Updated: 11 May 1999 Morning Briefings


11 May 1999

Morning Briefing

By Jamie Shea, NATO Spokesman

Jamie Shea: As you have seen from the extensive range of operations yesterday during the day and during the night, it is clear that there is no pause in NATO's operation Allied Force which now enters its 49th day. A partial withdrawal of Serb forces, if it is achieved - and so far we've seen no evidence of it being carried out - is insufficient to meet the requirements for NATO to stop its air operations. For that to happen, President Milosevic will have to accept and also comply fully with the five essential requirements of the international community which you are very familiar with already. Until such time, NATO will continue to apply maximum pressure against President Milosevic's government, military pressure, diplomatic pressure and economic pressure.

Last night, NATO brought the full weight of its air operations to bear against the forces of Yugoslavia in the field in Kosovo and also against strategic targets throughout Yugoslavia that keep those forces supplied, equipped and informed. NATO attacked the complete array of Serb forces on the ground in Kosovo from tanks and armoured vehicles to artillery and mortar positions to troops and assembly area. Once again, the focus of our action was to cut those forces off.

We attacked 7 radio relay sites at the following locations: Savac, Cenika, Ivanicka, Urosevac, Azar, Kosovska and Crucivac - these radio relay sites, as you know, provide the Serb forces with their orders and intelligence. We also attacked 7 highway bridges yesterday at Milesevo, Kokimbrode, Velikoaraste, Raska, Bari, Mencano and Kumselidia and we also struck at a railway bridge at Grediliscka that sends supplies and replacement forces to Serb troops.

Also yesterday, the petroleum storage sites were once again a priority of the NATO military commanders, petroleum storage sites were struck at Sobo, Pozega and Pirani; we also struck at munition stores at Lisinje and the Losovac Barracks; we targeted also an army barracks at Pancevo and another one at Avala. Another target yesterday was the headquarters of the MUP, the special police forces, inside the Valjevo police barracks. We also struck at Kacac at an ordinance repair centre, at an explosives plant at Baric and at a tv radio relay transmitter at Sabotica so as you can see, a very extensive range of targets and operations indeed and I am glad to report that all of the NATO aircraft arrived safely back at their bases. General Jertz will have of course a fuller account for you when he comes to give the briefing at 3 o'clock this afternoon.

Just a couple of other things before I stop briefly:

Today, SACEUR is visiting NATO troops in Brindisi and Gioia del Colle in Italy, a CNN crew has gone with him and that crew will provide full service. If any of you are interested in the footage, please talk to them and we are grateful of course to CNN for doing that and hopefully you can get the full footage later on.

As you know also, the Secretary General is travelling tomorrow to the region, he is going to be in Albania in the morning and in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the afternoon and he will be back at the end of the day. Just to give you some indications, he will be meeting of course, as you would imagine, the President and Prime Minister of Albania, he will be visiting a couple of refugee camps, most notably at Elbusan, and speaking of course to the refugees and in Skopje he will meet of course the military commanders, visit NATO troops, he will be doing of course the same in Albania as well; meeting in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia with the President, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence and going to the Sigrani camp where as you know currently NATO forces, particularly German engineers, are working to extend the camp and to provide extra tentage facilities. There will be some press opportunities both in Albania and in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and we will put out a press release with the timings and the details later on.

That is what I have for you for the time being. I will take a few questions.

Rick: Jamie, how do you plan on verifying any kind of a troop withdrawal without ground troops in Kosovo?

Jamie Shea: Rick, if it is a substantial withdrawal rather than simply a token one, I think it will be pretty obvious. Tanks and vehicles, towed artillery, are fairly big pieces of equipment and if President Milosevic is pulling them out, to come back to my expression there'll be plenty of dust on the tracks which we will be able to verify very easily and it will be clear if it is a real withdrawal or simply a rotation but we have had no signs yet of any significant withdrawal taking place.

Michael: Jamie, will NATO take steps to facilitate the withdrawal of Serb forces if you do see that they are withdrawing, by which I mean if a column troops were to be leaving the area would NATO refrain from attacking it while continuing its campaign in other parts of Yugoslavia?

Jamie Shea: Michael, for that we have to be convinced that those forces are withdrawing rather than simply relocating, that will be a decision for the operational commanders to take but obviously if those forces are genuinely withdrawing, clearly withdrawing, then we are not going to impede that withdrawal because we want those forces out so that is clear but the military commanders will have to be satisfied that what we are seeing is a sincere, real, significant withdrawal and not simply a feint or a manoeuvre.

Jonathan Marcus, BBC: ...phone call from Mr. Milosevic to actually announce a full withdrawal...in the units gathering for whatever purpose, be it to move out of Kosovo or whatever, presumably NATO is still going to hit them. That is question number one.

Question number two on the Chinese. Could you be clear, is it your understanding that China is in effect saying that it will veto any UN resolution unless the air campaign halts in advance of that?

Jamie Shea: On the first question, Jonathan, it is clear that the NATO air operations will keep up with the same intensity that you see at the moment until the forces of Yugoslavia leave Kosovo, that is one of the essential five conditions of the Alliance that has been reiterated a number of times and the Washington Declaration of the NATO Heads of State just a couple of weeks back makes clear that we will stop the air operation only when we are satisfied that those forces, all of them, are really withdrawing and I think it is going to be clear. We will know it when we see it, it is obvious if this is really something which is total and really going ahead.

On the second point on what the Chinese said, I would hope very much that China will work constructively with Russia - Mr. Chernomyrdin is there today of course in Beijing - and also the Allies in the UN to pass a resolution which would oblige Milosevic to accept a settlement in Kosovo based on the five essential conditions of NATO and on the G8 principles. I know that China is angry at the moment but I hope that that anger will subside, particularly as China understands that there was nothing intentional whatever in the mistake that occurred and led to the damage done to the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. China has consistently said that we need a diplomatic solution, we need a political solution and the best way to achieve that diplomatic and political solution is to work on the basis of a UN Security Council resolution so I wouldn't rush to judgement quite frankly. As you know, Chancellor Schrder is going off to Beijing today and I believe he will send a strong, constructive message to the Chinese government, first of all regrets but also of a desire to co-operate so let's see what happens.

Julie: The Italian President has reportedly come out of Macedonia and called for a halt to the bombing. I wonder if you could comment on that and if you could characterise for us the tone of the NAC meetings since the Chinese embassy has been bombed. Is there a crack in the consensus at all that you can shed some light on, particularly in light of what the Italian President has now said?

Jamie Shea: President Scalfaro when he was in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia yesterday, also made clear that he expected the Serb forces to leave Kosovo and Milosevic to comply fully with the five conditions and the position of the Italian government on this is one of full solidarity with the Alliance. We all want NATO air strikes to end but they only can end when our objectives are met otherwise we would not have achieved what we set out to have achieve and we would have failed to keep our commitment to all of those Kosovar Albanians that are depending upon NATO to be able to go back.

The mood in the NAC has been good. Obviously on Saturday morning when we learned about the attack on the Chinese embassy, the mood was very sombre, as you can imagine and all Allies have felt about this in exactly the same way, it is not as if some have regretted this more than others, all Allies have all expressed their regrets to the Chinese authorities, all of them asked military commanders to make sure that the mistake that occurred in the intelligence targeting procedure is identified and corrected so that this doesn't happen again but at the same time all of them to a leader have reaffirmed that this incident, no matter how regrettable, cannot, must not blow NATO off course, we have to keep to our objectives. We should not, if you like, compound one mistake by an even larger mistake of stopping now before we have achieved our objectives and handing President Milosevic ethnic cleansing on a plate so the mood is a sombre one but it is also one of determination to carry on and you have seen that of course reflected in the number of sorties and strikes that occurred last night.

Question: Jamie, since the Yugoslav tanks head north this is going to kick up a lot of dust but so what, what is the required pattern for NATO to decide that there is a withdrawal? Suppose they just cross into Serbia proper and then they can turn around and come back?

The second question on China is has any private intelligence been conveyed to the Chinese to assuage their fear that it was something intentional?

Jamie Shea: Thank you for those questions. Kosovo is a very small place and you can get a tank out within a matter of an hour or two, or at least quickly, so it is clear when a withdrawal is a withdrawal but again, we are not going to be satisfied with a partial withdrawal. A partial withdrawal is insufficient, we want the full withdrawal. President Milosevic has an enormous number of forces in Kosovo, we know he has 40,000 which is massive for a place which is about the size of Wales in my country. Can you imagine 40,000 troops in Wales and 300-plus tanks? Therefore, a partial withdrawal which leaves the bulk of those security forces still there still carrying out all of their ethnic cleansing activities, still terrorising the local population simply is not sufficient, they have to go and until such time as they all leave, we are going to keep up all - and I repeat all - of our operations.

As for the question of the intelligence to the Chinese, no I am not aware of that, I don't have any information on that but as you know, Chancellor Schrder when he goes today, will on behalf of all of the Allies express our regrets and also reassure the Chinese - as Secretary Cohen did yesterday in his remarks - that we have identified the problem in the system, we have corrected and that what happened was an anomaly, it is not something that we are going to repeat.

Same Questioner: A follow-up if I may on the tanks. I understood that the condition set by NATO was for a beginning of a withdrawal to happen.

Jamie Shea: Yes but the beginning of a full withdrawal, not a question of I'm going to pull out a few tanks as a goodwill gesture but all of the others are going to stay and carry on their offensive operations! We want all of them to turn round, in other words they should see Kosovo in their rear-view mirrors. But what do we know about a partial withdrawal, what does that mean, what is President Milosevic talking about? We have no details on this, number one, nor at the moment do we have an indication that it is taking place. It is facts that impress, words are easy, facts count and we have to await a total withdrawal yes. We want to see not just a couple of tanks turn round while the others press on, all of them have to do a 180-degree turn and start heading north or at least out of Kosovo.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: Jamie, on the Chinese, they have said that they want an individual or individuals to be publicly identified and punished. What would NATO choose between doing that and sacrificing Chinese support on the Security Council?

Secondly, to come back to Rick's question, I am sure it must have crossed Yugoslavian minds in Kosovo the "Road to Basra" incident. If I was one of them, I'd rather leave my tank behind and sneak out so without having somebody on the ground, maybe NATO telling Belgrade "Let some UN observers in to verify!" without having somebody on the ground, how will you know?

Jamie Shea: When you have 40,000 troops, Jake, and you have 300 tanks and a lot of equipment, you can't - I don't believe - carry out on the sly a withdrawal, it will be clear to us. We have sufficient intelligence means, sufficient resources, to clearly identify when we are dealing with a full withdrawal. What we know at the moment is we don't see it yet and we are going to keep up our military pressure until such time as we do.

On the other aspect of your question, I made it clear that the fault that occurred with the Chinese embassy was a fault which was in the system, no individual acted malevolently in any way, it was a system fault and a system fault has to be corrected in the system as such. That is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do, to make sure that target database is fully accurate and to adopt procedures to make sure that the sort of glich that occurred doesn't happen again.

Question (Turkish TV): It is continued to be said that the strikes are going to continue and intensify if Milosevic won't comply with these conditions and NATO has this air corridor now from Bulgaria and there were expectations that . In Turkey would be also requested. There were reports on that and in today's New York Times we have seen some more concrete reports saying F-15s and F-16s would be based in a Western base in Turkey so I would like to ask you when the formal request was made to Turkey and what sort of procedure is now on the run, are there teams researching and looking around to see if the base is appropriate or not etc.?

Jamie Shea: As you know, I have made it clear all along that part of our strategy is to be able to effectively encircle Yugoslavia 360 degrees obviously to give us a number of different options in pursuing the air campaign and Partner countries have supported us, as you know, in that endeavour as well as Allies and we are continuing to work to expand air space and basing agreements involving Allies and involving Partners. Turkey is a participant in operation Allied Force, a very significant participant, but I don't want to announce anything until the time has come and until the various processes have been completed so I don't have anything to say formally on that for the time being except that obviously we are in touch with a number of Allies and Partners to extend bases and air space agreements.

Thank you very much, see you at 3 o'clock.

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