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Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa

Press Availability Following Meeting With President Hosni Mubarak, Itihadiya Palace
Cairo, Egypt, February 3, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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FOREIGN MINISTER MOUSSA: Well, ladies and gentlemen, we have just concluded a very important meeting. We are very glad to have Secretary Albright here in Egypt, especially at this juncture. The major issues of importance of concern for all of us here in the region and in the United States have been discussed and we are sure that the United States and Egypt will continue to consolidate their relationship and work together in order to establish peace, a just peace, and stability in the region.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here in Egypt, and it is certainly always good to have a chance to consult with President Mubarak and Foreign Minister Moussa. We had excellent discussions about the situation in Iraq, and about the Middle East Peace Process.
As you know, my meetings in Egypt cap a series of meetings with our friends and allies in the Arab world. Today, I can report to you that the United States, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the Palestinian Authority are of one mind: This crisis was created by Saddam Hussein's defiance of the Security Council. We prefer to resolve it diplomatically. But if diplomacy fails, sole responsibility for the grave consequences that would follow will lie at the feet of the government of Iraq.
This evening, I briefed President Mubarak on all the options we are pursuing -- diplomatic and otherwise -- to compel Saddam to cease his aggressive defiance. We hope that diplomacy will convince Saddam to turn away from this collision course with the world. But we are in absolute accord that the only standard for a real diplomatic solution is full compliance with the Security Council and unconditional, unfettered access for UN weapons inspectors.
Unfortunately, there continues to be no evidence that Saddam's version of diplomacy is anything more than feints, parries, and blocks. I have yet to see any new behavior by Iraq that would reduce the skepticism I have gained from watching past behavior by Iraq.
Before I leave the Middle East I want to say again to the people of Iraq: the United States understands that you are suffering under this regime; we have no quarrel with you at all. We do not wish to see women and children used as human shields. We do not wish to see people sick and hungry. That's why we wrote the UN resolution permitting Iraq to sell oil for food and medicine. That's why we want to expand it so more food and medicine can be provided more effectively to the Iraqi people.
But this Iraqi regime has not hesitated to use its weapons against fellow Iraqis, fellow Muslims, and fellow Arabs. We are determined to help protect all the peoples of this region from the threat posed by Saddam Hussein armed with weapons of mass destruction.
President Mubarak and I also discussed the Middle East Peace Process. As you know, this past weekend, at the President's direction, I followed up on ideas he presented to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat last month in Washington. Later this week, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat will send envoys to Washington with responses to the elements the President and I laid out. Before I leave the region, I want to leave you with several strong impressions I have about these efforts.
First, let me say as clearly as I can: It is decision making time. For Israelis and Palestinians, for Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat. We have no more time for hand-wringing or finger-pointing. We must move the peace process forward now. The issues involved in the four-point agenda are difficult and complex, but they have dragged on far, far too long. Both sides must settle these interim issues and move on to permanent status negotiations. That is the only path to a lasting peace based on Resolutions 242 and 338, and the principle of land for peace.
Second, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat must both work harder to restore the kind of partnership that made the Oslo process work. Peace can only be achieved through a partnership that promotes common interest -- not just self-interest.
Finally, every person, every nation, and every community in this region that is committed to long-term peace must support the process of peacemaking during good times and bad. Instead of sitting on the sidelines and complaining, encourage the parties to make the right decisions and help create an environment that makes it easier for them to do so. Arab-Israeli peace is a regional challenge and a regional responsibility. Working together, we can make it real. Thank you very much and now Foreign Minister Moussa will now make his statement.
FOREIGN MINISTER MOUSSA: Well, you have heard the Secretary speaking about the issues that have been considered by President Mubarak and the Secretary, the Middle East or the Peace Process, as well as the Iraqi situation.
On the Iraqi situation, we wish to reaffirm the following: Number one that it is very important that there would be full compliance with Security Council resolutions and, of course, to guarantee full cooperation between UNSCOM and Iraq. At the same time, diplomatic efforts should continue as the Secretary has underlined that the United States is fully behind the diplomatic efforts and diplomatic option in order to avoid grave consequences.
The options, we all know that they are still on the table and the compliance by Security Council resolutions and diplomatic efforts will really have us avoid the grave consequences that all of us want to avoid. You know that the Secretary General of the Arab League is going to visit Baghdad tomorrow. This also falls within that option of diplomatic efforts that militate in favor of putting an end to this episode and put back into work the Security Council, the implementation of Security Council resolutions as well as the cooperation between the UNSCOM and the Government of Iraq. That's on the first point.
On the second point, we heard attentively what the Secretary had to say about the peace process. You all know that the leading role of the United States is very important in moving the peace process towards fruition. The terms of reference as mentioned by her, the resolutions, the interpretation of Resolutions 242, 338, and land for peace, in addition to tackling all of the issues and the four points agenda as the Secretary has underlined several times, including redeployment, the further redeployment and also the time out and other issues. It is indeed a tall order but we need both parties to move and we need the United States leadership in this endeavor. We hope the peace process would move and not continue to stall, according to or in accordance with the principles underlined by the Secretary, in particular land for peace.
QUESTION: May I ask you about President Mubarak's efforts? He's called or been in touch with some thirteen leaders of Arab countries. Is this an attempt to avoid force or is it an assertion at the same time possibly of a leadership role for Egypt in the area and how does Egypt feel about military action, should it come to that, as a last resort? Would you support the United States?
FOREIGN MINISTER MOUSSA: The President has been in touch with all the leaders of the members of the Arab League in order to mandate the Secretary General of the League to visit Baghdad and talk with President Saddam Hussein and his government that compliance with the Security Council resolutions and work to avoid the grave consequences of military options is very important and what we need is to avoid that and give the diplomatic efforts the chance to bring us back on track. So the efforts or the message that the Secretary General is going to carry tomorrow is an important message by all the heads of state of the Arab League that all of us work within the framework of international legitimacy.
QUESTION: (Inaudible)
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me make clear that we have not ever issued a time limit. We have wanted very much to make sure that diplomacy is given every chance. As I have said, however, I believe that the time for diplomacy is narrowing, that we have exhausted a lot of efforts in order to try to follow the diplomatic track. We welcome the fact that others are making an effort to get a diplomatic solution. We believe, as I've said all along, that a diplomatic solution is preferable. But I also have to say that I am skeptical about it given the kinds of responses that Saddam Hussein has already given to a number of envoys that have gone there. The United States prefers a diplomatic solution, but all options are on the table, and we believe that it essential for Saddam Hussein to abide by the Security Council resolutions. We have all agreed on that. I have traveled widely now and talked with Arab leaders from King Hussein, now to President Mubarak, and we are all determined to make sure that Saddam Hussein abides by the Security Council resolutions which would allow unfettered, unconditional access for UNSCOM to all the sites necessary.
QUESTION: Mr. Foreign Minister what are we to make of your handling of this event here, bringing the Secretary of State in the back door, the President not appearing with her at the news conference and making her walk out to the press corps like this? Is that a reflection of your country's posture towards the U.S. approach to the stand-off?
FOREIGN MINISTER MOUSSA: First, before the Secretary left the building, President Afewerki came in, so the President has a very heavy schedule this evening, and he is now meeting with President Afewerki. That is why this press conference is being held that way. The second thing is that there is no back door to the Presidency. This is the door that the Prime Minister and all the ministers really enter. We have full respect for Secretary Albright. We appreciate very much her efforts and her work and her performance. So don't read too much into such trivial things like coming from this or that door.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Can I make a comment please? I have just spent, I think, probably 55 minutes with President Mubarak in an excellent one on one meeting in which we saw eye to eye on the issues that we were discussing. I feel very welcomed and, in fact, if there is any slighting, it is on my part for not staying in Egypt long enough, so I am very much appreciative of the welcome that I've had here and I always appreciate my relationship with my counterpart and colleague, Foreign Minister Moussa.
QUESTION: Mrs. Albright, this is Egyptian television. In our part of the world, we feel that, for instance, today, Israeli is occupying the Golan Heights, southern Lebanon, Palestinian territories, yet as you say if we don't see that swift act and adamant act that you have taken immediately towards Iraq, why don't we see it with Israel as well?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think there is absolutely no comparison in these two issues. The Middle East Peace Process is one of the most complex that has existed for a considerable amount of time. It is one that is worked on in a meticulous way. I have made very clear that I have been involved, as has President Clinton, as has Foreign Minister Moussa. I have made clear in my statement today that it is now decision-making time. I have presented many of our ideas to President Mubarak and the Foreign Minister and I do believe that it is time now for faster action. There is absolutely no comparison in these two cases.
QUESTION: (Inaudible)
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that as President Clinton explained in the State of the Union message, our goal is to thwart Saddam Hussein's ability to acquire and develop weapons of mass destruction or to threaten his neighbors. As we have said, we would prefer a diplomatic solution. But if there is, if we do take military action, it will be significant and it will be very clear that Saddam Hussein will have been thwarted in the way that President Clinton has described.
QUESTION: Foreign Minister Moussa, to what extent do you really feel threatened by Iraq? To what extent do you believe it's been weakened over the last seven years and do you really think it is necessary for the United States to attack in order to contain these weapons and lastly, if an attack occurs, what would be the effect on Islamic fundamentalists in places like Egypt?
FOREIGN MINISTER MOUSSA: Well, first of all, we are not talking now except about how to fulfill whatever all of us want, which is full compliance with Security Council resolutions, cooperation between UNSCOM and Iraq, the Iraqi government, as well as giving full support to the current diplomatic efforts. So I'm not ready to go beyond that for the time being. Thank you very much.

[End of Document]

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