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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on PBS-TV's "The News Hour With Jim Lehrer" with Margaret Warner
Washington, DC, November 12, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, November 13, 1998
U.S. Department of State

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MS. WARNER: Welcome, Madame Secretary, thanks for being with us.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's great to be with you, Margaret.

MS. WARNER: Has the President made a decision yet to attack Iraq and when?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, the President has all the options, and we are watching very carefully. We have basically said that this cannot go on indefinitely. As the President said yesterday, the Iraqis do not need any further warnings.

MS. WARNER: Is it possible to turn back at this point?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, if Saddam Hussein complies. The entire international community is saying to him that he has an obligation to comply with the Security Council and to rescind his decision about not cooperating with UNSCOM. If he does that, then we can continue down the road of trying to have this comprehensive review, which the Security Council offered, and see where that leads us. But he is the one that has to agree that UNSCOM can come in and do its job.

MS. WARNER: Now, as you know, Tariq Aziz, the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, had a press conference today. He essentially blamed the United States for the stand-off; he said they've been trying to cooperate for seven and a half years; there's never any light at the end of the tunnel, there's just another tunnel; and the Clinton Administration, as he put it, just doesn't want to see sanctions lifted, period.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's quite typical of the way that they've been operating. They will not accept responsibility themselves for what is going on.

They are the ones that have had the opportunity since the end of the Gulf War to comply. This has been one of the clearest sanctions regimes, the clearest road maps that have ever existed in terms of how to get from point a to point b. It's perfectly simple for them to say that UNSCOM needs to come in and do its job. It is not the US' fault; it's not the UN's fault. It's Saddam Hussein's fault.

What they've been trying, Margaret, is specifically always blaming everybody else. Now they have to take responsibility themselves. You know what's very interesting - today the Gulf States, along with Syria and Egypt, made very clear that Saddam Hussein was solely responsible for what was going on. So even his Arab neighbors are beginning to see what we are seeing - that this is his responsibility.

MS. WARNER: Now, he did say today that -- he put it negatively, but that no peaceful solution was possible unless the United States "agreed to the principle of lifting sanctions."

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: You know what this is like - we have -- basically it's been written up as to how the sanctions will end. But what he wants is a guarantee that the sanctions will be lifted before he's gone through a comprehensive review. It's like somebody going to a doctor and insisting that he get a clean bill of health, even while the doctor has been telling him that he's sick and he won't allow the doctor to continue the exam.

There is no way to give him a guarantee that sanctions will be lifted if he does not allow UNSCOM - that is, the doctor - to do the job.

MS. WARNER: So are there any diplomatic efforts underway now to try to avert this - any active diplomacy?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: You know what's important here, Margaret? I think everybody is focusing on is there any effort at this time to do diplomacy. I don't think most people realize that we have been doing diplomacy, so to speak, actively for seven years and very actively for the last year.

It was in February of this year that Kofi Annan, with our support, went to Baghdad and agreed to this memorandum of understanding, which Saddam Hussein violated in six months. After his August decision not to cooperate with UNSCOM, we didn't use force; we continued to use diplomacy. Now in October when he said that he wouldn't cooperate - we have been using diplomacy and using it very long and very hard. What's happened is that this can't go on indefinitely. But this cry all of a sudden to use diplomacy is also false.

We have, in fact, been very engaged diplomatically for a year in the most active way.

MS. WARNER: So you're essentially saying that the United States has done everything it can diplomatically and if there's going to be something happen on that track it really has to come from Iraq.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely. We've made very clear - but it isn't just us, Margaret, the whole Security Council, which has been unified on this for several months now has said that he must rescind his decision.

The Security Council a year ago October had become divided. But what Saddam Hussein has done, as a result of his recalcitrant actions, is to reunite the Security Council. It is now very firmly on one position, which is that he has to rescind his decision and then there will be a comprehensive review.

MS. WARNER: So if air strikes are launched, what will be achieved?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just make the following point. There are people - nothing -- UNSCOM is not working now. We are very concerned about what is happening in terms of his weapons of mass destruction. He is a threat to the neighborhood; he has actually, as we know, invaded a country. He is also a threat because he wants to have and has had these weapons of mass destruction. If UNSCOM could work, we could assure ourselves that he would not be able to develop or deliver those weapons of mass destruction.

So if, in fact, we do take an action of force, it will be designed in order to degrade his ability develop and deliver the weapons of mass destruction and prevent him, also, or make it less possible for him to be a threat in the neighborhood.

MS. WARNER: But if it comes to that, can you confirm reports that essentially say the Administration at that point - and essentially has concluded - that the inspection regime, for all intents and purposes, is over?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, the inspection regime has not been working for eight of the last 12 months. I think one of our concerns is we can't think that something is working when it is not. That is dangerous. So we would very much like to have the inspection regime work. We have great faith in UNSCOM, and find that the statements that Tariq Aziz made about UNSCOM are ridiculous and unconscionable and untrue. We would like to see UNSCOM back in.

But in effect - we have to be frank here - the regime as a whole has really not been able to work properly for the last many, many months.

MS. WARNER: So if air strikes achieve what you want them to, to degrade his weapons-making capability and his overall military capacity, nonetheless, what is left on the ground? Saddam Hussein is still in power?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I mean, that is not the objective of this; although I have said, and so have others many times, that we would look forward to working with a post-Saddam regime. We have been and will continue actively to work with the opposition groups.

But the purpose of force, if we were to use it, would be in order to degrade his ability to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction and be a threat to the neighborhood.

MS. WARNER: The head of the Special Commission, Richard Butler, and many other experts in this field have said that really, even after massive air strikes, a country like Iraq, with the know-how to make these biological weapons and chemical weapons can really reconstitute them pretty quickly.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we know that; which is why we think it's important to have an inspection and verification and then monitoring regime in there. That is what we've been trying to do for the last seven years. But if it doesn't work, then we can't fool ourselves into thinking it's working and relying on it. That's why we are prepared to have them continue their work; have there be a comprehensive review so that if Saddam feels that there's no light at the end of the tunnel, if we do a comprehensive review, that's all he could ask.

MS. WARNER: Yes, but, Madame Secretary, I guess I'm talking now about after - if that hasn't all worked and we go to air strikes and you think you've achieved these military goals and the strikes end, it's sort of then what? I mean, then do you go back again when you think he's rebuilt, or do you actually think at that point he would welcome inspectors?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, he might; in which case, we would be prepared to have a restructure of inspections and a way of operating that would allow us to do what we had not been able to do before. We still believe, Margaret, that UNSCOM is the best method for dealing with the weapons of mass destruction. They, in fact, as you know, over the seven years destroyed more weapons of mass destruction than the Gulf War itself did. So they are the best mechanism. What we really want is for Saddam Hussein to allow UNSCOM to do its job. That is the best solution to this problem, which is why we want him to rescind his decision.

We are not just desirous of bombing for the sake of bombing, but the purpose here is to make sure that he does not have that weapons of mass destruction capability. The thing to remember, Margaret, is at the end of the Gulf War, as part of the cease-fire agreement, he agreed to dismantle all his weapons of mass destruction. That was the deal he made; and like everything else, he violates his deals.

MS. WARNER: How many Iraqi civilians do you estimate will be killed in this operation?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have no answer to that. But I can tell you this - we have been, as we look at various options, particularly concerned about civilian deaths and very concerned that Saddam Hussein will himself kill people and put them out and then say that we had something to do with it.

But the bottom line here is that we are very concerned about civilian, about collateral damage; and we have made that quite clear.

MS. WARNER: Are not many of the facilities you might want to hit in either residential neighborhoods or in so-called "dual-use" factories and so on, where it would be pretty hard to avoid hitting civilians?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Margaret, I'm not going to go into any information about our targets. All I can tell you is this is one of the issues that President Clinton has very high in his agenda, he's very concerned about civilian casualties, as are we all. We obviously take that into consideration.

MS. WARNER: Do you think that the Arab support you mentioned can be sustained if there are a lot of civilian casualties and there is a large public outcry?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that everybody is concerned about what is going on. The Arab support - I think there's no love lost for Saddam Hussein. I think they are very concerned about the people of Iraq; and frankly, as have we been. This somehow Tariq Aziz got wrong also - it is thank to the United States that this oil-for-food program exists. We were the ones that set up the way for them to have billions of dollars worth of food and medicines; and by the way, food and medicines were never embargoed. But this allows him to get hard currency in order to buy food and medicines for his people.

So we care a lot more about the Iraqi people than Saddam Hussein does. He is the one who is ruining their lives. This again is one of these things where Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz just try to pass the blame off to somebody else. The sole responsibility for the condition of the Iraqi people rests with their dictator, Saddam Hussein.

MS. WARNER: Madame Secretary, as I'm sure you know, there's a growing chorus of voices - former officials, even some current members of Congress - saying there really is no way to contain Saddam Hussein and this sort of cat-and-mouse game is going to go on indefinitely unless there's a viable plan for ridding the country of Saddam Hussein. Do you agree with that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say when we came into office, we were left with Saddam Hussein in power. That is how the Gulf War ended, and the decision was made at that stage. I have said - and I will repeat - that we would look forward to working with a post-Saddam regime, and we are going to be working even more actively with the opposition groups. Congress has passed a law, and the President has signed it. We will be working with them in terms of organizing and assisting them get themselves organized. We, as I've said, look forward to working with a post-Saddam regime that will not violate the human rights of the Iraqi people or threaten the neighbors.

MS. WARNER: But are you saying you expect any effort to remove him or any successful effort to really come internally?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that the opposition groups are the ones that are most interested in pursuing that avenue. We, as I've said, have been helping them; but we plan to help them more actively.

MS. WARNER: All right, well, Madame Secretary, thanks very much for being with us.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Margaret.

[End of Document]

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