by Vesna Peric Zimonjic
(IPS) BELGRADE --
a hellish weekend of attacks that paralyzed
most Serbian hospitals, water pumps and bakeries and left the country in the
dark for more than 30 hours, Milena Spaska, a retired engineer queuing for
bread in Belgrade today takes things ironically.
"Yes, Serbs have the right to suffer too" she says. "Someone obviously thinks that this is the way to deal with the Kosovo crisis -- make Serbs hungry and angry -- but things do not get fixed in such a simple way."
After eight weeks enduring an abundant daily ration of NATO bombs Serbs are certainly feeling anxiety, fear, hunger and anger, but the main political and military question is what reactions will those strong emotions trigger.
Along with his government, NATO's Supreme Commander, U.S. general Wesley Clark, thinks the strategy is working in spite of civilian casualties and criticism. By choosing Italian soil to announce yet another intensification of the air attacks yesterday, he also left Italy in an embarrassing position.
Italy -- NATO's largest platform for its air campaign against Yugoslavia -- has openly questioned the current strategy's effectiveness in solving political and ethnical problems in the province of Kosovo, which is now experiencing a massive refugee crisis.
In Belgrade, the opposition Serbian Renewal Party (SPO) of former deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic accused NATO of carrying out "collective reprisals" against civilians, with its new strategy of hitting power plants.
"This situation indeed requires the reaction of the United Nations Security Council rather than slow diplomacy, because the violations of all norms of international and military law, including genocide, are taking place before the eyes of the whole world," the party said.
is either a military or public relations strategy shift, NATO has
claimed that two recent attacks resulting in heavy civilian casualties --
the village of Korisa in Kosovo and a jail in Serbia -- were "legitimate"
Over the weekend, out of Serbia's 15 largest cities, only four were able to restore electricity (Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Cacak and Bor) last night, while the rest, including Belgrade, saw electricity returned only to so called "priority users," and certainly not to all of them.
For two consecutive nights NATO hit the country's biggest power plants, which feed not only military computers or radar systems -- generally equipped with their own power generators -- but mainly civilian facilities.
Unlike six previous times since May 3, when Serbia plunged into darkness for the first time, this time NATO did not use the so-called "soft" or graphite bombs that temporarily disturb electricity supplies.
This time missiles knocked the biggest distribution section of Nikola Tesla's thermal plant in Obrenovac, 30 km south of Belgrade, and also the power lines that link it to the capital and the rest of the country, seeking permanent damage.
Not even priority users like hospitals, water facilities, bakeries or public transport had power restored last night in Belgrade while water was only partially returning.
According to a statement by Belgrade's water supply authority, most pumps at reservoirs around the capital were still dead while water reserves had fallen to 10 percent.
One of the biggest maternity clinics in Belgrade, Narodni Front, had several cisterns parked in front of it. "We've started the (gasosline operated) generator, but it is only for the premature babies ward" said a doctor who declined to give his name.
Operation rooms were closed and urgent cases transferred to the Clinical Center, which has its own generators for surgeries, he said.
Downtown Belgrade's Sveti Sava cardiovascular center, the largest specialized hospital in Serbia, which attends exclusively patients with heart attacks and strokes, saw electricity restored only late yesterday.
Surrounding buildings and streets at the square where the hospital lees were still in deep darkness. "Our fuel generator enabled us to monitor those (patients) on life supply systems...Lucky enough, there were not so many new cases today" the doctor in charge of the evening shift told IPS.
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said today, after meeting his U.S. counterpart Madeleine Albright, that he was "pleased" to report that there was total unity among the allies about the need to massing troops to enter Yugoslavia "in a non-permissive environment."
total unity does not include two major NATO partners, Italy and
Germany, whose governments and parliaments have flatly rejected an invasion
of Yugoslavia, and have demanded a political solution involving the UN
General Clark, said at an air base in Vicenza, in northeast Italy, that the alliance has no plans to pause or stop bombardments and had even "broadened and deepened its target list" in Serbia.
But Serbs were generally spared Clark's threat, as most of them were left without electricity for more than 30 hours. Seeing the massive destruction of civilian facilities, observers in Serbia now wonder what the announced broadening of targets means.
While Russia, Finland, Italy, Germany, Greece, the Vatican and other countries have been trying to shape up a draft agreement on the basis of the G-8 (the world's seven most industrialized countries and Russia) recent peace proposals, Washington and London seem to have chosen a different path.
Speaking to the BBC, Cook said today that the U.S. and Britain were "solidly behind our objectives which is to get the Serbs out of Kosovo, get NATO into Kosovo and get refugees back into Kosovo."
The G-8 plan mentions an "international force" in kosovo, led by the United Nations, with a peacekeeping mission, keeping the province as part of Serbia.
But the British Labor politician said the projected ground force of some 40,000 soldiers, will be "more than a peacekeeping force...We're not talking about people in blue helmets with light sidearms," he said.
NATO strategists seem to be counting on the demoralizing effects of the massive destruction of their country to either concede defeat or present a weak resistance to an invasion force.
Yugoslav independent and official economists have concluded that the damage inflicted by NATO to the country's industrial base and infrastructure is likely to be higher than that perpetrated by Nazi Germany in World War II.
May 24, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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