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1996 - Mr Major’s Comments on Zaire

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on Zaire, made in an interview held in Bordeaux on Friday 8th November 1996.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked how Britain would be helping Zaire].

PRIME MINISTER:

We have traditionally made a very substantial contribution whenever there is humanitarian aid required. We have a very proud record in that respect. I don’t think anyone doubts the scale of the potential difficulties in the Zaire region and we spent some time discussing that last evening and will return to it again this morning. But I think there are a wide raft of options for how we might help and it is unclear yet precisely what will be done.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if Britain might send troops to the region].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is premature to decide upon that at the moment. The first thing that would be necessary of course would be to have the consent of the governments in the host region, that has not yet been obtained, and then clearly there would be a question of what the command structure would be, what the mission would actually be and under whose auspices they would go. Those are all very sensitive areas for many of the African governments, so there is a great deal of discussion and I think that can best be held in the United Nations.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked how Britain would vote in the French UN Resolution on military intervention].

PRIME MINISTER:

I have not seen the resolution yet but I am unsurprised that that is being discussed, and I don’t rule out the option of assisting in that way, but I say at the moment it is premature. Ideally one would want to see a substantial contribution from African nations to any such force, but until we know what the mission would be, until we know what the purpose it, is it to open an humanitarian corridor, is it a more broad and widespread intervention? These are matters not yet considered by any collective gathering at all. They will need to be considered and it may be at the end of the day that the right thing to do is to have some form of international force. But I think the host governments and others would regard that as premature just at the moment.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if something needed to be done urgently to stop the human tragedy].

PRIME MINISTER:

A great deal is being done. But I don’t think it is a question of passing the buck, this clearly has to come under the auspices of the United Nations and the OAU, those are the areas that I think one would require to discuss this in, and that is now beginning to happen, so I don’t think there is going to be undue delay.