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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Czech Foreign Minister Kavan

Press Availability
Prague, Czech Republic, March 7, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. I would like to thank Foreign Minister Kavan very much for his hospitality and opportunity to meet today.

I have been privileged during this week, to participate in many celebratory events, honoring the memory of the Czech Republic's great national hero. But in our line of work, we always leave some room for business. And so I am pleased by the very useful meeting that the Foreign Minister and I have just had.

It is no secret that the Czech Republic and the United States are very close. And although we have only recently become formal allies, our two nations have deep historic bonds and I feel confident in saying that we can count on each other.

During our meeting, I expressed appreciation to Foreign Minister Kavan for the Czech Administration's commitment not to allow the sale of sensitive equipment to the Bushehr power plant. We know this is a hard decision, but there is no greater threat than the potential further spread of nuclear weapons. By keeping this commitment, the Czech Government will reinforce its status as a defender of Trans-Atlantic security, and a deeply valued partner of the United States

On the economic side, the Foreign Minister and I discussed his government's efforts to improve the climate for foreign investment. The goal is to take a relatively good situation and make it even better through additional privatization and reform. In today's world, there is no stronger magnet for investment than a financial and legal framework that is efficient, transparent and fair.

The Foreign Minister and I also had time to touch on a number of other issues of mutual concern, including the need to send a strong message in support of tolerance and free expression at the upcoming meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights.

In closing, I want to thank the Foreign Minister again for his hospitality and I look forward to my meeting, having lunch with him, and carrying on some of our discussion and then meeting with the Prime Minister and the Remembrance Festival this evening.

FOREIGN MINISTER KAVAN (unofficial translation from Czech): I will be short because I know we have little time and Madam Minister told us some reasons which confirm that we are in agreement in our approach to the sensitive question of exporting practically everything for nuclear power plants, and I know that at 2:00 pm there is a special meeting of the Czech Parliament where I will submit the proposal of a law which could solve this issue from the legal point of view. I emphasize, and also explain it to Madam Minister Albright, that this law proposal is submitted in agreement to our national interests and our international and political agreements to protect any form which could enable a spreading of weapons of mass destruction. (The spreading of weapons of mass destruction) is of course not in the interest of the international community; including the Czech Republic.

We also spoke in this connection about American investment in the Czech Republic, and we stated that there is certain improvement. Madam Minister assured me that the United States will look for other possibilities on how to increase investment and increase support for employment and search for other important contracts for our companies, including a company as e.g. ZVVS Milevsko. We also spoke about such situations where we can work together like the situation in the Balkans where, I think, there is a lot of necessary work to do in order to make it a home for democracy, to establish a stable government, and real peace. Here the Czech Republic is ready to use, for example, such facts that we have many contacts for example in Serbia, inter alia with all groups, be it in opposition, and also NGOs, also in political parties and so on. I think that the Czech Republic is one of the few countries where or with which all the different groups are ready to communicate what was eventually made clear at the conference of OSCE in Istanbul where we brought representatives of all opposition parties. In the important question of the necessity to support democracy in different parts of Europe, from the point of view of the United States, in the world we agreed with each other. We shall speak further during the working lunch about a defense of Europe, transatlantic bond, North Atlantic Alliance, etc. Last but not least our opinion on the situation in Austria has changed and here also we stated the same opinion and similarity which our governments are conducting and the necessity to exchange opinions on further follow-up. We also spoke about a situation of for example Islam. I will bring this up in Parliament this afternoon as well. We also agreed here on the necessity of a sensitive approach and detailed mutual consultations. Thank you.

QUESTION: (not taped recorded properly -- regarding President Havel's interview with Czech TV yesterday)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me repeat, as I said that I am not a candidate, and will not be a candidate. I am greatly flattered by President Havel's comments, and those of some others, but I think my position is clear. But let me answer the question also with a quotation from a statement made by some other Czech-Americans who are more accurately Czechoslovak-Americans. The statement was issued on the 4th of July 1918, and it urged American support for the cause of a free Czechoslovakia. Following this plea, the immigrants' statement ends by thanking America for making them feel welcome, and I quote: "With the big sun of a freer and happier life than we have been able to live in our oppressed native land, we learned to love America", the statement continues, "for we are the sons and daughters of the country" -- the daughters I added -- "which in the twilight of history was the first in the world to arise and fight the battle of democracy. We love this land, for the ideals of 1776 were written indelibly into the hearts of the nation by the blood and sacrifice of her people. We solemnly pledge ourselves to be loyal to the United States, this is our country, we are and will remain true to her," the end of the quote. This statement, of more than eight decades ago, sums up my feelings exactly. An unshakable pride in my native land, an unshatterable commitment to my adopted one. My heart is in two places, but America is where I belong.

QUESTION (unofficial translation from Czech): Mr. President Putin in an interview with the BBC mentioned that Russia can one day join NATO. He stated that this could happen only when Russia is regarded by this organization as an equal partner. Can you comment on this?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that basically we have said for a long time that it is very important for us to work with the Russians. When we set up the Founding Act for the Permanent Joint Council and Russia's relationship, we had hoped that it would become an important way to have a relationship with them. Acting President Putin has indicated that he wants to have a more active Permanent Joint Council relationship and, as you said, the possibility of joining NATO. We have always left the door open. The important thing here is for cooperation and obviously, one of the issues that is of the greatest concern to us at this stage is Russian behavior in Cechyna.

QUESTION (unofficial translation from Czech): What is your impression of your stay with us? Was it not disturbed by yesterday's incident in Brno? Thank you.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have had a wonderful time here. I always enjoy coming to the Czech Republic and I had a wonderful time with the celebrations honoring Tomas Garrigue Masaryk and a great time with President Havel. And as I said earlier, I hadn't had eggs for breakfast so it didn't hurt and there are people who actually wash their hair with eggs, so it's not a big deal.

QUESTION (unofficial translation from Czech): Madame Secretary, the EBRD Chief, Mr. Koehler, has said that he is willing to accept Mr. Schroeder's invitation that he run as the IMF candidate. If the majority of shareholders back him, would the United States back him? And also, do you have any reaction to a L.A. Times article saying that the State Department is planning to lift sanctions against Iran on goods including pistachios and carpets?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say, we obviously, as we have said before, are looking for a strong candidate to head the IMF. It is the most important international economic institution and this is a discussion that is being carried out among finance ministers but our desire here is to have a strong candidate who can carry out the duties and follow some of the activities of Mr. Camdessus.

On Iran, let me say the following, and it is part of a discussion that the Foreign Minister and I had: I think that we are all watching very carefully what is going on in Iran and obviously the Majlis elections were a sign that the reform movement in Iran would like to see some changes. At the same time, I have been very clear in my public statements, and the Foreign Minister and I discussed this, Iran must not seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction, that is one of our problems. The other is their continued support for terrorist groups and third is they need to support the Middle East peace process. So, we are watching very carefully. We have indicated an interest in a government-to-government dialog but the main thing here is they need to not pursue those three activities, or two, and one they should. They need to not try to acquire weapons of mass destruction, not support terrorist groups, and support the Middle East peace process.

QUESTION: (inaudible)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just say this, is that the Israelis have said for some time that they were going to withdraw their forces from Lebanon. We have been working very hard to make the Middle East peace process go forward on both the Syrian and the Israeli tracks. Obviously the Lebanese track is also important. We will continue to pursue that, Ambassador Ross continues to work, and I have been in very close touch with them over the last several hours.

[End of Document]
Blue Line

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