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U.S., NATO Boost Bombing Strikes in Former Yugoslavia

By Thomas W. Lippman and Dana Priest
THE WASHINGTON POST -- The United States and its NATO allies dispatched more airplanes to reinforce the relentless bombardment of Yugoslavia Monday as military commanders concluded the strikes have so far failed to deter what officials described as a systematic attempt by the Yugoslav military to subdue or exile the populace of the rebellious province of Kosovo.

Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon announced that the United States is sending more bombers and electronc warfare aircraft as part of a alliance-wide buildup. He said five B-1B bombers, five EA-6B Prowlers and 10 tankers will join the fleet that has been pounding Yugoslavia since Wednesday. The air strikes continued Monday night and will henceforth be conducted around the clock, according to British officials and NATO spokesmen.

As reports multiplied of atrocities against Kosovo’s civilian population and tens of thousands of refugees streamed into neighboring countries, Pentagon officials said they are considering deployment of Apache attack helicopters, probably to neighboring Macedonia. These low-flying aircraft are designed to strike armored vehicles and troop concentrations, meaning that if ordered into battle they would directly attack Yugoslav units carrying out the crackdown in Kosovo.

Britain also announced reinforcements, saying eight additional Tornado fighter-bombers are being readied for deployment.

The announcment that more U.S. planes would be sent to support the air camapaign followed a White House meeting between President Clinton and his senior defense and foreign policy advisers. After that session, Clinton took advantage of a balmy afternoon to head for the golf links, from where he telephoned two key alliance leaders, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The additional deployments dramatized an apparent mismatch between NATO’s objectives -- to stop the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Kosovo -- and the bombing tactics employed so far to achieve them. In that light, the NATO supreme commander, Gen. Wesley K. Clark, sought authorization over the weekend to hit additional targets to intensify the punishment against President Slobodan Milosevic’s government, including the Defense and Interior ministries in downtown Belgrade where the army and security police get their instructions.

As the air campaign intensified, so did Russian efforts to halt it. Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who canceled a visit to Washington a week ago to protest the imminent start of the air strikes, announced he will fly to Belgrade Tuesday with his foreign, defense and intelligence chiefs. He is expected to explore the possibility of a cease fire with Milosevic, the leader of the Yugoslav federation and of its dominant republic, Serbia.

Milosevic has shown no signs of yielding to allied demands that he cease his campaign against Kosovo, the southernmost province in Serbia whose population is about 90 percent ethnic Albanian, people speaking a different language and practicing a different religion from the Serbs who rule the province. On the contrary, Milosevic’s military and police appeared to be waging what a senior U.S. official called a “scorched earth campaign” to crush the Kosovo separatist challenge once and for all.