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NATO Press Conference, Brussels, May 4, 1999

NATO Press Conference, Brussels, May 4, 1999

Transcript of the Press Conference given by NATO spokesman Jamie Shea and SHAPE spokesman Major General Walter Jertz.

Jamie Shea: Ladies and Gentlemen. Good Afternoon to you all, welcome to today's operational up-date. General Jertz from SHAPE, as you can see, joins me once again at the podium.

I would like first of all just to give you a few details on the visit here tomorrow morning by President Clinton and the senior foreign policy team of the US Administration. President Clinton will be arriving at 7.00 am tomorrow morning, so an early start for you who wish to cover the visit. He will meet with the Secretary General, and thereafter with SACEUR and the Chairman of the Military Committee at around 8.00 am. He will obviously be having a full military up-date from the Chairman of the Military Committee and from SACEUR and will discuss every aspect of the Kosovo crisis, both political and military, with the Secretary General. He will also visit the US delegation and other areas of NATO and will leave at around 9.30. So it will be a short but extremely significant visit and we greatly look forward to receiving President Clinton tomorrow morning.

There will be photo opportunities but my understanding of the present situation, no press conference.

Today I had planned to bring you a comprehensive up-date on Serb forces in the field. However, yesterday evening, and General Jertz will comment on this in a moment, we had a very significant evening of strikes against Serb fielded forces in Kosovo and tomorrow SACEUR will send his operational assessment of the Allied force operation thus far to the NATO Council. So therefore I suggest we do this briefing instead on Thursday because I want the new data to be reflected in order that this report will be an accurate up-to-date report.

Yesterday evening we had another very intensive night of air operations, striking as I said a moment ago extensively, in fact in the most extensive way since the operation began, at VJ, Serb Army, and special police MUP forces in Kosovo. The weather at least for most of the night was very favourable to us and we had several accurate strikes against tanks, artillery and military equipment. But we also struck 40 fixed targets elsewhere in Yugoslavia. No part of the Yugoslav Army was spared yesterday night, and again we will have the full details in just a moment.

My message is to you today that our campaign against the Yugoslav forces is working. Our strategy is clear - to pin those forces down, cut them off from their command chain and resupply routes and to take them out progressively and deliberately. You have already seen the impact of our strategic campaign against the Yugoslav defences. You see also now that we are able to turn off and on the light switch in Belgrade, and hopefully also thereby to turn the lights on of course in the heads and minds of the Belgrade leadership as they realise that they have no option but to meet the essential demands of the international community.

And we have also shown our willingness and ability to strike at the command centres that drive this military machine, whether they are the political headquarters, whether they are in Belgrade or hidden in the woods, or whether they are hidden in bunkers belonging to President Milosevic and his family. We are also draining the fuel supplies and cutting off the supply routes. And now our emphasis, and this is what will be in the briefing later this week, will be on grinding the forces down in the field in Kosovo until such time as they realise that they have no option but to depart.

That is what I would like to say by way of introduction, and now I hand you over to General Jertz.

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

Just coming in I do have to make a very important announcement. In the last few hours a NATO aircraft intercepted a Yugoslav military aircraft, targeted it and shot it down, what the pilots call an air-to-air fight, and more details will be available soon, maybe within this briefing, and as soon as they are available I will make them available to you also.

No Clausewitz (phon) today. Let me start with some more military comments on fielded forces, as was already stated by Jamie. The forces who pursue Milosevic's brutal policy of ethnic cleansing, it is from these fielded forces that the refugees have fled, and it is a justifiable fear of these fielded forces that prevents the refugees from returning to their homes. In the past we have achieved significant benefits from our air campaign against fielded forces, first by relentlessly pursuing fielded forces, we have all but entirely pinned them down. They can no longer move like they want to, they can only move furtively and with great fear. This makes it much more difficult for them to carry out their attacks against the Kosovar people. When fielded forces are not moving, NATO forward air controllers can identify them and NATO strike aircraft can attack them. As you can imagine, we do our best to really pin them down and try to stop the atrocities and to help the Kosovar people to go back to their homes. More details, as was already announced, will be given to you this coming Thursday.

Let me now start with the operational up-date. NATO air operations over the past 24 hours have gone extremely well. I am very pleased to report that since yesterday we have experienced one of our most successful military operations against fielded forces in Kosovo. We hit the 125th Motorised Brigade in western Kosovo, and the 233rd in eastern Kosovo especially hard. We engaged various fielded forces including many armoured vehicles and artillery positions, military vehicles, command posts, two radars and surface to air missile support vehicles.

The first imagery I would like to share with you today graphically shows our success against such targets. As we have explained in the past, the process of obtaining the imagery and clearing it for release of course takes some time, so please keep in mind that this is not from yesterday but this is from a couple of days ago.

Our strategic campaign against lines of communication, command centres in Belgrade and the military radio relay network is isolating Milosevic's forces in Kosovo. We have also had a serious impact on his fuel supplies again.

This photograph shows the Vranje army garrison prior to our attack. The next photograph shows the same slide following our strike. The focus of our attacks outside of Kosovo included military and police command and control infrastructure, including their communications systems. We also struck again petroleum facilities, we know of the high value of that, and several airfields which house remaining Serbian aircraft. Specifically NATO attacked the Mount Avala national command bunker, along with other military command bunkers and special police headquarters.

In our continuing effort to degrade the Serbian military command structure, we once again attacked radio relay stations, satellite communications and transmitter sites. In fact the next photographs I would like to show you are of the radio relay facility at Bela Palenka. The first image is the pre-strike photograph; the second image shows the facility following our attack.

Additionally this weapon video shows one of our other attacks on the radio relay site.

Last night we also targeted bridges and an ordnance repair facility at Kacac. As I said, we are continuing our operations against Serbian petroleum assets and this sequence of images is of the petroleum production facility at Novi Sad. As you are well aware, we consider this a very significant military target. The first photograph shows the facility prior to attack. This video shows one of our attacks again from the north of the weapon. And finally this image is one of our four post-strike assessments of this facility.

You might recall previous reports which indicated that the Serb Air Force has relocated many of its assets in an attempt to avoid detection and destruction. Consequently during the night concentrated NATO attacks struck several airfields. We hit Ponikve and Obrva very hard. At Batanjica we destroyed at least one MiG 29 on the ground and two other aircraft on the ground.

Serbian air defence surface to air missile activity in the last 24 hours was less intense than normal, but anti-aircraft artillery was active. So far, to our knowledge, no Serbian air defence fighters were launched, but as I already indicated, at least one got airborne and got shot down.

Finally I am pleased to report that all Alliance aircraft returned to their bases without incident after a very good day's work. And when I am saying that I am finishing again with good work means we want to degrade everything which Milosevic has to finally end this conflict.

Thank you very much.

Charles Bremner (Times): Jamie, I know you talked about this this morning, but have you got any more information since this morning on the bus yesterday and how do you account for the ordnance that the Serbians have apparently shown foreign reporters which appear to have US markings on them around this bus?

Jamie Shea: Charles, as I said this morning, we spent all of yesterday afternoon and all of the night doing a check on this. We interviewed all of the pilots who were flying over that area yesterday, we looked at all the cockpit video tape available, we looked at all of the intelligence available, and we have, and we still have, no indication linking NATO to that incident. And you know, Charles, and everybody else knows here, and I know this better than anybody, that when in recent days we have seen evidence that we struck accidentally civilian vehicles, or what are a cause of civilian deaths, we have admitted it as quickly as we could but we have admitted it and we haven't sought to hide it. But this time it is different. Having done exactly the same investigation we have no indications at all that any of our aircraft were involved in that incident. We also know that that particular area around the village of Savine Vode, which is west of Pec, is a very hilly wooded area along the Albanian-Montenegrin border which has seen some very intense fighting over the last few days between the Serbs and the UCK, in fact that is one of the areas where the fighting has been at its most fierce. It is classic ambush country and it is not the sort of area where the information that I have received suggests that civilian buses with civilians in them normally travel. It is not a major route. The second element is that we know that the MUP special police in their blue uniforms requisition and use civilian transport and have done so for a long time. The independent Montenegrin radio, commenting on this incident, gives a rather different version from Belgrade reporting that 6 vehicles were apparently hit in the incident, including 2 police vehicles, although of course they were not shown on the TV pictures. We also know that the Serbs are going to some lengths to conceal their casualties. I don't know if you have seen the reports out of Belgrade this morning that the cemeteries were closed until midday in order for a number of discreet military burials to take place. Of course this is something that is not widely known to the public.

The other thing, looking at this whole incident, is that the bus would not seem to have been hit by a missile or a bomb from an aircraft, would not seem. Obviously without a thorough forensic examination on the ground it is difficult to know exactly why that bus was in the state that it was in, but small arms fire, mortars, a ground skirmish are also possibilities that at least have to be looked at.

So in other words what I can say is that we have no indication whatever, after a thorough search, that NATO was involved in that incident and just looking at the things that we do know, other hypotheses seem worth investigating at the present time.

Question: Would you have anything to add to President Clinton's comments this morning that he might consider a pause in the bombing?

Jamie Shea: I believe that President Clinton was very clear yesterday and his senior advisers, who also spoke, have been clear too. The President said what everybody in NATO has been saying for a long time, that when we know that the Serb forces are withdrawing from Kosovo, as I said yesterday when we can see the dust from the tracks of all of those vehicles turning around and pulling out and we know that they are leaving for certain, we can verify that and therefore we know that Milosevic is meeting our fundamental conditions, not just one by the way, but five, then of course we are prepared to stop this air operation. But this is not a pause, this is a question of stopping when we know that Milosevic is now stopping his violence and is pulling out his forces. That is what the President said, that is perfectly clear, and he only stated what he has been saying for a long time and what every other NATO leader has been saying.

ABC News: Serb Radio is reporting that a NATO plane has been shot down near Valjevo in Serbia. Do you have any information about that?

Jamie Shea: No, but so far I have counted over 70 NATO aircraft shot down by the Yugoslav forces, and that makes 71.

Norwegian News Agency: Just as you started your brief today there was a wired urgent from AFP in Moscow from Russian sources saying that NATO should have accepted a peace keeping mission in Kosovo under the UN flag. Could you comment on that?

Jamie Shea: We have a NATO peace implementation mission in Bosnia which has now been on-going for 4 years under a Chapter 7 UN Security Council mandate which has been renewed consistently. Russia participates in that force and we are very happy with it. Obviously the question of the mandate for an international security force in Kosovo, which is our objective, is something that has to be worked out. But as you know, allied leaders in Russia are currently holding a series of discussions to try to define the circumstances for that force and certainly if it is possible to have a UN Security Council resolution, if that can be achieved, that would be an acceptable basis for us. But we have to wait and see as these discussions with Russia progress if we are going to be able to achieve that, but we are making every effort and you can see that from the intense diplomatic activity that is on-going to achieve that. But obviously we also want this to be a mandate for a robust force with the proper rules of engagement, the ability to do its work in a robust way with the clear lines of authority, with the NATO core that we know is indispensable if this force is going to be effective and different from previous manifestations of the international presence in Kosovo, and if it is going to have the confidence of the Kosovar Albanian population. They have said all along that they want a robust force and they want NATO to be there if they are going to return home, and as returning them home is one of our priorities I think we have to heed what they are saying.

Major General Jertz: May I draw your attention just back to military history again. You know from 1992 - 1995 in Bosnia we had no robust forces and we had about 48 cease-fire agreements, the first one did not last longer than a minute, the last one not longer than an hour, and when the robust forces came in in 1995, from then on Bosnia Herzegovina was safe and the shooting had ended there.

Question: (Not interpreted)

Jamie Shea: (Not interpreted)

Jonathan: Two questions please for the General. I appreciate you obviously want to give much more detailed information on the attacks on fielded forces later in the week, but since this is such a strong theme of today's briefing, could you give us some indication of the scale of the losses, particularly in tanks and armoured vehicles, that you think the Yugoslav forces have suffered over recent weeks? Are we talking of dozens of tanks or more than that, or less? And secondly, could you give us some indication as to the reason behind the increasing success that you are claiming? Is it simply better where there are more sorties being flown, or have there been some fundamental changes in the pattern of the NATO attacks?

Major General Jertz: As I will be the briefer on Thursday, and if I do give you the answer now I would have nothing to brief any more on Thursday, so give me a chance to just wait until Thursday.

Patricia: General, you mentioned that now the forces in Kosovo are basically in hiding, that you are able to hit them more effectively, and you mentioned using forward controllers. Can you explain how forward controllers work? Are these people on the ground that guide the planes in, can you explain how that works? Secondly, Jamie you said that there could be a pause in airstrikes if you got a clear indication that there was dust flying as these troops leave Kosovo, but at what moment can you be sure that they are leaving and they are just not on the move, and would you be hitting them perhaps by accident if they were retreating?

Major General Jertz: As you know, we never go into too much detail in operational tactics, but what I can say, no they are not on the ground, so they must be in the air. But you wouldn't know where they are because they are covered together with the whole campaign. That is all I can say so far.

Jamie Shea: Patricia, I am not talking about a pause, I am talking about we will stop when Milosevic stops. We are an alliance of civilised nations, we don't shoot people in the back, clearly. We want to see them though leave. I think it is clear if they are leaving or not leaving and we need to be able to verify that, we need to be able to ascertain that it is irreversible and we need to know from Milosevic that he is not simply redeploying his forces but he is accepting the five essential conditions, that is just as much a part of this, and then we are prepared to stop. We are not seeking any objective beyond those five key conditions.

Carol: I'd like to address the Major General. Is there any new information available on the bomb or rocket or whatever was dropped on the electricity system in Yugoslavia? At least I would like to give it a try.

Major General Jertz: Yesterday, I promised that I would be very honest with you, today, I still say that. That is a typical British understatement. I am not in a position to give you more information on this subject because it's a very national subject and therefore for operational, technical and other intelligence reasons, I am not able at the moment to quote much than I said yesterday. I hope that you will understand my position and I'll try to be more helpful on other future topics of interest.

Doug: General, you said that the fielded forces in Kosovo were all but pinned down completely but if that is the case who was it that put about 12,000 Albanians onto three trains yesterday and sent them down mostly from Podujevo but also from Pristina to dump them on the Macedonian border?

Jamie, was it indeed a sign yesterday that massive ethnic cleansing may be resuming? You apparently had a very serious influx yesterday.

Major General Jertz: When I said we pinned them down, we did not completely pin them down as they still have some fuel left and of course they can do what we would like to deny them to do, drive innocent people out of Kosovo. But we do continue to work hard so that they will stay where they are so that they cannot attack any more innocent people.

Jamie Shea: Yes Doug, I'd like to comment on this a little bit. Yesterday, 11,600 refugees crossed the border between Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. You will recall that three trains arrived, one in the middle of the night, dumping - if I can use that term - several thousand poor human beings into a foreign country particularly via the arrival place of Blace. Most of these people come from Pudujevo, some 30 km north of Pristina and this unprecedented flow of deportation trains does suggest that this area around Pudujevo is being systematically cleared. It is too geographically located not to be part of a systematic deportation campaign. By the way, this is the highest figure of refugees since April 2nd, the best part of a month ago, and the UNHCR is expecting thousands more to arrive today and you saw with Prime Minister Blair's visit yesterday the efforts that are under way particularly at Segrani (phon), the camp that has been built to try to accommodate these people.

The area which we are looking at very closely is Prizren - I commented on this yesterday - a town in the south that used to have a population of 180,000, nobody knows how many are left there but a fraction; about 50,000 people from that town have been forced to move in recent days and as I said yesterday, the interesting thing here is that this time the men are being kept back, it's a kind of reversal of the old pattern and many of them have been conscripted into forced labour helping the Yugoslav Army to build fortifications in Prizren. Our view is that the Yugoslav Army have decided to build a kind of Maginot Line around Prizren perhaps in anticipation that NATO would launch a ground operation and they are conscripting the men both as human shields in that city and also for that purpose. Again, we are very concerned about their condition.

If you want the tally which we now have for the time being over the last twelve months, it's 800,000 Kosovar Albanians have fled Kosovo since March 1998, 650,000 are internally displaced, at least 100,000 men of military age are missing, at least 4,000 victims of summary executions are reported since the beginning of the year, nearly 1.5 million Kosovar Albanians - or 90 per cent of the population - have been expelled from their homes. We have reports of mass executions in 65 towns and villages and mass graves in at least seven locations so that is the macabre tally of this chamber of horrors thus far.

Eric (Fox News): What can Milosevic do right now, do you think he may be watching these briefings? You've met him.

Jamie Shea: I don't suppose he's watching the briefings because he doesn't see to be getting the message (laughter)

Stephen Castle (The Independent) : Can you update us on the "visit and search" regime and particularly in that it is now a good week since we were originally alerted to the imminence of the deal on this, would it not be fair to conclude that there really isn't a political consensus on a tough set of rules of engagement to enforce the oil blockade?

Jamie Shea: No, don't draw that conclusion Stephen because genuinely it would be wrong and I don't want anybody to have to write a different story one week later.

I've made it clear all along that this is a complicated business and it's not the essential business. The essential business is the oil embargo, if oil is not leaving then oil is not arriving and the "visit and search" regime, albeit important, becomes less important and we have had enormous success in the wake of the Washington summit at making sure that the oil doesn't leave in the first place. Hungary yesterday was the latest in a line of countries to complete legislation to switch off pipelines and ban any oil exports to Yugoslavia. There are well over thirty countries now doing this and therefore it is going to be already very difficult even without a "visit and search" regime for Belgrade to import oil; it is going to vastly drive the price up on the black market, it's going to further increase the dilemma for Milosevic in deciding whether he gives the few drips that remain to his civilian economy or to his military machine. That is the first point and that is what is really significant here, that is the strategic objective which we are meeting.

The "visit and search" is complicated because we've got to first of all identify the appropriate basis in international law, secondly we have got ensure that it's militarily effective in terms of how it would take place, the modalities, and thirdly, we have got to seek the support of the broadest number of countries in the international community and therefore the concept is being worked on still because when we actually get it up and running we obviously want to get it right and it's worthwhile taking a few days to get it right than to rush into something which is going to be improvised and therefore less effective but I come back to the fundamental point, what counts is cutting off the oil in the first place and that's what is effectively being done.

Yassak: I would like to come back to the successful night because you didn't answer the question why it was successful. At the same time, there were reports that there is less activity in NATO attacks so how can you explain that on the one hand there are these reports and is it a denial that your bombing was less intense by saying that it was not more successful or just you want to say that you are more effective now?

Major General Jertz: I can comment on that. No, the intensity was exactly roundabout as far as it was last night and in the last 24 hours so we haven't changed our goal. In fact, there are new aircraft coming in, new military assets are coming in, and when I said we were successful, we hit more than 80 per cent of the target and we destroyed it and we achieved our goals and especially for the first time we did go against airfields or against runways so here we did something which we haven't done in the past so intensively but once again, I am not going into more details on targeting. But no, the intensity is as it was before and we are not planning to decrease the intensity.

Jamie Shea: If I may add to that just briefly, I saw some press reports that we stopped at midnight as if there were a curfew on NATO air strikes but I can assure you we carried on after midnight, I checked this this morning and I mentioned in amplification of what General Jertz said forty fixed targets in addition to the fielded forces in Kosovo and as General Jertz mentioned, there were petroleum production facilities in five different locations, lines of communication in seven different locations, army facilities in five different locations, command locations in two locations, command control and communication sites in six locations, airfields in five locations. That is the major targets of the evening so I think you can see that it didn't represent any kind of loss of intensity vis-à-vis previous evenings.

Bill: Just to follow on that, is one reason for the greater accuracy due to the possibility that the pilots are now going in at much lower altitudes rather than sticking to the medium and high ranges that they were compelled to do in the past?

Major General Jertz: We haven't changed our tactics and I don't think the accuracy now is greater than it was before, it was great from the beginning onwards and it is still the same so no further comment on that, the accuracy is still very high especially using the weapons which we are using and no, we did not change our tactics.

Antonio: General, is it possible to know exactly where we are in this war, phase 2 or maybe phase 3 and if we are not yet on phase 3, what prevents NATO from going on to phase 3 because it looks to me much more efficient than phase 2?

Jamie, can you comment on the fact that President Milosevic is not addressing the Secretary General of NATO with a message but President Clinton and will this message be discussed when the President visits NATO tomorrow?

Major General Jertz: It goes progressively and systematically as you know from one phase to another and now we are very much in the area where we are very close to achieving our goal so I would not quote on phase 2 or phase 3 because these things are very fluid and war is not a very static thing, a conflict like this is a very dynamic thing so let me not quote on whether it is 2 or 3. If I would quote then you would of course know what is in phase 2 or what is in phase 3 and I hope you don't know that because that should be a military secret.

Jamie Shea: Antonio, as you know, NATO has no fixation with postal addresses and we would be happy for President Milosevic to send a letter to any Alliance leader or to the Secretary General or to SACEUR or, for example, to Kofi Annan because the Secretary General of the United Nations has enunciated essentially the same principles as we have so he has, if you like, an extremely broad array of different addressees but an extremely limited choice of what he puts in a letter: "The five conditions I accept. Signed Slobdan Milosevic!"

NICK: Jamie, day after day you have given us stories of crimes against humanity, war crimes etc. and you talk about the five points but there is nothing in the five points about arresting war criminals, people who have given these orders to clear these people out, right to the very top yet you are mentioning Slobodan Milosevic's name every day.

Are there any assurances that come the end of this when the dust actually settles, that when the people are mourning their dead in three years' time that the people giving the orders today are not walking around free? Is there an assurance that people will be taken to The Hague regardless of their rank or position?

Jamie Shea: OK Nick.Yes, every NATO leader or the great majority have made it clear that war criminals are going to be brought to justice, the United States has released names of nine commanders not because they are yet indicted - that is the business of the Tribunal - but just to point out that we know about them and if they felt that they were acting in secret then they should be disabused of that immediately.

The Tribunal has teeth. NATO already has helped to detain 14 indicted war criminals in Bosnia, today we are in the happy situation where over half of the indicted war criminals in Bosnia have been brought to justice in The Hague, we have had the first convictions, we now have had over 10 convictions and this despite the complexity of some of these dossiers, is going to go up. We have seen the big fish and not simply the people that pull the trigger or the camp guards increasingly also being apprehended. I think if anybody looks at the example of Bosnia the trend is abundantly clear, that is to say that this Tribunal does work, it is effective and those that commit the crimes in Kosovo are going to suffer exactly the same fate as those that committed the crimes in Bosnia are suffering or will suffer in the case where they have not yet been apprehended. There is no statute of limitations in the Tribunal, if anybody feels that they can simply go into hiding for 20 years and then hope that when they come out like Rip Van Winkle the world will have changed and that all of these things would have been cleansed, they are mistaken. It doesn't matter whether they face justice at 70 or whether they face justice at 27 and I think therefore that is something they should seriously consider. Four countries of the Alliance in recent days have announced that they have supplied the Tribunal with their latest intelligence, their latest data; there will be more information. And also, these refugees, as they cross the border, are being interviewed by the UN Human Rights Commission - Mary Robinson made that clear this week - by the OSCE, by the UNHCR, vast amounts of testimony are being taken down.

All of this is being corroborated so we are not going to be in the situation of witnesses coming forward saying: "Oh, well these events related to twenty years ago, my memory is not what it was!" No, we are gathering the evidence now and therefore I think the Tribunal will be rapidly effective once it is able to go in, which will happen of course once international security force has been deployed in Kosovo, and start doing its investigations. I am bracing myself, unfortunately, for a lot more rather gruesome facts coming out, I think it is rather going to go that way than the opposite.

Question (NBC News): Given the cut-off of electricity and the effects on the civilian population, that represents a sort of crossed line in targeting a large area of Yugoslavia. To what extent is NATO prepared to take the war to the Yugoslavian population?

Jamie Shea: OK. I am very pleased for this question. What I think people have to realise - and I'd like to get this message across - is that the misery of the Yugoslav people comes from Belgrade, not from NATO and the Yugoslav people have been having a hard existence for years. Let me just give you a few figures which point out this fact:

Serbian industrial production shrank by 50 per cent between 1990 and 1998. National GDP in absolute terms in 1998 was estimated at £11.5/15 billion dollars, tiny for a country of the size and industrial importance of Yugoslavia. Per capita we calculate that the GDP income is $1400/1600 now.

Unemployment, the official figure is 27 per cent which is extremely high and more realistically it is probably double that. We know that salaries and pensions are paid late. In 1998, inflation was 45 per cent. 45 per cent of the population lives below or on the poverty line. 72 per cent of the 1999 budget is planned for defence-related spending. By the way, these are World Bank and IMF figures, I haven't made them up.

What I want to say is that yes, it is true that after our attack of the night before and the short-circuits of the electricity supplies, the Serb people have suffered an inconvenience but I think that inconvenience, which lasted a few hours and which had a severe effect on the military systems, is nothing compared with the day-to-day misery of that kind of economic melt-down which we have seen at the hands of Milosevic since he came to power in 1989.

Dimitri: A follow-up to this question. May I ask the General to comment on the effect on the military of the power stoppage because from my personal conscript experience I know that the military always have some reserve machines that produce electricity so how does it affect the military really?

Major General Jertz: The main effect of course is that even though they do have back-up electricity of course the military, like the civilians still without electricity Milosevic will be unable to prosecute his ethnic-cleansing campaign effectively because he cannot talk to the Serb forces in Kosovo any more the way he did or not as good as he did.

What we think is that by NATO targeting these electric transformers we know that we have reached a goal by degrading command and communication facilities in Belgrade on the way over to Kosovo and now let us talk about fuel. We know that these back-up electricity power plants run on fuel so Milosevic has to decide what to do with his fuel, is he running his back-up power, is he running his tanks, is he giving the fuel in a kind of act of humanitarian aid to hospitals and things like that.

Question (The Guardian): General, you mentioned the Mount Avalon National Command bunker and Jamie, you mentioned bunkers apparently available to Mr. Milosevic and his family. Is NATO quite clear of the distinction between civilian and military bunkers? I'm thinking of that incident in the Gulf War in Baghdad when apparently a bunker was hit that killed an awful lot of women and children.

A second question which emerges out of one of your answers today: If these trains are being used to ship so many refugees, why not do what the Allies were criticised for not doing in World War II at Auschwitz, bomb the railway lines and stop them doing that?

A final question to you General. Since you were talking of military history yesterday, do you really think that you are going to make military history by winning this war by air power alone?

Major General Jertz: Let me comment on the first one, then I hand over to Jamie and then I take it back again.

Command bunkers. Yes, we do make a distinction if they are civilian bunkers or command bunkers. It is for the military just too difficult to really find out if it is a military-used bunker or not so we do make sure that when we target bunkers we do target those which are of technical or strategic interest and so far I always have to say and I always have to mention - and please everybody listen to this - we are not targeting civilians so we are not targeting bunkers in which there are civilian ersonnel.

Jamie Shea: Martin, thanks for that question. What I remember about the holocaust, having spent a great deal of my life studying it, is that still at the end of the day far more people were killed through summary executions and it is the case today I am afraid that even if we did strike the railway lines it wouldn't stop the Serbs forcing people out for the simple reason that at the end of the day most of them have left on foot or by car, not by train and we want, to the extent that we can, to preserve the infrastructure of Kosovo where there is no military purpose because of course the international community is going to have rebuild Kosovo and we are going to have to get those refugees back so you can say bomb the railway lines but then of course how would we get the refugees home again afterwards which is our objective? I think on balance, if there is no military rationale for doing that, we won't do it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, before I stop today can I just remind you, which I should have done at the beginning, that General Klaus Naumann, the outgoing Chairman of the Military Committee, will be here at 4.30 for his farewell press conference and so if you wish to stay for that, I'd be very pleased because I think it will be an interesting occasion thank you.

Same Questioner: I asked the General another question.

Jamie Shea: General, I apologise, I thought you had answered everything else.

Major General Jertz: His thoughts were somewhere else, with General Naumann of course. Let me come back to your question, it is a very personal one. As an airman I would say that I would be proud when we stop the war and I am convinced that we will stop this conflict using air assets only. If it is historical, the historians will talk about it maybe ten or twenty years afterwards, not nowadays.

Jamie Shea: We will be back at 3 o'clock tomorrow afternoon.

 

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).

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