18 September 1998
(Berger says US bombing of Sudan factory justified) (890) By Wendy S. Ross USIA White House Correspondent Washington -- President Clinton will discuss terrorism and the obligation of the international community to fight it in his September 21 speech before the United Nations General Assembly. He will "speak to the international community about why the fight against terrorism has become one that has to be at or near the top of our world agenda," National Security Advisor Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger said in a September 18 White House briefing on the President's appearance at the opening of the 53rd annual UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Clinton "will point out that with the spread of information technology and the potential spread of weapons of mass destruction, the technology of terror has become more lethal and more available, and therefore there is a greater degree of common responsibility to deal with this issue together," Berger said. "He wants to make it clear to the international community that the fight against terrorism is not a clash of civilizations or cultures. The dividing line is between those who practice, support, and tolerate terror, and those who understand that terrorism is plain and simple murder. And he wants to press his case that the only way to succeed in the combat against terrorism is working together and understanding our common obligations to deal with this increasingly serious problem," Berger said. While in New York, the President will hold three bilateral meetings. The first will be September 20 with Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi, and will "focus especially on the problems in Kosovo and in Albania, where the Italians obviously are critical partners to us in seeking to restore some peace and stability," Berger said. Prodi and Clinton also are expected to discuss the world economic situation and the situation in Russia. On September 21, following his speech to the UN General Assembly, Clinton will meet with Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Those discussions will focus on ways to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. "As you know," Berger said, "we've had a close relationship with Pakistan for many years and we hope to work with Pakistan in the years to come. However, Berger pointed out, that relationship, and US relations with India, have been complicated by the nuclear tests the two countries conducted in May. He said the administration has not yet decided on whether Clinton will visit India and Pakistan, as planned, later this year. "We have discussed with the Indians, and with the Pakistanis, the steps that we think need to be taken to put them back on track, as I say, more firmly back on track in the nonproliferation regime. I think there has been some movement, but I think so far it's been insufficient," Berger said. Clinton's third bilateral meeting will be with Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi September 22 at the Rockefeller estate at Tarrytown, outside New York City. "This will be the first meeting between the new Prime Minister of Japan and the President," Berger said. He said Clinton will stress the importance to the world of economic reform in Japan "and our sense of urgency that it is important that Japan move forward to stimulate its economy through fiscal policies, that it deal with its banking crisis ... and that it continue to deal with deregulation and market access." He added that the two leaders will discuss a number of other issues, particularly North Korea, whose "launch of the Taepo Dong missile over Japan on August 31 obviously has been troubling both to us and to the Japanese." President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will also participate September 21 in a conference sponsored by New York University (NYU) on strengthening democracy in the global economy. The President will engage in a roundtable discussion with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain, Prime Minister Prodi, President Petar Stoyanov of Bulgaria, and Prime Minister Goran Persson of Sweden. That discussion "should be a fairly free-flowing conversation among the leaders about their practical experience in devising new methods of governance to deal with promoting democracy, civil society, in the global economy," Berger said. In answer to a reporter's question, Berger said the US strike August 20 on a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan was justified because the United States had "a high level of confidence" that that plant was also making a chemical called EMPTA, which is essentially the penultimate precursor to VX gas. "There are very few steps, maybe even only one step, between EMPTA and VX nerve gas," he said. The plant "is part of a Military Industrial Corporation of which Usama Bin Ladin is associated. He seeks chemical weapons for the purpose of using them for terrorist action. I think the case is very strong." It "would have been irresponsible" not to strike that plant, Berger said. "This plant was, in my judgment, a legitimate target, and had we not struck it I don't know how we could have faced the American people and said we had every reason to believe that there was a chemical weapons-related facility here, associated with Usama Bin Ladin, who has said he wants to kill Americans, but we decided not to attack it."