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Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 14:40 GMT
Reserves a month away from Kosovo

UK would have contributed 50,000 men to an invasion of Kosovo
The UK was within a month of calling up reservists before the end of the Kosovo war, according to the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Charles Guthrie.

Gen Guthrie made the remarks while appearing before the Commons Defence Committee on Wednesday during its investigation into the role of the Ministry of Defence during the conflict.

The general said the UK had been prepared to put 50,000 soldiers into an invasion force if it had been needed.

That force would have included 12,000 -14,000 members of the Territorial Army, but was made unnecessary by the success of Nato's air strikes.

Gen Guthrie said he would have liked to have seen a ground campaign planned before a single bomb was dropped.

The United States ruled out a ground campaign at the beginning of the conflict.

Question mark over Milosevic

Speaking a year after the conflict began Sir Charles said: "We must recognise that we may never know what the decisive factor or factors were in Milosevic's mind.

"The change in the Russian position, the threat of ground forces, and the consistent solidarity of the alliance all contributed.

"But I have no doubt that the damage caused in the air campaign was important."

He told MPs that Nato was lucky to have taken no casualties during the air campaign, although two planes were lost during the 10,000 bombing strikes.

Nato was 'lucky'

"While we will always seek to reduce the risks to our pilots on air operations we must never expect a zero casualty conflict.

"In Kosovo we were careful but we were also I think lucky," he stressed.

Listing problems already identified by defence chiefs in the campaign's conduct, he said it was still necessary to improve the effectiveness of the European arm of Nato.

Too much reliance was placed on Tomahawk cruise missiles and that the alliance's ability to strike with guided bombs had to be enhanced to deal with all types of weather, he said.

And he added that better electronic warfare and communications systems were also needed as was an improved ability to deal with an enemies air defences.

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15 Mar 00 | Europe
Violent clashes in Kosovo
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