By Jamie Shea
Welcome on Day 77 of operation Allied Force. I always start in the same way so true to form, let me say that I hope you've got the overnight operational update. You will have seen that therefore yesterday there were 658 overall sorties, that was 36 per cent up from the day before when there were 433; and yesterday we had 222 strike sorties which was 56 per cent up from the day before when there were 142 sorties.
Yesterday the focus, as you would expect, was on the fielded forces of the Yugoslav Army in Kosovo with strikes in the Jakovice area which included artillery, riveted equipment and ammunition; we also had attacks against fixed targets and successful strikes notably against the airfields in Batanica and Senica and we struck a number of army and ammunition storage depots - the details have been given to you obviously in the paper - and also strikes on petroleum sites at Novi Sad and Pancevo in order to further degrade Yugoslavia's already diminished fuel capacity.
I am very pleased to report as always - not as always but hopefully as always until the end of the operation - that all aircraft have returned safely to their operating bases.
In the meantime, the build-up of the KFOR forces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues. We now have about 16,500 troops pre-deployed there waiting for the international peace operation to begin and indeed about 1,000 soldiers have arrived over the last 24 hours, these are notably elements of the 1st Parachute Battalion and the 3rd Division of the British Armed Forces and we are anticipating further UK and also French forces to arrive today.
I think that's all I need to say by way of an introduction and as always, I will be happy to take your questions.
Questions & Answers
Jake Lynch, Sky News:
Jamie, I am just puzzled about one thing in overnight reports as to what might be proving the remaining unresolved issues in Bonn and one aspect appears to be something to do with the War Crimes Tribunal. Two questions:
First of all, do you know whether that is the case, that something to do with the War Crimes Tribunal remains an unresolved area in the drafting of a Security Council resolution and secondly, a separate question: why can any further reference to that be necessary because isn't it all cut and dried? It's a separate body, it has issued its indictments, I can't understand why it needs to be raised again in this context.
Jake, again you are really asking the questions of the wrong person because this is clearly something to be addressed to the G8 Foreign Ministers that are meeting in Bonn. NATO's position on this is clear, we will continue to support the Tribunal. We had a very effective demonstration of that yesterday when SFOR arrested a Bosnian Serb indicted war criminal and that gentleman is now in the custody of the Tribunal in The Hague and he was incidentally the 15th detained by IFOR/SFOR since the beginning of the operation and probably will not be the last either and as you know, the forces of General Jackson when they enter Kosovo will also take the same approach to helping in any way the International Criminal Tribunal so we are fully taking into account our obligation under international law and the UN Security Council resolution which established the Tribunal to assist this work but I really would not want to get into the business of commenting on the draft UN Security Council resolution, that is not my business.
Mark Laity (BBC):
A couple of points. You have mentioned that the focus was on fielded forces and that is obvious to see but you have also now listed a whole series of targets in Serbia as well. Is it fair to say that you have changed the focus to broaden it to go back to attacking Serbia? Secondly, is it still NATO's firm position, given the Russian objections, that there must be clear signs of withdrawal actually under way in substantial form before there is a bombing pause?
Mark, let me make it clear that on no day since the beginning of this operation have we attacked only targets in Kosovo. Even during the last few days in which the focus has been primarily on Kosovo, as you know there have still been targets in Serbia which have been visited by NATO aircraft so we have not suddenly changed our approach. We have made it clear right from the very beginning that until such time as President Milosevic not only agrees to meet the essential conditions of the international community but actually carries them out - and of course we are not there yet - no target will be a sanctuary. The NAC, I can assure you, has not given any different policy guidance to SACEUR on this topic, everything remains as it was and as I said yesterday, NATO commanders will continue to apply that degree of pressure on Belgrade which they feel is necessary to get Milosevic to focus on implementing what he has already agreed.
As to your second question, the view here is the same again - no change. We will be prepared to suspend the air operations when and only when we see clear evidence of the Serb withdrawal of forces, that has always been the linkage and that linkage has not changed.
Craig Whitney, New York Times:
Jamie, I know you don't see it as your role to comment on a Security Council resolution but could the Allies live with a resolution that didn't mention the NATO role in the peace-keeping force or the NATO command-and-control aspect of it?
Craig, the essential thing is that we have a good, clear resolution which clearly gives a mandate to a robust international security presence. You are right, it is not my business to comment on exactly how this is going to be done, that is obviously going to be left to the appreciation of the G8 to put this together and we are confident that they will only want to sign off on a resolution which is clear and which gives us the mandate we need to do a solid job and that is about as much as I think I should say on that for the time being.
Jonathan Marcus, BBC:
Clearly, to the extent that the UN Security Council resolution can be vague, the terms discussed with the Yugoslav military about the mechanics of a withdrawal and what follows have to be much more precise and specific. Do you see any sign of those talks likely to resume today or do you think they are being held in abeyance until the Security Council resolution is passed?
I am clear, Jonathan, that General Jackson is not taking any days off, he is there and he is fully ready to accept the Yugoslav delegation whenever they want to come back to talk serious business. Clearly, we still have to have a military-to-military agreement on the specifics with Belgrade. A UN Security Council resolution, no matter how detailed and no matter how clear, is not a substitute for this military-to-military agreement on the specifics of the Serb withdrawal and so yes, those two things have to come together. Exactly which one comes before the other - these whole questions are sequencing - that is again something for the G8 Ministers to determine but we obviously will need to have, as we said earlier, a signature of the Yugoslav Army commanders on a detailed text on the specifics because we don't want any loose ends or ambiguities.
Pierre Julien, RTL:
O en est la constitution de la KFOR+ , la rpartition des tches et puis surtout la rpartition des zones?
Pour la rpartition des zones les discussions se poursuivent mais le travail est plus ou moins dfini comme vous savez trs bien Pierre. Il y aura cinq zones et un seul commandant pour bien avoir une unit de commandement dans ce structure qui est une condition importante de la robusticit de l'opration. En ce qui concerne la KFOR, les choses suivent leur cours. Nous aurons dans les prochaines heures l'approbation provisoire du plan oprationnel par le Conseil. Le Comit militaire a termin son travail sur ce plan hier, il est maintenant devant les ambassadeurs. Nous aurons ds l'approbation provisoire de ce plan une runion avec les 11 pays et d'autres qui ont manifest leur intrt participer cette force pour qu'ils soient pleinement informs de contenu du nouveau plan oprationnel et au moment ou il y aura l'ordre d'activation pour envoyer la force, ce moment-l suivra l'approbation l'approbation du plan final. Et comme je viens de le dire les forces supplmentaires arrivent en Macdoine, tout ceci suit son cours et l'OTAN va tre prt pour cette mission. L, il n'y a aucune doute l-dessus.
Gyorgy Foris, Hungarian TV:
First, as a follow-up to this question, do you have any contact with the Russians considering the technicalities in which they could participate or join to the KFOR, what criteria and under what kind of umbrella? Secondly, what can be the NATO reaction if China and Russia insist that no Security Council session without stopping the bombing?
Gyorgy, as you know, at the moment there is intensive work in the G8 to resolve two issues. The first of course is the text of the UN resolution where a lot of progress has been made - Minister Fischer at his press conference last night made it clear that 17 out of 20 issues had now been resolved, that is excellent progress even though I don't want to under-estimate the importance of the remaining two or three issues but they are working very intensively on that.
The second issue which has to be resolved is the sequencing of the various elements, how they all fit together in a mutually-reinforcing way and again, I don't want to anticipate but that is something which the G8 is looking at so that we have a clear strategy for managing this part of the end-game so that everything - the UN Security Council resolution, military technical agreement with the Yugoslavs, withdrawal of the Serb forces, not the end of but the suspension of NATO air operations - all of those fit together in what I would call a virtuous rather than a vicious circle and I am sure we will get to a good outcome on that.
Gyorgy Foris: And what about Russia?
Sorry, I am having a day where I am forgetting the second question. I think I need an extra cup of coffee before 3 o'clock!
On the KFOR and the Russians, we will obviously choose an appropriate moment - when Russia is ready and we too - to sit down around a table presumably at the level of military commanders to work out the practical modalities of a possible and highly desirable Russian participation in KFOR. Those talks haven't started yet but we of course are developing some ideas which we will obviously put to the Russian side and I am sure they have got their proposals as well but we are optimistic that once the experts on the military side sit down and talk to each other, they will work out the right modalities. Of course, those modalities will have to be approved politically in Moscow and also politically by the North Atlantic Council here but I imagine that as soon as we get the G8 process over and we get the UN Security Council resolution under way, then we will get close to the start of those talks between NATO and Russia.
Can you tell us something about this meeting today between Nemtsov and Solana and confirm a "lorry full of signatures"?
Yes I can but before I talk about the Secretary General's meetings, let me mention that Secretary General Solana is having dinner with Madeleine Albright this evening here in Brussels, she will be coming over from the G8 in Bonn to brief the Secretary General and to discuss obviously the way ahead.
Yes, you are right, the former Prime Minister, Boris Nemtsov, of Russia is coming to see the Secretary General at 12 noon. This is a private visit, it is not an official meeting, he is coming in a private capacity and what is discussed is something that I can report to you on later.
John Fraser, London News Radio:
Jamie, if you do have a coffee, be careful of the Belgian milk!
Two things: The Solana and Albright meeting..
John, thank you for your concern about my health!
Are there any press plans for the dinner meeting and secondly, the figures you gave us on sorties are obviously a step-up from the weekend but they are still well below the record levels NATO was achieving a week ago. Are your planes holding back in any way?
John, on the second question, I am sure if you were in the field in Kosovo in the Yugoslav Army yesterday you wouldn't have perceived this as holding back at all. The pressure was very intense particularly in the sorties that were carried out for example by B-52s in particular against the Serb fielded forces in the Mount Pastrik area and certainly we have not sent any of the planes back home so we have all of the power on tap - if I can put it that way - to be used as the military commanders deem it necessary over the next few days but what we saw yesterday was a fairly intensive night of operations.
As for Madeleine Albright, we will have a photo opportunity at the beginning of that meeting but I am not aware of any press conferences for the time being there. They are due to meet at 7.30 for dinner somewhere in Brussels.
General Jertz will be back with me at 3 o'clock and see you all again then.