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Updated: 27 April 1999 Press Conferences

NATO HQ
Brussels

27 Apr. 1999

Press Conference

by Jamie Shea and General Wesley Clark

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Afternoon to you. For those of you who followed us to Washington, or even preceded us to Washington, welcome back. And as you can see, as you know, today I have a special guest - SACEUR. General Clark has kindly agreed once again to come up and give you his operational assessment and answer your questions. Before I pass the microphone to SACEUR I would just like to say a few words by way of an introduction.

Firstly, upon returning to Brussels this morning the Secretary General had a meeting with Mr Plesu, the Foreign Minister of Romania. Romania once again pledged its solidarity with Nato as it had done at the level of Head of State, President Constinescu, in Washington just a few days ago and we expressed our gratitude again for the support that Romania is giving us, particularly by making available to us its airspace.

The Nato Ambassadors met at 3.00 this afternoon for their first meeting post-Washington, and as you can imagine they very warmly welcomed the positive results of the Washington summit across the board, but of course the special message of resolve and determination on Kosovo, and that now we are back, the Nato Ambassadors will be taking a number of concrete steps in coming days to build on the momentum that was developed at the Washington summit.

At the same time the Nato Council today warmly welcomed the decision of the European Union Foreign Ministers yesterday to tighten the economic noose around Belgrade. Restrictions on travel, as you know, were decided by the European Union on President Milosevic, his family and key regime figures. This means indeed that they will become prisoners in their own country and persona non grata in virtually everybody else's country. It is a further sign of the isolation into which Yugoslavia is progressively slipping. We also welcomed the decision of the European Union to freeze the financial assets and bank accounts of President Milosevic, his family and his colleagues in the government, to freeze export guarantees, to introduce an investment ban and to ban products that could be used in the repression of the civilian population. And indeed allies who are not members of the European Union warmly support these decisions and will follow them, and Norway today announced its immediate readiness to do precisely that.

And I believe that these votes in the European Union over the last few weeks, following the decision on the oil embargo that was taken just a few days ago, and also the votes in the United Nations, particularly the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, very decisive, overwhelming votes condemning ethnic cleansing, demonstrate that although Nato is the organisation which is pursuing the military objectives of the international community, the political goals are supported worldwide, and not just by the Nato members. And I think it is quite revealing that President Milosevic now has to join together with Libya to find a friend with whom he can attempt to launch a diplomatic initiative or a peace proposal, still insufficient as far as the Nato allies are concerned.

The Council will go back to meeting on a daily basis now that the Washington summit is over and let me say that although we are having this briefing at 5.00 pm today, we will go back to the usual cycle of 3.00 pm briefings from tomorrow onwards.

Having said that, I again thank SACEUR very warmly for coming up here and he will now give you his operational up-date and answer your questions.

SACEUR: Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. We are now about 5 weeks into the air campaign and I thought it was appropriate to come before you and give you an up-date on where we stand overall.

I returned, actually I left Washington on Friday night, I spent part of the day there for the summit and then came back and I gave the Heads of Government, Heads of State, an assessment of how we were doing in the air campaign. I want to give you an expanded version of that. I will tell you that it was very warmly received and it seemed to invoke a lot of reinforcement, that is to say there seemed to be unanimous conviction that we will continue to intensify the air campaign.

But let me show you the whole picture. Let's go to the four axes that we are operating on. Actually as the air campaign is under way, we are still operating in other areas. The first of these is Dayton implementation; secondly, we are doing a lot of work on humanitarian relief, there is an air campaign and we are increasingly involved in the isolation of the theatre. So I would like to talk about each of these axes here this afternoon.

First, you may recall that on 5 March we announced the Burchko arbitration decision in Bosnia. This was a decision that frankly was a long time under consideration, some people said it was long overdue and it provided for a new set of rules and a new opportunity to work out the Burchko problem which would have best preserved this key piece of real estate for the benefit of all the people in Bosnia. But as we were moving towards finalising the Burchko decision, and just before it was announced, a constitutional crisis in Bosnia Herzegovina came to a head, this was a crisis having to do with the government of the Republika Srpska, it was a crisis that was for the most part engineered in Belgrade by President Milosevic where he pit the radical President, Nikolas Poplachan, against the government headed by Prime Minister Dodik and time and again Poplachan refused to follow through on his constitutional responsibilities to confirm a government that could govern, he was unable to nominate a successful Prime Minister and he continued to try to get rid of the Dodik government and throw Republika Srpska into chaos.

Well it just so happened that both the announcement of Burchko and the constitutional crisis seemed to coincide and there was a lot of concern at the time with what was happening in Bosnia. It seems to me that we have done pretty well since then and Bosnia is still holding together. There were some tense days after the air strikes began, some demonstrations, some isolated acts of violence, but Bosnia Herzegovina is basically holding together, it seems to be manageable, people are getting back to business as usual. The demonstrations and the other disruptive activities have become low key events, they have drawn fewer and fewer people. Some were announced and never materialised. Local police, even in Republika Srpska are on duty and generally effective in maintaining public order. And what that shows is that three and a half years after the termination of that awful conflict there, people are happy to have peace, they want to get on with their lives, they don't want to see more chaos and turmoil in Bosnia. The international agencies operating in Republika Srpska have for the most part returned, that is the OHR, the International Police Task Force, the UNHCR.

Some predicted that these airstrikes in Kosovo and Serbia would lead to political melt-down, but at least thus far it certainly hasn't happened and although we are concerned about the state of the government in Republika Srpska, we are also very pleased with the strong leadership that so many responsible people have shown in Bosnia and Republika Srpska. Dialogue and cooperation between SFOR and the government officials remains good. We make it clear, and I think they all understand and agree that there is no alternative in Bosnia Herzegovina to Dayton. They increasingly recognise that Bosnia Herzegovina is a different country than Yugoslavia and that the problems of Yugoslavia and Kosovo are distinct and separate from the problems of Bosnia.

I think Mrs Plasic, the former Republika Srpska President and the leader of the Serbian People's Alliance said it best. She urged the Bosnian Serbs to maintain order and to concentrate on humanitarian aid. She reminded Republika Srpska citizens that both the Dayton Accord and the Bosnia constitution prohibit participation in fighting in Yugoslavia. So I think people recognise that this was a hard won peace in Bosnia and they recognised that it is in no-one's interest to disrupt it.

The rebuilding continues in Bosnia and SFOR is deeply involved in this. 30,000 troops under Nato leadership, about 80% of them drawn from Nato countries, General Montgomery-Migs is the SFOR Commander and they are working every day in a variety of ways to help the situation. Near Mostar, Spanish troops have recently helped in the construction of a sports arena; in Brokavici, Dutch troops with financial assistance from the Netherlands and Great Britain helped start up a garment factory and helped rebuild a number of homes, in the process they have created more than 100 jobs, they have pumped economic life back into the area and enabled 27 families to get back home; Italian troops are organising donations of clothing, food, medical equipment, computers and consumer goods in Bosnia; SFOR troops are helping with housing reconstruction, medical airlifts and other projects all across Bosnia. So I think it is a very important part of the Nato story to consider our work in Dayton implementation and we are very proud of the work of our 30,000 troops there in Bosnia.

On the other hand, in Kosovo the situation for the displaced persons remains extremely difficult. We figure now there are some 820,000 internally displaced people inside Kosovo, many, if not most, corralled into pockets by Serb security forces, largely cut off from any sources of food or supplies, communications, and living in conditions of hardship and danger.

In addition over 700,000 persons have been expelled from Kosovo in this latest campaign of ethnic cleansing and they continue to come. You can see the figures in the surrounding countries there of those who have now arrived.

We are deeply involved in supporting the lead agencies in their humanitarian efforts outside Kosovo, in Fyrom and in Albania. For example, in Fyrom over 12,000 troops from the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps, under the command of Lt General Sir Mike Jackson, they were originally deployed as the first echelon of the Kosovo implementation force, but they transitioned very quickly and very professionally to humanitarian support. In Albania right now we have almost 5,000 troops under the command of Lt General Sir John Reith and the Ace Mobile Force Land, a force built and deployed from scratch to address the humanitarian emergency forced on Albania. Both forces are providing a variety of key tasks to support humanitarian relief operations, they are helping to construct camps, they are providing transportation for supplies, they are providing to the refugees themselves means to move away from the frontiers where they can be better looked after, they are running the airfield in Tirana to assist the humanitarian airlift, helping to distribute food, medicine, water, shelter and other supplies, helping to provide security, doing essentially whatever it is that the governments and the lead agencies, and in particular UNHCR, ask them to do.

To date Nato military personnel have assisted in the delivery of over 3,000 tons of food, 800 tons of medical supplies and 1,500 tons of tentage. And I would just point out to you that Bosnia is another neighbouring country that has felt the effects of events in Yugoslavia, because over 45,000 refugees have fled to Bosnia. That is a striking contrast between what is happening in Kosovo and what was happening in Bosnia three and a half years ago, where now in Bosnia, under Nato and international community supervision, Bosnia itself has become a magnet and a haven for refugees fleeing repression in Yugoslavia.

The refugee demographics in Bosnia are also worth noting because these 45,000 refugees are not only coming from Kosovo, they are also coming from Montenegro, elsewhere in Serbia in the Sanjak region and they include an unusually high percentage of draft-age men.

Let me turn to the air campaign. As we have discussed, what we are trying to do in the air campaign is work on two air lines of operation: one against the strategic targets and another against forces in the field. This is where we stand in the air campaign in terms of performance and resource. We have about tripled the number of strike assets available to us since we began. 11,000 sorties, 4,400 strike sorties. I would tell you the weather hasn't been everything we could have hoped for, it has probably been about average for this time of year. On about two-thirds of the days we have had more than half of the strike sorties cancelled, so when I show you the results I would ask you to keep this in mind in that the air campaign I think has been very effective, it has been very destructive to the resources, and infrastructure and forces in support of President Milosevic and his leadership, but it has been only a fraction of what is to come.

First let me just tell you that over the last 24 hours we have successfully targeted some elements in Kosovo, both in the field and at places like the airfield and ammunition storage. Elsewhere we have hit a relay site, weapons and ammunition storage. We have, as you probably saw on the television news, attacked the communications facilities at the Social Party headquarters in Belgrade which despite the damage to the building were apparently still in use. We have hit airfields again and destroyed the last bridge across the Danube north of Belgrade at Bokapolanka.

In Montenegro, where we have attempted to avoid striking, we have nevertheless had to attack surface to air radars when they have illuminated our aircraft, and so we have had a couple of strikes there, and I do of course confirm the loss of the apache in the accident last night during the training mission north of Tirana. As you no doubt know, the crew was recovered with minor injuries.

That is it for the last 24 hours, let's run through a broader assessment of the air campaign.

Turning first to the integrated air defence system. Essentially this air defence system is ineffective. When it is turned on, when it attempts to target us, it is destroyed, so what he has tried to do is conserve it by using it sparingly and when he uses it we strike back and take it out. We reckon we are at 70+ aircraft destroyed, about 40% of his SA3 battalions, one-quarter of his SA6 batteries. Whatever is coming up and engaging is taken out and increasingly we are finding these assets before they can engage us.

I will show you some scenes now from various strikes, just to illustrate each one of these assessments. Some of these have been shown before, some have not. Here is a strike on a flat face radar, 16 April from an F16 gun camera. All right, it seems to try to live up to the motto there of no picture. I can assure you there was a picture behind him.

An SA3 air defence site near Oprava, 13 April, from an F15 gun camera. We have impacted the SA3.

Command and control and communications. I am going to run through this briefing and describe it to you while we work the computer behind us. We have got an awful lot of data loaded in this, it is the biggest small computer we could find and even then it obviously sometimes is getting overloaded here.

Essentially what we found is it is a very hardened and redundant command and control communications system. It starts with cable, it uses commercial telephone, it uses military cable, it uses fibre optic cable, it uses a high frequency radio communication, it uses microwave communication and everything can be interconnected. There are literally dozens, more than 100 radio relay sites around the country, and so everything is wired in through dual use. Most of the commercial system serves the military and the military system can be put to use for the commercial system, so there seems to be no distinction other than a few private radio stations which were put up over the last decade.

What we have found is that we have provided moderate to severe damage on this system, they are having trouble communicating, they are having trouble getting the message out. They are working through this and trying to pull together information systems, but it is difficult. The television of course has been a key instrument of his military command and control and his way of mobilising resources has been significantly degraded and disrupted across Yugoslavia through strikes against the radio relay network.

I am going to try one more time to show you a strike on a radio relay site. If this one doesn't work then I will just stay with the assessment slides. Can we try the Invanica, Radio relay site, 21 April, F16?

OK, let's go to military supply routes. We have said before that what we are trying to do is interdict and cut off Kosovo and make it much more difficult for him to sustain his military operations down there. What you are seeing up here are three bands of interdiction. They represent essentially where we are taking action against railroads, roads, bridges and other means of transportation into Kosovo or out of Montenegro, because what we want to do is stop the flow of oil out of Montenegro, at the same time prevent any military supplies from going into Kosovo or elsewhere.

On 22 April we took out the Kusmaca Highway Bridge. We will show you the scene of that. I don't know who moved across the bridge, but I hope they got out of the way in time.

Here is the Mura railroad bridge, 22 April. Step by step, bit by bit, we are cutting off his ability to reinforce or to sustain his forces easily down in Kosovo. Of course he can still walk them in through the gullies and the rivers and so forth and it is never going to be complete, but it is certainly complicating their life down there.

We are also working against ground forces outside of Kosovo. We know that his personnel and material losses are mounting, we know a number of key facilities that they value highly have been destroyed and we are seeing daily evidence of declining morale and increasingly widespread avoidance of the draft.

Here is an attack on a command vehicle in the ground forces near Kursomija, 19 April. In Kosovo itself we are going after the forces as best we can, despite the adverse weather, and we are using a variety of targeting means and a variety of weapons systems on these forces. His personnel and material losses are mounting, he has lost the use of most of the key facilities there and we are picking up increasing numbers of desertions and declining morale among the troops. What you can see on the sketch map there is you can see the troop concentrations where they are still engaging in hurting the refugees around, ethnic cleansing and continuing to fight against the UCK who by the way have not been defeated in the field by the Serb forces. And they are also trying to fortify defensive positions in anticipation of Nato ground operations.

Here is a strike on a field command post in southern Kosovo, 22 April. Damaged tanks where we have taken them out in the northern area of Kosovo, you can see them on the road where they were picked off by military aircraft; and going after field trucks. You can see the secondary explosion in that one so there was a little bit in that fuel truck.

And that takes me to the attack on his petroleum, oil and lubricants. We have essentially destroyed his production capability. He can't refine it. Now that doesn't mean it won't be repaired. We have taken about one-third of the military reserves, we know the military is increasingly desperate for fuel, we know of at least three instances where operations have been shut down in an effort to conserve fuel or simply because they have run out of fuel. Here is an attack from 22 April on a fuel facility in Pristina.

The next area that we are attacking is his military production and in particular his ammunition production. We have had some very good success against ammunition stocks and we have done very serious damage to his ability to repair and maintain his aircraft, military vehicles, armaments and munitions. Here is an attack on the Baric munitions plant, 22 April.

I think what you can see from all of these is that we are still using by and large precision munitions. This is a campaign that is not directed against the people of Serbia, it is directed against the regime, higher level command and control, the forces in the field, their sustaining and supporting infrastructure. So we are trying to be as precise as possible, we are trying to limit collateral damage in every instance insofar as it is possible to do so. But we are determined to have an impact.

And so here is our assessment overall of the impact on various sets of targets. In every case we are doing significant damage, there is more to be done, and there should be no doubt, more will be done. The summit leaders were very clear that they want the air campaign intensified and it will be intensified.

Now the fourth area that we are operating on is the isolation of Yugoslavia. This is an important part of what we are doing here because any air campaign is a race of destruction against his repair, reconstruction and resupply. I mentioned that we have destroyed the FRY's oil refineries, we have also stopped the flow of oil through pipelines from Croatia, Hungary and Romania. And Romania, with an indigenous oil industry, has cut off all commercial delivery of petroleum products to Yugoslavia.

I might point out however that prior to these actions, 2 - 3 ships per day went to Bar Harbour, and now we are seeing 10 ships a day in port, almost exclusively tankers offloading 24 hours a day. This is why the North Atlantic Council tasked us to present our plan for the visit and search regime of halting the flow of oil and other war materials into the harbour there in Montenegro. But I want to make it clear that there is more to this campaign than that. We know that they are hopeful that they are going to get supplies up the Danube, well they are not going to. We know they would like to land things by air. We are going to do our best to turn that off, in fact we are going to cause to dry up as much as possible of the kind of support and sustainment that President Milosevic would like to rely on to resist the international community in its effort to turn around his policy of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. And so the isolation of Yugoslavia is a very important part of what we are doing.

So let me just sum it up here if I can. This is a systematic, sustained and serious campaign. As we said from the beginning, it would move methodically, systematically and progressively to attack, disrupt, degrade and ultimately destroy his forces, sustaining infrastructure, command and control and all of the other targets that are associated with his campaign of repression. This is a campaign that is working. Nato's solidarity is growing stronger daily. More resources are becoming available. The noose around Yugoslavia as it continues its inhumane policies in Kosovo is tightening.

I think back to my experience with President Milosevic in late January and all the subsequent events. I suppose that that he may have thought that Nato really wouldn't launch the airstrikes. But he was wrong. He may have believed they wouldn't last after they were started. Wrong. He may have thought that some countries would be afraid of his bluster and intimidation, they would withdraw the use of their bases or buckle under his intimidation. He was wrong. He thought that other countries might rush to his aid. Wrong again. He thought that taking prisoners and mistreating them and humiliating them publicly would weaken our resolve. Wrong again. He thought his air defence would be effective against our aircraft. Wrong. He thought his troops would stay loyal. Increasingly he is wrong about that. There are more desertions, former Generals are under arrest, dissent is growing louder and louder, military press censorship has been imposed. He thought he could hide the truth from his own people I suppose, and increasingly he is wrong in that.

We are winning, Milosevic is losing and he knows it. He should face up to this and he should face up to it now.

Questions & Answers

Patricia Kelly: General, I've got two questions actually. The first one is about the attacks on the tv station. Why are you attacking the tv stations when they are able to re-transmit within a few hours? Is it not possible to jam transmitters? That is maybe a technical question, I just don't know the answer to it.

Secondly, if the campaign succeeds and you have forces ready to go into Kosovo, who gets to look after the refugees in Albania and Macedonia, are you going to have to be moving in very many more troops to be able to do the two jobs?

SACEUR: First of all, with respect to the television, we are going off after all aspects of this system. As I said, it's essentially a dual-nature system and the civilian television is heavily dependent on the military command-and-control system and military traffic is also routed through the civilian system and so from top to bottom we're going after this. Of course, it does periodically come back on but much of Serbia is apparently for long periods of time without any television coverage at all as a result of attacks on relay sites and other things and he's having to hop from station to station in Belgrade and like the other systems, this is a very robust system; no doubt it was designed with the supreme requirements of his regime in mind, that it had to be durable and robust in case there was some attack or threat to his television system and so it's not something to which you can deal a single knock-out blow but we do intend to continue this effort and increasingly it's having an impact.

With respect to the refugees, the purpose of the NATO troops in Albania and in Macedonia is to assist those countries and the lead humanitarian agencies in their job and increasingly those agencies are developing more and more robust capabilities; they are increasingly able to take over the tasks that the NATO troops initially had to deal with as a bridge at the onset of the crisis until the humanitarian agencies could muster additional resources there so I don't see the issue you're raising as a significant problem in the long term.

Same Questioner: What about jamming, can we jam the transmitters?

SACEUR: We're not jamming the transmitters.

Mark Laity (BBC): A couple of points, one on oil, just a technical thing. At one stage we were being told you have got rid of 70 per cent of the oil reserves, you are now saying 33 per cent of military stocks - could you explain that?

SACEUR: We were 70 per cent at one point of the refining capacity, we did not get the full 70 per cent of the civilian reserves. What we believe we've got is 33 per cent of the military reserves. I don't have the figure with me today on what the total reserves are that are available but like a lot of numbers in here I would encourage you not to do a sort of bean-counting-type BDA. I don't think anyone truly knows how much oil is present in Yugoslavia, probably the Serb regime doesn't either, it's probably squirrelled away in many locations and so you will continually see us revise our figures. That's the reason why we try to give you a qualitative assessment rather than dwell on specific quantities or percentages.

Mark Laity: On the oil side of it, though, could you give us an update on the progress on preventing oil getting through from Montenegro? Where are you on the "visit and search"? If they are unloading 24 hours a day are you considering hitting Bar or something like that and how confident are you on the morale issue? You have come out with some figures, you have qualified them, but how sure can you be that the morale really is starting to erode?

SACEUR: We're certain on the morale issue but morale is an intangible and so we're going to see to it that the morale continues to erode, that's one of the tasks that we've set for ourselves.

With respect to the oil, there is at least a two-pronged approach to the oil. First, we've turned in our "visit-and-search" regime op plan to the Military Committee today, that will be looked at in Brussels, we'll be given some guidance on that and we'll be prepared to implement it as approved at relatively short notice and that should help us deal with the shipping that's coming in. In the meantime, we're busy making sure that it's very difficult for him to move onward the oil that is received in Bar. Realistically, we know that taking out bridges and railroad lines and other things like that will never totally stop the onward movement of the oil but it's sure making it difficult for them.

Habi: General, could you elaborate a bit more on which options you considered in your report to implement the sea blockade?

SACEUR: We're going to go after the oil first and then other war materials. There's going to be an effort to make it a co-operative regime and we're going to encourage shippers to contact us for pre-clearance but essentially a naval regime like this is precisely what it suggests. We intend, with any authority granted to us, to stop the onward flow of oil to Serbia.

Antonio: General, what can you do now for this oil? Obviously, you cannot control every boat and some US companies keep delivering oil - Texaco did it recently. Can you make something of the second plan to avoid oil to be brought into Kosovo and given to Belgrade?

Another question: 820,000 people seem to be in a very bad condition. Can you already consider now delivering them some food by air and what are the risks for the pilots?

SACEUR: With respect to the oil first, we know that there's going to be a certain time required to implement a "visit and search" regime but on the other hand, the European Union countries have all signed up to the oil embargo so that should be drying up the tap coming from EU countries and many others very shortly on this. As I said, we're trying to interrupt the onward flow from Montenegro of the oil that's there right now.

With respect to the refugees - internally-displaced persons - inside Kosovo, we're still looking at what options might be available to deliver relief supplies from the air but as I indicated a couple of weeks ago, there are two major problems with this: one is the risk to the pilots from an air-defence system that is still capable of engaging transport-type aircraft and secondly, the vast quantities that would be required if we were to attempt a long-term sustainment of populations like this.

Craig (New York Times): In the "visit and search" regime that you've proposed, what would your officers tell the captains of ships heading towards Bar - "Don't go into Bar or we'll do what?"

Secondly, on the reports of retired generals being arrested, is General Peresic (phon) among those?

SACEUR: On the first question, any "visit and search" regime of course has to have the appropriate rules of engagement; to be able to use the threat of force it has to be an enforcement regime and this will be it it's approved by the North Atlantic Council and the officers dealing with the merchant ships will give them the appropriate instructions.

I have no hard confirmation on who has been detained and put under house arrest there; a number of people have by our reports, but I can't independently confirm this.

Rick: General Clark, can you explain how the probable call-up of about 3300 US reservists will allow you to broaden your air campaign or might these reservists be used as the possible first wave of a ground offensive?

SACEUR: As I've said before, I think the air campaign is working, we're winning with it and it needs more time to work. We've asked for these additional tankers to come over and many other assets that are part of the additional aircraft that I've requested and the reservists are part of that air flow to the best of my knowledge.

Martin Walker (The Guardian): General, the photographs that you just showed us, one was marked "military truck in revetment" that was about to be blown up, in other words a fuel tanker. Are you using million-dollar munitions to hit 10,000-dollar targets and does this make military sense?

If you are using precision weapons purely to spare collateral casualties, have you any sense of what sort of cost this is to the NATO Alliance to avoid civilian casualties?

SACEUR: Let me tell you that we're using what we believe to be the appropriate weapons for the appropriate targets and we're not measuring the outcome of the war in dollars-and-cents terms nor are we evaluating the munitions' effectiveness or efficiency cost on any specific target and so we're not able to give you those kinds of figures in terms of avoidance of collateral damage. I will tell you it is considerably more expensive to avoid collateral damage but as I said, this is not a war that we're running on a cheque-book budget, we're running this war to be effective and part of that is to focus on the objectives and to avoid unnecessary collateral damage and that's what we're attempting to do.

Doug: General Clark, could you just tell us what the Yugoslav military's activities in operations in Kosovo are like right now, are they doing very much, are they fighting the UCK, are they chasing people around or are they hunkering down, could you just describe what they are up to?

SACEUR: The Yugoslav military now we believe number along with the police at least 40,000, they have been reinforced in the last three or four days by an influx of newly-mobilised reservists to replace combat casualties and they've also been reinforced by the continuing assistance and movement of elements from the Yugoslav Second Army which is based in Montenegro, they are fighting over the border. They are principally engaged in three things:

First in working against the elements of the UCK who are still present in many locations in Kosovo and still offering resistance; secondly, in conjunction with the special police and with the paramilitaries, trying to manoeuvre and otherwise manipulate the large numbers of internally-displaced people. It is not clear to us at this point precisely what the aim of this activity is but we know they're engaged in it. And third, they're attempting to build and strengthen defensive positions along the borders in anticipation of NATO attacks or to block infiltration from the UCK. But I might tell you what they're also doing is whenever the weather is good, whenever there are NATO aircraft, they are stationary and hidden; they are knocking down the walls of houses, backing into the forests, getting under haystacks and generally ceasing all action whenever we're in the area because they very much fear what NATO air is doing to them and we are doing something to them there and so the pace of their activities has been appreciably affected.

Luke: (Question In French)

SACEUR: The question is are we going to attack this white palace, a palace that has been used for ceremonial purposes, it's quite old and there's a Rembrandt apparently in it and it's a palace that a lot of us have been in in the past.

I am not going to hypothesise about what targets will or won't be struck but I would tell you that with respect to the attack on his residence, that residence was also a command-and-control facility that was part of the command-and-control structure in Yugoslavia and it's for that reason that it was struck.

David Shukmann (BBC): General, you say Milosevic is losing but five weeks on, are you any closer to knowing when he might give in? Secondly, we've been hearing about new countries such as Romania offering the right of overflight but how much more convenient would it be if an EU member, namely Austria, granted overflight rights, lying as it does between key NATO air bases in Germany and the theatre of operations?

SACEUR: What we are doing is we are systematically taking apart President Milosevic's structure and power. I can't give you a prediction on how long he's going to endure this kind of punishment. I'm sure he is stunned by many features of the campaign thus far, including the fact that NATO as an alliance has been extremely cohesive - and you saw the results of the summit meeting - and so I think that it is not just the military impact of the bombing, it's the isolation, it's the lack of support from the outside and it's the recognition that in this campaign NATO can't lose and he can't win that's going to drive the course of the air campaign. Obviously, the sooner he comes to full recognition of what the future holds and makes terms with it, the better off it is going to be for him and for the people of Serbia but we've said from the outset that this was going to be a long and sustained campaign and that ultimately it would continue, subject to political guidance, for as long as President Milosevic needed it to continue.

Austria is a neutral country, it's not a member of NATO, it does in certain cases permit overflight, in certain cases it doesn't, those are matters for the sovereign decision of Austria.

Question: On the crash of the Apaches in Tirana, what will be the impact on the combating Apaches and secondly, one of the conditions to stop the bombardment is that Milosevic has to withdraw his troops from Kosovo. If the supply routes are damaged, how would be able, if he wants, to do that?

SACEUR: First of all, with respect to pulling out of Kosovo, if the supply routes are so damaged that he can't get his heavy equipment out there, I'm sure we can make arrangements. He needs to start his troops moving out of Kosovo and he can park the heavy equipment there at the last bridge site and walk off from it and head back into the rest of Serbia and I'm sure we'll be able to verify that so that will be no problem.

We are on track with the preparation for the Apache commitment.

John Dugberg (Los Angeles Times): General, two questions. First, could you return to the question of desertions and tell us how serious you think that's becoming for the Yugoslav army and how you know this, is it the people that you mentioned who are coming into Bosnia, for example, who are your major source?

I know you cautioned us against wanting to do bean-counting of bombing damage assessment but you have been very specific about the damage that you think has been done to the air-defence system and to the Yugoslav air force and very vague about what you called "the mounting personnel and material losses" in Kosovo. Could you explain to us what has been done there exactly?

SACEUR: With respect to the desertions, we have a number of sources on that including interviews with people and other sources. I think it is a significant problem, it's right now not a crushing problem but it is a significant problem and I think we'll see more of that in the weeks to come.

With respect to the ground forces and what we've done to them, the reason we're avoiding any specific bean-counting on the ground forces is because without being there on the ground it's very difficult to give reliable information. We see the tanks that we've struck, we've shown you some pictures of some trucks that we've hit, I'm sure that those are destroyed but as I indicated, he is bringing in reinforcements continually from the Second Army and others so if you actually added up what's there, if one could do this you might actually find out that he has strengthened his forces in there and that's going to be a phenomenon until we can further cut the lines of supply and go more intensively against his forces. We intend to be able to do that as we bring in more assets and as the weather clears obviously we are going to have a much greater impact on him.

Jamie Shea: OK and for this afternoon the final question is to Dirk Koch of "Der Spiegel".

Dirk Koch (Der Spiegel): General, excuse me if I ask again about Apache helicopters. You as an army general should really know why are they so slow in deploying these helicopters. Is there any other reason than logistic reasons, is there a political reason?

SACEUR: No, there are no political reasons why they have taken that long to deploy. On the other hand, by all historical standards, it's a pretty rapid deployment. That is a force package that was put together in Germany, it flew into a single airfield in Tirana simultaneous with a major humanitarian crisis which flooded the airport with refugee flights and humanitarian efforts and so we didn't want to turn off the humanitarian assistance while we brought the Apaches in and it coincided with a spell of some pretty miserable weather - I'm sure you've seen the pictures at Tirana - and so a little bit of ground-work had to be done to sustain the troops but I think by any standard it has still been a fairly rapid deployment and I can tell you that there wasn't anything other than military logistics and common-sense planning and execution holding up this deployment, it certainly wasn't held up for any political reasons.

Jamie Shea: SACEUR, thanks very much. Ladies and Gentlemen, before you leave, can I just say that as you know, I've been trying over the last few weeks to provide you with as much information as we can and to give you the best service that we can and an innovation that I intend to introduce from tomorrow onwards is that at 9.30 I will be available to give you the information of the morning off-camera in order for those of you who obviously have to file in the morning to have something to go with and then we'll have the usual on-camera briefing, as we do every day, at 3 pm.

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much and my special thanks to our special briefer today, SACEUR, and I'm sure you'll be here again before too long.

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