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Updated: 27 March 1999 Press Conferences

Transcript

NATO HQ
27 Mar. 1999

Press Conference

of NATO Spokesman Jamie Shea
and Air Commodore David Wilby, SHAPE



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Jamie Shea: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon, it's good to see you all. Welcome to this briefing and update on Operation Allied Force - not Operation Allied Effort - as I inadvertently called it yesterday. Again I'm very pleased that Air Commodore David Wilby of SHAPE is joining me up here at the podium. Before I hand over to David, let me, if I may, just make a few remarks on the political front.

As you know, last night we had the third round of air strikes. They began in the early evening. Also, as you saw yesterday, we had the first daylight strike by a single Cruise missile. The third strike was conducted with a combination of Cruise missiles and manned aircraft, and in particular, we were looking again at degrading the integrated air defence system of Yugoslavia and certain targets were hit in the vicinity of Belgrade. But, again, as I said yesterday, I would like to stress once more, because it can never be stressed enough, all of the targets were exclusively military, and, again, every precaution was taken to limit, minimize, collateral damage. I'm pleased to say that all NATO aircraft have returned safely to their bases and I would like to stress that we are maintaining a continuous, around-the-clock, combat air control mission, that's NATO aircraft in the region 24 hours a day to ensure the air defence of the area, particularly of neighbouring countries and one of those support patrols was involved, as you know, in the incident which led to two MiG 29s being shot down over Bosnia Herzegovina yesterday afternoon.

This morning the NATO Ambassadors of the North Atlantic Council have met once again to consider the latest events, to be briefed on the operations of last night and to review the political situation. One of the areas of concern today, as you would imagine ladies and gentlemen, are the mounting reports of continuing Yugoslav special police and army activities in Kosovo, particularly sweep operations by the Yugoslav army in the northern part of Kosovo and also in the Central part of Kosovo, around Kosovska Mitrovica, in fact we have reports of large parts of the town of Podujevo in the north burning, and indeed many attacks now going on against KLA strongholds, remaining KLA strongholds in Kosovo. At the same time, we are alarmed in the Alliance by all of the reports now coming through from a variety of different sources concerning killing, looting, harassing, and the intimidation of ethnic Albanians inside Kosovo.


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Now, I stress that these are reports, only we don't have evidence yet, although we are obviously seeking to get as much evidence as we can, but nonetheless the concordance of different reports is enough to alarm us. We have heard reports that armed Serb civilians are blocking all access to Pristina. Within that city there have been door-to-door operations, in which men have been separated from their families and taken away to undisclosed destinations. We have had reports of 20 ethnic Albanians being killed in the village of (name inaudible) and we do know from OSCE monitors inside Albania, that in recent days many refugees from Kosovo have been forcibly pushed into Albania, and again women and children without any men.

These are, of course, extremely worrying indications and I'd like to stress the sense of the Council meeting this morning, which is that any evidence that comes into the possession of any Ally concerning these alleged harassments, killings, atrocities, will be passed on to the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, and any individuals that would be identified as being responsible for these acts will be indicted as war criminals and will be brought before the Tribunal. We will do whatever we can to assist the Tribunal in this effort, and I would like to point out to these individuals that the UN Security Council Resolution of May 1993, which established the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague provides for no statute of limitations, so as long as they live, they will be liable to be brought to justice.

I would also like to stress as I did yesterday that NATO's resolve to continue this operation until our essential objectives are met remains absolute. Yesterday, you could see good indicators of parliamentary support for what we are doing, as governments continue to explain the rationale for our action to parliaments and public opinion. We notice a very strong sign of support from the Italian parliament, and yesterday I think we were encouraged by the fact that in the United Nations Security Council, a resolution proposed by one country condemning NATO action received the support of only three members of the UN Security Council, with the other twelve expressing support for what we are doing.

I think this is a barometer of the international community and it's an encouraging sign that other countries share our determination to put a stop to the atrocities, the violence, the human suffering in Kosovo. Because that is our objective, first and foremost. It's a humanitarian objective, which we currently are obliged to pursue with military means, but we are determined to take whatever steps are necessary to be in a position to limit, curtail and eventually stop the current violence in Kosovo and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.



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Commodore Wilby: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. During the last 24 hours, Allied air forces have continued to attack the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's integrated air defence system, and some command and control and logistics facilities associated with the army and MUP units. Yesterday, Allied Forces flew 249 sorties and the targeting was focused on Belgrade, NIS and targets in Kosovo.

Let me cover first the current situation - FRY forces have continued to conduct operations throughout Kosovo, with particular emphasis on the north and the centre of the province. They have also reinforced their troops close to the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. While our reports have not yet been independently confirmed, a campaign of killing, looting, harassment, and intimidation of ethnic Albanians is possible and Jamie alluded to that. The responsiblity for these acts we would attribute to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's military and police forces - and the power to halt this tragedy lies very firmly in the hands of President Milosevic.


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Other attempts by Federal Republic of Yugoslavia forces to counter NATO strikes have continued. Last night about 17 surface-to-air missile units attempted to engage NATO aircraft, but without success. Of note - and you will have seen good coverage of this - was the brief but successful air-to-air engagement that took place yesterday between 1606 and 1610 Zulu - I try to be precise today.(Presentation Photo)

Two of our F15s were on a combat air patrol in the vicinity of Tuzla as part of Operation Deny Flight. They were warned of 2 MiG 29s to the east, who were deemed hostile. The MIGs subsequently violated Bosnian airspace with hostile intent and moved into a threatening position on our aircraft. Our aircraft took the appropriate counter-offensive action and engaged their targets, shooting both down. The wreckage of one aircraft lies in a minefield in SFOR's MND north sector and the other has yet to be located. We have no information as the whereabouts of the air crews.

I would have liked to have shown you at this stage some battle damage association, (Presentation Photo) but you will have noticed from the passage of notes backwards and forwards before I started that there is a slight technical hitch, which I hope we'll be able to rectify very shortly. Suffice to say our attacks continue to be pressed home and we continue to get very successful results.



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Moving from the hard but practical aspects of this offensive, perhaps one of our most difficult tasks is more intangible - that of defeating a very sophisticated and well-constructed propaganda campaign against the Alliance's efforts. This is not an easy task because, as you professionals in the media understand very fully, unless there are people on the ground to witness, and freely and honestly report their observations, facts can easily be manipulated to raise doubts and concerns. I can, however, give you some hard and honest facts. Firstly, we have not lost any NATO aircraft to date. Secondly, we continue to prosecute a meticulously planned attack against relevant military targets and we have made every effort to minimise any collateral damage to civilian life or infrastructure. And third, we have shot down 5 of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's military aircraft. The air campaign continues and we have no current plans for ground operations.

I think, Jamie, that while we wait for the technical problems to be resolved, we should answer questions.

Jamie Shea: I was going to suggest that, David, we'll try to get you the video clips in just a second, but in the meantime...

Mark Laity, BBC: Could you just clarify a few details. We were hearing that there were no manned aircraft operations last night - obviously lots of planes took off but none that could release weaponry - can you confirm that, because you talked about 49 sorties? And can we look again at - similar question to yesterday - which is that you are talking about the urgency of the crisis in the field in Kosovo, but you are attacking targets that are supporting those forces in the field, not those forces in the field who are able to operate reasonably independently given that they're just doing things like house clearing, so when will you be able to attack those targets in the field and actually get them effectively before it's too late.

Air Commodore Wilby: Thank you, Mark. Firstly, I can confirm that we did have both manned and unmanned attacks taking place last night. As to your second question, and I know you presented it yesterday, it is a more difficult question. You will have noticed from my overview today, we have already started to take out and attack headquarters, locations, associated with the military and the MUP forces. As to when we will extend this operation, or if we will extend this operation, I cannot release any information at present.

Jamie Shea: But it's going to be, Mark, a reverse ripple effect - as you well know - we explained yesterday. First of all, we obviously have to target the essential conmmand and control elements that are supporting military operations in Kosovo as well as deplete the air defence, but as these missions are successfully achieved - and they're being achieved - we will be in a better position then to move in rapidly onto those targets in Kosovo that you are describing.

Mark Laity: Can I just follow up - how many sorties were there?

Air Commodore Wilby: 249 I think I said.

Mark Laity: That actually dropped their weapons?

Air Commodore Wilby: No, no, remember, as I said yesterday, the number of sorties I give you are not necessarily all combat sorties, but to get the combat sorties through, there are many supporting sorties such as tankers, electronic...

Mark Laity: I understand that, that's why I'm asking how many aircraft actually dropped weapons last night? We know that many you had to abort, so how many didn't abort?

Air Commodore Wilby: I'm not prepared to answer that question.

Jamie Shea: Mark, it's true that weather was a complicating factor last night and, as you know, I've made this very clear to you on previous occasions, bad weather means that pilots cannot be certain of hitting the target with accuracy, thereby avoiding collateral damage, then pilots are instructed not even to attempt to do so, because we are taking every precaution to avoid, as you know, any accidents in that respect, but I would also like to point out that good weather, bad weather, the operations are going to continue.


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Bill Drozdiak, Washington Post: Jamie, the White House security advisor, Andy Berger, said yesterday that several Ambassadors in the NAC had suggested a bombing pause to see if diplomacy could work towards a new, negotiated settlement. Can you confirm that, and was that idea raised again today in the NAC?

Jamie Shea: No, Bill, at the moment, no Ambassador has raised officially in the NAC the idea of a pause. We consider for the time being that the operations have to continue until we meet those crucial objectives which I have been outlining in these briefings.

Jonathan Marcus, BBC: Well, back in a sense to the earlier question, which I don't think, with respect, either of you really addressed. On the one hand, we are hearing these reports of humanitarian catastrophe, on the other NATO is gradually working through its planned campaign, it has to be said, with a relatively small number of aircraft. Of the 400, of which a quarter perhaps of strike aircraft, it's impeded by the weather and so on, we seem to be involved here in a race against time where we're not catching up with what the Yugoslav army and MUP are doing on the ground at all. Let's not address perhaps the military side, but at the political level, is there a growing sense of urgency amongst NATO's governments and Ambassadors, do you need more aircraft, do you need more widespread attacks, where is the swift and severe response to the incursion into Bosnian airspace that's been warned, with warnings we've had from London, from Washington, from this podium and so on?

Jamie Shea: Well, Jonathan, if I take the first crack at answering that question, I think the incident yesterday in which the two MiG 29s were shot down the moment they intruded in Bosnia-Herzegovinian airspace is the swiftest possible response that I personally can imagine. And also the most decisive. And I've made clear that NATO aircraft in the skies and NATO forces on the ground in Bosnia and in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are fully ready to take whatever action is required to protect themselves should there be further efforts of that kind.

As for your first question, which of course is a very good, genuine question, which preoccupies us a great deal in the Alliance, again you have to recognize that the fighting and indeed the massacres in Kosovo have been going on for a long time, and in fact the current Serb offensive in Kosovo started about the same time as the Paris negotiations began, and therefore this is not something which is linked directly to NATO attacks, NATO air strikes, contrary to what is being claimed by some. This is linked entirely to President Milosevic, who bears the entire responsibility for what is happening. It would be rather perverse to blame the organisation, which is making a very deliberate effort to stop this, for the current violence in Kosovo. We all know where that comes from.

Obviously, at the same time, I've never pretended from this podium that NATO is able to stop, or anybody for that matter is able to stop, every armed Serb knocking on every door in any village and looting or intimidating or forcibly evacuating, or whatever, people inside. It's not possible to do that from the air. What we are saying is that as our air operations evolve - and they are evolving - in the coming hours, the coming days, we will be in an increasingly good position to severely disrupt and hinder systematic operations of the VJ and the MUP - the Serb special police forces - against villages, systematic sweep efforts, which have been responsible for the major violence. But I'm not pretending to you - much as I would like to - but I'm not pretending to you that we are in a situation to prevent every isolated incident of brutality. That can only come when we are in a position to arrive at a peace settlement, which a NATO-led force could then effectively implement on the ground.

Jamie Shea: David, do you want to add to that?

Air Commodore Wilby: I understand you frustration.



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Patricia Kelly, CNN: Air Commodore, can you confirm that three Yugoslav MiGs went into Bosnian airspace yesterday, and the US aircraft shot down two, but one - the third one - got away? Can you also confirm that there were reports of another violation of Bosnian airspace today and tell us what those aircraft were? And can you comment on what - since the pilots haven't been found and they've presumably - if they're still alive - come down in a US controlled sector, which has a Russian brigade in it - what will happen if the Russians pick up the pilots before other SFOR troops pick up, in view of the political situation and vis--vis Russia and the NATO operation?

Air Commodore Wilby: That's quite a long question, Patricia, I'll try and remember my way through it. First of all, in terms of the numbers of aircraft involved, the two aircraft came through into our airspace and they were dealt with. At the time there were reports of perhaps two more aircraft, but they didn't cross into our airspace. At one stage we thought there was a trap being set up to drag our aircraft perhaps into the other airspace, so I have no knowledge of any other aircraft being attacked or shot down. In terms of the air crews coming down, I'm sure if the air crew come down into a Russian sector, and they are part of SFOR, they will deal with the prisoners carefully, sensitively, and they will bring them to the authorities very quickly.

Today's violation I have no information at all on that, I will look that up for you and I will give you an answer tomorrow.

Jamie Shea: Patricia, on that I saw some report from SFOR HQ in Sarajevo earlier today that it could have been helicopters not planes that may have come close to the airspace, we're not quite certain. As David said, we are still checking that out and we'll try and give you an update later on.

Air Commodore Wilby: Let me just come back to you. What I can assure you though is that we have an extremely effective combat air patrol up and any incursion will be dealt with very quickly.

Stephen Gray, Sunday Times: I'd just like to go back to the problem of the atrocities in Kosovo at the moment. Could you perhaps just confirm to us how many, what proportion of attacks at the moment, are targeted on Kosovo itself? And secondly, how much flexibility is there in your attack plans? Can you confirm, for example, that you will be responding in some way to what actually happens on the ground or are you simply just checking off a list?

Air Commodore Wilby: I would hope we never just check off a list, because flexibility is the key to air power as you can see from the number of sorties, it is a very complicated business and we are working to a very well-constructed plan which involves lots of aircraft, lots of people, lots of different nationalities going in. It does not mean that we are inflexible, and as events evolve, then I think you can look forward to seeing us being far more flexible in our approach.

Stephen Gray: At this stage you're not responding to what's happening at the moment, it's very major (inaudible) these atrocities, etc.

Air Commodore Wilby: No, that's not quite true. We are already beginning to be far more flexible and far more responsive in our operations and you will see that unfold over the next few days.

Doug Hamilton, Reuters: Air Commodore Wilby, you said a moment ago that NATO has no current plans for ground operations, can you say whether NATO in the coming days has plans for intensive, low level ground attack operations from the air against troops?

Air Commodore Wilby: Currently, no.

Jamie Shea: Doug, I think we made it clear yesterday that our aim is to strike at heavy weapons, which of course are what are used to bombard villages and kill people, and that's what we aim to get on with as soon as the first set of targets has been effectively covered.

Craig Whitney, New York Times: A follow-up and a second question for Commodore Wilby, you said you have no current plans for ground operations, does that mean you don't intend to go in on the ground or that SHAPE has not been asked by the NATO political authorities to produce any plans for eventual ground operations, and the second question is what are the weather conditions over the target areas today?

Air Commodore Wilby: I'll answer the easy one first of all, the weather is not very good. The weather is not very good at all over the target area, but that is one of the reasons we invest so heavily in technology and many of our (inaudible) have got extremely good capabilities despite the weather factor. In terms of ground operations, I know you'll keep pressing me on this one, and it's not one that we can wriggle out of, currently there are no plans for us to take offensive ground operations in Kosovo.

Jamie Shea: Absolutely, the 12,000+ NATO forces in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continue to prepare and train for what we hope will be a peacekeeping peace support operation hopefully before too long.


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John Dahlberg: As you know, the British Defence Secretary this morning spoke of what appears to have been an all-out Serb offensive against Kosovo that he said had just begun. Can you confirm that, because your language to me, your opening remarks, seem to be a bit more tentative - you spoke of reports rather than confirmed incidents. And I'm wondering if you can speak about a specific incident. Apparently, according to one of my American colleagues, 10 to 15,000 ethnic Albanians may have been rounded up and sent on a forced march by the Serbs. I'm wondering if you can tell me about that?

Jamie Shea: John, I've seen those reports, but for the time being, they are reports. We are in a difficult situation, as you know, of not having an international observer presence in Kosovo at the present time, because the OSCE verification mission was withdrawn some days ago, and obviously the current conditions make it very difficult for those remaining western or international relief agencies such as the UNHCR to operate across the territory. So, obviously, I think one has to be somewhat cautious, but on the other hand, as I mentioned, from refugees, from national technical means, from the aid agencies which are still there, and which have collected a certain amount of evidence, we do see increasingly convergent reports, which is the reason why I've rung the alarm bell this morning here at this briefing, but as far as the rounding up - I saw a figure of 20,000 Kosovar Albanians, I can't confirm that at the present time - but what we do know for certain from OSCE monitors on the border between Kosovo and Albania, is that a large number of Albanians have been literally pushed over the border by Serb paramilitary forces in the last couple of days, and very ominously without any men, and we would really like to be able to explain exactly why that is happening.

I don't have a figure, but it's a significant number of people, which suggests that an ethnic cleansing operation is under way. I'm not going to put a figure on it, let's wait, but at the same time let's register indications that dark things are happening, even if we are not able to quantify those for the time being. But we will be able to, we'll get the information, we'll collect the evidence and those responsible for any crimes that have been committed will be on the list of the International Tribunal before too long.

Christopher Dickie, Newsweek: If we can clarify a few things about the weather? General Sir Charles Guthrie said this morning very clearly that all of the NATO aircraft, not just our own - meaning the British - were called back and he said that that was because they didn't want to risk killing civilians and so on, some of what Jamie was suggesting. That's fine, but just as a clarification here, can we get that straight? Were all the NATO air force planes called back last night?

Air Commodore Wilby: Some of the air planes turned back because of the weather and it was not just weather in the target area, but weather on route for the various operations that are associated with the mission. But manned aircraft did get through to their targets last night.

Christopher Dickie: I have one other question about the weather, which is if you got 15 to 20,000 people on a forced march, presumably those would be visible through aerial surveillance, not only from OSCE monitors, who aren't there any more. Is there no aerial surveillance information concerning the movement of the large masses of refugees?

Jamie Shea: Christopher, I don't have any at the moment, but again this is an evolving situation and as soon as we have something we will share it with you.

Pavel Bouda, Czech TV: I have a question for both of you. First, Air Commodore, NATO met so far almost no resistance of Yugoslavian army. Do you think it's a kind of after-shock or you expect them just only to wait with their counter attack just for any later stage of the operation. For Jamie I have a question: Moscow has announced today their SFOR units are no more under the command chain of NATO. How far can it affect or even endanger the SFOR operation itself?

Air Commodore Wilby: Let me pick up the first part of that one. I think I addressed this yesterday really, but I'll try and make it clear to you. They're trying, they're trying very hard to get at us, but you will have seen - I know Mark wonders about the numbers of aircraft we have involved - we have a well-rehearsed, well-practised way of going into these operations, with great support, great electronic warfare and a lot of sophisticated systems on our side. All those, and the tactics that we use, are designed to frustrate and confuse the enemy air defences, and I think to a great extent it is working. I'm sure that as soon as they manage to find their solutions, they will continue to try to take us out.

Jamie Shea: Pavel, on the question about Russian participation in SFOR, like you I think I've seen the wire agency report from Moscow reporting that. I'm not sure if that has been communicated formally to SACEUR, the overall commander, yet. As you know, Russia has its own separate chain of command under SACEUR for its participation in the SFOR mission, but this is a NATO-led operation - that has been clear to everybody from the very beginning - and everybody has agreed to participate on the basis of accepting a NATO-led operation. Russia has a special arrangement, but still under the general principle of a NATO-led operation, so we'll be seeking to clarify that.

Journalist: Jamie, can you tell me what is the exact warning to Milosevic if he violates the airspace of Bosnia any more, if there will be more incidents inside Albania and if he crosses into Macedonia after the strong military build-up near the border?

Jamie Shea: Well, although I'm a Spokesman, I've always believed in the principle that actions speak louder than words, and I hope yesterday's action over Bosnia is a clear indication of what will happen if President Milosevic tries to extend the conflict beyond the confines of Kosovo itself. I think that would be an extremely unwise, I would even say foolhardy, thing to do, and as I mentioned earlier, NATO forces both in Bosnia and in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, are fully ready to take what measures are necessary to protect themselves. I think it would be foolhardy, I don't believe it's in the interests of President Milosevic to try to do that. I think it will bring even stronger international condemnation than the already considerable condemnation that Belgrade is facing at the current time.

Greg Palcott, Fox News: You keep saying that the attacks by the Serb forces in Kosovo against the ethnic Albanians are not related to the NATO action, but clearly there's been an upsurge in the last few days since NATO has started its action. Are you surprised at this? Wasn't there some anticipation that this kind of thing had been happening. Certainly there was a lot of discussion in the press prior to the attacks. Wasn't there any kind of plan, any kind of contingency plan, to anticipate this?

Jamie Shea: Ok, Greg, can I answer the question this way. Imagine that today there was no NATO action at all over Kosovo. What do you think would be the situation on the ground in Kosovo today? Do you think the Yugoslav forces would be back in their barracks and complying with the promise that Milosevic made last October? Do you think that the Kosovar Albanian population would be living in safe conditions? Personally, I don't believe they would be, quite frankly. Is there any evidence from President Milosevic's behaviour in Kosovo last March that he exercises restraint? That he stops the killing simply because the international community does nothing to stop it? I think we've got a year's evidence that that is not the case, that Milosevic does not exercise restraint in Kosovo. I agree with you entirely, and this is a matter of genuine and deep concern in this Alliance that the situation in Kosovo today is probably an extremely black one indeed. Let's be honest, the only way we're going to stop this, even if it cannot be done unfortunately in 24 hours, is through decisive action by the international community and if we weren't doing this, I guarantee you that people would still be dying in Kosovo today. At least we're offering some kind of perspective - no matter how difficult - that that won't go on for much longer and that's why we have to see this through to the end, until we've achieved that objective.

Mr. Johnsson, Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten: Regarding the situation today, since the KLA, NATO obviously has a common enemy today, are there any kind of operations, communications, between the KLA, and second question is: what is the situation for the KLA at this moment? Are they still a force?

Jamie Shea: Well, I imagine the situation for the KLA is probably a very difficult one, because, as I mentioned, they are being attacked in their strongholds, and of course they do not have the heavy weapons, the tanks, the armour that the Yugoslavs have, but we have to recognize a very important fact: the Kosovar Albanians, including KLA representatives, have signed in toto, with no qualification, the Rambouillet peace agreement. They've accepted it in full and I also saw yesterday statements by the KLA commanders that they will not provoke the Serbs, which of course is something that we've always called upon for them to do - to be part of the solution and not part of the problem - by restraining from provocative acts, so I believe again that the repsponsibility for what is happening at the moment in Kosovo is clearly on one side. We don't have any contact with them directly.

Italian Journalist: Je viens de la rgion de Puglia, qui est en face de Kosovo, Macedoine, etc, pouvez-vous confirmer pourquoi les aroports civils ont t ferm au mois d'aot. Deuxime question, le parlement italien hier a parl de missiles serbes qui taient en direction de Puglia et qui ont t abattus. Vous pouvez confirmer a?

Air Commodore Wilby: First of all, as regards your first question about the air force, when we started because of the suddeness of our operation, we had to take over the air space quite quickly. Since then arrangements have been made, and all the civilian airports are now operating at reduced times and in association with our command and control, so the airports are starting to work again, although I expect there are some frustrations. As to your second question about missiles going towards Italy, I have absolutely no information at all, but what I would say is what I briefed to you today, that you've got to be very careful, this is a very strong and sophisticated propaganda campaign and many of the questions that you raise in this room today are a result of that campaign, where we question each other very hard and sometimes our actions are questioned. So you have to be very careful to make sure of your facts before you go forward.

Italian Journalist: The Italian Interior Minister today said that Italian ships are ready in case there would be need of an Italian rescue of Albanian refugees. I would like to know how likely do you consider this option? Second question is: do you have any indication from your intelligence that Serb forces, apart from the attack of the two aircraft that were shot in Bosnia, that they have any other intention to expand the territory of war outside Serbia and Kosovo?

Jamie Shea: If I could take at least the first question, perhaps David will take the second. As you know NATO is not an organisation which specialises in refugee questions, the UNHCR is clearly in the lead there, but you may have heard of our Euro Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination centre, which is here at NATO Headquarters. That has been activated for some time now to coordinate NATO's assistance to the UNHCR in terms of dealing with refugees if the UNHCR needs our help, for example in terms of logistics, transport and whatever, so we are completely ready to help and I note what you said of the Italian government's decision, which of course in that respect is very helpful indeed.

Air Commodore Wilby: I think the contingency plans are always prudent to have up your sleeve and I'm sure the offer of vessels is very useful. We have no intelligence of their (Serb) plans, but I think from yesterday's actions we would welcome more excursions into our airspace.

Belgian TV: About the two MiG 29s: we received pictures this morning and we can see clearly on these planes some English words like "annual inspection" or "design code". Is it logical, is it possible?

Jamie Shea: Well I think the only person who can answer that is an Air Commodore himself.

Air Commodore Wilby: Well, of course, English is the universal language in aviation, and they are export models, so you can expect to find that sort of wording on airplanes of export.

Alexander Mineyev, ITAR-TASS: As a result of these first strikes are we closer to the political situation now than before? Second question, after these strikes do we expect that future implementation forces would be welcomed by the local population.

Jamie Shea: Yes, I believe we are closer now and not only because of what's happened in NATO over the last couple of days. You've got to remember though, as I said a moment ago, we do have a peace plan and it has been accepted by one side. Who would have guessed, who would have bet six months ago that the Kosovar Albanians, including the representatives of the KLA, would have agreed to autonomy for Kosovo and the Rambouillet peace plan? Largely thanks to the diplomacy of those Allies in the Contact Group, all Allies working together, and to the efforts of Russia, Alexander, which have not been insignificant in this respect. We have got one side to now agree, we haven't got the other side to agree.

That's regrettable, because if you read this peace agreement, there's plenty in it which protects the human rights of Serbs in Kosovo, and in fact which protects the legitimate interests of Yugoslavia, of which of course Kosovo is part. But we at least have got that far and I don't think we should forget that. Secondly I think with NATO action we've now at least got a chance of bringing about the conditions, both in terms of security in Kosovo and in terms of showing the determination of the international community not to allow these atrocities which in time will produce the political momentum for a political solution. Let me stress again, if I may, that we are aiming only at a political solution, the use of force is here to help the process of diplomacy to get back on track. That's all, there is no other objective that this Alliance is pursuing at the present time

Air Commodore Wilby: May I add a personal touch on that from the human side? I was privileged to be in IFOR for about nine months when it first went into Bosnia and there was no doubt that once we'd settled the peace the bonds of friendship that had grown up between the local population and our peacekeeping soldiers was extremely good and extremely effective and with our help we were very quickly able to help them get back on their feet.

Jamie Shea: May I just add a word if I may because there was a second aspect which David answered and I'd like to answer that too. I've seen reports that seventy villages which were essentially populated by Serbs in Kosovo have also been emptied as a result of this fighting. The Serb population in Kosovo may not have suffered quite on the same scale as the Kosovar Albanian population, but it has suffered. Lives have been ruined on the Serb side just as much as on the Albanian side, and as David said I believe whatever you may hear from Belgrade, the great majority of the Serbs would be only too happy to see NATO come in and provide security, stability, stop the fighting, gurarantee basic human rights. We've seen, as David said, in Republika Srpska that SFOR, NATO, has been perfectly even-handed in its dealings with local ethnic communities, and I believe would be the same in Kosovo tomorrow. We would be there to defend the human rights of all of the ethnic communities in Kosovo, not just one.

Bulgarian journalist: On Thursday night at 20.50 GMT a missile fell near Sofia in the outskirts of the city of (inaudible). First there was a news blackout and then the Bulgarian authorities confirmed that it was a NATO missile. Under what circumstances has this missile fallen in Bulgarian area, was it air combat, was it violation of the Bulgarian airspace and what assurances can be given so this situation will not happen again? My second question is: has NATO been granted access to the Bulgarian airspace. If the answer is "yes", what are the parameters of this, is it a full access, are there corridors, is it a stretch of x numbers of kilometres? And also can you confirm or deny that Secretary General Solana has sent a letter of thanks last October to the Bulgarian Prime Minister thanking him for granting NATO access to the Bulgarian airspace?

Jamie Shea: I think I can take that one, at least initially. Bulgarian is one of our Partners, it's also a country which has expressed its desire to be a member of NATO and so therefore Bulgaria is showing the solidarity that we expect from a country which is a very close Partner, with which we have a high degree of cooperation and which is formally a candidate for NATO membership, and yes, Bulgaria has granted us access to its airspace, along with a large number of other countries that are Partners and in the region and for that we are very grateful indeed and the Secretary General has written to the Bulgarian government recently to assure Bulgaria that NATO would not be indifferent to any threat against your country as a result of the current operations. As for the first part, I've seen press reports about fragments of a missile, I can't confirm those, but the report did suggest that this missile had been destroyed on purpose because there may have been a misfiring and again if that is the case I think it would show, as I said earlier, all of the measures that we take to ensure the safety of anything other than the military targets, which we are trying to strike.

Stephen Dierckx, BRT: Jamie, if you don't mind, I would like to come back to something you said yesterday. You said "it's up to President Milosevic to help us to terminate this operation by agreeing to our key requirements. He can do so immediately, within minutes, if he would indicate that he is ready to implement a ceasefire on the ground in Kosovo". So the question is: will NATO stop the air campaign if Milosevic withdraws his troops into their barracks, lives by the October ceasefire agreement, without committing himself to the Rambouillet peace deal?

Jamie Shea: Stephen, I've always been clear that we have to distinguish between military objectives and political objectives here. The Alliance's political objective is, and remains, to have the Rambouillet peace agreement signed by Belgrade and then implemented in full and we are not going to deviate from that objective, but our military objective, in other words the objective that we believe that we are able to carrry out using the current operations, is to stop the bloodshed and the violence in Kosovo, which is the precondition for being able to have the Paris agreement endorsed and signed and then effectively implemented by a NATO-led force on the ground. We are not going to .......as an objective something no matter how desirable which we cannot achieve in the very near future through military force, but of course all Allies will continue to work steadfastly for the political solution of the Rambouillet peace agreement, every effort will be made in that respect, but that is an effort which is not the effort of NATO alone. That is an effort in which other international organisations, such as the European Union in particular, the Contact Group of countries, which helped to negotiate the Rambouillet peace agreement, Russia too which I said has played a crucial role, are also involved in. It's not a NATO responsibility alone to ensure the Rambouilelt peace agreement is signed, but we are certainly going to do what we can. But immediately we have to stop the violence on the ground, because without stopping the violence on the ground all talk of a peace agreement is I'm afraid rather arcane.

Stephen Dierckx: Is that an initial reason for the air campaign, the fact that Milosevic did not sign the peace deal?

Jamie Shea: It is that, but it was also, Stephen, the fact that, as I said earlier, many, many days before the talks in Paris were finally adjourned, and before we saw clearly that Milutinovic was not willing to negotiate, the violence had restarted in Kosovo with large-scale Serb offensives, which convinced the Allies that if we weren't going to act immediately we would within days have a humanitarian catastrophe of dire proportions on our hands, and that was the trigger for action to prevent the humanitarian catastrophe, which without our action would have surely occurred. Again, I said a few more I think, I will stick to that.

Turkish News Television, NTV: Air Commodore, you said the weather conditions affect the air strikes, so are you on target regarding the operation you have scheduled or is there any delay in your military plans because of the weather and for Jamie: will the Secretary ask, or get in touch with the capital of their Allies to ask for or just to keep in touch or ask for phase two of the operation?

Air Commodore Wilby: As I briefed you yesterday, there is no time line to our campaign. The weather does play a small part in it. We also, as I've said before, have the technological means to be able to get round the weather option. Of course, we'd far rather have good weather so we could bring not only our offensive assets into play but also some of our reconnaissance assets, which give us the information. But, no, we're not being hindered, we're not behind with any time line, because there isn't a time line.

Jamie Shea: On the question of phase two, as you know the Secretary General has been given the authority by the North Atlantic Council to request SACEUR to initiate phase two when the Secretary General judges the time is right and in consultation with the Allies, and that remains the position at the moment.

Journalist: Jamie, you said before that the atrocities started at the time the peace conference started in Paris, but those atrocities were in the villages, now they have started in the cities, in Pristina, in (inaudible), almost the part of the city is burning, in (inaudible) and so on, do you have any plan of how to stop that as soon as possible, because we have received some calls from Pristina saying "do something or forget forever about us".

Jamie Shea: The only way to stop it is by continuing to do what we're doing at the moment and hopefully with success very soon.

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