Updated: 8 April 1999 Press Conferences


8 Apr. 1999

Press Conference

by NATO Spokesman, Jamie Shea
Air Commodore, David Wilby and Commander Fabrizio Maltinti, SHAPE

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea: Welcome to this afternoon's briefing. You will see a new face on the podium today, we are changing just a little the format and I'm very pleased to welcome Commander Fabrizio Maltinti of the Italian Navy who is going to give you a briefing on NATO's assistance to the humanitarian relief effort but to reassure you, you are going to have the usual military update immediately thereafter and as you can see, Air Commodore Wilby is waiting to do that and then I will be on hand with two briefers obviously to take your questions in the usual fashion.

I would just like to make a few very brief points before I hand over to Command Maltinti.

The first thing is simply to inform you that this morning the Secretary General met with the Foreign Minister of Germany, Mr. Joschka Fischer, for consultations obviously on the Kosovo crisis and Minister Fischer briefed the Secretary General on the agenda and anticipated results of the EU Foreign Ministers meeting this afternoon in Luxembourg. At the same time, the Council, when it met this morning, was busily preparing for the exceptional meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers which we are holding here on Monday, it will start in the morning at about 9.30/10.00 - I will provide you with the details either this afternoon or tomorrow - and will go on until the early part of the afternoon and naturally there will be the usual press conferences both of the Secretary General and of Ministers.

Today, the Council discussed the humanitarian situation. I won't comment at length on this because we have a briefer who will be able to go into this in greater detail than I can. I just wanted to stress, however, that we are on the verge of launching Operation "Allied Harbour", our operation to provide military support to the international relief in Albania. Today, at SHAPE, there is an initial logistics planning conference for this operation which I remind you involves the deployment of the ACE Mobile Force Land Headquarters together with an accompanying force which we think will probably be around 8,000 troops, the number of course will depend on the tasks and the statement of requirements but that is the sort of ball-park area that we are planning for. Fourteen nations are participating in this initial planning conference, the force generation should begin early next week and we hope to be able to deploy the ACE Mobile Force Headquarters to Albania by the end of next week with some lead companies.

At the same time, NATO countries continue to be active in Albania, particularly in establishing a helicopter supply route between Tirana and Kukes on the border, more helicopters have been provided by Allies this morning to that effort.

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, our operations continue to go well. The NATO Enabling Force has now established five camps for refugees and displaced persons, the numbers that these camps are accommodating now are 43,400 so a significant proportion of the displaced-person population in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is being looked after courtesy of NATO and NATO soldiers have already distributed 87,000 food rations together with building latrines and a field hospital, providing drinking water and so on. At the same time, we continue to co-ordinate our airlift arrangements into both Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; tomorrow at Ramstein in Germany there will be a special co-ordinating meeting to again have the smoothest possible interface between civilian and military traffic in the region.

I would like to remind you that tomorrow afternoon NATO Ambassadors and the Secretary General will be receiving the Foreign Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for a special 19+1 consultation on the situation in the region.

Finally, at the Council meeting today, a great amount of concern was expressed about the fate of all of those people who are still inside Kosovo and particularly those who apparently were trying to leave when border posts were closed yesterday, particularly border posts between Albania and Kosovo. We don't know what has happened to these people who seem to have been forced back inside Kosovo, NATO countries are obviously trying to find out, it is not helped by the fact that there are no international organisations operating in Kosovo at the moment. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees established a figure back at the end of March of 260,000 displaced persons at the time inside Kosovo. We don't obviously know what the numbers are today but we are very concerned about their safety and wellbeing so we'll be tracking that situation very closely indeed. As I mentioned yesterday, now that NATO is helping to get on top of the humanitarian crisis outside Kosovo, we do not want to see a second humanitarian crisis inside Kosovo itself with all of these displaced people without shelter, food or any kind of assistance.

I will be back in a moment but in the meantime I hand over to Commander Maltinti for his briefing. Commander, thank you very much.

Commander Maltinti: Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen, NATO forces increased their effort to relieve the situation of the refugees in Albania and Fyrom. This effort is based on some fundamental principles and it is important they are clear.

First - NATO will not seek to create an independent humanitarian role for itself.

Second - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva has the lead role in the operation. It is the UNHCR in fact that establishes priorities and identifies the requirements for the humanitarian effort.

Third - The requirements are determined on the ground by the UNHCR and the nations provide what is requested, NATO's role is to help to co-ordinate the flow of aid to assist in the humanitarian relief effort.

Fourth - Whatever support is made available, NATO will eventually be replaced by civil organisations and we are working to ensure an orderly transition without disruption to the humanitarian effort.

This slide will show the relationship between the UNHCR, international organisations (IOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), NATO and nations.

United Nations organisations on the ground identify the humanitarian assistance requirements. The requirements are given to the nations who provide the aid in all its forms, including the transportation assets. NATO does not have any humanitarian aid stockpiles.

The Refugee Support Co-ordination Centre at SHAPE is designed to match the requirements on the ground with the humanitarian assistance. Its aim is to identify what the relief agencies and host governments need and put together the necessary capabilities in co-operation with nations.

I want to emphasize that we are not duplicating the civil contribution of nations and relief agencies, we are concentrating on providing military resources not readily available to civil agencies. To do this important job, the Refugee Support Co-ordination Cell (RSCC) is linked to the NATO forces in FYROM and Albania, to the NATO chain of command, which includes the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Relief Co-ordination Center, to the national representatives at SHAPE and to the UNHCR in Geneva. In this way, we will be able to have a clear picture of what is happening on the ground and be able to respond as quickly as possible to the humanitarian aid requirements.

Situation of refugee figures in FYROM

Two events have taken place on the FYROM border: First, 20,000 refugees left Blace in four convoys of 90 buses each with an escort of FYROM police, it is now confirmed that they entered Albania. At the same time, the border was closed by Serb authorities. Indications suggest that the refugees on the Kosovo side of the FYROM border have been collectively transported back into the Kosovo area. The situation is still unclear and we await further information.

In Albania

8,000 refugees arrived in Northern Albania from Kosovo in the last 24 hours. The Serb authorities closed the border at 3 a.m., telling the displaced persons still inside Kosovo that it was now safe to go home because of the cease-fire. Indications are that these 8,000 refugees returned to unknown locations in Kosovo.

The FYROM refugee centres are now accommodating 43,400 refugees, 24,000 of whom are in the Brazda Transit Centre. They have increased their planned total which is now for 47,000 refugees.

NATO forces in Kosovo, in conjunction with UNHCR, are planning the transfer of responsibility for the refugee centres. Some aid agencies will take over running the refugee centres and others will be given responsibility for supporting them with essential commodities such as food and medicines. International and non-governmental organisations report that they expect to be running at full capacity in 2 to 7 weeks.

There are 11 Albanian refugee centres all of which are open, only the Tirana and Durres centres are near capacity. The refugee centres accommodate 24,000 refugees while the total capacity is 76,000.

As was mentioned during yesterday's press conference, the AFSOUTH NATO Cell is in Tirana

Yesteday, 357 tonnes of aid was transported into FYROM and 248 tonnes into Albania and distributed accordingly, bringing the total to 1,601 tonnes for FYROM and 599 tonnes for Albania.

ACE Rapid Reaction Forces' support in FYROM continues in various forms including provision of logistic support at the airport, distribution of aid, provision of cooks and field kitchen facilities.

Yesterday, we delivered to Skopje baby food, insulin and pediatric supplies which were critical shortages.

Yesterday, 48 aircraft landed in Skopje and 26 in Tirana, aid flights into Skopje and Tirana are continuing.

Air Commodore Wilby: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen: During the past 24 hours, NATO air strikes continued against the strategic infrastructure in Yugoslavia. We continue to systematically degrade and diminish the military, paramilitary and special police forces of the FRY. All of our aircraft have returned safely to their home bases.

Despite Belgrade's declaration of a cease-fire, Serbian forces continue to engage remaining UCK units and there is further evidence that mop-up operations are still being carried out in isolated areas. Yesterday, we also detected some counter-attacks mounted by the UCK. Nevertheless, it would appear that the Serbian units are generally adopting the defensive and concealed posture that I mentioned in yesterday's briefing.

This photograph shows field-deployed FRY main battle tanks, marked by the red circles, hidden amongst remnants of buildings and houses which Serbian forces had previously destroyed as part of their "scorched earth" policy. However, we continue to improve our techniques and refine our tactics to effectively engage and destroy these fielded forces.

We have been making the most of the improved weather in our air operations. Yesterday, NATO flew nearly 400 combat missions over the former Republic of Yugoslavia and Kosovo, air defence activity was normal. I can confirm at least one SA-6 was fired and that a MiG-29 took off but recovered to his home base very quickly and we did not engage him.

This graphic gives you an indication of the target areas we struck yesterday and the categories of strategic and operational targets remained unchanged to what has become our regular pattern. I would like to emphasize that all targets were of military significance and our concerns for collateral damage and loss of civilian life remain paramount.

In particular, you will be aware that yesterday the Serbian authorities arranged a visit by Western reporters to Pristina. Several news reports filed last night described significant damage to the entire city. I can absolutely assure you that while NATO has attacked military targets around Pristina and one very carefully-targeted MUP headquarters which was struck very successfully in the city area, NATO has certainly not caused the reported widespread random damage which we believe has been orchestrated by Serbian forces.

We are now maintaining our air presence over Kosovo for longer periods of time and this is bearing fruit in our efforts against the fielded forces. If you will remember, yesterday I showed you a graphic which depicted an attack against a convoy in Western Kosovo. I can now show you imagery we obtained late yesterday which shows that same convoy, or more accurately the remains of that convoy. You can clearly see the abandoned military vehicles along the road.

Today, I have some cockpit imagery from our recent operations against other Serbian forces within Kosovo. Unlike the area attack which I described to you yesterday, these attacks employ guided munitions. On this video, you can make out a road with Serbian vehicles on it. If you watch closely when the video begins to play, you will see that the pilot locks his missile onto a target; once the missile is launched from the aircraft the video feed stops but the weapon automatically guides to the target to which it is locked. The pilot then executes a rapid escape manoeuvre to avoid target defences and the detonation of his own weapon. Unfortunately, you will not be able to see this weapon strike. Yesterday, we carried out both guided and area attacks against such forces and mobile air defence units with good success.

The next video I have shows a successful attack on an ammunition production facility. If you watch the right side of the image you may see the bombs prior to their impact.

This final clip very clearly shows one of our successful strikes against the Serbian armoured vehicles operating within Kosovo. Because the guidance is from the aircraft, you can clearly see the final results.

Today is another busy day and our operations are ongoing with even greater success against fielded forces. Our operational tempo and effectiveness continues to increase and I believe that our momentum is building with encourage pace.

Questions & Answers

Sarah Chase, National Public Radio: For the Air Commodore, please. As Jamie mentioned, there are these increasingly clear reports that borders are closed and people being pushed back into Kosovo. Would that complicate the way the air campaign is carried out over Kosovo?

Air Commodore Wilby: I rather think that depends on where those poor unfortunate people finish and I think the question that you're getting at is what happens if they put people associated with targets, is that right?

Sarah: Either on purpose or in general if people are moving back into villages which are near units.

Air Commodore Wilby: Well, as I have always said to you, we will look at the circumstances at the time and we'll make sure that before we carry out our attacks that we can carry out those attacks without collateral to and particularly damage and loss of civilian lives, particularly innocent civilian lives.

Nick Mackie (Deutsche Welle): Can you confirm reports that NATO will now be striking television and radio transmitters antennae etc?

Air Commodore Wilby: Serb radio and tv is an instrument of propaganda and repression, it has filled the air waves with hate and with lies over the years and especially now. It is therefore a legitimate target in this campaign. If President Milosevic would provide equal time for Western news broadcasts in its programmes without censorship three hours a day between noon and 1800 and three hours a day between 1800 and midnight, then his tv could become an acceptable instrument of public information. Does that answer your question?

Jamie Shea: Let me add to that that also many of the tv transmitters integrated into command-and-control communication nodes are for the Yugoslav Armed Forces and we have therefore been attacking those military targets which may have had as a secondary effect also that certain tv transmitters have been damaged or destroyed but again, to the extent that the tv transmitters are integrated into the military systems then they are going to be targets and as far as Serb tv opening itself up to pluralism I can only endorse what David said.

Mark Laity (BBC): Commodore, you seemed to be expecting that question. Can we take it that that reply should be seen as either a threat or a promise that you will be bombing the television transmitters unless they allow three hours of Western television and also a secondary question: are you seeing any evidence of a slow-down in operation by the VJ and MUP forces as a result of the attacks?

Air Commodore Wilby: First of all, as to my statement, I think you can take it as a public statement, a public announcement.

As regards your second question, I've tried to give you an impression particularly through this week that we have been striking his petroleum depots, we've seen evidence that he is having slight problems, he is having to slow down and I think that this latest evidence that we have seen where they are hiding up - laagering up - in deserted villages, taking on a more concealed process is perhaps an indication that our campaign is having its effect.

Jamie Shea: If David will forgive me, may I also add to that a perspective which is that it is not enough of course simply for these Serb units to stop firing. I share David's view that it's because they are trying to husband and are extremely scarce of fuel now and of course because NATO air strikes are having an effect. That is why they want to hide, because they know that we will hit them and are perfectly capable of doing so, so to some degree that's a good sign and if that takes the pressure off the long-suffering Kosovar population for a while then that it's all to the good as well but the fundamental point is that a lot of the violence that we see going on in Kosovo is not done necessarily by tanks or artillery although unfortunately there has been a lot of that, it is done by these paramilitary units and even armed Serb civilians supported by the paramilitaries, directly by the military, who go around to people's homes, who at gunpoint intimidate, who then force people to leave and that is why we've always made it clear that a cease-fire as such is insufficient, it's nice to have it but it is not in itself going to bring peace to Kosovo as everybody knows because of these activities of paramilitary squads going around from door to door. That's why we stress that the Serb forces have to leave Kosovo.

Question (Name not clear): There has been a lot of talk about permissive environment to change to another subject regarding Kosovo and the deployment of ground forces and I would like to know Jamie's answer to if it is possible that a permissive environment can be created through the air attacks alone without Milosevic having to in fact sign some deal, a Rambouillet-type deal.

Jamie Shea: Certainly, we want to be able to deploy NATO-led forces into Kosovo as soon as possible and therefore as soon as we've put a stop to the violence and achieved those objectives which I outlined yesterday in terms of getting the Serb forces to withdraw, making sure that that process is a verifiable process so that we know that we are not having, if you like, the wool pulled in front of our eyes and then guarantees regarding the return of all refugees. Naturally, it is going to be very critical for then an international military presence to enter Kosovo quickly not only to create a verification mechanism on the effective withdrawal of the Serb forces but also to create, as we have done in Bosnia with SFOR, a climate of confidence and stability which will encourage refugees to return home free from intimidation and will also presumably provide a back-up to the international relief organisations that I fear are going to have a lot of work to do in Kosovo once the violence has been brought to an end.

We have said all along that that has to be done also in the context of a political framework and it is up to NATO governments to decide on the exact timing of that when the time comes but it has to be a permissive environment and it has to be in the context of some kind of ongoing framework towards a political solution for Kosovo. But of course, we have to see what the circumstances are going to be at the time obviously on this one.

Stephen: Two questions, one is for Commander Maltinti. You gave various figures about refugees. Do I take it from your presentation that all refugees outside Kosovo have been accounted for because there is some confusion about the fate of about 10,000 refugees?

Also a question for Air Commodore Wilby, if I may: There are conflicting reports on when the Apaches will be effectively deployed and used in the air campaign. Can you give us some update on that. Thanks!

Commander Maltinti: Thanks for the opportunity to clarify one aspect. The figure that we have now is the figure that we were able to collect from the ground, from the troops that are there and from the humanitarian system organisations. You have to consider that the troops that we have there at the moment are heavily involved in feeding these people, building tents, digging latrines so they are not so greatly involved in bureaucratic work. I cannot guarantee the numbers are exactly 100 per cent but it is the best we can do at the moment.

Air Commodore Wilby: As to the deployment of the Apache, as I said to you yesterday, it is deploying as quickly as it can and the advance parties have already started to flow. I couldn't give you a question of days, I'm afraid.

Question (Tlvision franaise): A question to Commodore Wilby. First a sub-question: Do I understand correctly that if Serbian television were to respect the kind of programming you are suggesting they would not be bombed?

And the second question is if you look at what's going on inside Kosovo at the moment, the vast movements of population, and secondly the quite conspicuous mining and fortification of the border of Albania especially around the Morena (phon) area, does that make a pattern and does that make military sense, can you interpret the reasons why those populations are being shifted back and suddenly why the Serbs are conspicuously fortifying and mining the frontier with Albania?

Air Commodore Wilby: I will answer your first question. I have made a public statement here and of course if Serbian television was used as a proper tool of free speech as opposed to a propaganda machine, then it would be considered as other media broadcasts, very much acceptable.

In terms of the mining, in fact I heard today about mines being laid and of course there are far too many mines in this world and it is not encouraging to hear that more mines are being laid. As to the precise use of those mines and any policy that's going on in the Serbian military mind or President Milosevic's mind, I'm afraid I cannot really give you a full answer on that at this moment.

Same Questioner: The population movements, that is the people who are being herded back to somewhere, what does it mean militarily to you?

Air Commodore Wilby: I think that question rather came from the front to start off with. We are not really sure at this moment and I think we are watching very closely. Your question about where were the 10,000, I am not sure whether that was in some way related to this one but we are certainly trying to identify all movements of people and we are obviously very concerned about where those people will be moved to.

Jamie Shea: I'd like to add a couple of things on this one although you didn't direct a question to me but first of all, we face a situation where for many months the Serb Armed Forces were mining the border with Albania to stop people going in, now they seem to be mining to stop people going out so we have a kind of anti-Schengen phenomenon, if I can put it that way, to make Kosovo into a total No-Man's Land in the full sense of the term. It simply is going to increase the costs to civilian lives for years to come and the costs in financial terms of taking out all of those mines in the future as we have seen in Bosnia and elsewhere.

As for the 10,000, my understanding that is that those that have not been accommodated in the NATO-constructed camps in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or who are not slated to be evacuated on a temporary basis to various countries have gone to Albania and at the moment one of the focuses of NATO planning is to help the UNHCR and other organisations to put up some additional camps in southern Albania, particularly in a town called Podradec (phon) - I hope I'm pronouncing that correctly - to receive these people who have come in. The Albanian government, as you know, has extremely generously offered to accept up to 100,000 additional displaced persons and of course the international community has to help them to accommodate these people who have come in from the southern part as opposed to around Kukes directly over the border from Kosovo in recent days.

Dominique Thierry, Radio France Internationale: I have two questions, one for Commodore Wilby. Military intelligence seems to provide you with quite a lot of pictures of what is exactly happening in Kosovo. Do you have any such evidence to ascertain your claim that it was indeed the Serbs who did most of the damage to Pristina civilian buildings and would you be able to produce such evidence/

Une question pour Jamie Shea - deux en fait. Avez-vous d'abord une premire indication si les Serbes tiennent effectivement leurs promesses de cesser le feu au Kosovo et s'ils semblent se prparer librer les trois amricains detenus en Serbie et deuximement quel est l'ordre du jour de la runion ministrielle de lundi?

Air Commodore Wilby: Dominique, thank you once again for asking me that question in English.

The problem bounced on my desk fairly late this morning so I was unable to effect the release but I'm very much hoping that I can bring you some imagery which will give you evidence of our strikes and show you exactly what was going on.

Jamie Shea: D'abord, en ce qui concerne le cessez-le-feu, comme nous venons de le dire, je pense qu'il y a effectivement des indices d'un ralentissement des activits des forces serbes au cours des dernires vingt-quatre heures. Il pourrait y avoir plusieurs raisons. Tout au plus que Belgrade ne donne pas beaucoup de commentaires ce sujet. D'abord les problmes de ptrole et d'approvisionnements. Je crois c'est aussi c'est tout fait irrfutable le fait qu'ils veulent viter les frappes de l'OTAN qu'ils savent maintenant de plus en plus efficaces et de plus en plus proches. Ils veulent se protger et aussi je crois qu'il faut dire que les activits n'ont pas entirement cess, par exemple hier nous avons remarqu quand mme la poursuite des combats dans la zone de Podujevo, au nord, donc il n'y a pas si vous voulez une espce d'arrt total de ces activitis. Deuxime question, en ce qui concerne les trois soldats amricains, non je n'ai pas pour l'instant d'indication nouvelle. Nous attendons toujours de savoir si le President intrimaire de Chypre, M. Kyprianou, va pouvoir partir Belgrade et si ces trois soldats americains seront relchs sans condition comme nous esprons, mais pour l'instant j'ai vrifi juste avant de venir ici, je n'ai pas de nouvelles indications.

Sur l'ordre du jour ministriel de lundi je crois qu'il y a trois sujets. D'abord tous concernant bien sr le Kosovo. D'abord j'attends de cette runion une raffirmation trs forte, trs directe, de la volont de tous les allis de poursuivre cette affaire jusqu' l'obtention des objectifs de la communaut internationale sauf ............, sauf faute, sauf relche. Ensuite, bien sr les ministres vont discuter un petit peu de la stratgie suivre pour assurer que nous atteignons ces objectives le plus rapidement possible, et je crois que le troisime sujet sera ce que nous pouvons faire, nous les pays de l'OTAN, pour aider la scurit, le bien-tre, la stabilit des pays voisins en particulier l'Albanie, l'ex-Rpublique yougoslave de Macdoine.

BILL: Air Commodore Wilby, could you give us a bit more detail on the nature of the counter-attacks from the KLA? A few days ago, they seemed on the verge of being extinguished. Does this suggest that they are still managing to funnel arms across the Albanian border and to remain an active fighting force?

And for Jamie, could you perhaps elaborate a bit more on these reports that we have heard about a schism in the Yugoslav leadership? We haven't been given much in the way of backing up that from the podium or elsewhere and I just wonder if you are in a position now to give us more detail.

Air Commodore Wilby: I think I said yesterday that there were little pockets of resistance and that this sort of terrain that they find themselves in which they know very well is ideal for their sort of guerrilla attacks going in and I also said that their recruitment seemed to be becoming quite buoyant as they recruit. I think you can draw your own conclusion to that but from our perspective it looks as though they are still, whilst they may be quite a small fighting force, are a fighting force that won't go away.

Jamie Shea: Bill, I bear that out. The history of these type of movements is that you can never eliminate this type of resistance movement through brute repression alone. Like mushrooms in the field, they always come back and ultimately this is a counter-productive strategy and I imagine that following the military operations of Milosevic's forces over the last few weeks, the KLA or UCK is in a fairly grim situation at the moment but on the other hand Milosevic has undoubtedly created hundreds of thousands of new recruits for the organisation, he has simply radicalised a people that didn't have to be radicalised so this is a phenomenon that although weakened is not going to go away; like the hydra, it will regrow its heads and I imagine rather quickly and we know from indications that David mentioned that they have continued to strike back, obviously not very effectively in the present circumstances but they have done so. The only way to marginalise organisations that resort to violence is to open a political process and that's what we've been telling Milosevice for months and months and months but it's a message that never unfortunately seemed to have got through.

As for the second question you raise, I know that many of our briefings unfortunately have to be based on "reports suggest that" or "we have heard that". Please don't blame us, Kosovo is a black hole and Yugoslavia does not produce a great deal of what you might call objective information about the activities of government or about what's going on so if you ask me these questions I have inevitably to tell you that what we have is simply what is reported to us.

But as for the divisions in the Yugoslav leadership, at least in the Army I think that existed for some time. I fail to understand why General Perosec (phon) would have been sacked last year as the Chief of Defence or why Milosevic would have got rid of his Security Chief slightly before or why he would have fired eight generals of the Second Army in Montenegro just last week if he really believed that everybody in the top echelons shared his policies so I'd like to take some heart from those indications even though I don't have any totally up-to-date insight into what's going on but at least I like to think from these indications that there are decent people in the Yugoslav Army that don't want their troops to be used for the type of things that they are being used for In Kosovo and elsewhere, Montenegro perhaps being the latest example and as I said the other day, in violation of the Yugoslav constitution.

Antonio: Air Commodore, something I don't understand. You're not going to tell us that on 8 April 1999 NATO found out that Serbian tv is a very important instrument of propaganda? Can you tell us exactly why now and what's behind it? Do you realise as well that all our colleagues working there in difficult circumstances will be also under more pressure and probably some of them will come out and we will have no more news from Serbia?

Air Commodore Wilby: Antonio, I take all those very valid points that you made.

Antonio: ..from any feedpoints and things like that from now on.

Air Commodore Wilby: I have said to you on many occasions that we would always take very great care in whatever we did to make sure that there was not a loss of civilian life.

Question: I would like to know does NATO have any reaction on the evacuation by the Macedonian authorities of 3,000 refugees? Do you have a comprehension for this or what will you tell to the Macedonian Minister tomorrow on this issue?

Jamie Shea: I think the message tomorrow is we want to help, we are committed to the security, to the stability of the former Yugoslav Repubic of Macedonia which is bearing an enormous burden as a result of the Kosovo crisis and we want to do whatever we can to ensure that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia comes through this period with the minimum internal instability and as you know, European Union Ministers yesterday looked at a concrete aid package and I understand that the mood in Skopje today is a lot brighter as a result of this clear indication of immediate assistance coming in not simply with the refugees but also with the economy in a wider sense and tomorrow we will make it clear to Minister Dimitrov that we from our point of view, from the side of NATO, are going to do whatever we can to help and I think the fact that we have completely re-deployed for the time being our forces in Kumanovo (phon) to help with the refugees, constructing these tent cities, helping to resettle the refugees when they came out of the Blaci camp, helping to organise things, is gradually lifting some of the pressure.

My latest information is now that the procedures of the UNHCR when it comes to keeping families together, when it comes to offering evacuation to people who want it and so on, these things are now being followed and we have got a lot sympathy for the government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Any government faced with the kind of challenge that it has been faced with over the last couple of weeks would have been extremely hard pressed and I think that gradually we are working together more effectively and we are getting a better grip on the situation. That is the best I can say.

Doug Hamilton, Reuters: A question each please. For Air Commodore Wilby first, on the question of permissive environment, the original assessment for a CAYFOR, a peace-keeping force with President Milosevic's agreement rather than his forced acquiescence was 26,000, 28,000, 30,0000 something like that. For the force now envisaged, would you roughly double that amount and have you started already moving equipment for that size of force and if so, how long will it take to be ready on the borders of Kosovo?

And for Jamie, on the question of Serbian television, I wondered in your assessment before you decided that this was a target to be threatened at least if not struck immediately, have you thought of Serbian television as, as it were, a rung on the ladder down which Milosevic may climb, that he may need his television to climb down to his people and have you assessed the possibility that destroying radio and tv may panic the general population in Yugoslavia?

Air Commodore Wilby: Let me try and answer your first question. As to a permissive environment, you will know well that the force that we have started to gather is one that is going in as a peace-keeping force and it would only go in if the conditions were right for it to carry out those operations in a peaceful existence. We have not changed our plans or altered or any of our contingencies for that.

Jamie Shea: Doug, I think the best solution would be if we could simply have in Serbia all of those independent newspapers and independent radio stations that I used to enjoy talking to in the good old days be allowed to re-open and function and that would be a very effective way of ensuring that all kinds of message be put across.

Question (???? Newspapers): Commander Maltinti, did the Macedonian government give any explanation why these thousands of refugees where shovelled aboard and families split?

To Dr. Shea, have you got any response from the Partner countries about sending troops or other forces to Albania?

Commander Maltinti: Thank you for your question. No, we don't have at my level any evidence of what were the reasons for that kind of action, we just have the facts.

Jamie Shea: On that one, I think on the Blace camp, from what I understand there was really a need to get these people out of there fast, I mean, this was a hell-hole, let's be honest about it, there were people who were dying there, disease was spreading, there was no sanitation, there was nothing - to leave those people there would have been completely intolerable and therefore we are very pleased that those people have been able to be moved and as I say, most of them have gone to the camps which NATO has helped to put up where conditions are not perfect - this is not five-star accommodation, obviously not - but compared with Blace it is day-versus-night so that had to be done and it was obviously done in the way that it was done but as I say, we are all in a learning experience here and the UNHCR procedures are being followed.

As for the participation of non-NATO countries in - what would we call it, AFOR, ALBANIA FORCE? - let me again stress that this is strictly in conjunction with the humanitarian relief effort and therefore it is not to be compared with the force in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia under General Jackson which although at the moment helping with humanitarian relief was not sent there for that purpose, it was sent there, as you know, as the advance guard of a NATO Peace-Implementation Force for Kosovo. But as I mentioned yesterday, we have briefed the Partner countries on our operational planning, they will be fully welcome to join in. I don't have any details at the moment but I will try to do so in subsequent briefings as to where we stand on that one.

Question (Lady): Do you have anything new on efforts to gain the release of the three American servicemen and specifically what is your understanding of any commitments that Milosevic may or may not have made to Cyprus officials?

Jamie Shea: I'm not privy to any behind-the-scenes discussions here but as you know, Allied governments, particularly the United States which has the prime responsibility in this field, have made it consistently clear that we would welcome obviously the release of the three servicemen but on an unconditional basis in line with the Geneva Conventions and therefore that is what we expect to happen, if it happens it would be an unconditional release but for the time being we wait to see what's going to take place today. As I mentioned in reply to Dominique Thieray, I checked before coming up here and I have no latest information as to whether the aircraft has in fact taken off today from Athens to Belgrade so we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed and see what happens. I wish I could give you more information but unfortunately I have nothing on that for the time being.

Ladies and Gentlemen, briefing tomorrow at the usual time. I'd like again to thank very very much the Commander for coming and David of course and wish you a pleasant afternoon. Thank you!

Go to Homepage Go to Index