America the dutiful

Has America lost her nerve over Kosovo? Can she still claim to be leader of the Western alliance? The United States has come in for sustained criticism since the start of Nato's bombing campaign, not least in this newspaper. Here the American ambassador answers his country's - and Nato's - critics

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Commentators who suggest that American leadership is somehow in doubt are mistaken. Let me first address Kosovo. Nato remains united on the mission in Yugoslavia. All members are agreed - for the air campaign to end, Slobodan Milosevic must accept five conditions: a cease-fire; withdrawal of all of his military, police and paramilitary forces from Kosovo; the deployment of an international security force with Nato at its core; the safe return of all refugees; and credible assurance of his willingness to work for the establishment of a new political framework for genuine self-government in Kosovo. As President Clinton has said, we will achieve our objectives "one way or the other".

But while the spotlight is on Kosovo, the United States continues to exercise leadership all over the world.

In Bosnia US troops are working to promote democracy and reconstruction. Half-way around the globe, in North Korea, a US team is visiting a suspect underground site to assure that North Korea remains in compliance with its nuclear commitments. In Iraq we are enforcing the no-fly zones to protect Iraqis from Saddam Hussein's regime, while in New York we are working with the UK to design a new UN inspection regime. In Nigeria we support newly elected President Obasanjo in an historic opportunity to end military dominance and establish civilian democratic rule.

In these places - and many others - American leadership is vital.

We continue to do our part, promoting democracy, peace and prosperity. We stand ready to aid our allies and respond to global threats. Contrary to the sceptics, the United States is pulling its weight in world affairs.

The US's commitment is comprehensive and concrete. More than 600 planes and 30,000 troops are supporting Nato's action in Yugoslavia. US pilots are flying half of all combat missions there; our contribution to strategic and command and control systems is unmatched by any other Nato member. And the US commitment goes beyond the headlines. At any given moment, more than 120,000 US troops are deployed away from home, from Sinai to Diego Garcia, Haiti to Bosnia. Another 200,000 Americans are permanently stationed abroad, with 100,000 in the Asia-Pacific region, more than 100,000 in Europe.

American leadership extends beyond troops and military hardware. Force - and the credible possibility of its use - is vital, but so is diplomacy. From attending long meetings of the Contact Group, sifting stacks of State Department cables, and greeting a steady stream of diplomats arriving in London, I can attest to the US's strenuous efforts to find diplomatic solutions. In Kosovo, we are engaged in these two parallel tracks. Even as Nato pursues its military objectives, diplomacy continues.

What is the US doing to make the world safer, more peaceful, more democratic, more prosperous?

We are working to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals and to slow the spread of weapons of mass destruction. We have spent billions of dollars since 1992 to help Russia safely dismantle nuclear weapons. Belarus and Kazakhstan are now non-nuclear states. We are making progress to adapt the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. Last year President Clinton's trip to Moscow produced agreement on plutonium disposition and missile launches.

The US is often asked to play the role of honest broker. For example, President Clinton has shown his staunch support for all parties in Northern Ireland that are committed to a lasting, peaceful resolution to the conflict. The US plays a similar role in the Middle East. We will be working hard - with the Palestinians and Israel's new government - to revitalise the peace process. In both regions, our goal is to earn and keep the trust of both sides.

The US is committed to constructive engagement with China to address issues of concern, and we are striving to expand areas of co-operation. The mistaken, tragic bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which the US and all Nato countries deeply regret, has not changed the basic national interest for both of our countries in pursuing this path.

This policy has already achieved results. Recently China has moved from being part of the nuclear proliferation problem to becoming a part of the solution. It has joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, become party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and cut off nuclear and missile co-operation with Iran.

An open and economically healthy China which works co-operatively with the international community is good for the region and for the world. The US approach - sustained, steady engagement - is designed to bring that about.

Elsewhere in Asia, the US's steady diplomacy seldom hits the front page, but does bear fruit. In talks with China and the two Koreas, we are working to reduce tensions and achieve a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea's nuclear programme posed a grave threat to regional peace before activities at existing facilities at Yongbyon were frozen under the US-DPRK Agreed Framework. They remain under International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring. An international consortium, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO), will construct two proliferation-resistant light-water reactors, with funding principally from South Korea, Japan and the European Union.

As we address European security concerns, including Kosovo, we value our constructive relationship with Russia. Russia must be firmly anchored in European security institutions, and the Nato-Russia Permanent Joint Council has already co-operated in areas such as peacekeeping, defence conversion and disaster relief. The US will be a reliable partner to Russia as it moves through the choppy waters of economic and political reforms.

In all these areas, the US has been at the forefront. But global threats and challenges are best met in partnership with other countries. For example, we often work with the European Union on issues beyond our borders, such as climate change, international financial matters, combating trafficking in women, and promoting reconciliation in Bosnia. Even our occasional trade disputes should be seen in the context of our overwhelmingly successful trade and investment relationship.

There are threats and challenges that no single country can meet alone. We aim to strengthen the mechanisms and institutions that enhance our collective actions.

Nato is the pre-eminent example of the benefits of multilateral consultation and action. Nato operates by consensus, with the agreement of all its members. On Kosovo, Nato is united. Each member of Nato has slightly different security and political concerns, and all voices will - and should - be heard.

But do not mistake democratic dialogue for dissent. Nato is governed by 19 nations, not by one. Nato's unity on the mission in Yugoslavia is therefore all the more remarkable.

In 1945, President Roosevelt said, "We have learned that we cannot live alone. We cannot live alone at peace. We have learned that our own well- being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away. We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community."

As part of that community, Americans will share the risks and responsibilities of promoting global peace and prosperity. And American leadership is not in doubt.

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