Military



USIS Washington File

26 April 2000

Transcript: NATO Supreme Allied Commander Press Briefing April 25

(Clark pleased with Balkans progress, support from NATO nations)
(2,750)
U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, outgoing NATO Supreme Allied Commander
Europe (SACEUR), told reporters in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, April
25 that he is optimistic about the future of Southeastern Europe.
Clark, who has served as SACEUR since July 1997, will turn over NATO's
top command to U.S. Air Force General Joseph Ralston in May.
Much remains to be done, Clark said, but with "steady and sustained
effort, we can overcome the tragedy of 19th century nationalism and
move this country and these people into the 21st century Euro-Atlantic
community."
"The international community is engaged," he said. "There's a strong
determination that the efforts in Bosnia and Kosovo are going to
succeed... It's part of the continuing transformation of Europe, as
the ideals of freedom and democracy and economic development take root
here and drive out the old nationalism and the old communist dogma
that was present in the past. So, I'm optimistic about the future."
Asked about indicted war criminals who are still at large, Clark said,
"The responsibility for the detention of war criminals goes first to
the authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And there are still communities
here in which those war criminals live and move freely, apparently
with the protection of authorities."
He pointed out that 20 war criminals have been arrested. "There is no
question that SFOR takes action at the appropriate time and in the
appropriate way. We've always said that when we encounter these
people, we will detain them. So, I think the record speaks for itself.
SFOR will act." However, "the primary responsibility lies here with
the authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina."
Clark thanked the Bosnian people for their support of the
international peacekeepers. "The people in Bosnia-Herzegovina have
welcomed NATO," he said. "I leave with a tremendous sense of hope and
optimism about the future based on my relationships with the people
here."
Following is a transcript of the press conference:
(begin transcript)
SFOR Transcript
25 April 2000
TRANSCRIPT: SACEUR PRESS CONFERENCE
Coalition Press Information Center
Tito Barracks
Sarajevo, Bosnia
COL Thomas Begines, SFOR CPIO: Dobar dan, I'm Colonel Tom Begines,
SFOR Chief Public Information Officer. Please give your attention to
the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Wesley K. Clark. He has
an opening statement and then would be happy to respond to your
questions.
General Wesley K. Clark, SACEUR Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for
being here today. I would just like to say that it's been a great
privilege and pleasure to be able to work over the last six years with
the leaders and the people in this country who are striving to bring
peace and stability and progress to this part of Europe. I think some
important results have been achieved. I think some great effort
remains to be done. But, I think that on the whole, one has to look at
the progress that's been achieved with what that means for the future,
and it means that with steady and sustained effort, we can overcome
the tragedy of 19th century nationalism and move this country and
these people into the 21st century Euro-Atlantic community. It can be
done.
Thank you very much, and I'll be happy to take your questions.
CPIO: Please wait for the microphone, then identify yourself and your
media organization.
QUESTIONS
Antonio Prlenda, Oslobodjenje, Q: Antonio Prlenda from Sarajevo daily
Oslobodjenje. General, what's your opinion about Carla Del Ponte's
request for specialized NATO unit on hunting the war criminals, and
can you confirm that that unit already exists?
SACEUR: Well, I think that there is a very good process in place and
under way. We welcome the support of all the nations who feel strongly
that persons indicted for war crimes should be taken to The Hague, but
I would remind the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as I've just
reminded one of the Serb representatives at the meeting with the
Tri-Presidency, that the responsibility for the detention of war
criminals goes first to the authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. And
there are still communities here in which those war criminals live and
move freely, apparently with the protection of authorities.
Yasin Rawasdeh, Kuna, Q: General, you lead a very great campaign over
the last year against Yugoslavian government. If you look back, do you
see that you can make more efficient campaign? What do you think you
did the best what you have and what you can in that time?
SACEUR: Last year's effort in Kosovo was a full international effort
that took the leadership of all of the top leaders of NATO Member
Nations, NATO political leaders, NATO military leaders, and so forth.
We all worked together on this thing. I think that overall, the
results have been very positive. We stopped an enormous humanitarian
tragedy that was unfolding. We demonstrated that we had learned the
lessons from Bosnia. I think the international community put its foot
down and said, 'No more of this.'
Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: Vedran Persic, Open Broadcast Network. One
weekly magazine here in Sarajevo reported last week that they know
where is Radovan Karadzic, the big face from the open Dayton list.
Isn't it shameful that SFOR, five years after Dayton, doesn't know
where is Karadzic and they know?
SACEUR: Well, if they know, they should report this, because there is
a large reward that's been offered. You may have heard, there's a, I
think it's a $5 million award for information leading to the arrest of
these people. I think $5 million is a lot of money in any country, and
so people with that kind of information should provide it.
Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: Yes, like a follow up. They report that in the
newspapers, so I believe that somebody from SFOR read it, and they
will act. Do you believe in that?
SACEUR: That they will act?
Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: Just after this article, because the article
was published last week.
SACEUR: Well, let me just turn this question back around. There was a
lot of discussion when I took the job about three years ago about
whether SFOR was going to be able to take these actions. Twenty war
criminals have been arrested. There is no question that SFOR takes
action at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way. We've
always said that when we encounter these people, we will detain them.
So, I think the record speaks for itself. SFOR will act.
But, I want to underscore what I just said a moment ago. The
responsibility, the primary responsibility lies here with the
authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina. That's where it must be. These
people are living among people. They're not out hermits somewhere.
People know who they are. Police, members of political parties, they
know where these war criminals are. It's up to the people of
Bosnia-Herzegovina to move into the 21st century. We can help. We
can't -- the international community -- cannot do all the work. It has
to be initiated and started and carried here. It's a public
responsibility here in this country.
Aleksander Dragicevic, AP, Q: General Clark, what is your personal
opinion? What will be here in this part of the world until the end of
this year?
SACEUR: What will be here? What will happen?
Aleksander Dragicevic, AP, Q: Not just in Bosnia. Montenegro, Kosovo,
Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina. What is your personal opinion?
SACEUR: I think the international community is engaged. I think it is
very clear by the actions last year by NATO and the international
community that once it's engaged, it's not going to relax its grip.
There's a strong determination that the efforts in Bosnia and Kosovo
are going to succeed, and that those persons indicted for war crimes
are going to be held accountable before judges at the International
Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. There's a willingness to provide
economic assistance and political advice. And, there are many, many
young men and women who are dedicating years of their lives to coming
here and helping in elections and other things. I think it's a great
undertaking. It's part of the continuing transformation of Europe as
the ideals of freedom and democracy and economic development take root
here and drive out the old nationalism and the old communist dogma
that was present in the past. So, I'm optimistic about the future. I
think there's tremendous resourcefulness and determination in the
international community, and I think that it will make its impact felt
here in a continuing way, in a very positive way.
Vedran Persic, OBN, Q: Yes, General. Can you confirm that Dragan
Nikolic was detained, or maybe better said, arrested on the territory
of FRY?
SACEUR: We never discuss things like this.
Nerminka Emric, BHT, Q: (in Bosnian) Can you comment on your change of
command? Are you satisfied or dissatisfied, happy?
SACEUR: Well, the question is, what's my attitude towards my change of
command? Basically, I leave the position very pleased that I've had
such good support from the nations in the Alliance. We've had great
military leaders who served here on the ground and great troops on the
ground in Bosnia, in SFOR missions. And I've done my duty as a soldier
fully and to the best of my ability, and I'll look forward to moving
on to other challenges and other opportunities.
Antonio Prlenda, Oslobodjenje, Q: There's been a lot of news reports
somewhere around the end of the last year that [Yugoslav President]
Milosevic might try to start a new war in Montenegro in the Spring.
Well, the Spring arrived, and can you talk to us, do you still feel
some intentions from the Serb nationalists to start something like
that? How would NATO act in that case?
SACEUR: Well, we've been watching very closely the situation as it's
evolved in Yugoslavia since the end of the air campaign. We've made
sure everyone understands that the forces in Kosovo are very capable.
They're very well commanded. They're very well prepared to do whatever
is necessary to fulfill their mandate there, including the enforcement
of the Military Technical Annex. We've also watched very closely the
emerging situation in Montenegro as President Dukanovic has attempted
to promote the economic development of that country, to promote its
increased democratization and westernization. And the international
community has spoken, I think very clearly in favor and has provided
financial assistance and other support, moral, legal, and otherwise,
to Mr. Dukanovic as he tries to work for the betterment of the people
of Montenegro.
We've watched with concern as President Milosevic has tightened the
noose around Montenegro. He's strengthened the military forces there,
replaced officers with political cronies, brought in thugs and put
them in, paramilitary thugs, and put them in uniform. He's deployed
forces on the border, he's run exercises in intimidation. He's tried
to take control of airports and other facilities there. So, I think
that he should know that NATO's watching. NATO understands what he is
establishing. He should also understand very well what NATO's
capabilities are.
And so, what we want is to see the peaceful and democratic development
of the Balkans. We've said repeatedly that the key, of course, is that
this is a regional problem. The key to the regional problem is
democracy in Belgrade and justice. Indicted war criminals must go to
The Hague. So, I think that's the formula, and I think it should be
very clear that NATO is very much on duty in this region. And perhaps,
Mr. Milosevic is very well aware of this.
Mirsad Bajtarevic, Radio Fern, Q: Radio Fern, Mirsad Bajtarevic. Mr.
Clark, what do you think about Stability Pact and opportunities which
Pact gave us, B and H and region, all region? Thanks.
SACEUR: Well, I think that the Stability Pact is an essential
instrument for progress in the region. I think that, clearly, what's
needed is economic progress, employment, the opportunity for young men
and women to stay here and develop themselves, raise families, and to
be all that they can be. And I think the Stability Pact is the way to
achieve that. But it can't be done for Bosnia and Herzegovina alone.
It has to be done throughout the region, and it can only be done for
Bosnia and Herzegovina if the people here are willing to make the
compromises. To take the trust and move forward and break the old
fears, insecurities and nationalism that have haunted this country.
It's time to move forward.
The key to the Stability Pact is a willingness to move in accordance
with the values and institutions that have brought prosperity to the
Euro-Atlantic community. We're not motivated by 19th century
nationalism. It's a different ethic in the Euro-Atlantic community.
People here have to understand that ethic. They have to become part of
it. Ultimately, it's not about money. It's about attitude and openness
and integration into the international community. No amount of money
can purchase that for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina if they
don't open their hearts and minds to the opportunities themselves.
CPIO: Sir, do you wish to add any concluding remarks?
SACEUR: I've got one...let me, let's take this ... can we take this
one question, and then I'll make some concluding remarks.
Merima Sijaric, Slobodna Bosna, Q: (in Bosnian) Mr. Clark, I would
like to ask you to explain the stand of the IC, NATO and the world in
general. Are you able to arrest Karadzic, Milosevic and Mladic? An
arrest warrant has been issued for these three and an award of $5
million, and they are not hiding the way you think they are. I will
just give you one example that almost a month, month and a half ago,
Milosevic held the fourth congress of his party, a big congress
attended by a few thousands of people from Sarajevo. Ratko Mladic was
also seen at a football game in Belgrade by an American journalist.
Why is then necessary that you issue such a big reward for them, since
they were seen lately?
SACEUR: Well, I think that these are matters that, really, I think
everyone understands. SFOR has a mandate and certain capabilities to
act. Nations have a broader mandate and other capabilities. And, this
is a matter that the international community at large is going to have
to resolve, and I'm confident that they will. You see, day in and day
out, people from the international community come to serve in
positions. Here in Bosnia, in Kosovo, diplomats in and out of
positions; military in and out of positions. But the international
community's resolve and will remain strong. Those who have been
indicted are going to be detained. I can't tell you how. I can't tell
you when. And if I knew, I still wouldn't tell you. But, people in
this country must have confidence. This will happen. Justice will be
done.
I'd like to just say, in conclusion, that I have very much appreciated
the support and the friendship of people in Sarajevo and in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the support that you've given to our
international peacekeepers here. You know, when I was negotiating the
Dayton Agreement with Dick Holbrooke, we sat one day in Belgrade
talking to President Milosevic, and he said to me, he said, "Well,
General Clark," he said, "how soon will NATO come to Bosnia after the
signing of the Agreement?" "Well," I said, "Mr. President, they'll be
there right away." He said, "Hmmm." He said, "How many will come? It
would be best if only a few would come." I said, "Well, they'll be
there in large numbers, Mr. President." He said, "Hmmm. People in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, they do not like NATO, and it would be best if
they came slowly and in small numbers." I said, "Well, we're sorry,
Mr. President. We're going to go there and do our job." And you know,
as in many other cases, Milosevic was wrong.
The people in Bosnia-Herzegovina have welcomed NATO. We've enjoyed
your hospitality. We've been grateful for it. We thank you for it, and
I leave with a tremendous sense of hope and optimism about the future
based on my relationships with the people here. Thank you very much,
and good luck.
CPIO: Thank you, sir.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Programs, U.S. Department
of State. Web site: usinfo.state.gov)



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