Updated: 9 April 1999 Press Conferences


9 April 1999

Press conference

By NATO Spokesman Jamie Shea
and Air Commodore David Wilby

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea: I will take the lead today just giving you a quick political update and then of course we will go to the operation update from Air Commodore David Wilby.

This morning, the Secretary General had a long conversation with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to discuss the situation in the region, particularly the humanitarian aspects. The Secretary General also had a breakfast meeting with the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Minister Martonyi, he of course will be back here on Monday for the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers.

Tomorrow afternoon, the Secretary General will see the Foreign Minister of The Netherlands, Mr. van Aartsen, and as I speak to you at this moment we are beginning a special 19+1 consultation with the Foreign Minister and the Defence Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, that is to say, Foreign Minister Dimitrov and Defence Minister Kljusev and they will be coming to speak to you later at around 4.15-4.30 this afternoon but I understand that that will be a press point at the main entrance.

The topics on the agenda for this 19+1 consultation are first of all of course the humanitarian situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and NATO's assistance to the UNHCR and to the governments in terms of the redeployment if you like or the refocusing of the mission on a temporary basis of the NATO forces there under the command of General Jackson of course and that has been ongoing now since April 3rd.

The second topic will be security and what the Allies can do to further improve a feeling of security and well-being of an important Partner which is of course the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. As you know, NATO has repeatedly stated that it would be unacceptable if the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were to threaten the territorial integrity, political independence and security of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and that message of course will be repeated today at the meeting with the two Ministers.

And the third and final topic for this meeting will be a discussion on the development of our bilateral relations under the Partnership for Peace. We have worked out an ambitious programme of activities for the 1998/2000 period which comprise border security, civil emergency planning, crisis management and logistics, exercises and direct material and technical assistance from the NATO countries to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

At the meeting of the Ambassadors this morning, again a key agenda item was the humanitarian situation. We are of course still watching the situation on the borders very closely, there has been no major exodus in the last 48 hours as you know, although 160 people did enter from Kosovo to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia yesterday by train but many border positions have now been closed. Incidentally, our latest estimate of the total number of displaced persons since March 1998 is now at 960,000 and given the border closings and the drying-up of the exodus, a key question is what is happening to the people who were trying to leave that have now disappeared from these border crossings?

One of the things that we are trying to track with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is the fate of car people, if I can put it that way, of people who were in a line of cars stretching about 20 kilometres up to the Albanian border whose cars have now been abandoned but we do not know where the people are. Perhaps they have crossed over into Albania on foot or by various means, perhaps they have been turned back inside Kosovo but this is something we are watching carefully and we believe that there may be about 150-200,000 people in Kosovo currently living without shelter in the woods and on the mountain slopes and their fate of course is of very great concern to us. Unfortunately, the UNHCR and the Red Cross have still not been allowed access into Kosovo to investigate the situation and try to provide emergency assistance.

I think all of us have seen on television as well the images of Yugoslav forces mining the border crossings between Kosovo and Albania, particularly around Aquatapushit (phon) and the Marina (phon) crossing points and this of course is going to make it much more difficult for the refugees to return and obviously does give the lie to any claims by Belgrade that they will encourage the voluntary return of refugees. It is also going to vastly increase the cost of trying to pull out all of these mines at a later time when we will have to get to the reconstruction of Kosovo.

Today, NATO is also actively involved inside Albania in dealing with the humanitarian situation and we are having another co-ordination meeting with the international organisations, focusing on Albania. We know that there is a need for extra camp facilities, already in the last 48 hours Italy has been constructing a camp for 3,000 refugees on the road between Tirana and Kukess.

The Albanian Parliament has passed legislation which gives NATO scope to manage both its operational and humanitarian activities in Albania. This also includes a helicopter shuttle service and the aid deliveries by NATO nations to refugees in Albania total 600 tonnes, including food, water, medicines and tentage. A NATO air control and security team has taken over the internal traffic control system in Albania, that is now based at Tirana airport and it's also responsible for ground security.

At the same time, we carry on full steam ahead with our preparations for "Operation Allied Harbour". As you know, this is the headquarters of the ACE Mobile Force (Land) and a troop contingent which we hope to deploy in Albania very shortly to assist the UNHCR and the government with humanitarian relief. We anticipate that the deployment of the AMF (Land) headquarters will be on 14 April to be completed by 16 April. Currently, the operational plan is being finalised but already, as you have seen from the media, certain Allies have indicated a willingness to contribute forces and we have received expressions of interest from a number of Partner countries which is very heartening, so far they are Slovenia, Romania, Austria, Lithuania, Latvia and Georgia. I say "expressions of interest", it doesn't mean at this stage that they are signed up but we would welcome of course their participation and the participation of any other Partner countries that would wish to join us.

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, General Jackson and his men and women continue to do absolutely sterling work on behalf of the international community, five camps which they have constructed are now operational, yesterday we made available incidentally a video clip which all of you can have of the visit to some of these camps by the Deputy Secretary General, Ambassador Balanzino earlier this week and this clip does show some good pictures of the work of the ARRC and the NATO soldiers and shows you how well organised things are now inside these camps. Two more camps, by the way, with a further 12,000 beds, are currently being planned.

Yesterday, the NATO forces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia distributed 194 tonnes of aid, bringing the total to 2,167 tonnes so far. I don't know how they managed to get such an accurate figure of 2,167 thousand tonnes but that is the figure I have been given and it is impressive.

At the same time, I have always made it clear to you that NATO has never intended to replace the international relief organisations like the UNHCR and the non-governmental organisations, our aim has been to help them in a particularly difficult period and I'm pleased to say that from tomorrow onwards we will be able to transfer managerial responsibility for one of the camps in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Brojani (phon), to Action Against Hunger, a non-governmental organisation, and we are planning to hand over the Neprostino (phon) camp on 13 April.

At the same time, the co-ordination in the general sense with the European Union, the UNHCR and other international organisations goes smoothly and we had a meeting yesterday with the European Union on this and as you know, Mrs. Ogata, the Head of the UNHCR, has recognised the role of NATO in support of her organisation.

That is what I would like to say by way of humanitarian assistance. I just want to remind you of course that on Monday the Foreign Ministers of the North Atlantic Council will be meeting here in an Exceptional Meeting, it will be focused exclusively on Kosovo, it will start at around 9.30 in the morning, it will finish at 3.00. I anticipate most Ministers will make their press conference either shortly before lunch or after the meeting finishes, the Secretary General will have his press conference at around 3.30 and he will be followed by the Secretary of State of the United States.

I will stop there, I will hand over to David and of course I'll come back and take your questions in a few moments.

Air Commodore Wilby: NATO operation "Allied Force" continues with strikes against the strategic infrastructure of Yugoslavia degrading the FRY forces capability to carry out their attacks on civilians. Fielded forces were again successfully targeted despite worsening weather. All of our aircraft have safely returned to their bases.

Humanitarian operations will be briefed as they develop. However, I can tell you that NATO forces continue to prepare for operation "Allied Harbour" in Albania. We continue to support the UNHCR and the other international organisations.

During the last 24 hours, there were 39 aid flights into Fyrom and NATO military forces provided 146 tonnes of food and water, 19 tonnes of medical equipment and 81 tonnes of water again.

In Kosovo yesterday, Serbian forces and UCK actions were limited. As I've stated before, the Serbian forces are digging in and we are seeing an increased Serbian activity conducted on foot. There is an indication of a build-up of forces to the north of Kosovo and no evidence of withdrawal.

Turning to our air operations, as you will be aware, the weather has turned against us and it impacted our operations against forces in the field yesterday. We experienced good success during the morning hours, engaging and destroying several armoured vehicles and other Serbian forces within Kosovo.

This slide shows you our major target-engagement areas within Kosovo and each particular engagement area depicts an action, it doesn't actually number the vehicles that we approached.

On Thursday, we were able to locate this SA-6 site which we subsequently attacked and destroyed.

And here is the resume of Thursday's activities: it was a better day for us and we struck much heavier armoured units in our operations.

Other Serbian air defence activity was in line with that seen over the past few days, SAM activity was fairly light but we saw an increase in emissions from tactical SAMs and one manned portable SAM was launched against our aircraft without success. One Serbian aircraft got airborne for a short period of time but recovered without engagement. There was also minor Serbian helicopter activity, all of our aircraft returned safely to their bases. Apart from the operations in Kosovo, we continue to strike a range of strategic and operational targets.

Today, I would like to provide you with further details concerning NATO operations in and around the city of Pristina. The following maps and images show exactly what targets we have attacked in the immediate vicinity of the city. You will see the main targets in the middle of the city are the MUP headquarters and the telephone exchange. On the fringe is a petrol storage and a military barracks.

Yesterday, I tried to give you an early indication of our results and you will now that I have always said that normally we like to wait until we have a fairly solid analysis from our various bomb damage assessment sources. My statement was not quite complete for which I apologise. I was grateful that our colleagues in Washington, with a few more hours' grace, were able to give a more comprehensive account.

In essence, there was one extra target that we have struck in the city centre, the radio relay and main telephone exchange. I now have more detail on that attack which I will give you in a moment. We struck the MUP headquarters building which I described to you yesterday and this image shows the headquarters prior to our strike and this one after. Imagery analysis pointed to two excellent attacks as planned with little or no collateral damage.

Next, we have also targeted the petroleum facility on the fringe of the city. Here is the pre-strike imagery and what I am going to show you is a video of one of our attacks.

I am sorry, I am just getting a nod from the top there, I can't show you the video. I do apologise.

We also attacked the garrison annotated and here is our pre-attack image. You will see it is a large complex and we have attacked it several times and this time I am sure I am going to be able to show you a video of one of our attacks.

Finally, we attacked the main telephone exchange. This was a key target that was being used to provide communications between the fielded Serbian forces within Kosovo and Belgrade. Although three of our bombs hit the target, despite our very best efforts it appears that on this attack one bomb may have caused some collateral damage.

This image shows the telephone exchange before the attack and this image shows the post-attack damage. You will see in the rectangle to the north of the target an area which we have marked which is possible collateral damage some 200-300 metres from the target.

I also have some video of one of our successful attacks and I am going to show you on the next freeze-frame where the collateral damage was in relation to the target. The mission report stated that one bomb appeared to be seduced off the target at the final stages. Close inspection of imagery indicates that it landed some 200-300 metres away in what seems to be a small residential area which I showed you. Obviously, we regret any unintended damage or loss of civilian life. I would like to stress that this was considered a critical target and collateral damage risks were taken into close consideration during our attack planning. It is also worth bearing in mind that most of the Kosovar Albanians, if not all, had already been driven out of the city by Serb action. You may also recall that recent media coverage of the city's damage described Pristina as being practically deserted. I apologise again for my poor information yesterday but despite this unintended collateral damage our operations are not responsible for the widespread random damage that has been reported throughout the city.

Today, we are already being frustrated by poor weather but we have contingencies in hand to take every advantage of any opportunities to continue our tactical operations while maintaining our all-weather capability to strike strategic and operational targets as usual.

Questions & Answers

Jamie Shea: David, thank you very much as always. OK, we go to questions. Charles, you can start today.

Charles, NBC: First of all, Air Commodore, given that you've just spoken about those attacks on Pristina and the fact that perhaps the claims by Yugoslav television and the Serbian government were not as incorrect as we had thought yesterday, does that change in any way our views about the media and can we clarify exactly where we stand on Yugoslav tv and radio and being a target.

And Jamie, a question for you: Could you comment on reports coming from Moscow about the repositioning of missile systems which I'm sure you know about?

Air Commodore Wilby: First of all, in terms of the Serbian media, I think I've said throughout the last couple of weeks that we know that we are up against a very orchestrated propaganda campaign and I've said that many of the reports coming out contain a lot of fact and it is very useful to us but equally, woven in amongst this you will remember the German aircrew, the Phantoms, that were lost. There are pieces of disinformation.

Whilst I have shown you some collateral damage on this particular target, it is restricted to a small zone just behind the target area and if you were to go - and of course we haven't been round Pristina - then you will see that the damage caused by our attacks is very much around the targets or on the target areas, it is not something which is widespread throughout the city as a whole.

Charles, NBC: And regarding the targeting of tv and radio stations that you discussed yesterday, there were some slightly conflicting messages that we were getting about that from SHAPE and NATO. Can we be a bit more clear?

Jamie Shea: Charles, I think that's all been harmonised now and if I can comment on that one, as I made clear yesterday, as we've made clear, whatever our feelings about Serb television, we are not going to target tv transmitters directly. As David has pointed out - and there was an example of that a few seconds ago in his slide of the telecommunications tower in Pristina - in Yugoslavia military radio relay stations are often combined with tv transmitters but we attack the military target. If there is damage to the tv transmitters, it is a secondary effect but it is not the primary intention to do that.

By the way, on the subject of disinformation, I saw today - I don't know if you've seen this - on the Serbia Info News on the web a story that a NATO brigade flees from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to Greece, claiming that a complete brigade of 1,500 German soldiers deserted their camp in Petrovac (phon) and have fled to Greece, refusing to take part in, I quote, "the war adventures of Bill Clinton and Gerhard Schroeder against Yugoslavia". Let me just clarify that that according to my information is not true. I think that there have been certain people who have been fleeing to Greece but not NATO soldiers.

On your question to me, Charles, yes, I saw the statements coming out of Moscow today. From what I understand, it was not President Yeltsin or the Russian government that have said that Russian missiles might have been on a heightened state of alert but the Speaker of the Duma, Mr. Seleznyev and I understand that the Commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, General Perminov (phon), has subsequently said reassuringly that he hasn't received any order in this sense and I would not expect him to receive such an order and there has been no confirmation of course from the Kremlin so I think we have to take that with a certain pinch of salt.

Patricia Kelly, CNN: Air Commodore, your statement on the collateral damage to civilian property in Kosovo seems to take no account of the fact that there are still Serb civilians inside Kosovo which NATO has also pledged to protect in its early mission statements but the way you put that information across makes it sound as if you are not particularly bothered about their safety any longer.

Secondly, we are told that you hit a car plant. Don't civilians work in car plants? How you can be sure that they weren't working on an assembly line? I realise that at the moment the car plant's capacity to produce, because of sanctions, would be lessened but nevertheless civilians do work in these plants.

Air Commodore Wilby: Two good questions, Patricia, thank you for those and if I gave the impression that I was not concerned about the loss of civilian life to the Serbian population, you know that we have always said that we are not in any conflict with the Serbian people and I'm sorry if my emphasis came across slightly wrongly to you.

In terms of the "car plant", our intelligence says that it is not a car plant, that it produces military machinery and of course, as I said to you, we would look very carefully into the collateral damage or damage to civilians before we attacked that particular plant.

Jamie Shea: Patricia, as you know also, these attacks take place at night when the chances of risk to civilians are considerably less than during the day and, of course, as David says, we are really certain before we go ahead that these targets are military targets even if they may be described otherwise by Yugoslavia.

Mark Laity (BBC): Can I just push you a little more on the issue of Russia? Accepting that the Speaker of the Duma speaks for himself and has been proven wrong before, President Yeltsin does speak for Russia and his statement was that ground forces cannot be used by NATO surrounded by somewhat unspecific threats but definitely what sounded like threats. So ignoring what the Speaker of the Duma said, what about President Yeltsin's comments?

Jamie Shea: Mark, thanks for that. The way I read President Yeltsin's statements in the agencies a few moments ago suggested that he was raising objections to a NATO attack against Yugoslavia, in other words a NATO ground force which would invade Kosovo. You know as well as anybody in this room that that has not been and is not today NATO's intention. Any ground force is one which we would only consider deploying in the event of a cessation of hostilities in a permissive environment and in order to implement a political settlement particularly one which would allow the return of refugees, as you know, to their homes and in fact in all of the meetings - and there have been several that we have had here at NATO with the Permanent Joint Council - we have made it clear that we would welcome Russia's participation in such a force along the same lines as Russia has participated for four years very successfully - with virtually no problems at all - in SFOR in Bosnia so I think NATO's position is clear and I think I can reassure the Russian government on this point that NATO is not planning some form of invasion and it is clear that what we are doing in Yugoslavia at the moment presents no threat whatever, not even in the most remote imaginable sense, to the security of Russia which for us remains a Partner country, a very important Partner country, whose co-operation we seek in managing together a solution to the Kosovo crisis. Obviously, I think NATO Ambassadors working on behalf of their governments in Moscow at the moment will be clarifying exactly what these statements mean but I think we can reassure Russia that they certainly do not imply some kind of change of NATO policy.

Could I just also say something in response to Patricia's question about the Serbs and one of the things that I've sought to emphasise is that Serbs have also suffered because of the fighting in Kosovo. 16,000 I know have been forced to leave as well as a result of the recent fighting and their conditions probably are not considerably better inside Serbia than those of the refugees today in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or Albania, life is miserable for them as well and there has been ethnic cleansing against Serbs, I've always acknowledge this and as I have said, Patricia, one of great ironies of what Milosevic has done in Yugoslavia since 1991 in the name of Serb nationalism is that his own ethnic kin have suffered as much as the other ethnic groups and obviously one of the benefits of a NATO force in Kosovo would be to allow the Serbs who want to go back to go back as well and our goal has not been a mono-ethnic Kosovar Albanian Kosovo but a democratic multi-ethnic one.

New York Times: Commodore Wilby, did you say that Serbian forces were still engaging UCK forces and were the field forces that NATO planes engaged in the area of those confrontations?

Air Commodore Wilby: Not specifically. I think the confrontation that took place yesterday was as I showed you on the slide all round the Kosovo area. The UCK operations appear to be sporadic, as I've said throughout the week.

Antonio Martins, Portuguese TV: David, we are all very pleased that on phase 2 radio and tv are not on the target and I'm sure that you'll be pleased as well because we keep having those nice courtesy pictures. Can you tell us now, so far in Kosovo what is the percentage of the military presence that has been hit by NATO?

Jamie, you talk about 16,000 Serbs. Do we have an idea how many people fled to north Serbia or south especially to Hungary not counting the children of Milosevic that were already in Greece a long time agao?

Air Commodore Wilby: Antonio, I can answer that very simply - not a big enough percentage. As I've said to you, we started off slowly, the weather affected our operations, we now, I think, are getting our act together very well. We have been carrying out attacks over the last couple of days with considerable success but this is not an easy operation. As I've said to you before, we are up against a wily enemy, he is beginning to dig-in, there are terrain, forests, deserted villages which make wonderful places for him to laager up against. It is quite difficult to spot him and of course once we spot him, then we've got to bring our aeroplanes in to attack him quickly but things are looking up and we are starting to cut into him. The weather is not probably going to help us as much as we'd like over the next couple of days but I'm very confident that we are moving very firmly in the right direction but as far as your question is concerned, we certainly haven't hit a big enough percentage of his forces yet.

Jamie Shea: Antonio, I confess you've caught me out on the question about Serb migration but I'll try to find a good figure for you. It's clear that hundreds of thousands have moved since 1995 from the Krygena (phon) region, particularly the two UN-controlled sectors in southern Croatia then. We know that several thousand have also migrated from Republika Srpska into Yugoslavia where of course, as I say, their conditions of integration have not always been very easy.

I don't have figures for Hungary and other areas although I'll try to find out but one of the things that really impressed me when I first went to Bosnia in 1995 is the degree of Serb-on-Serb violence, not simply the ethnic difficulties between Serbs and others in the former Yugoslavia but for example the manner in which 25,000 Serb inhabitants of Sarajevo were forced to leave in 1995 by other Serbs who were insisting on ethnically cleansing their own people from that city. For me, that is one of the more macabre ironies of this entire very very sorry conflict which we hope will end with peace in Kosovo.

Question: At the start of the operation, we heard a lot about women and children showing up at the border without their men. Do we have any more information about what has happened to these men and if not, what is the dominant theory that you are investigating?

Jamie Shea: No, I don't know what's happened to them quite frankly. One theory that has been used is that they may be employed as human shields. I've reported in some of these briefings on indications that we've had but I've always been very careful to make it clear that these are indications. I have no evidence, the evidence may be there in the future but it is something of a mystery. Kosovo unfortunately is a black hole, too much so for the time being.

Neil King, Wall Street Journal: I'm just curious, to go back to the Yugo car factory. I happen to have visited that factory not that many months ago and it was at that time very much making cars, not terribly successfully but they were. It is known for being the biggest car factory in the Balkans. I know that a part of that factory is some kind of munitions factory, I think that they primarily make rifles and things like that, but I would just be interested to know what military machinery your intelligence says that they are now making in that factory.

Air Commodore Wilby: Well Neil, as I've said on many occasions before, I don't wish to go into the sensitive issues around targeting. All I would say is that before we select any target, we make sure that we get the most up-to-date intelligence to help us pick our aim points and then we will attempt to strike the area in that particular target which is going to have the most military effect against our opponent.

Question: I have two questions, the first question to Jamie. You mentioned the falling relationships with Russia and you mentioned SFOR and the good co-operation with Russia. Could you tell us if Russian forces are still working in SFOR?

Jamie Shea: Yes, they are. There have been reports that I've see in the press from time to time from Russian sources whereby the Russian troops would no longer be under NATO command or would even be withdrawn but I can assure you that at the present time the standard arrangements for Russia's participation in SFOR continue to apply.

Same man: The second question to Air Commodore Wilby. We are asking again and again and you were just mentioning in your last answer the good information you had on accident reconnaissance. Why is it that nobody can tell? On Tuesday, you showed us a long road along the border-line in Kosovo where the car people, as Jamie called them, were standing all 25,000 and they are now all missing. Why does intelligence until now not have a single thought of such a tremendous amount of people anywhere in Kosovo?

Air Commodore Wilby: That is a good question and I think it was answered yesterday by Jamie and really it's a case of making sure that we're using our assets for the areas of operation which are perhaps the most critical to us sometimes. It doesn't mean to say that we don't use our intelligence resources to keep an eye on the humanitarian situation but of course at times over the last few weeks, the weather has been very much against us and some of the sources that we might have been able to use for that specific part of the operation have been much against us.

Jamie Shea: If I can add, it is true we have had inevitably a limited amount of intelligence- collection capability in the area; much of that, given that we are in a military operaton, clearly has to be employed first of all to identify targets, particularly coming back to Neil's point about knowing that we really are identifying and selecting real military targets, and secondly, doing the battle-damage assessment without which we can't know if we're successful. At the same time, the only way really to verify these things is to have international observers on the ground and the problem at the moment is that all of the organisations, including Christian organisations like the Mother Teresa Society and so on which were in Kosovo and had at least some limited presence to be the eyes and ears of the international community, have all been obliged to leave and it would be very good if the Red Cross for instance or the UNHCR could have access to Kosovo quickly to check up on these things.

Dominique Thierry, Radio France Internationale: Commander Wilby, thank you so much for the details you provided on whqt happened to Pristina and I am quite happy to learn that. Unfortunately, there was some collateral damage yesterday and that makes be wonder that surely you must have some pictures of Serbs shelling houses or burning houses within Pristina and then saying that NATO planes caused the damage. Do you have such evidence and will you be able to provide us with such evidence?

A Jamie; nos envoys au Kosovo avec une brigade de l'UCK mentionnent que les commandants de ces brigades font tat de contact avec des militaires de l'OTAN, alors est-ce exact? Quel est le teneur de ces contacts? Est-ce qu'on peut avoir un peu de dtails?

Air Commodore Wilby: It was my avowed intent to day to try and show you that specific information because I wanted to be able to show you the area around the whole of Pristina and show you images which gave random spots. I haven't been able to do that today but I shall continue to try and get that information for you.

Jamie Shea: J'avoue effectivement qu'il y a des journalistes franais qui ont vu que les forces serbes sont un peu squestres dans la ville de Pec par des forces de l'UCK qui ont barr la route de sortie. Je ne peux pas donner une confirmation indpendante mais si c'est vrai a leur montre que comme je l'ai dit hier que les prtentions serbes d'avoir dfait, d'avoir limin l'UCK, sont aussi vaines cette fois-ci que les fois passes, parce que cette campagne de rpression court terme pourra servir rduire l'UCK, mais ne peut qu'encourager l'UCK long terme. C'est donc finalement contre productif, mais nous allons voir si cel est le cas. Concernant les contacts entre l'OTAN et l'UCK, non, il n'y en a pas, je peux le vrifier, je l'ai vrifi plutt, et d'aprs toutes les informations dont je dispose, nous n'avons pas de communications ni au niveau politique ni au niveau militaire.

Bill Drozdiak, Washington Post: Air Commodore Wilby, from the start of this campaign you said that one of the primary targets has been the air defence system yet the continuing activity suggests you've been less than successful in suppressing this system. Has this impeded the ability of the pilots to fly at lower altitudes and thus target more accurately the Serb forces on the ground? Also, could you give us a better idea of just how the Serbs are using the anti-aircraft weapons at their disposal?

Air Commodore Wilby: It's a good question, Bill, and I'll try and answer it. You remember when I started off at the beginning of this conflict, I said that we were up against an air defence system which while perhaps it didn't have the most modern technology, it had very tried and true systems with operators who trained on them for a long time and had developed excellent techniques for using those particular systems. I also said that there was a very complex system of communications, a great deal of redundancy for the various early-warning radars and tracking radars to allow the Serbian defences to be able to use plenty of work-arounds if you took a particular system out.

What we've seen throughout the conflict is a general holding back of some of those particular systems, a conservation if you like of some of those missiles. When they have illuminated us then we have been able to attack them and I think that has in part put them off to a great deal from operating those systems against us.

Now, as we move into the tactical operations in the area of Kosovo, we once again are chasing and going for those SAMs which are slightly more tactical than we've had before but as an indication of how they are using their operations I can tell you that for instance their air defence AAA at the moment is used very sporadically, almost as if they are just trying to get us away from the area as opposed to urgently press for an attack so perhaps that just gives an indication that things are not as well as they might be down in the defence system and supplies are running a little short.

Bill: And does this prevent the pilots from flying as low as they would like?

Air Commodore Wilby: At the moment, the aircrews are being able to fly at the heights that they are able to prosecute their attacks from. I am not saying that we are going into the area totally oblivious to any defences, we are obviously taking prudent precautions and making sure that we go in with the right sort of support aircraft to give our aircrews the best possible chance of carrying out their attacks effectively and still being able to return home safely to their bases.

Doug Hamilton, Reuters: Two questions please. Air Commodore Wilby, I was rather surprised to hear you say in your opening statement - and I hope I've got it right - that you've seen a build-up of Yugoslav forces to the north of Kosovo. Could you give us some more details and could you tell us what NATO thinks that may signify?

Jamie, does NATO have any idea of the availability of food now in a semi-devastated landscape in Kosovo for the people who are uprooted there and if Belgrade invited UNHCR and ICRC to go back into tomorrow, would that suit NATO really?

Air Commodore Wilby: Doug, I think probably because the intelligence situation has been so static for the last couple of weeks, any slight build-up that we see in forces is something that attracts our attention. You might remember that earlier we spoke about a build-up to the north of Kumanova (phon). Well, I think all we are seeing at the moment is a slight build-up of forces towards the north but as to what those forces are planning to do, I cannot at the moment give you an answer.

Jamie Shea: Doug, I don't have any inside or particularly detailed information about the supply situation inside Kosovo but you see, like I do, all of the tv pictures of refugees arriving over the frontier and grabbing a litre bottle of mineral water and drinking it as if they haven't had anything for days or even longer so I think that image in itself tells a picture. If it is true that about 200,000 may be sleeping rough in woods and out of shelter, clearly that also suggests that supplies are very difficult to come by and the fact that so many refugees have poured over the frontier also suggests that the situation in Kosovo is bad from that point of view. Of course, they have also been expelled, they have been forced to leave but clearly they don't come very heavily-laden with foodstuffs and so on and one of the most urgent requirements is to feed them and to give them something to drink so that is probably the best evidence that we have at the moment.

As for the NGOs and other organisations, I was just making the point that the only way to really be certain of what is happening is to have some sort of international representation there and that's simply something that doesn't exist at the moment. It's easy to say: "Ah, NATO should be seeing all of this from the air!" but it is very difficult with cloud to track movements of groups, even large groups, from the air in any consistent way and particularly as the lots of the things that have been taking place which I've been pointing to are things going on inside towns, even in buildings which of course cannot be seen from the air so some sort of ground presence is going to be essential in that respect. What we have are simply lots of stories from refugees and those refugees all tell the same story and that makes us think that even if individual details can't always be proved, there has to be something in this.

Question: Jamie, yesterday in Luxembourg we have heard a surprisingly new version of the Rambouillet agreement given by Minister Dini, the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs. He said that the responsibility for the failure in Rambouillet was of both the Serbs and the Kosovars that didn't accept the disarmament of the UCK and we heard that were some clauses of the agreement that were not in the text that foresee a referendum for the independency of Kosovo and that's why the Kosovars signed it and that is why, he said, finally the Serbs couldn't possibly accept the last version of the agreement at Rambouillet. This sounds like a way of considering not legitimate all the attacks of the NATO operation. If the Serbs couldn't possibly sign that agreement, then what are we doing here? What is your comment?

Jamie Shea: When it comes to the position of the Italian government on NATO's action, I've seen the statements by Minister Dini, by Prime Minister D'Alema in recent days and it's obvious from those statements that Italy is rock solid behind the Alliance in every way and indeed without Italy this operation couldn't take place because Italy is making one of the biggest contributions to this operations in terms of all of the facilities that it's putting at our disposal and if that doesn't say something about Italian solidarity with NATO, what possibly can?

Having said that, I think it's clear to everybody that the reason why the Paris talks failed is because Mr. Milutinovic (phon) came back with a 40-page document with an enormous number of points of substance which completely eviscerated the Rambouillet agreement, it was not on one particular point or another particular point, it was across the board.

Finally, when the Kosovar Albanian side accepted the peace agreement, they accepted Chapter 7 of that agreement which provides for the disarmament and force-limitation issues including strict limitations and disarmament on the UCK so they signed the whole package and I'm not aware of any opt-out clauses that would have been given to UCK or to the Kosovar Albanian delegation at the time.

Augusto: Jamie, you mentioned in the beginning of the press conference the movement of the Serbian population out of Serbia from Croatia and Bosnia. After so many broken promises to Kosovar Albanians, can NATO now really promise that this time they are not going to recognise the results of ethnic cleansing because we have now some reports that Milosevic and Milotinovic are preparing to colonise Kosovo with the Serbs from Kryena?

Jamie Shea: We will not recognise the results of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, yes. That is a short answer and that is the answer which closes our briefing for today and for those of you who have stamina and staying power, there will be a briefing tomorrow at 3 o'clock, for those of you who have a weekend, I wish you a pleasant weekend and I will see you at the Foreign Ministers meeting on Monday.

Go to Homepage Go to Index