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Joint Conference With Serbian Prime Minister Zivkovic

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Serbian Republic Government Building
Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro
April 2, 2003

PRIME MINISTER ZIVKOVIC: Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. It is a great honor to be a host to Mr. Powell, who in this time of resolving the Iraq crisis, has found some time to visit our capital and pay us a short but intensive visit; to express his respect to the assassinated Premier Djindjic; to visit his family and to meet with officials of Serbia and Montenegro. We had a good conversation in which our side confirmed that we would continue with reforms that had started two and half years ago, reforms headed by the late Premier Djindjic; that we would not give up the direction of our reforms; that our fight against organized crime will be more intense and completed by the end of this year by beating crime in this country; to continue all the current reforms; to start new reforms that we could not conduct until now, and one of these is reform of the military. We expect the help of the U.S. in conducting these reforms as well as in our approach to the Partnership for Peace as our goal; we will intensify our international obligations such as cooperation with ICTY, which will hopefully finish in the near future. We will manage with the help of the U.S. and other partners to finish the process of democratization in Serbia.

We express special thanks to the Secretary of State for his personal engagement in establishing normal economic relations between our two countries, including help in donations, investments and credits provided by the U.S. On behalf of the Government of Serbia and in my own name, I can assure the Secretary of State that Serbia will be a reliable partner to the U.S.A.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister and good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I've come to Belgrade this evening to demonstrate strong United States support for Serbia and Montenegro after the assassination of Prime Minister Djindjic. The Prime Minister was a friend of mine. He and I went through a number of experiences over the last couple of years and I came to admire him greatly as a leader, as a friend, as someone who was dedicated to the future of his country and wanted only the best for his people.

In the meetings that I had here with the President and the Prime Minister, I am absolutely delighted with what I have heard about the commitment that they have made to reform. Reform of the type started by the late Prime Minister, and reforms that are underway and the aggressive action that is being taken against criminals and others who would corrupt and destroy your society, are the greatest tribute you can pay to your late Prime Minister. President Marovic is implementing important police and defense reforms and this is such a critical step in the civilian government's ability to take charge of this country and I am especially pleased to hear how the people have come to the support of the government in these efforts. Success against organized crime and reform of the military will improve cooperation with The Hague Tribunal, an important element of Serbia and Montenegro's international obligations. By carrying through on these obligations, Serbia and Montenegro can look forward to NATO's Partnership for Peace and moving closer to EU membership.

Another reason for my visit is to extend personal condolences to the widow of former Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic and I look forward to doing that later this evening. As much as we all mourn his loss, his assassination has unleashed forces that will obliterate the evil situation that caused his death.

Just as we are here to help you to achieve democracy, the United States will do everything we can to support Serbia and Montenegro in your aspirations to become an integral part of Europe. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary on war crimes prosecution -- the pace-- those two famous accused people who are still on the loose, what is your hope or expectation?

SECRETARY POWELL: We discussed Mr. Mladic and the Vukovar Two and I know that the Foreign Minister and the Minister of the Interior met with Carla del Ponte earlier today and I know there will be modifications made to the basic laws that govern that here and that shows to me a determination on the part of the government to deal with this issue once and for all and I hope that in the months ahead we will see considerable progress in apprehending, bringing to justice and sending to The Hague those who are under indictment. I leave here with a very good feeling about the sense of commitment and purpose that the leadership of Serbia and Montenegro will bring to the task of bringing these individuals to justice.

QUESTION: If you could tell us in what direction the future cooperation between the U.S. and our country will develop?

SECRETARY POWELL: We look forward to helping in every way we can. Normal trading relations are something that we have already worked on. I think we can do quite a bit together on the reform of the military. I think we can do quite a bit with respect to communicating to investors the stable environment that exists here, particularly as you get rid of these criminal elements. It will make for an even more stable environment that people will find attractive for investment. Investment is what makes a nation grow, especially a nation that is now firmly on the path of democracy and economic reform. We will help to the extent we can with certifications that I am required to make later this year if we see the kind of progress that I think we will see, with respect to The Hague Tribunal and with respect to legal reforms I think we have some experience that might assist in that effort as well. And so in any way in which Serbia and Montenegro seeks our assistance, we will try to respond. Partnership for Peace is out there, NATO is interested in helping with the defense reformation efforts, and there is no limit to the areas of cooperation that I think are ahead of us now that the government has committed itself so firmly to reform, so firmly to getting rid of corruption, so firmly to eliminating criminal elements and working with the people in a unified effort to move forward and make this a better society, transparent society, one that will in due course allow this nation to take its place fully in the transatlantic alliance.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, may we hear your comment on the latest development in Iraq? And also, what would be your main diplomatic goal tomorrow in Brussels?

SECRETARY POWELL: The campaign in Iraq - Operation Iraqi Freedom - is now almost two weeks old and a great deal has been accomplished. Coalition forces have moved to the outskirts of Baghdad, and are now engaging the main Republican Guard units. Pressure is being applied against Iraqi units throughout the country. We have secured the oil fields in the south, they were not able to destroy them, and they are now firmly in Coalition's hands. We have started the flow of humanitarian aid into the southern part of the country. We have stabilized the situation in the north so that there is not the same degree of concern that existed a few weeks ago with respect to a problem with the Turks that might require the intervention of Turkish forces. A great deal has been accomplished in two weeks. The campaign will be prosecuted to its end. I can't say how much longer it will take, but I can assure you that we all want to end this as soon as possible so we can go on with the task of allowing the Iraqi people to form a new government - a government that is democratic, a government that will represent all the people of Iraq, a government that will cause Iraq to live in peace with its neighbors, that will get rid of weapons of mass destruction, that will stop human rights abuses, that will stop the terror, rain of terror, that has existed in that country for the past twenty plus years under the leadership of Saddam Hussein. A government that will welcome the international community as it comes in to assist in the reconstruction of the country, and to use the wealth of Iraq, the oil of Iraq, to build as we were saying earlier, to build hospitals and schools, and the things that people want, and not weapons of mass destruction, and the things that people do not want that only make you a pariah in the world stage. And so I think that this campaign is successful and that success will be seen in due course when the Iraqi army is defeated in the field and we are able to stand up in an interim authority as the beginning of a full representative government.

In Brussels tomorrow, I will be talking to my colleagues in NATO and the European Union about where the campaign is, how it's going, and plans for reconstruction, plans for creating an interim authority, and I want to hear from them their ideas with respect to reconstruction, and I want to hear their ideas as to the contributions that the European Union can make, and NATO might be able to make, and also I am sure I will have a discussion about the appropriate role of the United Nations and other international institutions in the rebuilding of Iraq. Thank you.

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