THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESS SECRETARY
UNHCR Ogata Meeting
Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, met at the White House today with Deputy National Security Advisor James Steinberg. A central focus of the discussion was the situation in Zaire, and Mrs. Ogata was assured of continued U.S. support for humanitarian access and assistance to refugees and displaced persons in the country.
The United States remains deeply concerned by reports of killings and other abuses against refugees -- including the abduction by soldiers of refugee children from a hospital feeding center -- as well as denial of access for UN officials attempting to provide protection and assistance. We also are deeply disturbed by a report that Alliance forces may have denied entry to Zaire for a team of United Nations Human Rights monitors who sought to investigate reports of mass killings.
In view of these concerns, we welcome assurances provided yesterday to Ambassador Bill Richardson by Alliance leader Laurent Kabila that relief organizations would be granted full access and cooperation and that rebel soldiers found responsible for abuses would be prosecuted. In addition, Mr. Kabila told Ambassador Richardson that the announced 60-day deadline for repatriation of all refugees should be understood as a goal, not a deadline.
The United States again calls upon all combatants and concerned parties in the region to respect humanitarian law, and to permit a full and free international investigation of reported killings and other abuses. Such actions will help to alleviate the tremendous suffering that has already occurred.
# # #