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Updated: 14 May 1999 Press Conferences

NATO HQ

Brussels

Press Conference

given by NATO Spokesman, Jamie Shea
and SHAPE Spokesman, Major General Walter Jertz

(Presentation Photo)

Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome to the daily briefing. Today I am going to ask General Jertz to begin and then I will follow on.

Major General Jertz : Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. I would like to start today with two points before giving you the details of our air operations over the past 24 hours, which again went very well.

First, we still see no indications of a Serbian ground force withdrawal from Kosovo. Our information shows, as I briefed you yesterday, that there might be a possible tactical redeployment within Kosovo. And the group of soldiers shown on television yesterday, we evidently believe it is once again only a token effort of Milosevic to give the impression a withdrawal has begun.

Second, as you know, humanitarian convoys into Kosovo and the rest of Yugoslavia have begun. In fact 40 tons of supplies were delivered to the Yugoslav Red Cross in Pristina yesterday. NATO has worked out a co-ordination process with the humanitarian agencies to minimise the chance of an engagement around these convoys. I can assure you we will do everything possible to ensure the safe passage of these convoys and the much needed relief that they deliver.

I am pleased to report to you that the airfield in Kukes, Albania, conducted final tests of the control tower systems and it is now fully operational. This will further increase our ability to get aid into Albania. It is also an excellent example of the international efforts to minimise the pain the Serb leadership is infringing on the Kosovars.

Let me now turn to the operations up-date. To give you a better picture of what is happening on the ground in Kosovo we have observed operations by Serbian ground forces and the UCK, concentrated in the areas of Stimulje, Junik and Podujevo. And we have seen fairly intense fighting in the border area of western Kosovo.

As I said at the beginning, we had another very effective day of operations, particularly against Serbian ground forces in Kosovo. NATO flew exactly 679 missions in the past 24 hours.

This next slide shows a range of targets we attacked. We had good success against military vehicles, revetted armour, tanks, artillery and assembly areas as shown here. Our crews are becoming more and more experienced in these attack operations. This experience is paying off in the results against the targets you see here, thus further

1 degrading Serb forces' combat capability, a capability I am always mentioning they used in the past to execute their brutal actions against civilians.

Another benefit of this experience is in co-ordination of assets, like yesterday we once again were successful in locating a newly established Serb military assembly and resupply area. Within 30 minutes we directed strike aircraft already in the area to attack. The first flight of fighters destroyed several vehicles, the second flight struck the warehouse. Large secondary explosions were noted by the crew as the warehouse was completely destroyed.

The strategic targets we attacked last night are shown on the next slide. Our targets included command and control facilities in Belgrade and Kosovac, air defence targets in Belgrade, also in Ponikve, petroleum facilities near Novi Sad and Nis, lines of communication near Kukinbrad and Vervas and support facilities including electrical transformer stations near Belgrade.

This photograph shows the results of a recent attack against the Batajica airfield. You can see the precise grouping of strikes in the centre of the runway, further degrading Serbian air operations capability.

Serbian air defence activity was moderate. We observed 6 surface to air missiles, along with anti aircraft artillery. Once again I am happy to say that all aircraft returned safely to their bases. However, two of our unmanned reconnaissance vehicles have not returned from their missions. It is too early however to give you any details concerning these missing unmanned aerial vehicles. As the investigations continue I will up-date you with details.

Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen, in the last 52 days of Operation Allied Force, we have spent a lot of time, as you know, telling you and showing you what we, NATO, are doing. President Milosevic is just as keen to ensure that you do not see what he is doing inside Kosovo, and today I would like to show you a rapid selection of photographs, some old, but many new, which I will call Milosevic's battle damage assessment.

What are you going to see? Well first and foremost, not military targets. You are going to see destroyed homes, and where there is a destroyed home there is one or many destroyed lives. This is the trademark of the Yugoslav Armed Forces that are freed from any of the usual civilised constraints under which Armed Forces in most countries operate, and these Armed Forces are not pursuing a military campaign, but instead are carrying out a policy of ethnic cleansing. Again, an army not defending its civilians but attacking them.

First of all I would like to go to the village of Racaj. There you see buildings in flames and that is what happens when the Serb forces come to town, almost complete destruction on those photographs of most of the houses. And what you note, and this is a very standard feature of this type of operation, is that there is no blast damage.

There you see the village of Bela Crkva. There you see first of all on the left buildings intact, and there on the right buildings damaged. Again no blast damage, these houses have clearly been set on fire, this is arson and it is not bombing.

Now to Podujevo. First of all buildings intact, nice smart suburban style villas there, but now look what has happened to them as a result again of arson attacks. Again, are these military targets? They are not, they are ordinary people's homes where families used to live peacefully, but not any more.

Again we are still in Podujevo, once more with the photograph of the situation before Serb forces came visiting, and that is the situation afterwards. You can see clearly the interior walls on those photographs and that shows the methods that the Serb forces are using. At the beginning they used to use petrol which they used to douse over the buildings and then set them alight. But as you know of late the Yugoslav Armed Forces have begun to experience rather severe fuel shortages and so they are now using straw bales. Again, think of all the people who once lived in those buildings and where are they now? We don't know. But they are certainly not living in their homes, that is for sure.

And here we have, top and bottom, in Kosovoska Mitrovica the buildings intact and then the buildings obliterated. It is very systematic, it is very methodical, it is house by house and street by street.

Let's go to the next, again we are in the same place, again a clear difference. Even from the air you cannot make any mistake about that, before and after. More wanton destruction.

This is at Grejkovce in Serbia and there what is of interest at the bottom is a destroyed mosque. Now as you know the Serbs have spent a lot of time of late telling us about the threat to their cultural heritage in Kosovo, but NATO does not attack Orthodox churches, but you see there clearly a Mosque which has been destroyed, burnt.

This is a photograph as you can see from the air of a campsite of internally displaced persons inside Kosovo. We know that thousands of these internally displaced persons are currently, as you can see, in the valleys, on the hills, in the woods, having been forced from their homes. They are afraid to travel and they are rightfully afraid. All of the refugees that have escaped are telling the same story, roads full of Serb forces, people on railway stations not allowed to board trains towards the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or allowed to board trains only to be turned back later. Men pulled from the convoys, some literally at the border post just before they are able to cross to freedom, and verges everywhere littered with dead bodies. And many of these convoys of internally displaced persons have been attacked, either directly or by shelling, by Serb forces.

This is a Jovic where we have pictures of many vehicles, cars, of internally displaced persons spread out across a field as they tried presumably to escape from their attackers, they have either been shelled or they have been deliberately shot at and destroyed, having been set on fire. Again, are these what you might call military targets? Clearly not. And the shellfire can often serve to herd these people into certain areas, to trap them if you like in corners where they are even more vulnerable to this type of attack.

Now let's go through to some mass graves. You have seen these before, first at Izbica and there at Pustoselo, but we have from refugees accounts of up to 43 mass graves currently in Kosovo and God knows quite frankly what we are going to find once Kosovo is open again and the International War Crimes Tribunal is able to check out these stories and excavate at the sites and find what they are going to find. And again NATO countries will be co-operating fully in that process. There is certainly no military rationale behind the type of incidents that these pictures show.

Now let me if I may add some colour to these pictures and the best testimony comes from the refugees themselves. In any normal environment they would be at home, but they are not, not in Milosevic's Kosovo where they are either displaced or refugees in neighbouring countries.

In the first place that I showed you at Rakaj, witnesses have told of Serb forces attacking on 3 April, the town was looted and burnt. Women and children hid in a nearby ravine. The police told them that they "could not leave until the police had burnt all the houses". Three men who tried to flee were shot, another 8 bodies were found in the town centre.

Or in Kosovska Metrovica, this used to be a town of 58,000, from which all of the Kosovar Albanians were expelled in mid-April, and a 43 year old man gave the following account to Medicin Sans Frontier: "Around 20 masked paramilitaries came into our home on the afternoon of 14 April. They told us to leave immediately. They emptied out the town, district by district. On the way we picked up a woman who was walking alone with her baby. She told us that her husband had been taken away by the Serbs that morning. On the road there were many policemen and masked soldiers. They stole 1,000 deutschmarks from us. On the way they took some of the men away. I told them I had a heart condition and they let me go."

Let's look at the other photos of Kosovska Mitrovica again. These again are just ordinary suburban homes, or again at Belakuvka where on the morning of 25 March the Serbs struck, leaving the village burnt and more than 60 men dead. These photos show a village which has been reduced to rubble.

A survivor told the French newspaper Le Monde that the men, and some of them as young as 12, were marched to a stream. "It was then that they opened fire. I was thrown into the water and others fell on top of me, and then nothing. Five minutes later I heard another gust of machine gun fire firing away. After about 20 minutes I moved. There were 6 survivors, but 4 were wounded. I didn't have anything. I think there were between 35 and 40 dead, of which 4 were my cousins."

Now remember when we see these pictures and hear these stories, these are just ordinary decent people - farmers, doctors, teachers, mechanics - whose lives were destroyed for one reason and one reason only, their ethnicity. And these are the stories which the Secretary General of NATO heard at first hand when he went to visit the refugees in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania just two days ago. What those refugees asked the Secretary General was please let us not forget what they have experienced, and we will not forget indeed.

So these eye-witness accounts from victims and families and the photographs that you have seen provide an increasingly clear picture of the facts of what is happening inside Kosovo, the reality as we see it and not through the prism of the propaganda of Belgrade. And it is these type of stories and these facts which our pilots report to us day after day as they fly over Kosovo and see the smoke from burning villages that have really stiffened the spine of the Alliance and all of its 19 democratic members to halt and reverse the ethnic cleansing.

We are not going to allow this policy of brutality and ethnic hatred to take us into the new millennium.

This crisis, all of this was done by the Yugoslav forces, not by any NATO bombs, and Milosevic can stop this killing now, even if he can never of course repair the destruction and all of the lives that are not going to come back. NATO for its part is going to maintain its air operations until Milosevic accepts the five conditions and so that at least those that have survived this appalling experience can go back and rebuild their homes, and NATO will prevail in creating the conditions for peace and then we will help those people directly to go back to their homes and start again.

Question: Can you tell us any more about the reports of the NATO attack on the village of Korisa?

Jamie Shea: Not yet. The reason I was late today is that I was on the phone to SHAPE seeing if there were any last minute details. But what we are doing, as you know is what we do every time there are such reports, which is to have a full and thorough investigation and we are doing this at the moment. As soon as we have something, as soon as we know the story, I will give you the details, but I don't have that yet.

Question: You have been talking about ethnic cleansing and since NATO has been up-dating us, with some approval on the exploits of the KLA, could you give us NATO's reaction to the appointment of Agim Cheku as the KLA's new military leader? The KLA pointed out yesterday that he is a former Brigadier General in the Croatian Army and one of the key planners behind Operation Storm which drove hundreds of thousands of Serbs from their home in the Krajina area of Croatia. Could you tell us what NATO's feelings are about the appointment of a man involved in ethnic cleansing as a KLA leader, people you normally speak about here with some approval?

Jamie Shea: I have always made it clear, and you have heard me say this, that NATO has no direct contacts with the KLA. Who they appoint as their leaders, that is entirely their own affair. I don't have any comment on that whatever.

Question: Inaudible.

Jamie Shea: I said that NATO has no comment on that. Secondly, if Milosevic had not started a policy of brutality in Kosovo some years ago, the KLA would never have existed. It is a very recent creation and it is a creation of Belgrade, first and foremost.

The other thing is that when you spoke about the Serbs who were driven from Krajina, this is utterly true, but as somebody who remembers these events particularly well, do not forget that there were many, many Croats who were persecuted and also driven from their homes in that part of the world when the Yugoslav National Army moved there in 1991. Vukovar is obviously a testimony to that experience.

Question: Since NATO appears to be using depleted uranium munitions in Serbia, are there any plans, once the war is over, to have any kind of clean-up given the reputation which these munitions have got in Iraq?

Major General Jertz : Let me say first that we have not used depleted uranium in the last few weeks because those uranium munitions are only used against targets which are targets where they can do a special effect on them and that is why only in rare cases they will be used at all.

Question: Are there any plans for cleaning up? There have been some depleted uranium munitions used I believe in Serbia, are there any plans for cleaning up afterwards because of the dangers of cancers which appear to be there in Iraq when the Allies used them in 1991?

Major General Jertz : You find depleted uranium in all natural things, which are in rocks, soil, everywhere, so don't over-emphasise what you just said. On the plans, like all the other plans, we do have plans of course to help those people to go back again safely in their homes, but I will not elaborate on the plans in detail.

Jake Lynch (Skynews) I understand that you have no specific information on the incident at Korisa, but just before I came in colleagues in London picked up reports on an internet site which has proven reliable on previous incidents to a certain extent, according to which 20 refugee tractors were destroyed in this attack. That obviously has shades of the mistaken attack on the convoy some weeks ago, so what specific precautions or what specific changes were made to procedures to avoid tractors being hit by mistake for military vehicles on a future occasion after that occasion?

Jamie Shea: Let me again make the point that I always make, NATO does not target civilians, that is it, let's be perfectly clear about that. Secondly, I don't know what the source of the internet site is, but I am not going to speak on this incident until I have the facts, until I have the full story. But when I do have the full story I will give it to you. You know NATO, we give the truth on these issues, every single time, the full facts, but only when I have them and for that the military chain of command has to continue to do its investigation. As soon as we get the results, you will get them. The third point, I understand that a group of western journalists is being bussed down there by Belgrade at the moment, in the usual way of course. I hope that those western journalists when they arrive on the scene will break free of their minders and will insist, as in any other country, on their right to go around, to take pictures, to conduct interviews, to do their own research and to present the facts as they appear objectively to the western journalists concerned. As you know, on some of these trips in the past they haven't been allowed to film anything, they have been taken to the site, told you can film that, back in the bus and back to Belgrade. Well I hope that this time round they will be able to impose their will and do a thorough investigation so that when we have the facts you will also have the facts as well.

Also this incident, at least in Korisa, is near Prizren, and Prizren is a city which has suffered some pretty bad damage quite frankly, and ironically given some of the things that you have heard, the ethnic cleansing of Prizren began on 23 March, which was the day before NATO's Operation Allied Force began. And when the Secretary General was in the Elbasan Camp in Albania the other day, 60% of all of the refugees in that camp came from the city of Prizren and had some pretty harrowing stories. So I hope that the journalists who are going to be going to Kerisa today will not rush back to Belgrade, but as Prizren is extremely close by, go to that city and investigate a little bit about the tragedies to the Albanians that have occurred there. And I think as a result that would be a useful trip to have made.

Mark Laity (BBC): Accepting that you haven't got any more details on Korisa (phon), could I ask either you or General Jertz to give us at least a bigger picture on what's happening in terms of the air attacks on that area? We could see from the map, General Jertz, that it was very intense around Prizren, could you say what the forces were there, which units if you know them or can say them, what targets you were attacking, what preliminary indications you've had of what success or otherwise they've had, have they destroyed tanks or whatever, so a picture of the actual fight that was going on around Prizren yesterday?

Major General Jertz : I already explained to you that it takes a little while for us to really go into a battle-damage assessment because keep in mind even in some aspects that press or media might be already on the spot however they came there, either because somebody wants them to be there or not; keep in mind that we have to wait until our pilots are back and they do have to report and they will be questioned and are questioned and we have to find out what is going on and this battle-damage assessment takes a while and is one of the reasons why today we have to just ask you to be fair and wait until we really get the whole story. But also keep in mind that there were valid targets all over Kosovo, the forces on the ground are our primary targets so in these areas - around Prizren but also in other areas - we have of course a lot of legitimate targets which we did attack.

Mark Laity: I am just really saying that you have been attacking this area now for two or three days so you must have a picture - you have given details before - of which units you are attacking, how many tanks are there, are they engaged in battles with the KLA or whatever. Have you got that kind of picture so we can get some idea of why all of those little red flashes are appearing around Prizren?

Major General Jertz : Once again, whenever we find a legitimate target, whenever we think that there are ground forces in a big array, we attack them; I am not in a position at present to give you more information but I will come back to you as soon as I have it.

Douglas Hamilton (Reuters) There was a report yesterday from the Kosovo Press which said that a couple of tractor-loads of civilians were put on a bridge at Glogavac and they were there either to be the victims of a NATO attack or a human shield - I don't know how important the bridge was. Is it something that NATO is able to confirm if they see this incident?

Jamie Shea: Doug, I can comment on that. It's true that we had those reports on 13 May that across the Derisca (phon) River at Glogavac a number of people were put on a bridge to serve as a human shield. I can't give evidence of this but we've received reports from a number of different sources that suggest there may be something in this.

Secondly, in a village called Orlate, on the same day - I don't know if this is a coincidence - a number of civilians were put under a bridge which suggests that there was an attempt to use them as human shields.

Incidentally, I can also tell you that during the air operations yesterday, in two instances NATO pilots aborted their strike missions when they discovered civilian vehicles nearby and again to completely minimise, if we can't always exclude, the prospect of harm to civilians and I wanted to tell you that because I want to reaffirm again and again and again that NATO does not target civilians, we try to do our utmost to ensure that if there are civilians around we do not attack even if it means foregoing legitimate military targets.

Margaret: General, going back to the depleted uranium, some of your predecessors have sworn up and down to my news organisation in any case that this is not something that is being used, it is in the arsenal weapons with depleted uranium. You say it hasn't been used in the last few weeks. Are you now confirming that it actually has been used and can you tell us how widely and when?

Major General Jertz : As far as I am informed - but thank you very much for giving me a break that I obviously am not the first speaker.to confirm did we have it before I did it..yes we didso I was right when I answered the question that it was used in the past but once again it was used only in rare cases and only against targets where we thought it would have the most effect but once again this ammunition is not obviously what everybody thinks it is. It is not uranium like a radiation weapon and you find it everywhere, in the .., I already mentioned in soil, rocks and so on.

Jamie Shea: There have also, by the way, been extensive studies into this, one very thorough one by the Rand Corporation in California, which showed that it does not have environmental aspects or health hazards.

Question: Jamie, could you confirm that NATO is using cluster bombs and are you aware of the fact that US Air Force General Ryan prohibited the use of cluster bombs when he was commander in Bosnia and why is NATO in its humanitarian campaign using cluster bombs which are known to be extremely inaccurate and dangerous to civilians anyway?

Major General Jertz : On cluster bombs, we do use bombs against targets on which we think cluster bombs have the most effect, that is aerial targets. We never attack civilian targets and on aerial targets as we call it, we do use those bombs however only when we can make sure that there is no collateral damage and they are not as accurate, as you said, but I just have to say so because I am a pilot myself but cluster bombs in the way we are using them are pretty accurate. I know there are cases where it is of course a little difficult to really make sure that if one bomb goes astray it would not hit the target we were attacking but it is also totally within the law and it is legal in the international community to use cluster bombs but once again only against aerial targets and that is where we use them.

Question: As you probably know, in the Adriatic Sea very close to Venice - 50 miles from Venice in Chioggia - the fishermen have found hundreds of bombs in the sea, they have been picking them up with their nets and some fishermen have also been wounded and the population in Chioggia are very upset. I would like to know if NATO recognises that they are NATO bombs and why they were there and who has left the bombs - an aeroplane? - in the Adriatic Sea so close to Venice? If there are risks for the fishermen and for the Italian population, what do you do to prevent things like this?

Jamie Shea: I saw those reports in the Italian press, I read them as well but I don't know if anybody knows where that ordnance comes from so I can't, I'm afraid, give you any confirmation of that.

Major General Jertz : May I say something on that? In rare cases weaponry can be dropped because of a technical malfunction of the aircraft and the aircraft cannot land with these kind of weapons and then of course the pilots do have to drop these weapons in an area which they know - which is by the way not where you said, it is in international waters - and we make sure if we have to do it - and it is only in a few rare cases where we have had to do it - we make sure by overflying the area first to see there is nobody there and then these weapons are jettisoned there.

Bettina Vestring (Berliner Zeitung) This is a follow-up to the cluster bombs. Could you describe a little bit more what you understand by "aerial targets" please and also there has been a report of Human Rights Watch criticising NATO's use of cluster bombs. As Human Rights Watch is quite a respectable organisation, does the criticism of the use of such weapons not impress you?

Jamie Shea: Before General Jertz answers that, can I just say Bettina that I read the Human Rights Watch reports virtually every day of the week and 99 per cent of the time they talk about the fact that the Yugoslav forces in Kosovo are using weapons against the Kosovar Albanian population, using all kinds of very bad substances against their own people, shelling them deliberately and mining them so that many of them trying to get over the borders get killed on mines so when it comes to who is using weapons against civilians, I think we should just have a sense of perspective here and I think Human Rights Watch does an extremely good job if I may so at keeping that perspective but having said that, I'll let General Jertz answer the question.

Major General Jertz : You could also call these cluster bombs "combined effects munitions". They are being used when talking about "aerial targets" such as airfields so we use cluster bombs on soft targets like aircraft and trucks when they are on the airfield and we detect them and when we can make sure there is no collateral damage and we also use those cluster munitions in areas where we know there are valid military targets which we cannot see because they are under the wood. Of course we know where they are but they cannot be attacked accurately by precise weapons so we use cluster bombs against those targets.

Jamie Shea: And as long as the Yugoslav forces are in Kosovo, not being withdrawn by the way - the Yugoslav Ambassador to Greece said today that the withdrawal is already finished before it had even begun - as long as those forces are there, as long as the reason why they are there is to continue to harass, victimise and kill the civilian population, then of course NATO will continue to have a legitimate right to attack those forces so that they stop the killing and this time are forced to withdraw, not simply to promise but to actually do it.

Christopher Dicky (Newsweek) Jamie, in your photo-presentation the two photographs that you showed as mass graves were photographs that have been shown before.

Jamie Shea: That is right, Christopher, I said that.

Christopher Dicky (Newsweek) And they have been the subject of quite a lot of discussion on the internet and the international press, particularly the second pair because there is obviously a very large lapse of time between the photograph in which there are no graves or no indications of graves and the photograph in which there are a lot of apparent graves. Do you have any idea of what the lapse of time is and what the differences in those photographs are because you can see in the later one that there are a lot of structures that are not in the earlier one?

Jamie Shea: We have and it has been obviously a question of days and what we have said is that this kind of thing bears a resemblance to what we have seen in Bosnia where we unfortunately have had a lot of experience of mass graves, several hundred in fact, and new ones are being discovered unfortunately all the time and so we have said that certain of the characteristics at least from aerial photography look rather similar to what in Bosnia turned out, once the International Tribunal had been on the spot and done its excavations, to be mass graves.

What we want to do is simply try to localise these various areas so that once the war has come to an end, one of the first duties of the Tribunal will be to go in before the winter weather makes the ground too solid and difficult to dig and start excavating and find what we can find although it has to be said also that in Bosnia the Serb forces, the RS forces of the Repubblic of Srpska, did try very hard once the war was coming to an end to hide the evidence of many of those mass graves, for example digging them up and trying to re-localise the bodies elsewhere. But to the extent that we can get these kind of indications, obviously we want the Tribunal to be able to do a thorough investigation afterwards, the proof can only come from the forensic investigation on the ground.

Christopher Dicky (Newsweek) Just to follow up on that slightly, you are not contending, as some people might think, that one photograph was taken one day and the other photograph was taken the next day, you recognise..

Jamie Shea: It takes a few days to dig all these holes, tragically I am afraid, because there are rather a lot of holes as you have seen.

Christopher Dicky (Newsweek) General Jertz, following up on the question about Chioggia and the question of whether bombs had been dropped in the ocean there, you told us a couple of days ago that in the initial period of the war sometimes only 13 per cent of the bombers were able to actually deliver their payloads so they were flying back to base or back to their aircraft carriers fully loaded with bombs. I am not a pilot, you are. Can you tell us what are the circumstances in which planes might decide to jettison their bombs over the sea and particularly with Navy planes returning to aircraft carriers would it be normal practice to drop a full load of munitions before they had to land on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier?

Major General Jertz : Thank you very much for that question, I think it helps me clarify the situation a little bit. On the 13 per cent, I talked about weather, weather unsuitable to attack ground forces in Kosovo.

On the flying side, on the question of "Can I land?", as long as the pilots did not try to drop the weapons it is no danger to land with those weapons. However, when they try to drop it and they are stuck for technical reasons, by a malfunction or because the electricity perhaps did not work, then of course they have another device to jettison the whole weapons of course as we call it as a "dud", they don't explode when they fall down because there is no electricity to really have them exploding and that is the reason why for the safety of the pilots and other reasons that you can imagine - I am repeating myself I know - if you have not tried to drop the weapon, you can land with this weapon. Once you have tried and you don't know if there is electricity already somewhere in the circuit and the thing might explode when you are landing, we jettison the whole compartment as you might say.

Nick (Deutsche Welle) Jamie, if President Milosevic phoned up tomorrow and said "Yes, yes, yes yes, yes!", how long would it take before a force could actually be in place to go in to secure the environment in Kosovo for the return of refugees and what is the thinking at the moment of how many personnel, troops etc. are going to be required?

Jamie Shea: Nick, if President Milosevic has the good sense to do that tomorrow - and I certainly think it is in his supreme interest, let alone the interest of his people to do that - then certainly NATO would be ready. We have already, as you know, got coming up for 16,000 forces deployed in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia under the command of General Jackson, they have been there for several months, they have been training very intensively indeed despite the fact that they have had to deal with an enormous refugee inflow but they have been very intensively training for their mission. Certain reinforcements from the UK, from Germany, are arriving and NATO at the same time is reassessing its Op Plan for this mission called Joint Guardian in the NATO jargon, to see to what degree they may need reinforcement beyond the level that was originally foreseen for the so-called KFOR force - the Kosovo force - and to what degree we should take on tasks in the initial stage that go beyond the basic military task of providing an environment of security and free from intimidation and violence for the return of the refugees so we are looking at that very intensively.

We always had this pre-deployment in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia because we knew that we would have to be in a position to move very quickly into Kosovo, set up an initial military command structure, an initial infrastructure, to get the basic functions going not only for other NATO troops to come in quickly but also for the transition authority and for the humanitarian relief organisations that of course in the very early stages are going to need a great deal of military back-up to establish themselves so once you have got a core element on the ground in Kosovo, once you have got airports working and helicopter strips working and communications working, it is much easier rapidly to bring in other forces and many of those forces by the way which are assigned to this mission have been on short call-up standby for a long time now and have been preparing for the mission in their home countries.

You asked me the Question: "Will NATO be ready?" Yes, we will. When Milosevic is ready, we are going to be ready because we won't allow a vacuum to arise in Kosovo. The Kosovars have suffered enough and we are going to make sure that they get immediately fast relief as soon as those Serb forces have withdrawn.

Antonio Esteves Martins (RTP) General Jertz, is it possible to know now if we are on phase 3 or still on phase 2, just that one number? I saw on the daily report that the real impact of those graphite bombs that prevent people from electricity. Does it really work? I cannot see the relation between preventing people - Serb civilians - from electricity and helping to diminish the activity against the poor people in Kosovo.

And Jamie, I saw some pictures on French television a while ago where it looked to me like corruption is going on in Albania. The convoys cannot go to the places, they talk about rackets, women being taken from the camps to prostitution in Italy, something wrong is going on. Can we do something about this? If we can't go to Kosovo straightaway, it is better to start helping these people who are obviously the object of rackets and all kinds of things.

Jamie Shea: Absolutely.

Major General Jertz : On the military question, in the first place Milosevic is the one to be blamed - I know that is being repeatedly said but let's keep it in mind - and the rationale behind using also this kind of weapon is very simple: without electricity, NATO thinks and is sure that Milosevic is unable to have an information flow between his command posts - which are still existing even though we are hitting hard but of course they are moving around - to command and control his forces in Kosovo so they are legitimate targets and that is why the electrical power plants are legitimate targets and that is why we attack them to continue to degrade his ability to really command his forces so it is part of the strategic overall campaign, as you know. It is a valid target and that is why it is used.

Jamie Shea: Antonio, thanks again for that good question. I looked into this this morning because I anticipated you were going to ask me that question and fortunately within the last 24 hours the Albanian government have decided to appoint 1,100 extra policemen for duty in the refugee camps to guard against those kind of things that you were suggesting and of course, AFOR is also there now to help with the protection of camps and the safety of people and the rest.

Let me make a general point. The situation of Albania is one of being permanently threatened by Yugoslavia, shelling takes place every day, there have been half a dozen cross-border incursions by the Yugoslav forces. In addition, Albania has had to accept over the last year 450,000 refugees. Albania has a population of 3.5 million people and you imagine the weight of virtually half a million refugees coming into your country if your population is 3.5 million! In the United States that would be equivalent to 50/60 million people coming in and on a country like Albania which is still, despite its best efforts, one of the poorest in Europe that is a horrendous strain and Albania has had to divert about 20 per cent of GDP over the last year towards coping with that refugee influx and of course that is money that is not spent on upgrading the telephone system, it is not spent on training policemen or law enforcement agencies, it is not spent on economic reform and so Albania of course has to be helped by the international community. The International Monetary Fund is stepping in in a big way through debt rescheduling and special drawing rights and NATO encourage that.

My point is that if you live next door to Al Capone and his gang, it is very difficult to concentrate on your kids' homework every night and Albania will only be able to look to the future in a stabilised region and that is why what is going to take place in Bonn in a couple of days time, on the 27th, when the Stability Pact for the region will be launched looking beyond Milosevic towards a brighter democratic future, is so important because Albania's fate is tied up with the fate of the region. Once there is stability in that area, then obviously there will be an improvement in circumstances in Albania but as long as Milosevic destabilises the entire region all of these countries are being held back and they know it.

Let me add in this respect that next Friday, 21 May, we will be having a meeting here of the NATO ambassadors with the ambassadors of the seven neighbouring countries, including Albania, as a follow-up to the Washington summit meeting and one of the topics we will be discussing is the development of the ideas in NATO for a south-east European initiative - a NATO contribution to the Bonn conference - as we start developing an overall plan - some have called it a Marshall Plan, call it what you like - for the reconstruction of the region.

I think we will stop there for today but briefings in the usual way tomorrow.

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