Updated: 21 April 1999 Press Conferences


21 Apr. 1999

Press Conference

Given by Mr Jamie Shea, General Giuseppe Marani and Commander Fabrizio Maltinti

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I am somewhat surprised to see so many of you here today, I thought that you had already left for Washington.

This, as you know, is going to be the last briefing here for a couple of days because tomorrow we will all be heading off for the Washington summit and briefings will be held in Washington on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday but hopefully, if all works out, to coincide more or less with 3.00 pm Brussels time, here, so that therefore there will be as much regularity in our activities as we can achieve.

We will be back here on Tuesday and therefore the normal briefing cycle will resume here from Tuesday afternoon at 3.00 onwards. But I look forward obviously to seeing as many of you as possible in Washington and for those of you who stay, I wish you obviously a pleasant rest for a few days, to the extent that that is possible of course in the current circumstances.

We have of course General Marani once again and we have a face that some of you will recognise from a few weeks back, Commander Fabrizio Maltinti, the Italian Navy, he has come back today and I am grateful to him to up-date you on the humanitarian situation and NATO's efforts.

I would like just to say a few things to start us off this afternoon. The first thing is just to record that at this moment the Secretary General is meeting the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Prime Minister Kostov, and he will be here at about 4.14 - 4.30 to speak to you following his 19 + 1 meeting with the North Atlantic Council.

As far as the operational side of affairs is concerned, you know that yesterday was day 28 of Operation Allied Force, there were many strikes against critical facilities in Belgrade, despite the bad weather, and as you know yesterday we hit a high value target at the very centre of the power structure in Belgrade, that is the building that houses the ruling party of Milosevic as well as the party of his wife, and also is the centre of his propaganda machine, and it is also an important link in the air defence command and control and communications net of the power structure of Yugoslavia.

At the same time NATO aircraft were active over 30 targets last evening, radio ( line disruption) was successfully struck and we also struck certain elements of the military particularly bridges at Barri, Malasevo, Mure, Beska and Dunnes, all of those bridges were damaged and we also went up against several early warning radar sites yesterday, including locations in Belgrade and Pristina, and we struck once again at a frog missile system and its launcher. And General Marani will up-date you in just a few moments, as he always does, on those various targets and operations.

Let me however just say that the extra aircraft that we have deployed are beginning to really have an effect. The number of targets that we are striking each night now, even with bad weather conditions, is double the number that we were striking in the first two weeks of the air campaign. So the pressure is really now beginning to tell, and of course it will increasingly tell.

Meanwhile on the ground the operations of the Yugoslav Army continue. The focus again seems to be to try to disrupt the key lines of communication of the UCK - the Kosovo Liberation Army - and to create a kind of cordon sanitaire around the UCK supply and reinforcement routes, and Yugoslav forces yesterday were shelling UCK positions on the Rogova mountains west of Pec. We are worried of course about these developments because in the same area we count that there are 15,000 displaced persons who of course are at risk from this kind of activity, and indeed the humanitarian organisations in both Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have notified the international community that an increasing number of the refugees arriving have shrapnel or bullet wounds sustained from these kind of bombardment activities.

On the humanitarian side, we are noting once again ethnic cleansing going on, but this time in areas where we have not seen so much, for example in the south eastern portions of Kosovo. The Albanian border with the Republic of Yugoslavia has been closed over the last 24 hours. This has obviously stopped for the time being the flow of refugees, although we understand that there are several refugee convoys heading towards the Albanian border in the hope of being able to leave.

For the time being the effort of the NATO troops in Albania, AFOR, is to try to do what we can to move the 140,000 refugees at Kukes, without shelter at the moment, to get them to the 10 camps that are being built elsewhere in Albania. I mentioned the other day that we were successful in helping to move 3,000 today and I am pleased to announce that from mid-day today we will be able to start moving, in cooperation with the humanitarian relief organisations and the Albanian government, 10,000 a day out of Kukes and that will obviously help to ameliorate the situation directly on the border.

At the same time the AFOR soldiers have assembled a number of trucks and helicopters to begin this mass exodus of refugees to other sites in Albania and AFOR continues to help with building the refugee camps south of Tirana, particularly we are ready to help as soon as the UNHCR has identified the appropriate sites and again Commander Maltinti will give you a fuller account of what AFOR is doing in just a few moments.

I would also like to remind you that AFOR is not simply a NATO operation, it is NATO led but we now are happy to see that a number of partner countries have not only shown an interest in participating, but are actually participating. This is a very good sign. Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia have sent either medical units or engineering units to our forces in Albania.

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the refugee flow has also slowed. Only 600, I say only 600, it shows the incredible dimensions with which we have become used to dealing with this problem when we speak of only 600 refugees in the last 24 hours entering the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, but the concern at the moment is that a large number, anywhere between 3 - 7,000, are on the other side of the border in what we used to call no-man's land, obviously where they are without protection, without food, without water, and it is important of course that we seek ways to try to resolve their plight as soon as we can.

Today the NATO forces in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia will hand over the last of the refugee camps, Neprestino, to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, but again I would like to stress that we will continue to help in any way that we can in either guaranteeing security at these camps or in helping to expand them to cope with any extra influx of refugees.

Of course I reiterate the concern that I expressed yesterday regarding the situation in Montenegro where we know that the activities of the Second Yugoslav Army along the border with Kosovo has led to many refugees fleeing and trying of course to flee into Albania, so there is a flow there as well.

Yesterday I was extremely interested to see that one of the principal members of the Belgrade government, Mr Draskovic, made an important statement in which he said that once the war was finished Belgrade should conduct a serious investigation into all of the crimes committed in Kosovo and that no crime should be forgiven. I would like to see this as a sign that the reality which is so evident to all of us here is also increasingly filtering through, even within the ranks of the leadership in Belgrade, and that increasingly they know that they cannot deny that very, very dark and black things have happened in Kosovo. And I also found it encouraging that Mr Draskovic should also appeal for nationalist passions in his country to be calmed. I can only echo those sentiments. I also noted that he accused the official television of his country, the RTS, to hide the truth about the consequences of NATO air strikes from his country. I hope that he is not alone in being prepared to face up to reality and show some willingness to accept a responsibility for what has happened.

But despite those good sentiments, we continue to note the continuing depressing number of human rights abuses over recent days. Some of you may have seen the rather striking report of the OSCE Kosovar Verification Mission that came out of Skopje yesterday, based on a large number of interviews with refugees. The OSCE is making, as you know, a very systematic effort to gather these reports of witnesses, which are going to be very important later on as you know for securing justice. But over the last 24 hours I have noted that there are still about 1,052,000 people inside Kosovo, of which we calculate that 850,000, so the overwhelming percentage are internally displaced persons and of course they are suffering food shortages and other deprivations at the moment.

We also have the same stories of inhumane treatment, we have reports of Yugoslav troops targeting ethnic Albanian doctors and their facilities, denying access to medical treatment, and practically all of the Kosovar Albanian patients at the public hospital in Pristina have been expelled by the Serb hospital administrators. Also reports of uniformed Serb forces reportedly opening fire on a convoy of refugees on 18 April, of Yugoslav forces surrounding Kosovar Albanian villages, setting their homes on fire, and of a mass grave in the new cemetery at Pristina being created on 5 April.

So again I hope that Mr Draskovic's words are being heeded by those Army commanders, special police commanders, responsible for these actions.

I will now turn to General Marani for his usual operational up-date, and then we will have Commander Maltinti's presentation.

General Marani: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. As has been said, today's operational briefing will be in two parts. I will cover the military situation and last night's operations, and Commander Maltinti from the civil military cooperation cell at SHAPE will present the current humanitarian situation.

During the past 24 hours Serbian strategic infrastructure, fixed installation and fielded forces of the FRY Army and Special Police were continually and constantly engaged by NATO's air campaign. Once again all our aircraft returned safely.

Serb military and Special Police operations in Kosovo are outlined on this map. Artillery fire took place near the Montenegro border north west of Pec. Serb operations against the UCK are also on-going near the Albanian border. This operation includes artillery being fired, directed into Albania. 200 Serb Army troops crossed into Albania and later withdrew after confrontation with Albanian forces.

Outside of Kosovo approximately 250 - 300 VJ soldiers entered the UN demilitarised zone between Croatia and FRY on the southern Prevlaka peninsular, as shown on this map.

We also received reports that unidentified uniformed forces killed 6 people in Montenegro.

Finally, we are receiving information that the FRY intend to disrupt NATO's 50th anniversary events. We believe that they will attempt, through their Embassies and delegations, to orchestrate local Serb communities to actively demonstrate against NATO at appropriate locations.

Now turning back to NATO air operations, although we completed mainly successful attacks, we were hampered by poor weather, particularly in southern Serbia. Our attacks, as shown on this slide, concentrated on ammunition depots, lines of communications and radio relay facilities supporting the FRY command and control. Fielded forces in Kosovo were also hit. Serb air defence activity was light.

Last night in support of our effort to disrupt the regime and degrade the FRY propaganda apparatus our forces struck directly at President Milosevic's primary communications. One was an extremely accurate attack on a building in Belgrade housing both the Socialist Party Headquarters and a communications and TV transmitting station, vital elements in the control apparatus of President Milosevic's regime. You will have seen the results of our attack on your televisions this morning.

The other attack was on a radio relay and TV transmitting station near Novi Sad. This facility was an important link in the air defence command and control communications net, and also a local area TV repeater. We are awaiting an assessment of this attack.

Not only were these targets central to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's governing apparatus, but from a military point of view they formed an integral part of the strategic communications network. This network enabled both the military and national command authorities to direct the repression and atrocities taking place in Kosovo.

Finally we have a few images from recent operations. The first is of the Rakovina Bridge over the Beli Din River in western Kosovo. This bridge lies along the major line of communication between Pec and Pristina and is the critical link in the resupply lines to the FRY fielded forces. The following is a pre-strike image of military facilities at Pristina Airfield, while the next slide is a post-attack image.

Finally we have an original image of the Urosevac Army Garrison, home of the 243rd Mechanised Brigade, a unit actively involved in actions against the UCK and Kosovar Albanian population. The next image is the cumulative result of our air strikes against the same facility.

We have one video of an attack against an underground oil storage facility in the vicinity of Novi Sad. The other two storage facilities you saw in that video were also successfully attacked in the same mission.

I would like now to hand over to Commander Maltinti who will cover recent humanitarian operations. Thank you.

Commander Maltinti: Good Afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Here I am again to give you an up-date on the last week's development of the humanitarian assistance effort.

The NATO forces performed in the Balkan region under the lead role of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and in co-ordination with the international organisations and non-governmental organisations too. I wish to take this occasion to stress again the fact that NATO is not seeking to create a humanitarian role for itself, but it is the UNHCR who established the priorities and identified the requirements for the humanitarian effort. Other requirements are determined on the ground by UNHCR and the nations provide what is requested.

Our particular role is to help to co-ordinate and assist all this humanitarian effort. I want also to emphasise again that we are not to duplicate in the contribution of the relief agencies, but we are only concentrating on providing military resources not immediately available to civil agencies.

This slide shows the number of refugees and internally displaced personnel in accordance with UNHCR estimates. I would like to highlight the fact that the condition of refugees coming out from Kosovo continue to deteriorate, not only because of malnutrition and exposure, but also because of the results of bullets and shrapnel wounds and severe beatings, as seen by medical aid agencies.

I wish also to bring to your attention that an estimate of 35,000 buildings have been damaged in 550 settlement areas in Kosovo since March 1998. In the last corner of the slide you can see the number of displaced refugees moved into the various countries.

With the next two slides I hope I can give you a better feeling of the refugee flow across the Kosovo border in the last two weeks. Here is the day by day flow into Montenegro, Fyrom and Albania. Of particular impression are the two peaks registered in FYROM and Albania on 2 April, 77,500 and 55,000 respectively. The charts also show that refugees' exodus was slowing down, even if a new peak was registered two days ago. We know that the large amount of IDPs still hide inside Kosovo, what we really don't know is why the Yugoslavian authorities one day seems to push all of them out and the next day they are bringing them back from the border.

The second chart shows the total number of refugees in the last 20 days in the same three nations. Some of this number could appear different from those shown in the previous slides, but this is due to the fact that these figures are reflecting the refugee flow of the last 20 days only, while the previous slide reflects the total number of refugees and IDPs since the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo started.

The next four slides depict the refugee camps' location and the situation in both Fyrom and Albania. As you can see, yesterday 11 flights landed in Skopje, bringing the total number of aircraft landed in the last week up to 335. Here is the breakdown of refugee camp occupancy in FYROM. As you can see, the camp handover to the civil organisations is well under way. As was mentioned by Dr Shea, the Neprostina Camp should be handed over today and the slide also shows that two camps still need to be completed. Works continue at Segrana where 3,000 beds will be available tomorrow, or after tomorrow. Once all the camps are fully operational the total capacity will raise up to more than 82,000 refugees.

UNICEF is also conducting an assessment on the need for schooling of children, as there are an estimated 30,000 children of school age within the refugee camps.

Here is the camp situation in Albania. Ace Mobile Force will be fully operational in a few days. The Ace Mobile Force headquarters, and about half of the Ace Mobile Force are already in Albania and have started the situation assessment, the co-ordination, the preliminary contact with the Albanian government, the UNHCR, the international and non-governmental organisations. Our troops are contributing to build up new humanitarian camps and, not less important, the NATO helicopters are employed to shuttle refugees from overloaded camps near the border to other less populated locations. The daily lift capacity is now near to 10,000 people.

This slide also shows the total flights into Tirana Airport. It is worth noting that Tirana is only one piece of the humanitarian relief operation into Albania. Much of the humanitarian supplies arrive via sealift to the port of Durres. It is a point of fact that the NATO effort has increased the throughput of supplies into Tirana from an initial 13 movements per day to a capacity of nearly 300 flights per day. Yesterday tests and validation has allowed NATO to conduct 24 hour operations in both visual and instrumental flight conditions. We should applaud the efforts of the Allied nations who have contributed to this immense capability in such a short time frame. We now have integrated both military and civilian airlift support in a very dynamic and challenging environment.

Here is the breakdown of the Albanian refugee camp occupancy. The total number of refugees includes the refugees living at home with Albanian families. This slide shows the principal humanitarian aid delivered in both Fyrom and Albania. The total amount of humanitarian aid imported in the countries is 3,804 tons in Fyrom, and 2,420 tons in Albania.

This last slide shows the breakdown of humanitarian aid contribution NATO received in Albania from some of the partner nations, as was already mentioned by Dr Shea. I am sorry that not all these slides are easy to see for the first row, but you can have the handout.

Thanks for your attention. This concludes my brief.

Nick Childs, BBC NEWS: Jamie, both you and the General have made a particular point of talking in some detail about the attack on the party headquarters overnight. Can you say if this is in any way an escalation by NATO of its campaign, particularly against Mr Milosevic and people associated with him or targets associated with them?

Jamie Shea: No, we are not, Nick, targeting Milosevic, I have made that clear, but we are certainly targeting the power structures that make him what he is and we will continue to do so. We have struck what I call high value targets before, you remember the Ministries of the Interior a couple of days back, which were also the headquarters of the Secret Police operations. We will go after anything which is used to plan, to conceive, to direct what is a campaign of repression in Kosovo, in other words if I can take the image of the human body, we will go for the brain as much as we will go for the finger tips and we believe that that is the only way to maximise the pressure on Milosevic to oblige him to backtrack. And I think that last night's attack will have certainly been a powerful reminder to him of the fact that there is no sanctuary for any aspect of his power structure as long as he continues to defy the international community.

Richard Rolf, CNN: Jamie, perhaps you could elaborate on what the General said about fears that there might be a disruption, was the word used, of NATO's summit. What is the evidence of that and certainly the Serbs in the United States would have every right to demonstrate. Are there plans that you fear coming out of Belgrade some type of interruption, some type of violence and do you have any concerns about what might the Milosevic government be planning in the region, in the Balkans, to time out with the summit?

Jamie Shea: Richard, certainly I have nothing against Serbs demonstrating, we have had several demonstrations outside here at NATO headquarters over the past few months, all of which I add have been peaceful and I have had the occasion to talk to some of the demonstrators personally myself. We are obviously concerned about some of the incidents over the last 24 hours, first of all we have had the attempt of the army in Montenegro to bring under the control the police forces that are still loyal to the democratically elected President, President Djukanovic, and as you know President Djukanovic has been bravely resisting this type of takeover bid by Belgrade.

Secondly, we have been concerned that yesterday there was some shelling by Yugoslav forces in to Albania, rather sustained shelling, which is of course something we are watching very closely indeed, particularly in areas where there are a large number of refugees. We obviously want to bring those refugees to safety, as I said, one reason for getting them away from the border as quickly as we can, apart from the health hazards as well. And then all of you have noted this incident which the General referred to of a number of Yugoslav soldiers setting up a checkpoint inside the Montenegrin border, not in Croatia, but nonetheless in what is a demilitarised zone under the supervision of the United Nations and Croatia has expressed its concern to the United Nations which is conducting an investigation.

So we know that President Milosevic is a man who thrives on a crisis, he seems to need a crisis like a car needs petrol quite frankly, in contrast to most other political leaders who don't welcome crises unless they are thrust upon them. So we have to be on our guard, we have to be vigilant and we will be vigilant to any attempt to try to create out of a domestic crisis an international crisis. We have stopped that thus far and we will continue to stop that.

John: To go back to the attack on the party headquarters, could you be a little more explicit about exactly what was being done there that had a relationship to what is going on in Kosovo now because I think everybody knows that the Yugoslavs have had 40 years to prepare for what they consider to be, or feared to be, a partisan war against the Soviet Union and it seems to me unreasonable to think that almost a month into a NATO campaign there would be any activities in there at all?

Jamie Shea: We have made it clear, John, that any aspect of the power structure is considered as a legitimate target by NATO, the power structure, and of course in dictatorial societies it becomes progressively impossible to distinguish between the party and the state, as we all know, they become conflated with each other, and this is also the party headquarters which contains the propaganda too of the ruling socialist party and that is enough for us to consider that to be a wholly legitimate target. As to your second question, yes you are right.

Again one of the aspects of dictatorships is that they tend to rely very much on the military and devote an enormous proportion of their gross national products to the military and this is something which I hope to comment on in more detail in subsequent briefings, and therefore that is one reason why it is sometimes difficult to bring dictatorships to heel because they do tend to have more military capability than other states, redundant capabilities, secondary airfields, underground bunkers and the rest, and yes this was part of the Titoist concept of territorial defence that was built up in the late 40s and the 1950s. This is a state in which quite frankly there are a hell of a lot of soldiers and policemen, compared to the usual percentage of the population.

In most democratic societies you have something like 1 policeman to 1,000 of the population, whereas if you count the number in Kosovo, 40,000 plus, to a population of 1.8 million, you get an idea of just how dense the security apparatus really was, without counting the normal policemen as well. So clearly there is a lot of it and that is one of the reasons of course why this campaign has to be done in a deliberate progressive manner, but it will be conducted in that way.

Nick: I understand yesterday that President Samaruga of the International Red Cross said it would be easier to help those people inside Kosovo if there is an interruption of the campaign. Can I have your response to that? And for the General, in recent days you have been telling us quite a bit about hitting petro-chemical plants and communications centres etc, but we need a lot of clarification for other targets. We get reports coming out of Yugoslavia that food processing plants have been hit, the cigarette factory from yesterday that was mentioned, that has been hit, I know it is bad for your health, but can you deny that you have actually hit consumer goods factories, cigarette factories and food processing factories?

General Marani: We sure deny that we have hit a factory that was used to produce cigarettes alone, of course. The production of the factory was different and this is why it was targeted as a military target. Food factories, cigarette factories, as you well know we are not trying to put the Yugoslav people on their knees, we are only trying to disrupt the military apparatus that is carrying out the operations in Kosovo. Therefore it wouldn't be coherent with this concept, attacking a food factory as such. If a food factory is used for a different scope then it is targeted and destroyed.

Nick: Can you give us an indication of what you thought these factories were being used for? If the Yugoslav media is saying these were food factories, etc, or cigarettes, what are you saying they were used for?

General Marani: If I remember correctly, the cigarette factory was something having to do with ammunition.

Jamie Shea: Nick, let me make clear, as the General says, we have not targeted a cigarette factory, even if we may be sympathisers of the worldwide campaign against lung cancer, and it has been pointed out to me by a connoisseur of the Yugoslav Army that probably the worst thing that NATO could do to them would be to deprive them of their daily ration of cigarettes. But having said that, no, these targets are military targets.

As to your first question to me on the Red Cross, we are clear that the reason for the human suffering in Kosovo is not NATO action. No refugee says that it is NATO action that was the reason why that refugee became a refugee or became displaced from his or her home in the first place. There is secondly absolutely no indication that if we had a pause the Serbs would stop their actions on the ground, particularly when they are being conducted largely by paramilitary forces.

How could you possibly verify that they had laid down their arms unless you had international observers in Kosovo to ascertain that, and we don't have international observers. The only way to stop this suffering is to stop the war. The war and the suffering go together and we don't want to lose a single day quite frankly. And I keep coming back to a remark that I have made time and time again, that we are prepared to stop when Milosevic stops, but until we stop the fighting we can't begin to reverse this humanitarian suffering, we can tackle the symptoms but we aren't going to be tackling the root causes and therefore we are not going to be winning. So the essential thing is to stop the fighting.

Deem: (Not interpreted)

Jamie Shea: (Not interpreted)

Mrs Savic: Mr Shea, to what extent is the UN arms embargo respected in Albania and what is the NATO contribution to that embargo? And General, to what extent is civilian everyday life disturbed by hitting all the bridges over the Danube?

Jamie Shea: Mrs Savic, I can assure you that NATO countries scrupulously respect UN arms embargoes, essentially because at the moment we have 5 countries making up the United Nations Security Council and we are largely the countries that vote those resolutions, not the only ones, but one-third of the countries that vote those resolutions. So we are particularly interested in ensuring that they are upheld, as you well know. It is impossible of course in these situations to stop the flow of small arms from other private sources, that of course is the case in point.

But I come back to what I have said time and time again, there was no Kosovo Liberation Army in 1989, it appeared, at least the information that I have, only around 1997 after we had had virtually a decade of what is, and everybody knows, an appalling situation in Kosovo, I mean everybody has known this for years, how grim the situation in Kosovo was. So it did emerge late in the day and in response to a clear policy of repression from Belgrade. This is something which President Milosevic has created. He is if you like the creator of this moment, and no-one else, and so when that repression ceases, the need for Kosovar Albanians to feel that they are secure only with 4 or 5 kalashnikovs under their bed at night will disappear and we will be able to go to a normal situation.

But I take your point, I take your point, this is a country which has far too many weapons. If there is one thing that the country is not short of it is weapons and one of the essential tasks of the international community once peace comes to Kosovo will be to start trying to remove those weapons, along the same lines as we have been successful at doing in Bosnia. SFOR, as you know, in Bosnia has conducted operations like Harvest which we organised last year to try to round up all of these small arms in private hands, and with some success. But of course to give people an alternative form of security is the prerequisite for getting them to hand over their weapon. Weapons are not the cause of the insecurity, they are the reflection of the insecurity.

Augustin: Once again I want to come to the question that was raised the last day, that you can film the displaced persons in Kosovo, there are 850,000 as I can imagine, maybe the question is for the General, if you can film them can you drop them the food, they are really dying for food?

General Marani: Let's make it clear first of all one thing, those people are Yugoslav citizens, so to tell the truth the first concern about Yugoslav citizens should be lying upon the Yugoslav government. On the other hand, the aid that we can bring to them, it has to be sufficient, it has to be delivered to the displaced person and not to the MUP or VJ and this is not easy, it is not easy at all, both in volume and in the capability to deliver exactly to the IDPs the supplies.

We are addressing this problem, it is not an easy problem, it is not a problem that can be solved with one demonstration flight or a small number of aircrafts making a demonstration over Kosovo, it is a huge effort that has to be weighed in terms of safety of the crews, probability to deliver the goods to where they should go, the possibility to know exactly on the terrain where the ADPs are, the possibility to know that within the IDPs there are not VJ or MUP elements that would take the food and the supplies away from them, otherwise we would reach exactly the opposite result, instead of feeding the IDPs we would feed the Yugoslav Army.

Jamie Shea: General Marani is totally correct but I also want to point out that we are not excluding this option, we are not excluding the option either, we are still under study but again as the General says, it is not a panacea, it really is not a panacea, it is like applying a band-aid to a patient with a major leg wound and therefore we have to stop the violence, that is the only way to feed those people. And one of the reasons why they are in such a bad way is because the Yugoslav Army has also systematically destroyed the agriculture. Even before the international organisations were forced to leave Kosovo they were reporting large numbers of slaughtered livestock.

Robert, Slovak Press Agency: After providing the air space for NATO operations today decided to give transit for operation for personnel and technics by the Slovak territory to NATO operations. Can you tell me who requested this from the Slovak government, was it NATO or the United States? And is Slovakia the only one, as a non-member state of NATO, or are there some other countries, and could it be reflected in one or other way in the deliberation of the NATO Summit in Washington in relation to the Slovak ambitions to get membership of NATO?

Jamie Shea: Robert, thanks very much for that question. I did notice those two offers by the Slovak government. We are grateful and it will not be forgotten, let me assure you of that, but Slovakia is not alone in offering that kind of solidarity. You have seen the Romanian government also say that it has reached a decision in principle, subject to confirmation by parliament, to also grant NATO air space; Bulgaria is also considering this question at the moment; Albania has already granted us full and unfettered access; there are other countries as well. So this demonstrates that they share our concern for stability and as I have said on many occasions, the first beneficiaries of stability in the region are going to be the countries of the region and they know it and that is a great gesture of solidarity by Slovakia.

Francoise: Regarding the 50th anniversary of NATO in Washington, apart from the demonstrations which are anticipated, did you have to modify the programme of this anniversary? What do you think the impact is going to be on the general atmosphere and don't you think it is going to be a rather sad birthday party?

Jamie Shea: No, not at all, in fact I believe that this is probably the finest way we could celebrate the 50th anniversary of NATO, to be actually doing things to uphold the principles in which we believe. I think it is much better to be defending those principles rather than simply proclaiming them and I can assure you that the mood in Washington will be one of determination and resolve, but not one of despondency, not at all. Because if this organisation is not managing crises, what is it for?

What would there be to celebrate? This organisation is the creature of one of the worst crises in modern European history, from 1946 - 1949 it was set up to deal with the tough situations in international politics, not the easy situations. And so although yes we have modified the agenda significantly in order to focus on Kosovo policy making, I think that we feel at the end of the day that it is just as good to demonstrate NATO's relevance through action as it is through fine declarations. Now before you come back, let me just answer your question in terms of the programme.

Francoise:What you have cancelled in your programme.

Jamie Shea: I am going to answer that because that was your question, and I know that you in particular always make sure I give you the answer. The first part is that yes the commemorative aspects on the Friday have been toned down, as is appropriate to the situation. There will still be a celebration, a short ceremony to mark 50 years of NATO in the Melon Auditorium where the Treaty was signed on 4 April 1949, that will be a distinguished but more sober ceremony without the if you like some of the outside celebrations that we were originally thinking of. But we are clearing the decks to allow more time for substance and meetings.

For instance, one new event, on the Friday morning there is a meeting of Heads of State and Government on Kosovo which will be the dominant theme on Friday. On Friday afternoon there will be two other unscripted events, a meeting of Foreign Ministers and at the same time a meeting of Defence Ministers, separate, on Kosovo policy, Foreign Ministers looking at the more political diplomatic aspects, Defence Ministers at the more operational aspects. They will both take place at the State Department simultaneously.

Then on another event which we were not originally planning will be on Sunday morning, which will be a meeting of the NATO Heads of State and Government with the leaders of the 7 neighbouring countries, the 7 neighbouring states in the region. But of course the other events that we had planned, like the summit with Ukraine on Saturday afternoon, the meeting on Sunday of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government on Saturday to work on the new strategic concept, the European security defence identity, the future of enlargement and all of the other issues, they will go on as well. So if anything the summit has become even more intensive than it was originally.

Question: You mentioned that on the issue of air space letters were sent to the Prime Ministers or the Presidents of Bulgaria and Romania, but what is the aspect of the security guarantees, are there legal security guarantees for the countries who have agreed to grant air space to NATO? And secondly, in the case where certain countries have already given their aspects, were there cases of limitations requested by such countries, for instance territorial limitations or types of aircraft or other? And also what would be the impact on civil aviation in the case of a country like Bulgaria gives its air space to NATO?

Jamie Shea: Thanks for those questions. Very briefly, firstly of course it is up to every country to decide whether or not to give NATO air space access, we totally respect the sovereignty of countries and we respect in the case of Bulgaria for example the need even for a constitutional amendment I understand, I understand, before that can be done. But we are grateful to the Bulgarian government, like to the Romanian government, for supporting in principle our request and for being prepared to ensure the necessary parliamentary approval.

Secondly, legal security guarantees, no, those are limited to the member states of NATO that have signed the Washington Treaty. But judge NATO as much by its actions in this respect as by its words and we have given clear political statements which are totally unambiguous in this regard and if you take two countries - Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - you have seen over the last few days a pattern of NATO actions that underline how seriously we take those political statements. As for the limitations, that is of course totally up to the countries to decide. Yes if they wish to place limitations they certainly can, and we respect those limitations, but I am not aware of any in this particular instance. But Prime Minister Kostov will be here in just a few moments and of course you can ask him that question.

On civil aviation, this was a problem at the beginning of Operation Allied Force, it is true that many airline companies had to re-route their civil aviation in the region, but as the operations go on and as we have established a pattern of cooperation with Euro Control, the agency which directs the civilian aviation, and I am sure General Marani as an Air man here can give you a more specialist answer than I, but we really have now kept this disruption to a minimum and we have opened up a large number of the existing corridors. There probably are going to be some disruptions, I can't deny that, but we really have greatly reduced the number that were experienced at the very beginning through co-ordination with Euro Control.

The second point is that we really have also deconflicted the flights of military equipment, such as the Apaches into Albania, and at the same time humanitarian aid. I saw a report on a television yesterday implying that somehow the arrival of NATO's military equipment for the Apaches was sort of holding up or postponing or limiting humanitarian aid. This is not true, quite the reverse. As Commander Maltinti pointed out, we are now able because we have improved the airport handling capabilities in Albania and Skopje to have 24 hour flights which were not available to civilian aircraft before this crisis began, because of the absence of technology at these airports, and we are trying also to have those military flights at night so that humanitarian airlifts can take place normally by day.

General, do you have a more specialist answer on that one?

General Marani: What is happening today has happened in Italy quite some years ago, the beginning of the night flight. Initially you have a rather significant buffer zone and all the airways go around the buffer zone where the military operation takes place, and then progressively, as soon as we can guarantee the safety of these airways, the airways are brought back into operation. Of course with the military operation going quite fiercely over Yugoslavia, a buffer zone around Yugoslavia has to be used at least for the security and the safety of the airlines. The airlines wouldn't go near the sky over Yugoslavia anyway. What we are doing, we are organising the air space in order for the civilian traffic to be able to take the best opportunity they have to follow in an ordered pattern, at the same time ensuring their safety and the freedom of operation that we need to conduct the military operation.

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