02. Interview with Michael C. Williams, Director of Information and Spokesman for the SRSG.
01. Footage of the UN Press Conference following the use of NATO airstrikes in response to the Bosnian Serb Army's removal of heavy weapons from a UNPROFOR Heavy Weapons Collection Point outside Sarajevo. The three UN staff taking the conference are Michael C. Williams, Director of Information and Spokesman for the SRSG, Sergio Vieira de Mello, UNPROFOR Head of Civil Affairs and General de La Presle, UNPROFOR Commander.
01. UN staff prepare for a press conference. Michael C. Williams, Director of Information and Spokesman for the SRSG takes his place at the table with Sergio Vieira de Mello, UNPROFOR Head of Civil Affairs and General de La Presle, UNPROFOR Commander. Michael C. Williams thanks the journalists for coming to a press conference at such short notice that evening and says that he will read a statement and then the panel will take questions on the recent events. In his statement, Michael C. Williams makes the following points: Following the forcible removal by Bosnian Serb soldiers of four heavy weapons from the Ilidža Heavy Weapons Collection point with the twenty kilometre exclusion zone around Sarajevo at 03.50 am this morning, the Force Commander General de La Presle resolved that all available means within UNPROFOR's mandate would be deployed to react to this deliberate violation of an agreement. Care was taken that the response was proportionate to the violation. Attempts by UNPROFOR to prevent the removal of the weapons on the ground failed and a FREBAT helicopter tracking the heavy weapons was forced to return to its base at Kiseljak when it came under sustained small arms fire. The Bosnian Serbs refused to return the heavy weapons. On several occasions this week, the Bosnian Serb Army had threatened to remove heavy weapons from the collection points around Sarajevo. Gen Mladić had been warned that these weapons points would be defended and that if necessary NATO aircraft would respond in an air support role. This message was also conveyed to the Bosnian Serb political leadership at Sarajevo airport on the 2nd of August at a meeting between Sergio Vieira de Mello and Bosnian Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik. Because of poor weather conditions and the attack on the FREBAT helicopter it was not possible to for effective air attacks to be conducted against the specific four heavy weapons that had been removed. After consultation with General Rose, Commander of Bosnian Command, General de La Presle authorised NATO to attack "a small number of fixed and isolated Bosnian Serb heavy weapons within Sarajevo exclusion zone". In doing so, "UNPROFOR has sought to avoid collateral damage and has limited the response of NATO aircraft to a measured and proportionate action". The Bosnian Serbs had committed a deliberate act with full awareness of the consequences. General de La Presle issues a serious warning to the Bosnian Serb leadership that any further removal of heavy weapons from collection points will result in "swift and appropriate action". The panel then answers questions. General de La Presle cannot say how many planes were used in the air strike. NATO can answer that question but the number is likely to be small and NATO have deliberately chosen very isolated targets to ensure that no casualties would occur. He says that as a peacekeeper, "this operation is a real success so far". General de La Presle says "I am a peacekeeper not a peace enforcer" and as his job is not to enforce the peace, in the most demanding spaces, NATO can provide the military means to support UNPROFOR. He says that he is in contact with Admiral Smith and with the Chief of Staff of NATO. He says that the airstrike shows UNPROFOR's determination to prevent further violations of agreement and to show that UNPROFOR can call on NATO to act as directed. He says that if the Bosnian Serbs do not comply with the agreement in future, then all available means will continue to be used to carry out the mission. Sergio Vieira de Mello says that he has just received the news that Momcilo Krajisnik has issued orders for all of the weapons removed from the weapons collection point to be taken back immediately and that he regretted the action taken by NATO but he hopes that by returning the weapons, no further NATO action will be needed. Sergio Vieira de Mello says that he has been in contact with the political side and General Rose has been in touch with the military side so he is hopeful that Momcilo Krajisnik's orders represent the views of both branches of the Bosnian Serb leadership. General de La Presle says that all NATO personnel returned safely back to their base. He hopes that the use of airstrikes will not endanger the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. He insists that UNPROFOR had taken all necessary measures before using NATO as a peacekeeping force. Shots of the audience. Photographers with cameras. Journalists film the proceedings. Shot of the conference from the back of the room to show the panel of UN speakers and the rows of journalists. Close up on the hand of one journalist writing on a pad. Over the shoulder shot of another journalist taking notes of the answers given by the UN officials. General de La Presle says that the security of the UNPROFOR soldiers is his highest concern and when making decisions he always has in mind not only the soldiers but the isolated UNHCR teams and UNMO s working in Bosnia. He says that UNPROFOR needs to be very clear in explaining its reasons for acting to prevent retribution being taken against UN staff. He stresses that UNPROFOR will remain non-combatants but admits that there are contingency plans if any branch of UN staff in the region have to protected by military means. Sergio Vieira de Mello says that at the current time, there are other pressing issues such as arranging the release of detainees, the reopening of blue routes in and out of Sarajevo and enforcement of the anti-sniping agreement. He is that meetings on these issues, scheduled in the next few days, will take place. The press conference comes to an end. Journalists approach the UN officials to ask further questions. [24 mins 25 seconds]
02. Interview with Michael C. Williams, Director of Information and Spokesman for the SRSG. He says that the actions of the Bosnian Serbs represented a flagrant violation of an agreement after week of mounting tension in the Sarajevo area. He says that the Bosnian Serbs had threatened to take the weapons three or four days beforehand and were warned then of the repercussions and of the possible use of NATO airstrikes. The four weapons taken from the Heavy Weapons Collection Point were a T55 tank, two APCs and a motorised anti-aircraft gun. He says that the Bosnian Serb Army could not be allowed to get away with removing these weapons as it would have set a precedent for further raids. Mr. Williams says that the Bosnian Government Army also have weapons in collection points and UNPROFOR might well have responded in a similar fashion if they had removed weapons. He insists that it is unfair to say that UNPROFOR are victimising the Bosnian Serb forces. He felt that the Bosnian Serb Army was pushing to see how far UNPROFOR was prepared to go. The fact that UNPROFOR responded in a measured way and that NATO only eliminated one target with no casualties has meant that the Bosnian Serbs have not reacted to the airstrikes in a recriminatory manner. He says that within minutes of the airstrike there was a response from the Bosnian Serbs and within a day the weapons were returned. He says that there is a clear chain of command in the authorisation of NATO airstrikes. He explains that any battalion commander can make a request to General Rose and he then takes this to Force Commander General de La Presle who then makes a military recommendation to the Secretary General. He says that the final decision is with Mr. Akashi and is therefore a political one. Mr. Akashi has to think of all possible consequences before finally authorising a NATO airstrike. Williams gives some background to the use of NATO support by UNPROFOR. He says that the provision of close air support was authorised by the UN Security Council in 1993, to be used in circumstances in which the lives of UNPROFOR soldiers were in imminent danger. He says that in April there were two incidences of close air support, on the 10th and 11th of that month, when UNPROFOR soldiers in Gorazde were under intense military pressure. He says that the provision for the use of air strikes is more recent and limited to Sarajevo and Gorazde in order to protect those exclusion areas. He insists that UNPROFOR is not an aggressor towards the Serbs and he is very conscious of the line they are walking. He says that they are trying to keep a very fragile piece that neither side really wants. Their legislative body in New York has given clear authorisation for UNPROFOR to use force in very limited circumstances such as to safeguard populations of towns and cities within agreed exclusion zones. He says that the UN response was nevertheless very restrained. As a preference they would have targeted the actual weapons taken but that morning there was heavy fog and the FREBAT helicopter, which had succeeded in tracking down the weapons later that morning, was forced to abandon tracking when under sustained small arms fire. He says that by the time NATO could be scrambled the original weapons could not be found. He admits that the United Nations is walking a very, very, fine line and as a combatant on the ground, the UN soldier becomes just another man with a gun. He says that if the UN gets to that stage then the UN should pack its bags. He confirms that the NATO airstrike eliminated a Bosnian Serb anti-tank weapons system. He says that initially three targets were located but because they wanted to be restrained in their response only one target was actually hit. He says that the airstrike proved NATO's ability to respond effectively so it was not necessary to do anything more. He again stress that warnings had been given consistently throughout the week that NATO airstrikes would be used if the Bosnian Serbs violated the agreement. He says that the weapons were returned very swiftly. He also says that "it is my understanding that nobody was injured in the (NATO) attack". He admits that this episode does indicate the fragility of the situation in Sarajevo and he hopes that the current impasse in negotiations will not result in renewed hostilities. He says that the response of the Bosnian Serbs to the airstrikes shows that perhaps they are aware of their complete isolation from the international community and even former allies like Serbia. As for the situation more generally, there is a possible anti-sniper agreement being negotiated in Sarajevo. The Bosnian Government side have signed but the Bosnian Serbs say that they have further questions and have not yet signed. General Rose has said that UNPROFOR should negotiate for a general demilitarisation of the Sarajevo area but that is not likely in the immediate future. Shot of Michael Williams sitting on a bench. Mute. [21 minutes 35 seconds]