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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview by Ted Koppel on ABC-TV's "Nightline"
Paris, France, January 29, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, Paris, France
U.S. Department of State

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MR. KOPPEL: And joining us now from Paris, the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Madame Secretary, since you are in France and I know youíre a baseball fan, it seems appropriate to quote Yogi Berra, who once said, "it seems like deja vu all over again," as does this crisis with Iraq. Whatís different this time?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that what is different is that the President has made very clear in his State of the Union message that Saddam Hussein cannot continue to defy the will of the international community.

Iíve just had an excellent meeting with my colleague, the French Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Vedrine, who has agreed, as he had previously, but more strongly, that it is essential that Saddam Hussein live up to his obligations and allow unfettered and unconditional access to the inspection sites, and that all options are open.

MR. KOPPEL: But what tends to happen is, yes, the Iraqis seem to behave themselves for a few days -- sometimes even for a couple of weeks -- and then lo and behold, the inspectors get close to a site that he clearly does not want them to inspect, and once again difficulties are raised. Can one assume that this time around there would not be a long lull in between such an act of defiance and the possibility of military action?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say this, we are all sick and tired of Saddamís excuses or diversionary tactics. We would very much like to have a diplomatic solution to this. That is the best solution. But it is clear that everybodyís patience is running out, and that we have to look at all the options. We have not ruled out any options. And we have to do what is necessary in order to make sure to thwart his ability to acquire these weapons of mass destruction; and also to make it difficult or thwart his desire to attack weapons Ė to make life impossible for the nations around him.

So the answer to your question is, we would prefer to have him fulfill his responsibilities and we would have it done by diplomatic ways. But ultimately, our patience is running out.

MR. KOPPEL: The Iraqi Foreign Minister has made much of something that others have spoken of in more hushed whispers, and that is that the Presidentís problems here in the United States at the moment may either induce him to take action to provide a distraction from the scandal, or conversely Ė and Iím not sure whether either one deserves much credit Ė that he might be disinclined to take action for fear that he would be accused of trying to distract attention. Iím sure it would be done with great delicacy and very politely, but was the subject even broached by any of the French diplomats this evening?


MR. KOPPEL: Do you expect it to be by any of those with whom you meet over the next few days? Youíre meeting with the Russians, with a number of Arab leaders.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think they understand that the power of the United States is indivisible, that the President of the United States is in charge, that we are all focused on this. And I do not expect them to raise the subject.

MR. KOPPEL: At the moment, do you think that the chances of military action are further along? I mean, do you think they are more likely than they were when you left Washington yesterday, or less likely, as a consequence of your meetings with the French?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, Iím very encouraged by the meetings with the French, because it is our hope that Saddam Hussein at some stage stops being tone deaf and hears what it is that is coming from a united international community.

Let me just make one point here clear, Ted. We are not just eager to start using military force, we are eager for a solution. And if Saddam Hussein hears the message and allows the inspectors in, and the message is stronger tonight as a result of our meeting with the French, then one can say we are further away from using military force, and closer to a solution diplomatically.

MR. KOPPEL: You dropped a hint, it seemed to me, in your news conference there in Paris this evening that maybe relations between the United States and Iran might be warming up a little bit. That would make all kinds of sense for a number of reasons: a) Iím sure the French would be delighted to hear it; and b) Iím sure Saddam Hussein would hate to hear it.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that, again, President Clinton has given a message to the Muslim people -- and specifically to Iran in a message that was broadcast over the Voice of America at the end of Ramadan -- in which he talked about the importance of the culture and civilization of Iran and did say that exchanges of some kind -- it would be useful to look into that as some method of communication.

But we have said and will continue to say that government-to-government dialogue is important, and that we would like to discuss three subjects that are very troublesome to us: Iranís support of terrorism, their desire to acquire weapons of mass destruction and their lack of support for the Middle East peace process. I was very interested in what the French Foreign Minister said about his discussions with the Iranian Foreign Minster, and Foreign Minister Vedrine was very interested in the remarks that President Clinton had sent out to the Muslin world.

MR. KOPPEL: So the answer is, yes, you were sending a signal.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, the President was letting the Iranian people know that he respected the people of Iran.

MR. KOPPEL: Secretary Albright, youíre nice to do this at the end of such a long and busy day. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thanks a lot, Ted.

[End of Document]

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