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Prepared Remarks by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright

Related Bio: Madeleine K. Albright, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group LLC
June 28, 1999
Foreign Affairs

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Note: Remarks as prepared for delivery

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Les, that was very generous of you. Thank you. Good evening to all of you in this fantastic new setting -- members of the Council on Foreign Relations and distinguished colleagues, friends and guests. NATO's confrontation with Belgrade over Kosovo has ended in accordance with the conditions the Alliance set. Now we face the even harder task of building a lasting peace there and throughout Southeast Europe. This evening, I would like to discuss with you this historic challenge.

Churchill once described Russia as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. In Kosovo today, we see a success folded within a tragedy stamped with a question mark.

Consider the reactions of the refugees and displaced as their time of exile ends. For some, coming home means a joyous reunion of family and friends. For others, it means a heart-stopping confirmation of terrible fears as bodies are identified and mass graves found. For all, it means uncertainty about what will come next.

As a result, Kosovo today is a cauldron of grief mixed with exhilaration, of unresolved anger and unfulfilled dreams. Out of this the international community and the area's people must build a future secure and free.

A starting point is provided by UN Security Council Resolution 1244, and the military and political arrangements to which it refers. In accordance with these, Serb forces have left; KFOR is deploying; and the Kosovo Liberation Army will demilitarize over the next 90 days.

In addition, the United Nations Interim Mission is being set up. It will operate in partnership with the EU and OSCE, donor countries and KFOR. And its duties will encompass civil administration, humanitarian relief, economic recovery and the creation of democratic institutions, including -- most crucially -- a new local police.

Assembling the nuts and bolts of a durable peace in Kosovo is a daunting challenge. Our expectations should be realistic. The mission will take time; complaints will surely be heard; and despite KFOR's presence, the danger of violence will persist. As is usual, the good news will often be treated as no news, while setbacks receive the spotlight. Success will require an extraordinary team effort.

Notwithstanding all this, I am hopeful for three reasons.

First, for most of the past decade, Kosovar Albanians coped with Serb repression by maintaining parallel political, educational and social structures. They have experience managing institutions.

Second, in past weeks, I have seen an extraordinary determination on the part of European officials to get this job done and done right. This is true from London to Helsinki and from Ankara to Lisbon. Failure is not an option.

Third, the international community has learned some hard lessons in recent years about the do's and don'ts of building peace in post-conflict situations.

It is essential that, in Kosovo, these lessons be heeded. The military and civilian components must work together well both internally and with each other. Both must take effective use of their mandates and focus on results. Donors must back them not just with promises, but with resources of sufficient quantity and timeliness to make a difference. And above all, we must have faith that the mission's underlying principles of democracy and tolerance, economic reform and the rule of law are the right ones for all the people of Kosovo.

Now, there are some who see an insurmountable obstacle in the desire of many Kosovars for immediate independence -- a position that neither NATO nor governments in the region support.

Having met with the Kosovar leadership, I know the yearning for independence is powerful. But I also know that Belgrade's withdrawal has altered the reality within which the people of Kosovo will formulate their aspirations. Until now, independence has seemed the only alternative to repression.

But in the future, Kosovars will have something they've never had, which is genuine self-government. They will be out from under Milosevic's boot, with the freedom to choose their own leaders and shape the laws by which they are governed. Milosevic, meanwhile, won't be able to arrest so much as a jaywalker in Kosovo. And his henchmen won't have the capacity to intimidate Kosovars or deny them their rights.

That's why the Kosovar Albanian leadership signed on to the Rambouillet Accords, despite the absence of an independence guarantee; and why I will go out on a limb and predict that KFOR will receive strong cooperation from most Kosovars in the months ahead.

Another key issue is whether the new Kosovo will include its ethnic Serb, Roma and other minorities, and whether they will be able to live safely now that Belgrade's forces have been withdrawn.

Given the extent of destruction inflicted by Serbs, the risk is obvious that some ethnic Albanians will take the law into their own hands. Many unacceptable incidents have already occurred. But KFOR takes seriously its mandate to protect all Kosovars, including Serbs. And its effectiveness will increase as deployment continues and demilitarization gains steam.

Kosovo will be a better place if Serbs who did not commit crimes stay and help rebuild. But that is their decision to make. We will measure our success by whether the rights of all those who choose to live in Kosovo are respected.

The same principle, incidentally, should apply elsewhere in the region. The international community must continue to press for the safe return of other refugees, including ethnic Serbs to the Krajina region of Croatia. This is crucial, for there could be few great gifts to the 21st Century than to bust the ghosts of Balkans past and consign Milosevic's tactics of hate to the trash bin of history.

Even as we work to help Kosovo regain its feet, we are acting to secure the future of the region. With our partners in the European Union playing a big role, we have launched a pact to stabilize, transform and eventually integrate all of Southeast Europe into the continent's democratic mainstream.

We undertake this effort because it's right, but also because it is smart. For we know that America cannot be secure unless Europe is secure, which it will not be if its southeast corner remains wracked by division and strife.

Our strategy, with our partners, is to apply the model of help and self-help reflected in the Marshall Plan half a century ago, and in efforts to aid democratization in Central Europe this decade. In this spirit, President Clinton will meet with his counterparts in the region this summer.

Together, they will discuss ways to mobilize the resources of a wide range of governments and organizations, while coordinating with the European Community and World Bank. Our intention is to work urgently and effectively with leaders in Southeast Europe as they strive to attract capital, raise living standards, reconcile ethnic and religious tensions, and promote the rule of law.

In this way, we hope over time to enable countries throughout the region to participate fully in the major economic and political institutions of the Trans-Atlantic community. This would greatly serve America's interest in expanding the area within Europe where wars simply do not happen. And it would mark another giant step towards the creation of a continent whole and free.

We don't start from square one, but rather with a strong base of democratic leadership. Hungary has already joined NATO. Hungary and Slovenia are well along in accession negotiations with the EU. And officials in Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Albania and Croatia demonstrated throughout the recent crisis that they want their societies to grow, prosper and live in peace.

The same is true of Montenegro, where President Djukanovic and his people endured grave danger without wavering in their support for democratic principles. They have earned the right to participate in our initiative.

We look forward, as well, to welcoming a new Serbia, because our efforts at regional integration cannot fully succeed until that occurs. But Serbia will not receive help, except humanitarian relief, until it is democratic and Milosevic is out of work -- or, better yet, in jail.

This is only common sense. Milosevic led Serbia into four wars this decade. He has been indicted for crimes against humanity. He has lied repeatedly to his own people and to the world. His regime is hopelessly corrupt. He portrays himself as a hero, but he is a traitor to every honorable Serb and has no place in the region's future.

We learned in Kosovo, as in Bosnia and Rwanda, that in this era of varied and mobile dangers, gross violations of human rights are everyone's business. Earlier this century, our predecessors confronted not only Hitler, but fascism; not only Stalin, but communism. In recent weeks, we confronted not only Milosevic, but ethnic cleansing. NATO's leaders simply refused to stand by and watch while an entire ethnic community was expelled from its home in the Alliance's front yard.

By acting with unity and resolve, NATO reaffirmed its standing as an effective defender of stability and freedom in the region. It validated the strategy for modernizing the Alliance approved at the Washington Summit in April. And it underlined the importance of the leading nations on both sides of the Atlantic acting together in defense of shared interests and values.

If we are as resolute in building peace as we were persistent in conflict, the crisis in Kosovo may come to be viewed as a turning point in European history.

In the past, Balkan strife has torn Europe apart, and big powers took sides and made local fights their own. The Dayton Accords established a new model of nations coming together to promote peace. Milosevic gambled that Kosovo would prompt a reversion to the earlier model, splitting the Alliance and opening an unbridgeable gap between Russia and the West. Thanks to a careful assessment of mutual interests in Moscow and allied capitals, he was wrong.

Russia and NATO did not see eye to eye on the use of force against Belgrade. But both wanted to prevent the conflict from spreading, and following President Clinton's lead, we worked together to bring the conflict to an end. And now, with Russia in KFOR, we are working together to sustain the peace.

More generally, the time-tested marriage of diplomacy and force played a central role from the beginning of the crisis. At Rambouillet, we sought an interim political settlement that would have protected the rights of all Kosovars. To the vast detriment of Serb interests, Milosevic rejected that agreement. But the talks helped bring the Kosovar Albanian leadership together in an unprecedented way.

After NATO launched its campaign, we shifted from diplomacy backed by the threat of force to diplomacy in support of force. We worked hard to assist the front-line states in coping with the flood of refugees. We received help from countries on every continent, including those in the Muslim world. We consulted constantly with our allies, who stayed together every step of the way. And we made full use of public diplomacy to explain NATO's objectives.

Ultimately, we were able to use diplomacy to help bring the need for force to an end. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott, we reached an understanding with Russia's envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin, on the terms of peace. We solicited the help of Finnish President Ahtisaari in presenting those terms to Belgrade. By then, an isolated Milosevic had no other choice but to accept. And we proceeded to gain Security Council approval for an international force with NATO at its core.

Now we are in a new stage of practicing diplomacy to build peace. During the past two weeks, we have consummated agreements on an appropriate role for Russia in KFOR, KLA demilitarization, and the Southeast Europe Stability Pact.

Our strategy throughout has been grounded firmly in US interests. By meeting massive ethnic cleansing in the Balkans with a red light, we make it less likely that NATO will be called upon to use force in the future. And by supporting democracy and promoting human rights, we contribute to a future of stability and peace throughout Europe. This is fully consistent both with American interests and with NATO's purpose, which is to prevent war while defending freedom.

Some hope, and others fear, that Kosovo will be a precedent for similar interventions around the globe. I would caution against any such sweeping conclusions. Every circumstance is unique. Decisions on the use of force will be made by any President on a case-by-case basis after weighing a host of factors. Moreover, the response to Milosevic would not have been possible without NATO, and NATO is a European and Atlantic -- not a global -- institution.

We have been laboring throughout this decade to improve the world's ability to prevent and respond to humanitarian disasters, but this does remain a work in progress.

We conceived the Africa Crisis Response Initiative to improve indigenous capabilities on that continent. We are the largest contributor to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. We are backing strongly the War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda and the Balkans. And we have supported peace initiatives from Northern Ireland to the Middle East and Central Africa.

The United States remains the world's leading force for justice and stability. But a leader cannot stand still. We need help from Congress to support the President's requests for resources to back our leadership, and to ensure that our commitments in Southeast Europe do not cause the neglect of other priorities.

Not long ago, I visited a refugee camp in Macedonia. And I was never prouder to be an American than when I heard the chant "USA, USA, USA" and saw a little boy's hand-lettered sign that read, at the top, "I Love America," and at the bottom, "I want to go home."

As someone whose own family was twice forced to flee its home when I was still a little girl, I remember how it feels to be displaced. And now I know how it feels, as Secretary of State, to be able to tell that little boy and his family that with America's help, they would go home safely and soon.

There are some who say that Americans need not care what happens to that child or to those like him. Others suggest that until we can help all the victims of ethnic violence, we should be consistent and not help any. Still others believe that by trying to bring stability to the Balkans, we're taking on a job that is simply too hard. Finally, there are some -- overseas and even here at home -- who see NATO's actions as part of a master plan to impose our values on the world.

Such criticisms are not original. They echo voices heard half a century ago when America led in rebuilding war-torn societies across two oceans, helped to reconcile historic enemies, elevated the world's conception of human rights, and attempted and achieved the impossible by supplying more than two million people in Berlin entirely by air for more than nine months.

From that time to this, the United States has defended its own interests, while promoting values of tolerance and free expression that are not "Made in America" or confined to the West, but rather universal and fundamental to world progress and peace.

It is in this spirit of melding present interests with timeless values -- a spirit fully in keeping with the highest traditions of US foreign policy -- that we have acted in Kosovo, and that we strive now for lasting peace throughout Southeast Europe.

It is to the success of this mission and the continuation of this tradition that I pledge my own best efforts tonight, and I respectfully solicit your wise counsel and support.

Thank you very much.

(Applause.)

MODERATOR: It's terrific to have a Secretary of State who can pronounce all those names. Twenty minutes on the record. The procedure is, wait to be recognized; wait for the microphone; state your name and affiliation; a to-the-point question or to-the-point comment; and if you feel that your question needs further elaboration on the part of the Secretary, stand again and if you really feel compelled, recognize you for a follow-up so we can turn it into more of a conversation. The floor is open.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I want to know why, with the amount of effort that's gone into this from the UN, that we're still fighting with them and nickling and diming them and why we can't get this money up to the level it should be; because aren't we asking the UN to do the major work now in Kosovo, in terms of keeping the peace?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes. Robin, thank you for asking that.

(Laughter.)

This is not a set-up. Ambassador Burleigh. Let me say that we are slowly but surely now moving legislation through Congress, where we will be able to pay back what we owe and keep the process going. But so far, it is through the Senate and an authorization bill, and we will wait to see how it does through the rest of the process.

As you know, last time it got snagged up by a non-germane issue, which is the question of the Mexico City language. The subject of the right to life and the right to choice is one that is very important to a lot of people, and I'm sure that there are a lot of people in this room who are on different sides of the subject. And we believe that it is worthy of discussion and should be discussed separately in Congress, and not attached to a piece of legislation that I believe has vital national interests attached to it, which is supporting the United Nations; because it is the lead agency in the civil implementation of Kosovo, in addition to working in a lot of other places.

MODERATOR: Anything else on that question?

QUESTION: The follow-up question to Robin's is simply, do you think the Congress today will be willing to respond to your request for additional economic support for the UN and its work in Kosovo? Because that's still over and above the arrears question, and is right before you the next month or so.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Again, we are just in the midst of all the decisions. We have asked for some supplemental funds, and may be asking for more. I think that people understand that there are two -- several parts to this. One is what has to do with the reconstruction effort, and the other is to pay for the part that has to do with the UN and KFOR and the various implementation aspects of it.

I believe the President has stated this many times -- that it is much less expensive to work on peace and dealing with the issues of peace than it is war and hundreds of thousands of displaced people and refugees. So we hope very much that as Congress looks at this issue and recognizes the fact that we have had a victory, that it needs to support the funding in order to be able to carry out a lasting peace. That is what we have an opportunity to do finally, and it's cheap at the price.

MODERATOR: Just to follow up those easy questions -- (Laughter.)

What really can be done, from the standpoint of your Administration, or almost anybody who would be in your job, in terms of dealing with Congress? The divide between them -- the majority there -- and you all about the value of the UN is just that great. How do you deal with that? It underlies everything.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that one of the things that I think is very important is for us to recognize the important role that Congress constitutionally does play in foreign policy and understand that it is essential to democratic functioning. But that requires that a great deal of responsibility be shown in undertaking that role and in understanding that it is very hard for a President or a Secretary of State to carry on foreign policy not just with one hand tied behind his or her back, but at some stage two, because we don't have the resources to carry out what we want to do and also there are a great many restrictions placed on the bills and micro-management of foreign policy.

I have, as I say, worked both sides of this. I think many of you that have known me before know that I was the chief legislative assistant to Senator Ed Muskie, and worked hard on foreign policy legislation and fully believe in the role of Congress in foreign policy. But it does require careful work and responsibility and not sending a lot of really mixed signals, as they did on the Kosovo issue -- especially in the House.

QUESTION: I wondered what do you think the role of the Russians should be in keeping the peace in Serbia and Kosovo?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think they have a very important role to play. Secretary Cohen and I, along with Deputy Secretary Talbott, worked very hard to hammer that out, with the help of President Ahtisaari in Helsinki. What I think is very important is that the Russians have agreed to the concept of unity of command. They now are in the process of deploying their forces within their areas of responsibility that are within the American sector, the German and the French sectors. They will be carrying on with the rest of us in terms of making sure that the implementation goes forward.

As I said, while they disagreed with the bombing, I do believe that they see it in their interest that there not be chaos in the Balkan Peninsula, and we hope very much that we will be able to have the kind of cooperation that we've had with them in Bosnia and that the relationships that were begun to be established with NATO through the Founding Act and the Permanent Joint Council will be something that can now be resumed.

MODERATOR: Does anyone want to follow up on the issue of Russia's role before, during, after? Anyone on Russia?

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, were you taken by surprise when the Russians occupied the airport; and what was their larger goal; and are they ever going to leave?

(Laughter.)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, I was; I think we were all taken by surprise. I think that people did not expect them to kind of jump the gun in that particular way. People had continued to want them to be a part of KFOR.

As the agreement was worked out in Helsinki, they will be cooperating with the British, where the airport -- Pristina is in the British sector -- and they will be cooperating with us and the British on the operation of the airport, and they will have some logistics people there.

I think the important part here is for all of us to, with a very realistic approach, understand that it is important for the Russians to be a part of this mission. While, as I stated, they have agreed to the unity of command concept and have been -- there's a structure now which we established about how they relate to the whole command structure, I think it is important for us to include them. I think that it is part of the relationship that we've had with Russia. And just to take this a step further, in all my conversations with Foreign Minister Ivanov and in President Clinton's with President Yeltsin and in Secretary Cohen's with Defense Minister Sergeyev, we have talked about the importance of maintaining a steady relationship with Russia that goes beyond Milosevic and the events in the Balkans.

MODERATOR: Just to press that question a bit further, what were the Russians really up to in this? And has it really reached the point where Yeltsin and the others feel that they have to do things like this in order to deal with their domestic political anti-Americanism, the power of that anti-Americanism?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Clearly, there are divisions now in the Russian society in terms of where they have found themselves at the end of the Cold War, where they have found themselves because of their various economic difficulties and their desire to continue to play an important role on the world scene.

There are those, as we all know, who are talking about the growth of anti-Americanism; but what is interesting is that some of the polling since the end of the air campaign -- again, those who are being negative about the US -- those numbers have now fallen again, although clearly, there continues to be some anti-Americanism.

At the same time, I think, without sounding too goo-goo here, I think that it's important to remember that what the Russians have been doing has been within constitutional procedures. Interestingly enough, their agreements with KFOR have been discussed now in the Federation Council and approved, and they are having discussions that are not dissimilar to some that we might be having in our legislature about whether they can -- how much it costs to send their forces in.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, how are you? I wonder what is being done in concrete terms to ensure that the level of coordination that went into the NATO campaign will be maintained during the period of recovery? And if I can pose a second question, please, as the light shines brightly on Kosovo, to refer to some remarks that you made during your presentation, how can we be certain that sufficient attention will continue to be focused on crises that are ongoing from Sierra Leone to East Timor?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: On the first part, let me say that one of the most interesting parts for me of the previous 78 days was the very close coordination that we had with the allies. I was on the phone I think probably more than any of my predecessors in conference-call diplomacy, and was in contact on a daily basis with very large numbers of the NATO allies. It was very interesting because we've obviously never had a situation like this, where you have 19 democracies trying to make a decision -- many of whom were parliamentary democracies, therefore, my counterparts were elected officials. Some of them were in coalition governments; some of them were in governments where the cohabitation is not easy. And so we had very interesting discussions. I think that we all really got very used to dealing with each other on a daily basis.

We also had an incredible number of meetings, mostly in Europe. But I have managed their coming here on Wednesday. We are establishing, I think, an interesting interlocuting activity with the United Nations in terms of creating a Friends of Kosovo group which is based on a combination of NATO members and G-8. I think there has become increasing kind of working relationship.

After all, the NATO alliance, for 49 years, basically discussed issues in theory. We were really able to put it through its paces. I think it's too early to draw a lot of lessons, but it certainly was a fascinating experience, and we will continue our telephone contacts and personal contacts.

On the other issue, I think that the part that has become really clear to me as having spent an incredible amount of time on Kosovo, that it wasn't the only thing I spent time on for the last three months. There are issues that need to -- that have to remain on a priority list. While we have learned that there are ways to deal with problems in Europe, as I mentioned in my remarks with NATO, we have to make sure that we can deal with the other issues each in its own way.

We have been very supportive both on Sierra Leone, where we're looking at peacekeepers, and also on East Timor. But that's not alone; I mean, we have a whole host of other issues. It's a little bit different, though -- Ambassador Burleigh, I think can testify on a day-to-day basis -- the Security Council continues to be engaged in a lot of essential issues but not quite the go-go years that I experienced when I was Perm Rep, where at that stage there were 70,000 peacekeepers out and a whole question about how the UN could cope.

So I think we're finding how to use which instrument at what time on a case-by-case basis.

MODERATOR: We've only a few minutes left on the record, I believe, so the floor is open to a couple of questions. Any subject, as long as it's relatively short.

QUESTION: At the end of the Persian Gulf War, we fully expected that Saddam Hussein would be gone within a few months. There were sanctions imposed, terrible destruction in Iraq; and yet, he's still with us eight years later. Could you explain to us why you think it's going to be different with Milosevic? And could you perhaps give us, in your sense, what the time frame might be?

(Laughter.)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: There is one lesson I learned through all this, as I was giving all of you entertainment -- no time frames.

(Laughter.)

But let me say that while I think it is very tempting to do comparisons between Iraq and Serbia and Milosevic and Saddam Hussein, I'm not going to fall into that temptation, because we do have to look at it separately.

What I believe -- and again, this goes back to the question that Shep asked -- is there is unity in the Alliance, as well as with the non-Alliance members, that we are looking for a democratic Serbia. The stability pact and the various ideas for integration of the Balkans is leaving a place for a democratic Serbia, and there cannot be any other assistance to a Serbia headed by Milosevic.

The Serbian opposition a couple of years ago was called Zajedno, which means together, which they're not. They need to figure out how to work together better. We need to determine more who the democratic opposition is. And in that regard, the other allies have a lot of ideas. We need to give support to the democratic opposition. We also need to push for a free media and for the development of democratic institutions.

What I have found particularly interesting in the last few days, that the Serbian Orthodox Church, the Patriarch, has recently -- well, first of all, he called for Milosevic to resign. But in the last couple of days, he has been, I think, so much apprised of the kinds of horrors of ethnic cleansing and feels that the Serbian people have not been told the truth, that on Sunday, July 4, they have asked that all of their local parishes describe what the policies that Milosevic instituted -- what they have been. I think that is a very important step.

Also, as I mentioned in my remarks, President Djukanovic of Montenegro has become very important, I think, in showing that it is possible to pursue democratic principles. So we will keep pushing on this. There is no time frame, but it's something that we believe must be done.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, a question, if I could just press you on Serbia. The question is whether in the long run it's going to be possible to revive the Kosovar (In progress) -- to avoid anybody being burdened, even in the medium term. And finally, with relations with Russia, it may be a benefit to our relationship with them to see Serbia not in a state of prostration. I know the argument has been made that we can do humanitarian intervention, but over a period of three, five years if, God forbid, Slobo is still there, we'll have a very difficult dilemma.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that we -- one of the things that's happening through the stability pact as well as through various Southeast Europe initiatives is to do everything we can to help re-link a lot of the Balkan economies. A lot of them are directed through Belgrade. As I have gone through the front-line states, they are concerned about how their economies can work without Belgrade as a hub. This is clearly something that we have to work on.

What the allies in these various groupings -- we are working our way through these problems. For instance, an interesting question that came up on my last trip is that the Danube is clearly the trade route of choice. The question is what assistance is given -- whether, in order to help those economies, it is appropriate to help clean up the Danube where the bridges fell in, but it is not appropriate to rebuild the bridges, because that is reconstruction of Serbia. Now, those are the kinds of discussions that we are having.

What we think is important is to see humanitarian assistance in its most specific terms, which is food and medicine, and then to be discussed on a case-by-case basis. We think that the Serb people need to understand that their future lies in democracy and cooperation with the other countries, and not in supporting the bankrupt policies of Milosevic. But there is a great deal of work to be done on exactly the kinds of questions you ask in terms of how they get bank loans.

What I have found really encouraging is the imagination of everybody involved in this. The World Bank and the IMF are now doing assessments of what will be necessary in terms of how the whole stability pact will work, and everybody's kind of on fast-forward to get it done.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

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