British minister slams Kosovo war strategy

BELGRADE, Jul 21, 2000 -- (Reuters) Britain's second most senior defense minister during the Kosovo conflict last year has launched a bitter attack on NATO's handling of the war, the Guardian newspaper reported on Friday.

The Guardian said Lord Gilbert, Britain's former minister of state for defense, told the parliamentary defense select committee in evidence published on Thursday that allied forces forced Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic into a war by deliberately presenting him with intolerable terms.

"I think certain people were spoiling for a fight in NATO at that time," Gilbert was quoted as saying.

Gilbert, who was in charge of intelligence during the conflict, also accused his own intelligence chiefs of deliberately keeping information from him and adopting a patronizing attitude, the newspaper said.

He said Britain's Ministry of Defense should be "picked up by the scruff of the neck and shaken".

Gilbert said the quality and accuracy of intelligence on the state of Serb morale during the conflict was unreliable.

"I have to say it was very difficult to know what to believe from one day to tbe next," the Guardian reported.

Gilbert scoffed at suggestions that NATO could have mounted a land invasion of Kosovo last September in time to drive out the Serbian forces.

He said NATO would not have been in a realistic position to invade Kosovo until September this year.

The Guardian said Gilbert also bitterly criticized French President Jacques Chirac for his admission that he vetoed the bombing of bridges in Belgrade.

Original article