THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Air Force One)
REMARKS TO POOL BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER
10:05 A.M. EDT
MR. BERGER: The President just issued a statement, which I believe you have, expressing his grave concern over the way in which the evacuation of some of the UNAMET people was handled today in East Timor. And notwithstanding the assurances that we received and that Secretary General Annan received that there will be full protection. There was quite an ugly situation, particularly after the UNAMET people left, there was -- the Indonesian military permitted the militias to enter the UN compound and a good deal of damage was done.
I think a further reflection of pattern on the part of the Indonesian military failing to live up to their obligations and commitments to the international community, not only to protect the international UN people there, but to restore order and protect the people of East Timor and allow the results of their historic vote to come into effect.
While we were in Hawaii the President met with Admiral Denny Blair, who is our Commander of the Pacific, the CINCPAC. He had met within the last 48 hours with General Wiranto in Jakarta. And General Wiranto had given him assurances that there would be a serious effort by the Indonesian military to reassert control. However, as I said, we have not seen any evidence of that yet.
The President also called Prime Minister Howard of Australia, who is already in New Zealand, and discussed with him some thoughts about how to intensify the pressure on the Government of Indonesia to invite in an international security presence. The President made clear to Prime Minister Howard that the United States supported such an international peacekeeping force and that we would provide support to such a force if one becomes feasible.
I guess the final thing I would say is that on the heels yesterday of the President suspending all military programs with Indonesia, we are engaged in Washington in a thorough review of all of our cooperative and commercial and economic engagement with Indonesia. Obviously, all of those will be on the table. And I think the tragic thing here is that in a desperate attempt to reverse the will of the people of East Timor, the authorities and the military of Indonesia are imperiling the economic future of Indonesia itself, that stability.
Q Sandy, when you say commercial as well as economic engagement, does that mean that you are exploring a trade cut-off with them, in addition to the IMF issues?
MR. BERGER: We're looking at all of our engagement -- the military sales, for example, spare parts sales, is I think some bilateral assistance, although I don't think much. The President had indicated yesterday -- whatever day it was when we left -- that with respect to the international financial institutions that it would be -- if this situation continues it would be difficult to see those programs resume. As you know, they're now suspended for other reasons relating to alleged corruption in Indonesia.
So I think there's an enormous amount at stake here for the Indonesians, not only in honoring their commitments to abide by the results of the Timor vote, but also in terms of their standing in the international community and willingness of the international community to be of material support.
Q Are they entertaining any discussions about sending in forces without Indonesian permission?
MR. BERGER: I think it is the view of most members of the international community, including most of the Asians, that our focus at this stage should be on putting the maximum amount of pressure on the Government of Indonesia to have created such a force.
Q -- going to need to be invited in, that there's no -- and does Prime Minister Howard, as well, feel that there?s no way to go in except --
MR. BERGER: The focus of the international community at this point, the focus particularly of the Australians and others who would be in the lead, is putting a maximum degree of pressure on the Government of Indonesia to agree to such a force coming in.
Q Thoughts for the President to call President Habibie?
MR. BERGER: The President has had exchanges with President Habibie over the past several months. I think our -- Kofi Annan has talked to President Habibie on behalf of the international community virtually daily. I think we have focused on where we believe the decisions are being made, which is the Indonesian military.
Q Is there a sense that Habibie is condoning this, or do you think he's lost control of his military?
MR. BERGER: Well, I can't answer that question, except to say that he has not been able to realize the commitments that he's made to various members of the international community, including the Secretary General, to gain control of the situation.
Q There's a sense in Jakarta, I hear from our folks there, that the troops that are in East Timor now are pretty well aligned with one of Wiranto's rivals, General Probowo, who was ousted last year when Suharto left office. Is that your sense, as well, that we are caught here perhaps in two different factions of the Indonesian military, which Wiranto may be openly challenged?
MR. BERGER: There may be divisions within the military, but I think that we believe that General Wiranto is, as the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian military, has ultimate responsibility for asserting control over it.
Q Would it be a fair reading of your earlier comment where you said, we have focused where the decision is being made, you know, in the Indonesian military, that you believe at this point that President Habibie is less in control than General Wiranto is, or has less of a reasonable chance of being in control?
MR. BERGER: I believe President Habibie has not been able to effectuate the commitments that he?s made with respect to East Timor.
MR. BERGER: Get done. Carry out. (Laughter.) I just was amended.
Q Has the President called Senator Lugar, has he made any other calls to members of Congress?
MR. BERGER: Today, this afternoon, I believe he spoke to Senator Warner. I believe he spoke to Senator Harkin. I can't give you a full list. I know he was making calls to the Hill.
Q Is there any discussion of the United States providing anything other than support to an international force?
BERGER: Well, I don't think anything is ruled out here. I think what the Australians I think are most interested in those things that we have a special capability in, in terms of logistics and communications and intelligence, air lift and such things. But, you know, we've not made any decisions beyond that and ruled anything out.
Let me just say one thing before I go, since I'm the editor of the day in the Washington Post. A number of you were at the briefing yesterday in which I was asked, in a sense does Kosovo mean that you have to intervene everywhere. My response was a rather stupid one, my metaphor was rather stupid -- I was saying, well, my daughter has a -- I think, number one, it was a dumb answer. Number two, the question was not so much East Timor related as, if you recall, related to whether or not after Kosovo we now have an obligation to go everywhere. But it was an unfortunate metaphor. And I will never use metaphors again.
Q Did they crucify you in the paper? Did they take you to task in the newspaper?
MR. BERGER: There's an editorial in there today. Not that this is the most important issue, but I wanted to --
Q -- about your daughter's apartment? (Laughter.)
MR. BERGER: I have no comment.
MR. LOCKHART: Sandy, don't go down that road. (Laughter.)
MR. BERGER: Let me just say one last thing. I think, again, if you were at that briefing, it was a very forward leaning briefing with respect to Timor. It was not by any means meant to minimize the importance of Timor. It was a clumsy way of saying we can't obviously go everywhere, do everything. But it was not referring to Timor. It was not intending to refer to Timor.
Q Thank you.
10:16 A.M. EDT