|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview by Margaret Warner on The Lehrer Newshour
September 14, 1999, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
QUESTION: We're joined now by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. She's just back from the Asian Pacific Summit in New Zealand. Welcome, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you.
QUESTION: Thanks for joining us. What do you make of what Allan Nairn just told us in terms of the situation on the ground there now?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, clearly there has been tremendous suffering in terms of people having been deported, obviously killings, looting; very, very bad situation. What he is describing I think is one of the very difficult aspects of this whole situation which is the relationship between the regular military and the militia. That is something that we have been trying to deal with for some time, making it clear -- even when I was in Indonesia earlier this year -- that it was up to the military to make sure that the militia that were already causing problems in East Timor were under control. The linkages, or the relationships, between the two are very complicated, and I think also not monolithic. I think there may be some generals who behave one way and others who have other relationships with these militias.
QUESTION: Did you find it curious, though that, according to Allan Nairn, all this is continuing even after President Habibie and General Wiranto, the army chief of staff, came in and said, oh, my God, this really terrible, we have to get the international force in? Yet, all of this is continuing under the aegis, apparently, at least of some military commanders.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that they are having trouble, obviously, stopping this. But it is my estimation, Margaret, that, as you pointed out, the UN is currently discussing a resolution. I spoke with Ambassador Holbrooke just before I left my office. They are going to be pushing through all night until they get a resolution which will authorize a multinational force to go in there. It should be in there, as Kofi Annan said, by the weekend. This is an unfortunate or terrible -- I can't even think of the right adjective for this transitional period because it's very hard to definitively put a stop to this despite the fact that we have said that the government and the military are held responsible for this kind of activity.
QUESTION: So do you think it's possible that what Allan Nairn told us, that the Timorese there are afraid, that now with most foreigners gone, there will be this interim period of a number of days, that it's going to be a further blood bath, that they have reason to be afraid?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I would certainly not tell them that things are going to be okay until the military -- the international forces get in there because to a great extent it's kind of a limbo situation. Now, what the Indonesian Government had said was that they were systematically replacing the military that was in East Timor, that had had -- as they put it -- some kind of affinity with the Timorese pro-autonomy, not the independence movement, and that they were now putting the military in there that had no particular prejudices or affinities against independence. That's hard to tell. Obviously they should have done something like that a lot sooner.
QUESTION: Does the Security Council resolution that's now being discussed, does it anticipate that the Indonesian military will continue to have a role in East Timor?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, what there's supposed to be -- obviously -- well, this is going to happen in two phases. There will be this international peacekeeping force under a Chapter 7 resolution, which means that it can be -- an enforcement resolution, which will be not a blue-helmeted UN force, but green helmets, as we've said, and they will be --
QUESTION: Meaning -- excuse me -- but meaning fully armed and able to --
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely -- basically under rules of command that are determined by the participants, rather than under a UN commander with UN rules. There is some thought that yes, indeed, that there will have to be some kind of relationship, partnership with the responsible, reputable Indonesian military. At this phase, it's hard to tell exactly how that relationship is going to work out. But the bottom line here is you will be seeing, if things work on schedule some time by the weekend, forces -- probably under the leadership of the Australians with forces from Asia such as the Koreans, and the Filipinos and others that would be going in as a multinational force, as a coalition of the willing.
QUESTION: Why is it necessary to leave the Indonesian military in place? As I'm sure you're aware Jose Ramos Horta, who has won the Nobel peace prize for advocating East Timor's independence, said today, you know that was outrageous to leave them in place. Why is that necessary?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that what the international community is operating under now is the fact that the Indonesians have, in fact, invited this international peacekeeping force in. Prime Minister Alatas is in New York now. He's been meeting with the permanent representatives and basically saying that the international peacekeeping force, this coalition of the willing can go in with no conditions whatsoever. I think that they have to figure out exactly what that relationship will be. Clearly, there is a job to be done to try to bring order, but not the order of the cemetery. It has to be a partnership that is worked out with appropriate rules. But the bulk of the force is obviously going to be international peacekeepers.
QUESTION: So you're saying, in other words, because the Indonesians invited this international force in that they have a lot of say still in how its going to operate and probably the makeup of the force and other things, and including if they want the Indonesian military there for at least a time?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, they will not have a lot to say about the makeup for the force. That is really made up as a coalition of the willing. They have said no conditions, and I think we have to hold them to their word.
Now, what you have is an Indonesian government that is in place -- and you have to remember this -- I'm not making any excuses -- but you have to remember that President Habibie is the one who actually said that there should be a vote on whether there should be pro-autonomy or pro-independence. That vote took place and 98 percent of the people voted, and 75 percent of the people voted for independence. What is supposed to happen in October is their national assembly, which is being constituted now -- some by direct -- have been elected directly and some by appointment -- will then ratify that vote. That has been a fairly orderly procedure. So the hard part here is that in some respects the Indonesian Government has acted quite responsibly. But there are certain elements that clearly are getting out of control. The question is, how you balance dealing with Indonesia in a responsible way and not totally kind of leading it out of the international system.
You have to remember that Indonesia is the fourth most populace country in the world, the largest Muslim country, located -- spread out all over the Pacific. They are working to turn themselves into a democratic government with a free-market system after years of dictatorship.
QUESTION: As you said it was the Indonesian Government -- their initiative to have this referendum, but there have been criticisms, including from some leading UN officials that really the referendum shouldn't have been held under the UN banner or aegis without forces on the ground ready to sort of safeguard the results, that this was not a surprise. There were predictions of mayhem whichever way the vote went, and that, in retrospect, it should have been planned better with military force to back it up.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I hope that -- clearly, for numbers of years there have been attempts by the United Nations to hold talks among the Portuguese, the Timorese and the Indonesians. Then the UN had an operation there in which they actually worked out the arrangements for the election, and there were hundreds of international observers that went in and observed an election that was basically peaceful.
QUESTION: But unarmed?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Unarmed. But I guess that -- you see, I think the thing that you have to remember is this was done at the behest of the Indonesians. To an extent, they have a sovereign right to have the kind of peacekeeping or election force that they chose. Now, I think that clearly there have been disastrous things that have happened. As you look at the footage that you played and all the horrible things that we've seen for the last week that are inexcusable. But the only thing I can say to you is that within one week of this mayhem, I think we will have been able to bring in a peacekeeping force that will be in a position to deal with it. Not an excuse -- obviously, one would wish that this kind of horrendous thing never happened. But I do think that there are ways that this is now being brought under control. The United Nations has to play -- has to play -- an important role. This is kind of big test for the UN as to whether it's going to be able to do this properly.
QUESTION: Finally, Madam Secretary, the US role in this force, tell us about that.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, President Clinton has felt very strongly that what was going on in East Timor was an outrage. He spoke about it before he left for the region. He made a big point of it in New Zealand and has said that we would supply what we're best at, logistic support, communication, strategic lift, and that that is going to be our role.
QUESTION: So no combat troops?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No. But there may be some troops that are associated with the strategic lift. But as I've said, the Australians are the ones that are going to take the lead with other Asian countries that will form the bulk of the force.
QUESTION: But if President Habibie had not agreed to let this international force in, the US felt that there was no way that we or anyone else was going to force its way in?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: But what we did was to cut off all assistance, stopped all foreign military sales and were systematically getting ready for increased economic sanctions. The discussion that went on was how was it possible to invade a country such as Indonesia that has a very large, powerful military. So the point here was to systematically squeeze them economically to try to get them to see the light. In effect, I believe that the actions that were taken in Auckland and the statements that President Clinton made and that the other leaders made did, in fact, have some influence on President Habibie.
QUESTION: All right, well, thanks, Madam Secretary. Thanks for joining us.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
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