NATO jets bombed an industrial zone, a key highway, a military airport and other targets across Yugoslavia today, while U.S. authorities released two Yugoslav prisoners of war. Serbian media reported today NATO attacked the Batajnica military airport northwest of Belgrade, a settlement in Central Serbia, a bridge and a factory. The state-run Tanjug news agency said the strikes damaged dozens of residential buildings, a bus station, a cigarette factory and a printing plant. There were no reports of casualties.
On the diplomatic front, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Italian premier agreed today to back up a Russian-Finnish diplomatic mission and call for a new U.N. resolution on Kosovo. Schröder, as well as the Italian premier, also urged the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution requiring the withdraw of Yugoslav forces from Kosovo, acceptance of an international peacekeeping force, and the return of the tens of thousands of refugees who fled Kosovo. The Italian premier, Massimo D’Alema said NATO would temporarily halt the bombing campaign, which is nearing the two-month mark, if the U.N. resolution passes. He said, if Belgrade still resisted, then the United Nations would have the authority to send ground troops into Yugoslavia. Schröder flatly ruled out the possibility of sending in ground troops if Yugoslavia remains defiant. The German chancellor said, “We can’t even consider it.”
Public support for the air war in Yugoslavia is softening, and a majority of Americans believe the United States and its NATO allies should negotiate a settlement with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to end the fighting. This according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll. The poll found, in public perception of his handling of the Kosovo crisis, Clinton has suffered somewhat in recent weeks. Barely half of those interviewed say they approve of the way he’s handling the situation, down from 56 percent three weeks ago. The proportion of Americans opposed to Clinton’s management of the crisis has increased to 41 percent in three weeks.
Ehud Barak, a much-decorated former general who has pledged to revive the Middle East peace process, swept to a landslide victory in Israeli national elections yesterday over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party. A protégé of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Barak has presented himself as heir to the assassinated leader’s legacy, vowing to pursue a final peace settlement with the Palestinians, reach agreements with Israel’s Arab neighbors, and slow the growth of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Arab pleasure at the defeat of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was strongly tempered today by warnings the policies of his successor remain largely unknown. Syria, a key to regional peace, called on Barak to break with previous policies. He must then “play his peace cards swiftly, if he has any,” and make his intentions clear. This according to the official Syria Times, a quote. The most optimistic views, from Egyptians, whose country has a peace treaty with Israel, were countered by concerns the former army commander, Barak, would take an uncompromising position in peace talks. Qatar’s daily newspaper said, “Netanyahu’s defeat should not make us over-optimistic, as Barak has not presented in his speeches and statements anything different to Netanyahu.” It went on to say, “Barak’s win will not mean anything for the Arabs and their causes if it is not translated into truthful intentions and a real move to end tensions in the region.”
The Supreme Court struck down a California law that limits welfare benefits to new residents. On a seven-to-two vote, the justices declared unconstitutional a statute that prohibits welfare recipients during their first year of residency from receiving more benefits than they received in states where they previously lived. The high court also made it harder for federal judges to strike down election districts for being racially gerrymandered. The justices reversed a lower court decision that North Carolina’s 12th congressional district was unlawfully drawn in 1997. The decision puts district courts on notice that more than circumstantial evidence that race was the primary consideration is required before redistricting can be invalidated.
Amnesty International says the use of capital punishment in the United States turns on the issue of race, leaving black defendants condemned to die more frequently than whites and causing white victims to be avenged more severely than blacks. In a new report being released at a conference in Ghana today, the international human rights group, a longtime advocate of abolishing capital punishment, asserts that minorities face bias “at every step of the judicial process in the United States.”