View Header


                     Office of the Press Secretary
                           (Dakar, Senegal)
For Immediate Release                                     March 31, 1998

The Roosevelt Room

11:35 A.M. EST

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning and thank you all for coming. I'm here today with my Cabinet colleagues to stress the importance of Congressional approval of the President's National Security appropriations requests. These requests have four elements: to pay the costs of our continued military deployment in the Gulf, to maintain security in Bosnia so that country can consolidate its peace and move further towards democracy and justice, to support the IMF as it strives to restore stability to the troubled economies of East Asia and to pay our long overdue UN bills.

Together these measures protect a host of US interests. They contribute to our security and to a healthy global economy and they reflect our values. We believe it is essential that Congress approves the President's requests promptly without crippling conditions or reductions. And we reject efforts to take one or more of the items hostage in order to force action on unrelated issues. Timing does matter. If we wait and the financial crisis in Asia spreads or a new crisis begins, the impact on our interests would be severe and the costs of restoring stability far higher.

And in the case of UN arrears, we have a chance to influence critical negotiations in May and June that could reduce US assessments by $100 million a year and that is a chance that won't come again until the year 2000.

Now we do appreciate the efforts many in Congress, from both parties, have made to support the President's urgent national security requests. And we ask their colleagues to join them in casting the right votes for American leadership and American interests around the world. Secretary Rubin.

SECRETARY RUBIN: Please go ahead.

SECRETARY COHEN: Such deference. Let me just add to what the Secretary of State has said. This supplemental will support and promote our national security interests. And there are four elements to this supplemental request that are vital to our national security. First of all, supporting our continued deployment in the Persian Gulf -- our presence there, I think without question, has helped to contain Saddam Hussein and Iraq and helped to win greater access on the part of the UN inspectors who have to carry out their duty to find whether or not Saddam had been hiding and concealing or, indeed, even manufacturing chemical biological and nuclear weapons.

Maintaining our commitment to Bosnia where NATO forces are laying the foundation and groundwork for a lasting peace -- the readiness of our focus depends on the rapid passage of a supplemental appropriation because without support from Congress the Army, Navy, Marines are going to have to cancel the combat training exercises, ground aircraft, suspend maintenance and furlough civilian employees.

Meeting our commitments to the United Nations is going to play a key role. By restricting Iraq from building deadly chemical and biological weapons and working around the world to maintain peace -- we should not minimize the impact that our relationship with the United Nations has upon our position in the world. It's very important that we continue to support the United Nations because they are also helping us in every way to maintain our commitment to the national security interests of this country. And so our leadership at the UN amplifies our leadership around the world.

And finally, something that Secretary Rubin is obviously going to interested in but I am as well, and that's helping the International Monetary Fund to restore financial health to Asia. Weak economies in Asia can hurt exports by companies in Akron, Atlanta and Austin. Just this past week we saw that as a result of the difficulties confronting Asia that some of our exports are now down. That can only continue to accelerate if we are indifferent and remain completely uncaring about what takes place in Asia. Our national security interests are directly tied to economic interests, as well, in Asia to the extent that the Asian economy collapses then we are going to see a reduction in the price of goods coming from those countries flooding our markets producing in return a counter-effect here that we'll seek to restrict those imports and possibly setting off a trade type of war that would adverse to our interests.

So all of these elements, from the help in Bosnia, Southwest Asia, United Nations, IMF they are critical to promoting our national security interests. So I am urging Congress to act quickly to pass this now, not to wait another day, another week or after a recess, but now, so that we don't jeopardize those interests of ours.

SECRETARY RUBIN: Thank you, Bill. As both my colleagues have said, we live in an interdependent world. Our economic well being, our national security are enormously and even profoundly affected by what happens outside of our borders. And that is why, as both my colleagues have said, the President has submitted a request for funding for four national security and economic imperatives in supplemental. I won't repeat what they said about the four but let me focus on two of them, if I may.

One is the United Nations where we have not paid our arrears. And as the Secretary of State said, the United Nations serves vitally with respect to our national security interests, our economic interests and it is absolutely imperative that we pay our share by meeting our arrears.

With respect to the IMF, the IMF is critically important to our economic interests, our economic well being. Because of the Asian crisis the resources of the IMF are severely depleted. IMF resources today could well not be sufficient were a new major crisis to develop. And a new major crisis could severely affect our economic interests. I believe the probability of such a crisis is low but were it to develop it could, as I said a moment ago, severely affect our interest and IMF resources today could well be not sufficient to meet that requirement. It is for that reason, it is that economic imperative that resulted in the Senate passing IMF legislation by a vote of 84 to 16. And I believe it is that imperative that should now control what happens in House of Representatives.

Let me conclude by saying that a letter was issued last night to members of Congress signed by two former Presidents, a whole host of former government officials and a large number of business officials that supports IMF and UN funding and supports doing it now. And also makes the point that both colleagues made, that this funding should not be tied to other extraneous matters, which although are very important on their own two feet, can impeded this legislation, legislation that is needed now.

Our economic well being and war and peace are issues that are too vital to our interests to have the funding that supports them be impeded by other extraneous, however important -- other extraneous issues, however important those issues may be.

Q Madam Secretary, on a slightly different subject, Dennis Ross is back from the Middle East. Have you had a chance to meet with him or have anything to report?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, I spoke to Dennis this morning. He is back and -- let me just kind of put this into context. Obviously we are concerned about the fact that for a year now there has been a stalemate on the Middle East peace process and we have been working very hard to try bridge the gaps between the two parties.

Dennis -- Ambassador Ross went out there with some ideas in order to try to narrow the gap. And there has been some progress as a result of his most recent trip but really it's not nearly enough, I think, for us to say that there has been a breakthrough. And I think that obviously it is important that there has been some movement but we also have to make very clear that there is a level of frustration both here and in the Middle East because the stalemate has gone on. Nothing has been done on the very important interim issues. There has not been the further redeployments. The multilateral aspects of the peace process have not been carried out and obviously there's also no movement on the other tracks. So we want to keep making sure that the process moves forwards and that the gaps are narrowed.

Q Secretary Rubin two questions. First of all, could you talk a little bit about the purpose of Mr. Lipton's trip to Indonesia and secondly it looks like an agreement between Indonesia and the IMF on a new reform framework is imminent, imminentish --


SECRETARY RUBIN: Well, you've answer the second question so you're leaving me with the first question.

Q Does the US support dispersing IMF funds to Indonesia upon the signing of this agreement or would you want to wait and see some of these reforms actually put into place?

SECRETARY RUBIN: All right, let me take them together. David Lipton, our undersecretary, did go to Indonesia. The Indonesians have told me in several conversations that it was an extremely constructive trip. He helped work through with them an outline, or a framework if you will, for thinking through the discussions with respect to reform in Indonesia, working with the Indonesian government officials themselves.

In terms of the IMF situation, negotiations continue as you know. And I think I'd like not to comment on them till they reach a conclusion one way or the other but the essence of this thing remains the same as it always has been which is to have a program that is strong that deals with and address the issues in Indonesia that gave rise to the financial instability in the first place and that both, as a result, helped deal with those but also creates the kind of confidence that you need in the financial markets and in the indigenous population in Indonesia so that the currencies will stabilize and then improve.

Q Is Mr. Lipton going back to Indonesia this week?

SECRETARY RUBIN: As of the moment the answer to that question is no, though it is conceivable I suppose, under some circumstances -- my guess would be not.

Q The promise of Kosovo (inaudible) light at the end of the tunnel there?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, Ambassador Gelbard has also just returned from a trip and we had a brief meeting this morning and will continue to do so in the course of the day. Today we expect passage in the United Nations of an arms embargo resolution that is a result of the meetings in London and in Bonn. And I think it's significant in terms of the fact that the international community, as represented by the contact group and now the security council, is making quite clear that the Kosovo issue needs to be dealt with by Belgrade and President Milosevic and that we want to make sure that that situation is resolved in a peaceful political way and that we are all behind this effort.

I've spoken to Foreign Minister Primakov several times in the last 24 hours on this subject. And we are moving forward in the UN.

Q May I just follow up. You mentioned Russia, how do you see the latest changed in Russia, the new premier Kiriyenko; and is Primakov staying on as foreign minister?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we're obviously watching very closely and it is a domestic decision for the Russians. Foreign Minster Primakov I met in Bonn and at that stage he announced that he had been asked to stay on as foreign minister. He is doing so and being very active. The minister of defense was also asked to stay on. And they are in the process of submitting Kiriyenko's name to the Duma and getting a new government formed.

Q One last question.

Q Madam Secretary, could you talk about the President's trip to Africa? Has he achieved what he set out to do to change Americans view of the continent and has he sold them on the idea that it's in the US interest to invest both politically and financially?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well I think it has been a remarkably successful trip. Because it is a historic trip in terms of the President's ability to show the comprehensiveness of our policy towards Africa and touch so many different bases there. Also to do what I have been talking about for -- as we had laid this policy out for some time is -- and I did this when I was in Addis Ababa -- talk about a new chapter in US-African relations where it is based on mutual respect and partnership and our ability to work with Africans on developing their economies and having them be part of the global economic system. The President, I think, has been able to deliver that message.

And I think that what he has done is drawn the attention of Americans to many of the very positive aspects of developments in Africa that are good for Africans and for US interests. We are going to continue to build on his trip in a very substantial way and work with members of Congress because there has been so much interest evidenced there.

Since that is the last question let me just say the following just to recap what the three of us have said here. National security interests are indivisible. American leadership is indivisible. The various parts of the supplemental package, the four parts on the IMF, the UN, Bosnia and Iraq are essential so that we can carry on our national security goals. We need to have the support of Congress on this. We are counting on them to make sure that America can stand tall and that we will be able to carry on the leadership roles and we need all four parts of this.

There is a tangle in Congress now in terms of this legislation. And we need all four parts of this together in order for us to be able to carry out our national security policy without our hands tied behind our back.

Thank you.


(11:50 a.m.)