BELGRADE, Yugoslavia _ Western leaders pledged to expand the aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia, as the assault reached the one-week mark today with no sign it was close to achieving NATO's goals.
"We are now widening the range of military targets," British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook confirmed on BBC radio today, amid news the campaign was moving into a third phase that could include bombing central Belgrade.
U.S. defense officials acknowledged that the assault was far from achieving its goals; spokesman Kenneth Bacon said Tuesday that the allies were still looking for "a knockout punch."
Ethnic Albanians and neighboring countries have urged NATO to do something to halt the huge exodus from violence-wracked Kosovo _ from which an estimated 118,000 people have fled since NATO airstrikes began last Wednesday _ to Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro.
Meanwhile, British pilots complained that bad weather forced them to abort missions twice this week. They said American pilots had to launch anti-radiation missiles to protect themselves from ground fire, indicating Yugoslavia's air defenses were still a threat.
Britain's domestic news agency, Press Association, quoted Group Capt. Ian Travers Smith as saying a wave of British GR7 Harrier jets flying from NATO's Gioia del Colle air base in Italy aborted their mission Tuesday for the second straight night because of bad weather over the target.
At the Macedonian border today, refugees told of a line of cars across the border stretching more than 3 miles, and said Serb security forces were shaking down passengers.
Poised to focus on Serb military forces in Kosovo accused of atrocities against civilians, five U.S. Air Force B-1 long-range bombers were preparing to fly to Europe to join B-52 bombers that have been launching cruise missiles at Yugoslavia.
Missile and bomb explosions were reported at a number of locations today in the Belgrade area and elsewhere. Shrill hisses were heard before dawn in the center of the Yugoslav capital, and the independent Beta news agency said they were NATO planes. But there was no evidence the allied forces had begun bombing strategic targets in the center of the city _ a planned part of the next phase.
Missiles hit military-industrial targets outside Belgrade near Avala and Pancevo, the state-run news Tanjug reported. Several missiles early today hit southeast of the Kosovo capital, Pristina, and other impacts were reported around the province, Tanjug said.
On Tuesday, brief hopes for a political breakthrough were dashed when Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov failed to persuade President Slobodan Milosevic to make an overture acceptable to the alliance.
Declaring his forces ready to fight "to the very end," Milosevic refused to budge from his insistence that NATO attacks stop before he resumes peace talks. NATO answered with new resolve to wreck his military with a relentless air assault.
After more than six hours of talks with Primakov, Milosevic said he would start pulling back some of the forces he has deployed in Kosovo if NATO halts its raids.
"The problem of Kosovo should be solved only by political means, and cannot be solved by thousands of tons of bombs," said a Milosevic statement read on national television.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the current president of the European Union, called Milosevic's offer unacceptable. He specifically rejected the condition that NATO stop its attacks first.
"The signal that the international community expects is the withdrawal of Yugoslav military and paramilitary units from Kosovo," Schroeder said.
Those forces are accused of continuing a terror campaign against majority ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, the southern Serbian province that has been wracked by war since Milosevic launched a campaign against separatist rebels in February 1998.
Hashim Thaci, a leader of rebel ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, told Germany's ZDF television that the Serbs had created three concentration camps, including one in a Pristina stadium that he said was holding 100,000 people.
In an interview with France's RTL radio, Thachi confirmed reports that Serbs had executed Fehmi Agani, a close aide to ethnic Albanian leader Ibrahim Rugova.
President Clinton warned that atrocities against ethnic Albanians would weaken Serbia's claim to the separatist province and increase NATO's determination to destroy Milosevic's army.
German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping said Tuesday that Milosevic "will try over the next two to three weeks to turn Kosovo into a region of destroyed villages, where the adult male population will have been interned or killed and the rest driven out or fleeing."
Reports of mass killings and forced removals by Serb forces, with entire villages being burned and cities cleared of ethnic Albanians, have increased since NATO forces began the bombing and missile campaign a week ago.
With international monitors gone and virtually all foreign journalists kicked out of Kosovo, the reported atrocities are impossible to verify.
Albania's foreign minister urged Kosovo Albanians to remain at home and "resist" what he called the Serb genocide.
"This is a war for existence," Paskal Milo said. "If this massive fleeing continues, Belgrade will win."
In New York, Albania's U.N. ambassador, Agim Nesho, said his country will allow its territory to be used to funnel arms to the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army if the international community decides this will help save ethnic Albanians from genocide. But lifting the arms embargo against Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, would require support from all five permanent members of the Security Council.