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Friday, October 22, 1999 Published at 00:37 GMT 01:37 UK


US general condemns French 'red card'

The sky lights up over Belgrade during the bombing

The United States commander of Nato's recent air campaign against Yugoslavia has criticised France for vetoing attacks on a number of targets during the conflict.

General Michael Short said France, which provided 8% of the air power, should not have been allowed to block the Americans, who bore 70% of the load.

The BBC's Annie Gardner: "France repeatedly vetoed targets"
"Targeting was a problem to us ... and as you know, the red card was played by France in particular," the general told the US Senate Armed Services Committee.

"There were targets in Belgrade, which I believed were strategic, that the French forbade us from striking."

Kosovo: Special Report
General Short said the policy of gradually increasing the pressure on Yugoslavia had put Nato pilots at risk.

He said he would have preferred to have begun the war with a massive air strike on the capital, Belgrade.

"I would have gone for the head of the snake on the first night," he said. "[Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic and his cronies would have waked up the first morning asking what the hell was going on."

The BBC's Paul Reynolds in Washington: "General Short spoke with some emotion"
General Short's comments echo American criticism of political interference in the military campaign.

Lessons of Kosovo

US Defence Secretary William Cohen recently said allied political leaders should have decided which targets were acceptable before the fighting began, and then left the rest to the military.

And Nato's outgoing supreme commander, General Wesley Clark, told the committee he agreed with most of General Short's views.

He said he felt "very strongly that once the threshold is crossed and you're going to use force, that force has to be as decisive as possible in attaining your military objectives".

But he said American military commanders had close contact with France throughout the campaign, and that, overall, political leaders had accommodated the military's needs.

The Senate committee is reviewing the Kosovo campaign - which lasted from 24 March until 10 June - and lessons to be learned from it.

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