Updated: 5 May 1999 Press Conference


5 May 1999

Press Conference

Given by Mr Jamie Shea and Major General Walter Jertz

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea: As you all know, President Clinton visited NATO headquarters this morning. Let me say that NATO is very grateful to President Clinton for coming here this morning and for demonstrating yet again in the most visible way possible the solidarity of the United States and all of the NATO allies in pursuing Operation Allied Force through to the end.

When the President arrived this morning, he had a meeting with the Secretary General, Javier Solana, and the NATO senior officials, and I would just like to give you a very quick account of the central themes of the discussion.

Firstly, the Secretary General emphasised to President Clinton the unity and resolve of this Alliance, both before and since the Washington Summit. The Secretary General said that "the air campaign is on track. We must persevere. We must stay the course." The Secretary General also emphasised the support of the neighbouring countries in the region for what NATO is doing and in this respect let me say how much we welcome the vote of the Bulgarian parliament yesterday afternoon to authorise NATO to use Bulgarian air space for its operations. This vote has helped NATO to form a ring of steel around Yugoslavia, or should I call it, perhaps just as appropriately, a circle of democratic solidarity. And the Secretary General in his meeting with President Clinton this morning emphasised that we must help these neighbouring countries as we are being helped by them during this crisis.

The Secretary General and President Clinton then had a detailed exchange of views on the diplomatic efforts which are on-going to resolve the crisis. President Clinton in particular briefed the General on his meeting in Washington just a few days ago with the Russian envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin.

There were two key points that emerged from the meeting of the Secretary General and President Clinton: first that we want to, and we will, encourage diplomatic efforts because they are an important part of our strategy to resolve this crisis, we have always said that we seek a diplomatic solution; but also both the Secretary General and the President emphasised that we will keep the military campaign going and going in a more intensive way until President Milosevic accepts the demands of the international community to stop the killing, remove his forces from Kosovo, allow in an international force, allow the unconditional return of all refugees and to work towards a permanent political solution based on the Rambouillet peace plan.

And I think the signal from the meeting today was that we want peace, yes, but peace with justice because peace without justice is not a peace for very long, and that these five conditions are the minimum that have to be attained if we are to have a permanent peace in the region.

And as you know, because I reported this to you earlier, the President then met with the Secretary General and the senior NATO commanders, but you have had briefings on these topics already so I don't need to prolong there. In fact, I will hand over to General Jertz and he will give you last night's operational up-date and then we will go to questions.

General Jertz: Thank you very much Jamie. Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I would like to begin today by addressing the loss of the NATO helicopter. It has been widely reported and we have to confirm that an Apache helicopter crashed in Albania during a training mission. I am very sorry to confirm that both crew members, who were experienced aviators, were killed in this unfortunate accident. As military personnel, we do all accept the risks inherent in our duties and realise that we may be called upon to give up our lives if necessary. Nevertheless, our thoughts go out to their families.

The accident is at this present under US national investigation and so I am unable to give any more details to you at the present time. However, as you all know, it was not a combat-related accident.

As you are most likely aware, SACEUR, General Wesley Clark, has been travelling over the past few days. Two days ago he was in Bulgaria, yesterday he was in Albania seeing for himself the men and the women who are working relentlessly to provide humanitarian support and others who are preparing hard for combat operations.

Today he has been travelling with the President. His assessment of the air campaign is that we do have to continue and we will continue. He told the President the campaign is working and as our forces are strengthening, Milosevic's forces are weakening.

Turning now to our operations from the last 24 hours, first, as I briefly announced yesterday, I do confirm that a flight of NATO F-16s shot down a Serbian MiG-29 aircraft yesterday in the vicinity of Valjevo. The MiG-29, as we have briefed in the past, is the most advanced fighter in the Serbian inventory and is a formidable aircraft when employed by a competent pilot. This next sequence of slides is meant to give you an overview of the engagement. You will understand of course that for operational reasons, these slides capture the essence of the engagement only, but not all the exact details.

At approximately 12:41 pm local Kosovo time, the aircraft was detected. A flight of 2 NATO F-16s were leaving the area after completing their mission. By 12:43, the E-3 airborne early warning and control aircraft had identified the aircraft as a hostile MiG-29 and committed the F-16 flight against it. At 12:46, the F-16s fired air to air missiles. At approximately 12:47, the F-16s observed an explosion and the AWACS confirmed that the MiG-29 had been destroyed. Fortunately for the pilot, a parachute was seen to deploy.

This shoot-down further increases our number of destroyed Serbian MiG 29 aircraft and once again emphasises NATO's demonstrated air superiority over Yugoslavia. We have now destroyed either in the air or on the ground the majority of Serbia's MiG-29 fleet. And I have to also say that by pinning down Serb aircraft on the ground or in the air, we do avoid them using bombs against Kosovar Albanians on the ground.

Our other air operations were affected by deteriorating weather yesterday and last night.

This slide shows our target array from the past 24 hours. As you can see, we again struck a range of targets including the airfield at Ponikve, the Bare Highway bridge and fielded forces in Kosovo. Within Kosovo we struck tanks, artillery, armoured personnel carriers and other fielded forces. Particularly, we once again hit the 243rd Motorised Brigade very hard. You will recall this is the same unit we struck yesterday, but because of the importance, we struck it again today.

Finally, I have two post-strike images to show you today from our operations two days ago. You will remember that I mentioned yesterday that we had attacked the Vranje barracks with good success. This first image shows the post-strike assessment. As you can see, the damage is quite extensive, thus degrading the fighting capability of the Serb armed forces.

The next image is of the Kapitarci Bridge, which is approximately 30 miles north of the Vranje barracks which I just showed you. This bridge, and that is one of the reasons why I am mentioning it, was a key part of the major line of communications providing resupply to Vranje and other units operating in and around Kosovo. We have repeatedly stressed the importance of these lines of communication. I don't dwell any more on the significance, but as you can see, no military supplies will pass over this bridge for a long time.

Serbian air defence activity was not too high in the last 24 hours, it was about the same levels as we have experienced in the last few days. There were surface to air missile launchers observed to include a SAM-6 at Ponikve airfield and a man portable shoulder launched surface to air missile. Anti-aircraft artillery was also active.

Finally, I would like to provide the up-date on our continuing humanitarian support effort. In the past 24 hours, there were 15 aid flights into the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and 21 flights into Albania. This slide shows you a brief summary of the total relief supplies delivered thus far.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me stress this important point again. We remain committed to successfully conclude this air campaign on NATO's terms and to begin the process of getting those people back to their homes safely, I mean the Kosovars.

That concludes the operational part of this briefing. Thank you very much.

NBC News: Given the high expectation when General Clark asked for the Apaches, then the delay in deployment and now the loss of two of them, especially at a time when the concentration seems to be on attacking fielded forces which is supposedly the Apaches' forte, what effect does this accident have on the deployment, when can we expect to see the Apaches start shooting?

General Jertz: Let me start first to elaborate a little bit on the Apache. The apache is an excellent helicopter with great night fighting capabilities. It was very effective in Desert Storm, as you know. But this is not Desert Storm. We are talking of different terrain, we are talking about a different situation. We have well trained crews but they do require environmental conditions, they do require to get accustomed to these conditions, and for them of course we have to be honest, they do have to have the chance to be prepared before they go on their very important mission. Like any other high-tech performance aircraft, the Apache requires also careful maintenance and preparation. And once again, Kosovo is a very challenging, is a very difficult environment for any military operation, talking heavy vegetation, talking rugged terrain, talking mountains, poor weather, poor mapping, unmarked structures or maybe even wires. These conditions have to be met before we really go on to and give the aircrew a chance to be prepared. They are well on track and they will be in the theatre soon.

Bill Drozdiak, Washington Post Jamie, yesterday you said that there had been another surge of refugees pouring out of Kosovo and these refugees were bringing accounts of new massacres and other forms of ethnic cleansing. Yet today in his briefing, General Clark said that the Yugoslav forces no longer have the ability to conduct ethnic cleansing operations, that when they are not in hiding, they are busy repairing what we damaged. How do you reconcile these two apparently contradictory assessments?

Jamie Shea: Bill, as you know, a lot of the ethnic cleansing is being conducted by paramilitary thugs, or even civilians that have guns, and of course it is very easy if you have a gun if you are up against a defenceless people and women and children. Certainly, the Yugoslav armed forces, the VJ in particular, is involved less and less in actual operations because of the impact of NATO airstrikes and Milosevic is tending to rely increasingly on his paramilitaries, including the gangs of people like Arkan and Sesjel and others to do this type of dirty business. The VJ is spending a lot of time hunkering down trying to carry out basic repair work or dispersing into smaller groups, because they obviously know that they are increasingly vulnerable to NATO airstrikes.

By the way, they are also encountering a lot of trouble from the UCK. I saw a statement by President Milosevic, which I am sure you have seen as well, that came out yesterday, suggesting that the fight against the UCK was completed and that Kosovo was now under effective civilian administration. But this is not the view that we have of the situation, let me assure you, because the UCK have continued to harass the Serb and the VJ and special police forces in the Kaponik mountains, in central Kosovo between Suvareka and Stimlje and around Urosevac too. And therefore as I say I think that the victory over the UCK is still a long way off. But certainly it remains the case that once we can drive those Serb forces out of Kosovo, then these paramilitary units will not have the basis of support any longer and will be obliged to withdraw as well.

General Jertz: May I make just one more comment, even though it is not only a military question, but keep in mind that houses are burned, fields cannot be used any more, nutrition is not there, so I am pretty sure, and we have some evidence on that, that some people just flea because they are afraid that they would be starving to death, so where do they go? They go where they think they can get help.

Fox News: Has there been any change of thinking in terms of the number of peace keeping forces or ground troops that will be needed once the Serb forces start to withdraw from Kosovo? Is that being revised and will there be more than the 28,000 needed?

Jamie Shea: As you know, NATO is a serious organisation and it is also a flexible adaptable organisation. And as the Secretary General has made clear, we keep our planning up-to-date, we continue to assess, as you would expect us to do. We also want to have a good plan for every conceivable contingency. But I want to stress that no decisions have been taken to change the original scope of the plan that we have developed for a KFOR, a Kosovo Force, over several months already. But of course, at the same time, we are naturally aware that the situation in Kosovo has developed and unfortunately in the wrong way - that is an understatement - over the last three or four months and we know now that we have obviously a major problem of refugee resettlement, we know that there are many mines that have been laid for instance, we know about, as General Jertz was saying a moment ago, the difficulties of food supply, of the collapse of agriculture, about all of the homes and villages that have been damaged. So of course we have to factor into our planning the type of situation that we are going to unfortunately discover when eventually those Serb forces have left and an international security force would be deployed. As I said earlier, we do not want in any way a vacuum to be created between the departure of the Serb forces and the ability of the international community to begin to resettle the refugees and to begin to stabilise the situation on the ground, so we are looking at all these things, but again I stress, we are simply assessing our planning, no decisions have yet been taken.

But at the same time, is NATO prepared? Yes, we are, we are prepared because we have had already for several months in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia a significant Enabling Force, 4,000 extra troops have been added to that enabling force over the last few days, essentially a German and a UK battle group. Although it is very much engaged in dealing with the humanitarian situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, for instance German engineers are at this moment expanding the refugee camp at Segrane, nonetheless under the command of General Mike Jackson it continues to train very intensively for its role in an international security force. So we are prepared but at the same time obviously we continue to assess and plan, but no new decisions have been taken so far.

Jake, Sky News: NATO has been deploying soft bombs to switch off mains electricity supplies. Insofar as the VJ, as you put it, is hunkering down and dispersing, how does it inconvenience them to be without mains electricity? And insofar as that also inconveniences the civilian population, is it partly aimed at fermenting some form of uprising to depose President Milosevic or force him to change his thinking, and if so, precisely how does NATO expect that to come about?

Jamie Shea: Jake, as you know, electricity drives communications systems, it drives radars, it drives headquarters activities, it drives a great chunk of military activities and I can assure you the Yugoslav armed forces felt the effect of the mega disruption that the power outages caused. In fact, the idea was to make the inconvenience on them much greater than the inconvenience on the civil population, which was only temporary. But the terrible state of the Yugoslav economy has inconvenienced the population for years already, as I said yesterday, and I gave you plenty of World Bank statistics to back up my argument. And I think compared with the inconvenience that the Yugoslav population has been suffering from an official unemployment level of 27%, believed by the World Bank to be in reality double, from a per capita income that has shrunk to $1,400 dollars a year for instance, from a chronic supply situation, four or five hours without electricity is really a very minor inconvenience, quite frankly. So this is wholly directed, I want to stress that - wholly directed - at disrupting the military operation. General, do you have anything to add on that?

General Jertz: Let me repeat what I already said yesterday about the military effects on using a weapon like this. It confuses air command and control system, it diverts resources that might otherwise go into running the command and control system, it disorientates and confuses their computers by shutting them off, which is very important for command and control, and we think it has a major impact even though the duration of the electricity loss period was relatively small, approximately seven hours depending on where you are counting the numbers, so I think it really has an impact on the ability to operate efficiently and that is why I think this weapon is very useful and was very helpful.

Carlos Segonia, El Mundo: Two questions: first, what will you do to encourage diplomacy? And secondly, if you wanted peace and justice, why don't you ask President Milosevic for condition number six, I mean cooperate with the International Court in The Hague?

Jamie Shea: Thanks for those questions, Carlos. First of all, diplomacy, yes the Allies are involved as you know as Allies in a very intensive round of diplomatic efforts to try to achieve a breakthrough in resolving this crisis, building on the momentum of our military campaign and based on the five essential conditions which I describe to you every day. And although we are not at this breakthrough yet, we continue to look for it. Tomorrow in Bonn there is going to be a very important meeting of the G8 foreign ministers, in which Russia is participating, and based on the efforts of Viktor Chernomyrdin, but based also on the efforts of a number of Allied leaders, we will try very hard to reach an agreement with Russia so that the five conditions become the five conditions not simply of 99% of the international community, but of 100%, or virtually, of the international community. We would then have succeeded not only in isolating Milosevic militarily, not only in isolating Milosevic economically, but also in cutting him off politically as well. Every escape exit will be banged shut and that will I think help to increase the pressure enormously.

To the extent that NATO and Russia can work together, we are able to enhance the prospects for a diplomatic settlement and shorten the duration of the military operation. So I hope that such an agreement can be found. But the fact that this G8 meeting at foreign minister level is taking place, and the fact that the five key conditions are on the table as the main subject of discussion, the more encouraging signals that I think we have been getting over the last few days, particularly on the core idea of the necessity of an armed international security presence, shows that even if we are not there yet, nobody can pretend that, things are moving and NATO will never be responsible for things not moving forward on the diplomatic front. If anybody believes here that NATO is only interested in things moving forward on the military front but we are not interested in a diplomatic solution, they could not be more wrong. We are primarily interested in achieving diplomatic progress here but to answer your question Carlos, it has to be based on these five conditions because we have been there before with President Milosevic accepting agreements that could not be effectively implemented, taking his word when he promised to do certain things, and we are not going to return to that situation because we have seen over the last year that all it does is postpone the crisis to a later stage where the international community has to engage in far worse conditions. So this time round we are going to have an agreement that is going to stick.

Question: Jamie, would the deployment of a civil mission with an armed component be as acceptable to US/NATO as the deployment of the military force you are calling for?

Jamie Shea: As always, Pierre has helpfully reminded me to answer the question, the first rule of being a spokesman. Carlos, I apologise because you asked me a question on The Hague and Milosevic.

That is up to The Hague but the longer President Milosevic continues to do what he is doing in Kosovo, the more he increases the prospects that The Hague will take an interest in his future.

Now as for your question, it's clear that we need a military force which is going to be able first of all to do the job of stabilising what will undoubtedly be a terrible situation in Kosovo, we know that, it's clear the type of terrible wilderness of destruction that we're going to face when the Serb forces have left. There is going to be the humanitarian catastrophe to reverse, there's going to be the reconstruction issue, there's going to be the economic issue, there's going to be the question of law and order, of police, of civil administration, it's going to be like sort of starting from scratch, a big task and clearly you are going to need a highly-organised international security presence which can accomplish that task in very difficult conditions and I personally cannot believe for one minute that a lightly-armed or unarmed civilian presence would be able to do that, the situation is simply going to be too demanding at least for the foreseeable future. What happens further on down the road of course is something that we will see.

We've seen in Bosnia with the IFOR/SFOR experience how an armed force with a NATO core, stringent rules of engagement, professionally organised, which had a very clear mandate, made the decisive difference after the Dayton peace agreement and the lesson of IFOR/SFOR which has been respected, which has suffered no casualties even after four years, I think shows clearly that it is a sine qua non. We've seen in Kosovo already unfortunately what happens with a civilian presence and how Milosevic has played cat and mouse with that civilian presence so no, we have to insist on an international armed force, a NATO core but open to the participation of other countries. Otherwise, we are not going to be able to implement and something that cannot be implemented is not worth the paper it's written on.

George Foris: A follow-up on the diplomatic issue, has President Clinton briefed the Secretary General on Milosevic's letter and on the famous four points for the time being and what is your reaction to the idea raised by Belgrade that should there be some international force, those NATO countries who are participating in the operation are not welcome?

Jamie Shea: Let me start with the second point, George: as I said earlier, I think if this report in the "Financial Times" today from Belgrade suggesting that Yugoslavia is now prepared to consider an international armed force and there are some NATO countries in it, is true - and we don't yet because it's not based on any official statement - this would indeed represent progress but insufficient progress. It's a move in the right direction but the destination is still somewhat further down the track. It would at least show that President Milosevic is aware of the need to change his position and begin to move towards the international community but one swallow does not make a summer and so we will have to see. But clearly, Milosevic cannot pick and choose who is in this force and who isn't. A NATO core means exactly that, a NATO core, and a NATO core means that all Allies have equal participation and not some but not others.

As for your first question, no, as I mentioned in the briefing, the President and the Secretary General discussed the Russian initiative and other diplomatic initiatives but not the one that you've referred to.

Doug Hamilton, Reuters: General Jertz, what can you tell us, if anything, about a report from Athens that a Medecins du Monde aid convoy was attacked on the road between Pristina and the Macedonia border, attacked by whom is not clear?

Secondly, what can you tell us about a report by Radio Belgrade that NATO has dropped toys, dolls, chocolate and lighters on the town of Chabach (phon) west of Belgrade?

Jamie, General Clark has just given a fairly heavy hint that we're looking at spring really before the refugees can return to their homes. Is NATO looking at this wilderness you describe basically several months over the winter before these people can be brought back in again?

Major General Jertz: Actually, on the first two questions, I can answer in just one sentence: It is not correct, we did not attack any convoy from Greece or anywhere else because we are not going to attack civilian targets.

Doug Hamilton: The report doesn't say who attacked the convoy, it is just the fact that an aid convoy has been attacked in Kosovo.

Major General Jertz: We have no evidence on that. Regarding the second question on toys, for sure we, the Western democratic countries, would not do a thing like that and what I think I should say is that it is one of those attempts again to get the people, the population, the world interested in stories which are definitely wrong.

Jamie Shea: Doug, the Kosovar Albanians are remarkable people. Despite everything they have suffered, they want to go home and one of the reasons why they stay on the border such as at Kukes in Albania - although the international community would like to move them away from the border into safer locations elsewhere in Albania and by the way in that connection the NATO forces are helping to build six camps for those refugees around Koca in a safer location - is because they want to be able to go back immediately the fighting ends although they realise that of course there will be a difficult time for them, at least initially. So that is the first point.

The second point is that we don't have, fortunately, in Kosovo, despite the levels of destruction, the same problem that we experienced in Bosnia in terms of minority returns, in other words people not able to go back because the other ethnic groups simply would not allow them back and would burn their houses or intimidate them into leaving again so politically the circumstances should be easier and the international security force will provide that form of encouragement, of reassurance and protection which will mean that everybody can go back without fear of leaving again. In fact, even last October when there were a quarter of a million internally-displaced persons, once NATO was able to achieve a cease-fire and the albeit temporary withdrawal of Milosevic's forces, virtually all of those people went back home only to have to leave again rather quickly - but they went back.

Our aim, of course, is not to create a permanent refugee population either in the neighbouring countries or elsewhere in Europe, our aim is to be able to get those refugees back immediately and so we are not planning for a long haul on this one, we want to get them back as soon as we possibly can.

Major General Jertz: Let me comment once more on the question about the toys. When I was introduced a few days ago, you knew I was doing work in the Bosnia conflict and what happened there in Bosnia is that Bosnian Serbs introduced mines which looked like toys and they used that, as you can imagine, to hurt children so it sounds very familiar to me but this time the other way round. No, we are not doing things like that.

Margaret Evans, CBC: General, this morning General Clark said that NATO planes had been flying at what he said were somewhat lower altitudes than they have been so far. I know you can't tell us at what altitudes but can you tell us how long they have been flying at these lower levels?

Jamie, Joe Lockhart, the White House spokesman, was saying this morning that there was no discussion about ground troops in Kosovo after the bombing campaign is over at this morning's meeting between Clinton and Clark. You told us that Clinton made a point of mentioning this and about how they had to go in quickly. Can you clear up the confusion there?

Jamie Shea: Margaret, there is no contradiction here. The meeting did not discuss the idea which has been a familiar one, of sending in ground troops in a non-permissive environment, our position in NATO is clear on that. Neither - and Joe is perfectly correct here - was there any specific discussion on numbers or rules of engagement or timing or whatever. The point made, as I said quite rightly, was simply the political point which everybody accepts that we cannot afford to leave a vacuum in Kosovo and that therefore we have to be prepared with the right option so that we are able to deploy an international security force rapidly once the five conditions have been met, that is clear. Our aim is to solve the humanitarian crisis, not prolong it by not being ready.

Major General Jertz: On the military side of the question, you can be very sure that I do not dare not to support my boss, so yes, SACEUR said we do fly somewhat lower but that is only on those rare occasions where we think we can afford it without risking the lives of our aircrew and I would not be able to go into any more details on that. We still stick to our normal standard tactics, in some areas yes and on some occasions we did go lower.

Craig Whitney, New York Times: Jamie, you said a few moments ago that there were 4,000 additional troops in the Enabling Force, if I understand you correctly, does that bring it up to 16,000 then? Secondly, the "visit and search" regime was being discussed by the Council today, can you tell us where that stands now, do you expect it to be approved today or what?

Jamie Shea: Thanks for those questions. Yes, Craig, 16,000 although some of them are on their way. I think the numbers in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia today are about 13,000-plus - I actually have the exact figure which I can give you afterwards - so they are on their way and that of course is with the approval of the government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

"Visit and search": Council did discuss this today, we are going soon to be working up an operational plan, a detailed plan so it means that we are moving forward with this expeditiously but again I need to stress two things: the first thing is that we have to get this "visit and search" regime right, that's why we are looking at it carefully, it has to be something that is going to appeal to the participation of the widest number of countries because we want other countries to agree to join this regime so that we can have it as comprehensive as we possibly can. We have of course to define the basis in international law so that is an issue which we are working on and thirdly, we have to make sure that practical aspects of how it's going to operate, the rules of engagement, the procedures for visiting ships for checking cargoes and so on, are defined in a very detailed way. In other words, we want to do it so that this thing works.

However - I come back to my fundamental point which I state time and time again - our primary objective is not to have lots of tankers moving into the Adriatic heading towards Bar and then at the end, at the final couple of nautical miles before they get to port, have a "visit and search" regime that tries to stop them. That is far less effective than the alternative strategy, which is that no tankers are in the Adriatic in the first place heading towards Bar with weapons, oil products or other weapons-related materials. Then, of course, the "visit and search" regime becomes not unimportant but obviously not as important as if you're dealing with major oil supplies and where I think things have been very successful for NATO since the Washington summit is the large number of countries that have simply switched off the oil tap, the supplies have dried up, and that of course at the end of the day is what we want, it is to dry up the source, not to try to intercept at the other end a large amount of oil that may be trying to get through.

Jonathan Marcus, BBC: Briefly, Jamie, since you all seem agreed on the need to be ahead of the game and be well prepared once this crisis comes to an end to move this force into Kosovo, since all the available evidence suggests that you believe that a rather larger force is going to be needed, even if it is a permissive environment, when is NATO actually going to grapple with the mechanics and the numbers of this sort of thing, when are we going to see additional forces going to the region? Is this something that you are just putting off because of political sensitivity or is it a signal that we have many many more weeks of the air campaign to go yet?

Jamie Shea: Jonathan, we agree of course that the air campaign has to run its course in order to achieve that permissive environment and the air campaign is doing that with every passing day and let us give the air campaign the time to produce its full fruits but on the other hand, is NATO sitting on its hands? Of course not.

The Secretary General made it clear well before the Washington Summit that he had asked the military commanders to update their planning and I can assure you, Jonathan, that they have been doing that in a very detailed way and the Council is seized with that issue on a daily basis, I can assure you, so we are not simply, if you like, waiting to win the air campaign and then wondering what comes next, we are preparing for the future, we are preparing for the future first of all in that respect, we are also preparing for the future by beginning to develop our ideas for a long-term security framework for the region so that we can stabilise the region, the neighbouring states and we can also begin a process of economic and social reconstruction of the region as a whole, that was another key facet, as you know, of the Washington Summit. As I have said before, we don't only want to win the conflict, it is much more important to build the peace that will have to follow.

Norwegian News Agency: There is a lot of diplomatic activity going on - tell me how is it possible to avoid in the end a compromise coming out of this? The Norwegian Foreign Minister yesterday - he is also the Chairman of the OSCE for the moment - said that apart from the international presence in Kosovo, he saw a compromise coming out of this. How can you day after day say that those five conditions are a minimum and are non-negotiable?

Jamie Shea: I read his comments in the press and I must confess I didn't quite interpret them that way. I thought what he saying, if I interpret his comments correctly - he was in New York, wasn't he, meeting with Mr. Chernomyrdin - was that we have to be flexible on the international security presence but NATO to some degree is flexible on the international security presence. We have said that it has to be armed and I don't think that anybody in the Alliance disagrees with that; we hear the Russians saying the same thing as well at the moment.

Secondly, that it has to be robust, it has to be able to do its job effectively but we can be flexible as to what we call it and we can be flexible as to who participates provided that it has a NATO core and we have already the successful model of IFOR/SFOR in Bosnia which has functioned extremely well, which is called Implementation Force or Stabilisation Force, has a NATO core but where you have the participation of 20 countries. NATO at the Washington summit by the way approved a political-military framework for the participation of our Partner countries in peace-keeping operations with a NATO core which gives us a certain number of procedures and modalities that we can use in associating other countries unless I am wrong but at least that is the way I read it. So we have to be strong on principle - NATO core, armed force, robust - but we can be flexible as to the details as to how that is put together. We are always flexible when it comes to modalities but we are always very strong on principles, that is the ingredient of success.

Christopher Dickey, Newsweek: In precisely that vein, if you get the robust force that you want, is there wiggle room on the other points? For instance, you call for the withdrawal of all of Milosevic's force but if Kosovo is going to remain part of the sovereign nation of Yugoslavia, will he be allowed for instance to keep border patrols in place or will NATO have to take that over - you see the line of reasoning? Will he be able to determine who the Yugoslav citizens are who return to Kosovo, for instance? How will those modalities be worked out and are those under discussion at this point?

Jamie Shea: Clearly, Christopher, the modalities are something that we are going to have to work out, for example the transitional authority, how is it going to be put together, who is going to run the transitional authority, there are details but the principles are more important than the details. If we are strong on the principles, the details will soon be decided. Are we going to compromise on those principles? No, because they are the minimum.

We know fully well that those principles are all inter-related. Without the Serb forces leaving and the deployment of an international security force, the refugees won't come back; without security, the international relief organisations will not be able to work effectively; without justice for the Kosovars, there can be no political process leading to a definition of the determination of the final status of Kosovo within Yugoslavia. So they are not things that can be singled out or one could be dropped. If one is dropped, the whole package falls, it is part of a whole and that is why we are insisting on this and so, yes, it means that the Serb forces have to leave, that has been made, I think, abundantly clear.

The modalities relate to the timing of the deployment of an international security force, the modalities relate to the timing and the circumstances, the processing of refugee returns, for instance, the co-operation mechanisms between an international security force and a civilian administration, the setting up of law and order, lots of things that are still going to have to be worked out but we know that if we don't get the principles right, it would be like building a house with no foundations, it will collapse and so those principles are the foundation on which everything else depends must be built.

Stephen Dierckx, VRT: You say that NATO can be flexible on the composition of that force as long as it is an armed force with a NATO core. If you get such a force, robust, armed, with a NATO core but with certain NATO countries excluded because of non-acceptance by Milosevic, would that be acceptable or can that be discussed?

Secondly, on the "visit and search" regime, we expected approval of that in the week after the Washington Summit, it has been postponed a few times, you keep telling us you need to get this right but isn't there also a political discussion going on about the use of force in such a regime, about how to handle ships of third countries that do not adhere to the embargo because we all know that the Americans for instance are much more eager to install an interdiction regime in the Adriatic than for instance Italy or Greece?

Jamie Shea: OK, Stephen, thanks for those comments. I said a moment ago that Milosevic cannot pick and choose who is in this force or not, that is clear.

The second thing is that at the Washington Summit, what we agreed to do was to establish an oil embargo and to look into a "visit and search" regime, that is exactly what we are doing. The oil embargo is established. If you go to Bar today and count the number of oil tankers, you will have to use a very long-range telescope quite frankly and survey the horizon for a long period of time. The oil is not arriving any longer and that is the key objective which we set, the EU has taken that decision, a number of other countries have taken that decision and that is the essential thing.

A "visit and search" regime is complicated and we have to have something, as I said, which 19 Allies are comfortable with, that can be done and can be done in a militarily effective way but don't get the impression that nothing is happening. We started with an initial concept of operations; after political guidance that was worked on more. We will soon be at the stage of a formal operational plan so the thing is not blocked somewhere in some committee, it is moving forward and given the complexities which you pointed to, it is moving along expeditiously. But the most important thing is that if no oil tanker is arriving, then I must confess, those NATO ships and the sailors on them are going to have a rather boring time in the Adriatic over the next few months because as I say, the most important thing is to dry up the supply at source then everything else becomes considerably easier.

Antonio Martin, RTP: Yesterday in Lisbon, the Yugoslav Ambassador asked Portugal to integrate the future peace-keeping force and the answer given by the Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs was yes. Obviously, this means not only that Yugoslavia is accepting the most controversial of the five points but also after that, there must be some agreement inside this Alliance so that a member state accepts such a formula.

Jamie Shea: Antonio, thanks for that. As I said earlier, a few weeks ago, a Yugoslav spokesman was saying: "No, never!" to any kind of NATO participation in a peace-keeping force. If that is what the Ambassador in Lisbon is saying, it does suggest that never take Milosevic's "never" at face value but we are not there yet because in any such international security force we would like Portugal. A NATO international security force without Portugal would be unthinkable, at least we would love to have you, as with SFOR and the IFOR experience. But of course, other NATO countries would like to be with you in that force, as you well know, and if this is a sign of flexibility, fine, but Milosevic cannot pick and mix like at a sweet stall, which ones go into the bag and which ones stay on the shelf, that would be for the Alliance and the international community to determine in the usual way. So I don't see the two as being mutually exclusive there.

Dimitri Khavine, Russian Line: General Jertz, there was a report on Serbian TV showing something found on the ground that they presumed to be an engine from an A-10. Is it a true fact from your point of view and if so, could it be related to the A-10 which was damaged a couple of days ago and in fact did it return to the diversion airfield with two engines or one?

Major General Jertz: The A-10 did land with two engines at the diversion airfield, as we briefed two days ago, so I don't know where they got this engine from. The A-10 landed with two engines at the airfield it was designated to.

Dimitri: So you don't think this was one of their engines, what they have shown?

Major General Jertz: I have no evidence. Maybe they bought one somewhere! (laughter) I assure you this aircraft did fly back home with two engines.

John Dahlberg, LA Times: In your earlier summary, you noted that General Clark had told President Clinton that after 40 days of NATO air strikes I believe he said the infrastructure of the Serb leadership was now vulnerable to collapse.

Jamie Shea: Of the Serb armed forces.

John Dahlberg Could you or the General give us some details on what exactly has led him to that conclusion?

Jamie Shea: As you know, John, we're going to give you an operational assessment on fielded forces in the very near future and we'll try to build into that also an overall assessment of how far we've got but it is clear that after four or five weeks of this air campaign, a large percentage of the ammunition storage sites, over 50 per cent we know of the aircraft, two-thirds of the MiG-29s, 25 per cent of petroleum storage sites, 70 per cent of immediately-available military fuel and on and on has gone so the strain is going to show and as it shows, it is going to have a cumulative wear and tear effect. More and more difficult decisions are going to have to be made by Belgrade as to where it puts its remaining resources.

One of the reasons why I mentioned yesterday that forced labour is being conscripted in Prizren to build fortifications is because the Yugoslav army simply lacks the manpower to do the job itself for the time being. We know that a large number of people have fled to Republika Serbska to avoid the draft but not staying in Republika Serbska by the way, they go on to the Federation, where they feel more secure.

We will obviously provide this in a more detailed way but General Clark is exactly right, the wear and tear is beginning to tell now. It took a while to get there. As you know, we started with our deliberately calculated air operations building up progressively from one step to the next but as you know, every night we now go after an extensive range of targets, we put the emphasis both on the strategic targets and on the tactical targets in Kosovo and so the Yugoslav army can't suffer this type of punishment indefinitely. Our aim is to convince them to call a halt in the very near future but at the end of the day that is something that Belgrade will have to determine, whether they want to stop having lost 40 per cent or 50 per cent or 60 per cent or whether they prefer to call a halt after 98 percent, that is entirely up to them, but as far as we are concerned every day means more percentage points away as far as the Yugoslav armed forces are concerned.

Major General Jertz: That is what I would have said but not in such a good way of course but we really have attacked Milosevic's command-and-control facilities and this of course is the brains behind the brutality and the numbers and some more details will be given to you in the future, as already indicated by Jamie.

Jamie Shea: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you again for attending today, there will be a further briefing tomorrow at 3 p.m. and the morning update at 10.30 of course.

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