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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press remarks en route Washington , D.C. from South Carolina
February 19, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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QUESTION: Looking ahead for a moment, how much negotiating room does Kofi Annan have? How much ability does he have to compromise in Baghdad? And also, would you be willing to go along -- would the United States be willing to go along with an UNSCOM-plus type of resolution to this crisis?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think that I don't want to comment on what he can negotiate or not. He consulted with the P-5 before he left. I think there were some guidelines or parameters, and agreement on the fact that there would have to be unconditional, unfettered access, and that UNSCOM must continue to maintain its integrity because the ability of UNSCOM to function as a professional organization can in no way be diminished.

I think there are lots of definitions of whatever, UNSCOM-plus. It's just a term that's kind of been thrown around. I think the main thing for us is that the professional aspects of UNSCOM be maintained in its integrity. If a couple of diplomats want to go along, that's not the issue. The issue is whether UNSCOM itself is able to do its work in an unfettered, unconditional way.

QUESTION: Are you worried that Kofi Annan could be inching toward a compromise in Baghdad by making this trip, trying to sort of massage something with Saddam?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No. I think that it's a very legitimate role for the Secretary General of the United Nations. This is United Nations language, the Security Council resolutions. I think that we're perfectly fine with the fact that he's going.

QUESTION: You talked about phony deals and you kept saying that to the kids today: we're not looking for any kind of phony deal. Could you just elaborate on what you --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I just think the ones that don't allow unconditional, unfettered access, and that in some way diminish UNSCOM. But I don't want to comment more on what he's doing. He has gone with everybody's blessing, and he's spoken to all of us. So I don't want to second-guess him.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, in retrospect, do you think it's appropriate that a commercial network should sponsor and package an event like Wednesday's event? Do you have any regrets that it was done that way?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not going to comment on arrangements. What I wanted to do was to explain what our policy was to the American people. I had a great chance to do that today. I think, actually, I got a pretty good chance to do it yesterday; and that really a lot of points have been made. I'm not going to comment on arrangements. I have a different job.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, before the United States used an extensive military operation in 1991, there was an albeit failed, but nonetheless an attempt by the United States to contact Iraq directly and to deliver the message face-to-face, to hear whatever the Iraqis had to say face-to-face. In your view, would there be any value in that kind of a contact in this situation?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the point here is that this is a dispute between Saddam Hussein and the United Nations. This is not a US-Saddam issue. It's the UN --

QUESTION: That was true in '91, too.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, less. I mean, he had invaded another country. There weren't Security Council resolutions out there ahead of time. This the fulfillment of a UN mandate. So I think it is not something that I have in mind.

QUESTION: This week several people in the Administration, several officials have had a chance to try out different sales pitches to the American public on the Iraqi policy. Can you talk about, is there any reconsidering of what works and what doesn't; how it will be sold to the American public in the next few days?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say this -- those are not words I accept, in terms of sales pitches. What we are doing is explaining the position to the American public, and what the stakes are and how this happened. Ultimately, we are not going to consult public opinion polls. The President of the United States is the Commander-in-Chief. He will make the decisions based on our national security interests. We will continue to have dialogue with the American people and explain to them what is going on, which is absolutely the right thing to do in a democracy. But on a national security issue, the President is the Commander-in-Chief.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you've been talking a bit about a post-Saddam Iraq and hinting at new relationships with the opposition. Could you talk in any way more about that? And do you have any sympathy for the idea that should Saddam disappear from the scene, if some of his neighboring countries should have zones of influence to protect their interests vis-a-vis Iraq?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I have been very clear about this. Since last March I said we were prepared to deal with a post-Saddam regime. I've also said that we have in the past been working with some of the opposition groups, and will continue to do so. But I'm not going to go beyond that.

Our policy has been and continues to be that we are for the territorial integrity of Iraq.

QUESTION: I mean, consistent with territorial integrity, one can imagine ideas of areas of influence and so on. And by the way, why is it -- why should it be that any relationship with the opposition should be a covert one? You didn't use the word, but if you're not going to --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I'm not even indicating that. I mean, there are varieties of contacts that people have had. I agree, it is not a covert one. But I think that it is important to deal with this issue now. There's no need to get ahead of ourselves.

QUESTION: Over the past few weeks, maybe even a month now, there's been a lot of talk, a lot of analogies about diplomatic string running out, fraying, et cetera, et cetera. Is Kofi Annan's mission the last of the diplomatic effort, or is there still another possible diplomatic effort -- Primakov going, anybody else going; or is this it?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not going to speculate on that. We're running out of analogies. But we'll see what Kofi Annan brings back and we'll take a look at it. We have no artificial deadlines, but clearly, as we have said the diplomatic time -- my last analogy was that the bottom half of the hourglass is getting full.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, today you alluded to biology may ultimately take care of the problem, and Saddam would disappear. How high do you think the likelihood is that Saddam will actually disappear due to natural causes; that he'll just die a natural death. That could take decades.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not into crystal ball-gazing. I think that we are dealing with the problem at hand, which is to keep Saddam contained. That is our policy; it has been very successful, and that is the purpose of what we are doing.

As we have all said, it might be aesthetically pleasing to have Saddam not be there, but it is strategically satisfactory for us to have a containment policy.

QUESTION: Follow-up on the diplomacy analogies, time running out -- you said today that sometimes the threat of force alone can bring about a diplomatic solution, and you're hopeful still that maybe this will be the case. We have so much fire power in the region, maybe we're going to rattle Saddam Hussein and get that diplomatic solution after all. Could you just elaborate on, if you were a betting person -- I know you're probably not -- but what do you -- if we're talking about percentages, what is the chance that that diplomatic --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am not going to do that. This is too serious for bets. But we are working the issue. We are very determined in what we are doing. We want to give Kofi Annan's mission a good chance; as I said, we are very comfortable with it. In the meantime, the force is being moved out there, I think you followed that. We are pursuing this in a very methodical way.

QUESTION: So you're still hopeful that a diplomatic -- with all the fire power --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I would like the diplomatic approach to work. That is certainly something -- or a peaceful solution. I think that's what's really important here.

But as I told you, I've been skeptical about that. But that would be everybody's preferred way of solving this, and I think that the fact that the international community is -- I think if you follow the words very carefully, the statements out of various member countries of the UN are clearer and clearer about the fact that Saddam is responsible for this crisis; that he has to fulfill his obligations; that people would like to solve it diplomatically, but if that is not possible, then Saddam is responsible for the grave consequences.

QUESTION: Can you tell me, Madame Secretary, whether you feel that you achieved the goals that you set out for this trip? How successful do you feel it's been? Have you changed any minds?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just say that I feel very good about this trip, and I think that I had a very good dialogue with the students. I heard them; I think they heard me. We weren't taking a count, it wasn't a test, we didn't grade it. But I think that I saw a lot of nodding heads. I think that there are a lot of people who understand the complexities of the problem more than they did before. So I'm very happy. I'll probably go out again.

As you know, I've enjoyed this. When I set out a year ago, I said I was going to go out and talk about foreign policy. And it's just about a year, isn't it, that I went to Texas for my first trip. I'm going to do it, and it's one of the things I enjoy doing. If you all didn't notice, I really like -- I certainly like talking, but I liked being in a classroom; so I enjoyed it.

QUESTION: Turning forward for just a moment, let's assume that we're two or three or four weeks in the future and this episode is behind us one way or another. Are you looking to this as an opportunity in some way to move the Middle East peace process forward? Will you try to take advantage of it in that respect? Or will it not provide that opportunity? What's your view of that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are dealing with these two issues separately. As you know, I've spent a lot of time on the Middle East peace process; I will continue to do so. We will deal with both of these subjects on their tracks.

QUESTION: Containment used to mean something to do with political, economic and military resources essentially in a defensive and deterrent posture. Why isn't deterrence sufficient with Saddam Hussein -- i.e., telling him that if you use these weapons, develop and use them, there will be great penalties?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Because I think that it's a very different kind of a threat. It is better to try to stop him in the development of them and the eradication of them than to let him have them and deal with deterrence. Deterrence is obviously a part of it, but why not try to put a stop to it before it gets further? And also, he made a commitment. At the end of the Gulf War, he signed an agreement to get rid of them. That is what the international community wanted, and that is what we're going to pursue.

QUESTION: A lot of countries have made commitments like that, and a lot of countries have developing programs like that.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: This is, as we have pointed out, he's qualitatively and quantitatively different because he has used these weapons on his neighbors and his own people.

MR. RUBIN: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Thank you.

[End of Document]

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