Press Briefing by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (9/7/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
                           (New York, New York)
For Immediate Release                                   September 7, 2000

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY

                              Sheraton Towers
                                        New York, New York

5:45 P.M. EDT

     SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  Good afternoon.  I'm very pleased to be here with
you all to report that the Millennium Summit is nearly over and
transportation in Manhattan will soon be possible again.  (Laughter.)

     As you know, today's highlight was the Security Council meeting at
head-of-state level.  This is only the second time such a meeting has
actually happened, and President Clinton and his counterparts there focused
on the importance of strengthening United Nations peacekeeping and
expressed particular urgency about the ongoing conflicts in Africa.

     In line with the President's remarks yesterday regarding our
collective responsibility to prevent strife, Council members pledged to
support an upgrading of the U.N.'s capacity for planning, deploying and
conducting peace operations, and cited the need for a more up-to-date
system of financing.  The President is still -- I left there -- meeting
separately with the heads of state of the other four permanent members of
the Security Council.

     This group is issuing, is in the process of working on a statement
that recognizes the responsibility to lead in maintaining international
security and peace, and pledged -- they're pledging to each other support
for measures to develop a quicker, more targeted, and better coordinated
response to crises.  This kind of a meeting has not taken place ever
before, as far as I know -- or at least this is what they were saying to
each other.

     Like the full Council, the Permanent Five called for modernizing the
U.N. peacekeeping scale of assessments in order to provide a more stable
and fair foundation for United Nations operations.  This is significant
because adjustments in the scale would go far to ease the U.N.'s financial
problems and to put U.S.-U.N relations on a sounder footing.

     In all these meetings and in various pull-asides, the heads of state
that are meeting with President Clinton are expressing strong appreciation
for his leadership.  And he is working very hard on any number of issues as
he moves through the halls and has set bilateral meetings

     This morning the President and I met with Kim Dae-Jung, the President
of the Republic of Korea, and congratulated him on the progress made under
his policy of engagement with the Democratic Republic of North Korea.  And
we also reviewed U.S. discussions with the North and touched on several
bilateral issues.

     Later, the President had his first meeting with Turkish President
Sezer, with whom we discussed a full range of bilateral and regional
issues.  I had separate meetings during the day, including a working
breakfast, with Montenegran President Djukanovic, and I expressed support
for his government and discussed the upcoming elections in which the
Serbian democratic opposition merits strong backing.

     I also met with President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, who is an
experienced leader in an increasingly strategic part of the globe, and with
President Aliyev of Azerbaijan.

     As usual, these visits to New York I think really do provide a
wonderful opportunity to conduct a lot of diplomacy in a very condensed
period of time.  Some of my colleagues are saying they are saving thousands
of air miles.  Some of you will be glad to hear that.  We are especially
pleased by the commitments made today by the members of the Security
Council. And obviously, these pledges are far from self-executing, but they
do provide a mutually agreed-upon plan of action to achieve goals that are
vital to our own interests and to peace around the world.

     Thank you very much, and I'll be very glad to answer your questions.

     Q    Madam Secretary, does Arafat's rejection of the U.S. suggestion
that dealing with the holy sites doom or dim peace prospects?  And what is
the game plan now?  Will there be further meetings?  Are you trying to
persuade him not to go off to Gaza?  How do you go on from here?  Dennis
Ross is having talks, of course -- but, I mean, on your level or on the
President's level, what is the U.S. going to do about all of this?

     SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  Well, as I sometimes say to you, Barry, I don't
quite accept your characterization of what has happened here.  Basically,
obviously, there are a lot of ideas that have been surfacing.  We have been
talking to Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat about them.  They have
made some suggestions of their own, and our sense here is that obviously,
while there has been no breakthrough, as one of my colleagues said, there
also is no breakdown.  And the discussions continue.  We are all in various
ways meeting with both parties.  Dennis is doing the Dennis thing and
moving around and talking to people.

     I have been meeting, I will continue to meet, and I'll continue to
meet in the period I am up here.  So I think we're going to continue
discussions, and our sense is that both parties have a desire to go on,
that they want to reach a conclusion.  They know that time is limited, and
there is an intensification of effort, and I think that we will just keep
working it step by step.

     But the same answer, Barry, always, is, we're working very hard.
We'll continue to do so, but they have to be prepared to make the hard

     Q    That sounds just on a presidential level and, with all due
respect to Dennis Ross, it's not on that level today at least.  You met
with Barak last night, unannounced.  But the question is whether you're
going to move it into higher gear.  And if the premise of my question is
wrong, are you saying that the U.S. has not floated a proposition for
dealing with the holy sites?

     SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  I think there are a lot of ideas out there and I
think that claiming paternity for them doesn't -- is not really important.
I think that what is important is that there are a lot of ideas and they
are -- and part of what also happens is that they get modified as they are
discussed with people.  Other countries have ideas.  As you know, I met
with Foreign Minister Moussa yesterday, and Foreign Minister Saud of Saudi
Arabia.  So there are a lot of ideas out there and this is going on.

     The President is obviously prepared to be engaged at any time.  We are
keeping him briefed.  He's asking a lot about what is going on, and he's
still here and will be here tomorrow.
So I think that it's a floating operation and we're working hard and
meeting with whomever we can in order to try to pursue the subject.

     Q    Thank you.

     Q    Madam Secretary, I'm curious about the breakfast that you had
with President Djukanovic this morning.  There appears to be a report
floating out there in the ether that he told you that he fears for his
life, that he thinks that Milosevic is going to try and assassinate him
during the election season here, when the U.S. is distracted, and asked the
U.S. for security guarantees, to which the United States is going to
respond with a joint Naval exercise with the Croatians, off the coast of
Montenegro.  Is this at all correct?

     SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  Well, pieces.  First of all, that conversation
never took place.  I think clearly, President Djukanovic is always in a
very difficult position.  He is somebody who has -- is taking a lot of
risks for democracy in Montenegro and I think that there is obviously
concern generally for his security.  But this was not a subject of

     The second point is that there are exercises that are part of the
Partnership For Peace that have been planned for sometime, with Croatia as
a member of the Partnership For Peace.

     There is -- there has been a discussion in a variety of places about
the fact that Milosevic and other people should not get it into their heads
that the United States is out of business during the election period.  We
are very much at work, harder than ever, paying attention everywhere.  And
nobody should miscalculate to think, for some reason, because some people
are involved in the election process -- most of us are not.

     Q    To use your words, you described the peace talks as a floating
operation.  It's floating, but is it moving in any particular direction?
Specifically, was there progress noted by the U.S. during these
conversations on the key issue of Jerusalem?

     SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  I think that there has been progress in terms of
the fact that there are more and more detailed discussions.  I know that
that sounds like a strange answer, but the truth is that -- those of you
have followed this -- is that people didn't talk about any part of this
aspect about Jerusalem, any part of how Jerusalem physically is set up or
what the holy places are or where they are or how they're designated, how
they are -- who works there, how the functions take place.  So in this
regard, I think the more and more that we are talking about these things, I
personally would deem that progress.

     I think that we are going to keep pressing here.  But as I've said so
many times, ultimately we can have ideas, or other people can have ideas,
or ideas can be floated, but it's the leaders themselves who then have to
make the hard decisions.  And we are in the process of having those

     Q    Are you just floating or are you moving?

     SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  When I float, I move.  (Laughter.)

     Q    Well said.

     Q    Madam Secretary, back on Djukanovic.  Did you offer him in any
sense a security guarantee or a perspective one?  I'm thinking really of
the period after the Serbian elections where there might be -- some civil
unrest might spill over.  There's a lot of potential there.  Did he ask or
did you offer anything?

     SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  I have to tell you that this morning we did not
have this discussion.  But as a general point, I would like to say we are
concerned about the security of Montenegro and of President Djukanovic, and
nothing is off the table.

     Q    Madam Secretary, can you tell us anything about the conversation
President Clinton had with President Castro yesterday, and were there any
matters on the agenda between the two countries discussed during that

     SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  As I understand it, it was a chance encounter
that Mr. Castro initiated, and they talked for a couple of minutes and
there was no substance.

     Q    So they discussed -- what would they have discussed?

     SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  It was just a cordial conversation, but no
substance, as I understand it.  I was not there.

     Q    They did shake hands now, contrary to previous reports?

     SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  I don't know the answer to that.

     Q    Madam Secretary, on the Security Council meeting today, the
general drift seemed to be do more in Africa and do it better regarding
security efforts.  The United States, at present, does not have, unless I'm
mistaken, a great deal of involvement on the ground with peacekeeping
operations in Africa.  Is that going to change?  Do you see that changing?

     SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  First of all, there was a focus on African
peacekeeping at the Security Council, and I think general concern about the
fact that the United Nations, per se, was not as well prepared for these
operations as they might have been, and a lot of discussion of the Brahimi
report, not in detail, but the fact that the Brahimi report is out and that
there are ideas on the table about how to strengthen peacekeeping.

     If I might dip back into my previous job up here, the whole issue of
how peacekeeping has evolved is something that has been on the plate for
some time.  And when I came up in 1993, there were 70,000 peacekeepers out,
and it seemed very ad-hoc.  And we tried very hard to set up a system that
made more sense, where the Security Council would review more carefully the
mandates and try to figure out the cost of an operation before it was

     And, also, there were improvements made in the set-up within the
Secretariat about how peacekeeping was done.  And I remember giving
speeches that said a global 911 number has to work more than from 9:00 a.m.
to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays.  So I think that progress was made.

     Then, for whatever reason, there kind of was a slacking off and a
lower number of peacekeepers.  And I think that what has happened again
with a larger number of peacekeeping operations and the need -- and I think
a genuine sense in the international community that things can't be this
ad-hoc, that the Secretary General, who actually came out of a peacekeeping
background within the U.N., asked for this report from Mr. Brahimi, who has
had a lot of on-ground experience, and that has come out.

     Now, the U.S., we believe that our role is to be very supportive of
peacekeeping.  It is a way that we have a choice between doing everything
ourselves and doing nothing.  I am a great advocate of having peacekeeping
as a force multiplier.  It's a very good way for us to be able to do more
in different places than if we were just to do it ourselves.

     But that does not mean that we have to be on the ground at all times.
We should be providing the things that we are best at -- lift,
communications, logistical support of a variety of kind, and training.  And
what we are doing now is providing training to some five Nigerian
battalions.  And they are the ones, I think, that will be taking the major
role as we try to deal with Sierra Leone.  And we are going to be looking
at ways in the rationalizing of peacekeeping where we can be helpful in the
way that we can do best.

     Q    Madam Secretary, one more attempt on the Middle East.  How does
the U.S. read the calendar?  Are we talking about days?  You said the
President will be here tomorrow.  When they leave, is it days, is it weeks?

     SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  Well, I think we are trying not to focus on
deadlines, but to focus on substance.  And I think that if we can't move
forward on the substance that it doesn't matter what kind of deadlines are
out there.  And so I think what we are doing in these days is working with
both parties and getting them to focus on various pieces of substance.

     But the truth is, just look at the calendar, and there is not a lot of
time.  And I think we're talking about the fact that there are a relative
number of weeks here in which some very intensive work must be done.  And
it is my sense from talking to both parties that they understand that this
is a time to have intense discussions, and that is the way we're
proceeding.  And the President is available, and I think everybody is quite
flexible about what -- the level of involvement and how, and there may be a
number of levels of involvement simultaneously.

     THE PRESS:  Thank you.

     END  6:00 P.M. EDT

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