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Updated: 15 May 1999 Morning Briefings

NATO HQ

15 May 1999

Morning Briefing

By Peter Daniel

Peter Daniel: You've all received the statement this morning, you received the overnight report so I'm not going to take a long time this morning in going through it all. What I'd just like to do is take a few questions and of course we'll back at 3 o'clock as we normally are so Mark, go ahead!

Mark Laity (BBC): On the Korisa incident, could you comment on what kind of weapons were involved in this, bombs whatever and is there any suggestion that this could be, if you like, a human shield, that these civilians were put there deliberately around the military camp?

Peter Daniel: We told you in the statement that we have not used cluster bombs on this particular occasion but I'm not prepared to tell you what munitions were used.

As to the human shield, much as I'd like to address that question, we're not on the ground, you're not on the ground. We've seen reports of this type of thing under bridges, I think you're all familiar with it but I can't comment any further on that.

As to the target, this was a valid military target, a command post. We've told you in the statement what we believe to have been there. The pilot validated the target prior to the strike, the pilot validated the target the way that pilots do that prior to the strike.

Question: Vous dites dans le communiqu que le pilote ou les avions ont reconnu juste avant de bombarder que c'tait bien une cible militaire. C'tait dans la nuit. Est-ce qu'il est possible qu'il y ait eu confusion entre des tracteurs et des camions militaires?

Peter Daniel: Je vous ai dit et je vous le rpterai maintenant, qu'il y a des procdures suivre pour valider la cible. 'a t fait par le pilote en question juste avant la frappe.

Question (Sky News): Pete, just to be absolutely clear, are you saying the target was validated as it appears to suggest, immediately before the bombs were dropped or was this some hours before the bombs were dropped?

Peter Daniel: I said that the pilot validated his target prior to the strike.

Same Questioner: Immediately before?

Peter Daniel: That's right!

Question (BBC): Is it possible to say anything about the altitude at which this attack was carried out? It has been said on occasions that the pilots have been flying low where conditions allow and where circumstances suggest that was possible. Is it possible to say anything on this occasion?

Peter Daniel: I'm not prepared to go into where the pilots were flying, at what altitude. I think these questions have been asked before and the answer that I'm giving you is going to come out again and is that I'm not prepared to address that in this particular case or in other cases.

Question: Can you tell us how far this apparently large group of refugees was from the military positions that were attacked? How far exactly, was it close, was it at a distance? And can you tell us either if the pilot did not see those tractors or took them for military vehicles?

Peter Daniel: We had a legitimate military target, it was a command post with artillery, riveted positions. The riveted positions were validated by the pilot prior to the strike.

Question: Were the tractors on the scene, Sir?

Peter Daniel: I can't tell you what is on the ground, I'm not on the ground and you're not on the ground either. I've seen the footage.

Question: Are you assuming at this point that you by mistake - I don't know exactly how - attacked those refugees and those tractors?

Peter Daniel: I am telling you, as we put out in our statement this morning, that we believed this to be - and do believe this to be - a legitimate military target that was validated according to the procedures prior to the pilot launching his strike.

Question: But you also regret the civilian victims that fell there accidentally so do you assume that NATO bombs were responsible for that?

Peter Daniel: Look! We regret all civilian loss of life wherever it might be. This is a statement that we made. People have claimed there has been loss of life, we regret the loss of life, civilian or military for that matter.

Question: Do you assume that you were responsible for the civilian victims on the scene, Sir?

Peter Daniel: I cannot address that question. I can tell you that we were striking what we believed to be - what we validated to be - a legitimate military target. We're not on the ground, you're not on the ground. It would be nice to be able to go there and examine exactly what did happen. We know through our pilots that this target was on the list, it was validated according to the procedures prior to the strike being launched and that is what we know. We have gone, as you know, all through the night looking at this incident. We kept you waiting - I am sorry for that - before we released the statement this morning but we wanted to be absolutely sure of what we knew, what we had struck. You have had three questions, let me move on to somebody else in the front row and then I'll move back.

Question: Could you have a go at explaining to us exactly what "validating the target" means? It's a phrase you've used a couple of time now and I don't understand it.

Peter Daniel: As I understand it, another word I could use would be "eyeball".

Question: Could you please describe this command post a little more, could you tell us how much artillery was there, how many people were in there presumably and what type of revetement? Secondly, was there any other target in the area? And thirdly, were there any artillery exchanges on the ground, I'm talking about Serbian artillery perhaps exchanging fire with UCK or any other type of missile or ammunition being used on the ground aside from that of NATO?

Peter Daniel: All I can tell you is - maybe you have seen this too - that there is a report from, Amnesty International which points out very clearly that Korisa and the area around Korisa was a very active military area; there has been continuous shelling and military activity between Serb forces and IDPs in this area for some time and if you want the Amnesty report I can give it to you, I happened to look at it this morning.

Whether there was, just at the moment that we were there or not, as I say, we are not on the ground, we do observe yes but pilots are involved in the missions that they have been assigned and again I want to repeat this was an assigned mission, this was a target that we knew to be a military target, a command post with artillery pieces and other equipment, this was riveted, that the pilot before he launched his strike validated in particular the riveted positions of the Serb military before launching his strike.

Question: You can't say more about this command post?

Peter Daniel: I can't.

Question: ..the activities of this command post in the area?

Peter Daniel: I cannot say any more.

Question (inaudible):

Peter Daniel: I think, as I told the gentleman there, validating means you look at it.

Question: What about the procedures for the pilot?

Peter Daniel: That you would have to ask an air force person, I can't answer that but I'm sure that somebody from the military side would be willing to talk you through what the procedures are, I can't answer that question.

Question: If they validated it, they'd look at it and presumably pilots are also validating and looking at in this Prizren area extensive ethnic cleansing, which is what we have been told about for the past week. Given the fact that there has been an extensive push of the people out of there and we know there are many refugees trying to get to the border, does it make sense to conclude that things that look like command posts are really being used as command posts when we know refugees would be seeking shelter in any place they can, any place they can find? That is my first question.

Secondly, I'd like to ask you about your sense of the waning support among the Japanese people who feel very uneasy as member of the G8 to have to support a campaign in which the civilian casualties are mounting?

Peter Daniel: First of all, as to the activity in the area, there has been a lot of movement in the Prizren area as you know, there have been a lot of people moved out, there is absolute validation of a lot of refugees that have been moved out of that area and across the borders to Albania but more particularly to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. There is movement constantly on the ground of people and we've shown you some pictures yesterday of some of the people that we could see from the air but the way we do these things is that this was not a last-minute "We're gonna hit this!" This was on the target list, was a validated target, we believed this, as we put out in our statement, to be a military command post with artillery and other equipment there and Serb military forces.

I remember in the early days sitting in the back of the room while Jamie was constantly badgered as to why we weren't hitting the forces in Kosovo, the people doing the killing for weeks and weeks and we told you how this campaign was going to unfold, that we had various phases that we were going to go through and that we would eventually be hitting those forces doing the killing, the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and hitting them hard and now that is exactly what we're doing and we're trying to do it in a way that minimises to the maximum extent possible any collateral damage. I don't know how many times we've addressed this question over the last 53 days. This is something that we make every effort to avoid. In this particular case, it is a military target, a legitimate military target with military equipment, validated in the regular way as procedures would dictate by these pilots, there was forward air control on this mission and we told you in the statement what we believe and have received in the way of information from the pilots.

As to the Japanese question, I can't comment on political events or public opinion in a country first of all that is not a member of this Alliance and secondly, which is very far away and one with which I am not entirely familiar.

Same Questioner: An ally the United States has in Asia, was a member of the G8..concerned about that?

Peter Daniel: I agree they are a member of the G8 but they are not a member of NATO. I can look at public opinion polls and read the reports which I saw on the front page of the newspaper today but I am not prepared to comment on them.

Question: I may have missed this bit but could you just tell us if you know what time the attack took place and how many bombs were dropped? Secondly, just to get the thrust of what you are saying politically, are you saying that because this was a military target that the collateral damage was essentially a price that was worth paying, that you don't actually regret this in hindsight or what?

Peter Daniel: I can absolutely and categorically disagree with the last statement you made. This was approached in a professional way, it was identified as a military target, it was on the list, it was validated and it was struck and we have gone through the entire night in trying to back-track through the whole system as to what exactly happened here and you can ask questions formulated in any way you wish and I am going to give you the same answer because that is the answer.

Same Questioner: What I am trying to understand is are we saying now that if there are civilians for example deployed in a shield, we would not seek to attack or are we saying that if it is a military target we will attack it anyway?

Peter Daniel: I think that if we clearly saw that civilians were being put in harm's way by the Serbs that we would do the right thing and not attack.

I will take one more. I will be back at 3 o'clock, we are going to have a lengthy session, I am sure, this afternoon.

Question: When can we expect some images - you always show us photos and images of successful attacks - when can we expect images of this and also when can we expect some information that is not on the statement?

Peter Daniel: First of all, I haven't seen the images myself yet and we are still going through the process that we go through in each one of these particular occasions as I think you are well aware, I think you have been here for a little while now and if there is further information to give you we will be here to give it to you this afternoon or tomorrow, we are here twice a day every day.

Same Questioner: But do you intend to show us any imagery from the strike?

Peter Daniel: I can't give you that answer right now, I haven't seen the stuff myself.

Question: Can someone from SHAPE explain exactly what the validation procedure is?

Peter Daniel: There will be somebody from SHAPE here at 3 o'clock, there is every day. Thank you!

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