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95/06/15 Speech: Amb. Albright on Enforcing Intíl Law
Bureau of International Organization Affairs

(prepared for delivery) 
                      "Enforcing International Law" 
                         PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION 
                               JUNE 15, 1995 
Thank you for that kind introduction.  The prospect of addressing 
matters of law before an audience of distinguished attorneys is 
daunting; I am sure that some of you will disagree with me; my only 
comfort is that you probably disagree even more with each other. 
I think we can all agree, however, that a discussion of international 
law is timely.  We observe this year the fiftieth anniversary of the end 
of World War II and the founding of the United Nations.  Like the 
leaders of a half century ago, we have been witnesses to seismic 
political change.  Like them, we have inherited an unsettled world, 
beset by squabbles, unsatisfied ambitions and new dangers.  Like them, 
we have a responsibility to build the institutions and strategies that 
will defend our nation and its people in a new and transformed era. 
Because we live in a country that is democratic, trade-oriented, 
respectful of the law and possessed of a powerful military whose 
personnel are precious to us, we will do better and feel safer in an 
environment where our values are widely shared, markets are open, 
military clashes are constrained and those who run roughshod over the 
rights of others are brought to heel. 
One way to help create and sustain such an environment is to codify and 
strengthen the enforcement of international law. 
The process of codification law is ongoing and multi-faceted, spurred on 
by the increased permeability of national borders and by the 
opportunities for study and dialogue provided by the UN system.  In 
recent decades, hundreds of multilateral conventions have been adopted, 
encompassing both new law and the customary rules that merit treaty-
based authority.  These include the Geneva Conventions, the diplomatic 
and human rights conventions, arms control agreements, environmental 
treaties, trade agreements, and conventions directed at the twin plagues 
of narcotics and terrorism. 
In just the past two years, the Clinton Administration has sent to the 
Senate for its advice and consent the Chemical Weapons Treaty, the START 
II Treaty, the Convention on Biodiversity and the Convention on the 
Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.  We also have 
signed, although not yet sent to the Senate, Conventions to protect UN 
peacekeepers; to articulate the Law of the Sea; and to enumerate the 
Rights of the Child. 
A particularly important example of the value of codifying international 
law was the consensus agreement reached this past May to extend 
indefinitely and unconditionally the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 
(NPT).  Although the NPT has not been a perfect success, it has caused a 
number of countries that once planned to develop nuclear capabilities to 
give up that ambition.  It has prompted others to slow or freeze nuclear 
programs, while deterring still others from starting down that road. 
By extending the treaty unconditionally, we have made permanent the 
principle that no new nations should acquire nuclear arms.  This will 
eliminate the temptation some countries might have faced to develop such 
arms in anticipation that the treaty might lapse.  And it allows us to 
focus the attention of the world on ensuring that every nation that has 
signed the NPT complies with it, and every nation that has not is 
encouraged to do so.  That is truly a gift to the future. 
While the benefits of continuing to codify international law are 
apparent, an even greater challenge for us now--and, in many respects, 
an even greater opportunity--is in the area of enforcement. 
At the heart of enforcement is the effort of the international community 
to develop a viable mechanism for collective security; that is, the 
enforcement through collaborative means of international standards 
governing especially the use of force. 
From our perspective near millennium's end, we can look back at 
centuries of international efforts to deter aggression through a 
combination of force and law.  In the late 17th century, for example, 
William Penn developed a plan for a European parliament to which all 
cross-border disputes would be submitted.  Any nation failing to 
cooperate would be subject to enforcement action by the rest of Europe. 
At the turn of this century, another Pennsylvanian, Andrew Carnegie, 
suggested that if Britain, France, Germany and the United States simply 
agreed to deal rigorously with any country that committed an act of 
aggression, "war would at one fell swoop be banished from the earth." 
After World War I, members of the League of Nations pledged to "respect 
and preserve as against external aggression the territorial 
integrity...of all members of the League." 
And in 1927, the great nations of the world signed the Kellogg-Briand 
pact, in which they promised to remove war as an instrument of national 
These and other proposals proceeded from the idealistic premise that 
nations would always do what their leaders had pledged; that they would, 
in fact, go to war to defend the rights of others regardless of risk and 
circumstance.  NATO has since proven that an alliance based on a fully 
shared conception of threats and interests can work.  But outside a 
durable alliance, nations have not proven that they will place 
collective interests above their own when the two conflict or appear to 
conflict.  It was upon this reality that the League of Nations foundered 
in the 1930's in the face of aggression against Manchuria, Ethiopia, 
Finland and Czechoslovakia.  And it was this reality that the drafters 
of the United Nations Charter struggled to deal with in San Francisco 
exactly fifty years ago. 
The authors of the Charter were well aware that they had not designed a 
system that would end all war or ensure an effective response to all 
aggression.  Article 39 of the Charter authorizes the Security Council 
to "determine the existence of any threat to the peace...and...make 
recommendations, or decide what measures shall be maintain or 
restore...peace."  Article 27 grants a veto over decisions of the 
Security Council to its five permanent members, including the United 
This arrangement will produce a coordinated international response to 
threats to peace when and only when there is enough agreement among the 
major powers to make that possible. 
Thus, American leaders knew early on that, although the UN could 
contribute to international security, we would not expect it to 
guarantee either our vital interests or freedom.  Within three years of 
the Charter's signing, we were rushing military and economic aid to 
embattled democracies in Greece and Turkey.  Within four years, we were 
joining other western powers in a great alliance to defend freedom and 
contain Soviet aggression. 
Meanwhile, throughout the Cold War, the role of the Security Council was 
circumscribed by its inability to act except when east and west agreed.  
This did not prevent the UN from undertaking important peacekeeping 
missions in the Middle East and elsewhere, or from serving as a mediator 
in numerous lesser disputes.  But the UN's primary role was to operate 
in the limited area that former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold 
referred to as the "power vacuum between the (two) main blocs." 
The end of the Cold War and the coalition victory in the Persian Gulf 
sparked new and far higher expectations.  The Berlin Wall had been torn 
down, democratic principles were ascendant and old enmities in long-
troubled regions seemed to be softening.  The climate for international 
cooperation, so central to the UN's success, had never been better.  And 
the number and ambition of UN peace operations soared. 
Several causes for this upsurge may be identified.  First, big power 
agreement in the Security Council made the authorization of peace 
operations possible.  Second, new opportunities arose for settling 
conflicts, such as those in Southeast Asia and Central America, that had 
been aggravated by Cold War tensions.  Third, UN help was sought to 
contain new conflicts that emerged from the ashes of the Soviet empire.  
Finally, there was a widespread weariness with Cold War sacrifice.  With 
the threat of nuclear Armageddon diminished, many saw in the UN the 
promise of a relatively inexpensive and risk free solution to the 
challenge of maintaining world order. 
Confidence was bolstered by the early successes of UN peacekeepers in 
Namibia and El Salvador.  By January, 1993, President Bush was asserting 
     the UN...(is) emerging as a central instrument for the prevention 
and resolution of conflicts and the preservation of peace. 
The Clinton Administration took office sharing this view.  What we have 
seen since is neither success nor failure, but rather a mixed set of 
outcomes.  An astonishing transition to democracy in Cambodia.  A peace 
agreement and subsequent demobilization in Mozambique.  Hundreds of 
thousands of lives saved in Somalia, but a long term outlook that 
remains grim.  A heroic humanitarian effort in Bosnia, but in 
circumstances that remain tragic and unsatisfying.  The evidence of the 
past three years is that peacekeepers can accomplish much where the 
local parties have grown weary of war; but they will have great 
difficulty where one or more of them remains more interested in conquest 
than co-existence. 
This limitation--which is partly inherent in the UN and partly 
correctable--has caused some to want to give up on UN peacekeeping 
altogether.  Congress is considering legislation that would do just 
that; leaving the U.S. all too often with the poor choice between acting 
alone or not acting at all when crises arise.  If such a bill were to 
become law, or if the financing of UN peacekeeping were to break down, 
we could expect the sudden withdrawal of peacekeepers from tinderbox 
regions like Cyprus, India-Pakistan and the Middle East; the loss of 
future opportunities to end conflicts and encourage peaceful transitions 
to democracy; greater chance of humanitarian catastrophe in Africa and 
elsewhere; and greater risk that regional powers would take upon 
themselves the job of maintaining order in areas of perceived relevance 
to their own security, possibly at great expense to the sovereignty of 
weaker, neighboring states. 
The result of all this would be to endanger our own security, eliminate 
a valuable form of burdensharing and run the risk that the unique 
capabilities of the American military would be called upon more often, 
in more places, in the face of greater danger to bring order to 
situations that the UN might otherwise have brought under control. 
Despite all this, one Senate leader said not long ago that he "wondered 
from time to time" whether there was any point in having a UN; and "I 
don't think we're going to lose a lot if they drop peacekeeping." 
What are we to make of such comments?  They have to be taken seriously 
because if these attitudes prevail, American leadership at the UN will 
end.  And yet, I suspect such thoughts are the product less of 
reflection, than frustration.  In places like Bosnia and Rwanda, the UN 
has been unable to do what member states are unwilling to do.  And so it 
has become an easy scapegoat in a messy world. 
Such frustrations are not unique to our era.  After World War II, many 
Americans thought the newly-created UN would keep them forever out of 
war.  And when it failed to prevent the conflict in Korea, it was 
dismissed by some as useless. 
Today, we are confronted with many struggles that fall into a kind of 
netherworld between war and peace, where normal distinctions between 
diplomacy and force are intermingled and muddled. 
Few of these conflicts are as clear as Iraq's invasion of Kuwait--where 
the aggression was overt, the stakes included oil and the possibility of 
a madman equipped with nuclear arms, the military terrain was favorable, 
the enemy was isolated, the finest armed forces in the world--ours--were 
fully engaged, and the bills were being paid by somebody else.  
Increasingly, threats to stability are not clear, but devilishly 
complex: violence caused not by international aggression, but by civil 
war; fragile ceasefires that do not hold; extremist political movements 
within strategic states; or ethnic fighting that spills unpredictably 
across national lines. 
In responding to such conflicts, we must be selective, not reflexive.  
We must navigate a path between disengagement, which is not possible, 
and over-extension, which is not sustainable.  Often, these will be 
damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't-choices, but the real choice is 
not between sometimes and always, but between sometimes and never.  Our 
task is to develop and maintain the widest possible range of effective 
tools for responding to violations of law, so that our leaders will have 
the widest possible array of choices when emergencies arise. 
Obviously, the UN is no panacea, but neither is NATO, nor unilateral 
action, nor inaction.  The right prescription for the ills of UN 
peacekeeping is not to call for the services of Dr. Kevorkian, but 
rather to administer sound treatment--to make this tool the best it can 
Such treatment is in our interests, for when America acts unilaterally, 
we bear all the costs and risks.  When the UN acts, seventy percent of 
the costs and the lion's share of the risks are borne by others. 
Furthermore, the lessons of the last three years are being learned. 
At U.S. insistence, the Security Council now ensures that tough 
questions about the cost, size, risk, mandate, and duration of a 
peacekeeping mission are answered satisfactorily before one is started 
or renewed.  Our goal is a system that works when we expect it to work, 
and often enough to be useful; a system of peace operations that don't 
go on forever, don't cost too much, don't risk lives unnecessarily and 
do give peoples wracked by conflict a chance to get back on their feet. 
For all their limitations, UN peace operations have proven their 
ability, in the right circumstances, to separate adversaries, maintain 
ceasefires, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian relief, enable 
refugees and displaced persons to return home, demobilize combatants and 
create conditions under which political reconciliation may occur and 
free elections may be held.  In so doing, they can help to nurture new 
democracies; lower the global tide of refugees; and prevent small wars 
from growing into larger conflicts which would be far more costly in 
lives, treasure and security. 
UN peacekeeping cannot produce a perfect world, but it does contribute 
to an environment that is less violent, more stable and more democratic 
than it otherwise would be.  It provides the President with an option 
between unilateral action and standing aside when emergencies arise.  
And it is an important tool for the enforcement of international 
standards and law. 
A second valuable enforcement tool used increasingly by the Security 
Council is economic sanctions. 
The Council derives legal authority to impose sanctions from Article 41 
of the Charter.  Enforcement then becomes the responsibility of every 
Member State.  Sanctions may be used in response to illegal actions to 
protest or punish those actions and to prevent their repetition.  
Frequently, they serve also as a symbol of international unity and 
resolve in the face of lawless conduct.  The Charter envisions the use 
of sanctions as a non-violent means of enforcing Security Council 
decisions.  Experience tells us that sanctions can influence behavior if 
enforcement is determined and the international resolve is strong.  
Sustaining sanctions can be complicated, however, by the expense of 
enforcement, by the costs of foregone commerce especially to neighboring 
states, and by adverse humanitarian consequences. 
One of our priorities over the past two years has been to streamline and 
improve the effectiveness of sanctions regimes--to make them a less 
blunt instrument of policy.  We have worked particularly hard to develop 
a consistent and fair approach to making exceptions to sanctions on 
humanitarian grounds.  Each sanctions regime includes such an exception, 
but its application depends on decisions of the sanctions committee in 
New York.  Every year, the committee reviews a flood of appeals, many of 
which are justified; others of which are designed merely to end run the 
sanctions regime. 
A good example of our effort to minimize unnecessary harm is a recent 
resolution of the Security Council allowing the export of diphtheria 
anti-serum from Belgrade.  The serum is not available elsewhere and was 
needed urgently to counter an outbreak of diphtheria in the New 
Independent States. 
From the point of view of enforcing international law, sanctions have 
their value and their limits.  To be effective, they must be more than a 
reflex borne of frustration, a rain dance we perform when we are unable 
to make it rain.  Unless sanctions are ultimately to add to public 
cynicism, they must have clear goals clearly explained; they must be 
targeted as precisely as possible and they must be enforced. 
Since the end of the Persian Gulf war, strict economic and weapons 
sanctions have been in place against Iraq.  Their purpose is to prevent 
that country from once again developing weapons of mass destruction or 
threatening its neighbors with aggression. 
The American position is that Iraq must comply, in full, with all 
relevant UN Security Council resolutions before the Council should 
consider easing or lifting the sanctions regime. 
We do not wish to inflict pain on the population of Iraq.  But so far, 
Saddam Hussein has turned down proposals that would allow him to sell 
oil to buy humanitarian supplies.  His regime also continues to waste 
huge sums building palaces and lavish infrastructure projects that 
benefit a very few.  Meanwhile, Iraq's compliance with the Security 
Council resolutions remains sporadic, selective, and incomplete. 
The United States believes that the burden of proof should be on Iraq to 
demonstrate its peaceful intentions and that only a policy of firmness 
has a realistic chance of altering Iraqi behavior for the better. 
Saddam Hussein's complaints about the unfairness of all this reminds one 
of the story about the schoolboy who came home with his face damaged and 
his clothes torn.  When his mother asked him how the fight started, he 
said: "It started when the other guy hit me back." 
The sanctions regime aimed at Serbia/Montenegro and Serb-controlled 
territory in Bosnia and Croatia is the most extensive undertaking in the 
history of UN sanctions enforcement.  Their purpose is to pressure the 
Serb leadership to accept peace and to encourage their allies in 
neighboring countries to do the same. 
When the Security Council eased certain cultural, sports, and air 
transport sanctions against Serbia/Montenegro last September, it did so 
in response to the closure by Belgrade of the border between 
Serbia/Montenegro and Bosnian Serb territory.  Since then, an 
international border monitoring force has been deployed, with U.S. 
participation.  It is our position that full sanctions should be 
restored if Belgrade violates its pledge and resumes supplying the 
Bosnian Serbs. 
Libya also is the subject of sanctions, because of its refusal to hand 
over for trial the individuals indicted for the bombing of PAN AM 103 in 
1988.  Since that time, Libya has proposed a variety of schemes for a 
trial that have in common their lack of compliance with the resolutions 
of the Security Council which require a trial either in the United 
Kingdom or the United States.  The United States has pushed hard to 
maintain sanctions to keep the heat on the Qadhafi regime, and we would 
prefer stronger ones, including an oil embargo, if the Libyans remain 
Haiti, like Iraq before Operation Desert Storm, illustrates both the 
importance of sanctions as a sign of international resolve, and their 
insufficiency, at times, in obtaining the results we want. 
For three years, the Council and the Organization of American States 
pursued a peaceful and just end to the Haitian crisis.  The 
international community tried condemnation, persuasion, isolation and 
negotiation.  At Governors Island, the military's leader signed an 
agreement that would have allowed the restoration of the democratically-
elected government, but then refused to implement it.  Sanctions were 
imposed, suspended, re-imposed and finally strengthened.  The 
illegitimate leaders were given every opportunity to leave. 
One of the problems with which we had to cope throughout this period was 
the hardship that the sanctions caused to the innocent people of Haiti.  
We regretted those hardships deeply, but our resolve was strengthened by 
the vigorous support for sanctions expressed by the democratically-
elected President, Father Aristide, and by evidence that many Haitians 
were willing to pay a high price in personal sacrifice to have the 
government they voted for restored.   Moreover, a herculean effort was 
made to provide food and medicine directly to the Haitian population 
through the humanitarian exceptions to the sanctions regime. 
The decision to seek Council support for the restoration of democratic 
rule to Haiti by force if necessary reflected the extraordinary set of 
circumstances that existed: including the blatant illegitimacy of the de 
facto leaders; the brutal repression; the violation of a UN-brokered 
agreement; the risk of renewed attempts at flight by desperate people 
aboard unseaworthy vessels; the expulsion of human rights monitors; the 
insufficiency of sanctions; and the existence of strong support 
regionally and overseas for decisive action. 
By going to the Council, we strengthened our hand diplomatically; 
reassured Haitians who were understandably ambivalent about the possible 
presence of foreign troops on their soil; established a useful precedent 
for monitoring by the UN of a coalition action; and paved the way for 
the transition that has now occurred from the U.S.-led multinational 
force to a UN force. 
Not long ago, I visited Haiti with President Clinton.  As I looked at 
the crowd cheering the President, I could not help but wonder what would 
have happened if we had not acted.  How many of those smiling people 
would have ended up on tires or leaky rafts or boats headed in 
desperation for our coasts? 
Although obvious problems remain, it is equally obvious that an enormous 
transformation is taking place.  In the words of one student, "Elections 
in this country have never been interesting before, but it looks like 
there is a state of law now.  We're at a turning point, it's the 
beginning of democracy in Haiti (and) nothing will be the same." 
The road ahead in Haiti remains uphill, for real democracy does not take 
root overnight.  But the steps we have taken thus far have honored our 
values, eased a humanitarian crisis and enabled Haiti, in the words of 
the UN Charter, to pursue "social progress and better standards of life 
in larger freedom." 
In addition to peacekeeping and sanctions, a third enforcement tool is 
gaining prominence--the ad hoc tribunal for war crimes and other 
violations of international humanitarian law. 
To date, there are two such tribunals--for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.  
I am proud to say that the efforts of the United States to establish, 
organize, finance and assist these tribunals are unmatched, and I am 
pleased that we have had strong backing from many in Congress including 
your own Senator, Arlen Specter. 
I need not go into detail here about the suffering that has been visited 
upon the people of the regions for which these tribunals were created.  
I can tell you that last year, in Croatia, I visited a farm in what was 
once a pretty town called Vukovar.  There, beneath a pile of rusted 
refrigerators and scraps of farm equipment, is a shallow grave 
containing the bodies of two to three hundred human beings.  These dead 
were not the victims of "heat of battle" violence; they were not--in the 
terminology of the soldier--collateral damage.  They were men and women 
like you and me; boys and girls like those we know; intentionally 
targeted and massacred not because of what they had done, but for who 
they were. 
There are those who ridicule the effort to prosecute those responsible 
for such crimes; those who say that assembling the physical evidence, 
apprehending suspects and obtaining credible testimony will be too 
difficult, too time-consuming, too expensive.  Some suggest it may 
interfere in Rwanda with the repatriation of refugees and in Bosnia with 
efforts to negotiate peace.  Still others imply that the killing of so 
many people in places so far away need not concern us; such brutality 
is, they suggest, God's problem, not our own. 
The Administration does not believe the difficulty of the Tribunals' 
work should bar the attempt.  Here again, just because we cannot do 
everything does not mean we should do nothing.  More that 20 indictments 
already have been handed down by the Yugoslav tribunal and 200 alleged 
perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide are under investigation.  
Governments will be obliged to hand over for trial those indicted who 
are within their jurisdiction.  The Tribunals are empowered to request 
the Security Council to take enforcement action against any government 
that fails to do so.  The indicted, themselves, will face the choice of 
standing trial or becoming international pariahs, trapped within the 
borders of their own lands, subject to immediate arrest should they 
The United States supports strongly the commitment of Judge Goldstone, 
the Prosecutor of the tribunals, to pursue any suspect, regardless of 
his or her rank, position, or stature, wherever the evidence leads.  
There is not, and there should never be, a statute of limitations on the 
force and effect of the tribunals' indictments. 
Further, the United States does not accept the view that the killings in 
Rwanda and the Balkans can simply be shrugged off as the inevitable 
side-effects of ethnic conflict.  We remember that Adolf Hitler once 
defended his plan to kill Jews by asking the rhetorical question: "Who, 
after all, remembers the Armenians?"  And we recall the words written in 
1940 by the poet and essayist Archibald MacLeish: 
Murder is not absolved of immorality by committing murder.  Murder is 
absolved of immorality by bringing men to think that murder is not evil.  
This only the perversion of the mind can bring about.  And the 
perversion of the mind is only possible when those who should be heard 
in its defense are silent... 
Establishing the truth about what happened in Rwanda and the Balkans is 
essential not only to justice, but to peace.  Responsibility for the 
atrocities committed does not rest with the Serbs or Hutus or any other 
people as a group; it rests with the individuals who ordered and 
committed the crimes.  And true reconciliation will not be possible in 
these societies until the perception of collective guilt is expunged and 
personal responsibility is assigned. 
On a related matter, the United States is committed also to a thorough, 
constructive, and timely examination of the proposal for an 
international criminal court.  We believe strongly in the prosecution of 
war crimes, international terrorism and narcotics trafficking.  We want 
to ensure, however, that an international criminal court complements 
national investigations and prosecutions and does not undermine them.  
That is why we have been deeply engaged in discussions at the UN this 
year to examine key issues relating to a statute for such a court and to 
protect the legitimate law enforcement interests of the United States. 
The great task of this generation is to consolidate the gains made as a 
result of the end of the Cold War: to extend the sway of freedom, to 
contain conflict and to enhance respect for the rule of law. 
That is in America's interest; and it reflects America's character. 
Fifty years ago, John Foster Dulles testified before Congress in support 
of ratifying the UN Charter. 
He said that: 
     The United States was born as a nation because the colonists 
believed men possessed, under law, certain basic freedoms and certain 
inalienable rights.  As a nation, we have, more than any other, striven 
for the supremacy of law as an expression of justice.  Now, we are 
seeking to establish world order based on the assumption that the 
collective life of nations ought to be governed by law--law as 
formulated in the Charter of the UN and other international treaties, 
and law as enunciated by international courts. 
Only a few weeks had elapsed between Dulles' testimony and that day in 
spring when American soldiers entered the gates of Buchenwald.  They 
found there 1800 naked bodies, stacked like cordwood alongside an 
incinerator; they watched thousands of those freed die because 
starvation and disease and abuse had gone on too long; crying 
themselves, they embraced hollow-eyed children who had forgotten how to 
Clearly, it was not enough to say, after World War II, that the enemy 
had been vanquished--that what we were against had failed.  We had to 
build the foundation of a lasting peace.  And together, the generation 
of Truman and Marshall and Eisenhower and Vandenberg designed a 
framework of law, principle, power and purpose that would one day defeat 
Communism and promote democratic values and respect for human rights 
around the world. 
Today, we are called upon to develop a new framework for protecting our 
territory, our people and our interests.  In devising that framework, we 
will build on the firm foundation provided by the UN Charter and other 
sources of international law.  We will seek to extend the sway of civil 
society; to codify new standards; and to summon the will to enforce with 
greater consistency and effectiveness standards long established. 
We have a responsibility in our time, as our predecessors did in theirs, 
not to be prisoners of history, but to shape it; to build a world not 
without conflict, but in which conflict is effectively contained; a 
world, not without repression, but in which the sway of freedom is 
enlarged; a world not without lawless behavior, but in which the law-
abiding are progressively more secure. 
That is a task in which we all have a role. 
That is our mandate in this new era. 
Thank you very much. 
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