Jets from NATO countries struck at Bosnian Serb targets for a second day Thursday in an effort to break their ability to wage war.
"We have done some airstrikes today, I'm not going to get specific on when or where," said alliance spokesman Capt. Jim Mitchell in Naples, Italy.Western military sources said the strikes occurred Thursday afternoon but did not say where.
Asked if bombing continued in the evening, Mitchell said only that "our operation continues."
NATO said bad weather and low clouds had plagued operations for most of Thursday. But alliance jets were over Bosnia, assessing the results of Wednesday's airstrikes and carrying out search and rescue operations for two missing French pilots. There was still no word on their whereabouts or fate.
Skies were much quieter than Wednesday, when the alliance flew more than 300 sorties over the Balkan land.
In concert with the airstrikes, the British-French rapid reaction force unleashed about 1,000 artillery and mortar rounds on Serb targets near Sarajevo.
Adm. Leighton Smith, the NATO commander overseeing the airstrikes, released videotape of damage inflicted by Wednesday's bombing, reminiscent of footage allies showed during the Persian Gulf War. (Picture on A2.) He said 90 targets were attacked and that the 300 NATO sorties hobbled the Serbs' air defenses.
U.N. spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Vernon said most of the Serb communications systems, radar and anti-aircraft systems near Sarajevo, and several command posts, were destroyed Wednesday. Other officials said U.N. artillery fire destroyed 23 Serb guns and ammunition sites around the capital.
The stated goal of the attacks was to force the Serbs to pull heavy weapons out of the Sarajevo area and stop attacking the other three remaining U.N. "safe areas" in Bosnia. Overall, the strategy is to weaken the rebels and force them to make peace.
Before Thursday's bombings, Yasushi Akashi, the senior U.N. envoy to former Yugoslavia, said "the attitude and the policy of the Bosnian Serbs" would dictate how long NATO bombing raids and U.N. artillery attacks on the rebels would continue. Asked if more were planned Thursday, he told reporters in Zagreb, Croatia, "yes, indeed."
Before the raids began Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes told CBS-TV that the Bosnian Serbs had only one option: "to go back to the table of negotiation and to show willingness to accept a compromise which is equitable and which is viable."
As long as the Serbs resist, "we are decided to go on with our military actions, and even to enhance (them) as necessary," he said.
There were indications of progress toward a peace deal late Wednesday.
"It is time to talk about peace, even after this dreadful bombing," Mladic said.
But he refused a U.N. demand to pull back the heavy weapons, and attacks continued on the U.N. "safe areas" of Sarajevo, Tuzla in the north and Bihac in the northwest. The Bosnian Health Ministry said shelling killed four people in Sarajevo.
In Croatia Thursday, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke said his peace initiative was moving ahead, but he warned of letting expectations get too high.
Under pressure from Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Bosnian Serb leaders have welcomed a U.S. peace plan but did not outright accept it. On Wednesday, they agreed to have Milosevic negotiate on their behalf at any future peace conference, papering over differences with the Serbian president, who wants the war ended even under terms the rebels oppose.
"After 16 months of arguing about who speaks for the Serbs, that issue has been resolved and the decks are now cleared for serious negotiations," Holbrooke told Associated Press Television in Zagreb. But "the actual substance of the negotiations remains extremely difficult . . . and you don't want to create any false optimism."
Although details of the U.S. peace plan have not been made public, some published reports say it entails a confederation of Bosnian Serbs and Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. In Bonn Thursday, Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic pronounced such a confederation to be "out of the question," and his opposition was echoed by Germany and France.
At a news conference in Naples, Italy, Smith showed videotape of missiles and 1,000- to 2,000-pound bombs hitting a string of Serb targets within 25 miles of Sarajevo. Targets included a military radio station, ammunition storage plant, radio relay site and several artillery pieces.
Smith said targets were chosen to hurt Serb military capabilities around Sarajevo, but hits were also made on Serb positions around Tuzla in the north, Mostar in the southwest and other areas.
"We have certainly enjoyed some successes," he said, but because of clouds and fog, the planes "obviously missed some targets."
Spanish F-18s, U.S. Air Force F15-Es, U.S. Marine F-18s, U.S. AC-130 gunships and U.S. F-16s were among the aircraft participating, Smith said. French and Dutch planes also flew sorties.
"We hope that they will cease . . . before we have to do this thing any further," he said of the Serbs' resistance. "We hope this will demonstrate to the Bosnian Serbs . . . the futility of further military action."
The Bosnian Serb news agency claimed NATO jets hit the Nevesinje area in southern Bosnia twice overnight. But the United Nations said it knew of no nighttime NATO attacks. The last reported bombing runs occurred over Pale, the Bosnian Serb stronghold east of Sarajevo, in late afternoon, when a French Mirage jet was shot down by Bosnian Serb gunners.
Its two airmen parachuted from the burning jet, but their fate was unknown.
There were unconfirmed reports that Bosnian Serbs had captured them. French Defense Minister Charles Millon said he hoped the two would be rescued soon.
Smith said "We're devoting a considerable effort to that effect," adding: "I hope it will mirror the success of the Scott O'Grady operation in June." O'Grady, an American, was found days after Serbs shot him down.