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Tuesday, April 20, 1999 Published at 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK

Nato answers your questions

Nato's Jamie Shea answered your questions live on BBC News Online and the World Service.

You can read a full transcript of the programme below.

Or press the button below to watch the debate on Talking Point On Air

Presenter: Nato is at war for the first time in its history; you are its spokesman. Are you in effect a propagandist as you are not impartial?

Kosovo: Special Report
Jamie Shea: Propaganda is presenting a lie as the truth. I am trying to explain to the public that democracies are trying to protect their human rights. Obviously I am defending what Nato is doing but this is because I believe in it. We are ready, despite the difficulties, to act rather than just proclaim morality.

Dan Mumsford, Wales: What practical evidence can you give that the Nato military strategy is working?

Jamie Shea: Yes I can. President Milosevic has been expelling Kosovans for almost a year. Even before Nato acted on 24 March there were over a quarter of a million displaced Kosovans in Kosovo and 50,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees outside. Now he is paying a price: His military machine is being depleted. No matter how long it takes, Nato are going to make it possible for the displaced to go back and rebuild their lives. If Nato did not do this the people would have no chance of this or would have to go back to live in an undemocratic system.

Dan Mumsford: "Nato's military action has not worked"
Dan Mumsford :
There didn't seem to be any facts in that statement; here are two: The numbers of refugees fleeing Kosovo after the beginning of strikes increased massively. A second wave of refugees has fled. These facts seem to prove that Nato's military action has not worked.

P Dalibore, Canada: Will Nato give any precise information on the deterioration of the Serb military?

Jamie Shea: We give out that information every day. We have destroyed 70% of their military fuel. We have destroyed two out of their three major military HQs. We know the number of airfields we have destroyed. We have good indications of aircraft missile sites. We have destroyed over 100 tanks and aircraft carriers. The question, is Nato responsible for this situation can be answered thus: I haven't heard any one Kosovar Albanian refugee saying Nato bombs have forced them out of their homes. They were forced out by Serb paramilitaries who have taken money, ID documents and looted their homes. It is perverse to accuse the people who are trying to reverse this for being the cause of the problem. We cannot stop this immediately; it will take time to put the country to rights.

Afrim Becka: "Kosovo refugees support the Nato campaign"
Afrim Becka, Kosovo:
I would like to re-emphasise Mr Shea's words. I have been personally in touch with the refugees coming out of Kosovo and they support the Nato campaign. What assurances can Nato give that they will complete the campaign and give the Kosovan refugees the chance to rebuild their homes and not to reward the genocide that is taking place by allowing partition of Kosovo?

Jamie Shea: I can give cast iron assurances that we will allow all those people to go back to their homes. There will be no partition of Kosovo. Nato will ensure an international military force will be deployed to create a secure environment to help the people rebuild the country. It is not Nato policy to help create an independent Kosovo beacause we do not believe the future of the Balkans or of Europe in general is best served by creating mono-ethnic entities. Our vision is of a democratic multi-ethnic Kosovo. Kosovo was multi-ethnic until 1989, when Milosevic began his work to destabilise the nation.

Goran Saratlic, Belgrade: Nato consists of only 19 countries, presenting themselves as an international community, forgetting there are over 180 sovereign countries to account for, 100 of which oppose Nato strikes. Which articles in the charter of the United Nations and Nato constitution accept brutal aggression on the sovereign state of Yugoslavia? We know Nato acts in self-defence only in response to attack but this does not mean aggression onto other countries. Yugoslavia did not attack any other sovereign or Nato countries. We need exact numbers of articles that give Nato the right to enforce their laws on another country. Do not patronise Yugoslavia with Nato demands that Yugoslavia should abide by Nato's terms for humanitarian reasons. There are dozens of similar ethical problems in the world including in Nato countries such as Turkey, the North of England, France, Germany and Spain.

Jamie Shea: Nato is acting in accordance with virtually all of the international community. A vote in the UN security council a couple of days ago12 out of 15 members backed Nato. Kofi Anan has expressed almost the same objective. The Vatican has condemned the policy of ethnic cleansing. Our action is based on three UN Security Council resolutions calling on Milosevic to settle the Kosovo crisis on the basis of a restoration of autonomy and to reverse ethnic cleansing. All Nato democratic countries have a sound basis of international law. International law does not state that any leader is allowed with impunity to repress his own population provided he doesn't send his army across his borders. That is not something that we will tolerate in Europe at the end of the 20th Century. The UN has said action can be undertaken in the UN charter to uphold regional peace and security. UN Security council resolution 1199 has declared the Kosovo crisis to be a threat to regional peace and security and the policy of sending refugees out of Kosovo by President Milosevic is a blatant attempt to destabilize the entire region.

Vladimir, New Zealand: This action violates Nato's own charter which commits it to force only if one of its own member states is attacked.

Jamie Shea: That is not correct. Article 5 of the Nato treaty says that the obligation to use force applies to self defence. It does not say that Nato cannot use force for other purposes. That then has to be done on a voluntary basis, as the countries are participating. There are other articles in the treaty that commit the allies to working for a peaceful international order based on the principle of the UN.

Afrim Becka: No law can be used to justify the genocide that is being committed by Serbia in Kosovo. This is a well-prepared continuation of a policy of imperial Serbia that was devised in 1930.

Ronald Clark, France: Regarding the alleged bombing the convoy of Kosovan civilians. Even with primitive cameras it was possible during WW2, in which I flew with the RAF, to confirm where rockets had landed. I find it difficult to understand why with the more sophisticated equipment that aircraft carry nowadays, more positive ID wasn't possible in this case. Was information withheld as a method of policy from a PR point of view, following the acquittal of the US pilot after the low flying incident in Italy which had such appalling consequences.

Slavimir Buskiko, Brazil: When will you give a complete description of the events that led to the bombing of the convoy?

Sakari Ekin, Britain: Various journalists have picked up bits of bombs and missiles from the site of the attack. They have published the serial numbers of the parts that they have found. Can't you make use of that information to speed up the investigation?

Jamie Shea: "No attempt has been made to withold information"
Jamie Shea: I have apologised for this incident on behalf of the Alliance. Inside Kosovo there are no international observers. We simply have what Serbia plans to show us. I don't doubt the integrity of our military commanders. We have acknowledged that we were responsible for hitting a civilian vehicle and don't know how many casualties have resulted from that. We are not trying to cover it up. Nato regrets any loss of life but we are there to save the lives of the many.

Ronald Clarke: This seems to be a PR exercise. It implies there has been definite information that hasn't been disclosed.

Jamie Shea: We did disclose the information and photographic evidence. But we have to be sure that we understand exactly what took place before we give out information.

Mark Brannigan: Has any Nato airman been stood down or suspended since this event, pending further investigations?

Jamie Shea: No, because the military acted on good faith. If you have a situation where you do not send pilots into conflict because there is a risk of mistake you would never use force in any circumstance.

Afrim Becka: "Kosovo refugees support the Nato campaign"
Bratislav Velickovic, Yugoslavia:
I am angry with the comments on dropping bombs on civilian targets in Yugoslavia. The consequences of the strikes will last for many years. 60 civilian targets have been attacked. A missile dropped on a car factory last week injured and left people without jobs and without any hope for the future. Why?

Jamie Shea: This is the only way the international community can stop the genocide in Kosovo. We have tried to reason with Milosevic and talks and agreements have been violated in a couple of days. We can no longer avoid the use of force. Our quarrel is not with the Serbians; we only target places with legitimate military value.

Charles Robertson, Belgrade: Are you planning to bomb bridges in Belgrade in spite of the human shields of which I am frequently a part?

Jamie Shea: The fact that he is still on the bridge supplies the answer to that question: No.

Veiko Markovic, Finland: Is Nato using depleted uranium ammunition in Yugolsavia?

Jamie Shea: I am not going to comment on the type of munitions that Nato uses because that is an operational question.

Ruben Treep, Netherlands: I think you are doing a very good job in a very difficult situation. I urge Nato not to stop this campaign until the desired results have been reached or you will have made the same mistake as Bush did in Iraq and at huge cost. Do what you have to do to stop Milosevic. Unfortunately I now think we should use ground troops.

Jamie Shea: We believe the air option is the best for the Kosovo rather than ground troops because the ground option would take too long to organise: to gather the ground force to find regional bases and entry points.

Sisman Mohammed, Finland: you say "no" to ground troops but if Milosevic continues will Nato accept defeat and give up?

Jamie Shea: We have a moral duty. As long as we do not give up we are stopping Milosevic from continuing to destabilise the region in the future.

Enulushe Marina, Kosovar in London: Some of my family left west Kosovo for Albania and believe Nato's way is the only way to get through this crisis. If the war is going to go on how likely is it that the refugees scattered in Macedonia and Albania will be able to go back in September?

Jamie Shea: There will admittedly be a difficult environment after the violence. There will be a major reconstruction effort and also the personal traumas of people will have to be dealt with.

Yenda Nilovic, Boston, USA: What will happen if in two weeks there are no native Albanians left in Kosovo?

Jamie Shea: Simply because we haven't put it right immediately does not mean we should give up. In the short term Nato is supporting these people and many Nato countries have taken on refugees to relieve the strain on Macedonia and Albania. If we weren't acting none of the people would ever be able to go back.

Eke Okolo, Nigerian in Macedonia: What Nato casualties have there been?

Jamie Shea: Four unmanned aircraft drones but no pilots. Three US servicemen are currently being held in Belgrade.

Malcolm Butler: What are Nato's plans for the captured Yugoslav officer; are you contemplating an exchange for three US servicemen?

Jamie Shea: Not so far. The young Yugoslav is being treated as a captive in accordance with the third clause of the Geneva Convention. I cannot comment on whether we are ruling out an exchange.

Dragita: "Why has Nato let the country disintegrate up until now?"
Dragita, Skopje, Macedonia:
There was ethnic cleansing in Croatia of Serbs from Craina and Nato did nothing. On CNN Clinton said he did not believe each ethnicity should have a state. If so, why has Nato let the country disintegrate up until now?

Jamie Shea: It is true that the international community has been slow to act when the break up of Yugoslavia first occurred. Nato soldiers in Slovonia and Bosnia have been years protecting Serbs. We have rebuilt roads, poured money into the local economy, begun democracy-building programmes. Nato is not anti-Serb. Until Milosevic came into power Yugoslavia was one of the strongest new democracies in Europe. Now it is treated as a pariah state and the economy has collapsed. And has one of the lowest per-capita income rates in Europe.

Milan Senotic, Australia: There is widespread hypocrisy in Nato. Why has the organisation done nothing to help in other similar crises? For example the Kurds in Turkey and the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda. Why Kosovo?

Jamie Shea: We can't do something about every injustice and instability in the world. Just because we can't solve all doesn't mean we will not solve some. In Kosovo we can and are doing something. The Kurdish issue is not dealt with by Nato.

Paul Swaddle, US: Would Russia get involved if you brought in ground troops?

Jamie Shea: We have tried to contact Russia. Nato-Russia relations are difficult over Kosovo but we will work with Russia in negotiations. As soon as the fighting has stopped Russia will have its part to play in diplomacy.

Michael Gostige, Adelaide, Australia: Why is Nato using the present situation in Kosovo to explain the crisis? In 1941 Italians invaded Kosovo, expelled and killed Serbs and then Albanians came into Kosovo and from 1945 and the communist regime they went on expelling Serbs until1974. Why didn't Nato present the world community with this information? This is relevant to the current crisis as the Albanians came to Kosovo as refugees and so have no right to take Kosovo away from Serbian land.

Bratislav Velickovic: "I am very angry"
Jamie Shea: Yugoslavia's leaders seem to be more interested in their history, in reliving old battles, rather than preparing for a successful future in a multi-ethnic democratic system of state.

Mikisa Vulovic, Serbia: Is NATO losing the media war?

Jamie Shea: I think it is more important to win the conflict on the ground. I don't believe this is true, no. When people compare what we say, which is transparent, honest and balanced, with Belgrade I think people are sensible enough to judge who is right and who is wrong.

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