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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on NBC's Meet The Press
10/8/2000, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

QUESTION: Joining us here live, the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Madame Secretary, welcome.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good to see you, Tim.

QUESTION: Are we on the verge, the brink, of war in the Middle East?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have to do everything we can not to be at the brink of war because peace is close, and had been. We had been working very hard on the peace process. The people of the region, I think, deserve peace, and we are trying everything we can to see if there can be disengagement. The cycle of violence has to be stopped. It is a tragedy, and we have been in very close touch with both the parties trying to get some disengagement here.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister of Israel has said the Palestinians have 48 hours to stop the violence or he will take all necessary means. What does that mean?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the very important part to think about here is that the Israelis feel under siege from the Palestinian rock throwers and the various gangs that have been roaming around. Joseph's Tomb, as you pointed out, was just a dreadful thing, because what had happened is that Prime Minister Barak had actually pulled the Israeli forces out, and expected the Palestinians to control the region; and that didn't happen. I think there is an incredible sense of frustration, the need to try to break the cycle of violence, and that is what has to happen. We hope very much that it doesn't come to a confrontation that is even more serious. So what we are working on is, there has to be disengagement.

QUESTION: Last night in the United Nations a resolution was passed. This is how Reuters described it, and I will put it on the screen for you and our viewers: "The UN Security Council adopted a resolution Saturday that condemns, ‘excessive use of force against Palestinians,' with the United States casting an abstention and allowing the measure to go into force. The resolution also, ‘deplores the provocation carried out at al Haram al-Sharif September 28 – that's the Temple Mount – a reference to Ariel Sharon for a visit he made Thursday to a shrine in Jerusalem's Old City, holy to both Muslims and Jews."

"Excessive use of force against Palestinians." By whom?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We felt that this resolution had various parts in it that were on the wrong track here, of blame-placing, of looking at the issue in a way that did not help the process. I think that we were concerned about this resolution; it is one that went through the Security Council. We tried very hard to work it, and felt that it was important that we abstain on this resolution because of the kind of language that was in it.

QUESTION: But why not veto it, rather than let it become --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think, clearly Tim, this was a very difficult issue, because we tried very hard to get this resolution to be more even-handed. The problem, as I said, is the Palestinians in many ways are putting the Israelis under siege. We are concerned about excessive use of force, but also about this siege mentality that is being really provoked in a way by all the stone-throwers.

But we have a very important role to play in the peace process. We have to be the honest broker, the negotiator in this. I think that by abstaining, we allow ourselves to continue that role. Clearly there were parts of this resolution that we thought were wrong and unacceptable, but I think it is very important that we be able to maintain that negotiating, mediating role.

QUESTION: But by abstaining and not vetoing, it did go into force, a resolution which condemns, in effect, Israel for excessive use of force.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think if we had vetoed it – we have to look at the whole picture here. One is to be the honest broker, the negotiator, but also about how this affects the entire region. This was not an easy decision, believe me; but I think vetoing it would have created further problems in the region for us as the honest broker and negotiator, and this was the position we took. While in his explanation of vote, Ambassador Holbrooke made very clear that we disagreed with the way that various paragraphs in it were phrased.

QUESTION: The second part of the resolution, as I noted, concerns the visit to Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon, one of the Likud party leaders in Israel, on September 28, which Palestinians said triggered this violence. In fact, the speaker of the Israeli parliament, Mr. Avraham Burg, said today it was a provocation by Mr. Sharon to go there. Do you believe that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that clearly this already came within a very tense situation. The days before, already there had been a certain amount of violence, and I have said that I thought the visit was counterproductive and a mistake.

QUESTION: In Israel they call him the "bulldozer." Is Mr. Sharon taking "political steps" which really may jeopardize the peace?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it is wrong for me to comment on the political situation in Israel and on people's intentions. But I do think that what is very important here – and we have to keep saying this – is we can't get stuck in a cycle of violence that cannot be broken. That is our major concern. What was of concern to me is that we had worked very hard in Paris to establish certain measures about how the two parties could work together in order to make sure that the security arrangements held. They pledged to each other that these arrangements would go into place; they were going into place, and then we had the unfortunate issue of the Day of Rage. But I think the point to focus on here now is not personalities, but on trying to get the disengagement going and get these people separated from each other.

QUESTION: Do you believe if Yasser Arafat said today to the Palestinians, stop throwing stones, stop the violence, he has the power to do that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think Yasser Arafat obviously is the leader of the Palestinian people. He has been able, in the past, to control large portions of this. We expect him to be able to control this. It is a very difficult situation, clearly, because they now are -- this gang, the Tanzin, these younger people that are throwing the rocks – I think it is very important to gain control. But this is a very volatile situation on both sides, and both leaders have to do everything they can to try to lessen the tension, disengage.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, we are joined right now, live from Israel, with the leader of Israel, its Prime Minister, Ehud Barak. Mr. Barak, good morning. Is the Middle East on the brink of war?

(INTERVIEW WITH PRIME MINISTER BARAK NOT TRANSCRIBED)

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you just heard that. Rather chilling.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that you saw a lot of what we see in Prime Minister Barak, which is someone who actually has worked very hard for peace. He has put forward some amazing ideas, I think, gone further than any previous Prime Minister, even Prime Minister Rabin, but who is truly frustrated by the fact that this violence has emerged and is surrounding the people of Israel. He is also a soldier, and so he is determined to defend his people. But I think you do see his desire to have peace and to find a partner. The point now is that Arafat has the opportunity. He has made some very hard decisions in the last seven years; he has to make them again because the future for the people -- of Palestinians and Israelis – cannot be rock throwing and violence. It has to be to be able to live together.

QUESTION: But if Mr. Arafat is not able to stop the violence, or unwilling to stop it, there is no doubt, after talking to Prime Minister Barak, that the Israelis will do what is necessary, and that could engulf the entire Middle East.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, that is why we are working so hard now to try to get some way for them to separate, to detach these security measures that we worked out. They are talking – by the way, that is what is interesting, is that the security people are talking with our facilitation right now. We just have to keep pushing and working. We can't give up for the sake of the people. When he talked about the deaths -- we all are just undone, I think, by seeing the violence and the deaths, especially of the young people. The future – we have to work with him and Arafat – is to get them to disengage and work on getting back on track with the peace process.

QUESTION: And beyond the human toll, it could disrupt the world's oil supply.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, you know, it is obviously a very important region, and as you pointed out, this could spread. We have been talking to all the neighboring countries, trying to calm things down. It is a dangerous period, but also, Tim, we were close to peace; this kind of thing happens when you are close to peace. The history of this has been very complicated with lots of ups and downs, and very bad periods. We have to get through this and get back on track.

QUESTION: If you could stay right here, we are going to take a quick break and come back and talk about Yugoslavia, some much happier news.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Right.

QUESTION: We'll be right back with more of the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, in just a minute.

QUESTION: And we are back. Madame Secretary, as you know, the people of Yugoslavia took to the streets and said to Slobodan Milosevic, get out. He is now out. The country is anxious to return to the family of nations, have sanctions lifted. Is that possible until Mr. Milosevic is turned over as a war criminal to the International Court at The Hague?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I do think we all need to congratulate the people of Yugoslavia, because they went out after being subjected to manipulation and really terrorism not to go out and vote, and they did. They went out in a mass and they showed their really true colors. I have always believed that the Serbian people understood the value of democracy. I think they also now want very much to be a part of Europe, and being a part of Europe is understanding democracy and the rule of law.

I have been a great supporter of the War Crimes Tribunal, because I really think that ultimately what it does is to expunge collective guilt and assign individual guilt. In order for Yugoslavia to become a normal nation, that has to happen; there has to be accountability. Our position has been clear, and it has not changed at all.

What Kostunica has to do now – he has a huge job --

QUESTION: The new president.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The new president, Kostunica – he has to consolidate what he has gotten. The Yugoslav economy is a disaster, and we have to do everything we can to help. There also still are divisions, and as you saw from yesterday, there are still problems in the parliament, and he has to consolidate his position. We want to support him; we want to get assistance to him. I have been talking to our European partners. We will be lifting certain sanctions that were directed -- economic sanctions to make sure that the people can recover and the Danube is cleared. Then we have to give some assistance. And they have to be a part of Europe, and rule of law is part of it.

QUESTION: But he has said that he will not extradite Mr. Milosevic to be tried as a war criminal.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: He is also -- Mr. Kostunica -- he is a constitutional lawyer, he likes legal ways. I think we need to give him time to consolidate his regime. I think there cannot ultimately be a normal Yugoslavia until there is accountability. Our position on this hasn't changed.

QUESTION: So you are for the extradition of Mr. Milosevic?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am for accountability and the rule of law, and I am for having Yugoslavia be part of a normal Europe. I have been a supporter all along of the War Crimes Tribunal.

QUESTION: So unless Mr. Milosevic is tried as a war criminal, we cannot have normal relations with Yugoslavia?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think there are a whole host of different levels to this, but I really think that we need to give Mr. Kostunica a chance to do his work, to consolidate what he has. The statute of limitations on war crimes – there is no statute of limitations, it doesn't run out. Accountability will be necessary for there to be ultimately a totally good, normal rule-of-law, democratic Yugoslavia. That is my personal belief.

QUESTION: Critics will say that Mr. Mladic, Mr. Karadzic -- also war criminals – roam around Yugoslavia, untouched, never brought to justice, and the same is going to happen with Mr. Milosevic because the United States will not insist on it.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The United States has insisted, and believe me, their time will come.

QUESTION: Why not deny all assistance or aid until Mr. Milosevic is tried?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Because I think what we have to do is show the Serb people that they did the right thing by going out to vote. They need to have some dividends out of democracy. They took a huge risk to get out there and vote. If you saw – there were lots of signs out there that said Milosevic should go, that they wanted to see his end. They will get behind this, believe me, when they figure out that they are free and democratic and that they will be a part of a real Europe. Everybody is ready to welcome them; let's reward them for what they have done. We weren't out in the streets; we supported it, but they are the ones that were out there. I congratulate them.

QUESTION: You have no doubt the time will come when Mr. Milosevic is tried as a war criminal.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have no doubt that there will be accountability, and that Yugoslavia will not be truly free until that happens. But I do think that what has to happen is we have to give President Kostunica now a chance; let's help him. The people of Serbia have voted for him; let's help him.

QUESTION: Did the Russians play a constructive role in the Yugoslavia matter?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that they played a complicated role because they were trying to assess the situation from their perspective. I think that frankly they were late. I spoke with Foreign Minister Ivanov many times; I think that it took them a little while to assess the reality there, but ultimately, in recognizing President Kostunica, they have done the right thing.

QUESTION: During the debate Governor Bush suggested that the Russians step up, as he said, and try to play a constructive role in the process – "use their sway" were his words – and he was criticized somewhat by Vice President Gore for suggesting that. In fact, what Governor Bush suggested was exactly what you were working on with the Russians.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that we did not want the Russians to mediate, and that is where -- Vice President Gore made that quite clear. It wasn't a matter of mediating between Milosevic and Kostunica --

QUESTION: But Governor Bush never said mediate; he said, step up and use persuasion.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that what had to happen here is that the Russians could play a useful role. They weren't the only ones there, and I think that they actually – that the way Vice President Gore described it was right. They did not play the role that they needed to at the right time.

QUESTION: Another interesting foreign policy question has arisen in our political campaigns, and let me show you how the New York Times dealt with it. This is in the Senate race in New York: "Hillary Rodham Clinton moved to fortify her standing with the Jewish voters, urging the Administration release classified documents in the case of Jonathan Pollard, the convicted spy seeking clemency. Asked if she had shared her feelings with Mr. Clinton, the First Lady, who generally declines to respond to questions about conversations with the President, responded, ‘I have made my views known, yes.'"

Do you believe that the President should grant clemency to Jonathan Pollard, a convicted spy?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the President has asked for a review of this. I believe that the President has been looking at it, he has for some time, and that there is a review process. Mrs. Clinton has her views, and the President has his responsibilities.

QUESTION: But should classified information be released in the middle of a Senate campaign?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that classified information is something that has to be handled very carefully. It is there for a purpose, in order for the President to be able to review this. I think that Mrs. Clinton has her views on this, and the Administration has to do its duty.

QUESTION: But you and the Director of the CIA and the Secretary of Defense have all said in recent years that you believe that the sentence Mr. Pollard was given was just, and clemency should not be granted. Is that still your view?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We had – what happened was that the President asked for a review of this; we have made our views known; and I think that it is inappropriate to go into it any further than that. We have made our views known. I think that it is very important to keep a distinction here between what Mrs. Clinton says as a candidate in New York – I respect her views – but we also have responsibility in our positions in the Government. That is being separated in a very careful way, I can assure you.

QUESTION: In 1996, the President denied clemency, and this is how Mike McCurry, his Spokesman, said it, "After carefully reviewing the matter, the President has denied the application by Jonathan Pollard for executive clemency. The President agreed with Attorney General Reno's judgment that the enormity of Mr. Pollard's offenses, his lack of remorse, the damage done to our national security, the need for general deterrence, and the continuing threat to national security that he posed made the original life sentence imposed by the court warranted."

Has anything changed regarding the enormity of the offense, the lack of remorse, the continuing threat to our national security?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I do not believe so.

QUESTION: And that is your view in --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That is my view.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, we thank you for sharing it.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

QUESTION: And for your views on Israel and Yugoslavia on a very busy morning – a very busy term for the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. I look forward to reading your book.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: There is a lot to say.

[End of Document]
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