Updated: 25 May 1999 Morning Briefings


25 May 1999

Morning Briefing

By Jamie Shea

Jamie Shea: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Well it's good to see you again after my brief absence yesterday and I would like, as always, just to give you the operational update from overnight and give you a chance to put your first questions of the day to me. But as you will see in a moment there are quite a few press events taking place here today.

But first of all I would like to stress that as far as human rights in Yugoslavia are concerned, it has been an extremely depressing weekend. Over the last 48 hours, 72 hours, we have had further evidence of the horrors inside Yugoslavia and of the mounting brutality against Kosovar Albanians. Yesterday, as you know, you heard from Mr. Gashi first hand via a video link of the suffering inflicted upon those Kosovars kept in the prison near Kosovska Mitrovica by Serb forces. I think his account and those of others have made it clear that this is not a prison in the sense of the term that you and I would understand it but virtually a concentration camp and that the inmates have not been sentenced for any crime unless their ethnic identity is a sentence of death. Nor have they been put on trial and clearly they are lucky to have escaped with their lives given the physical condition that they have been in.

Today we have, as you know, a new report from the UN population fund documenting a very disturbing record of rapes in three Kosovo towns, in Pec, Drenica and Jakova and refugees over the last 72 hours have continued to pour out of Kosovo telling the same stories over and over again of the suffering which has been inflicted on them. And of course here on Tuesday morning these are further reasons why NATO is not going to let up. This military operation will not stop until the killing, and until that type of suffering and abuses of human rights, stop. Our diplomatic efforts to convince President Milosevic to withdraw from Kosovo will not stop either until his forces pack their bags and leave for good. The air strikes are intensifying, weather or no weather, and diplomacy is intensifying with further high level meetings scheduled in Moscow this week and in Washington as well and obviously also in Bonn this coming Thursday at the conference on the stability pact so we are going to press on with both the military and the diplomatic efforts until we prevail.

Over the last 24 hours NATO forces have continued to go after the Belgrade military machine. We have been attacking artillery emplacements , revetted military vehicles, a radar site and a logistic support base. At the same time NATO aircraft have struck the command network that orchestrates and directs the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. We struck the Robanavici Presidential villa which includes a command and control bunker. We struck the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Belgrade because this headquarters is directly responsible for the special police forces which are behind some of the more brutal incidents in Kosovo. We again attacked air defence operations, this time focusing on the air defence centre at Rakavica and we continued to strike the radio relay towers and electric power sites that keep the commands humming between Belgrade and Kosovo although I don't think there will be much humming on those lines this morning.

Now today, as you know, we have the visit of Prime Minister Aznar of Spain. He arrived about an hour ago. He is about now due to start a meeting with SACEUR, the Chairman of the Military Committee, Admiral Venturoni and the Secretary General. In other words he will be briefed, as have the other Prime ministers here in the last few days, on the current military operations and he will then have a meeting with the North Atlantic Council at 12.00 and at 12.30 p.m. he will be here with the Secretary General for a press conference.

This afternoon Prime Minister Majko who was, as you know, on our video link just a couple of days ago, the Prime Minister of Albania will be with us and he will be having, after his meeting with the Council at 5.00 p.m., a short point de presse with the Secretary General but not here, not here, at the main entrance, the main entrance at about 5.45 p.m. - 5.45 p.m. for that.

As you know, the German Foreign Minister Fischer is meeting today in Washington with Madeleine Albright and Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, has arrived back in Moscow for a series of meetings with Mr. Chernomyrdin including also on Wednesday, tomorrow, with President Ahtisaari.

So there is a veritable beehive of both military and diplomatic activity at the moment but all of this activity has simply one objective, one goal, which is to persuade President Milosevic that he has no choice but to accept the demands of the international community. Those demands are consistent, unchanging, unwavering, unbending, to stop the killing, withdraw all of the Serb forces and special police forces, except an international security force, allow the unrestricted return of every refugee and to work towards a permanent political solution.

Mark Laity, BBC: Just a couple of detailed points. The Dobonovsi Presidential Villa, is that the first time or is that yet another villa or is it a re-attack from one of the ones we have done before?

Jamie Shea: Mark, again I will double-check on this. I know that this is within the city limits of Belgrade, I understand it is the first time but I will double double-check to ensure that that is the case. We have struck these command and control bunkers in the past, as you well know.

Mark: The Ministry of Internal Affairs, obviously that is not the first time, but is it actually in use, are they using it, because I thought it had been pretty well knocked about? And we never had a completion of the BDA on the Istok attacks, when you attacked the VJ/MUP centre and the prison abutting it. I don't know if you have got that?

Jamie Shea: On the BDA at Istok I don't have anything new to offer at the moment now. On the Ministry of the Interior, it was of course not the first time we had struck the building, but you have to know that these Ministries have extensive underground command and control facilities and that is why, even if on the surface it may look as if it is a target which doesn't need revisiting, in reality as long as you have these underground facilities which are still operational then the military commanders will go after them.

Mark: But could I ask for an update on Istok, and also sortie totals?

Jamie Shea: As they say at the State Department, I'll take that question. The sortie total I don't have yet. I tried to have it before I came along, but you will get it before 3.00 pm in the usual way.

Nick Childs, BBC: A more general question on targeting, it is certainly in the written update you make a particular point that there were many strikes focused on, as you put it, Milosevic's regime's higher level command and control facilities. We had over the weekend General Clark quoted as saying the target list had been broadened and deepened. The German Defence Minister yesterday was suggesting that NATO should and could look at escalating the air campaign perhaps to Phase 3. Is it the case that there has been a decision to broaden and deepen the target lists recently, is this under discussion at the moment, what is the situation on that?

Jamie Shea: There has been no new decision whatever on the target list. The guidance of the NATO Ambassadors to SACEUR remains what it has been, which was reconfirmed, as you know, at the Washington Summit. It is simply up to SACEUR to decide when he wants to go after the targets that he is authorised to go after. And if you see something new, that doesn't mean to say that there has been a new decision to strike that particular target - Nick, sorry, those refer to 23 May and we are on 25 May today, so that is the explanation - excuse me - what it does mean is that SACEUR judges that the weather conditions, the operational circumstances are right so that the day of that target has finally come round. So it is not a question of a new decision, it is simply a question of SACEUR waiting for the right moment, weather wise and operationally, to go after something which maybe hasn't been struck before. But this is all within the parameters of the political guidance.

John: Is the NAC expected to take up the Military Committee's recommendation today for the new expanded Kfor, or is that something for later in the week?

Jamie Shea: The Military Committee report has gone to the NAC under something called silence procedure, and that expires at the close of business today, and therefore if no delegation has a query, that will be judged to have been approved by the North Atlantic Council. From that moment SHAPE will come back with a status of requirements, in other words a kind of new list of what is necessary for the new operational concept of KFOR to go ahead in terms of how many units of engineers, how many units of industry, how much equipment, what kind of communications, all of this. And once that has been looked at by the Military Committee we will go to a Force Generation conference within the very, very near future in order to generate the additional forces that SACEUR has identified and which Council will have approved, so that is pretty much the way forward.

Mark Laity: When is close of business?

Jamie Shea: Close of business is defined by us as 5.00 pm, although of course we are open for business a lot later than 5.00 pm, as you well know, but that is the marker today.

John: Does the official silence imply they are actually discussing it?

Jamie Shea: No, what has happened is this has been extensively worked in the Military Committee and of course the same countries are obviously represented in the Military Committee as the North Atlantic Council. So the Military Committee has done a lot of work on this, the Military Committee are now satisfied with it, it has gone to capitals but because the Military Committee are satisfied, we deem that we can approve this under a silence procedure. This also, and I want to emphasise this, shows the urgency, the urgency with which we are treating this, the fact that we are putting it under a silence procedure rather than having an extensive discussion in the NAC. But of course if a nation should break the silence procedure there would automatically be a meeting of the North Atlantic Council to address the point in question.

Jake Lynch, Sky News: Does that plan, drawn up by the Military Committee, envisage that any of those 48,000-odd troops will be from non-NATO countries?

Jamie Shea: Yes it does, Jake. We believe that the force has to be built around a NATO core and that NATO countries would constitute the majority of the forces as we see the concept at the moment. But we have always made it clear that we are open to participation by other countries, building on the NATO core, as we have done successfully with the SFOR/IFOR forces in Bosnia. But initially we want to build the force around a NATO core, particularly for the first immediate stage of the deployment.

Question: Could you explain the new NATO strategy to attack Belgrade because the civilian population doesn't have water, doesn't have electricity?

Jamie Shea: Let me make this clear. What we are doing is we are attacking the military facilities of Belgrade. That electricity, those facilities, drive the military machine of Milosevic, that is why they are a target. Milosevic has plenty of back-up generators, he has lots, he has got hundreds. It is up to him, it is up to him to decide if he wants to use those generators for his hospitals and his schools, or his educational establishments - although they seem to all be closed - or whether he wants to use them to keep his military machine running. If that is a headache for him, good, I am not going to apologise for that, we want him to have those kind of headaches.

Question: Inaudible.

Jamie Shea: Let me make one thing clear. The Serb population is experiencing inconvenience as a result of this, but the Kosovar Albanian population is experiencing massive suffering. Would you rather be, if I can put it this way, a baby born in a hospital in Belgrade under difficult circumstances, but still be born in a hospital, or one of the hundreds of babies born in fields or in refugee camps in Kosovo and elsewhere with no hospital, no electricity, no water, no lights, no doctors, nothing? So I still don't believe that we are talking about proportionality here at all.

Andrew: For that NATO core do you already have a breakdown more or less, which countries will contribute how much? And secondly, do you have anything more on the new Yugoslav troops in Kosovo, any more precise estimates how many are coming in there?

Jamie Shea: Andrew, we don't yet know exactly how many troops will be supplied by each ally, because that is the whole point of a Force Generation conference. And SHAPE looks at this not from the point of view of national contributions, you know I want 5,000 from you or I want 3,000 from you, it is much more a question of identifying the capabilities you need, so many engineering units, so many communication units, so many logistic units, so many military police, so many what is called manoeuvre battalions, the basic infantry core of a peace implementation force, and then SHAPE sees where it can get those forces and as the force balancing is a complicated issue, sometimes one country may go up a bit simply because it has a needed capability. But this is an operation in which we are expecting virtually all Allies to participate. Now Iceland has no military forces but in SFOR it contributes medical staff, so there are various ways in which Allies can contribute, but all of them I believe will be making some form of contribution along the lines of Ifor/Sfor. But the exact details it is too early to say because as I say we are looking at capabilities rather than numbers, that is what counts.

As for the number of Serb forces in Kosovo at the moment, no I don't have an exact figure, but we do know, as I have said earlier, that Milosevic has been trying to mobilise a large number of reservists in Montenegro among the Second Army of the VJ and in southern Serbia to send to Kosovo and that suggests, as I say, that he is trying to make up for the losses which his army has suffered there. Whether it is a slight increase or whether it is really a question of trying to fill the empty ranks of the Yugoslav Army in Kosovo, that is something which we are still trying to determine. But it does suggest that there is no withdrawal at all - number one - and I think disappointment in Yugoslavia that there hasn't been a withdrawal, in fact there has been a call-up, is responsible for a lot of the unrest that we see in the cities today.

Ladies and gentlemen, I look forward to seeing you again at 12.30 with the Secretary General and Prime Minister Aznar, and at 3.00 pm again with General Jertz.

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