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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on NBC-TV "Today Show" with Katie Couric
Washington, D.C., February 8, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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MS. COURIC: Secretary of State Madeleine Albright spent many hours working with the late King and recently met with the new monarch, King Abdullah. Madame Secretary, good morning; thanks so much for talking with us.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning, Katie.

MS. COURIC: What do you think King Hussein's greatest legacy will be?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think his greatest legacy is that he put together a country that functions so well in the Middle East that if it didn't exist would have to be invented, as people say.

One of the interesting things, Katie, John Foster Dulles said of young King Hussein that he was a very impressive young man, but it was a shame that neither he nor his country would last very long. How wrong he was. It is thanks to the amazing work of King Hussein, who took his people and his country and created a modern economy that needs help, but that really is a functioning country. That is his legacy; and as a result of that, his whole role in the Middle East as a force for peace in the last years is unmatched.

MS. COURIC: He often served two masters, it seems to me -- the people of Jordan on one hand, and then some of the more progressive policies he pursued. How was he so adept at that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that was his great ability -- his ability to identify with the varied people of Jordan. There are so many stories about him being able to go out and deal with the Bedouins or talking to the Palestinians or dealing with refugees or even dealing with his own elite; and then his great ability to identify with the forces of good internationally.

The number of times that I saw him, he had this ability to rise above the moment. The most famous one recently is when he came into our talks at the Wye negotiations at a particularly hard time. It was late in the evening and he arrived and there had been some obvious disagreements. He really put it very straight; he said, "you all can get over your disagreements and really do something for the children and the grandchildren. Get over whatever your momentary problems are and think about the future."

MS. COURIC: His appearance there, after undergoing chemotherapy, was incredibly moving, wasn't it?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It was stunning. Katie, we had been there for days and King Hussein had been in a little house to the side. We had all gone to see him individually, but when we sat there at night, having all been together for many, many hours, and have this really small and tired man come in; and yet, he was the one with the brightness and the vision and the strength.

MS. COURIC: There is a great deal of concern, as you know, Madame Secretary, about the status of the peace process. Where do the parties go from here?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have to make sure that the peace process goes on. We are working very hard to get the parties back together. They have to -- both Israel and the Palestinians -- have to fulfill their obligations under the Wye Memorandum. We are determined to make it work, because without the peace process there can only be chaos.

Therefore, it is essential for the parties to come together to reestablish some of the communications that existed in the first phase of the implementation of Wye. During the second phase, the Palestinians have fulfilled some of their obligations; the Israelis have not. We cannot wait indefinitely for these various obligations that are mutually reinforced to be carried out.

The Middle East needs the peace process.

MS. COURIC: There is, of course, great hope that King Abdullah, Hussein's son, will fill the void. You met with him last week. What were your impressions of this new king?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, my impressions were very positive. He's a very intelligent, articulate young man. I thought what was so moving about it, Katie, was he said, "I will carry my father's flag," which really means that he's going to pursue the missions that his father had, both domestically and internationally. We talked about both, and he knows he's got a lot of work to do.

We will be there to support him. President Clinton has already announced a package of economic and military assistance to them. We will be giving them $300 million a year extra for the next three years, in addition to the $225 million we already have budgeted for them. Then we will be working with other international institutions and other countries to make sure that the economy of Jordan, which really does need help, is given that kind of help so that the people understand the benefits of peace and also how important it is for King Abdullah to be able to succeed.

MS. COURIC: Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, as always, thanks so much and nice to see you.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Nice to see you, Katie, thank you.

[End of Document]

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