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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Remarks at the Conclusion of the African Ministerial, United Nations Headquarters
New York, New York, September 24, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Wow, this is like old times.

(Laughter.)

It's very good to be here. We've had a very busy time, and there are a couple of points I'd like to make before I take your questions. I just met with General Abubakar and he saw President Clinton yesterday.

I had a chance to reiterate our great pleasure with the remarkable progress that he has made in a very short period of time in restoring Nigeria's international standing by releasing many political prisoners and establishing and beginning to implement a credible transition program and taking some very difficult economic decisions.

We have great respect and admiration for the people of Nigeria, and wish to be of assistance however we can be. Also, we think that the transition in Nigeria will enable that country to take its rightful place in Africa and the international community. We also discussed the difficult situation in Liberia and ways that we can cooperate on that issue.

Now, a second issue that I wanted to make a comment on, and that is the speeches of Prime Ministers Sharif and Vajpayee reflect movement toward a number of objectives outlined in Security Council Resolution 1172.

India and Pakistan are moving towards adherence to the CTBT. They removed their obstacles to the fissile material cut-off treaty negotiations in Geneva, and they have promised to strengthen controls on the export of sensitive materials and technology.

They have also agreed to pursue talks on their disputes, including Kashmir. We consider that very important since, as we discussed what problems were between the two countries, dealing with the root causes is very important.

Now, obviously, much remains to be done -- actually signing and ratifying the CTBT; finding a formula for a moratorium on producing fissile material while negotiations are underway in Geneva; structuring a restraint regime on nuclear weapons and their means of delivery; to demonstrate their intent to avoid a nuclear arms race; and actually strengthening their export control regime.

So there has been some progress, but obviously, more steps need to be taken.

QUESTION: You said you're pleased with the progress of Nigeria. Is it time to begin easing sanctions?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we have to see how the process moves forward. Obviously, there are discussions that we will be having about it. But I think that General Abubakar and his team are systematically taking steps that would enable us to see Nigeria, as I said, back within the international community.

QUESTION: Can you give us any further indication on an election time table?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, he said he was moving that way in the spring, and I think he has laid out some plans.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, it's getting close to the weekend and people think of Sunday stories. When the President was in Ireland, he spoke of what had happened between Catholics and Protestants, thought he would hope the model could be applied to India-Pakistan, Arab-Israeli and in the Balkans. Can you step back a bit from today's development and give us your overview of whether peace is on the move in any or all of those three areas?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that one of the things, Barry, is that we know that there are small steps in all these areas that lead in the right direction. But again, they are small; we are constantly working at them. And as I have been asked many times before, I am an eternal optimist, which is what you need to be to keep pushing this process forward.

So I've been encouraged on a number of fronts here. But also, I'm a realist enough to know that there's an awful lot of work to be done and that as one moves forward, there are always details and questions that need to be answered.

So generally, I think that we have made some important progress on some of those issues that you're describing.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the Brits and Iran apparently have broken new ground on Salman Rushdie and their diplomatic relations. What do you think about this? What does it say about Iran? What does it say about the prospects of future warming with the United States?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it's -- I was talking to Foreign Secretary Cook about this. I think that this is an important step. I think that the question is: how it is actually implemented will obviously be important in terms of their relationship and how the Iranian Government itself has really distanced itself from this issue and from the question of the bounty.

I think that ultimately the question will have to be asked of Salman Rushdie; this has been a very complicated security problem for him. He's the one who has to assess whether it is true or not.

I think in terms of our own discussions, we have, as I've said a number of times, we are interested in and have offered a government-to-government dialogue. I was in a meeting during the week with a deputy foreign minister on the Afghan issue, and we spoke quite similarly, actually, about what the Taliban had to do.

I think that we are, as I've said a number of times and as I stated in my speech at the Asia Society, we are prepared to work on a road map towards some form of normalization. But we have to see some actions; and that's where we are.

QUESTION: During your time here, did you have a chance to have any contact with Foreign Minister Kharazi?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, we have not (inaudible).

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, a two-parter -- two separate parts -- one, there are reports in Hamburg today about credible threats -- at least the German police call them credible threats -- about closing the consulate -- or threats against the consulate. I understand they've closed the streets on both sides and they're checking. Do you know anything about that? Can you update us on threats against not only in Hamburg, but anywhere else?

And secondly and separately, there are persistent reports appearing in New York papers and other places about your potential resignation. Any word on that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: You think these two go together?

(Laughter.)

Let me say that in terms of threats, obviously we have been very concerned about threats to various American installations, embassies, et cetera; and we watch this all the time. About that specific one, I can't answer specifically because I have not been informed in detail. But obviously, we are looking at things very carefully.

I'm kind of surprised that a legitimate journalist would actually be asking me this question because there is absolutely, totally no truth to it.

I think the people that knew me here knew how much I loved being Ambassador to the UN. Those people who really know me know how much I love my job as Secretary of State. I'm very pleased to be in it and plan to stay.

QUESTION: On India and Pakistan, are you prepared to recommend now that the sanctions on those countries be lifted and/or that the President's planned trip that has been put on hold go ahead to those countries?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think that, as I said, some steps have been taken, but there's a long way to go. We have to look at how this all progresses. We obviously will be talking about both those subjects, but there have been no decisions made.

I think that I don't want to overstate what has happened here. They are important steps but, as I also indicated, there are many steps that still need to be taken; and we're not prepared yet to make a judgement on it.

QUESTION: India and Pakistan both have made some kind of conditional commitment to sign the CTBT by 1996. Are you going to --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Nine.

QUESTION: Yes, 1999. Are you going to remove the (inaudible) conditionalities of both the countries, and secondly the issue of Kashmir because (inaudible) unresolved. How do you see the US play any role on Kashmir?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I just said, I think basically we have to -- we're going to be looking for actions. We have to look at -- there have been some important steps taken, a lot more to go. We were glad in the way that there had been additional commitment to adhere to the CTBT and to sign it, but we will have to see how this goes. I don't want to overstate the case here.

Kashmir -- many of you know I have spent my lifetime studying Kashmir. We are glad that this is going to be part of a dialogue. We believe that the two countries need to deal with this with each other.

QUESTION: Do you see any role?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Will the US play any role in the --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that what is important here is that they have a dialogue. There is no --

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I'd like to ask you about the prospects for a peace accord between Israel and Palestinians on a further redeployment. First off, do you have any plans to meet together with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat? Secondly, do you think you can reach an accord on a further re-deployment within the next, while both leaders are in the United States? And, thirdly, would you consider --

(Laughter.)

-- I'm trying to cover all my bases here. Would you consider announcing a partial agreement on such interim issues as the airport and seaport in Gaza, the industrial park, et cetera?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say, as I indicated yesterday, that we keep making progress. I had a very good meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, and I am obviously going to be meeting with Chairman Arafat also, and we will be pursuing this road.

We will try to lock in whatever we have agreed upon; and I can't predict that at this point because we are in the middle of having these discussions. I think that we have felt that there has been systematic progress. Ambassador Ross' last trip to the region -- he worked very hard as he always does -- and I think that there is a good basis for the discussions that we're going to have here.

I will be meeting with the two of them separately. I don't know yet what that will lead to. Stay tuned.

QUESTION: Would the Palestinians plan to declare their intention for statehood in -- (inaudible) --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we don't know what they are going to say; and we do not agree with unilateral acts as far as issues that are final permanent status issues.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, welcome back.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good to see you.

QUESTION: The President of Iran in a press conference the other day sort of threw cold water on the idea of actual talks, as you had proposed. He talked about what he had talked about before -- face-to-face human relations and so on. The Foreign Minister is going to make a formal statement on this in a few days. My understanding from Iranians is he will reiterate what President Khatami said. So in light of what happened today, have the Iranians managed to break out of their box, in effect, restore relations with Europe and the UK; and are they rebuffing the US and keeping them at arm's distance?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that we believe in people-to-people relations. We've talked about that; I had that in my speech. I think that that is an avenue, although there is not a lot that can truly change if you don't have government-to-government discussions.

But we are all following with great interest what is going on in Iran, what the people of Iran are interested in. When I gave my speech I based a great deal on what I saw had been happening in Iran and that the vote for President Khatami reflected. We will keep watching the very many interesting developments; but, again, actions are very important.

But I think we live in very interesting times. And in terms of their relationships with Europe, they have always been different from the ones that we have had with them.

QUESTION: Is there a chance that you will be able to meet with the Foreign Minister or any other Iranian official during next week or so?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't know; there are a lot of people in the halls here.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

[End of Document]

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