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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 28, 1999


Humanitarian Exemptions from Sanctions

Today, the President announced that the United States will exempt commercial sales of agricultural commodities and products, as well as medicine and medical equipment from future unilateral Executive Branch economic sanctions regimes, unless he determines that our national interest requires otherwise. Further, the President announced we will extend this policy to existing sanctions regimes, where we have the discretion to do so, by modifying licensing policies to permit case-by-case review of specific proposals.

Sanctions are a legitimate tool of our foreign policy, but we have always sought to limit their impact on innocent and vulnerable people. As part of the Administration's overall sanctions reform effort, in July of last year, the President said that "... food should not be used as a tool of foreign policy, except under the most compelling circumstances." Today's decision codifies that principle, and spells out the exceptions.

Such extraordinary circumstances might include actual or potential armed conflict involving the United States or its allies; a situation in which a regime is diverting imports of food, medicine, or medical equipment to its armed forces or to its political supporters; or a situation in which the provision of such items would provide unjustified economic benefit to a regime or its officials.

The Administration is developing country-specific licensing criteria to guide the case-by-case review process so that sanctioned governments do not gain unjustified or unwarranted benefits.

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