Updated: 17 April 1999 Press Conferences


17 Apr. 1999

Press Conference

by Jamie Shea and Brigadier General Giuseppe Marani

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Afternoon, welcome to our briefing.

Yesterday NATO forces had another successful day over Kosovo. We made a concentrated effort against Serb heavy weapons and armour on the ground. In the morning, tanks and armoured personnel carriers inside Kosovo were successfully attacked, as well as a number of fielded forces. In the afternoon NATO aircraft again went after tanks and successfully destroyed seven. These are the kinds of losses that clearly are going to knock the stuffing out of the Yugoslav forces inside Kosovo, they are part of a remorseless and painstaking approach by NATO to diminishing the killing capability of those forces.

As the evening came in, the weather turned bad and a number of missions were cancelled, but NATO did manage to engage successfully a number of targets elsewhere in Yugoslavia and I will obviously ask General Marani to up-date you on all of those in just a few moments.

At the same time on the ground in Kosovo yesterday, the Yugoslav Army and MUP Special Police Forces continued to operate along the border area in western Kosovo and they engaged the KLA in particular in the Djunik area and in the Djakovica area. This of course shows that the self-declared cease-fire that they made on 6 April is certainly not being respected, never was respected for that account, but is certainly now giving way to a major counter-insurgency operation. But the Serb forces have not succeeded by any means yet in closing off the border with Albania, nor in closing the corridor which the UCK forces have successfully opened up along the Albanian border and which has allowed a certain number of refugees also to exit Kosovo into Albania.

In fact the Serbs seem to be following a kind of two-in-one strategy at the moment, combining both a major counter-insurgency operation with another round, a particularly harsh round, of ethnic cleansing. In fact over the last 48 hours, as you have seen, Belgrade has continued to show its no mercy policy towards thousands of Kosovar Albanians. There have been, again, expulsions, robbery, the burning of homes and even the burning of livestock, which has been making it particularly difficult for those still in Kosovo of course to feed themselves and to survive.

This of course, whether one likes it or not, is the story of the Kosovo crisis. If I can use the words of Dean Aitchison, it is clearer than the truth.

In Albania, since midnight, 5,500 new refugees have arrived. We have received reports that up to 100,000 more displaced people may be trying to reach the border at Mirana and get into Kukes and into Albania. 8,000 alone arrived yesterday. A lot of these refugees into Albania have been ethnically cleansed from the Metrovica area, and indeed we have had reports from refugees that some of them have been walking for five days, with no transport at all, to reach the border. You saw the report of the Spokeswoman of the World Food Programme yesterday saying that these refugees are in the worst condition of any that the World Food Programme have seen of late arriving in Albania, they have suffered dehydration, of course, lack of care and many of them, including children, obviously report traumatic experiences that risk to scar them for the rest of their lives. But of course at least they are in Albania and can now be cared for by the UNHCR and by the other relief organisations.

NATO again, as I have always stressed, is going to play its role in helping these refugees inside Albania. Allied Harbour goes ahead, the bulk of the headquarters arrives today as you know and 50% of the troops that are committed to Operation Allied Harbour are already there. Their main task is going to build tent accommodation on the coastal area of Albania so that the best part of the 100,000 refugees plus in Kukes can be evacuated immediately to safer areas. I say safer for two reasons: the first reason is because of course the lack of sanitation and the risk of gastroenteritic diseases that the refugees have; but also because the Yugoslav forces have been shelling the vicinity of Kukes and Tropoje in recent days and therefore the situation is also risky for the refugees from that point of view as well. So we have to get them to safer areas quickly and the shuttle service, the helicopter shuttle service that the NATO soldiers have set up between Tirana and Kukes will be augmented today by the arrival of a large number of US heavy lift helicopters.

At the same time we have a final force balancing conference at SHAPE this afternoon to fill in the remaining elements, basically engineers, medical support, of Operation Allied Harbour. And the United States Special Task Force, Shining Hope, is running a ferry shuttle service between Ankona in Italy and Djuvess in order there to bring in much needed supplies.

At the same time we have set up in Thesiloniki Airport last night a tactical airlift co-ordination element which is bringing in also by air for example tents for 600 refugees currently stranded in Durres, and we are conducting just north west of Durres today a reconnaissance in order to site a camp for an additional 5,000 refugees. Also NATO forces are currently constructing accommodation for a further 5,000 refugees north of the town of Schroder and we have given 15 trucks to the UNHCR to help strengthen their operations, and NATO forces helped to unload 28 humanitarian flights arriving yesterday at Tirana.

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia the situation is equally grave at the moment. More than 10,000 new refugees crossed the border there yesterday and you have seen the reports from the Spokesman of the UNHCR in Skopje indicating that another 100,000 refugees may well be on their way. And NATO forces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are seeing what they can do to expand the current tent capacity of the camps, currently trying to increase that capacity to over 86,000 bed spaces, unloading yesterday 27 aid flights and so far NATO forces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have delivered up to over indeed 4,000 tons of food.

Now we are obviously still concerned, as everybody knows, with the plight of those still in Kosovo and we are very glad that yesterday some trucks of a Greek non-governmental humanitarian organisation, just before midnight, managed to reach Pristina with important supplies for the local population. There are three Greek non-governmental organisations which are currently operating inside Kosovo, they are the only ones, at least to my knowledge, and we hope of course that they will not be impeded in any way by the Belgrade authorities from carrying out their extremely important mission in the present circumstances.

At the same time on Monday the Secretary General will be receiving the Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mr Samaruga, who will be here and I understand that Mr Samaruga will also be shortly visiting Belgrade in order to seek access into Kosovo for the International Committee of the Red Cross. NATO, for its part, is continuing to use its reconnaissance assets over Kosovo to try to pass information on to the UNHCR as to the location of the internally displaced persons, at least where they are in groups and therefore can be located from the air.

As you have heard in the news, ladies and gentlemen, a young lieutenant in the Yugoslav Armed Forces was captured during the night of 13/14 April by the UCK near Junik near the border with Albania, and yesterday the Albanian government passed him to the US military authorities in Tirana, he was taken by helicopter down to Tirana yesterday. I want to report that he is in good condition, he has been examined by a doctor, he has been given shelter, food and has access to religious counselling, he has also access to the International Committee of the Red Cross and he will have all the protection and rights accorded by the Third Geneva Convention. He will be able to send and receive mail, communicate any complaints, receive medical care and to have his habits, customs and religious practices respected. He will not be used for propaganda purposes.

Finally, NATO continues to be very concerned by the mounting reports of atrocities and General Marani will be reporting in just a moment on our latest finding concerning mass graves. It is clear that there is mounting evidence of detentions, summary executions and mass graves. Refugees have reported incidents in at least 50 towns and villages throughout Kosovo in recent days regarding summary executions, these of course will have to be investigated, as you know. We have also now reports of several mass graves and refugees have reported also two incidents in recent days which are particularly worrying: 45 Kosovar Albanians killed in an ambush in Pec; and 60 also killed in another incident in Kosovo as well. In fact some refugees have even reported that Kosovar Albanians have been forced to dig these mass graves and put the bodies in. If this is true it would be again another particularly alarming story.

I know that yesterday - Friday - the Yugoslav authorities declared a day of NATO atrocities throughout Yugoslavia, but again I think that historians will not retain that particular conclusion. It is clear that unfortunately, whether one likes it or not, a great deal of killing has been taking place in Kosovo over the last few weeks, in fact from the various reports of refugees, just putting the figures together, and of course all of this has to be verified, but just the figures we have received so far suggest that over the last three weeks 3,200 people have been killed in Kosovo. This figure of course is simply a back of an envelope calculation, but it gives you an order of magnitude of what we are hearing. We do know that 200 residential areas have suffered severe damage and we indeed ourselves in the Alliance have photography of 18 burnt villages just at the present time.

So again I am afraid I don't have much good news for you today. The situation in Kosovo remains bleak and NATO remains all the more determined to put a stop on this. I will call on General Marani now to please give you his daily operational up-date.

General Marani: Good Afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

In the last twenty four hours the weather deteriorated during the day which adversely affected night operations. Three packages were flown with mixed success and the remainder were cancelled.

This map shows the areas where day attacks took place against fielded forces in and around Kosovo. In a good start of the day, tanks and armoured personnel carriers were hit, together with other targets.

The strategic targets shown on this map were engaged. There was an attack against an ammunition plant in Valjevo. There was limited Serb helicopter activity and, once again, man portable surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft artillery fired at NATO aircraft, without success.

Today I have three pieces of target imagery to show. The first one is pre- and post-strike pictures of Urosevac Army Garrison. Second, the following video shows an attack which took place yesterday against a Hip helicopter at Pristina Airfield. Finally, this video shows weapons hitting an army barracks at Vranje. Once again this was from yesterday.

NATO Air Forces continue their day and night strikes against strategic infrastructure and fielded FRY military and special police forces. These strikes continue to cause serious damage to the FRY military and will further degrade their capability to commit atrocities against the Kosovar Albanian population. All of our aircraft have returned safely from yesterday's missions. A technical defect caused an A-10 to land at Skopje and an F-15 had to jettison weapons and a fuel tank into Garda Lake during a diversion from Aviano.

Serb action continued on the ground in Kosovo. The main areas are shown on this map. Once again the activity has been concentrated in the western area, near the Albanian border. The self-proclaimed Serb cease-fire for the Orthodox Easter, which was never fully implemented, appears to have come to an end. We are also seeing increased evidence of ethnic cleansing between Dakovica and Urosevac resulting in the increased outflow of deportees to the south. There also appears to be movement towards the area of Gnjilane which has been largely untouched until now. The following video shows burning houses in the region of Dakovica. This is an infra-red video and hot is white. As the picture zooms you will see the burning houses to the left of the screen.

Finally, you may have heard reports of atrocities in the region of Izbica. This image, taken on Thursday, shows what may be up to 150 graves near the village. The inset, taken on 9 March, shows the area in its original state.

MARK: Just a couple of points. You mentioned that the UCK was holding open some form of corridor, is this a genuine corridor, could you expand on that? And also is there now a feeling within NATO that given the length of the air campaign and the likelihood that it is going to continue longer, that you would in a way prefer the refugees out, where you can look after them, and so that you have more freedom of activity within Kosovo to attack targets without collateral damage? And finally, have you anything more on the convoy incidence?

Jamie Shea: Mark, let me start with the third question because obviously it is the one that you have all been anticipating and I just have to be frank with you, I have received over the last 24 hours no new information on the convoy incident. For information to go out, the information has to come in of course, and I have made it clear that if I have fresh information I will pass it on, but the investigation to put the facts on the table continues. So that is the best, the most honest, answer that I can give you on that.

As to the other two questions that you ask, yes we have had indications for days now that the KLA has been successful at opening a corridor over the Albanian border into Kosovo around the village of Tropoje. I am not sure how wide it is or how considerable it is, but the reports that we have had are that a certain number of refugees have been able to use that as a kind of channel into Albania, whereas elsewhere of course the Serb forces have been trying to close the border with Albania, at least many of their operations, mining and so on, seem to point in that direction.

As to the other aspect of the question, clearly no. I can understand, I have made the point myself, that a refugee across the border is at least somebody whose life can be saved, maybe not psychologically but at least physically, and that is at least something; whereas of course the plight of those still in Kosovo is extremely grave. But we do not want the depopulation of Kosovo. It is essential, of course, for the future of Kosovo that a certain number of people are able to stay there and our aim of course will continue to be to do everything we possibly can to stop the violence before the last Albanian is pushed across the frontier, in a train or a tractor. No, the real concern, as you know, is with the physical condition of these people. One of the reasons why we may have been seeing over the last couple of days a kind of second round of major ethnic cleansing is because a lot of the refugees have been living off their supplies since being pushed out of their homes, they have been living in woods and so on, and supplies eventually come to an end and as the water dries up, and as the food stops, you have to come down from the mountains, to come out of the woods and seek some alternative, and that may be one of the reasons why we suddenly see more refugees leaving. Another explanation is the counter-insurgency moves which have accelerated, as the General and I have been saying, in the last couple of days and particularly uprooting refugees as the Serbs destroy more villages in an attempt to extirpate the UCK by destroying all of the infrastructure surrounding them. But that is the best answer I can give you on that one.

Question: General, you have been saying all long that you have severely hit the command and control of the Serbs in the last 25 days. How do you explain that they seem still so effective in ethnically cleansing the area?

General Marani: For ethnic cleansing you don't need a very strong structure in terms of command and control. What you need is a gang, or a number of gangs, military or paramilitary, you tell them to proceed, they won't need any more orders, they will just go ahead with that ethnic cleansing, it is not an aircraft or an ordinary military unit doing a fight, a battle. Ethnic cleansing doesn't require such a structure.

Question: So am I right in understanding that there is not much you can do with your aircraft to stop ethnic cleansing?

General Marani: I wouldn't say so. We cannot totally prevent ethnic cleansing, of course, especially if in our action we are so much concerned about collateral damages, but I wouldn't at all say that there is not much that we can do to prevent ethnic cleansing with air power.

Jamie Shea: Just to add to what the General said, of course to the extent that the tanks leave then these paramilitaries will suddenly find themselves a little bit vulnerable because the classical tactic of the Serbs has been to use tanks to surround the village, then use heavy artillery to shell it, to soften up if you like the local population, and then when they are all shell shocked is to send the paramilitaries in to give everybody one hour to leave, take a last look around, hand over all of their money and documents, grab a couple of clothes and then sort of jump in the tractors and leave. So these are the classical bullies and to the extent that their rear logistics go, the tanks, the artillery and so on, they will be increasingly isolated and will have to withdraw as well. But it is true, one thug with a kalashnikov can be very intimidating when he is pointing it at a lot of old people, a lot of defenceless women and children, and it is very difficult for any force, any kind of iron force, to put a total stop to that in the short term, but it can be stopped ultimately and that is what we are going to do, we are going to stop that ultimately.

Questions & Answers

George: Would you mind explaining why the Serbian officer has been taken to the US headquarters and why not to the headquarters of the Allies?

Secondly, could you say some words on how things stand on the diplomatic field? I understand that Belgrade rejected the latest Kofi Annan proposal so what is going to be the next? Is there any new initiative, new discussion, new channel to use and also do you have contact with the Russian mediator, Chernomyrdin?

Jamie Shea: OK George! On that one, why he was taken and put in the hands of the US authorities, I don't know quite frankly but you can rest assured that this prisoner, this captive, will be taken excellent care of by the US forces I can assure you, in fact he is probably going to be much better looked after and much better cared for in his current situation than where he was just three or four days ago but anyway, I'll leave him to be the judge of that situation.

On the second question, the diplomatic front, it's true, yes, that the Ambassador to the United Nations of Yugoslavia informed Secretary General Annan yesterday that Yugoslavia rejected Mr. Annan's initiative, a very reasonable, very balanced initiative which has the overwhelming support of the international community. I think it shows just once again how Milosevic wishes to defy the entire international community but at least that was a proposal, as I say, that clearly had the endorsement and the backing of the entire international community and therefore shows that all of us are standing firm on our principles, there's no compromise on this, we know what we want and we're not going to settle for less.

As for the Russians, Mr. Chirnomyrdim is a very experienced politician and he carries a great deal of weight in the international community. If he can pull the rabbit out of the hat and persuade Milosevic to see reason, as I say, we would welcome that provided that we have an agreement of Milosevic to accept the five basic objectives which I never cease to enumerate in all of these briefings so perhaps I won't do it today just to spare you but you know what they are and we've made that clear all along and we'll see exactly what success Mr. Chirnomyrdin might have over the next few weeks but we've always welcomed Russian initiatives that can persuade Milosevic to accept the basic requirements of the international community. We are not asking for anything else but we won't settle for less, let that be clear. I understand that Mr. Chirnomyrdin may be having discussions in Bonn, I saw something in the news about this, but we'll wait and see how that develops.

Stephen: Two questions for the General. First of all, on the attacks on the convoy which have been the subject of your investigation, I realise that your investigation is underway but can you at least answer what would be a very much simpler question? Can you now confirm how many attacks your planes made on the road west of Djakovica on Wednesday and how many bombs they dropped?

The second question concerns a question that was asked yesterday. Do you have any estimates now of how many fielded forces, how many armoured forces, the Yugoslavs now have in Kosovo and what proportion of those have been damaged by your attacks east of Djakovica?

General Marani: The answer is "No" for both questions.

Stephen: Is that "No" or you can't tell?

General Marani: I cannot tell.

Jamie Shea: At the present time.

General Marani: At the present time, of course.

Stephen: Have you got any idea when you're going to be able to tell us this?

Jamie Shea: Stephen, the military commanders are going to be putting together a kind of overall assessment in the next few days as we begin to prepare for the Washington summit and so once the assessment has been put together, obviously we'll share the results with you that we can share. That exercise is ongoing and will be submitted to NATO Ambassadors in the course of the week before they leave on Thursday for Washington.

Antonio: General, one of the 40 journalists who went to the place, Robert ?? from "The Independent", he gives the numbers of the pieces of mortars, bombs or whatever found in three different places and I suppose that NATO is now already investigating. How long will it take to let us know exactly where these weapons came down?

And Jamie, another question. Concerning the number of fugitives running from Kosovo, we do know that a second wave of people are just being thrown away, in about four weeks' time there will be nobody else over there to chase. Will it make NATO's strategy change whilst the start of the strategy was to try and help these people to stay home and not be killed?

General Marani: Keep in mind that pieces and debris can be moved around but what you are saying we will investigate, also which the debris you were talking of belongs to what and that will be part of the answer. Of course, we will say also what this debris came from, from where they come and where they have been delivered.

Jamie Shea: Antonio, between February and October 1998, Belgrade's actions in Kosovo had resulted in more than 2,000 killed, 250,000 displaced, over 50,000 refugees and we already had even before NATO acted, two well-reported massacres of 45 Kosovar Albanians at Rajac on 15 January and of 25 Kosovar Albanians at another place just about a week later if I remember. So again clearly this not a question of NATO being responsible for what was really for Milosevic business as usual all along and we have spoken at great length in these briefings about the way in which this was being prepared systematically both politically and militarily with the build-up of forces well before NATO acted.

Again, there are just two differences now vis--vis the previous situation which is that Milosevic is now paying a price and the price is going to be heavier and NATO action is going to allow these people to go back to their homes whereas in the previous scenario they would have obviously been refugees for the rest of their lives.

I personally do not believe that Milosevic is going to succeed in throwing everybody out before we finally stop him. There are still quite a lot of people actually, if you do your calculations, inside Kosovo, hence our concern about their plight and we are going to insist on the right of all of these people to go back so ethnic cleansing may have taken place in the short term but it will be reversed in the long run, it will not be allowed to stand and that will be a big victory for the principle of multi-ethnicity not just in the region but I think throughout Europe.

Doug: Jamie, I'd like to ask you is there any unease or disquiet among the Allies that the time taken to clarify this unexplained convoy incident could begin to dent what has been, I think, fairly strong support among Western public opinion for what NATO was doing?

And for the General, could you give us an up-date on when the Apache helicopters and the other systems - multiple-launch rocket systems - will be operational, not just deployed but when will they be put into the battlefield?

Jamie Shea: Doug, clearly, as I said yesterday, there are some incidents that we're able to clarify immediately and there are others which take more time and I would like for all of them to be in the first category obviously as you can well imagine as the spokesman of this Alliance but this is one which is taking longer. We've told you what we know already and in

Comment: (inaudible)

Jamie Shea: No, I have said I have told you what I know.

Several Comments: (difficult to transcribe)

Jamie Shea: You can interrupt me if you wish but I've told you that I've given you the information that I know and my mind is clear on this one, Christopher, I have told you what I know and the General has told you what he knows. We can stay on the subject for as long as you like but my line will be the same: when I have more information, when I receive more information, I will pass it on. Every day, I stand up here, I give you all of the information in my possession.

If I can go back to answer Doug's question, if I may, Doug, as I said, there are some incidents which take longer. When I have more, I will pass that on, OK, and that may be tomorrow, it may be the next day, I don't know but today, I just do not have any more. It's something that the military authorities are looking at; I know that when they have it, when they've got all of the facts on the table, they will inform me and I can pass it to you and I of course will continue for my part to make whatever effort I can to help in that respect.

Doug: Is there worry about the effect on public opinion?

Jamie Shea: Public opinion obviously is uneasy whenever there is an incidence in which NATO is responsible for harm to civilians. Let's face it, we are the people in this operation who are there to save lives, to help, that's why we got involved in the first place, that's where there's been this enormous mobilisation not for strategic purposes, not for sort of classical interests but for humanitarian purposes. This is perhaps one of the very few genuine humanitarian conflicts in modern times so of course it's embarrassing for us if harm is inflicted on civilians.

It may also, Doug, by the way, say something about what the public expects of NATO. It may be even in a strange way flattering that the public believes that NATO has the competence and the professionalism to conduct this type of operation with no accident whereas in any previous conflict accidents were an accepted part of daily life. As you know, I was a student of history before I got involved in this business and in the Second World War for example when Bomber Command went up at night they wrote off between 15 and 20 per cent their crews every single night over Germany and they dropped thousands of bombs in the hope that one of them would hit a bridge or a target somewhere and we know from that type of conflict what the consequences were for the civilian population and if you remember that and look at the situation today, the progress has been absolutely exponential but having said that, it's still not perfect and probably never will be even if it can be reduced further.

I know that SACEUR has again been looking at all of the instructions to the pilots - and maybe the General could comment on this - since this incident to see what we can do to further minimise even when we're already at the minimum possible level, the possibility of this happening again but we're not going to have an accident-free campaign but again, as I said yesterday, let's not sort of lose sight of the wood for the trees quite frankly in all of this. While this has been going on, thousands of people have had their lives ruined by the Serb security forces. As I said, that is the story and I think that's what historians will retain as the story of this particular crisis.

If you listen to the Kosovar Albanians - and several of them have been on tv over the last few days - they have also made it clear that they want NATO to continue because they know that their only hope comes from us. We're not a perfect organisation but at the end of the day there is no other option if we are to stop this and make it get better in the long run so as I say, let us be judged by the final result and not by a yellow card in the first half as it were. That would be the plea that I would make on this particular one.

Will public opinion continue to support us? Yes, I believe so because I think public opinion understands full well that if these things occur it is purely as a result of an unfortunate accident and people want justice to be done and they know that NATO is there to get justice done. Just to sort of call this off and do nothing would be to give a kind of carte blanche not just to Milosevic but to every dictator around the world to brutally repress his population with impunity and I don't think anybody quite frankly in Europe wants to have the 21st century begin on the same lines as the 20th century in that regard.

I do apologise, I gave such a long answer to Doug that I forgot there was a question for the General. Excuse me, we'll come to you right away!

General Marani: As soon as the Apaches go into operation you will know. I'm not going to tell everybody when they will go into operation and you can easily understand why.

Jamie Shea: OK, the General is giving me a much-needed lesson in brief answers.

Question: How will NATO cope with the so-called Serbian propaganda machine?

Jamie Shea: Well, you know the old phrase that you can't fool all of the people all of the time. I personally think the best thing is to let the Serb propaganda machine continue because I think propaganda at the end of the day is its own worst enemy, it's counter-productive, it's obvious when people are telling lies. I'm a great believer in the fundamental good sense of the average citizen in our countries, I think he and she knows perfectly well who is telling the truth, who is trying to give an honest version of the facts albeit with the occasional correction or rectification as we go along in what after all is sometimes a confused and confusing situation, and who is constantly twisting the truth, never even trying to tell the truth in the first place, always giving opinion rather than facts so I'm quite happy for the Serb propaganda to continue because I don't think anybody is fooled quite frankly.

Having said that, I think that it's really a tragedy for the Serb people. These are the people who are suffering from this because the Serb people have been deprived of what everybody is entitled to in a democracy - a free and independent media, journalists who could sit here and ask me the questions that you're asking me. I'd love to see President Milosevic stand in my place answering some of your questions on some of the other incidents that we have reported on. I wonder how he would do faced with those questions and what kind of answers he would give? Let's move on.

John: Two questions, Jamie, one for you and one for the General.

The detention of the Yugoslav soldier that you mentioned raises the issue of what you now know about the treatment of the Americans who were captured in Macedonia and what is the last information that you have about them and how you think they might be treated?

A couple of weeks ago, someone here asked the General's predecessor about the wisdom of providing food through air-drops to the people still inside Kosovo. Given their plight is as you yourself described it today, is it time to consider doing that again and if not, why not?

Jamie Shea: John, I'll try to answer those. I must confess I haven't any up-date on the three US servicemen but I shall try to find out because obviously this question is always an important one. I know that the United States had asked the Swedish government, representing its interest I believe in Belgrade, to intercede on its behalf but that was refused by Belgrade so I have no up-date on that particular story although I shall try to find out but obviously the US spokesman will naturally be updating you.

As to the food-drop issue, as you know, we are currently studying that in the Alliance, not just that but a number of possibilities that might be used to bring supplies to the needy. You heard SACEUR the other day be quite candid on this and say that it's not an easy option in terms of the number of flights that you would need to use, the fact that you would need to use C-130 transport aircraft, they would have to fly low, they would obviously be very vulnerable to interception by anti-aircraft fire or man-held portable air-defence systems. There is no guarantee that we could get the food to the people who need it to have it and the last thing we want to do is to feed the Serb army as you can well imagine but I want also to say that we're not excluding it either. These options are simply still under study in NATO and if a decision is made, I'll tell you. However, we are also, as I said in my briefing, extremely keen to see what we can do to get access into Kosovo by international.

Question: .about not having any further information about the specific convoy incident but in at least two cases mentioned in "The Independent" the fragment of ordnance had the particular serial number still visible and intact upon it so as a general point, do NATO's accounting procedures permit you to narrow down a particular piece of ordnance to a particular mission and if not, how far can you narrow it down and secondly, just going back to the pilot's remarks played to us the other day, he talks about handing over to the forward air controller. It has been suggested to me that "Forward Air Controller" is the title of a crew member aboard an A-10 aircraft but not an F-16 aircraft. Is that the case?

Jamie Shea: These are really two questions for the General.

General Marani: It's not the case. A forward air controller called "AFAC" can be on board any aircraft. As you will recall, in Vietnam very light aircraft were used for forward air controllers so any aircraft can be used as an AFAC.

Same Questioner: And the other question about how far you can narrow down the particular piece of ordnance with a particular serial number, is it to an individual mission or is to a batch of missions or what?

General Marani: We can narrow down, of course, starting from the fragments, to at least which batch and who was using that batch of ammunition but as I said, apart from the relevance of knowing which aircraft dropped which bomb, the debris can be carried around very easily so it will be one of the items of the investigation but for sure will be treated as evidence in brackets.

Dominic: (Question In French) Jamie Shea: (Reply In French)

Dan: Your map showed a lot of activity on the Prizren Djakova-Decani road. Is the presence of refugees on that road making it difficult to do anything about that and what in fact yesterday did you try to do about all that activity on that road?

General Marani: The presence of refugees makes everything more difficult regardless of where they are. Of course, where the activity is higher, the presence of refugees makes things even harder.

Dan: (inaudible)

General Marani: Yes. I said the presence of refugees. I don't understand exactly what kind of answer you want.

Dan: Were the refugees there yesterday and did that make it difficult for NATO to operate there yesterday?

Jamie Shea: Dan, maybe I can have a crack at this. It's of course difficult where you have places where there are a lot of refugees because as I said, the counter-insurgency operations of the Yugoslav army have a double objective - to defeat the KLA and at the same time to deprive the KLA of a kind of surrounding infrastructure by of course destroying houses and forcing people to flee in the hope of isolating them from their hiding places if you like so the two aspects in Yugoslav tactics have gone together: defeat the KLA but also clean it out. You will remember the famous phrase of Mao Tse Tung of "emptying the water in which the fish swim", it's a similar type of thing at the time and so clearly in those areas there are a number of refugees on the road. That's a factor we have to take into account and we will continue to take into account obviously.

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