serbian town of Valjevo overnight, reducing two apartment buildings to rubble and flattening a factory.

``If it’s true that NATO is surgically precise, then we really were the targets,″ Miodrag Arandjelovic said today as residents crept out of shelters to survey the damage in the town 55 miles southwest of Belgrade.

The air raid injured 14 people, a local doctor said.

Allied aircraft have flown more than 14,000 sorties in the past 40 days, Shea said. Other targets today included tanks, artillery, a special police headquarters, a command post, fuel supplies, airfields and ammunition storage sites.

NATO, which has admitted mistaken airstrikes since April 12 have left about 159 people dead, began the air campaign to force Milosevic to accept a peace deal for Kosovo and halt atrocities against ethnic Albanians.

Ethnic Albanians make up 90 percent of Kosovo’s prewar population of 2 million people. More than 600,000 have fled Kosovo and Serb forces since NATO’s air campaign began.

Refugees streamed out of Kosovo by the thousands Sunday, bringing new tales of Serb terror.

NATO is particularly concerned about the plight of the people in the Prizren, Kosovo’s second-largest city. Formerly home to 180,000 people, and a cultural center of Kosovo, Shea said it is now practically empty.

Milosevic’s wife, Mirjana Markovic, insisted that ``no, there isn’t any″ ethnic cleansing in Kosovo during a TV interview broadcast Sunday on ``60 Minutes.″ Markovic is her husband’s closest adviser and head of a neo-communist party that rules Yugoslavia.

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