Press Briefing by U.N. Ambassador Albright, Prime Minister Charles of Dominica, and Prime Minister Bird of Antigua
The Briefing Room
3:23 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: There will be two briefings in the next hour or so. First, Ambassador Albright is here. She will introduce Prime Minister Charles of Dominica and Prime Minister Bird of Antigua, who will talk about the meeting today. And then we'll take a little break and then Sandy Berger and Ambassador Gray will come back and give a readout from today's meeting and take any other questions you might have more broadly about what's happening today.
So without any further ado, Ambassador Albright.
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Thank you. Let me say, I have just come from the East Room, and there's no question that what we saw in there was the clearest indication of the backing by the international community of this very important mission of upholding democracy in Haiti.
We heard President Aristide, who gave a very moving address in which he stressed the importance of reconciliation. It is, I think, really very gratifying and moving to see so many nations -- 24 nations -- represented, as they dedicate their people with ours to helping to restore democracy.
So let me now introduce the Prime Ministers of two countries that are contributors to the multinational force, who are part of the building momentum of the international community. Prime Minister Charles of Dominica, maybe you would like to begin by giving us your impressions and thoughts.
PRIME MINISTER CHARLES: I was very pleased in this meeting to hear some of the plans we made. But I was particularly interested in the speech that President Aristide made. And he was so strong on the point that democracy must be restored, but there must be peace brought to the country, and understanding among all the various sectors of the community in Haiti because reconciliation was his main word used. He was very interested in making sure that after democracy is restored and the rightful government is put in place, that, in fact, the people of the country should be reconciled and understand it is their duty to build the country.
Of course, there will be help from other people for that building. But the main thrust will have to come from the Haitians themselves, and from the government that they have already chosen and not been allowed to have do the work for them that they were selected to do. We, of course, in the Caribbean are very interested in supporting Haiti and a rightful government in Haiti because we consider Haiti part of the Caribbean. And we also feel that we, certainly, in the English-speaking Caribbean have had a very long tradition of democracy -- longer perhaps than your country has had. And I think it's important to realize that we know what democracy is. We're determined that we should retain democracy in our part of the world. And we are satisfied that we are good examples of what the democratic way of life is.
Just recently, we had an election in Barbados -- a controversial election, but there wasn't a single incident throughout the whole time. How many of your countries can say the same thing? And I think it's very important to realize, as small as we are, poor as we are and population so little, that we do stand for all the good things that the world wants in the countries. And we believe that we must assist the Haitians to regain the democracy.
We must assist them after they have regained it to hold it, nurture it and to make it strong and viable so the people of Haiti can enjoy the lives that all of us enjoy. And to use a phrase that was really telling that President Aristide used: "to move from misery to poverty, but with dignity."
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Now, before you ask questions, let me introduce Prime Minister Bird of Antigua.
PRIME MINISTER BIRD: Thank you very much. I'll be very brief. Ten years ago, the countries of the Eastern Caribbean conjoined with your country -- the United States -- to go into Grenada. The real fundamental issue for us was that we decided that violence must not be a methodology of changing governments in the Caribbean. And consequently, we cannot accept that Cedras and the junta have the right to retain power, when a truly democratic government was elected by the people 70 percent in favor of JeanBertrand Aristide.
Consequently, we are here to give full support to the international community in demonstrating that as far as Antigua and Barbados is concerned, democracy is fundamental and important to the stability of the Caribbean and the Western Hemisphere.
We had a very excellent meeting today, and we are satisfied that all those of us who are participating in this understand the gravamen of what this means, and we are prepared to do as much as we can within our limited resources to assist this effort.
Q: Prime Minister Charles, could we ask you because many of us remember you from 10 years ago with the Grenada invasion --
PRIME MINISTER CHARLES : Yes, 10 years less one month -- the same situation.
Q: Former President Bush said today, and other Republicans have been very critical of this, in saying that this has no relationship, no parallel to Grenada; that the national interests of the United States and of the region is not involved.
PRIME MINISTER CHARLES: We are not even sure your national interest was involved in Grenada. (Laughter.) And I'm never quite sure what the American national interest is, quite frankly.
Q: We're not here, either. (Laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER CHARLES: I know what our national interest is, and I think we want peace and democracy in our area. And I would hope the United States would feel it was not so far distant from our area; that in fact, they share some of the same seas we share, and therefore, they should have some of the concerns that we have. We don't always feel that you have them. But we are glad when you do realize that you have some concerns that we share, too.
Q: Did President Clinton talk to you in the meeting about any last-ditch efforts that were being made to try to get General Cedras and the other military dictators to step aside without violence?
PRIME MINISTER CHARLES: I think that they will never cease to do this. They will continue always trying to see if they will leave peacefully.
Q: But specifically, did they tell you, and could you share with us, what is now being done on that score?
PRIME MINISTER CHARLES: No, these dictators, of course, wouldn't give up. There's too large a gathering for that.
Q: Pr ime Minister Charles, you mentioned that your country is poor, and a number of those countries are poor. What assurances have you been given from the United States that --
PRIME MINISTER CHARLES: None at all. There are not great promises. None at all.
Q: Was there any reimbursement for your expenses?
PRIME MINISTER CHARLES: None at all. There are not great promises in this country. We have learned to live without your promises. (Laughter.) And yet, we are loyal to the fact that we share some of the same things, and we should have some of the same interests. But you're not great promisers. You don't put your hand out too far, too long, too often.
Q: So, you expect to pay money for this, that this will cost your country.
PRIME MINISTER CHARLES: It will cost -- some of it we can afford. But it's assisting another Caribbean country.
Q: Ambassador Albright, could we ask you a question or two?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: Sure.
Q: Thank you. Defense Secretary Perry just said that the U.S. is in contact, through some sort of intermediary, with Lieutenant General Cedras to try to resolve this peacefully, to work out their departure from Haiti -- the three Haitian coup leaders --in a peaceful manner. Could you give us some details on how this diplomatic negotiation or discussion is going on?
AMBASSADOR ALBRIGHT: General Cedras and his people know that we are making every conceivable effort for them to leave peacefully. And I think they know the details. We are doing everything we can to make sure that they have the opportunity to depart, and for them to read loud and clear President Clinton's message that it is time for them to go now.
I do think that it is very clear that we do have a national interest. And what Prime Minister Charles said in terms of the national interest of her country to preserve democracy in the Caribbean is also a national interest of the United States, as President Clinton stated last night.
END 3:32 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by U.N. Ambassador Albright, Prime Minister Charles of Dominica, and Prime Minister Bird of Antigua Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269493