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NATO Celebrates Birthday..Spells Out Demands...

4/23/99- By Linda D. Kozaryn American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON -- Before marking NATO's birth 50 years ago, allied leaders dealt with the issue at hand -- Kosovo.

NATO's anniversary summit opened April 23 with an early morning working session focused on the Kosovo crisis, followed by a North Atlantic Council meeting. After the "NAC" meeting, the allied heads of state and government issued a statement citing NATO's demands. It said Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must:

o Ensure a verifiable stop to all military action and the immediate ending of violence and repression in Kosovo.

o Withdraw from his military, police and paramilitary forces from Kosovo.

o Agree to the stationing in Kosovo of an international military presence.

o Agree to the unconditional and safe return of all refugees and displaced persons, and unhindered access to them by humanitarian aid organizations.

o Provide credible assurance of his willingness to work for the establishment of a political framework agreement based on the accords from peace talks in Rambouillet, France.

All leaders at the meeting pointed out that NATO "has an obligation to be successful," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said. "We cannot afford to lose this one," he emphasized. "We have invested simply too much time, too much effort, too many resources, to settle for anything less than our five fundamental objectives."

If Milosevic is allowed to defy the international community, Shea explained, "it would not only be a terrible injustice to his victims, the Kosovar Albanians, it would also be a very major setback to all of our efforts to build a new European security order based on democratic values. It will be not simply an affront to NATO and what we stand for, but to the United Nations and the entire international community."

To accomplish its objectives, NATO intends to continue its air campaign, Shea said. NATO leaders are not considering deploying ground forces, he stressed. "The message of the meeting today is that there is no need to change the strategy," he said. "That strategy is working. There is no quicker or more feasible option on the table at the present time."

Air strikes are on track, Shea said, citing successful battle damage. They are successfully degrading Milosevic's capabilities, he said. NATO forces have air superiority at mid to high altitudes and have significantly damaged Yugoslavia's air defenses.

NATO strikes have destroyed 70 percent of the military's petroleum, oil and lubricant stocks and 25 percent of Yugoslavia's fuel storage capabilities, he said. Air strikes have cut supply and communication lines between Yugoslavia and Milosevic's forces in Kosovo. NATO has only moderately damaged Milosevic's command and control network, but allied forces continue to strike it hard.

The night of April 22, Shea said, NATO destroyed an artillery battalion, a column of troops, 23 vehicles, six tanks and a field command post inside Kosovo. "We are not just hitting fixed installations in Yugoslavia, we are bringing the pressure to bear, increasingly, on those forces inside Kosovo itself," he said.

NATO allies are now focusing on further augmenting the force, Shea said. More than 690 allied aircraft and 20 ships are now involved in the air campaign. Another 300 planes are slated to join Allied Force in the next few days.

U.S. Apache helicopters now arriving in Albania are expected to be operational shortly. "We also need further reconnaissance intelligence support aircraft," he said. "We want to take the fight directly to Milosevic's forces."

NATO plans to strike at the central nervous system of Milosevic's regime. In the last three nights, NATO forces struck Milosevic's party headquarters in Belgrade and one of his bunker systems in the suburbs. On the eve of the summit, NATO took out Serb radio and television it considers part of Milosevic's propaganda machine.

Shea said the alliance intends to isolate Milosevic and separate him from outside sources of support. This includes implementing economic sanctions and placing an embargo on oil deliveries. "There must be no soft underbelly where Milosevic can get through the back door what we are denying him through the front door," he said.

NATO has directed its defense ministers to consider how maritime operations can contribute to halting delivery of war materials.

Shea also reported NATO progress in aiding Kosovar refugees. Along with deploying troops to what are being referred to as the 'front-line' countries bordering Kosovo, he said, NATO has delivered 11,000 tons of humanitarian aid, 85,000 tons of shelter materials and 716 tons of medicine in the last few weeks.

The North Atlantic Council statement noted that the alliance would not tolerate any threats by Belgrade to neighboring states, including the democratically elected government of Montenegro, a Yugoslav republic.

"It is our aim to make stability in Southeast Europe a priority of our trans-Atlantic agenda," according to the statement on Kosovo. NATO, it said, will help forge a better future for the region -- "one based upon democracy, justice, economic integration and security cooperation."