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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Swedish Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallen
Press remarks prior to their meeting
Washington, D.C., July 16, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. I am very pleased to welcome my good friend, the Swedish foreign minister here to Washington. We have met in a variety of places recently, and always have a lot to talk about. Our two countries are long-standing friends and we are good friends. There's a great deal on our agenda.
I think it should be noted that in Europe, Swedish and American soldiers are serving side by side in Bosnia, in SFOR, and also in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Sweden is also a major supporter of reconstruction and development in Bosnia and an active member of NATO's Partnership for Peace.
Our discussions today will be centered around continuing what were our discussions in Madrid last week and strengthening security across Europe. The Minister and I are also going to be discussing our efforts to integrate the three Baltic States fully into Western institutions. This is an area in which Sweden has taken a lead.
Beyond Europe, Swedish initiatives have played a very important role in Central American and the Middle East, and in promoting development in Africa and protecting refugees around the world. Also, we're going to have a chance to talk about the United Nations. The foreign minister has just come down from New York, where I believe you chaired a meeting of the Security Council, since Sweden is in the chair this month. We are going to be talking about a number of issues currently facing the Security Council, as well as our efforts together to reform and revitalize the UN.
Let me add, on the subject of the UN, that the United States was very pleased to see the reform proposals introduced today in New York by Secretary General Kofi Annan. We have not had time to review the proposals in detail, but heartily endorse their focus on improving management and efficiency, cutting costs and emphasizing the UN's core missions. We will be urging the UN General Assembly to embrace the movement toward reform that is reflected in the Secretary General's proposal, and to approve concrete measures at an early date.
So let me just conclude by once again emphasizing the broad range of issues that the foreign minister and I will be discussing; and to emphasize the continued close cooperation between Sweden and the United States; and on this very warm day, to express a warm welcome to you.
FOREIGN MINISTER HJELM-WALLEN: Thank you so much. Thank you very much for this welcome. Let me say I'm very happy to be here in Washington today. I look very much forward to our meeting and our discussions. We have met now and then, but now we'll have a more structured discussion. So that's something I look forward to.
This meeting is also one part of the ongoing and most constructive bilateral dialogues between Sweden and the United States. The Swedish Prime Minister, Goran Persson, visited Washington one year ago and met then with the President.
Europe is at present in a dynamic process of change. The European Union is preparing to welcome new members. And actually, today a very important step is taken by the EU Commission - its review of the situation in applicant countries. Important decisions have been taken by NATO. So we now face the challenge to unite Europe and to create a pan-European security order. We will do that with the participation of the U.S.
To Sweden, the security situation in the Baltic Sea area is very important. We will continue our work to promote closer cooperation with our neighbors around the Baltic Sea. This also includes Russia. Sweden is very active in this work, and I look very much forward to discuss this with the Secretary.
As Madame Albright mentioned, I just arrived from the UN where Sweden chairs the Security Council this month. I'm sure we'll discuss current issues in the Security Council, but also talk about the ongoing UN reforms and the recent proposals by Secretary Annan. I'm happy to hear that the United States looks at these reforms as something positive. That is also how we see it when we look at the reform program rather quickly after the Secretary General has made it public.
There is a need to strengthen the confidence in multilateral systems and improve the efficiency and also the financial situation of the UN system. There is today a new alternative to working together and using collective powers to develop common values - democracy and the possibilities for a life in dignity for all peoples.
I look forward to discuss this with my friend, Madame Albright. We are very happy, from the Swedish side, to cooperate closely with the United States. Thank you, Madame.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, from what you've seen of Kofi Annan's proposal, do you think they'll go down in Congress; that they would be acceptable? You're in touch with Congress a lot on this.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as I've said, we have not had the chance to study them in detail. But I would expect that members of Congress would be much encouraged by the fact that the Secretary General has taken up the cause of reform so vigorously. While there might be disagreement on certain aspects of it, we'll have to see. As I said, I have not looked at them in detail.
I think we are very encouraged - as will Congress be encouraged - by the fact that there is a Secretary General who fully understands the importance of reform and of taking some fairly aggressive steps in changing some of the customs at the United Nations in the issue of management.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, can the United States achieve its goal of bringing war criminals to justice if France is not an active participant in the apprehension?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that there is general agreement on the fact that war criminals need to be turned over to The Hague and that there needs to be support for the War Crimes Tribunal. That is a discussion that we've had in a number of places. We had it in Denver; we had it in Madrid. I think there was a statement issued by the French foreign ministry today that indicated their support for the concept of turning war criminals over.
I think that it's very important to know that there is NATO consensus on that. I'm not going to go into any details about what planning there is or is not going on.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, are you worried about Russia? Russia said that it doesn't want any more NATO raids as it saw action last week. Are you worried at all about this? Is this something that concerns you? The foreign minister was even suggesting that he might pull out troops.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I have, as you know, met the foreign minister in Saint Petersburg and we discussed this issue generally. We agreed on the fact that it was important for the war criminals to be - for that part of Dayton to be implemented. I know the statements that he made, but I know that what we believe is important is that the war criminals are in fact in a position to face justice. As I have said any number of times, this is a key part of Dayton, and as far as the war criminals are concerned, there is no statute of limitations on their crimes; and their day will come.
MR. BURNS: I want to call on Swedish journalists.
QUESTION: Well, I had a question regarding the UN proposals, but you have addressed that twice already. I know, though, that the Swedish Government might be somewhat critical to the way that you have been handling the finance situation. What is your comment on that? Does the U.S. plan to pay up front?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that this is obviously an issue that the President and I have taken personal interest in. We understand the fact that the United States owes a sizable amount of money to the United Nations. The President has asked for those arrears to be paid up. That issue is before Congress now and it looks to me - if things proceed as they are proceeding - we will be able to pay up the major proportion of our arrears. I think that that is a big step forward. But also, this is a subject that I will be discussing with the foreign minister. The United States believes that as part of the reform agenda and our support for the reform agenda that we need to have a renegotiation of our assessment rate; that other countries need to pick up some more of the tab for the United Nations.
MR. BURNS: Final question.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on the matter of William Weld's nomination as ambassador to Mexico, the President and you say that you stand firmly behind the nomination. Senator Helms says that he stands firmly against it bringing the nomination to a confirmation hearing. Has it occurred to you that this stand-off may lead to no ambassador, no American ambassador in Mexico City at a fairly pivotal time in relations between the two countries?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as we have made very clear, the White House and I are supporting Governor Weld's nomination. We believe that he is a highly suitable candidate for the position. It's an issue that we have been discussing with Senator Helms. I'm sure that we'll be able to come to some resolution on it.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.

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