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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Briefing aboard Plane En Route Budapest, Hungary
December 12, 2000, Budapest, Hungary
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that this stop in Algiers first of all was very important. This is part of the story of trying to show a lot of the hope in Africa and the movement forward on a series of issues and we did in Mauritius, Botswana and South Africa. Here I thought it was very important because Bouteflika has really played a major role as Chairman of the OAU. The OAU had work in support and they had really worked together. Now, obviously, the U.S. role was very important and everybody made a big point, rightfully so, of thanking Tony Lake. I do think that it was evident in my meetings that I had, both with Meles and with Isaias, that they were also appreciative of what OAU and Bouteflika had done. With Bouteflika, he is really a very interesting man and I met him for the first time in New York during the General Assembly. I think he would like to see a different relationship between the United States and Algeria. I think it would be useful for us also to look at ways. Our last Ambassador there, Cameron Hume, worked very hard, I think, to improve the relationship. Our current Ambassador is working very hard. I think there are a series of things that we can look toward in terms of having a

QUESTION: What are some of the challenges, Madam Secretary, in the U.S.-Algerian relationship?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think part of the issues is generally their own internal structure and how there is still a lot of violence there and how the military operates. But, I think that Bouteflika is working very hard with his people to try to work on some reforms and move the process forward.

QUESTION: After your meeting with Mr. Bouteflika, you mentioned the possibility to discuss Middle East issues together with the Algerians. What kind of Middle East issues would you like to speak with them about?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I talked about that more with the foreign minister because we had more time and we talked generally about how the Muslim and Arab countries are looking at the Middle East and how for them the issues that we raised at Camp David, how they see those. And I think Algeria has been obviously one of the countries at the OIC meetings that has spoken out in ways that I think could be ultimately helpful in helping on the Middle East. I was trying to talk about the larger picture of having the Muslim and Arab countries to understand what the issues are in terms of Jerusalem and in terms of the refugee issues. He was asking me where things had gone after Camp David and we talked a little bit about the fact that the leaders themselves had to make the decisions, but it was kind of a broad ranging discussion.

QUESTION: You said that he would like to see a different kind of relationship between the United States and Algeria. Do you have any milestones or markers, markers you put down as a result of this diplomatic engagement that could help change the nature of the relationship. Did you talk about for example Abdulmajid Dahoumani, the man who was arrested in Seattle and escaped?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No. We obviously talked about the Western Sahara which is a very important issue, but I think that they would like to talk about other things then that. I had been to Algiers actually in 1980 with Zbignew Brezinski to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their independence, and so we were talking about the fact that there had been so many years in which there had not been a productive relationship. I think he talked a lot about the atmosphere and climate in the Mediterranean and how the fact that the Mediterranean was important to the United States and NATO and how they see themselves as a Mediterranean country in addition to being an African country and about the hope of Africa. So there are any number of ways that one could pursue the relationship. He clearly had done something very important as far as the OAU was concerned, putting himself in a leadership African role. And I think they also have some interest in looking at the Mediterranean world, but I don't want to overstate it. But he is an interesting man. He has, I think, a desire to broaden the scope of his relationships but I have to see where we go with this.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the meetings you had involving Isaias and Meles.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We talked about the fact that the war had been a real tragedy and how glad we were that they had resolved it and the time that had been lost there, what we could do in terms of helping them on assistance, humanitarian assistance. They've been very hard hit by droughts. And the necessity to pick up where we had been in terms of supporting democracy and economic development in those countries. We talked about the opportunities that would be open to them under the African Growth and Opportunity Act because they are countries that have been certified to be a part of it, and generally how they need to kind of re-engage not only with us, but with international financial institutions and get their house in order. And then we also talked about the need for POW exchanges and implementing the agreement.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the dispute and misunderstanding about coordination between NATO and the European defense is over, or is it still an issue you will discuss in Brussels and maybe in Budapest tomorrow?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I hope it's over. I think that it's an issue in which it's very important. I wrote this op-ed with Robin Cook. We believe in the fact that Europe should have a force, but it shouldn't be outside of NATO and that the coordination of this is only logical and especially since there is no point in duplicating resources. I mean, that was what we didn't want to originally when we talked about this, to decouple the U.S. from Europe or have duplication or discrimination against those who were not in it. I hope it's over, I have a feeling however that it will be part of the discussion that we have.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed then that Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine will not be in Brussels to meet you since he'll be in the Middle East?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Not particularly because I've talked to him on the phone like three times in the last two days and I'm going to see him. He will be there by the time we leave and then he's coming to the U.S. It isn't as if I don't see him all the time.

QUESTION: You said he'll be in Brussels when you leave?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes.

QUESTION: Vedrine?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes. We talked about having dinner on Friday night. So yes.

QUESTION: What needs to be done now to put a lid on it?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That's a hard question to answer because, you know, it keeps kind of raising itself. I think that it's clearly an issue of great importance and it's going to be part of an ongoing discussion. It doesn't have to be divisive or acerbic. But I think it's one of these things that's out there until it's really all in place and even after it's in place there are going to be discussions about how to coordinate it. I think people will realize, this is my hope anyway, that it's a waste of energy, resources and people power to keep duplicating things. I think what as I understand, and I have to read a little bit more carefully what happened at the Nice Summit, but from those people that I talked to, it does give an opening to the expansion of the EU that has clearly been the role and the expansion of NATO. And, as a political scientist what I find very interesting is this evolution of these organizations and how they parallel each other and how they have to relate to each other. It's very much a work in progress and every European that I've talked to admits it's a work in progress and that they are talking about a lot of details that nobody had ever thought about. They worked out a lot of issues in Nice and there will be a lot of issues that need to be continued to be worked out.

[End of Document]
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