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US deeply concerned about situation in East Timor

Transcript: Albright Interview with Television New Zealand
(U.S. "deeply concerned" about situation in East Timor)

The United States is "deeply concerned" about the situation in East Timor, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said in a September 11 interview with Television New Zealand.

According to Albright, the United States has cut off all military sales to Indonesia and will consider participating in some form of Australia-led peacekeeping operation.

"We have said that we would participate in some form in a peacekeeping operation and that we have not ruled out options on all of this. But I also think that the United States' great strength in a military operation usually has to do with logistics and communication and those kinds of support activities," she said.

Albright urged Indonesia to act quickly to resolve the situation in East Timor and added that "if they (Indonesia) were to move to invite a peacekeeping force, there would be willingness to participate in it."

Following is the State Department transcript of the interview:

(begin text)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(Auckland, New Zealand)

For Immediate Release
September 12, 1999

INTERVIEW OF
SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT
BY TELEVISION NEW ZEALAND CORRESPONDENT
CHRIS WRIGHT

Auckland, New Zealand September 11, 1999

MR. WRIGHT: Madame Secretary, the President has already raised the issue of East Timor and cut military ties with Indonesia. Today, the Australian Prime Minister Howard has said U.S. involvement expected would go well beyond logistical support for a coalition force that would go into Indonesia either -- I assume as a peacekeeping force. Is this the case? Is this the way you see it?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, the President has made very clear how deeply concerned we are about everything that is going on. We have taken now a new step in terms of cutting off all military sales, and economic pressure, I think, is clearly going to continue. We are waiting now for a report from the Security Council mission that will be going back to New York and then probably Security Council action.

We have said that we would participate in some form in a peacekeeping operation and that we have not ruled out options on all of this. But I also think that the United States' great strength in a military operation usually has to do with logistics and communication and those kinds of support activities. But I don't think it's appropriate to go beyond that, because at this stage we don't quite know what is going to be necessary.

MR. WRIGHT: Could we rule out U.S. ground troops, or is that too early to say?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it's too early to say. But as we've said, you know, I think that we in some form will participate, with Australia in the lead.

MR. WRIGHT: If I may pursue that just a little bit longer. So we can't rule them out, or is that taking too far as well? Could I say tonight that we can't rule out U.S. ground troop involvement in a peacekeeping force?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have basically said that we are not ruling out any option.

MR. WRIGHT: Thank you very much. It's reported that by the end of next week -- I think this is from New Zealand Foreign Minister Don McKinnon -- that Indonesia will allow a foreign peacekeeping force into East Timor. That's by the end of next week. Is that the way you read it as well?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, it's hard to set a timeframe on it exactly. But I think in the various conversations that people have had with various Indonesians there is the sense that they are trying to -- this is their version -- that they are trying to take care of this and at some stage they would be willing to discuss outside help. But I think that we all feel -- we, people that have been here at this conference -- that, basically, they need to deal with this sooner rather than later, because of the great tragedies that are taking place, and that if they were to move to invite a peacekeeping force, there would be willingness to participate in it.

MR. WRIGHT: Do you have a strong expectation that that peacekeeping force would be invited into Indonesia?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it's very hard to predict, but I would imagine that at some stage the Indonesian Government and leaders would understand that Indonesia is losing a sense of their reputation. Also that this is hurting them economically, and at some stage they have to understand that they would be much better off inviting a peacekeeping force in.

MR. WRIGHT: May I ask one last question, a general question? How would you describe New Zealand-U.S. relations now? We had a nuclear debate some years ago, as you are very well aware. How would you describe our relationship to the average New Zealander now?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I would say that our relationships are excellent. I think that Prime Minister Shipley has been very much involved in U.S.-New Zealand relations. I've met with her a number of times, and then she was in the United States and, I think, had very good talks across the board. Foreign Minister McKinnon and I have spent a great deal of time together talking about U.S.-New Zealand relations, as well as regional relationships. And I think that the relations are very good. Obviously, there still is some unfinished business, as we call it. But I think that there are discussions about how to move the relationship forward.

I have to tell you we've all had a wonderful time here. I think that the New Zealanders are generous and kind people and have been very welcoming. We've all enjoyed ourselves tremendously.

MR. WRIGHT: Thank you very much. Thank you for your time.

(end transcript)


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