Updated: 9 May 1999 Morning Briefings


9 May 1999

Morning Briefing

By Jamie Shea, NATO Spokesman

Jamie Shea: I hope you have all received by now our operational update which we issued to you earlier this morning, it highlights NATO.s continuing efforts to isolate the Serb forces in Kosovo and to force them to withdraw. You will have seen in particular that last night NATO aircraft continued to attack strategic targets and weaken fielded Serb forces in Kosovo. These strikes have further hampered the ability of the Yugoslav forces to manoeuvre, communicate and re-supply forces thus reducing their overall effectiveness.

Just a quick resume:

Strategic strikes yesterday included the following targets: airfields at Nis, Pristina and Genika; bridges at Nis, Crepija and Magric; a television transmitter site at Cradulevec; radio relay sites at Novipasar, Ivanica, Brudnic, Bladinovac, Crajuvec, Busice and Losnika; military barracks headquarters at Craguvevac, Serbadjevo; and petroleum storage sites at Lokpaknica and Nis and although the weather was not particularly favourable last night, five known artillery and six known mortar positions were hit near Glearlani, two riveted positions, armoured vehicles, other military equipment, troops, a radar site and an assembly site were also struck elsewhere in Kosovo.

I turn now to the tragic mistake committed by NATO yesterday in attacking the Chinese embassy in Belgrade for which once again, as you will know, NATO itself and NATO leaders have expressed their profoundest regrets to the Chinese government.

As for the circumstances of this mistake, I think by now you will have all seen the joint statement issued in Washington yesterday by the US Secretary of Defence, William Cohen, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George Tennet (phon); it alludes to "faulty information in the initial targeting of this facility"; it also rightly points out the unprecedented precision and professionalism that has characterised this air campaign since the outset. I have nothing to add to the statement issued by Mr. Cohen and Mr. Tennet yesterday evening other than to say that NATO continues to pursue its air campaign because it is necessary and it is right.

On the diplomatic front, I am glad to note that activities are ongoing to identify a diplomatic solution to the Kosovo crisis, NATO allies are continuing their engagement with Russia on those diplomatic efforts; you will know that yesterday evening there was a long intensive discussion over dinner between the Russian envoy, Viktor Chirnomyrdin, Chanceller Schrder and the newly-appointed UN Special Envoy, Mr. Carl Bildt, that was a substantive and successful discussion and we know that Russia stands by the G8 principles that were defined just last week and intends to continue working with us to that end. You know that many NATO emissaries are visiting Moscow in coming days, Strobe Talbott is there today and Mr. Vedrine, the French Foreign Minister, goes on Tuesday to prepare a Franco-Russian summit with the President of France visiting on Wednesday and then towards the end of the week, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mr. Aznar, so that clearly shows that NATO countries and Russia are working closely together. And we were gratified yesterday to hear Viktor Chirnomyrdin say that "incidents such as yesterday's error should not detract from our intensified efforts to develop a diplomatic solution." My understanding is that the Political Directors of the G8 will be meeting in Bonn as early as tomorrow to continue their efforts to build in the principles developed by G8 Foreign Ministers last Thursday. There is no indication yet from Belgrade that the Yugoslav authorities yet accept NATO's five fundamental conditions for ending the crisis.

I would also like to underline the importance of the meeting that took place yesterday between Chancellor Schrder and the Kosovar Albanian leader, Ibrahim Rugova. From accounts I have heard of this meeting this morning, I know that Dr. Rugova gave a detailed and graphic description of the plight of the Kosovar Albanians now and he renewed the call that he had made already from Rome a few days ago for a robust international force for Kosovo to enable refugees and displaced persons to have the confidence to return home following a political settlement.

In summary, as the Secretary General made clear yesterday afternoon standing here, NATO will continue to pursue its goals both militarily and diplomatically with continued unity and determination.

I will take just a few questions because I will be back at three with General Jertz for the more detailed daily update.

Questions & Answers

(Note: On several occasions questions were inaudible)

John: Jamies, two questions, if I may. First of all, you referred to faulty information, you may not be able to go into any more detail you suggested but could you give us any idea on who supplied this faulty information and whether or not that sort of information will be used in the future?

Secondly, I see no reference to any attacks on Belgrade itself overnight, have you stopped attacking targets in Belgrade because you're no longer confident that you can hit the right targets?

Jamie Shea: John, thanks for those questions. The statement by the Director of the CIA and by the Secretary of Defence is very clear, it puts the error in the intelligence apparatus and because this is an intelligence matter I should be clear to tell you that I will probably, almost definitely, not have any further information on this, it is an intelligence matter and intelligence matters during military operations have to be kept secret.

As to your second question, we will continue to strike at those targets which we believe are essential to allow Milosevic to continue what he is doing in Kosovo and as long as those targets are targets which could help us to shorten this operation to the extent that they are successfully struck, we will continue to do just that.

Craig Whitney, New York Times: Jamie, still, is there in effect a pause on bombing in Belgrade? The B-word is not on this list.

Jamie Shea: The B-word is not on the list but you have seen the list, though, Craig, and it's a very extensive list and therefore it shows that NATO is continuing with absolutely no reduction in intensity the military operations. We do not have any practice of striking targets in Belgrade every night and therefore I wouldn't look to see any particular significance in the fact that last night Belgrade was not struck, it hasn't been struck on every night by any means, as you know, since the campaign began and the campaign will continue in just the same way that it has been going on over the last six weeks.

Mark Laity (BBC): Sorry to press it!

Jamie Shea: Please press, please press!

Mark Laity: Can we take it, then, that you wouldn't look to see any particular significance and we could take from that then that Belgrade is not off the target list?

Jamie Shea: Nothing is off the target list. SACEUR has made clear, NATO leaders have made clear, that no facility which has a clear military value in devising, planning, conducting, operating the Yugoslav forces in Kosovo will be a sanctuary, they haven't been so far and they won't be in the future.

Question: The reason that you refer to the joint statement from Cohen and CIA Director George Tenet, is it because it was an American intelligence failure that you are relying on that statement as a reaction to the bombing?

Jamie Shea: It is simply that the United States has clarified where the source of the problem lay and that is something to which I don't have anything to add.

Douglas Hamilton, Reuters: Jamie, the BBC correspondent in Belgrade yesterday said there was ill-conceiled glee at the bombing of the Embassy. I think the Allies were expecting China to at least abstain in a security council vote . Is NATO now braced for a set-back at the Security Council and does NATO have any idea what this announcement that we are waiting for from China is going to be?

Jamie Shea: No, I don't have any idea what is coming up but I hope that the lesson that would be drawn from what has happened yesterday - but also in recent weeks - is that if every member of the international community, particularly the members of the Security Council, join with NATO in maximising the pressure on Milosevic, we are far more likely to be able to terminate this operation soon rather than later and therefore it is in everybody's interest to work and support the diplomatic process that the G8 has successfully launched. There is absolutely no interest of anybody in derailing that process and therefore I would hope that the Chinese authorities would accept as sincere and legitimate our apology for the mistake that occurred, would not try to read into it any interpretation which would be erroneous because it was simply a mistake, nothing more, and that China would continue to work with us in putting the pressure on Milosevic because clearly he is the reason why we have not yet achieved peace in Kosovo, he alone bears the responsibility for that.

As you know, Chancellor Schrder is going ahead with his trip to China, a very important trip, on Tuesday and I am sure that Chancellor Schrder, on behalf of the Allies, will once again reiterate to the Chinese authorities our regrets but also underline that it was a mistake, there was never any intention to deliberately target the Chinese embassy and that as a result of this visit and as a result of the other demarche, that the Chinese would not read any political significance into this and continue to work with us, I think that is the sensible solution for everybody. And Doug, I have underlined already the way in which Russia is continuing to work with us, the G8 process is still very much alive and very much on track and I think it will be, I think that we will put this into its context quickly and move on on the diplomatic track.

Jonathan Marcus, BBC: It clearly seems that in military terms despite the weather that.... in operation is growing, with all the diplomatic toing and frowing over the coming weeks - could you put it together and paraphr..... how important this week is going to be diplomatically?

Jamie Shea: I hope very much that the G8 Political Directors will be able to get down to their work quickly in identifying the modalities that we are going to need to translate of course the principles, the five essential conditions, of NATO and the G8 principles, into a plan, a road map, for setting up a transitional authority in Kosovo, for overseeing the departure of the Serb forces, for the introduction of an international security forces, the modalities to define the composition, the mandate for that force - all these are very important - to work out who is going to do what in terms of the involvement of the various international institutions in the arrangements for Kosovo, the planning for the return of the refugees and of course at the same time, Jonathan, working on the text of the UN Security Council resolution which would endorse this approach, would give it the value of international law and make it clear to Milosevic that this is the will of the international community which he cannot and will not be able to resist and I expect that to move along.

There is also going to be a meeting of the European Foreign and Defence Ministers of the WEU with 28 countries involved in Bremen beginning tomorrow and I expect that meeting again to produce a very firm statement of resolve and determination of the international community. We have got several diplomatic events this weeks, I have described some of them, so yes, I think this is going to be an important week for diplomacy but it will also be an important week for NATO to keep up the military pressure.

These two tracks are now interdependent, without diplomacy force has no purpose but without the force that we are using I would not expect the diplomacy to have much of an impression on Milosevic quite frankly, so both tracks will move forward but I hope will increasingly come together as part of a concerted approach to end this crisis.

Judie (National Public Radio) Jamie, can you, without compromising, tell us how the review process in targeting some 24 hours in advance might effect what has happened in 24 hours in Belgrade i.e. a pause. Would it require after yesterday's mistake, by virtue of the way they target things, to stop and say, we need to review this, there has been a mistake, we need to pause for 24 hours because..

Jamie Shea: Julie, if I may just interrupt - I apologise because I need to go to something else which awaits me - but very briefly, there has been no pause. You have seen last night that we had a very wide array

Again, I want to reiterate what I said in reply to Craig and Mark's questions, that we have not been striking at any particular target or location every single night so please do not read any particular significance into the fact that last there were no targets in Belgrade itself. NATO military commanders, as I have said, will continue to select those targets which they believe have to be struck in order to impede the Yugoslav war machine, that has been the policy all along and that remains the policy.

As for the procedures, again I can't comment on that but I would just like to quote one sentence from the joint statement by Secretary Cohen and CIA Director Tennet which says: "A review of our procedures has convinced us that this was an anomaly that is unlikely to occur again!" so you can see that the procedures have been reviewed.

I will see those of you that stay at 3 o'clock this afternoon for a more detailed update. Thank you!

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