NATO: Less Damage To Serbs

NATO's supreme commander for Europe on Thursday said that alliance planes had inflicted less damage on Serb military equipment than initially thought at the end of the Kosovo conflict.

Gen. Wesley Clark insisted, however, that what mattered was that NATO achieved what it set out to do: end Serb repression of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian population.

Â"We destroyed, we struck enough. The conflict ended on NATO terms,Â" he told a news conference at NATO headquarters.

A total of 389 artillery and mortar pieces were struck, not the 450 initially estimated.

Instead of 250 armored personnel carriers, 153 were hit. And NATO planes struck 93 tanks -- not 100.

He said NATO pilots had bombed 339 military vehicles.

Â"This is pretty close to the figures we had at the end of the conflict,Â" Clark said.

NATO launched its air campaign against Belgrade on March 24. The bombing lasted 79 days.

The figures were revised downwards after it was revealed that some of the targets NATO thought it had hit were in fact the same targets hit several times, or decoys planted by the Serb forces.

The original estimates were a result of a rigorous assessment of about 3,000 separate NATO air missions, Clark said. Of those missions, 1,955 were missions in which pilots claimed target hits.

Clark said NATO could not know how many Serbian troops had been killed.

But on the current situation in the Balkan province, Clark denied reports that Serbs were massively fleeing the province, fearing ethnic Albanian reprisal. He said there were still 97,000 Serbs in Kosovo, and that Â"more are coming back in.Â"

But, he said, Â"it's going to take a while before there is an atmosphere of confidence.Â"

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed