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Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official

September 25, 1994

The Intercontinental Hotel

New York, New York

7:00 P.M. EDT

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We just had a very good afternoon, where the President has had kind of the whole sweep of foreign policy issues very quickly. We had a meeting with the Secretary General -- and I'll describe these in a minute, but a meeting with the Secretary General; a meeting with President Izetbegovic; and we have just had a very good session with African leaders where the President spent some time with President Bedie of the Ivory Coast and the President of Cape Verde.

So let me tell you a little bit more in detail about each of these. In the meeting with the Secretary General, there was a good discussion about U.S.-U.N. cooperation on a series of issues. We talked about U.N. reform. The Secretary General made a big point of saying that we had put though the Inspector General and the Commissioner for Human Rights.

And then we did talk about Haiti and the importance of a smooth transition from the multinational force to the UNMIH, and the fact that things were going pretty well in Haiti and the forward coordination between our military and the United Nations peacekeeping operation and already now with the international observers in place.

On Bosnia, we talked about the fact that -- there were really three kinds of issues we talked about on Bosnia: the importance of enforcing the exclusion zones; the increasing problems around Sarajevo; the fact that there have been new problems in terms of cutting off passage into Sarajevo and problems with gas heat, electricity, water, et cetera.

The Bosnians were talking about the fact that they would like to see a five-kilometer demilitarized zone so that they could have a better passage in and out of Sarajevo.

And then we talked about aid. The President was able to tell them about the money that had been put together to assist Bosnia. First of all, there was the FY 1994 where the U.S. pledged $10 million for the reconstruction of Sarajevo. And you will get a fact sheet on where those have been -- that money has been committed to which projects.

Also, there is additional money the U.S. has committed to providing additional assistance to the Federation. And the focus there is on the development of democratic institutions and economic activity. And the programs include the following -- and we will get you a list, but just generally: $10 million to fund -- funds to strengthen the capacity to provide public services; $6 million in microlending programs to promote economic development; $500,000 in democracy grants for local initiatives; $1.5 million in public administration assistance; $600,000 in programs to develop commercial, financial and civil law; $700,000 to provide training and educational opportunities; $700,000 to support the development of independent media within the Federation; and finally, we intend to make a pledge later this week of an additional $10 million to meet the needs of the Bosnian refugees. So that is a new package of assistance to --

Q: Is there a total for all that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's $10 million, plus $20 million more; $30 million altogether.

Q: Oh, so $10 million was already authorized.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right, yes. Well, you have to add all these and -- $30 million, yes.

And on the African, let me say that that was an excellent meeting. The President spoke about the need for the American people to know about Africa. He talked about the fact that, unfortunately, the pictures the American public sees from Africa are the ones that show misery and horror, of which there definitely is plenty, but that there is not enough in terms of seeing how rural African life is progressing and that there is a transition to democracy and economic development in a number of the countries.

President Bedie of Cote d'Iviore -- the Ivory Coast -- said that listening to President Clinton and the Clinton administration was a breath of fresh air as far as commitment to Africa and an understanding of African issues.

So I think that that it was a good session, and I think that in these three meetings that took place from 3:00 p.m. until about half an hour ago, the President was able to get a full sweep of, as I said earlier, a series of foreign policy issues that he has to deal with.


Q: What did the President think of this idea of a five-kilometer DMZ? And was there any talk about lifting the arms embargo?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On the fivekilometer DMZ, the President and Secretary said they thought it was an interesting suggestion and that we would take it into consideration. On the arms embargo, we made very clear that the President is committed to what he said in the letter to Senator Nunn that we will, in fact, be presenting a resolution sometime after October 15th for a lifting of the arms embargo.

And also it was very clear -- something that we've been saying all along -- that what we are doing vis-a-vis Bosnia is motivated by what the Bosnians want. What was very good about this meeting was an understanding about how closely we viewed things and our sense that there is progress, but there's a lot more progress to be made; and that it was important for us to keep working very closely together, but that we were, in our actions, have been, were and will continue to be responding to what motivates them.

Q: Was there any discussion of possibly postponing action on the arms embargo until after the winter? Did you raise it? Did they raise it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we talked about a lot of things to do with the situation, and we talked about the problems that are faced there vis-a-vis Sarajevo and the winter, and we talked about modalities in terms of how a resolution would look.

Q: But could you answer the question? Was a specific issue of postponing any action on lifting the arms embargo until after the winter discussed? And did the Bosnians express any position on that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We talked, as I said, about the modalities of an arms embargo resolution. That's as far as I'm going to go.

Q: Well could you -- could I follow that up on the same point? Please, could you go through the drill so far as what happens if the U.S. doesn't get support for lifting the arms embargo? Will the U.S. act unilaterally?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, what we are operating under is an understanding with Congress that we will do what we can to lift the arms embargo multilaterally if there is no further movement on the peace plan. We are then committed to consult with Congress about the next steps. If you look at the timing -- at the wording of the letter -- what we think here -- and I, you all need to keep this in mind -- there has been quite a lot of progress in the last couple of months.

The steps taken by President Milosevic to separate himself from the Bosnian Serbs is an important step. We will see how that part is pursued and the sanctions loosening and tightening resolutions that we passed on Friday night have also something to do with seeing whether they will live up to their desire to keep the border closed.

Let me also say we did, in fact, talk about how to make sure that that border is closed, the importance of monitoring there, and the President indicated that he wants to make sure that there are Americans among the monitors. We talked about the fact that it is possible for the United States and other members of the Security Council to pull the plug on the loosening part of the sanctions resolution if, indeed, there are indications that the border is porous. And President Izetbegovic obviously wanted to make sure that we were going to be very careful monitors of that, and we indicated to him that we would be.

Q: On a different topic, Raoul Cedras late today accused the U.S. troops who killed the 10 Haitians in that firefight of committing atrocities and demanded that the officers overseeing those troops be withdrawn. What is your response to that?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think we need to -- first of all, I'm sure that the American soldiers did not commit atrocities. I think that it was an issue where they were attacked. I think they're going to be -- we will be looking, obviously, into the details of it. But our soldiers have been incredibly careful about not overstepping their bounds and helping to resolve the problem rather than making new problems. And the issue here is that Raoul Cedras is going to be looking for all kinds of excuses. And I don't think that it is -- that we should give into that kind of a thing.

We are moving forward very well with what is a remarkable operation of American military that are operating in a very different kind of environment to what they have done in the past, and they are adapting, I think, incredibly well. And if there are any problems, obviously, we'll look into them.

Q: Did President Izetbegovic formally request President Clinton to unilaterally lift the arms embargo? And if so, what was his response?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That was not part of the discussion in that way.

Q: I want to ask you about that, but when you said you're motivated by what the Bosnians want, did the Bosnians give you any reason to doubt at all that they want the arms embargo lifted?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, the Bosnians do want the arms embargo lifted.

Q: Well, while we're on it, the Prime Minister last week said not only is material moving across the border at night instead of daytime, but he questions that the border can be monitored. As he puts it, if these monitors were up day and night, they couldn't cover that mountainous long border. Did Izetbegovic make the same point, that there's no way you could guarantee that Milosevic is keeping his word?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was not a long discussion of this particular part, but we assured him, as I said in my explanation that we would do everything possible to make sure that that border is properly monitored, including a suggestion that the United States made, is that countries pool their intelligence information on this, and that there be more of an international effort on this particular subject. And the fact that the President pointed to all of us and said, make sure that there are American monitors as a part of that I think is an important part.

Q: The Serbs over the last couple of days have made several threats against the airport and vowed retaliation for the air strike last week. Is the U.S. worried that the Serbs will start stepping up the action against the U.N. and against the citizens of Sarajevo?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we're always concerned about what the Bosnian Serbs are doing, and are watching them very closely. Part of the discussion in both the Boutros-Ghali meeting as well as in the Izetbegovic meeting was a very strong statement by the President saying that we wanted the exclusion zones enforced properly; that that is something he spoke to Boutros-Ghali about, who immediately turned to Kofi Annan on the subject. We also -- when President Izetbegovic discussed it there was also this point that we are going to be pressing for the exclusion zones to be enforced. That is a very important part, and we're going to live up to that aspect of it.

Thank you very much.

END 7:19 P.M. EDT

William J. Clinton, Background Briefing by Senior Administration Official Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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