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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Briefing with Italian Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, Villa Madama, Rome, Italy, February 16, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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FOREIGN MINISTER DINI: Good afternoon. I would like to start by saying that we are extremely grateful, extremely satisfied that the Secretary of State of the United States, Mrs. Albright, chose to initiate her visit to Europe starting from Rome. We are also pleased that we could offer a sunny day, even though I think she will spend most of her time indoors rather than outdoors.

This was an opportunity that I myself appreciated a great deal since, following her meeting with Prime Minister Prodi, we had this long and cordial meeting between us during which we were able to examine the issues to see where we both stand on the problems which our respective countries are facing -- international problems and also our bilateral relationship. I would say that the relationship between Italy and the United States is an excellent relationship. We look at the overwhelming majority of issues in the same way, with the same viewpoint. I would say that we talk the same language. Thus, I said this was an opportunity that I consider very positively.

Of course, we discussed the problems on the table, particularly those issues of concern to the United States and Italy, questions about NATO and the plan for the enlargement of NATO, which Italy fully supports. In fact, this is not an extension of a military alliance, but it certainly is a defense alliance, and also an extension of the area of countries that share the same democratic values. Thus, the area and size of stability and security in Europe will be strengthened. At the same time, we believe such enlargement, which will be decided by the NATO countries themselves, will also have to take place after we find a modus vivendi, an understanding of the nature of the close discussions and relations between NATO and Russia. Particularly, as it was suggested earlier, we must reach a statute, a charter that regulates discussions and political relations between NATO and Russia. Therefore, we discussed this. I clearly indicated to the Secretary of State that, of course, security and defense issues cannot be separated. All member countries must equally share in these decisions, and therefore, the consent of all NATO member countries will ultimately be necessary to achieve enlargement. We do not favor closed meetings during which decisions could be made which would also affect other NATO member countries.

We then went into detail and reviewed all the problems which concern the Balkans and the situation in Bosnia. We were satisfied with the decision of the arbitrating commission on the Brcko corridor, one of the sensitive points of Bosnia-Herzegovina which concerns the peace accord as well as the relations and the latest developments in the neighboring republics, including the Yugoslav Federation, i.e., Serbia, Croatia, and the most recent problems which are emerging in Albania, are a cause of concern for us. We should find a way to stabilize the situation and to get Albania to contribute to peace in the Balkans rather than creating tensions.

Finally we have underscored the importance of the Mediterranean area for the Atlantic Alliance and how we can try together to strengthen relations with all Mediterranean countries. We know that there are unresolved problems with some countries, problems we should try to resolve. There is nothing dramatic, only situations we need to follow very closely. Finally, I would like to stress that in order to follow up in a more structured way on our relations, we also have agreed to establish what is called an enhanced relationship, i.e., a structured dialogue between our two countries. There would be regular meetings at the level of undersecretaries or at the level of secretaries-general, of directors-general of political or economic affairs, during which we can really verify where we stand with our relations and how we face the international problems of the moment. Thank you. Having said that, I now turn the floor over to the Secretary of State.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Mr. Foreign Minister. I must say it is a great pleasure for me to be in Rome. There is no better place to begin my world tour than in the city that led the West into the first millennium and seems certain to play a leading role as we are about to enter the third. I have had excellent meetings, not only with the Foreign Minister, but with Prime Minister Prodi and Defense Minister Andreatta, and I am looking forward to a meeting with President Scalfaro later.

I think the Foreign Minister outlined very well the full scope of discussions that we had, which I think indicate the breadth and depth and vitality of the U.S.-Italian relationship. We, in fact, were able to cover a lot of territory and came to agreement on a whole set of issues, especially as we were talking about NATO enlargement and the U.S.-Russian relationship and the NATO-Russian charter. I also was very appreciative of the role that Italy had played as far as the Brcko decision was made and its continued very important role in Bosnia and in the Balkans. Italy has played a huge role in the Contact Group and continues to be a stalwart partner as we go forward with the reconstruction of Bosnia.

I think we also covered some issues on which we did not have total agreement, though we did share similar concerns, and that has to do with states of Iran, Iraq and Libya, and our support for progress towards democracy in Cuba. I think that it is evident to me from this short visit that the structured relationship that the Foreign Minister was discussing will be a great way to pursue all the very complicated issues that we have to deal with in common, and we look forward to carrying that out.

It is, as I said, no accident that I began my trip in Rome. I consider the participation of the Italians in all our activities as very important and I am very grateful for the reception that I have had here and I can only regret that I am not staying longer. We are now open to questions.

QUESTION: Minister Dini, Madam Secretary, on the issue of the NATO Southern Command, has Italy by any chance changed its position which was totally in favor of maintaining the current structure? And is the United States willing to discuss the proposals for a compromise which have been made by Paris?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that it is very important for the United States to be an active part of NATO in Europe. We are very pleased that the French wish to re-integrate themselves into NATO. Our position on AFSOUTH has not changed. We consider it essential for that to remain an American command and I leave it to the Foreign Minister to discuss the Italian position, but I do believe it to be supportive.

FOREIGN MINISTER DINI: There has been no change in the position of Italy, as you put it in your question. We believe that AFSOUTH has worked very well. This is not only a question of the NATO command, there is also the Sixth Fleet. Also, in view of the importance this has for the Mediterranean, we believe that the redefinition of commands throughout Europe should not involve AFSOUTH. This remains our position.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, it sounds as if, from the Foreign Minister's remarks, that the French proposal for a five-nation group to formulate a NATO-Russian relationship is a dead letter. Is it a dead letter?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as you know, we have been talking a lot about the substance of what is going to happen in terms of NATO enlargement as well as the NATO-Russian charter. It is the substance that we are interested in at this stage, not the process. We have a Clinton-Yeltsin Summit and we have the Madrid Summit and the orchestration of process in the interim is not the subject of discussion at this time.

QUESTION: I want to ask the Secretary of State whether you discussed Italian relations with Libya and Iran, and whether there were any suggestions made for the future, especially concerning the D'Amato bill.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We did discuss this subject because, as I said, we have concerns about both of the countries -- about Libya and Iran -- and we are concerned from the American perspective about dealings with those two rogue states. I will leave it to the Foreign Minister to describe the Italian role. I just feel from our perspective very strongly that supporting states that support terrorism is a genuine problem for us.

FOREIGN MINISTER DINI: I would only like to add that Italy intends to fully respect the U.N. resolutions which pose limitations and sanctions, especially regarding Libya but also other countries. We do not intend to move away from those. We know that there is the D'Amato bill which obviously has some aspects of extraterritoriality, but there is not at present a problem concerning the D'Amato bill and Italy and Libya. We would like to see the obstacles which prevent a normalization of relations, especially regarding Libya, be gradually overcome. This would certainly be seen favorably, not only by us but by the United States as well, if the disputes which have led to this situation can be gradually resolved. We know what they are, and, of course, they need a special effort, in particular on the part of the Libyan authorities, as well as understanding on our part.

QUESTION: My question is both for Secretary Albright and for Foreign Minister Dini. What should we make of -- how should we interpret -- the warnings by various Russian officials and parliamentarians that expansion of NATO will have unfortunate repercussions on relations between Russia and the West, Russia and the United States?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that what we need to understand is that there are still some people in Russia that see a NATO that no longer exists, that have kind of, if I might say, old-think still there where they view NATO as an adversarial alliance against Russia. It is up to us to make very clear that the new expanded NATO is not contrary to Russia, but in fact is being designed in order to help provide security and stability in central and eastern Europe -- an area out of which two world wars started and as a result of which the Russians lost many lives -- and that it is to their advantage as much as to western Europe and ours that there be stability in central and eastern Europe. The new NATO is indeed a new NATO and has not as its goal, in any shape or form, adversarial relations with Russia.

FOREIGN MINISTER DINI: I agree very fully with what the Secretary has just said. I think our Russian friends know perfectly well that Russia is not in a position to veto NATO enlargement. At the same time Russia aspired to be a partner in the setting up of this architecture for security and defense of Europe and indeed, as the Secretary had indicated earlier, we are trying to work around the way to arrive at a structured relationship with Russia in the form of an agreement or of a charter that will set out the principle for this close cooperation. In other words, Russia should have a responsible political position, not in on the military side, and try to have Russia through this consultation also involved, as has been in the case of Bosnia, in undertaking missions that have the purpose of re-establishing peace in troubled areas.

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