Header
Updated: 5 April 1999 Press Conferences

NATO HQ

5 Apr. 1999

Press Conference

by NATO Spokesman, Jamie Shea
and Air Commodore, David Wilby

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon to everybody. Welcome to today's briefing. Today I will ask Air Commodore Wilby to begin, and then I will follow on in the usual way, so David please.

Air Commodore Wilby: Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen.

NATO has escalated its air campaign aimed at strategically degrading the FRY military capability. With clear weather at last, all Allied aircraft last night returned to their bases, after successfully engaging their targets in and around Belgrade and throughout FRY.

NATO also increased efforts to assist in addressing the disaster and human misery created by President Milosevic in Kosovo and exported to the neighbouring countries. NATO military forces on the ground in Albania and FYROM are conducting operations in direct support of the governments' and human relief organisations' activities; we are doing this to alleviate the human suffering and to ensure the safety and well being of the deportees until they are allowed to return to their homes.

We have established a number of centres with "tented villages" and these are now beginning to fill. Procedures with the Macedonian Government to ease the plight of the refugees are being evolved but food has become an urgent requirement. The humanitarian relief operations in Albania are also reaching critical proportions. NATO helicopters have already started relief operations. Aid continues to flow in from around the world and some 31 flights are scheduled for today.

In regard to ground activity in Kosovo, the UCK resistance is, in the main, limited to Western Kosovo. The remaining pockets are under heavy pressure from elements of the 125th Motorised Brigade, the 252nd Armoured Brigade and the MUP. The paramilitary activity that I reported yesterday is still going on in the area shown.

The forced expulsion of ethnic Albanians from their homes and their subsequent deportation has not stopped; the FRY military and Special Police continue their ethnic cleansing with their customary brutality. Yesterday, we were able to produce a sequence of 3 images of the Kosovan village of Glodane which gave us damning confirmation of this activity.

The first image, which I am able to release to you, showed us Serbian armour that was working in and around the village - this is identified by the circles on the left side, and bottom, of the screen. On the right of the screen you can see the consequences of the security force action with civilians and vehicles assembled in a holding area, - presumably awaiting transportation to the border.

Our second shot showed that the civilians had disappeared and, later, a final image clearly showed that the village had been set on fire. This was harrowing evidence of how these Serbian military units are being employed to force villagers from their homes.

Turning to our air operations, an improvement in the weather enabled us to make full use of all our assets. As you can see from the graphic, we hit a comprehensive number of targets throughout the full range of military categories. These included petroleum production and storage, airfields, air defences, ammunition storage and bridges. I would like to reiterate, every one of our targets is carefully chosen and vetted to ensure it's military significance, and each attack is planned with meticulous scrutiny to keep collateral damage to civilian property and loss of life to the absolute minimum.

In Belgrade, we also hit an important HQ of the FRY air defence forces. I told you yesterday of the destruction of the Security Institute and, today, I can show you before and after reconnaissance pictures of that target. As you can see, it was very heavily damaged.

We also targeted Serbian forces in the field. These next 2 slides in Kosovo give you an indication of the forces we are trying to interdict. Careful scrutiny showed us a field-deployed surface to air missile system and its support vehicles together with numerous armoured fighting vehicles. The second image pointed us to more deployed equipment - both target sets which we were subsequently able to attack.

There was considerable SAM activity and anti-aircraft fire yesterday, but all our aircraft returned safely. We had no airborne claims but believe we may have damaged several MIGs on the ground.

The weather forecast remains favourable and we expect to continue to intensify our operations. We will capitalise on the clear weather to attack strategic and operational targets throughout the operational area but, in particular, we will focus our attention on fielded forces in Kosovo. However, this is no easy task. You may remember I described earlier in the week the cat and mouse tactics being employed by Serbian armoured units. They are taking every advantage of deserted buildings and terrain to camouflage their positions; nonetheless, we are putting considerable efforts into this critical task and I expect that these attacks will soon severely disrupt Serbian military and Special Police operations on the ground.

I have one cockpit video today which is self-explanatory, but you will see at the end of the clip two bombs coming in from the right-hand side.

Thank you.


Jamie Shea: David, thank you very much, I would like to focus in my briefing on the humanitarian situation. As you know NATO wants to be a good samaritan to all of the refugees and displaced persons that have been forcibly expelled from Kosovo in recent days. The Secretary General, yesterday, spoke once again to Kofi Annan, the United Nations Secretary General and he has also spoken to President Kligerov in Skopja and to the Prime Minister of Albania in Tirana.

Yesterday we had a very successful and very original meeting here, co-chaired by NATO and the European Union to coordinate the efforts on the military side and also on the civilian side. NATO, the European Union, the Western European Union, the OSCE, Council of Europe, and of course the United Nations High Commission for Refugees participated in this meeting which went on all day. We shared information. We agreed on the need for coordinated planning and we agreed on the need to minimise red tape and bureaucracy and get action happening fast vis-a-vis the refugee situation. There is a follow-up meeting beginning this afternoon at the European Union. NATO of course, is participating. And another meeting tomorrow, in Geneva, hosted by the UNHCR, again, with NATO participation. As you will recall, NATO has a liaison team now in Geneva.

At the same time, yesterday, SHAPE has presented to NATO two concepts of operations for direct NATO military support, both in Albania and in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The first of these concepts of operations concerns air transportation and the coordination of a humanitarian airlift into Albania and into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The second one concerns the deployment of the ACE Mobile Force Land Headquarters, the basic elements of which are in Germany, to Albania in the next few days, to serve as the forward operating headquarters for the coordination of NATO's military assistance to the Government of Albania and to the UNHCR on the spot. This headquarters, the ACE Mobile Force Land Headquarters, has been placed on a 24 hours' notice to move, so that it will be able therefore, to ship out in the next few days. At the same time we are actively planning for a small, but significant NATO troop presence in Albania under this headquarters, and to be able to provide immediate practical assistance. Already, certain advance elements, however, have been deployed on a national basis in advance of the formal activation order for this Force from the North Atlantic Council. There are some Greek forces, some Italian forces and the United States has also now sent a force of 35 that have arrived at Tirana airport and are already installing equipment to offload refugee supplies from incoming aircraft.

The tasks that we foresee in Albania are essentially what we are also doing already in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. That is to say to act as an organised focal point for liaison and coordination to be able to offload supplies; to transport them rapidly to the areas of greatest need; to ensure storage; and of course to distribute directly, where necessary, to the refugees. We are also actively engaged in camp-site location and our aim is to both run and coordinate the humanitarian air-bridge into those two countries.

Now the ARCC - the Headquarters of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps - in Kumonovo, in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, under General Jackson, is now in full swing, assisting the Government there and the local relief organisations, as well as the international relief organisations, to deal with the inflow of refugees into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The NATO forces have already helped to set up a transit centre at Brasda, with the capacity to handle 80-100 thousand refugees. General Jackson is coordinating the airlift from NATO countries into Skopja. There were 13 flights yesterday, and as David said, we anticipate 31 flights today. NATO forces are also helping to equip the 2 airports at Skopja and Okred with a 24 hour capability, so that airlift can continue throughout the night if necessary, as well as during the day. 200 tons of supplies of relief food, pharmaceuticals, medicine have now been moved up to the border area and General Jackson and his men and women are also engaged in finishing the construction of 4 tent cities for the relief, of course, of the refugees.

At the same time, over the last 24 hours, our Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre has stepped up the momentum of its operations. In particular it has arranged for 5 Italian helicopters to be provided to Albania for shuttle transport up to the border, and it is also now working with the UNHCR to provide 3 transport aircraft directly to move UNHCR stocks from Western Europe into the region, and Belgium has already agreed to provide 2 out of the 3 aircraft.

One very heartening new development since yesterday is that NATO's Partners also want to be involved in this effort and they have agreed also to coordinate their contributions through our Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre.

At the same time, NATO is working with the UNHCR's Air Operation Cell in Geneva to coordinate the humanitarian air bridge in the widest sense.

So as you can see, NATO is now fully mobilised behind this effort. There is a lot we can do and there is a lot that we are doing and we will continue to do. But of course we also realise that the situation remains no less precarious than it was this time yesterday. 44,000 Kosovar Albanians left Kosovo yesterday, and of those 34,000 went to Albania and about 10,000 were processed into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. This situation is of course creating congestion and bottle-necks at the border-crossing points. 360,000 have now left Kosovo over the last 2 weeks and the total of displaced persons since the crisis began one year ago is now beginning to move up steadily towards the 1 million mark. It currently stands at 831,000 people.

The Deputy Secretary General of NATO, Ambassador Balanzino has started his trip this morning to 4 of the neighbouring countries. He has arrived in Bucharest, Romania, for consultations with the Government. He will be moving on later today to Bulgaria and then on to Skopje and finally to Tirana.

Now yesterday I was asked a question about the situation of refugees and humanitarian assistance in Montenegro. I can report that the UNHCR does have a very small presence in Montenegro, together with some international relief organisations, but of course not comparable to what we see in the other two countries, and many of the refugees in Montenegro are in fact also in transit towards Northern Albania.

Finally, I would like to come back to the two Spanish journalists that I referred to a couple of days ago. We are very worried about them. Apparently the indications we have are that they have been detained by the Serb authorities in Pristina. The Spanish Government of course is making every effort to have them released and NATO shares those sentiments entirely. We expect them to be released.

So. I think that's what I have by way of an introduction. Lets go directly to questions.

Mark Laity, BBC: I have a question to both of you. First of all to Air Commodore Wilby. You said you had 3 pictures. We only saw 1. If there are the other 2 available could we see them, perhaps even in this briefing? And then, on a more substantive issue. You talked about now attacking more forces in Kosovo. Are you significantly attacking fielded forces such as tanks, such as units deployed in the field? Are we actually now seeing evidence that you are attacking those front-line forces? And are you seeing any evidence that your isolation strategy, trying to starve them of fuel, is actually working?

And to Jamie, we have heard a lot about the war aims and a certain degree of confusion over them. Have we now got any formal endorsement of what the Secretary General said, which seems to have been identical to what the NATO members of the Contact Group said? So is that now the position of the Alliance, seeing as it was repeated once again by Robin Cook this morning?

Air Commodore Wilby: Let me take the first one. If you were very careful when you listened to my script, I did say "that I was able to release to you". I'm afraid the other 2 images I cannot release to you for sensitive reasons.

In terms of - are we hitting the fielded forces on the ground hard enough - the answer is, we are just starting to hit them. The weather, as you know, has only just cleared to give us a little more chance of hitting them hard. And we are now getting our tactics right, making sure that we have got all our forces in there. We have ramped up the number of sorties that we are doing and we are prosecuting and taking the fight to them very hard, and I think that you will find very direct results coming very shortly.

As to being able to give you hard, concrete evidence. As you will have probably seen from trying to see the various units that we had circled on the pictures, unless you have a trained eye, and the right sort of equipment, it is actually very difficult to make out damage to those sort of units. But I will try and give you as much information and evidence of our attacks as soon as I have them to hand.

In terms of our "isolationist policy", as you call it. Yes we are hitting the fuel dumps hard and yes, we are having direct evidence that we are causing pain.

Jamie Shea: Mark, I don't believe there is confusion about the Alliance's objectives. I would not use your term war aims, if you don't mind me raising that, because I have made it clear all along that we are not at war with anybody and certainly not with the people of Yugoslavia. But our objectives are clear and they are consistent. We want a multi-ethnic, democratic Kosovo. We want the Serb Security Forces to withdraw and to cease, once and for all, their repressive actions against the Kosovar Albanians. We want guarantees that all of the displaced persons, deportees, refugees, will be able to return freely and safely to their homes, and quickly. We want a political solution in which Belgrade would give the Kosovo people a far-reaching degree of autonomy and we want to base that political solution on the Rambouillet Accords and I have given the reasons why in previous briefings. And finally, it is our firm conviction that the return of the refugees and the solution to the humanitarian crisis are inconceivable without an international military presence on the ground in Kosovo, at least during a transitional period. So there is absolute clarity among all Allies on those fundamental principles.

Let's go to Paulo please.

Journalist: Thank you Jamie.

I have two questions concerning the US helicopters, Apaches which are supposed to be sent to the region, or maybe they are already on their way. First to the Air Commodore, could you tell us what is the effective power of these helicopters. And, they are followed by 2,000 servicemen, so are these specialists just for the service of these helicopters, or can they fulfil even further tasks in the future, I mean within the NATO forces.

And for Jamie, I have a question. I have been told that these helicopters are supposed to operate from Albania. Is it true, if this is so, is NATO not afraid that Albania could be this way drawn into the conflict. Thank you.

Air Commodore Wilby: Let me pick up the first. First of all there is a very generous offer from the United States for a package and that is under active consideration by NATO. In terms of giving you details of the fire-power that the Apache would bring to the conflict. You know very well that I have said from the start that my job is not to release any tactical information that might, in any way, compromise the tactics that we use in the field, or more importantly, affect the lives of the aircrew who are carrying out the attacks. And I plan to do that. In terms of what fire-power it brings. I'm sure if you pick up the Internet, or Janes, you will find exactly what that helicopter can bring to a conflict like this.

In terms of the numbers of support people involved, you will know that unfortunately modern sophisticated aeroplanes require good husbandry and the numbers that you have heard are associated totally with supporting that package.

Jamie Shea: The second part of Paulo's question. Paulo, the situation at the moment is that the Ambassadors are consulting on the deployment of the Apaches and I do not want to give you a definitive response until their consultations have concluded, which will by the way, be very, very shortly.

Secondly, on the question of the threat to a Partner country. We have had, as you know, over the last months, special consultations with Albania, as we can do under Article 8 of the Partnership Agreement which links us to Albania. And we have always made clear, even before the question of the Apaches came up, that NATO would treat with the utmost seriousness any threat to a Partner country. And I think that that is the clearest response that I can give you on that one for the time being.

Patricia please.

Patricia Kelly, CNN: Jamie, a follow-up question on the Apaches. It is unclear as to whether .... you are saying that NATO Ambassadors are consulting on this and the Air Commodore says that the offer is under active consideration. We've already heard the British Foreign Secretary welcoming these and talking as if they're going to be part of the operation. Hasn't NATO already agreed, given the go-ahead for the six-banded air operation. Why do Ambassadors need to consult? What is the problem inside the Council? Is there any one country specifically against the deployment of these?

And for the Air Commodore, can these helicopters operate effectively over Yugoslav territory without the benefit of close air support teams on the ground?

Jamie Shea: Ok, Patricia, as I mentioned, and as you know, when the Pentagon last night announced that the Apaches would be made available, they also announced that obviously NATO had to go through a process of consultation because these aircraft are being offered to NATO. And let me first of all state that we are extremely grateful to the United States for making available this extremely important capability which is being made available at the right time. There is no doubt about that. And which will significantly enhance our ability to go after those ground targets in Kosovo which the Air Commodore was referring to. But as this offer has been made available to NATO, obviously NATO Ambassadors have to consult and as I pointed out there also has to be a consultation with a non-NATO country and obviously therefore, I wouldn't like to comment in detail until those consultations have taken place. And there is no difficulty in the Alliance, but we have to respect obviously the procedures of consultation. So I will have more to say on that in the coming hours. But that is all I can say for the time being.

Let's go to the gentleman - sorry - after David has answered this question of course.

Air Commodore Wilby: I am sure that the Apache helicopter is capable of operating very effectively wherever it chooses.

Jamie Shea: Ok, let's now go to the gentleman next to Patricia.

Stars and Strips: From reports from our reporters in the region they are noticing slowly a troop build-up of American forces in Macedonia. Notably some airborne troops, some other troops. I guess this question is going to go to the Air Commodore. Is NATO slowly building up its forces past this 12,000 point? And also for Jamie. I guess also from these same reporters noticing that some of these tents that were erected down in Macedonia are not being filled. Is there any scheduling for the refugees to go into these tents, and what is the scheduling for flying refugees out? Thank you.

Air Commodore Wilby: As to your first part of the question, I can assure you that the numbers that you mention are very carefully adhered to.

Jamie Shea: Ok, that means my part of the question.

On the situation the ARRC Headquarters, that's to say General Jackson, has focussed his efforts in the last 24 hours, not only on completing these tent camps that I mentioned, but also on setting up, helping to set up the processing centre. Those tents are therefore, available and are at the disposal of the UNHCR and of course of the Government. Naturally, the way in which they are used depends upon the process of coordination which is on-going with the Government. But we are certainly making the facilities available.

That is the first point. The second point on evacuation. I have looked into this this morning and there were some announcements that evacuations from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia would begin already yesterday. Now I understand that this has not happened, obviously there is a processing - a process - that has to take place for refugees before they can be evacuated. The emphasis is on those that need the most urgent attention. Norway has sent an aircraft to Skopje for this purpose, but this is not a decision of NATO. NATO has no role to play in the decision on the evacuations. This is of course, a decision for member Governments, in terms of receiving the refugees, and it's a decision on the spot for the local government and the UNHCR in terms of selecting and processing the people. Obviously, it would be inhumane to send them out of the country in the condition in which they arrived. So of course this has to be done in an organised way. And to the extent that I have more details on that I will give them to you, but that's all I've got for you for the time being. Let's go to the Gentleman at the back there.

Journalist: A clarification on the political aims. Do you need a political agreement in order to deploy a protection force.

Jamie Shea: Yes, the NATO policy is that a protection force will be deployed in the context of a political agreement. Yes.

Ok, with all these hands up, I think the lady here.

CBS New: Emma Bonino, the EU Humanitarian Acting Commissioner, talked yesterday, or called yesterday, for the creation of enclaves for the refugees, not just in Macedonia and Albania but also in neighbouring Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary. Does NATO support that kind of idea? Are any approaches being made, particularly considering the Deputy Secretary General is now in Bulgaria and Romania?

Jamie Shea: Yes, well NATO, as I've said is a Good Samaritan, but we are not a refugee organisation. These are not decisions to be made by us. These are decisions to be made by the UNHCR which is the competent authority, in conjunction with local governments and other governments. We are prepared to give our active support to whatever decision may be made.

Now, clearly, we want the refugees to be able to go back quickly. Those NATO governments which have agreed to receive refugees have made it clear that this is purely on a temporary basis. There is absolutely no intention whatever of sanctioning Milosovic's ethnic cleansing. The great majority of the refugees will remain and will be cared for in the region. Those that are taken out because of urgent medical or other reasons, and of course to ease the enormous burden that is currently on Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, will be accepted, as I said on a temporary basis and the idea is that they should go back as soon as we have established a durable peace. In fact they want to go back, that is very, very clear and there are precedents, I am glad to say, for the rapid resettlement of refugees once political conditions have improved. So I think we are hopeful that they will all be back in their homes before too long.

Let's go to a question from the gentleman there in the middle, please.

David Scott, ABC News: For the Air Commodore, there was sort of a race against time going on given the pace of the deportations. Is it your view that the Apaches and the other equipment can be moved into the region and deployed in time to make a difference to people on the ground.

Air Commodore Wilby: I don't think that we have ever considered it as a race against time, and as I have tried to outline to you as the days have gone on that we've had no time line to follow. Obviously, we want to complete our business as quickly as we can.

Jamie Shea: Antonio, please.

Journalist: Thank you Jamie. Air Commodore, yesterday you showed us a clip concerning the troops at UCK very close to the Albanian border. Today you showed it again, but in the meantime you had ..... and also from the United States in the shape of 25 Apache helicopters ..... has one thing got to do with the other? Is this really to help, because this type of engine provides to go closer and probably to help the UCK against the 2 brigades that you just showed us. And Jamie, bringing those helicopters into Albania, if the Albanian Government says yes, means NATO is going a little bit further now. Does this cover PfP or is it out of it? And how you can you cope in this new political mood? Thank you.

Air Commodore Wilby: I think it was you who came up with the encirclement scenario yesterday. Well, I am afraid just like that one, this one is just a coincidence.

Jamie Shea: Antonio, this is not the sort of activity which is in the normal scope of Partnership for Peace of course, so it would depend on bilateral arrangements between NATO and Albania. But again, as I've said, consultations are on-going at the moment and I really don't want to say anything more on this issue - you will understand why - until the consultations have concluded.

Ah, yes, let's go to the lady next to Antonio.

Journalist: Concerning the security in the region. How could NATO act in the case of threats to the non-partner countries like Croatia and Bosnia, for example?

Jamie Shea: Perhaps I could take that, if I may David, because it is a political topic on which there has been a lot of activity here over the last few weeks. In fact we have included Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina in our group of neighbouring countries which we are actively talking to during the crisis, even though Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina are not members of the Partnership for Peace at the present time. So we are, therefore, seeking to have channels of communication with them as well, they meet here at NATO Headquarters with Ambassador Klaiber, the Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs, virtually every day, or every other day, for regular updates on all of the NAC - North Atlantic Council - consultations. So they are, therefore, included in this process.

Doug please.

Journalist: A question for both please, beginning with Air Commodore Wilby.

You showed the sequence and Glodana village. What I would like to know is were NATO aircraft, after these villages were moved out, able to attack the units which conducted this cleansing or were they allowed to go on up the road and do the next village?

And for Jamie a related question.

At the rate of expulsions that you describe and the amount of time that it's going to take to get extra equipment such as Apaches in, it could be that Kosovo is effectively empty, as you've said in 10 days. Is NATO strategy now to let them empty it, to be effectively a relief organisation on the borders, and at the same time dramatically relax its rules of engagement in Kosovo once the civilians are out of the way?

Air Commodore Wilby: Doug, let me take that first question, which as always is very pertinent and right on the spot.

We weren't able to attack those troops yesterday. What I would say to you is that if we were to see that sort of organisation going on, with a mix of armour and troops very close, then I think we would have to think very carefully about when we put our attacks in.

Jamie Shea: Doug, clearly, we want to stop the violence in Kosovo immediately, as soon as we possibly can. It's our intention to stop it before the last Kosovar Albania has been forced to leave and to turn off the lights as he or she does so, that's absolutely clear.

As I mentioned on many occasions. President Milosevic began this campaign of ethnic cleansing well before NATO dropped the first bomb. In fact, the evidence is that it all started at least in the latest edition, in 1997, even though the violence did not flair up in a systematic way until March of last year and two thirds of the refugees were already refugees before NATO initiated its action so this is a problem of resettlement which would have had to have been dealt with by the international community in any way. But clearly as much as we try to stop the violence on the ground. We are faced with a situation where the Yugoslav forces with their tanks, with their aircraft, with their artillery, are in the cities, in the villages, pushing people out. But the most important thing is that at the end of the day we should reverse this situation, and that those people should be able to exercise their right to return and we should not accept the principle of a wasteland in Kosovo in which the population would not be allowed to go back.

Let's look at the Yugoslav constitution on these matters, which is still in effect.

Article 9, The Rights and Freedoms of Citizens Restricted Only by Equality with Others.

Article 10, The Rights and Freedoms of Man and a Citizen Recognised under International Law, Guaranteed.

Article 11, The Rights of National Minorities to Preserve, Foster and Express their Ethnic, Cultural, Linguistic and other Peculiarities, Guaranteed.

Article 17, A Citizen May Not be Deprived of His Citizenship, Deported from the Country or Extradited to Another State.

Article 21, Human Life Shall be Inviolable. No Death Penalty.

Article 31, The Home Shall be Inviolable.

I won't mention Article 36, but if I did it would concern the Freedom of the Press and other Public Information. So, we simply want to ensure that Yugoslavia applies its own Constitution to its own people.

Question there, please.

Journalist: Thanks Jamie, 2 questions if I may. You have not been talking very much about diplomacy, you have just been talking about strikes. Has anyone been making any kind of effort or is Milosevic diplomatically isolated in this matter? And second question, is there a new definition brought up by Commissioner Bonino, that these are not refugees but deportees. Is that a classification that NATO supports as well?

Jamie Shea: Well, let me, if I may, answer the second part of your question first. Yes, Robin Cook has used the same term and they are deportees. They are people who have been deported from their own country and right of residence. Secondly, we prefer diplomacy in this Alliance. We always prefer diplomacy to the use of force, which is the reason why we spent the best part of the last year in diplomatic efforts. I have lost count of the number of senior envoys from NATO and other countries that have visited Belgrade and have tried to impress upon Milosevic our desire and the rational preference for a diplomatic solution. The problem is that it is Milosevic who doesn't seem to like diplomacy, quite frankly. As I have said, he had a golden opportunity just a couple of days ago to avoid the situation that he is now in, by signing a Peace Agreement at Rambouillet which gave Serbia a great deal, as well as of course to the Kosovar Albanians. But instead of negotiating, he stonewalled, wanted to re-open everything, and then even before the talks had ended, signalled his preference for a military solution by restarting his "clean and sweep" operations in Kosovo. So, it takes two to tango and it takes two to negotiate. But obviously, we would very much hope to start diplomacy as quickly as we can. We have welcomed the efforts of Prime Minister Primakov, the Papal Envoy and others in Belgrade, even since the NATO campaign began, to try to persuade President Milosevic to meet the terms of the International Community. And as you know, there is talk this week of Contact Group Meetings, of G8 Meetings. And we would welcome any initiative that would emerge from these meetings, again, to persuade President Milosevic, even at this 11th and a half hour, to go the diplomatic route. That is our overwhelming preference, and let's hope he does so.

Charles.

NBC: Air Commodore, can you comment on certain reports that have been in the press over the last few days, saying that this now is going to be an air campaign that is going to have to go longer than had been previously anticipated? Both politicians and military strategists have been quoted as saying that. If that is the case to what kind of factor? And Jamie, you mentioned yesterday about some quarter of a million refugees that you thought were..... you were very concerned about ..... who may have been trapped in, I think you called it the no-mans-land in the hills and mountains and they hadn't eaten for some 48 hours. Is there any news on them and are you any more inclined now to drop food to them, considering the chance that that food may be picked up by Serb soldiers.

Air Commodore Wilby: As regarding the first part of your question, I am sorry to answer it in the same way that I always do. There never has been a timeline to this operation, and I think that it has been one of those campaigns that has been a very dynamic campaign. And we must take it every day as it comes.

Jamie Shea: Charles, on the second part of your question. I have no update on the parlous situation of those poor people, but obviously it only forces them to move quickly to the borders, because at least once they have exited Kosovo, they can receive humanitarian assistance. But of course we are very preoccupied about their plight.

Charles, please.

The Times, London: Two questions Jamie. You've been talking about the International Force. Last week you were talking more about a NATO-led force. Has there been an evolution in the possible make-up of this force? The other question is that Mr. Rogova has popped up again, this time with the Russian Ambassador, and is asking NATO to stop bombing. Do you think that this was an old film, or do you have any information on it.

Jamie Shea: Well thanks for those questions Charles. Coming from you, I was anticipating them and I knew you would ask me good questions.

First of all. On the NATO-led force. No. Rambouillet makes it clear that it is a NATO-led force. But it's an International Military Force to the extent that we hope to be able to take on the job with other countries. We have made it clear all along that we would like this to be a force which represents the International Community in the broadest sense, just like SFOR in Bosnia, you see a rainbow coalition, as it were, of over 30 countries, and many of our Partners have indicated already, a desire to be part of that force and there is also a seat at the table for Russia too, which we hope it will take up.

On Rogova, I think we are going to wait, quite frankly, until the end of this conflict in Kosovo to learn all of the facts about Rogova and therefore, I probably should reserve judgement. But I did notice that he today, equally, said that he had asked the Serb Authorities to allow him to leave and to travel abroad, although they seem to feel that his security is better ensured by keeping him in Kosovo. So be it. But it would be nice if Mr. Rogova could come here and stand where I am standing at the moment and tell you what he really thinks and then you and I would both agree that that would be the final version of the facts.

Let's go to the next question. Thomas there please.

Journalist: Thank you Jamie. In the view of NATO, President Milosevic is still a partner to negotiate with even though he would appear on the list of International Criminals in The Hague?

Jamie Shea: Well, I would not use the term partner to describe NATO's relationship with President Milosevic. Let me simply say that he is the leader of his country. And therefore, he is the person who controls the security forces. And therefore, he is the person who orders them into action and orders them to stop fighting. And so obviously, if we want the fighting in Kosovo to stop, a telephone call from Mr., or President Milosevic's Palace has to be made. As for what happens afterwards, well, that is of course up to his own people and I don't want to comment on those developments.

Stephen, I think you had a question earlier.

Journalist: Two questions, if I may Jamie. One for the Air Commodore. I understand there is a military logic, and there are military reasons for not telling us what targets you are going to hit. But it's much harder for me to understand that there are important security reasons for you not telling us, for instance, what portion of the air defence has been destroyed. What specific reason do you have for not telling us, for not giving us that general assessment?

Question for Jamie. You said you didn't anticipate the scale and the intensity of the ethnic cleansing and of the deportations but that Milosevic is solely responsible. Should you not recognise the obvious fact that the NATO air attacks have at least had the unintended effect of worsening the situation in Kosovo, if only because the independent observers had to leave in anticipation of the air campaign, thereby giving the Serbs a free hand? Thank you.

Air Commodore Wilby: Your question is a very fair one, but I will reiterate that we are up against an opponent with a very comprehensive intelligence-gathering organisation and it would be wrong of us to state in the public forum what we think we might have achieved. We might underestimate what we have achieved and that might give him heart to continue. So really, any judgement, any percentages, we are not prepared to release.

Jamie Shea: Let me try to answer that question because it is a fundamental one, obviously.

The first thing is there are three and a half million people who have been displaced by nationalism in the former Yugoslavia, most of it generated by Milosevic since 1991. And for 99.999 per cent of that time, NATO has not been conducting air operations. So the historical record is that President Milosevic doesn't normally wait for force to be used against him before either starting, or indeed accelerating, ethnic cleansing.

Second answer, or attempt at an answer, is that it's very difficult for rational people in Western democracies to anticipate what irrational people are going to do, particularly as President Milosevic is a rather silent figure. He doesn't make many speeches. He doesn't give State of the Union addresses to his Parliament. He doesn't produce government programmes as such. And therefore, we don't quite know what he is intending to do and when.

Thirdly, we acted because we knew that this was going to happen, in the sense that we had the beginnings of the latest "clean and sweep" operation, particularly in Northern Kosovo, with an enormous build-up of forces, and the signs that that was happening came about two weeks before NATO began Operation Allied Force. So we knew that something was being prepared and of course the signal that Milosevic had decided to go all out for a military solution, on his conditions, came when Milatinovic and the other Serb negotiators in the Avenue Kleber simply stonewalled. NATO acted very quickly, very quickly indeed, following the end of the Paris negotiations. Because we knew that it was at that that moment that we had to do what we could to stop it. And at the end of the day you have to ask yourself. If NATO was not acting would Milosevic show restrain? I don't believe so, and I come back to the first part of my answer. The historical record is that he doesn't seem to need the excuse of Allied intervention to drive people from their homes.

And the second thing is, I'm convinced of one thing: even if NATO, or nobody could stop this from happening, we can reverse it. And we can ensure that refugees go home. And without our action I am convinced of one thing: That all of the people leaving Kosovo at the moment would be leaving it for ever and would remain refugees for the rest of their lives.

Craig.

New York Times: Question for Air Commodore Wilby. Can you give us some idea of the number of targets that you hit yesterday? Or the number of planes that were involved in bombing missions?

Air Commodore Wilby: We hit a comprehensive set of targets and we used quite a lot of aeroplanes.

Jamie Shea: Ok, I'm going to take one final question for today.

I think Dimitri. It should go to you.

Journalist: Question for the Air Commodore. There is quite widespread rumour ......a and speculation in Moscow that there is certain connection channel between NATO and Belgrade and by means of this channel NATO warns Belgrade about the particular objects of strikes, and even that there is a certain list which was handed .....a , list of strikes, of targets, which was handed to Belgrade by NATO. Could you comment on this?

Air Commodore Wilby: I certainly hope that is not true.

Jamie Shea: Dimitri, I have no information on that.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we will stop there for today. A further briefing of course at 3 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.

Go to Homepage Go to Index