|DAILY NATO BRIEFING|
During NATO's daily update on the military and humanitarian situation within Yugoslavia, U.N. Secretary General Javier Solana and General Wesley Clark address possible civilian deaths and responses from Yugoslavia. The following is the full text of the briefing:
SECY. GEN. SOLANA: Thank you very much. You can hear the noise behind us. We are in Aviano, which is one of the most important bases for this operation. It's the base on which more than a quarter of the flights are taking off. It's a multinational base. Pilots from many countries are here. I would like to say that to me the most incredulous experience, after having talked with the pilots, is to see how committed they are to this air campaign. I have listened to them telling me stories of what they have seen on the ground -- how they have seen the brutality that is taking place today on the ground -- houses being burned, people being expelled from their houses, and it is very impressive to hear these brave pilots who are so committed to defend the values that we are trying to defend. It is a great pleasure for me to be here, and I wish you could have been with me here and also in the trip I made to the refugee camps. I think that visiting these people, visiting the camps, gives you energy to continue with this battle, which after all is a battle to defend the principles and values. Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: General Clark?
GEN. CLARK: Well, as the secretary general has said, it is very, very impressive to be here with the pilots and the air crews and all of the maintenance personnel. We reviewed the procedures, the plans, the results. We talked to a number of air crewmen, the mission planners and the intelligence staff and the maintainers today, and just gotten a real sampling for how things are going at this very, very important base. We have got almost 200 aircraft here, and from several different nations, and it is a real model of NATO cohesion and unity. The crews are working together extremely well. The morale is extremely high, and we are getting outstanding results in the sky over Yugoslavia, and particularly over Kosovo. I am very proud of the continuous innovation and adapting -- the learning being done by the air crews. On every mission they are learning new techniques. They are perfecting their skills, and they are approaching this task with the highest degree of professionalism and concern to minimize collateral damages and to strike precisely the assigned targets or fielded forces. So it's a very, very impressive experience to talk to so many highly dedicated professional men and women. They are really first class. They are great representatives of all of the countries of NATO. And, as the secretary general said, we are very, very proud of them and proud of the work that they are doing. And I guess most of all proud of their courage and commitment to this task. We're up in Day 66 or so in the air campaign. It's been sustained, it's been methodical, it's been progressive. It's more intensive everyday, and it is definitely succeeding in putting the pressure on at the strategic and at the tactical level. And it is being done by the men and women at this base, and we are just very, very proud of them. Thank you.
MODERATOR: All right, questions. I think perhaps the simplest way, rather than me just pointing out people with your hands up, is to form a queue behind the mike, and that's an easy way. Jake Wynch (ph) from Sky News is first.
Question: Good afternoon, gentlemen. One question each please. Firstly for you, Mr. Solana: It is reported from the Pentagon that the American Defense Secretary William Cohen made a flying visit to Bonn a couple of days ago to the WEU defense ministers meeting. And the upshot of that is that General Clark is now denied permission even to go so far as to draw up plans for a possible ground invasion of Kosovo. Firstly, could you confirm or comment on that? Secondly, to the general, it's some days now since the first attacks which cut power supplies in Yugoslavia. We are told here that one purpose of that is to disrupt command and control. Have you noticed any specific instance on the ground where there has been an impairment to the capabilities of Yugoslavian forces which you can directly attribute to those attacks? Thank you.
SECY. GEN. SOLANA: I'll try to answer your question. As you know, I did not participate in that meeting. It was a meeting of the ministers of defense of the European Union. But I had the opportunity of talking to many of them, including Secretary Cohen, on the telephone, and I can tell you that the common denominator of that meeting was to continue with the campaign, with the strategy we have, the air campaign, the preparation of the force to be deployed to guarantee the security of Kosovo and the safe return of refugees. But as I have said, all the options are being updated permanently. But the strategy we have now is a correct strategy, and we are going to see it through.
Question: Now, with respect to the attacks on the electrical system, of course you understand that the electrical system for a country like Yugoslavia is like -- it's like the circulatory system, the blood vessels for a body -- it's what everything else depends on. So naturally an attack on the electrical system has widespread impacts across of the support functions of command and control, the infrastructure, the lines of communication -- everything is impacted by the disruption of the electrical supply. Specifically in answer to your question though, I would tell you that we have targeted this disruption on the forces that are supporting the activities in Kosovo, not the forces in Kosovo themselves. The electricity is not off in Kosovo; the electricity is off in the rest of Yugoslavia. We did this intentionally, because we want to degrade their air defense system, their overall command and control, and their ability to feed resources into the fight. And we are seeing evidence that this is very effective.
Question: Patricia Kelly, CNN I would like to put a question to the secretary general and then to General Clark. Secretary general, first, we are getting a lot of noises out of Moscow -- positive feedback from Mr. Chernomyrdin's latest round of talks in Belgrade. Can you tell us what you have heard, if anything about the progress of those talks and about reports that the Belgrade authorities are ready to accept NATO's demands? And, secondly, General Clark, everyday at these operational updates we have here in Brussels we are hearing that you have targeted more and more Serb troops on the ground in Kosovo, and we get lists of tanks and military vehicles, but we are not getting any kind of information from the military about how many Serb police or Yugoslav military you may have actually killed. Could you -- do you have any information on that that you could update us with, because presumably these vehicles are operated by human beings?
SECY. GEN. SOLANA: Thank you. Thank you very much for the question. Well, I don't have any fresh information. We will probably have more information along the day. But the only thing I can tell you is that we welcome of course any diplomatic effort in order to have Belgrade accept the position of the international community and to accept the aim of our objectives. And let me remind you that our objectives is the same: return of the refugees as soon as possible, and for that it is necessary to have an international force deployed in Kosovo, to guarantee their security and the safe return of refugees. But, again, I said we welcome all initiatives that may bring to that end. I don't know if this one is going to bring closer this end. But in any case, I hope they will.
GEN. CLARK: Now, Patricia, I think we are doing, as you indicate, a very, very fine job in striking the forces on the ground in Kosovo. Everyday they are losing tanks, artillery, air defense systems, trucks -- all of the stuff of war. And I don't care how tough that army is or how it tries to hide; no army can stand the continual losses day after day in a campaign of indefinite duration on the ground in Kosovo. We know it's having a significant impact, because they are literally scurrying away to hide when they see NATO aircraft coming overhead, and we are still catching them. I couldn't give you an estimate of how many soldiers we have killed or injured in this thing -- there is no way of knowing that. We do have reports that a lot of the hospitals in the region are packed with injured soldiers. It's one of the reasons that they have had so many problems with the civil populace in southern Serbia, because that's where they drew their reserves from to fill out these units in Kosovo. And so naturally families are concerned about them. They're in an unjust war, they're being pounded from the air and by the UCK on the ground. So I think it's very understandable why there is concern among the civil populace in southern Serbia that we have seen in recent days. But we don't want to get into the body count business. We are not on the ground, there is no way of doing it. And even if there were, it is not the right measure. We know we are having an impact; we see it in President Milosevic's thirst for a bombing pause. Every day he is trying more and more to get us to stop this bombing, because it is hurting at the strategic and tactical level. That's the real measure of the campaign's success.
Question: Hi, Steven Gray from the Sunday Times. General Clark, I wondered if you could comment on how safe you believe it is for international aid agencies to do air drops into Kosovo, and what arrangements you are making to protect those flights, if any? And Secretary General Solana, I gather there has been a call from some allies for a meeting of the G-8 to consider the statement from Milosevic last night that he is prepared to accept the G-8 demands, and I wonder what you think of that. Thank you.
GEN. CLARK: Well, with respect to the international aid flights, of course these have nothing to do with NATO. We are not in any way protecting or escorting these flights. We already looked at that as an option. It is really not possible for NATO to escort and protect cargo-type aircraft when they are flying over and making drops of food. So therefore it's best that they not be associated with NATO. We made it perfectly clear that these would not be NATO aircraft. They have no relationship to NATO except that they are going to fly into the airspace at a time when we are going to be sure we don't do anything to put them in jeopardy. Whether the Serbs do or not, really NATO doesn't have any say over that, and it just can't be any other way. But I can't imagine that the Serbs would view with hostility unarmed third-party aircraft who are only delivering food to some of Serbia's and Yugoslavia's own citizens who have been cut off from food. It seems to me a logical assumption that these aircraft would be allowed to proceed without hindrance by Yugoslav authorities. But, as I said, we have to leave that to them.
SECY. GEN. SOLANA: I would say a word about a question of the G-8. Yes, I know that France and Germany have suggested the possibility of a G-8 meeting. I think it's a good initiative. As I said before, whatever can be done on the diplomatic front, it will be more than welcomed.
Question: I am August -- (inaudible) -- from Koha Ditore from Pristina. Secretary general, there are more and more ideas about the partition of Kosovo. There are some reports that even Chernomyrdin was speaking with Milosevic yesterday about that idea. What is the position of NATO on that? And a question for General Clark: What is going on with the Apache helicopters? And personally, what do you think of the indictment of Milosevic for war crimes? The last question was for General Clark.
SECY. GEN. SOLANA: Well, let me try to answer the first question that was formulated to me. The international community -- NATO, the European Union, everybody -- is absolutely against a partition of Kosovo. We will never accept a partition of Kosovo. That is very clear in the position from the very beginning, and it will continue to be the position of the international community.
GEN. CLARK: As far as the Apaches are concerned, I think the team down there has done a magnificent job. It is trained and ready. I formed my assessment, made my recommendations, and I am confident they will be used at a time and a place when it's appropriate and of our own choosing. With respect to the indictment of President Milosevic, of course this is a legal issue, an international legal issue. It has really nothing to do at this point with NATO, and we are continuing with the air campaign.
Question: General Clark, Jennifer Griffin from Fox News. Have you received permission to increase the number of KFOR forces in Macedonia? And if you haven't received permission for that enlarged force, are you planning to ask Hungary to put troops on its soil for that enlarged force?
GEN. CLARK: Well, I don't think that putting these troops in Hungary would be productive to the purpose of the enhanced KFOR. But we have gone through the North Atlantic Council, the secretary general, the ambassadors in the nations have given us permission to expand the size of the force to 45,- to 48,000. We will be going through the normal NATO force generation procedures, including a conference of nations at our military headquarters at SHAPE on Tuesday. And it is my hope that nations will come prepared at that point to explain what their contribution is to this enhanced force, and to get on with moving it to Macedonia. We need to get it there, and we need to get it there right away.
Question: (Inaudible.) You said, I quote, "Time is approaching when a decision on the land invasion will have to be made." Is this correct today?
GEN. CLARK: I have said that -- I said time is approaching when a decision will have to be made to keep all the options open -- that's a correct statement.
SECY. GEN. SOLANA: I am afraid we will have to leave.
MODERATOR: Yes, I know, secretary general. Thank you very much for being with us.
SECY. GEN. SOLANA: Before we close -- let me before we close repeat what I said at the beginning. It is very impressive to see these multinational pilots which are doing a splendid job. They are committed to this cause, which is a just cause. And I would like to repeat it is very impressive to listen to them telling what they have seen as they were flying -- the brutalities that they have seen as they were flying, the houses burning. It's for them also an experience unforgettable to see the suffering of the people on the ground. Thank you very much for the possibility of talking to you. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, secretary general. Thank you, General Clark.
GEN. CLARK: Thank you very much. Bye-bye now.
MODERATOR: Jamie will be here tomorrow morning, 10:30, with the update, and again tomorrow afternoon at 3 o'clock. Thank you.