THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (New York, New York) ______________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 26, 1994
PRESS BRIEFING BY U.N. AMBASSADOR MADELEINE ALBRIGHT
The Intercontinental Hotel New York, New York
3:38 P.M. EDT
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I have just come over from the United Nations, shortly after the President finished his speech. And there was a milling of delegates, and we just concluded a lunch over there, and let me say that the reaction to the speech is very good. And what they have picked out I think are some very important points. This is what some of the other delegates have said to me.
First of all, they were very impressed with the President's sense of optimism; that clearly, in the way he defined the opportunities and challenges for the future, that rather than dwelling so much on the past, there was the sense of the possibilities that exist for the world out there. They also thought that the way he had described the sweep of history and putting this new sense of optimism in that context was very useful.
The phrase, the coalition for democracy, I think -- democracies -- has -- is reverberating, and in fact, it was picked up in concept by the Secretary General in his toast during the lunch for the heads of state, basically talking about the importance that this thrust towards democracy gives to the work of the United Nations, the way that it links with an effort at development.
And then, the thing I think that people found most interesting was really that the President linked the whole concept of the global economic situation with what goes on at the U.N. At the U.N. there is not often a discussion about GATT and NAFTA, and I think that by putting that together with some of his ideas about the coalition for democracies, and also this idea that the coalition of democracies with the economic product works together to give us a better world I think is something that is not normally discussed at the U.N.
I think the points in the speech that also were notable was his discussion of the relationship with Russia, the fact that this was a partnership that was working, that there were a whole series of issues that we had in common that we could work on together.
On Bosnia, the fact that he stressed that there needed to be enforcement of the exclusion zones. And on Haiti, I think the fact that this wasn't a process whereby the multinational coalition was working with the U.N., done under the auspices of the U.N., with the blessing of the U.N., and then feeding into a United Nations mission.
Also, there was some discussion and there will be more of the initiatives that he put out. And those had to do -- just continuing on a little bit with some of the ideas about Haiti, when he described the different types of sanctions -- and we can talk about that a little bit more, what is happening in terms of the suspension and the lifting of sanctions as far as Haiti is concerned. Also the initiative of supporting the idea of the Civilian Rapid Response Corps as a follow-on to peacekeeping. I think that we've all seen that as peacekeeping operations wind down that there is a need not only for action, but also that when there is a serious humanitarian problem, that often there is no way to quickly get a group of countries together to assist. The United States is there sometimes as a last resort, but there really does need to be some kind of an international cooperative way not to have the U.N. take it over, but to have the U.N. coordinate this kind of a civilian rapid response corps.
Obviously, this is an idea that will now be enhanced and studied. But it is part of an ongoing way to really have an effective way to bring the international coalition to work on the problems that face us.
Also, the initiative that he put out on land mines I think is very important. First of all, we want to reduce the number, then slow the production and then ultimately eliminate everything. I think you need to think of land mines as the Saturday Night Specials of regional conflict. And we have to eliminate them from the neighborhoods all around the world. They're very dangerous; they maim people, as the President gave out a number of statistics about the number of land mines that exist.
He also did want to see the United Nations spend its 50th anniversary doing more than celebrating, but also working on renewing the U.N. with the idea that there be actually a work plan about how the U.N. system itself -- bringing together some of these ideas that he had already stated, and then hoping that there would be a very active working group so that the United Nations really could work together.
But the basic feeling, I think, about the speech is that there was a vigorous United States President at the United Nations talking about optimism and the fact that the United States was fully engaged in international activities while understanding that each nation had to worry about its own security and would act unilaterally when it had to, but also that we were prepared to work and engage with the U.N.
Q Does he not think it would be helpful, in the interest of reconciliation, for the United Nations sanctions to also be lifted, in addition to the unilateral sanctions?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Yes. As a matter of fact, what we are planning to do is to circulate a resolution which would lift the sanctions. We would vote on it now with a trigger coming into effect when President Aristide returns.
Q How soon?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: How soon what?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Well, we have to get the resolution around, and I think that one thing that I've figured out is never to predict the exact timing of a vote.
Q You're talking about weeks not months, though, aren't you?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Weeks -- fast, very fast. I think that -- let me just clarify something here. Most of the countries -- all the countries in the Security Council -- really do believe that it's very important to get Haiti back on its economic feet. What has held up action on this is that the Resolution 940 specifically says that it is tied to President Aristide's return. That is something that not only we but other countries have felt strongly about.
President Aristide has now stated that he wants various adjustments in the sanctions regime made. And some of those are reflected in the way that the unilateral sanctions will be lifted except for the targeted ones on certain of the military individuals, and also working through the existing resolutions. But he having signaled that, I think, it will be relatively easy to get that kind of a resolution passed with a trigger date upon Aristide's return.
Q Just yesterday you were saying here that the sentiment at the U.N. was against that. What changed so quickly?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I think the sentiment is knowing what President Aristide has stated in terms of his desire to get some of the sanctions removed. This is very much linked to the fact that the United Nations is supportive of the restoration of democracy and President Aristide, and does not want to undercut the momentum towards his return. But if he signals that he wants this to happen, and if it is linked to his return, what I'm saying is it will be voted, but it will not go into effect until he does return.
Q The President, in his speech, said the Council should act with resolve to prevent the stranglehold of Sarajevo. He didn't say what he wanted them to do. You're speaking of the zone. Is that the prescription, to expand the zone?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Well, we're going to be, I think, looking at a number of issues here, whether there is a way to look at this demilitarized zone that I mentioned yesterday, and then, through perhaps presidential statements or other mechanisms that the Council has as to assure -- to press for the enforcement of those zones.
What I think we're going to be seeing in the next few days here is that there are a number of very hot issues and you've got, as I said yesterday, kind of a critical mass of leaders here and a lot of the subjects that we deal with in the Security Council are going to be talked about on the margins, as we say here. And that will be coming into the Council. So we'll be having ongoing discussions.
Q That prompts a very quick follow-through. Did he discuss the Bosnia problem with President Yeltsin today? Apparently, they were at the same luncheon.
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I don't know, I was not -- actually, they probably weren't talking about it at the luncheon since they were sitting at opposite tables of what looked like a 20-foot circular circumference.
Q In the summit over the next couple of days, what is the President prepared to say to Yeltsin or ask of Yeltsin concerning Bosnia?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we'll have to leave that to those discussions. I think clearly -- let me just say this -- in my dealings with the Russians here on the Contact Group activities, there is no question that it is important for us to understand that we have a common purpose here. And the common purpose is to get acceptance of the map and to keep pressure on the Bosnian Serbs.
There is not a lot of daylight between us on that particular subject, and I think that as a lot of the events that are taking place up here are put into the summit pot, that you will see a bit of further discussion. But I'm not prepared to discuss what that is now.
Q Do you detect any more willingness on the part of the Russians to press the Serbs to accept the map, or go along with lifting an arms embargo?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I think that the Russians do, in fact, want to press the Bosnian Serbs to accept the map. They are very clear about that. I think that we will have to be discussing then what their reaction is to lifting the arms embargo. They have not been very much in favor of it, as you well know. This is their stated position. But I think that as the situation evolves they may, in fact, see some value.
But I don't want to prejudge what the discussion on that is going to be.
Q Do you have any reaction to Yeltsin's disarmament proposal?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that -- let me just say that what is evident -- and this is also discussed, I think, in a broad way in the President's speech -- that clearly what brought us to this time where we can have this sense of optimism is the fact that the nuclear issue is one that is not the major component of the relationship between the U.S. and Russia. We have to look at the proposals that President Yeltsin has brought, and they seem creative and intriguing, but obviously this is something that is going to take a lot of time to analyze so that we can figure out how best to move it to the next phase.
But the fact that we have gone together on this path, and the fact that President Yeltsin is bringing a package here I think is very important.
Q There's a report out of Sarajevo that President Izetbegovic is going to propose a compromise on Bosnia and the arms embargo tomorrow. What do you know about that?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I don't, but let me just make one thing perfectly clear, because it was anything but accurate in the newspapers today. The issue here is that whatever proposal has been made on lifting the arms embargo and the timing and various things was something that the Bosnians have brought to the United States. I regret to say this, but what has been written in the major papers is wrong. And you will -- when you see how this evolves that will be very clear to you.
I think that what is going on here is we are discussing the fact that there are -- it's evident that there are consequences to the Bosnians of the lifting of the arms embargo, and they are discussing this. We are -- there is some discussion about timing and something about modalities. But this is an ongoing discussion that is unrolling, I guess, behind the scenes here. And I think that you'll just have to follow that story. But let me just repeat that this was a Bosnian initiative brought to the United States.
Q How does the President plan to approach the solution of the Angolan problem when he meets tonight with African leaders?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I didn't hear the --
Q The solution of the Angolan problem. Does the President plan to open new avenues when he meets with African leaders today?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: He met with the African leaders yesterday, and there, what he really talked about was the fact that we laid a great deal of stress on the development, the economic and democratic developments, in Africa.
Let me say that his remarks were greeted very positively by the African leaders. The President of the Coite d'Ivoire said that the Clinton administration's approach to Africa was a breath of fresh air.
Q And on Angola, Madame Ambassador, on Angola, did was anything discussed or --
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: No, it was not specifically. This was a reception, and nothing specific.
Q Ambassador, what brought this land mine issue to the President's attention that he would raise it in a speech in a forum like at the U.N.?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the issue here, it's an issue that we have been working on. The President is aware of the horrible effects of land mines on innocent people, especially children; that thousands -- tens of thousands of people have been maimed with land mines. And I think it is kind of, as I said, a very important next phase in trying to make the world more hospitable for people that are victims of unintended consequences. And it is an issue that he has been interested in. There has been interest also by Senator Leahy who -- we have been talking with him about it at great length . And it's something that we have taken up at our mission here with some vigor, and it's something that we will pursue. So it's an issue that the President has cared about that we have developed here in conjunction with the Senator.
Q Was the issue of land mines somehow raised by the United States at the United Nations last December? Did we not take some initiative on land mines earlier?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: We pointed out that it was an issue that needed to be looked at. What has happened is that the -- it has all been, I think, collected in a better way. And now there is really an initiative that leads ultimately to the elimination of land mines, which we think is a very important step.
There will be a -- there's a fact sheet and I think if you want to know more about it, Ambassador Inderfurth, who has been working this issue very carefully at my mission, will discuss it with you in more detail.
Q What is the Menem proposal that the President referred to? And how does this differ from what -- the kind of rapid deployment force that he discussed during the campaign?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, the Menem proposal is one that talks about this response corps. And the major difference is, as I said, this is a civilian rapid response corps. It has to do with economic and development and humanitarian assistance. This is not a military rapid deployment force.
This is specifically civilian and is a way -- I think we all saw, if I might interrupt myself, is basically that when there are humanitarian disasters such as Rwanda, or when there are dreadful other problems either sometimes maybe caused by natural disasters, it is very hard to get assistance in in a coordinated fashion. There are countries that volunteer, and there is not enough of a way to coordinate their activities. We noticed that. We do not -- the United States has obviously --has contributed and will contribute to its ability, best of our ability, but other nations want to help and we want to make sure that they can, and that is what that suggestion is based on, on a suggestion by President Menem.
Q Ambassador Albright, can you give us a breakdown of the unilateral sanctions the President was talking about today?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Yes. Okay. The U.S. unilateral sanctions which are to be suspended are food products, and these are sanctions on food for non-staple items. What had happened before, a staple item such as wheat, flour, rice and beans were already unrestricted.
Then there will be suspension of the sanctions on regularly-scheduled passenger airlines. And there will be a determination made of when certain scheduled airlines can use Port-au-Prince airport, and we will consult with other nations on that. And passenger air service will resume to and from Haiti, enabling, among others, U.S. resident Haitians to travel to Haiti and foreign national residents in Haiti to resume more normal travel.
And then on Haitian assets frozen in the United States -- that is, bank accounts and property -- will be unblocked except for targeted assets of military officer corps and their immediate business associates. And we think that this step will facilitate normal commerce and economic transactions.
Then, Haitian residents in Haiti will be allowed to transfer money to and from Haiti as economic activity resumes, again, except for the targeted sanctions against the officer corps and their immediate business associates.
And then the ceiling on remittances currently at $50 month -- the remittance sanctions is part of the larger one for financial transactions, and it would allow individuals to send any amount of money to family and friends, mostly among the poor in Haiti.
Those unilateral sanctions that remain -- just to repeat -- are targeted asset freeze on the Haitian officer corps and immediate financial supporters -- there are about 600 individuals that are involved -- and a targeted ban on financial transactions by the Haitian officer corps and immediate financial supporters.
Q What effect do you think that those continuing sanctions on Cedras and their supporters will have?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it will indicate to them that their life is curtailed as far as their ability to operate within that society, and I think generally make it evident to them that life for them will not be as comfortable as it was under the --
Q Will those sanctions remain after they step down if they stay in the country? This will encourage them to leave the country?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I think it will have a hint of a message there that they will find it better somewhere else.
Q What about -- will they continue even after they step down from their offices?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I think we'll have to determine that.
Q Madame Ambassador, what about U.S. enforcement of the embargo on the Dominican Republic border? Will that be lifted now?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Well, those are the things that we're going to be looking at, as I said, within the context of 917 and 940. And we will be examining ways to do that, to figure out how to -- I think our main point here -- and let me conclude with this -- is we know that there were difficulties created for the Haitian people not so much by the embargo, but by what their leaders have been doing to them, and that it is very important to do everything we can now to get an infusion into Haiti so that the economy can pick up and so that the people can feel that there is new sense of life and optimism there.
So what is going to happen is that there will be an opening up of Haiti for those people who deserve it and a continued tightening for those people that helped cause the repression.
Thank you very much.
Q their assets if they do leave the country?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: I think we'll take the question and get back to you on it.
END3:56 P.M. EDT