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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on ABC-TV "This Week" with Cokie Roberts and George Will
August 23, 1998, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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MS. ROBERTS: Now here to discuss the latest in America's fight against terrorism is Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Madame Secretary, you couldn't hear that report, so we will fill you in. John said the attacks, particularly against Afghanistan, were considered extremely successful. Would you agree with that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes. We think that what we managed to do was to have some significant impact on the terrorist planning activities in what is a major terrorist camp. We are still looking at the damage assessment. But the point here was to do something that would disrupt Osama bin Laden and his organization's ability to conduct additional terrorist activities.

Now, as many of us have said and I have said and the President has made very clear, we are involved in, really, a long-term struggle here with terrorist forces. This is but one stage in it. I think we have to understand that this is a long-term problem for the United States and the civilized world.

MS. ROBERTS: I want to come back to that, but McWethy also said that there was an incident this morning in Albania, where someone was scaling the walls of the American Embassy and was shot. Do you have any reason to believe that that's further terrorist --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No. I was notified about this early this morning, and we have reason to believe that this was an isolated incident of a particular person; although we are concerned about threats at all our embassies -- and Tirana is clearly one of them.

MS. ROBERTS: When you say that the attack was to get at bin Laden's ability to do more, how do you know you were able to do that? Did you get any of the -- there was supposed to be a terrorist meeting going on there; did you get any of the bad guys?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we'll have to wait to see who we got on this. But we did have very good intelligence about the fact that there was going to be a meeting there of the various people that belong to Osama bin Laden's kind of umbrella organization of terrorists.

But the point here was to get at a lot of their command and control and their structure in this camp that has been there for some time. We had very good evidence that this was a very good time to go after the structure. I think that those raids have been successful.

MR. WILL: A senior Administration official was quoted this week as saying there had been a clear and present danger of a terrorist attack on the United States. If that is the case, then this was more preemption than retaliation, was it not? It was justified independently of the bombing of the embassies?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, there's two parts to it. I think that clearly the bombings had a huge part in it, because we saw the damage that Osama bin Laden can do, not only to Americans but to other innocent civilians in the area. But also we had reason to believe that there would be additional attacks. So we thought that it was very important and wise to take this action at this time, and then coupled with the information that this gathering was going to take place.

MR. WILL: But given that camps such as that can be duplicated fairly easily -- it's not a high-tech affair -- and the building in Khartoum can no doubt be replicated somewhere around the world, does America have a moral and legal right to continue campaigns against such facilities even absent a particular provocation such as the embassy bombings?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We believe that the terrorist threat to the United States, our people, is a long-term threat that we have to deal with. We believe that we have a legal right to self-defense, and that is what we had stated. Under Article 51 of the UN Charter, we have a right to self-defense. As the United States of America, we have the right to self-defense when our people have been killed and when others have been maimed. We see this as a long-term struggle with terrorism.

I think, unfortunately, George, this is something that we're going to be dealing with at the end of the century and into the next one. We need to have a lot of cooperation from others. But as we made very clear this week, we will take unilateral action when we think that our national interest has been threatened.

MR. WILL: The Administration has been at pains to say, however, that it was not targeting Mr. bin Laden. Given that he's not the head of a government, given that his status legally is more like that of the head of a family of the Mafia, why not?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we have -- our strikes this week were conducted against the infrastructure, the command and control, and generally against those that were involved in this. We do not think that just focusing on one single individual this way proves anything. We obviously are going after his assets and after his organization, and we will continue in what I've said is a long-term struggle here.

MS. ROBERTS: But what about the question of providing a reward for people who do get him? Is that a --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We did. I offered a $2 million reward for information leading to all the events on Kenya and Tanzania of trying to get information on them.

I think that the point here is that we have a large problem with a terrorist infrastructure which, as you pointed out, George, is not a country but a group of organizations. We are going after the people that are --

MS. ROBERTS: But is that a reward for -- I mean, if somebody comes in with bin Laden, do they get $2 million?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, this is a reward for information that will help us deal with the long-term threat and the short-term immediate threat of bin Laden and the others involved in a terrorist operation.

MR. WILL: Some people think there's a general sense around the world that American foreign policy is coming unraveling in part, perhaps, because of the distraction of the President. Let me ask you about a few of these. Kosovo -- you said we are not going to stand by and watch the Serbian authorities do in Kosovo what they can no longer get away with doing in Bosnia. Aren't they getting away with it?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just answer your original question, George. I think that maybe from inside a studio in Washington, it may look as though things are unraveling. I arguably have been to more places recently than most Americans, and have dealt with many foreign ministers and heads of state who see the United States as central, crucial to what is going on internationally, and see us as the world's super power and look to us for leadership, which we are providing.

On Kosovo, you've asked, let me just say that we have a two-prong policy here. Ambassador Chris Hill is there right now, working on negotiations between the Kosovar Albanians and the Belgrade Serbs -- Milosevic -- and those ar,e in fact, moving forward. Also, NATO is increasing its military planning, and military exercises took place in Albania this last week. So we are moving forward on that.

MR. WILL: The Washington Post reported, among others, in connection with instructions said to have been given through our second in command at the UN that Mr. Butler was to back off on certain kinds of surprise raids. The Washington Post says he was left with the plain understanding that the United States did not support his plan.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, that is absolutely wrong. Let me explain this. At the end of the Gulf War in '91, the general conventional wisdom was that Saddam Hussein wouldn't be around in six months. He is around, but he's also constrained by the toughest sanctions policy in the history of the world seven years later. As a matter of fact, we are now -- as a result of the actions that the United States has taken -- we were able this last week to have a sanctions review that made it very clear that there was no chance that Saddam Hussein would get out of the sanctions box. That is what he wants; he wants to get out of the sanctions box, and he has not managed that.

We also are the strongest supporters of UNSCOM, including their inspection regime. Mr. Butler knows that and the other members of the Security Council know that also.

MS. ROBERTS: Madame Secretary, there are many of us who are wondering -- you came out of the White House back last January and said, I believe the allegations are completely untrue. The President has now told us they were true. Did he tell you they were untrue then?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say this -- as an American citizen and as a friend of the President's, I accept what he said on Monday. As the Secretary of State of the United States, I know that he is determined and has the judgment and the ability to be a president that defends the US national interests.

MS. ROBERTS: But did he tell you then that the allegations were untrue?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have said, Cokie, that I believe what he said on Monday; and I feel comfortable with that position.

MS. ROBERTS: How do you, then, go into a situation where your job is to say, believe the President?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I've said, I think -- as the Secretary of State, I have no doubts whatsoever that the President is very focused on what he is doing on the national security issues of the United States, and that he is the creator as well as the backer of his national security team that is out there carrying out the work of the United States.

MS. ROBERTS: But aside from his focus is the question of his credibility. How do you assure other people around the world to believe the President, when he has just told the American people he lied to us?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: But you know what's interesting, Cokie, is I have no problems whatsoever assuring other leaders about the credibility of the United States and the President. They understand his focus and his understanding of foreign policy and national security issues and the determination of the United States not only to defend our national interests, but to carry out the role that is appropriate for the sole remaining super power.

MR. WILL: I must just press the question -- forgive me -- that Cokie asked; and I don't think you really did answer it. Did the President, in January I believe it was, before the Cabinet went out in front of the White House and said, I believe him, I second that, I third that, did the President deny the allegations?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not going to go into what the President said. I am saying to you --

MR. WILL: But you were saying you believed.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I said that I support the President of the United States. I said also, as an American citizen and as his friend, I accept what he said on Monday.

MR. WILL: So you don't feel in any way ill used?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I do not, and I feel that he is doing a great job as President of the United States. The American people believe that; the foreign leaders that I deal with believe that. I think that our most important point here now -- both of you -- is that I think he wants to get on with the job, I want to get on with the job and the people of the United States want us to get on with our jobs.

MS. ROBERTS: Do you think that for the President -- for the Commander-in-Chief to have an affair with an intern in an area off the Oval Office is a purely private matter?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Cokie, I have said what I have to say on this subject; and that is all I am saying.

MS. ROBERTS: Okay, thank you very much, Secretary Albright.

[End of Document]

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