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Sunday, April 18, 1999 Published at 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK


World: Europe

Shea: Nato will not admit defeat

The bombing is going to go on, said Mr Shea

Nato is not going to stop its bombing of Yugoslavia and admit defeat, the alliance told the BBC on Sunday.

Kosovo: Special Report
Speaking on the BBC's Talking Point On Air, spokesman Jamie Shea said: "All of the allies are foursquare behind this operation because we believe that it's not wise for us to enter the 21st Century carrying with us in our baggage the rabid nationalism which has disfigured so much of the 20th Century in Europe."

Nato has been bombing Yugoslavia for some 25 days over President Slobodan Milosevic's failure to accede to international demands formulated at peace talks in France to grant substantial autonomy to the province of Kosovo.

Answering questions put by users of BBC News Online and listeners to the World Service, Mr Shea said: "The bombing is going to go on."

"Nobody in Nato is enthusiastic about doing this," he admitted.


[ image:  ]
"But President Milosevic ... has made it clear all along that his only solution in Kosovo was a military solution and on his own terms."

Even during the French peace talks, the Yugoslav president had been building up and arming his forces in Kosovo, said Mr Shea.

He said that Nato members were "reluctant to embrace the use of force".

"But when we do so we can be as tenacious as Milosevic himself," he warned.

Ground troops no 'panacea'

However he once again made it clear that the alliance was not considering implementing ground troops to take out Yugoslav forces.


Jamie Shea: "We are simply not going to give up"
Nato countries still believed, he said, that the air option was the best means of stopping President Milosevic's troops.

"The ground option is not a panacea," he said.

It would take several weeks or months to put Nato troops into the region, Mr Shea said, and "we don't have the time that that might take.

"We're faced with a very difficult situation which we have to try and face immediately."

Investigation

The alliance has come under fire this week for its accidental attack on a refugee convoy. It admitted that a single, laser-targeted bomb dropped by an American F-16 hit a civilian target in a convoy travelling north of Djakovica on Wednesday.


[ image: Nato apologised for bombing the refugee convoy, Mr Shea said]
Nato apologised for bombing the refugee convoy, Mr Shea said
However precise details of what happened have been difficult to obtain.

Mr Shea denied that Nato was attempting to withhold information on the incident.

"I want to be able to put the facts on the table in a clear comprehensive way when I have them. There is an attempt to conduct an investigation which is going to set the facts straight."

"We have acknowledged that we were responsible for hitting a civilian vehicle, although we don't know how many civilian casualties could have resulted from that and I have apologised for it, so there is no question of trying to escape responsibility."

'Not a risk-free operation'


[ image:  ]
It was necessary to keep the incident in perspective, Mr Shea said.

"Nato of course regrets any loss of life, particularly by our own forces, but we are there primarily because Milosevic is forcing people to flee."

"If we hadn't had that systematic campaign of repression in the first place, those Nato pilots would not have been flying over Kosovo at 3 o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon," he argued.

"It's not a risk-free operation," he underlined.



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