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Friday, April 2, 1999 Published at 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK


World: Europe

B-1 bombers used against Serbia

The B-1s made their debut on the tenth night of strikes

American B-1 bombers have been used for the first time in the continuing air strikes against Serbian forces.

Kosovo: Special Report
The bombers, which flew from RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, added a ''further element'' to the allied forces said Air Marshall Sir John Day at Friday's daily Ministry of Defence briefing.

But he admitted the weather was continuing to play havoc with the planned programme of missions to be flown over Yugoslavia.


Daniel Boettcher reports: "The first time they've been deployed"
The majority of missions planned for Thursday night had been cancelled, he said, but added the allies had always assumed their attacks might be hampered by the weather.

He said: "We and our allies have a range of weapons which are effective in all weathers and these continue to be used, both by day and by night."

Sir John said Serb forces are now running critically short of fuel in some areas.

"Last night's attacks therefore continued to focus on his fuel supplies, especially in the Kosovo region," he said.

"This will further inhibit the ability of his (Milosevic) forces to repress the Kosovar Albanians.

Weather set to improve

"The weather in the Balkans is forecast to improve soon, and this ought to strike fear into all of Milosevic's armed forces, particularly those who are carrying out the repression in Kosovo."

Turning to the B-1 bombers, he added: "Their arrival at RAF Fairford adds a further element to the forces at the Alliance's disposal."

The Royal Navy vessel HMS Splendid - which has been playing an active part in the campaign - did not fire any of its stock of Cruise missiles on Thursday evening.

Tornados standing by

The additional Harriers sent to southern Italy are now fully operational, and eight RAF Tornados were standing by for action at their German base, said Sir John.

Concluding his briefing, Sir John said: "In spite of the very poor weather we are substantially damaging Milosevic's military machine and he is paying a high price for the terror which he is imposing upon the Kosovar Albanians.

"We were always aware that this might not be a short campaign.

"Our air campaign follows a thoroughly planned military rationale, and it will become more and more difficult for Milosevic's forces to continue their repressive mission in Kosovo."



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