Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Risk Rises as NATO Pushes on Clinton Pledges to `Stop Slaughter'

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Risk Rises as NATO Pushes on Clinton Pledges to `Stop Slaughter'

Article excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO -- With stepped-up air attacks against Serbian targets becoming riskier, President Clinton stressed yesterday that NATO remains determined to "stop the slaughter" of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. He said an errant alliance bomb that killed scores of civilians was part of the price of war.

"That is regrettable. It is also inevitable," Clinton said in a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in San Francisco. "You cannot have this kind of conflict without some errors like this occurring. This is not a business of perfection."

The president accused Serbian authorities of using refugees as "human shields" and said Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic should take full responsibility for the tragedy. Clinton called for an end to the Milosevic regime and said the NATO effort in Kosovo could not succeed for the long term without "a democratic transition in Serbia."

In Brussels yesterday, NATO officials said that one or two F-16 pilots dropped laser-guided bombs Wednesday afternoon on what they believed was a convoy of Serb troops in southwestern Kosovo.

Instead, the bomb or bombs hit ethnic Albanians, killing the very people that NATO is trying to save. But officials there gave conflicting, confusing and ultimately misleading accounts of what happened.

NATO spokesmen refused, for example, to address the possibility that alliance warplanes struck more vehicles than they first suggested -- which was later acknowledged in Washington.

They played an audiotape of an unidentified pilot describing a bombing run against what he said were security forces burning civilian houses -- but The Washington Post later reported that pilot apparently was not involved in the lethal incidents.

And Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said last night that NATO warplanes in fact hit two convoys and that neither was at the location described in the pilot's tape. …

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