01 June 1999
RICE SAYS U.S. HAS ENDED MOST ASSISTANCE TO ETHIOPIA, ERITREA
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 making." 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 nations. 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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