|Updated: 4 April 1999||Press Conferences|
4 Apr. 1999
by NATO Spokesman, Jamie Shea
Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon to you, may I wish you all a very happy Easter Sunday. Today the North Atlantic Council has once again, as you would imagine, ladies and gentlemen, focussed on the humanitarian situation. Our most urgent concern and priority. Yesterday, a further 80,000 people were expelled from Kosovo. We are also facing, as you know, a dire situation with about 60,000 trapped in a no-mans-land between the borders of Albania and the border of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Kosovo, in that strip of territory in the south. Many of them have been without food now for over 48 hours.
Yesterday 15,000 more entered Albania, bringing the total there to 190,000, with 90,000 in Kukes alone, and as you know there is still a stream of refugees today into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia where already the system is overloaded, trying to cope with 131,000 refugees.
Now, as you know, in the last 24-48 hours NATO has been mobilising itself and mobilising its member nations to provide immediate assistance. General Sir Michael Jackson, the Commander of the Allied forces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is now fully in charge of the situation, he has received full authority from the Council to direct all of our relief operations. Yesterday already, his troops in the Alliance Rapid Reaction Corps and in the enabling force started tackling the problem with immediate and I think, good effect. They are preparing food and water and transporting that up to the border areas where the refugees of course are now largely stationed, they have constructed, or are constructing six sites for refugees, three of these are already partially operational and are already accommodating 3,500 refugees. The fourth site will be ready in a few days and those sites will enable the NATO forces to be able to provide accommodation for 20,000 refugees very, very soon.
At the same time, the NATO forces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are coordinating the arrival of humanitarian airlifts at Skopja airport, offloading food and supplies. We are also looking to see if those humanitarian planes can take back with them, to NATO countries, refugees. And we are very encouraged today by the fact that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has decided to process further refugees on its border.
In the last 24 hours, as I mentioned, many NATO countries have offered to re-settle refugees on a temporary basis for instance: Germany, Greece, Norway, Turkey, Canada and the USA. Just to give you an example of what NATO countries are doing to take the pressure off Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
In fact, when it comes to humanitarian assistance, money, food pharmaceuticals, medicine. All NATO countries, every single one of the 19 are providing assistance at the moment. I have the latest statistics for those of you who are interested after my briefing.
Yesterday the Secretary General spoke once again to Mrs. Ogota, the Head of the UN High Commission for Refugees, to assess what we can do to help. Mrs. Ogota suggested four areas where NATO could provide immediate assistance. Airlift management. Off-loading and storage of relief supplies. Logistical help in establishing refugee camps and to help receiving refugees on a temporary basis which is exactly what the NATO countries are now doing generously.
Now, as a further step, as I speak to you today, we are holding, here at NATO Headquarters, an emergency coordination meeting of the important international organisations involved in the relief effort. The idea is to develop a practical no-nonsense, non bureaucratic, coordinated approach bringing the military and the civilian aspects into close harmony to have the most effective, immediate impact on the situation.
Today, we have the European Union present. Both the German Presidency and also the Commission, representing of course the EU countries. We have the OSCE, the Western European Union, the Council of Europe and of course the UNHCR. This meeting is being chaired jointly by NATO and the European Union which I think is a good example of the developing cooperation of our two institutions, particularly in this humanitarian field. And I hope later today to be able to inform you, in more detail, of the immediate results of that meeting, which, as I have said is still on-going.
At the same time, in just a few moments we are expecting SHAPE to submit to us two concepts of operations for NATO assistance to Albania. The first one is going to deal with airlift, and the second one is going to deal, as I told you yesterday, with the rapid deployment of a forward headquarters into Albania, backed up quickly by NATO force elements to provide a central coordinating authority for refugee assistance in support of the government and in support of the UNHCR. And I will obviously keep you posted on that.
However, already, NATO countries have delivered helicopters to Albania to help transport supplies up from Tirana to Kukes where the bulk of the refugees are now located, as you well know and also to bring out those that need immediate medical assistance.
Finally, in the field of humanitarian assistance. NATO is working on a daily basis with EUROCONTROL which coordinates, as you know, airspace management and regional airports in the theatre, to facilitate the rapid flow and off-loading of humanitarian supplies and to de-conflict those humanitarian airlifts with of course the military operations on-going over the Adriatic and in the region as a whole.
I would like at this stage, as we look at the Kosovo crisis, to reiterate to you NATO's fundamental objectives in the Kosovo crisis and what I would like to point out, whatever you may have thought and heard yesterday, is that NATO's objectives have not, I repeat not, changed. At this moment no new political decisions have been taken. We stand by those objectives that we want a democratic, peaceful, multi-ethnic Kosovo. We want Yugoslavia to stop, once and for all, its policy of repression and expulsion of the Kosovar Albanians. We want to provide an environment in which all refugees, all refugees, are able to return without fear of further intimidation or repression. It is a basic moral right of the international community to ensure that those who have been forced from their homes are able to go back and we are convinced that the safe return of refugees will require the deployment of an international military presence to uphold an environment of security without which refugees will not be able, or want, to return, and in the Rambouillet Agreement, of course, it is provided for a NATO-led force. And finally, we want to be able to achieve a durable political settlement for Kosovo based on the Rambouillet Agreement.
Let me move on, if I may, briefly, to our contacts with neighbouring countries. I have been stressing in these briefings that we are very keen to coordinate, cooperate, consult, inform neighbouring countries, many of which are providing assistance and which of course are also concerned, at the moment not to be unduly affected by the destabilising repercussions of the Kosovo crisis.
Yesterday the Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, Ambassador Kleiber, held another multilateral collective briefing with the seven countries in this group. There is another briefing for them this afternoon. And tomorrow, the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, Ambassador Sergio Balanzino will start on a trip to four of the countries. He will be going first to Romania, then to Bulgaria, then to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, returning here on Wednesday. His mission is to consult with the governments at senior level on the Kosovo crisis. To express to them NATO's support and active assistance and of course to assess, at first hand, the situation on the ground, particularly in Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
I would like, if I may briefly, before handing over to David, just to say a few closing words.
Firstly, I was asked yesterday a question about the circumstances of Ibrahim Regova. I would like to inform you that one of our NATO Allies has had contacts in the last few hours with some close associates of Ibrahim Regova, and from those contacts we have learned that his house is permanently occupied by Serb security forces. His family is able to live only on the first floor of that house. He has no freedom of movement but has to report to the local police station several times a day. It seems from these contacts of Regova, again I stress these are contacts of Regova as communicated to a NATO Ally. That the message that he gave and which was conveyed by Serb television, where he was reported to have called for a halt to NATO's actions, was in fact a call for the cessation of violence in Kosovo and it was altered in the transcription and those sources believe that the pictures that you saw on Serb tv of Regova with Milosovic go back to about two years ago when the ................. called on setting up, as you know Albanian language education in Kosovo was signed.
Now, again, I am not going to say that all of this is something which I can totally confirm but it is simply information in response to a question that I was asked yesterday as provided by one NATO Ally. That's the best knowledge that we have at the moment as to the circumstances of Ibrahim Regova.
This morning we had a very impressive message from the Pope, as you know, calling for a stop to the cruel shedding of human blood and casting his thoughts, particularly at this Eastertime, to all of the people who have been killed, made homeless, been torn from their families and forced to flee. NATO fully shares those thoughts and those concerns.
Finally, today is a somewhat special day here because, not only is it Easter Sunday when our thoughts always go to the victims of this world, but it's also NATO's fiftieth anniversary. I am sure that none of us thought a few years ago that this would be the circumstances in which we would mark NATO's 50th anniversary. But then this organisation was not set up to deal with the happy situations in life. It was set up to deal with the tough crisis situations which we now face. But I can assure you that if we can mark this 50th anniversary year by bringing peace to Kosovo and stopping the repression that will be a perfectly happy substitute for a birthday party.
Air Commodore Wilby: Thank you Jamie. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
In Kosovo FRY military forces are moving westward from their positions in the Malisevo area to engage the UCK forces in the border region with Albania. This is the last area in which the UCK will be able to mount a serious resistance. Their recruiting is reportedly buoyant, especially amongst male refugees and they are undoubtedly starting the process of rebuilding their force.
The humanitarian crisis is deepening with many thousands waiting to cross the border into Macedonia. There have been reports of deaths, largely from hypothermia, amongst those tired, hungry, rain-soaked and mistreated people. As I told you yesterday, the Allied Command Europe Rapid Reaction Corps, or the ARRC as we it, is very active in Macedonia. It is providing assistance and evolving the organisation necessary to help the UNHCR deal with this overwhelming disaster. Progress is being made and already tents have been erected to house 11,000 people. 25,000 meals have been served in the last 24 hours and more relief is on the way. We are still working on our concept of operations to provide the same assistance in Albania.
We are urgently formulating the organisation and plans to dovetail the flow of aircraft carrying humanitarian aid in with the activities associated with our operational mission. This is a complex task but we are moving ahead quickly. We are confident that with the goodwill and excellent liaison existing between all the major agencies involved, we will be able to manage this problem efficiently and without detriment to our combat operations. Obviously this relief effort is vital, but we still have a considerable way to go with the air campaign..
Turning to the air campaign. While poor weather affected some of our sorties both manned and cruise missiles were able to hit their targets. Because of weather considerations our air effort was concentrated around Belgrade with attacks being conducted against major army and security force facilities in the city including the headquarters of the Yugoslav First Army. We also struck the Belgrade internal security institute and important petroleum depots. These were all military and military-related facilities that were judged critical targets to our overall campaign effectiveness. They were successfully attacked and collateral damage remains low.
Attacks outside Belgrade were against highway bridges another petroleum storage area and an ammunition plant. Whilst I have no imagery to show you I can assure you that the very hot spots that we had imaged, and coverage from Serbian television, give us a very warm feeling as to the success of these attacks.
Surface-to-air missile activity was again light and happily once again we lost no aircraft. Although one F-16 diverted into another base with a mechanical problem. It landed safely. Equally, we did not claim any Serbian aircraft in the air.
If you recall yesterday, I showed you Serbian tv pictures of the damaged MUP building in Belgrade. I can now show you some our own imagery covering the damage. This is the building before the attack and you will note that I have highlighted with a green arrow the position of the hospital which has been mentioned in the media. And the second slide shows you it after the attack. You will notice the destruction on the front end of the building.
Finally, I have one clip to show you today, it is a weapon video from one of our recent attacks against a radar site near Pristina. This site had been an important part of the FRY integrated air defence system within Kosovo. This element no longer poses a threat to our air crews.
As you have seen, NATO military forces are striking in the FRY heartlands and will continue to do so. President Milosovic and his forces will pay a high price for their crimes against humanity. But keep in mind, NATO military forces are only targeting military-related assets. Our struggle is with the FRY authorities not with the Serb people.
Jamie Shea: OK. Patricia please.
Patricia Kelly, CNN: Jamie, on the refugee front you said yesterday that you were worried that refugees might be pushed towards Montenegro. What can NATO do to help the situation there should that occur?
Jamie Shea: Well, good question, thank you Patricia. About 1,000, I didn't mention this in my briefing, but about 1,000 also entered Montenegro yesterday, but that is a reduced flow and smaller than numbers in previous days, but certainly the situation is grave because my understanding is about 15 per cent of the population of Montenegro is now made up of refugees. Again, putting an enormous burden on the social system there. What we of course want to do, in the first instance, is to try to stabilise the situation in Montenegro and you have heard the clear messages vis-a-vis Belgrade, that have come out from NATO countries in recent hours regarding any attempt to undermine the elected government of President Ducanovic of course there. But for the time being the focus of our efforts is of course on those places where we are able, effectively, to deliver the humanitarian supplies. That is to say Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We don't yet, at the moment at least, have any direct NATO assistance programmes into Montenegro. I'm not sure if the UNHCR does, that's something you will either have to check or you could check through your own parts.
Patricia Kelly: Can I just follow up. You are not prepared to drop food supplies into Serbia because the food might go to the military. But would you be able to drop supplies into Montenegro if the situation got worse?
Jamie Shea: That's a good question. For the time being I cannot give you an affirmative answer, because I am not aware that that is something that NATO has looked at yet. But certainly we have had a preliminary look, as David reported the other day, at the prospects of dropping food supplies into Kosovo, and the conclusion is, is that first of all there is little guarantee, as you say, that those packages would get to the right people. Our aim is not to give Serb soldiers hearty meals. And secondly you would have to deliver those supplies with low-flying propeller-driven aircraft for the most part, which in the current environment could be vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles.
Let's go to another one. Gentleman there. Yes sir.
Stars and Stripes: I have three questions for the Air Commodore. General Clarke said yesterday that there are indications that Yugoslav Special Forces were involved in the capture of the three US soldiers. He said it was a deliberate and premeditated act to humiliate and intimidate US leadership. Can you tell us what indications that you do have that these Special Forces were involved and if there were any incursions and any update on the three captured American soldiers. Also, there are thirteen F-117 Stealth Fighters coming to Europe. The German press has reported that they are going to ............... Airbase because Aviano is full. Can you confirm this and there has been indications in Washington that Apache Helicopters will be used in air strikes. When will they be used and where will they come from? Bosnia, Germany or the US?
Jamie Shea: Ok, well that's a good load of questions for you.
Air Commodore Wilby: And I'm afraid that for such a long series of questions my answers to you are going to be very limited because of the sensitivity of the questions that you have so carefully put to me.
First of all, as to the episode of our soldiers. I can give you no more information on that whatsoever.
As to where Stealth Fighters may go, once again, that is a disposition of our forces and not one which I am prepared to release to you today.
And finally, in the same vein, and I am sorry the Apache falls into the same category. It would be wrong of me to tell you where we were going to base them and how they were going to operate.
Jamie Shea: Well, on the, if I may, because this gentleman is looking for information to the extent that we can give it. On the US soldiers, the only thing that I can tell you is that so far we have been unsuccessful in getting access to them by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Again this is a violation of the Geneva Convention, Third Geneva Convention, which does prescribe that the International Committee of the Red Cross should be able to visit these three.
Secondly you saw yesterday indications that they are going to be put on trial, or appear before some kind of court. It now looks as if that is going to happen before the end of the week. That is both in substance and in technicality also a violation of the Geneva Convention which prescribes that a much longer notice period has to be given before such individuals can be put on trial, even if, even if, there was some legitimate basis for doing so. Which there clearly isn't. These individuals have not done anything, they have been absolutely no threat whatever to Yugoslavia and they have been illegally snatched and detained and we still call for their release.
Ok, that's all I've got on that one.
Danish Broadcasting: On the refugees, you mentioned a few countries that have committed themselves to take refugees to the European countries. Did the Secretary General, or anyone else, ask the rest of the countries to do that duty as well or is it a common position now that it would be helpful for the conflict that more of the European countries took refugees out of the area.
Jamie Shea: Thanks for that question. What I gave you was simply some examples because I know that you like, and I like too to be specific and to give examples. And those countries, not the only ones, let me be clear, I didn't want to reel you off an exhaustive list but just to give you an example of how generous and how rapid countries have been in accepting some of the refugees and that is a very important part of taking some of the pressure off Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. But let me state one thing. What we will not tolerate is a situation where the temporary becomes the permanent. This is being done strictly on a humanitarian temporary basis. This in no way weakens our resolve to create the conditions in Kosovo for those people to go back home. They want to go home. The idea is not simply to have a new refugee population floating around Europe, but to get those people back. So our governments, the governments that are doing this really see it as a temporary measure.
Ok, Nick please.
Journalist: Yes Jamie, you sounded very concerned about the numbers of refugees trapped in Kosovo itself. Now yesterday you were saying that Sir Michael Jackson has a mandate to act, a humanitarian mandate to act in any way he likes. Does that include getting food and medicine to people who are actually in Kosovo.
Jamie Shea: No, for the time being that is concerned, as you know, with the territory where he is based, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, but he is being very active there I can assure you. He has set up an emergency operation centre. He's been asked, and he has redirected all of his vehicles, his logistics, towards carting up to the frontier water, 200,000 litres is the requirement that he sees. 10,000 ready-to-eat meals per day and so on. Hopefully the refugees will like military ready-to-eat meals, but at least they are a form of sustenance, and he will do whatever is required. Vehicle control and airspace coordination and so on. At the same time the Council did ask him today to also look at the idea of the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, for some kind of sanctuary area on the border but in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. So we will be taking up that British idea, examining to what degree, from the NATO point of view, we can do something on those lines, but there are no plans at this time to be active in Kosovo, although we hope we can be active in Kosovo soon in the context of having stopped the violence and moving on to a NATO peace support operation there which alone, as I said, will allow refugees to go back.
Let's continue, gentleman there please.
Journalist: Jamie, I was wondering, when do you think, or can you envisage a time when the refugees will be airlifted out of the areas they are currently in to the countries in Europe? I mean is there any kind of time line, 24 hours, 48 hours at all?
Jamie Shea: No, I think it's probably going to take longer than that simply given the numbers, but what I did mention is the humanitarian aircraft which are taking in supplies as they would normally go back empty wouldn't they? But this time round they can go back with certain refugees already so that this thing is beginning to happen.
Yes, lets go to ....
Journalist: Thank you Jamie, it's a question for Air Commodore Wilby.
I understand why you are reluctant on information on the NATO troops NATO Air Strikes but maybe you can give out more details on the Serb troops in Kosovo South in terms of how large they are and their tanks as well and just to attack them it would be the third phase or you are already able.
Air Commodore Wilby: Let me try and answer that question. This week, during the course of the week, I've been giving you details of various motorised brigades and the activities of the folk on the ground. I've mentioned Arkan's Tigers, to name but one of several guerilla groups. We are trying to keep as good a picture as we can, using all our intelligence sources, to give us a feel for where those people are and that's really how I can give you an update.
As to precise figures. Then it is more difficult for me to put my hand on my hear and say to you exactly how many people are there. We can keep a very good count, not a very good count, we can keep a pretty accurate account of the number of armoured units, the number of ACPs and tanks that are moving around and I am pleased to say that already today we have struck those units on the ground.
Jamie Shea: Doug please.
Journalist: Two questions if I may. Air Commodore Wilby, you announced as a positive development the fact that the KLA were managing to regroup albeit that they are pushed practically to the borders of Albania. Is NATO doing anything to help them. If indeed this is considered something positive.
And for Jamie, if I may try again this question. You have said that NATO's objectives are not changing but I think some people detect the change in its strategy and in its demands in that according to Rambouillet Milosovic was invited to agree to a NATO peacekeeping force now it would seem that NATO is going to escort ethnic Albanians back to their homes whether he likes it or not or whether he agrees to it - signed paper or not - it's going to happen.
Air Commodore Wilby: Doug, let me pick up the first part of your question. And let me say that NATO in this is the honest broker. Our job is not to take sides and to be neutral and to watch what goes on, but obviously we are getting reports from the number of refugees who come flooding through and we are getting a reasonable idea of the disposition and what sort of status the UCK is in.
Jamie Shea: Doug, what I would say to that at this stage of developments is that the political objectives, the goals of NATO are clear and have not changed but obviously we are an Alliance that lives in the real world and the means with which we will achieve those objectives will always be adapted to the circumstances that we face. And that is the only answer that I am going to give you today on that one.
Yes, sorry, microphone here please, yes that's it.
Journalist: Thanks Jamie, Air Commodore there is one thing I would like you to help me on. We have been bombing for many days and we understand now the whole of us that NATO will not go backwards, at the same time, you know better than I do that to win a war you must go on the ground. What is the solution now. And after this we have seen yesterday the decision of the Council to bring 6,000 men into Albania. If I look at the map and I see 12,000 in Macedonia, 6,000 in Albania and many thousands in Bosnia there is a kind of a circle around Mr. Milosovic.
To Jamie, the next question was about some change in NATO. We notice not the change but maybe you trying to adapt to the situation. We know that Kosovo means a lot to any Serb and that's why Mr. Milosovic has got the support of the people, that a few days ago were against him. Is there any possibility for NATO to consider that whatever happens Serbia, Kosovo, will also be a part of Serbia.
Air Commodore Wilby: Let me try and answer that first part of the question. We are going forward. Our air campaign is definitely moving forward and I think as I was talking before this conference to a couple of reporters, you have to bear in mind that we are in a very complex and difficult situation. The terrain is difficult, we are fighting in winter, we have been up against the bad weather. But bear also in mind that before we went into the Gulf we had something like five to six weeks of an air campaign with far more aircraft and people and a far more permissive environment. In the time that we have been conducting our air campaign we have made great inroads and as I have tried to build up for you this week, without giving you percentages, and without in some cases giving you hard fact. All I've been able to try and give you is a feeling that we are moving forward.
As to the wonderful idea of yours that we are producing this encirclement. The troops that we have in Macedonia under General Jackson are very much there as the peacekeeping force ready to go in and they have go their hands full now preparing for that and also dealing with the humanitarian situation. If we move and I don't think we've quite finalise the numbers of forces into Albania. Once again, their primary task will be to look after the humanitarian effort and to make sure that we give the refugees as much help as we can to get back on their feet.
As to Bosnia, well Bosnia is a long way away and in terms of their own jobs, they've got a job to do themselves, so whilst it may seem a very plausible way, I don't think that is anything like the sort of situation that we find ourselves in.
Jamie Shea: I'm sorry, your question is obviously an extremely good one. It prompts me to try to do a little thinking from up here.
The fact of the matter is that nobody has been trying to take Kosovo away from Yugoslavia. We have made it clear all along that the Allies have never supported the goal of independence for Kosovo, and we still don't, we still believe that the answer is a highly developed status of autonomy. After all I mean Kosovo had this until 1989 and nobody is going to tell me that the situation was worse before 1989 that it became subsequently where Milosovic took the autonomy away. But, Yugoslavia is, whether it likes it or not, is a multi-ethnic society, like most European countries, and not only because of 1.8 million Kosovar Albanians. There is the Hungarian-speaking community, ethnic Hungarian community, in .................. there is a sizeable Moslem community. In the Sanjac, even in Kosovo itself there are Egyptian, Turkish and other ethnic communities and if I were a sociologist or a student of these matters I would probably discover more and therefore the future of Yugoslavia certainly cannot be as a mono-ethnic state. Clearly not. So manifestly the future of Yugoslavia depends crucially on the ability of the different ethnic groups to live in some kind of harmony with each other. Now, many other countries grapple with this problem and have managed more or less to solve it, or at least to solve it without violence. And, therefore, if other European countries are able to do this it should not be beyond the wit of Yugoslavia to find a formula for this as well, and that is why our goal is a democratic Kosovo. But at the same time, there is no doubt that, autonomy works better in democratic states than in authoritarian ones, because democratic states clearly are more willing to make the compromises and do the power-sharing to allow different communities to have autonomy together.
And that's the best answer I can give you.
Now, Molosovic had a golden opportunity, presented to him on a plate in France just a few weeks ago in the form of the Rambouillet Agreement. And many legitimate Serb interests were taken into account in that Rambouillet Agreement. It would have protected the Serb minority of Kosovo from the majority Albanian community as well as protecting the Kosovar Albanian minority in Yugoslavia from the Serb majority. It was a very balanced agreement. But Milosovic refused it. And made it clear that he was interested in a military solution. That is why NATO has acted.
Ah, yes now we will go to the gentleman from Turkish television.
Journalist: Jamie, you said that NATO is working very closely with EUROCONTROL for the airspace managing and that early this morning the Turkish Prime Minister declared that there was a problem with Bulgaria because Bulgaria does not authorise the Turkish humanitarian aeroplane to go to Albania, I think. Do you have any information regarding this.
The second thing is that you said that NATO objective has not changed yet. But ok if the objective has not changed does the way to reach the objective change a little bit and last thing is, Russia declared two days ago that it will give some humanitarian aid to Yugoslavia so how do we know that inside this humanitarian aid there isn't any spare parts for weapons or things like that. Is there such a guarantee.
Jamie Shea: On the last question. Obviously there is an embargo of the United Nations prohibiting arms imports into Yugoslavia and I think it is incumbent on all members of the UN and the UN Security Council to respect that because they voted it so those who voted it must respect it clearly.
On the first aspect of your question regarding Bulgaria. I don't have any information at all on overflights there so I can't answer that question.
And would you remind me of your second question.
Journalist: NATO's objective hasn't changed.
Jamie Shea: Well I answered that question when Doug asked it earlier so I think I will stick with my answer on that occasion.
Madam Savage please.
Madam Savage: First of all, I would like to congratulate NATO defence Alliance on its 50th Anniversary and to wish you a peaceful Easter.
And my question to the Air Commodore is.
How do you define, could you define this military target and especially military related targets. For example we know that two bridges were hit. Can you confirm that it is exclusively military targets or there is a civilian aspect of this. Could we expect that for example a food factory could be hit just because it can be used for military food.
And for Jamie, can you please answer for me the consequence of these targets. Is NATO facing the possibility of a humanitarian catastrophe in Serbia itself.
Air Commodore Wilby: Mrs. Savage, thank you for your greetings and thank you for your question.
I've tried to explain to you this week that the targeting process, how we select our targets is a very careful one. It's a difficult operation and one on which we spend an enormous amount of time, meticulous effort to try and make sure that the targets we go against are military-related facilities. I've said time and time again that our fight. Our conflict is not with the people. It is with the government and the regime. Now sometimes the targets that we may choose. Bridges, the highway bridges that we have been taking down recently. Of course they do interrupt the flow of civilian traffic and for that you know we are very sorry, but this isn't a cricket match. We are really having to press hard against the Serbian military and special police units. We know that taking those bridges down, whilst it causes some inconvenience to civilians, it is causing immense inconvenience to the units that we are trying to stop resupplying their forces down in the heart of Kosovo with the ammunition, the fuel and the supplies to keep up their activities.
But, let me assure you, we will never go for a food factory, and before any target is chosen it will be subjected to the utmost political and military scrutiny to make sure that we are doing as minimal amount of damage as necessary to get the job done and particularly I think, during this religious festival, sometimes to try and save mankind in general there is sometimes a bit of sacrifice and pain that has to be experienced. But it is not any wish of any of our soldiers, our sailors, our marines or airmen, that we should bring undue suffering to any of the civilian population of Serbia.
Jamie Shea: A question was directed to me so I will do my best to answer it.
The best answer I can give is that NATO countries have been spending the best part of the last five years helping Serbs. I have seen it at first hand in Eastern Slavonia during the United Nations Mission there to which Belgium and other Allies contributed in a major way, which for a long period protected the rights of the Serbs there and guaranteed that their housing rights, their human rights, their voting rights, educational rights were upheld until such time as we worked out a satisfactory solution for the re-integration of Eastern Slavonia into Croatia. We spent our time defending Serbs.
Secondly, for the last three or four years I have been going, practically every month with the Secretary General to Bosnia where ..... well into its fourth year has been spending its time helping Serbs in ........................ Rebuilding schools, reconstructing a railroad system, reconnecting the telephone system, helping with all kinds of projects and NATO governments have been in the forefront of giving economic aid to the RS to try to bring the standard of living up vis-a-vis the Federation and many Serbs are grateful, as you know to ............ there in Bosnia. So really, this is not something which should ever be considered on an ethnic line. We are against dictatorships and brutality, no matter what ethnic badge they carry, and we always will be and as I said yesterday, my sense, the sense of all of us is that if the people of Yugoslavia are suffering today, it's not because of NATO. Since President Milosovic came to power at the end of the 1980's the standard of living for the average Yugoslav has taken a belly-dive and doesn't show signs of getting any better. It's Milosovic who has isolated a great people from the European mainstream where it belongs and this is a tragedy of course for the whole region but first and foremost for the people of Yugoslavia themselves. And really, all of us at NATO want to look rapidly to the end of this Kosovo crisis and to the time where we can look beyond it to set in train a programme. A regional development programme for the area including Yugoslavia, to which NATO could contribute through its Partnership for Peace style cooperation programmes and contacts involving other institutions. We don't want Yugoslavia to be a prior state, which it has become unfortunately. And as I say we want to finish this job in Yugoslavia to solve the situation there so that we can start turning our attention towards the whole business of political reconstruction.
Ken that's the best answer I can give you, but again, we have no quarrel with the Serb people. I repeat my point that I believe that many Serb people are probably rather aggrieved by what is going on in Kosovo along with their European brethren.
Let's just take one final question for today, gentleman there in the red shirt.
Journalist: Question for the Air Commodore.
Can you confirm reports that the weather is now clearing and the prospects of good weather over Yugoslavia is increasing in the next 24 hours.
And the second question. How many aircraft do you now have in the theatre of operations? Regarding that Theodore Roosevelt has arrived.
Air Commodore Wilby: I'm not prepared to give you the numbers of aircraft that we've got but it is expanding. But what I would say with a big smile on my face is that the weather is turning and I can assure you that we are geared up to make the absolute most of the break in the weather and you will see us press home our attacks, particularly against the forces on the ground.
Jamie Shea: Ok. I think that is probably enough for today ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for coming and the same briefing at the same time tomorrow. 3 p.m. Thank you.