|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
On-the-Record Briefing on Her Trip to Africa, CTBT and Resources
Washington, DC, October 25, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MR. RUBIN: Let me not do what was done in Africa and read the Secretary of State's biography for you, and just say: Secretary of State Albright.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Morning, everybody. We're not on a plane. As you know, I returned early Sunday morning from Africa. The trip strongly reinforced my view that America has profound security and economic interests in helping to build an Africa that is stable, democratic and increasingly prosperous.
Nigeria is a key example. The government and people there are engaged in a dramatic and high-stakes struggle to establish a viable democratic system. President Obasanjo appears truly committed to jump-starting the economy, fighting corruption and resolving regional problems that remain a source of unrest within Nigeria. Whether he succeeds or fails will matter a great deal to us, because Nigeria is a bellwether nation. It is large, strategically located, a major oil producer, and potentially a very valuable partner for us in promoting peace, democracy and the rule of law throughout West Africa.
Sierra Leone is a place where the price of a difficult peace is exceeded only by the cost of war. Those costs are intensely human, as those of us on the trip will never forget. It's smart -- but above all it's right -- that we support Sierra Leone's choice for peace, and help its people to make it work.
In Tanzania I had the honor of attending and speaking at the funeral of former President Julius Nyerere, and of visiting there and in Kenya with personnel from the US missions that were the targets of terrorist bombings fourteen months ago.
A central theme, throughout our trip, was the importance of finding and working with strong regional partners in the many areas where American and African interests fully coincide. There is no question that we can help ourselves by helping the best African leaders demonstrate to their people that the benefits of democracy are not theoretical, but tangible. There is an urgent need in many countries for debt relief, incentives for investment, and help in meeting basic needs -- including public health. I made it clear to our friends in Africa that America can not help any except those who are willing to help themselves. Of course, without support from Congress we won't be able to help even the most deserving very much.
This morning I call upon the Senate to join the House in approving the African Growth and Opportunity Act. This measure would given an important hand up to African leaders who have been reforming and modernizing their economies, and give new reason for others to do the same. I also renew my call for adequate foreign policy resources. As we all know, the end-game negotiations over the Fiscal Year 2000 budget have commenced, and I understand they have gotten off to a constructive start. It is vital that the outcome be constructive as well.
In recent days, the President vetoed the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill which slashed his budget request by more than $2 billion. Congress approved the State-Justice-Commerce Bill, which doesn't give us what we need for our operating budget or the UN. Some in Congress justify the cuts by saying that we can't have both national security and social security: that we must choose one over the other.
That is preposterous. As long as I have been alive, Democratic and Republican Administrations and Congresses have met our commitments to both. Today, only one penny out of every dollar the federal government spends goes for international affairs. Whether the issue is fighting drug traffickers in Nigeria, keeping children alive in Sudan or countering terrorism in East Africa, we're talking not about foreign aid, but about aid to American interests and values.
Of course, the question of funding for international programs in Africa is only part of a far larger challenge, which is advancing America's purpose around the world. We can't do that unless we have the resources we need to support the Middle East peace, slice apart ex-Soviet nuclear weapons, build stability in the Balkans, meet our obligations to the United Nations and provide our diplomats with modern technology and secure facilities.
But we must also acknowledge the need to work with others, especially on issues as important as controlling the spread and reducing the dangers posed by nuclear weapons. There is no way we will succeed in protecting our children and our children's children from this danger if we insist on going it alone. Accordingly, I have no higher priority than to strive with colleagues in the Administration, leaders in Congress and all concerned Americans to restore a bipartisan consensus for US leadership in this area.
The Senate vote on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty makes it clear that, to succeed, we must do more than argue back and forth. We must engage in a serious and sustained dialogue that will ease concerns, resolve questions, and change people's minds. That dialogue will take time, but I am dedicated to getting it underway, and will discuss the issues more thoroughly in a speech to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations on November 10.
The choice for our country, as one century gives way to the next, is: whether America will play the role of ostrich or of eagle; whether we will bury our heads in the sand or remain vigilant; whether we will play politics with America's national security, or treat it as the fundamental priority of our federal government that our Constitution and our interests demand that it be. To honor our past and secure our future, we must make the latter choice.
Thank you, and now I would be pleased to answer your questions.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the Taliban evidently has made an offer to the United States for talks. Mr. Sheehan had talks last Monday, I believe, and now there is a report Secretary Inderfurth is going to have a meeting. Could you bring us up to date on your view of this opportunity, if it's a real opportunity, and what do you hope to get out of it?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as we do with all Afghan factions, the United States discusses issues with the Taliban regularly. We've told them that it will not be possible to make progress on these issues until Usama bin Ladin is expelled from the Taliban-occupied territory to a place where he can be brought to justice.
Now, Taliban representative Abdul Mujahid will meet today with Assistant Secretary for South Asia Affairs Karl Inderfurth. We expect that Mr. Mujahid will want to discuss the recent UN Security Council sanctions resolution, which will impose sanctions on the Taliban if it doesn't expel bin Ladin to a country where he can be brought to justice.
So we have been particularly -- obviously -- concerned about the fact that the Taliban has in some way made it possible for Usama bin Ladin to occupy -- to be able to live within their confines.
QUESTION: You said there have been talks, so this seems to be a little special, though. Are you getting any indications that they are prepared to expel bin Ladin?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that's what we want to talk about. I think that we are -- we want to make clear -- clearer -- that we consider Usama bin Ladin and his activities a threat to Americans. He has made that very clear -- Usama bin Ladin has -- and that it is very important for the Taliban, if they wish to be treated with any sense of regularity, that they need to make it very clear that he needs to be expelled to a country where he can be brought to justice.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on Saturday you had, I believe, about a half a conversation with Foreign Minister Ivanov about the situation in Chechnya. I'm wondering if you got a chance to complete that conversation and what was discussed: what was said?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, I had a chance yesterday to talk to Mr. Ivanov again briefly. He is in a traveling mode. And I made clear to him, as I had said previously, that what was happening in Chechnya was ominous and deplorable, and that they were taking a significant step in the wrong direction, and that I reminded him of how disastrous their activities there had been in 1994.
He took on board what I said, but I can't say that I was particularly encouraged by his response. We're going to speak again, and we have a number of times that we're going to be seeing each other. But I think I delivered the message as loud and clear as the telephone lines would allow.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the Middle East peace process seems to have gone into a sleep mode, or something like it. Is that appearance accurate, and do you think that there is a realistic chance that the February 2000 deadline for the final status issues can be met?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Appearances are not always what you think they are, but I think that the President is going to be going to Oslo, as will I, at the beginning of next week, and discussions will go on there. In the meantime, we clearly have been talking to all the parties involved.
And the most important thing is that the parties have been talking to each other. Today, for instance, the safe passage issue that had been part of what we'd done at Sharm el Sheikh and Wye, previously, has been resolved. And so I do think that there is movement, and the timeframe that has been set out is one that we believe can be met, and we are working assiduously with the parties. But as I said, the important point here is that the parties working with each other, and I do think that there is no reason to think that nothing's going on.
QUESTION: Is there any possibility that the Syrians will join this process?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I've said previously, we have been working with both the Syrians and the Israelis in a parallel way, and want that process to move forward also, as rapidly as possible.
QUESTION: Would you consider, then, the possibility of going to Damascus in the near future or do you think that the President might go to Damascus in the near future to spur the Syrian talks which, at least on the surface -- I stress "on the surface" -- have not shown any visible progress?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that, as I have said before, I am available to travel if there is something useful to be done. And I think, as those of you who have just come off a long trip know, that I'm not afraid to get on an airplane, or to talk when I get there.
QUESTION: Are we at that stage where you might consider travel?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We'll have to see. At the moment, I'm getting on an airplane next weekend with the President to go to Oslo where the Middle East -- we're going to be commemorating the tremendous record of former Prime Minister Rabin and I think, through that, really signaling how important it is to move forward with a peace process which benefits all.
QUESTION: I just want to follow up with this question of whether the peace talks are moving forward or not. We've been hearing that the enthusiasm over Barak's election is now, sort of, stagnated, that some of the same issues seem to be coming up. Could you comment on that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I would disagree. I think that Prime Minister Barak obviously spends a great deal of time on the peace issues, working directly with the parties. We have been in close touch, and I think that you don't always need fireworks and ceremonies and meetings -- public meetings -- in order to signify progress. So I am satisfied with the fact that things are moving forward and, obviously, we always want to keep the process going.
All I'm saying is: There are things that are happening that make me feel that there is the potential for progress, and that Prime Minister Barak spends a great deal of his time dealing with real issues, and they get resolved. I think what's interesting is there were questions as to whether the prisoner issue would get resolved, and they resolved it between themselves. The same was true of safe passage. So I think we're into a kind of time here where the parties are dealing with each other, to resolve kind of basic, bread-and-butter issues, while we're moving -- all of us together -- on trying to get to the permanent status talks within the timeframe allotted.
QUESTION: In Africa you said that you came back to Washington with renewed vigor to get the resources you need. Can you tell us what your strategy is for persuading Congress to change its mind on this? And what would the consequence be if you ended up with the amount of money that's basically been offered at this stage?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that I think every day that I do my job, I think about the fact that it is made harder by a lack of seriousness, exhibited in terms of getting our funds. I think that it's impossible -- no matter how much energy I have, or how brilliantly we state our policy, or how much we travel, or how many meetings we have -- if we don't have the resources.
And the way that the foreign operations bill had been cut did the most amazing kind of damage to what our goals have been. Let me just give you a few facts here. For instance, we were just talking about the Middle East peace. The Wye River Agreement funds -- none of that was provided.
The President had spoken about the importance of debt restructuring, and trying to help the most heavily indebted countries. We certainly saw that in Africa, and the importance of trying to get those countries on their feet economically. According to the cuts by Congress, we would lose 91 percent of that money, and 36 percent cuts in the multilateral development banks, which clearly are also a great part of what we were trying to do in Africa and other parts of the world.
Some of us have been, obviously, concerned about the continuing threat that comes out of non-destroyed nuclear materials and weapons in the former Soviet Union. The President had asked for funds for what he has called our Expanded Threat Reduction Initiative, and that would be cut by 29 percent.
You've heard me talk about this here many, many times, and again it came up in Africa: We want to fight against terrorism. Barry just asked about Usama bin Ladin, so cuts to our anti-terrorism program are massive. And those are just, kind of, the major ones.
And what we have to do now -- and those end-game negotiations are now beginning -- is to get funding back. And so, what we have to do is: get the Wye money; we need to make sure that the debt restructuring and the MDB's -- multilateral development banks -- and arrears money is returned; we have to get money for the Expanded Threat Reduction, and the funding of our global priorities: that is, nonproliferation, export controls, counter-terrorism programs; we have to get money for Kosovo and southeast Europe initiative. That is in our foreign operations budget.
In our State-Justice-Commerce, we have to get our contributions to the international peacekeeping activities up. We've just voted for a peacekeeping operation to go into Sierra Leone. Today they're going to be voting on East Timor, and there has been a 59 percent cut in our UN peacekeeping, when these new missions are needed.
We have to get our UN arrears paid up, and we have to get all the resources that we need for our diplomatic and consular programs, and our buildings, and our security for our buildings, and information systems.
So we need it. It's not a matter of our sitting here and trying to make up budgets that ask for more than we need. We are down to bare bones. And I think if the American people really understood that this is serious, that it is one penny out of a dollar that goes to these foreign programs, instead of the way that it's described. It sounds as if most of our budget goes to help dictators. It is crazy. I think it's embarrassing for a country like the United States, with the biggest economy in the world and the greatest potential, and citizens who, for their own interest -- American citizens -- it's in our national interest that we try to prevent conflicts, try to assist those who are suffering, try to prevent the spread of AIDS, try to prevent the spread of terrorism. This is not a give-away program; this is in America's national interest, and that's the argument that I'm going to be making.
QUESTION: To Latin America. There is new president -- or elected president -- in Argentina from the opposition. I'm wondering if the United States has been -- made any contact with him, or are ready to work with him. It's going to be a different position, in terms of economics and populist programs than President Menem applied in ten years.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, we very much always respect the decisions of people who freely elect their leaders, and we look forward to working with the new president of Argentina. We have had very good relations with Argentina. We expect to continue to have good relations with Argentina, because it is in both our countries' national interest to do so.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you see any possibility to coordinate the Egyptian initiative with the IGAD, concerning Africa? And what are the prospects now of the peace process for Africa, after your meeting with Mr. Garang?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that I spent quite a lot of time talking about Sudan and the IGAD process in Africa, and became increasingly convinced that the only way to deal with the problem in Sudan is through the IGAD process.
We have now committed ourselves to a reinvigorated IGAD. I met with Ambassador Mboya, the Kenyan who is heading the operation, as well as with representatives of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Uganda. We are going to be funding some of the secretariat operations of IGAD, so that it can be strong and vigorous.
And the reason that we support it -- and are not supporting other alternative initiatives -- is because the IGAD process is the only one that is looking for a comprehensive solution to the problem in Sudan. It doesn't do any good just to deal with the north. The problem here is that you have to deal with the issues of the north and the south: the dreadful issues that are a modern-day slavery, the terrible suffering of people. More people have died in Sudan than in any other of the conflicts that we've had. And so I come back from Africa with a renewed sense of dedication to the IGAD process, and we will press that.
QUESTION: There are new reports out today that North Korea has turned over the remains of four US war dead directly to US officials in the country, rather than going through a third party. I'm wondering if you had any comments on that, and whether that augers any kind of new tone in US-North Korean relations?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have not had a specific report on that. But you do know that we have been working very hard in order to try to have there be a new tone, as you put it. And we have taken some action; the North Koreans have taken some; and if indeed this it true, I think it is a positive step.
(The briefing concluded at 12:52 P.M.)
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