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USIS Washington 

01 June 1999


Speaks before House Africa Subcommittee) (530)
By Jim Fisher-Thompson
USIA Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan
Rice May 25 told the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa
that the U.S. government would use its "good offices" to help bring an
end to the bloody Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict, but its offer does not
include financial assistance to either party for now.
The official told lawmakers that President Clinton, Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright, and National Security Adviser Samuel Berger "have
made it very clear to both sides that we are committed to doing our
utmost, in the use of our good offices, to bring this [conflict] to a
peaceful resolution."
She added, however, that the Clinton administration, "in consultation
with Congress, took the decision...that we would not provide direct
financial assistance to either government in the wake of the outbreak
of hostilities" between Ethiopia and Eritrea."
She added that the United States "will continue assistance to NGOs
[non-governmental organizations] in project-based assistance, but
non-project-based assistance has been suspended and continues to be
suspended for the time being."
Rice pointed out that while "we have not been reluctant to make our
good offices available...both sides need to be ready and willing to
take constructive advantage of those good offices."
In answer to a question by Africa Subcommittee Chairman Ed Royce about
a proposed U.S. debt relief package for Ethiopia worth $90 million,
Rice said: "We had prior to the outbreak of the conflict planned to
provide debt relief to a number of countries that met the
administration's criteria. This is bilateral concessional debt and
there have been staff consultations on this issue over the course of
the last week, and the administration has committed to consult further
with Congress on the debt relief issue described."
Representative Tom Campbell (Republican - California) expressed his
frustration at the waste in lives and resources the conflict is
costing and at the war's negative impact on the image of the two
countries among the U.S. public. He recalled that last year he and his
wife spent their Thanksgiving Day holiday visiting Ethiopia and
Eritrea, noting that they "had such a great feeling of optimism,
seeing how proud people were at the economic progress they were
Now, he added, "I don't know what is going to have to be done to get
the attention" of the American public back on the positive things that
can be accomplished by both nations.
Representative Ben Gilman, chairman of the full House International
Relations Committee, made an unexpected appearance at the hearing and
read a statement in which he termed the conflict a tragedy involving
"two of Africa's shining lights."
Calling it "the largest war in the world today," Gilman said that a
half million people are under arms, and that 40,000 have already been
killed in the conflict that rages on the border between the two
The war is especially tragic, he stressed, because it involves "two
brothers slashing at each other at the very time they should be
building their liberty, wealth, and prosperity."

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