NATO said today it had attacked an oil refinery near the Yugoslav capital Belgrade and targets at Novi Sad in overnight air raids. Serbian television showed fires raging at the refinery in Pancevo on the east bank of the Danube across from Belgrade. It’s been targeted several times since NATO began bombing Yugoslavia almost three weeks ago. Yugoslav media have reported that a missile hit a residential area in the northern city of Novi Sad yesterday. The NATO officials said a surface-to-air SAM missile facility was operating in the region. And the official Yugoslav news agency, Tanjug, said there were two raids on military barracks in Pristina, the Kosovo capital, earlier today and that NATO planes had been flying overhead all morning. As usual, it gave no details of casualties or damage.
Meanwhile, Yugoslavia may be trying to draw Russia into the fighting. The Yugoslav Parliament met in an urgent session today and approved setting up an alliance with Russia and Belarus. The move comes as NATO foreign ministers convene in Belgium for the first time in three weeks. Meanwhile, Germany has put forward a Kosovo peace plan under which an OSCE-led international force, rather than NATO, would replace Serbian forces in the province, this according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper today. The OSCE is the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. The fate of the plan is likely to hinge on the meeting of the NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.
And Kosovo Liberation Army guerrillas and Serb forces fought on the Yugoslav-Albanian frontier for a fourth day today, as the Kosovo conflict threatens to spill over the border. According to Albanian police and OSCE officials, three Albanian citizens and four KLA fighters have been killed on Albanian territory during fighting involving machine gun fire and Serb mortar attacks, some against villages and border posts.
China could enter the World Trade Organization by the end of the year, if the momentum of negotiations is sustained, this according to Charlene Barshefsky, the U.S. trade representative. However, significant work needs to be done on a number of issues to secure Chinese entry, she said. The U.S. and China failed last week to agree a deal on WTO entry that would have capped a summit meeting between President Bill Clinton and Zhu Rongji, the Chinese premier.
Japan and Egypt today said they would work together for peace in Palestine and the Middle Eastern region as a whole, according to a Japanese Foreign Ministry official. But the Japanese prime minister, Obuchi, and Egyptian Prime Minister Mubarak appeared to break little new ground on the question of the timing of a declaration of an independent Palestinian state. Obuchi said Japan supported the Palestinians’ right to decide their independence and hoped the Palestinian Central Council would meet soon, leading to an independent Palestinian state in the near future. Mubarak did not directly touch on the issue of when Palestine should declare independence. But the two leaders agreed that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat appeared to understand that declaring statehood on May 4 would not be desirable.
Yesterday, Israeli warplanes attacked suspected Hezbollah positions just north of Israel’s South Lebanon occupation zone, this according to a security source. The planes fired four rockets in two successive raids on the Iqlim al-Tuffah ridges north of the central sector of the zone. There was no immediate report of casualties in the attacks, which brought to 41 the number of Israeli air raids on Lebanon since the beginning of 1999.
Meanwhile, U.S. warplanes attacked two Iraqi surface-to-air missile sites in the southern no-fly zone after being fired on with anti-aircraft artillery, this according to a U.S. Defense Department spokesperson. In Baghdad, Iraq said two people had been killed and nine wounded in the attack on the no-fly zone, that is imposed only by the United States and Britain. A representative of the U.S. Central Command said he had no information on the civilian casualties.
In Connecticut, suicides at the state prison for women have prompted a call by the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union for a court review. The CCLU has asked a federal court judge to send an independent monitoring panel into the York Correctional Institution in East Lyme.
A federal report finds male and female prisoners have a higher rate of being abused as children than those not in prison. The Justice Department says of the female state prison and jail inmates it surveyed in 1996 and ’97, more than a third say they were abused sexually or physically at the age of 17 or younger.