Monday, May 10, 1999 Published at 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Embassy strike: What went wrong
The Chinese embassy was hit by three bombs
By BBC News Online's Andrew Webster
Nato tried on Sunday to draw a line under its "terrible mistake" in bombing the Chinese embassy in Belgrade by placing the blame on "faulty information".
Newspapers spoke of "monumental incompetence", "the stupidest operation imaginable" and "absurd, bungling and irresponsible" measures to make Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic yield.
Nato spokesman Jamie Shea said a "review of procedures" had found the mistake was an "anomaly" which was unlikely to happen again.
He was quoting a joint statement by US Defence Secretary William Cohen and CIA Director George Tenet, which explicitly exonerated Nato pilots and equipment.
Nato said the blame lay in the mistaken belief that the embassy building was in fact the home of the Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement.
"The extensive process in place to select and validate targets did not correct this original error," the joint statement said.
Target selection and validation requires approval at many levels, according to Defence Analyst Wing Commander Andrew Brookes.
"That list will be prioritised and presented to politicians and will have to be accepted according to how they see the risk."
The US military is largely responsible for choosing the targets and, in this case, has been using information supplied by the CIA as part of its validation process.
The question is: Why, when embassies are listed in telephone books and clearly marked on maps, wasn't the mistake picked up?
Nato's case wasn't helped on Saturday by a confusing stream of information about the attack from alliance spokesmen.
But later that day, at possibly the most hostile Nato news briefing since the air campaign began, Major General Walter Jertz told reporters the error had been made earlier in the target selection process.
"We had the information that this (procurement) headquarters was in this building," he said.
"That's why we hit this target, not knowing that it was the embassy."
When pressed, Maj-Gen Jertz said there was no evidence that Nato maps were inaccurate or out of date, neither was there any evidence that Nato intelligence was inaccurate.
Asked if Nato knew where embassies were located in Belgrade, he replied: "Yes, of course we know where the embassies are."
BBC Defence Correspondent Jonathan Marcus says there will probably not be much more information forthcoming about the factors that led to this error.
He says what went wrong is buried deep in the process for selecting and identifying targets and this is not going to be discussed in the middle of the conflict.