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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks on State of the Union and visit to Europe, the Gulf, and the Middle East
Washington, D.C., January 28, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. Iím pleased to have the chance to discuss with you briefly the Presidentís State of the Union address and my upcoming visit to Europe, the Gulf and the Middle East.

In his speech, the President captured in concise and dramatic terms what it is like to be America in the world today. We have, he said, both the power and the duty to build a new era of peace and security. And to meet that challenge, the President continued, we are helping to write international rules of the road for the 21st century protecting those who join the family of nations, isolating those who do not.

The agenda the President set for the coming year is full. From supporting stability in East Asia, to extending the frontiers of security in Europe by enlarging NATO, to building further momentum towards peace in Bosnia, to making our citizens safer from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, to persuading Congress to pay our past UN bills and to leading the global struggle against international terror, drug trafficking and crime.

The President also highlighted the two challenges that will be the focus of my trip. The first is our determination to deny Saddam Hussein the capacity to use weapons of mass destruction ever again. Over the past six-and-a-half years, UN inspectors and monitors, backed by sanctions and the threat of force, have kept Iraq in a strategic box, limiting the regimeís capabilities but not ending Saddam Husseinís efforts to defy the will of the world.

Saddamís goal is to have it both ways Ė to achieve a lifting of UN sanctions while retaining and enhancing Iraqís weapons of mass destruction programs. We cannot, we must not and we will not let him succeed. In recent months, he has attempted to dictate the terms and conditions of UN inspections and denied access to important suspect sites. These flagrant acts of obstruction pose a profound threat to the international security and peace.

We know that in the past, Saddam Hussein started two wars, tried to build nuclear weapons, did build chemical and biological arms, launched missiles against defenseless cities, used poison gas against innocent villagers and conducted a reign of terror against his own people. Given his record of aggression and lies, the world must insist on a policy towards Saddam Hussein of -- donít trust, do verify.

After the Gulf War, Iraq was directed by the Security Council to declare its weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems, destroy them and never build them again. UNSCOM was to verify the declarations and the destruction, inspect to be sure of the truth and monitor to prevent the rebuilding of weapons. To accomplish all that, UN inspectors must have unrestricted access to locations, people, and documents that may be related to weapons of mass destruction programs. But as UNSCOMís chairman, Richard Butler, has made very clear, Iraqís interference is making it impossible for the commission to fulfill its mandate.

American policy has been to encourage maximum diplomatic pressure to persuade the Iraqi regime to reverse course and cooperate with UN inspectors. That outcome would offer the greatest benefits to all concerned, including the Iraqi people, who have been among the most tragic victims of their governmentís policies. However, Iraq seems determined to thwart these diplomatic efforts.

As President Clinton affirmed last night, Iraq cannot continue to defy UN Security Council resolutions or to act in contempt of the community of nations. We cannot allow Saddam Hussein once again to brandish weapons of mass destruction and use them to intimidate Iraqís neighbors and threaten the world. Over the next few days, I will be explaining the American position to leaders in the countries I visit, while making it clear that in confronting the clear and present danger posed by Iraqi lawlessness, the diplomatic string is running out.

Another critical part of my mission in the days ahead will be to continue working with our Israeli, Palestinian and Arab partners to make progress towards our common goal of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. This will not be an easy task. During his meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat this past week, the President shared his views on what is required to reach an agreement. Significant gaps between the Israelis and Palestinians remain, but the ideas the President conveyed provide a good foundation on which to build.

In the coming days, I will carry forward the ideas offered by the President and emphasize the urgent need for progress on the four-part agenda, which includes security, further redeployment, a time-out on unhelpful unilateral steps and launching permanent status negotiations. I can tell you, at this point, that Iím neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the future of these negotiations. I cannot be optimistic because leaders in the region remain reluctant to make the hard decisions and to offer the flexibility required to reach an agreement. I cannot be pessimistic because Iím convinced the majority of all faiths and communities in the region desire peace, and that a basis exists for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement and, over time, a comprehensive Israeli-Arab settlement.

The President said last night that we have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful, prosperous and secure than the past. Although the State of the Union was an address to the American people, it was also a message to the world. The United States stands ready in every region on every continent to strengthen the system of law, political and economic freedom and respect for human rights that enables nations not only to exist, but also to progress. In that effort, we will expect others to do their fair share, but we will not hesitate to lead.

Thank you, and now Iíd be very happy to answer your questions.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the Russians have their own diplomacy going, even as you continue yours and now go out on the road. Is that a problem? Would you Ė do you have assurances or do you have reason to believe the Russians would acquiesce, should the decision be taken? I notice you didnít say the string has run out; you said itís running out. Thereís a little flexibility yet. Should the US decide military tack is the only way to get Saddam to Ė to strike Saddam Hussein, would the Russians go along?

And let me throw in a quick question about threats to Israel in the Iraqi media, because that seems to touch on both your missions. It would make it harder, it would seem, for Netanyahu to do what you want him to do if heís constantly under attack. Could you address those things?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Sure. First of all, as I said in my statements, and more importantly, as the President said last night, there is a determination on our part to make sure that Saddam Hussein cannot have these weapons of mass destruction that threaten the region. He made the determination clear. I think you also all heard how there was bipartisan support for a very loud and clear message to be delivered. I think that we have also made quite clear, as has Russia and other members of the Security Council that itís necessary to have unfettered and unconditional access to the sites so that we can Ė we, the international community Ė can be assured that UNSCOM can carry out its mission.

At the current time, Ambassador Butler has made very clear that he cannot carry out his mandate. That is unacceptable. I think that the Russians themselves have a message. I think the issue that is important for us is that we are determined, all of us, to have unfettered, unconditional access. What we are interested in is compliance and access, and not excuses. It doesnít matter how the message is delivered, but the message is there and it is loud and clear.

On the second part of your question, Barry, I think that obviously one of the points of all this is that we are concerned and have been about threats to countries in the region; and that it is very important that the countries in the region not feel exposed to somebody in their neighborhood who threatens them with weapons of mass destruction. And some statements have been made to this effect, but I think if any actions were actually carried out, there is no question that such action would be unwise in the extreme and it would be a serious mistake.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, thereís a report out now that Iraq is considering some "suggestions from friends" to resolve this crisis. In your conversation with Foreign Minister Primakov, did he indicate to you Ė other than the points on which you all agree, which is that Iraq must comply with the UN resolutions Ė did he indicate any other sweeteners that he might be willing to offer or would be having his envoy offer to Iraq? Did he give you any indication of why he thought another Russian diplomatic move would be any more successful this time than it was the last?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We had a very brief conversation, and what we were doing is setting up our meeting. But as we knew, he also repeated that President Yeltsin had in fact sent Mr. Posuvalyuk to Baghdad, and that they were waiting to see what results that would bring.

I, however, repeated and he agreed and understood the importance of the access. I will make very Ė weíll have to wait to see what the response is. But whatever the response, my response is going to be that we need to have unfettered, unconditional access.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on the peace process front, when you were in the region in September, you said you would not come back to tread water. Today you described the situation as saying you are neither optimistic nor pessimistic. That sounds a little bit like treading water. Iím wondering whatís happened since the visit last week to make you decide to go there as opposed to, say, a meeting in Europe? Or are you going simply because youíre going to be in the neighborhood?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I canít keep thinking up swimming analogies here much longer. But let me tell you why Iím going Ė and the truth is that I would have been following up under any circumstances, because we had, ourselves, laid out a work plan that after the meetings here, and you were all with us when I announced the fact that we were going to have the President invite the two of them to Washington, the thought always was that we would give them some time to absorb what the message was from the President and the suggestions from the President. So Iím going, as I had planned to, to hear how they have absorbed what he has said and our proposal that there be this parallelism in the way that the redeployment, the FRD, should be carried out.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, if the reports are correct, and I assume that they are, President Arafat said today, I believe, that he outright rejected this approach of gradualism that was discussed, apparently, in the meetings in Washington, and which people in this department have said has been agreed to by both sides, conceptually. Iím wondering how you would square those two concepts -- the agreement in principle and the words of Arafat today.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that we have every reason to believe that he is interested in looking at this simultaneous and parallel process, and that there is no conceptual difference in what we have said, which is that we believe that there needs to be a way that there would be, as Iíve explained now many times, this parallel process of having a certain amount of land be deployed Ė that there would be redeployment and land would be given, and that certain security acts would be carried out simultaneously.

And we think that it is important that Chairman Arafat continue to think about the ideas that the President presented, and we do not take his statement as a rejection of the ideas that were put forward in Washington, and call for, as I have with all of them Ė both of them, on the phone, asked them to think about what the President said and maintain some flexibility.

QUESTION: You appear to have decided Ė "you," the Administration Ė that your message to Saddam Hussein is not getting through, and itís now necessary to back it up with a clear threat of force. But the reaction so far from Iraqi officials has been to say that theyíre not Ė they donít feel particularly threatened by a bombing campaign thatís going to be less, they estimate, than the Gulf War landed on them. Is there any thought being given to specifying just exactly what the targets would be or how extensive this campaign would be?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Youíve got to be kidding.

QUESTION: No, Iím serious, because thatís their reaction so far. They may simply be talking through their hats, but theyíre acting as if this isnít going to threaten the regime, and thatís all that counts for them.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say, first of all, that we have all along been talking about the importance of diplomacy and the threat of the use of force being deployed together, and we have been doing that. And as Iíve said, thereís very much a sense that the diplomatic string is running out.

I think that there should be no doubt about the strength of US force. All anybody has to do is to look at what is out there. Actually, some films that you all have had on TV, I think, make very clear the strength of American forces. But it is not, I think, appropriate to discuss any kind of the level or the targeting. But I just think that what is important is for Saddam Hussein to understand the determination of the United States and the international community to make sure that the inspection sites are open, and that he should know that he cannot develop and have weapons of mass destruction. He should be under no illusion that the United States is determined that there are no excuses left here, and that we prefer a diplomatic route, but all our options are open.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you talk a lot about diplomacy. Would you say that diplomacy, in this instance, has hit the brick wall when it comes to Saddam Hussein? And I know you donít want to talk about military strikes, but do you feel that a military strike, should it happen, would be any more effective than diplomacy in the long run?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that Saddam needs to get a message here, one way or another, about the fact that he cannot defy the will of the international community and threaten all those around him. I believe that the message is beginning to take hold. I think that you have to analyze how they say it and what they say. But there has been remarkable unity in the international community behind the idea that he has to abide by the Security Council resolutions, and that he has to provide unfettered, unconditional access to all the sites.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, youíve spoken repeatedly of unfettered, unconditional access. Should there be military operations, is the objective to coerce a change of behavior by the regime, to affect a change in the regime, or both? And in light of the fact that a month-long bombing campaign in 1991 did not accomplish either, what do you do if at the end of this campaign now, Saddam is still around and still defiant?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think that we have Ė I keep repeating, as did the President and Secretary Cohen and all of us who are speaking on this subject, is that our goal is to thwart his capacity to develop the weapons of mass destruction and to threaten his neighbors.

We have said that we look forward to the day when Iraq has new leadership that would allow it to join the family of nations. But I think that what is important here is our goal, is to thwart his ability to develop these weapons of mass destruction Ė to acquire them, develop them, use them.

QUESTION: I understand the goal. Iím asking the relationship between military force and that goal. How is it instrumental toward that goal? Is it intended to coerce him to do something, or is it intended to replace him?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It is intended to coerce him.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, can you give us an idea of what kind of timeline weíre talking about in terms of eventual using force if the diplomatic string runs completely out? Are we talking about weeks or days or months or what?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, Iím not going to predict that. I can just tell you that our whole approach to this Ė and we have been thinking about this for a long time, because there has been this attempt, as I have said many times, to try to convince him diplomatically, and weíve been doing that for quite a long time Ė to proceed with all deliberate speed.

We are making every effort to have him understand the message. I have deliberately not said that the diplomatic string has run out. Barry put it that way, and Iím saying it. But what Iím also saying is that we have not ruled out any option, and we are going to take action as we think appropriate in the time frame that we think is appropriate.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up? Thereís a report that the British may be preparing a new resolution Ė another form of diplomatic, international pressure. Are you going to wait for that to be passed and then see if it works before you use the other options?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, we are not seeking a resolution. We have made very clear that we have the authority to use military force, and we are not seeking a resolution.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, whatís your message going to be to the Gulf states, particularly in view of their concern that American force, however strong it may be, is not going to be sufficient to remove Saddam Hussein, and that they may be in the sort of line of fire after an American strike?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that my discussion with them is going to be the same as with the other countries that I visit, which is that we must all act together to thwart this ability and capability of Saddam Husseinís; that we are all threatened by it in some form or another; and that itís important to be unified and to deliver the message; but that the United States believes that we need to have the determination to make sure that he is not able to threaten the neighborhood or develop these weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, about Mr. Butlerís statement about biological weapons, that they will blow away Tel Aviv, do you think these statements are appropriate, and are they within his mandate? The Iraqi foreign minister today said they are not within his mandate, and they are like provocation, agitation, something like that. And my second question is, if you donít get support from the Arab world, and so far they are saying they are opposed to military action, would the United States go alone with this?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that I think Chairman Butler has done a remarkable job all these months, in terms of speaking on behalf of the international community and trying to do his work. I think that he makes his statements very clearly, and I think he was speaking about the dangers of chemical and biological weapons, and making clear how important it is for them to have unfettered and unconditional access. So I think that he has done and is doing a remarkable job. We obviously support his work, and we agree with the fact that, under the present conditions, he cannot fulfill his mandate, and that that is not acceptable.

And then what was the --

QUESTION: The second question is, there is opposition in the Arab world for a military action. Would you go alone if you donít get --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have said this, that it is our preference, as it is in all conditions, to do everything multilaterally and to act in concert with others. But I am not going anywhere to seek support; I am going to explain our position. And while we prefer always to go multilaterally and have as much support as possible, we are prepared to go unilaterally.

But let me say again, there has been no decision made to use force. We prefer the diplomatic route. And all options are left open.

Thank you.

[End of Document]

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