Updated: 31 March 1999 Press Conferences


31 Mar. 1999

Press Conference

of the NATO Spokesman, Jamie Shea
and Air Commodore David Wilby

Jamie Shea : Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. At this time tomorrow I have asked the Secretary General and also SACEUR to come up and be here at the podium and to give you an assessment of the operations thus far and respond to your questions. So that is Secretary General, SACEUR, tomorrow, but for today it is once again Air Commodore David Wilby and myself giving the briefing and today I will begin.

First of all when the Ambassadors of the North Atlantic Council met just a few moments ago, they had a read-out on the mission of Yevgeni Primakov, the Russian Prime Minister to Belgrade yesterday. Let me say from the outset that NATO welcomes all efforts by the international community to persuade Belgrade to stop the violence and we very much appreciate the efforts made by Prime Minister Primakov and his team yesterday to go to Belgrade at a very difficult time and to try to make the Yugoslav Government see sense and change course. As you know, this is one of the hardest tasks in international diplomacy today, as the experience of many envoys over the last few weeks has shown and unfortunately Mr. Primakov yesterday was not able to achieve success.

As Chancellor Schroeder, Prime Minister Blair, President Clinton, many other leaders made clear the offer of Milosevic fell completely short of our requirements. Milosevic offered no end to the fighting. In fact even while Prime Minister Primakov was in Belgrade the fighting was continuing in Kosovo unabated. He offered no guarantees regarding the withdrawal of his forces, many of which clearly would have remained in the field ready to start offensive operations at a moment's notice. He made only a very vague offer to start negotiations without accepting the current basis of the Rambouillet Peace Agreement and he gave no indications whatever of a willingness to accept the refugees back and help them to resettle.

And of course even these were rather vague offers dependent upon NATO switching off its military pressure first and foremost. So unfortunately this mission has not succeeded. If President Milosevic had wanted to use this opportunity to show good faith, to give clear indications that he was willing to stop the violence, he could have done so. But he didn't. And so we have drawn the obvious and only conclusion which is that we have to continue and we will continue.

Today our primary concern on the political front obviously David will speak from the military side in just a few moments is to alleviate the humanitarian disaster in the region. Over the last 24 hours the refugee flow has slowed somewhat but this is for two reasons. The first reason is because the Yugoslav border guards have been closing the frontiers off and on, thereby slowing down the flow outwards and we also know that many refugees faced with these bottlenecks are simply crossing illegally into neighbouring countries. I heard this morning of a very major tailback for example of refugees trying to go to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

At the same time we have had reports today which the Ambassadors have been briefed on of the forced expulsion of Kosovars from Pristina. At the same time one thing I don't think we have stressed enough in recent days is the number of internally displaced persons in Kosovo itself. There's obviously because of the access of TV and journalists, there has been a lot of focus on those in Kukes, in Albania, arriving in neighbouring countries. But there are tens of thousands of people who are living in the woods or on hills, on mountain slopes in Kosovo itself and these people are in a truly precarious position.

They have no food, no water, no shelter. At least those refugees outside Kosovo can be succoured by the international community. And the fighting has clearly disrupted the flow of food and other supplies to the towns and villages. But even if the flow was somewhat less intensive yesterday, nonetheless we are facing, this is clear, an enormous challenge in helping these poor people.


The UNHCR for instance is now making contingency plans for 150,000 refugees in Albania. A 100,000 are there already. Yesterday alone 5,000 refugees went to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and I saw today a statistic that shows that 12% of population of Montenegro is now composed of refugees. In fact we have some statistical information from UN sources on the refugee situation which I'll be very pleased to distribute to all of you after today's briefing. At the same time we have also received more reports in the last 24 hours of what I had called the other day "identity elimination".

The Yugoslav forces, so we are learning, are destroying the archives of the Kosovar people, property deeds, marriage licences, birth certificates, financial and other records, public records are being systematically destroyed. This is a kind of "Orwellian" scenario of attempting to deprive a people and a culture of the sense of past and the sense of community on which it depends. This attempt to re-write history reminds me of George Orwell's 1984 which I used to believe was fiction but now seems to be actually happening in reality. The KDOM, that is to say the OSCE mission in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is interviewing refugees as they cross the border taking as much evidence as we can from them while it's fresh and could be corroborated easily on what is going on in Kosovo today and this material can be used for war crimes indictments.

I'd like to stress again that NATO countries did not create, have not created this terrible humanitarian tragedy. You only have to talk to the refugees and ask them who has forced them from their homes and I haven't heard one so far who has said, "NATO". In fact all of our meetings with Kosovar Albanian leaders outside Kosovo today show that they want us on behalf of their people to continue to do what we are doing. But if NATO has not created this problem, NATO countries today are at the forefront of the international community's effort to help these people. And today in the Council we have heard a variety of reports of rapid mobilization of aircraft and ships en route to Albania and other neighbouring countries bringing in money, bringing in medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, tents, food and everything that is required. And Emma Bonino, as you know the EU Commissioner dealing with humanitarian affairs, is in Albania today. She has been taken there by the Deputy SACEUR in a NATO aircraft.

We continue to co-operate very closely on this with the European Union. At the same time Admiral Ellis, the Commander-in-Chief Southern Forces Europe has sent an Assessment Team with NATO International Staff participation to Albania to see what NATO as such as an Organization might be able to do. As I have said already a Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Co-ordination Centre has been activated and is ready to help the UNHCR and SHAPE and EUROCONTROL are working to co-ordinate the flights of humanitarian relief supplies into the region to make sure there of course is no difficulty with regard to the military operations in that area ongoing at the moment, so we as I said have not created this problem, but we are being asked to solve it and as NATO Allies we are going to be at the forefront of those efforts to solve that problem, even though I have to point out that the only solution ultimately to any humanitarian crisis is an effective ceasefire and a political settlement, which alone will encourage refugees to return home.

Two final points if I may before I hand over to David. I have seen some reports in the Press today that NATO has decided to go to Phase III. This is not the case. Yesterday, simply to clarify what has happened, SACEUR was authorized by the Secretary General after consultation with Allies to extend the range and the tempo of operations in order to maximize the effectiveness of the campaign. But this is not Phase III as such. In fact I think to some degree it is misleading to talk of Phases because what we are actually seeing is one campaign, one strategy, one objective which is simply to make an aggressor pay the price for unacceptable behaviour which cannot be tolerated, cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.

Ladies and gentlemen finally I'd like to mention, if you will allow me to, a problem of a more practical nature. I know that as journalists you rely a great deal on our Internet homepage for your information and perhaps some of you have been wondering why since the 28th March the service from our Internet homepage has been erratic, to say the least. We have looked at this very carefully, I have been asked to look at this very carefully and it seems that we have been dealing with some hackers in Belgrade who have hacked into our Website and caused line saturation of the server by using bombardment strategy. At the same time, our E-mail system has also been saturated by one individual who is currently sending us 2,000 E-mails a day. And we are dealing with macro viruses from Yugoslavia into our E-mail system. But let me assure you that despite these technical glitches you will continue to receive updated political and operational information from this Alliance. David.

Air Commodore Wilby: Thank you Jamie. I think that's what we call information operations.

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. NATO now has a responsive and adaptable air operation underway against the military forces and structure of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This will intensify degradation of strategic targets and FRY Forces in Kosovo, despite significant risk and difficult weather.

The situation in Kosovo continues much as before. We now have substantial evidence from the massive number of refugees flooding out of the country that our assessment of the brutality and tactics being employed by the FRY army and police units was accurate.

Of particular importance today is the situation in the Pagarusa valley which I mentioned yesterday. I can confirm that there is a large number of refugees and some elements of the UCK in the area. These unfortunate souls are surrounded by Serb military and MUP units. They have been shelled by Serb artillery and tanks of three brigades of the FRY army - the 243rd, the 549th and the 15th. This happened yesterday and continues today.

This additional slide shows an area just to the north of the Pagarusa Valley and you can detect columns of people and vehicles moving. Turning to our air campaign we did press forward with our air attacks last night. This shows the area of yesterday's operation and please remember yesterday I went through that those triangles depict areas where perhaps multiple attacks have taken place. Because of the adverse weather conditions, not all aircraft released their weapons. However, we did manage to hit a full spectrum of targets using both manned aircraft and missile platforms. While we await full confirmation of the effectiveness of these attacks, I know that we achieved some very encouraging results.

(Presentation Photo)

Surface-to-air missile activity remained much the same as we have come to expect. However, we had no aircraft losses and, once again, we did not engage FRY military aircraft. So far we estimate that we have destroyed or severely damaged, either in the air or on the ground, some 30 of their aircraft. Unfortunately, I still cannot offer you imagery of some of our crucial operations against fielded forces, but we are working hard to provide this. Nevertheless, as an indication of our success, one of the Serb battle groups, "Group 3", after experiencing heavy attacks by our aircraft over the last few days, has been forced to a move to a new location which we are waiting to address.

For now let me show you some more imagery of our other recent attacks. This is a pre-strike photo of the Novi Sad heliport and vehicle storage facility, 31 miles Northwest of Belgrade. This is the photo taken after some of our attacks. You can see the damage in the highlighted areas. The next three photographs depict post-strike evidence only. This shot is of Nis airfield, home base of the Serb military's 63rd airborne brigade. As you can see the damage is considerable. The next slide is of the Military Police HQ in Kula, Serbia. The last is of the Pristina army garrison. Again, heavy damage was inflicted and you may make out the debris around the target. The last three slides are evidence of the concentration of our air attack against military and MUP facilities.

We again have some cockpit tapes to show you. The first target is an Army HQ and ammunition storage facility. And I'll let you watch it. The second and third videos show attacks on a fuel storage facility and the second target is actually a buried facility. (There is silence for some time here on the tape). You will see that sometimes we use multiple bombs in our deliveries. Attacks on this sort of installation have caused the FRY to ration and redirect all available fuel reserves to the offensive military effort in Kosovo. The final clip shows an attack against another ammunition assembly building. And you will notice that this is the second element of a multi-strike attack.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, we will continue with our efforts to relieve the appalling pressure on the Albanian Kosovans but let me make it very clear that there is no instant solution. This will be an extended campaign.

Thank you very much. Jamie and I will now be prepared to take questions.

Jamie Shea: David, thank you. Okay. You want to start? You can start today.

Journalist: Jamie, does NATO have any reaction on the Russian's decision to send from Sevastopol its seven warships to the Mediterranean Sea, to Adriatic Sea? And does NATO also plan to organize sea exercises in that region also in that time?

Jamie Shea: Well, firstly on that, yes we have noted this move of Russian naval assets through the Straits and into the Mediterranean. All I can say is that we have also noted a very firm statement from President Yeltsin in Moscow a couple of days ago that Russia does not intend to become involved in this situation and obviously we are counting on President Yeltsin to keep to those words. I think that that is in the interest of everybody concerned. But I don't have any further information on that for you for the time being. As for exercises, I think that they aren't a priority for us right now. Thanks.

Gyrgy, let's move to you next.

Journalist: Thank you very much. Gyrgy Foris, Hungarian Press. Two questions if I may. First the fact that the operations now enlarge the whole country, I mean the whole Yugoslavia. In the light of this, do you plan to enforce in any way the defence capacity of Hungary which is just next to the neighbourhood? And secondly, can you confirm that Press reports that Belgrade also could be a target including political headquarters as well after the Operation Allied.

Air Commodore Wilby: Let me answer the first part of that question and I'll leave the second part to my colleague. In terms of Hungary, we will always take cognizance of our friends around the surrounding areas.

Jamie Shea: And regarding the second part of the question, Gyrgy, it's clear that no facility, no unit which is currently being used to plan, conceive, direct or carry out the Yugoslav campaign against the Kosovars is going to be a sanctuary. Lets go to Pavel.

Pavel Bouda, Czech TV: Thank you, Jamie. Czech TV. US President Clinton indicated yesterday that President Milosevic might lose Kosovo. Does it mean that the Allies now do consider a solution for the crisis even outside the framework of the Rambouillet Agreement?

Jamie Shea: No we don't. For the time being our policy is the same. Autonomy for Kosovo but a very far-reaching degree of autonomy which would guarantee the human rights of all of the people that live in Kosovo and a large degree of self governments over politics but also justice, police and many other aspects. And of course that has been accepted, let us not forget by the Kosovar Albanians. But obviously the longer President Milosevic continues his brutal campaign of repression in Kosovo, the harder it's going to be to get that process back on track. We admit that. But for the time being NATO policy remains the same. Autonomy for Kosovo on the basis of the framework agreement that was worked out at Rambouillet and subsequently in Paris.


Jonathan Marcus, BBC: Two questions, Jamie for each of you. First, given all the disturbing reports about menfolk being separated from their families and so on, does NATO have any clear evidence of where these people are being herded to, of where they are being kept and so on, what has happened to them? And secondly, could perhaps the Air Commodore - I know we can't talk about individual targets - but could he give us some indication given the problems that NATO has had with the weather of the sort of step change in operations that will be possible once the weather clears.

Jamie Shea: Well, Jonathan, I don't have information on what has happened to these men. All we know is that currently they are unaccounted for and that they are being separated from their families and they have been taken off somewhere. They may be held in football stadiums. I have seen reports to that effect. They might be used as human shields in barracks for example. That also is something that is being reported although we can't confirm that at the moment. But obviously as long as their whereabouts are unknown, we have to fear for their safety. But as soon as we have corroborated indications that allow us to be definite on that, we will give you that information.

Air Commodore Wilby: Hang on, hang on Jamie.

Jamie Shea: Have you got something on that? Excuse me, David.

Air Commodore Wilby I'll answer the second part of your question, Jonathan.

Jamie Shea David, I apologise for once again not giving you the second question. Excuse me.

Air Commodore Wilby We have already made a step change in our operations and we are prosecuting those targets and making the attacks. But as the weather clears then we will be able to increase the momentum of that and increase our flexibility.

Jamie Shea Bill, please.

Bill Drozdiak, Washington Post: Jamie, given the patterns of the ethnic cleansing, can you give us .. that NATO has in terms of whether the goals of the Serb Forces are to clear out the entire province or is it concentrated mainly in the north and central areas which were traditionally Serb homelands and thus might lead to a partition in the province?

Jamie Shea Thanks. Well, David had a slide I think yesterday which showed some of the areas where the refugee departures were at their most intensive and what was striking was that these areas are all over Kosovo today. There was a pattern sometime back in March when all of this began well before NATO initiated its own air operations of the ethnic cleansing being predominantly in the North and being predominantly in the Northwestern part around the UCK KLA strongholds which was the extensible rationale of Belgrade at the time for carrying out military operations in the field. But what has become evident over the last few weeks as I have said is that first of all these mass expulsions are taking place throughout Kosovo.

For example, the city of Orahovac in the South is being cleared of its population from the latest reports of refugees entering into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and that's well to the South of Pristina. And secondly that the forced expulsions are no longer connected to so-called UCK sympathizing areas which was the old rationale but seems to be directed at anybody who is a Kosovar Albanian by dint of ethnic identity. And as I have reported yesterday, what we now have are the Yugoslav Forces gutting whole Kosovar Albanian quarters of major cities like Pristina and Prizren. So we seem to have gone now towards a systematic campaign unconnected to any military rationale to victimize people on account of their ethnic identity.

Let go to Sky.

Sky TV: A question for both gentlemen, if I may. Air Commodore first. You mentioned the Pagarusa Valley again, three brigades, who for the past 24 hours have been shelling several thousand refugees. Is that the kind of brazen atrocity being conducted you would have hoped to have nipped in the bud given that you have been attacking field forces for several days now and when might you expect to put an end to that particular crime? And Jamie, there was a press conference this morning and the Albanian Head of Mission, Ambassador Artur Kuko, said that there were discussions taking place about putting ground troops into Albania. Would you care to elaborate on that?

Air Commodore Wilby If I take the first part, of course, yes, that is what we are looking to stop and all I can say is that we are addressing the problem very urgently.

Jamie Shea On the second aspect of the question, we have to be very clear what we are talking about here. Italy, which is in the forefront of efforts of course to supply immediate relief to Albania. Not the only country, all Allies are involved, but Italy has made a very substantial effort, has sent some forces to Albania but to help with the refugee situation and they are, I understand, have either arrived or on their way. But that of course is to help in terms of constructing tents and providing hospitals and sanitation facilities and all of that and if that is what the Ambassador is talking about then yes there is activity there. But I know of no plans at the moment to deploy NATO Forces in Albania as such in any other connection apart from the connection of helping with the influx of the refugees.

Let's go to another question.

Journalist: Je veux revenir la solution politique. La situation en tant ce qu'elle est aujourd'hui. Monsieur Milosevic peut continuer refuser l'Accord de Rambouillet dans ces v politiques, surtout militaire. Le drme continue. Je veux savoir partir de quel moment on pouvait considrer que l'Accord de Rambouillet est mort ?

Jamie Shea Nous ne considrons pas que l'Accord de Rambouillet soit mort. C'est un cadre qui reflte les intrts Serbes autant que les intrts du peuple Kosovar. Monsieur Hill et Monsieur Petrich, les deux ngotiateurs avec le Russe, Ambassadeur Mlosky ont fait la navette pendant des mois entre Belgrade et Pristina et pour tenir compte des intrts lgitime Serbe donc c'est d'accord. Donc il est difficile d'imaginer un statut d'autonomie pour le Kosovo qui ne soit pas bas sur quelque chose qui ressemble de manire fondamentale l'accord de Rambouillet parce qu'il est difficile d'imaginer quelque chose d'aussi quilibrer. Mais a, est la question de demain parce que demain reviendra sur le devant de la scne la diplomatie et la dcision politique. Aujourd'hui notre devoir c'est d'arreter la guerre parce que sans arreter la guerre toute discussion politique est inutile. Donc, ayant le sens des priorits. Arretons d'abord le conflit et puis nous nous tournerons vers la reprise de ngociation.

Journalist: Question for the Air Commodore on the Pagarusa valley. Can you give us any detail on the number of the people trapped there, casualties from tank and artillery fire?

Air Commodore: I'm afraid I can't.

Croatian Journalist: Jamie, who do you comment the indictment of Arkan today?

Jamie Shea: Yes, from Justice Arbour, well I've always said that there is no statute of limitations. In the May resolution of 1993 (some text missing) individuals who have been responsible for crimes at any stage of the war in the former Yugoslavia, whether that be in Croatia, Bosnia, now in Kosovo, are likely to be indicted. This is not a NATO topic, this is a topic entirely for the Tribunal, but I hope that this measure will serve not only to bring somebody to justice who clearly has to be brought to justice and the sooner the better but also as a warning to all of the other little Arkans, the disciples of Arkan, that clearly are still operating in Kosovo, that they may well suffer the same fate as their mentor and so I hope that this will not only be good for justice in its own right but a useful warning as we once said of a naval admiral who was court martialled "pour encourager les autres" or in this case "pour dcourager les autres".

Freddy Bonnart: My question is to Air Commodore Wilby. Jamie's told us not to think in phases, but two days ago you said you were moving to phase two. Yesterday actually you refused to answer two questions on the effects of phase two. Let me ask you one direct question have NATO ground attack aircraft been engaged and have they attacked ground targets as distinct from infrastructure targets, even field infrastructure targets?

Air Commodore Wilby: Yes.

Jamie Shea: Well that helps Freddy with a few more questions

Norwegian News Agency: Can I have your comment Air Commodore on the following quote from Mr. Bacon in the Pentagon yesterday. He said "I think right now it's difficult to say that we have prevented one act of brutality at this stage" And a second question is it conceivable to see the end of this operation before the NATO Summit in three weeks time?

Air Commodore Wilby: First of all, I wouldn't dare to comment on such a learned colleague's answer in the press and secondly I have no idea.

Journalist: We're hearing reports from Kosovo that Serb tanks are effectively trying to secure the North, to partition the province. Do you have any comment on that and secondly Germany is saying that ...........Montenegro may be stopped by NATO if it continues to deny support for Belgrade. Can you confirm that?

Jamie Shea: Ok, well let me take those two questions. First of all the Yugoslav armed forces are all over Kosovo today so at the moment I do not see any clear pattern to stop on a certain line, hold that line and partition Kosovo. I think it's too early to know what President Milosevic's intentions are. We know that he has a anti-humanitarian intention but whether there's some kind of political master plan behind that in terms of the future of Kosovo, we simply don't know. On the other hand there are large numbers of Yugoslav Forces quite close to the southern border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia upwards of a 100 plus tanks. I can't and I don't have the exact figure but we have been monitoring that in recent days and that does not suggest, at least to me, as long as a large deployment remains on the southern border with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia that there is any kind of partition going on at the moment. But obviously it would be nice to know what President Milosevic's intentions were. But we know enough about his anti-humanitarian intentions to act and we will continue to act as I said.

Jamie Shea Ah, thank you. I'm doing very badly today on second questions. I apologise. On Montenegro we obviously have noted the statements of Montenegro and it's courageous efforts obviously to stay clear of a dispute which clearly it does not approve of. We obviously also had to take account of the fact that Montenegro does have a number of integrated air defence systems which are still obviously controlled and operated by the Yugoslav Army from Belgrade. And so that is obviously why, and we have not made a secret of this, it has been necessary for us but avoiding collateral damage, avoiding any civilian casualties, going strictly after the military target to strike some targets in Montenegro. But yesterday I made it perfectly clear to you that there was no pre-targeting of Montenegro in our operations yesterday and that I think shows a certain wish to exercise restraint. But obviously we have to take account of the integrated air defence system wherever it is in Yugoslavia. That is an obligation we have to our pilots because not to do so would substantially increase the risks to them.

Journalist: So you are not actually stopping?

Jamie Shea I think that's as much as I want to say on that and I hope nonetheless my answer was sufficiently clear. We then go to the gentleman in the blue shirt behind. Sir.

Ian Rogers, Bloomberg News I have a question for the Air Commodore. Given that the NATO air attacks have given Yugoslavia an excuse to step up its campaign against the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, does it not mean it was a strategic error on the part of NATO to begin their attacks before they are ready to intervene on the ground? And doesn't NATO now have an obligation to send in ground troops to protect these people?

Air Commodore Wilby You know we have covered that sort of question very comprehensively over the last couple of days and I know that Jamie refused it very firmly over the last couple of days that NATO air attacks were the reason that these atrocities were being exacerbated and I don't wish to go into that question any further.

Jamie Shea May I, David if you will permit me, may I just add in response to your question. There is no excuse for what President Milosevic is doing in Kosovo at the moment.

Journalist: from .. in Sofia. Jamie I wish you could dissipate the controversy of an issue which has become familiar to you lately. The Bulgarian Government said that it had offered its air space in principle to NATO and, in the absence of an endorsement by Parliament, it was able to receive emergency landings in accordance with the Chicago Convention on Aviation. Ton my understanding the Chicago Convention concerns civil and not military flights. So can you specify under what base NATO intends to make use of the Bulgarian air space?

Jamie Shea Thanks for that question. I am a Spokesman not an international lawyer and so I am not going to pretend I can give you an expert answer on that but let me say that it is true that NATO has approached Bulgaria. In fact already last October when we were in a situation where air strikes may well have been necessary to use its air space, just like we have approached many other countries of the region. It's up to every country to either say "yes" or to say "no" or to say "yes but under certain conditions and requirements". That is the sovereign affair of every country and NATO fully respects any requirements, any conditions that might be placed according to constitutional arrangements and the rest. My understanding at the moment is that yes Bulgaria has said that it will allow us to use its air space for emergency landings, should they be necessary, hopefully not but we don't know, and any requests that we may make will be handled on a case-by-case basis. But obvioulsy NATO fully respects the sovereign decisions and the constitutional procedures of all of our Partner countries in this respect.

John Dahlberg, LA Times: Thanks, Jamie. A question from the LA Times. You spoke about the NAC meeting this morning and since we are now in the second week of operations I wonder if you could describe the ambiance among the Ambassadors, especially with regard to the fact that really the goals that were set out at the beginning of this operation namely to avert a humanitarian crisis and prevent spillover haven't been accomplished and as you know according to some critics have even been exacerbated.

Jamie Shea But, John, saying not having been accomplished is like saying to Elliot Ness that because he hasn't apprehended Al Capone after the first week of operations he should retire. I agree. We would like to be in a situation today where we would have met our goals after a few days but we have made no secret of the fact that there have been operational constraints particularly in the form of bad weather. But bad weather doesn't last for ever. Not even in that part of the world. And secondly, we knew right from the word "go" and we were always warned of this by our Military Commanders that President Milosevic would indeed be a tough nut to crack. We knew that. He has a country and an army that have had plenty of battle experience around the former Yugoslavia over the past few years and of course he would be waiting to see how much stamina, how much staying power we have.

So we knew very well that no matter how much we would hope to deliver the sort of the knockout punch in 24 hours, that was not likely to happen and we would have to be prepared to see this through. Now many people predicted, but and I am not referring to the Press, I am referring to many, many people, that NATO being an Alliance of 19 nations wouldn't have the staying power when things got tough or difficult. Where when we have suddently realized that there was no 24 hour miracle solution. But I think the evidence refutes that. Here we are after one week and the Alliance, the NAC, the North Atlantic Council has already taken within a matter of hours two tough decisions regarding accelerating the tempo and intensifying the strategy. Tough decisions, with everybody on board, all 19. Not a ray of light between any of the national positions. Secondly I think that by now providing Milosevic listens to what his Military Commanders tell him, and I hope he does, I think he will now be receiving much gloomier reports of NATO's determination and the amount of damage that he is suffering and is likely to suffer and at the rapidly escalating price.

Thirdly, as I said yesterday, democracies are always going to be at a fundamental disadvantage. The criminal always knows more than the policeman about when and where he is going to commit the crime. And Milosevic is the man on the spot. His tanks are in the villages. They are in Kosovo already and they have been there for many years. It's much quicker for his people to pull the trigger than it is for a NATO pilot to respond. And I don't think anybody here would ever want this Alliance to use the same brutal methods that Milosevic uses. We can't. Simply because we are an Alliance of democracies. So democracies tend to be at something of a short-term disadvantage in these affairs quite frankly. But on the other hand, democracies because they believe in a just cause, because they want to avert a humanitarian catastrophe, because they when they get their back up on these matters tend to suddenly discover reserve sustained power, tend to be the long-term winners. And will be the long-term winners in this game as well.

Jamie Shea The ambiance of the NAC. Absolutely. John, I am sorry if I didn't answer your question directly there but I just wanted to point out that you know we have had two particular days - there was one yesterday and there was one a few days ago - where we looked at the situation and decided on two separate occasions to increase the tempo of operations and the scope of operations. And those decisions were done. The Secretary General consulted and within hours all 19 Governments had said "yes". You saw yesterday the very firm statement by Chancellor Schroeder after receiving Prime Minister Primakov.

You saw the instant reactions from other Allied leaders. You saw President Chirac on television a few nights ago. You have heard the other statements and I believe that they really do show that this is an area where we simply cannot abandon the Balkans to Milosevic. We know what has happened in the past and we know what would be the consequences if we did that and I have sat in the NAC every meeting or almost every meeting. And I can assure you that I have never seen the Alliance so determined and resolved to see this one through. And I am convinced that that's going to hold up quite frankly. I think you know we are beyond the point of no return when it comes to the sense of resolve and the sense of unity. It's quite remarkable.

And many Allies reading comments on this today are now in the process of contributing more aircraft. Canada has just announced that for instance that six CF-18s are on their way to augment the Canadian contribution already there. I expect other things to happen in the next few days. You have seen our mobilization on humanitarian dossier. This is an area where we have a duty to see this through. So that's the best answer I can give you and forgive me for that somewhat lengthy answer at the same time.

Doug, you had your hand up and then we'll go to Pierre and then I think we'll close down because as I said we have the two principles here tomorrow afternoon. Doug.

Doug Hamilton, Reuters: A two-part question. Air Commodore, beyond a simple "yes", can you give us some idea of what military formations you have hit on the ground apart from the static assets that you showed. And secondly on the Pagarusa Valley situation. Is NATO giving any serious consideration to using airborne commandos to rescue people trapped in this situation or similar situations that may occur, and if it is not doing so, are the hurdles mainly military or are they political?

Air Commodore Wilby First of all, the sort of targets that we have and assets that we have hit on the ground and let's be quite clear about this. Despite the poor weather that Jamie has told you about and I have told you about this week, despite that poor weather, we have accomplished one hell of a lot in the time we have been going. We have hit him really hard. We have hit his air defence, we have hit his air power. His air power is almost non-existant right now. We have hit his immediate logistics base. You have seen the pictures that I shown you over the last couple of weeks of us taking out ammunition dumps, of us taking out hangars, of repair facilities. He is hurting. We know that he is running short of fuel. We are now starting to hit him very hard on the ground. We have hit him and his command and control facilities and I think underlying all that a week of hard work you will start to see the resolve starting to crack very quickly. I believe we have accomplished one hell of a lot in this week. Secondly, as to the way in which we go around and affect any rescues, that is one of the tactical issues which I am not prepared to go into.

Jamie Shea We will take just one final question for today. Pierre Butchev please from Le Figaro.

Pierre Bochev Yes, I'd like to get an understanding of your assessment methods when you say that on the Valley that you were able to identify three army units surrounding people and at the same time the answer was unfortunately you couldn't say how many people were trapped. Isn't there a slight contradiction in that?

Air Commodore Wilby No, there are ways and means of achieving an end.

Jamie Shea Okay, well. On that answer we shall leave you. So thank you again ladies and gentlemen for coming. I would remind you briefing 3 o'clock tomorrow with the Secretary General and SACEUR. Thank you. Good afternoon, everybody.

Go to Homepage Go to Index