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Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Press Conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz
May 16, 2003

Good Afternoon. I thought I’d just say a few words about the purpose of my visit. Today is Armed Forces Day and I wanted to visit with some of our troops, and I thought it was appropriate to come here to Bosnia to visit with the American troops that are participating in this important NATO mission of stabilization in Bosnia. I did have the opportunity to meet in Tuzla with the troops of Task Force Eagle and to thank them on behalf of President Bush, and Secretary Rumsfeld, and the American people, for all the important work they do here on our behalf and on behalf of the people of Bosnia.

I also had an opportunity to meet with troops from a number of our coalition partners, particularly the Turkish unit in Zenica where we visited to thank them for their cooperation in working with us as allies in this important endeavor.

The most powerful experience and impression of the day has got to be the visit we paid to Srebrenica. It’s truly horrible to think of what people can do to other human beings and the inhumanity that took place there. And to think that we are uncovering similar scenes of inhumanity in Iraq only makes one even sadder. I must say, I thought it inspirational, though, to see the commitment of some of the survivors of Srebrenica--and one particularly impressive widow--at their commitment to recovering the memories of their lost loved ones. That that cemetery has been opened is a great step forward. That the memorial is being built is, I think, a symbol of hope and remembrance. There is still, obviously, a great deal more that needs to be done and one can never really heal a tragedy of that magnitude.

Finally, two more points: first, I continue to be impressed almost everywhere I visit in the world with the quality of the men and women who volunteer to serve in our armed forces. The unit that has the principal responsibility for the United States in SFOR is a National Guard unit of citizen soldiers who have come into, back into active duty from civilian life. They bring with them very valuable experience as judges, as police officers, as doctors; all kinds of things, but also great professionalism as soldiers and I’m grateful to them. I’m grateful also that they have a great leader in Lt. General Ward. I’m grateful we have an outstanding ambassador, Ambassador Bond, and wonderful cooperation within our inter-agency team as well as with our coalition partners.

And finally, let me just say the United States remains strongly committed to this mission here. It’s not only about preventing the recurrence of horrors like Srebrenica. It’s more than that. It’s about creating the conditions where the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina can become a real part of Europe and the transatlantic community. It may be a long way to go, but I think we’ve come a long way as well, and that’s cause for some optimism.

Q: (Oslobodenje) How do you feel about European forces taking over the SFOR mission? And second, your plans to open a permanent military base in Bosnia.

Wolfowitz: The second part first: our facilities here are for the purpose of supporting the mission of SFOR, supporting implementation, the full implementation, of the Dayton Agreement and, as I said, to create the conditions for Bosnia-Herzegovina--the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina--to become part of the transatlantic community. There’s certainly been no decision of the kind you mention in the first part of your question about having the EU take over this role. I think the important point is, whatever we do going forward, the mission remains, and we want to see it through to success.

Q. (Reuters) With the bombing of Riyadh and the number of terrorists arising around the world, do you think it means that Al-Qaeda is still pretty much alive and do you see these attacks in Riyadh, other potential attacks, as a clear backlash to the war in Iraq?

Wolfowitz: I don’t want to spend too much time on this kind of question but let me just say, I think no one has ever pretended that Al-Qaeda is dead. But I think there’s no question that over the last several months it has suffered some very serious blows and we’ve arrested some very important, key Al-Qaeda figures. Like the attack in Bali or the attack in Kenya, this attack has clearly been planned for a long time. I think it has no relation to what took place in Iraq except the following, which is not unimportant. Two weeks ago when Secretary Rumsfeld was in Saudi Arabia, he and the Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia agreed that because the threat from Iraq had gone away the United States could remove most of its presence from Saudi Arabia. And that creates an atmosphere in which it’s possible for the Saudi government to deal with the very serious threat from Al-Qaeda without that burden hanging around it anymore.

Q: (Dnevni Avaz) Is it the reason you are here today when Bosnia is about to sign the agreement with the United States of America?

Wolfowitz: Let me repeat what I said at the outset. I’m here because today is Armed Forces Day. As I think you know from your question, we’ve been working for some time to come to an agreement on a "so-called" Article 98 agreement with the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hopefully, that agreement can be concluded soon, and I’ll be meeting after this with the joint presidency. And I’m sure that we’ll be, that we’ll discuss--but permit me, for just a minute to say something that’s important because I think it’s not often understood when this issue comes up. The United States is not seeking any immunity for its people if they commit war crimes. War Crimes must be prosecuted and if they’re not prosecuted in the jurisdiction where they took place, the United States government has and will prosecute Americans that we believe have committed war crimes. We simply don’t believe that the ICC, which has no political supervision over it, is a fair or appropriate mechanism to submit American soldiers or peacekeepers to.

Actually, it’s called an Article 98 agreement because Article 98 of the ICC Treaty specifically provides that signatories to the ICC Treaty can make exactly this kind of arrangement. It’s provided for under the Treaty.

Q: (BBC News) The US has shown strong commitment to the Balkans over the past few years, and at times we’ve (unclear) a war on terror. When do you think US troops will pull out of the Balkans and re-deploy for the war on terror. And secondly, to what extent is North Korea a threat to world peace.

Wolfowitz: Nice try! I get to pick which one, which one I’m gonna pick. I’m happy to repeat what I’ve said already which is, we are committed to the country, and on a bi-partisan basis to this mission. I’ve got to say on a personal level I was very proud to be in a meeting advising Senator Bob Dole, when he was the Senate Majority Leader for the Republican Party, right after Dayton when it was discussed, "should he support President Clinton’s decision peacekeepers or not." And I’m very proud that Senator Dole had the courage and statesmanship to support that decision. Just as I’m very proud that then- Governor Bush strongly supported President Clinton’s actions in Kosovo and the sending of peacekeepers to Kosovo.

We’re always trying to find ways, with our NATO partners, to accomplish the same mission with fewer forces if we can do it. But, as we’ve said repeatedly, we came into this together, we will go out together only if and when the mission is accomplished. And, in fact, I think your question brings out a very important point, too, which is that not only is there an important humanitarian mission to be achieved here, but I think that it’s also clear that achieving stability in the Balkans is part of fighting the war on terror. We do not want to see this part of the world become a source of instability for Europe or, for that matter, for any of us.

And I guess I’ll dip into the North Korean waters just enough to say that North Korea is a danger. It’s not a danger that can be dealt with unilaterally. That is why we’re working so hard with our partners in northeast Asia, our allies Japan and Korea, as well as Russia and, of course, China, which has a particularly important role to play, so that we can jointly convince North Korea that it has to change its course. And Mr. Kellems is telling me the time is up. Thank you very much.

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