THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY
Potential Humanitarian Mission in Eastern Zaire
The United States is increasingly concerned that the humanitarian situation in Eastern Zaire is deteriorating. Thousands of lives may be at risk as evidenced by recent reports of cholera among the refugee population. We have been working urgently to define the role a possible security force could play in a larger humanitarian operation in Eastern Zaire.
Part of this process has involved extensive consultations with the Government of Canada, which has offered to lead a multinational humanitarian force. The U.S. welcomes Canada's offer to lead the multinational force -- a move which clearly demonstrates the will of others in the international community to assume a fair share of the burden for such operations.
The President reviewed our efforts to address the situation in Zaire in a phone call this morning with Canadian Prime Minister Chretien. That conversation followed several days of discussions between U.S. and Canadian officials, including a meeting last night between a delegation of senior Canadian officials and a U.S. delegation led by National Security Advisor Anthony Lake. Those conversations resulted in general agreement on the mission definition, command and control arrangements, and duration of the mission.
As a result of those discussions and his conversation this morning with Prime Minister Chretien, the President has decided that the United States is willing, in principle, to participate in a limited fashion in this mission under certain conditions.
First: We must be able to validate our core assumptions, including those regarding the threat environment, the availability of other properly trained and equipped forces, and the consent of concerned countries in the region.
Second: The mission of the force must be both to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid by civilian relief organizations and to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of refugees by UNHCR. The force will not separate or disarm militants, conduct forced entry, or police operations in the camps.
Third: The force will operate as a multinational force (MNF) with robust rules of engagement. Following UN Security Council authorization, it will operate under Chapter VII of the UN Charter but will not be a UN blue-helmet mission.
Fourth: The costs of the mission will be borne by participating states. However, additional arrangements will be necessary to support the participation of African nations. We expect that non-troop contributing countries will bear the bulk of this responsibility.
Fifth: We envision the humanitarian mission to be of limited duration -- about four months. We are discussing with other nations the need for a follow-on presence.
Sixth: The potential contribution of the U.S. would consist of airport security at Goma airfield, assistance in airlifting deploying forces, airfield services, and the provision of security along approximately a three-mile corridor from Goma to the Rwandan border. We anticipate a significant number of those U.S. troops deployed would be based outside of Zaire in neighboring countries.
As always, U.S. troops would remain at all times under U.S. command. While serving under the operational control of the Canadian commanding officer, the U.S. would provide the deputy force commander, and all U.S. troops in Zaire would operate under U.S. commanders.
A final decision on U.S. participation will depend on the findings of the military assessment team sent to the region yesterday; its view of the utility and viability of a humanitarian mission; and whether the mandate, rules of engagement, exit strategy, and other essential aspects of the mission can be defined satisfactorily and agreed among the key participants in a potential force.
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