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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
Press Briefing, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
London, United Kingdom, January 31, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: I very much welcome the fact that we have been able to explore so fully, and so closely, what is a very grave and serious issue. I very much value the close working relationship I have formed with Madeleine Albright since the first week of the general election and the close contact today, and the shared common thinking that we have in our approach to the Iraqi problem, demonstrates the importance to both our countries of that working relationship.

Today's meeting is part of intensive diplomatic efforts, in order to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis we confront in relation to Iraq's failure to observe the Security Council resolutions. Let me say this is not an issue of diplomatic nicety or of the legality of the UN Security Council resolutions. This is a straightforward and vitally important matter of preventing a brutal dictator from acquiring the weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein has the capability to produce enough additional anthrax every week to fill another two warheads. He has the capability to produce VX nerve gas on an industrial scale. He cannot be allowed to retain such a capability. Such a capability is wholly inconsistent with Security Council resolutions. In the last nine months of last year, Saddam Hussein inflicted delay on the UN inspectors (inaudible) sites and denied them access at all to a further 14 sites. They cannot carry out their vital task of preventing him developing chemical and biological weapons unless they have unconditional access to the sites where they suspect that such work may be going on. That is why at Geneva we agreed that the return of the UNSCOM inspectors must be without condition. That is why we are still working hard to make sure that that is the outcome that is achieved. No option is ruled out, but the best prospect of us achieving a solution through diplomatic measures is to leave Saddam Hussein in no doubt about our resolve to win this struggle and no doubt in his mind that all options are open to us.

I want to make one last point. We are continuing and over the next two weeks will be stepping up our efforts to expand the resolutions that provide oil for food and humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people. Our quarrel is not with the Iraqi people. Our quarrel is with Saddam Hussein, and the difficulties and the hardship faced by the Iraqi people are entirely as a result of his continued failure to recognize his obligations under the Security Council resolutions. Madeleine.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. Good morning. I'm very glad to be in London today and, as always, Foreign Secretary Cook and I have had an excellent meeting. I have to say that our ability to work together and our very close working relationship is extremely important always, but clearly even more important as we face the issue of Iraq, and clearly Iraq was the focus of our discussion. Let me say that the United States and Great Britain stand shoulder-to-shoulder in our assessment. We believe that the situation in Iraq is very grave. We agree that Saddam's continued defiance of the Security Council is unacceptable and his compliance is essential for regional stability and vital to our interests.

In his State of the Union address, President Clinton pointed out that UNSCOM inspections have resulted in the discovery and elimination of more weapons of mass destruction than were destroyed in the entire Gulf war. We know that Saddam has used chemical weapons and tested biological weapons, and we know that Saddam has a proven record of deception. We must prevent Saddam from ever again jeopardizing the stability of the region and the security of his neighbors by brandishing weapons of mass destruction.

On Thursday the Foreign Minister of France and I agreed that Saddam must understand that all options are open if he does not comply with the Security Council and yesterday the Foreign Minister of Russia and I agreed that Iraq must end its obstruction of UNSCOM'S weapons inspections and stop his fundamental violations of Security Council resolutions. Today Foreign Secretary Cook and I agreed that the time is fast approaching for fundamental decision. We further agreed that the only standard for a real diplomatic solution is full Iraqi compliance with the Security Council and unconditional, unfettered access for UNSCOM. Foreign Secretary Cook and I discussed all the options available to us - diplomatic measures and other measures - to compel Saddam Hussein to stop flouting the will of the world and comply with the resolutions of the Security Council.

The Foreign Secretary and I also discussed the Middle East peace process. As you know, I leave for the region after this meeting and I wanted to brief the Foreign Secretary on my plans. I will be working to build on the ideas President Clinton presented to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat in Washington. This will not be easy. We are looking for leadership and answers from both parties and I greatly appreciate the support of the European Union under the British Presidency and the leadership of Robin Cook and will remain in close contact with the EU as we move forward. Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)...why you don't show the will of the United States in implementing United Nations resolutions on other issues, like Israel, who are not complying with UN resolutions.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, we have made very clear that we want to pursue a diplomatic course as long as it's possible but the diplomatic opening is narrowing. As I have said, and as Foreign Secretary Cook said, our options are open but the decision to use military force has not been made as yet. The options are open. We would like to see a strong signal from the international community, again so that Saddam Hussein understands that we are all united in our demand for unfettered and unconditional access and I think that what is evident from my travels is that there is unity among us in demanding this unfettered and unconditional access. We believe that all Security Council resolutions should be honored.

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: Can I just, before we take another question, say that there is no part of the world that stands to gain more from the success of UNSCOM in preventing Saddam Hussein from getting chemical and biological weapons, than the Arab world. It is the Arab neighbors that are most threatened by Saddam Hussein acquiring these weapons. And let's not forget that Saddam Hussein has used chemical weapons against his own people. He has a record of being willing to use them and the Arab world, more than anywhere else, has an interest in making sure he is prevented from retaining this capability.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)...a strong message has to be sent to Saddam, but it seems today that some of the comments have, at least for me, muddied the waters. Yesterday you said diplomatic options were all but exhausted, that you were skeptical that diplomacy could achieve anything in this regard. Today you seem to be saying, well the diplomatic option is narrowing, you seem to be leaving a little bit more room. Foreign Secretary Cook is talking about intensifying diplomatic efforts, (inaudible) Where is this really? You've also raised the issue of the oil-for- food program which seems to be offering a carrot to Iraq at a time when you are trying to send a strong message (inaudible) Is Britain prepared to stand with the United States if force is necessary? Does the United States plan to go forward at this time with, you know some kind of change in the oil-for-food program? What diplomatic efforts are you planning to do now?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all Carol, let me say that my position has not changed in the last days. The words, I'm trying to keep you from being bored. I think basically the point here is that we would like to have a diplomatic solution. I have said that many times, and what is important is to try to use diplomacy creatively. There is no doubt in my mind that the time for diplomacy is fast expiring and that what we're trying to do is to use diplomatic methods to get Saddam to change course. We would welcome it if he changed course, but I am skeptical that this is going to work - various envoys, etc...going, but my position is the same. We have been at diplomacy now for several months and we obviously would like to give diplomacy a chance but no options are close. I think it is a statement of fact that the time for diplomacy to work is shorter and shorter. The window is narrowing. I think we are all using similar terms to express the feeling that we have been at diplomacy for a long time and it looks as though diplomacy is not working and that is the basic issue and problem.

On oil-for-food let me say that Foreign Secretary Cook and I did discuss that. We've been talking about it in Washington. We have no fight with the Iraqi people. We were the ones who authored the idea of 986 in the first place, and would support an expansion of it in a way that makes clear that we care about the Iraq people more than Saddam Hussein does. I think the whole point here is he sheds crocodile tears over them, contemplates using them to guard targets. There is not a civilized person in the world who would ever dream of using women and children as shields. So we care more about the Iraqi people than he does and we would favor an expansion of the food program.

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: Two quick points. First of all Madeleine Albright and I are absolutely one in our analysis and absolutely at one in our resolve. There is no difference between us on that. Secondly on the question of oil-for-food, do not report this is a carrot for Saddam Hussein. The reality is Saddam Hussein hates the oil-for-food program because it takes away from him the alibi that it is the Iraqi people that are being made to suffer by the international community. He spent several months delaying the oil-for-food program. He would rather have his people suffering as a propaganda weapon than a solution that actually was in the interest of the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: ...The Iraqi line now is that the ultimate aim of military action would be to topple Saddam Hussein. Commentators in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf express the fear that the ultimate aim is not to topple Saddam Hussein and that represents a fairly broad point of view. Do either of these points of view represent the President's ultimate aims in Iraq and if not what is the end game?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The President, I think expressed very clearly in the State of the Union message what the aim was here and that is to thwart Saddam Hussein's ability to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, or to threaten his neighbors. That is the ultimate aim of our diplomacy, and if necessary, our use of force.

QUESTION: ...If it doesn't work the first round, what happens?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well I think that what has to be expected here is that if we do use force, it will be significant. But I think that the point here is that the ultimate aim is to make things better than they are now. At the moment UNSCOM is not able to fulfill its role of inspecting and therefore thwarting the ability of Saddam Hussein to acquire and develop weapons of mass destruction. I think, as Robin Cook said, we are very concerned about the amount and possibility of his usage of these weapons and we believe that it is the responsibility of all of us that follow up on Security Council resolutions to make sure that this brutal dictator cannot threaten the neighborhood by developing these weapons. That is our aim.

QUESTION: ...The United States says that it is prepared it to look at any Security Council resolution other people put forward but isn't especially interested in one unless it's perfect. Britain I know had been leading discussions with allies about producing one, perhaps next week. Could you tell us a little bit of what you want to do with it? Whether you are looking for material breach, whether you are simply looking for condemnation, and whether you think its important for your own domestic constituency to have another vote of the Security Council before British bombers, perhaps, take off against Saddam Hussein.

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: First of all you are right that Britain is taking the lead in trying to draft an acceptable resolution that would succeed in the Security Council. Secondly, the reason for that, I think, is primarily not for a domestic British audience, but for the international community to demonstrate quite clearly that Saddam Hussein is the one who is out of step with the Security Council and the international community at the UN. As to precise text, if you'll forgive me, we are in discussion with close allies and with the other members of the Security Council about the particular content of the text. It wouldn't be helpful to discuss that at a press conference when we are having private discussions. But I can be quite clear about the objective: the objective is to find as tough a resolution as is possible, making it clear that Saddam Hussein is in breach of his obligations and the authority of the Security Council is on the line here.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: And let me just add, we would welcome such an act because I do believe that it's important to send the strongest possible signal to Saddam Hussein, that he is in breach, and in contravention, of the will of the international community.

QUESTION:...Madam, my question is on a different subject. Does the United States and the United Kingdom support the restarting of a dialogue between Turkey and the European Union? What are the possibilities do you think of the success in this effort and how could that help in the solution of the Cyprus problem and for better relations between Turkey and Greece?

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: I have to say we did not discuss this precise issue this morning, although Madeleine and I have frequently discussed both Turkey and Cyprus on many previous occasions. To briefly respond to your general point, Britain, as the Presidency of the European Union, is anxious that we find ways of maintaining dialogue with Turkey. We have made it plain that Turkey would be welcome if it wishes to come to the European conference here in London in March. The door is open to them. It is for Turkey itself to decide whether or not it wishes to join us. If it will not then we will be looking for other ways of maintaining that particular dialogue. In the case of Cyprus, the position of the European Union is clear, we welcome the application from Cyprus which has a higher standard of living and a stronger economy than many countries who are among the applicant list and from Britain's points of view we have always strongly supported the case for Cyprus application being judged on its merits.

QUESTION:...Trying to understand Britain's position, obviously you'd like another resolution to apply pressure, but is it your position that another resolution isn't required for an attack, that authority exists already? And secondly, your description of the situation sounds as if you think inspection would be a better way to get rid of these weapons, if it were possible to have inspection. What kind of a strike, if it comes to that, would Britain favor and could it possibly devastate his capability?

FOREIGN SECRETARY COOK: I don't actually think it would be wise at this time to get into discussing what might be the options in the event of a military attack or indeed what are the precise criteria of a military attack. I think frankly there is a lot to be said for keeping Saddam Hussein guessing as to what and when. What he must be left in no doubt about is our resolve. On the question of a resolution, I think the resolution could be a value in making it clear that the international community is condemning Saddam Hussein, but that's a different matter from a question of the narrow criteria for it. Lastly, one point I think is important to stress, since it comes out in your question, UNSCOM has actually been a great success. UNSCOM has shut down the nuclear program. It has gone a very long way to shutting down Saddam Hussein's missile program. It has destroyed more Iraqi weapons than were destroyed during the Gulf War. It is vitally important that we don't leave the job half done and that we now complete it by finishing the nuclear, chemical and biological arms.

Thank you all very much.

[End of Document]

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