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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 if there was a divide between France and the UK on Zaire].

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think that anyone doubts that there is going to be a need for help in Zaire, we certainly don’t, and equally we think it is right that that matter should go to the United Nations and be properly discussed. The question is what is the right sort of help? The wrong sort of help could damage rather than assist. So I think we need to discuss with the countries in the region, primarily of course with the United Nations, with the OAU, precisely what is the right sort of help. I suspect we will begin that discussion today, but it can’t of course conclude in an Anglo-French bilateral meeting, it will need to be discussed in a wider forum.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if no country was taking responsibility for the problems in Zaire].

PRIME MINISTER:

No, it clearly goes to the United Nations. Mrs Ogata, the High Commissioner for Refugees at the United Nations, has put forward some plans, they need to be discussed. Others have suggested plans, they need to be discussed as well. But this is going to involve the international community so it has to be discussed in the international forum, and that is going to be the United Nations. I believe that should be done speedily and I have no doubt when that is done in one way or another Britain will play a role.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if troops would be sent].

PRIME MINISTER:

It is certainly possible. It is not yet certain that that is the right thing to do and clearly it would be desirable if there was a large contingent of African troops, that is clearly an area where African troops would have a particular expertise. I have no doubt that Britain may be involved in some way, whether it is logistic support, whether it is financial support, whether possibly even if it is troop support, I don’t rule that out. We would certainly be prepared to play our part. But we do need to discuss what is the best way to address the problem that exists and that does need some discussions. I know it is frustrating, I know it needs to be done speedily, I hope it will be, and that is one of the matters we will discuss this morning.

QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he would back the French UN Resolution on military action].

PRIME MINISTER:

It depends on the discussions, it depends precisely on what the view of the host nations are. You can’t just send troops into a region without the consent of the people who live in the region. So I think we have to approach this in the proper manner, as I have said. I don’t rule out the prospect of us contribution but I think we are not yet ready to make that decision.