|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on ABC's "This Week"
October 15, 2000, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MS. COKIE ROBERTS: Here in Washington I am joined by the Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Thank you so much for being here.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Nice to be with you, Cokie.
MS. ROBERTS: Well, this is, as Sam says, a tense time. And this summit planned for tomorrow, is there any hope for it? Sam and George have talked to the three people Sam just introduced. They all have very strong opinions and they don't agree with each other.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We don't have illusions about the summit, as the President said yesterday. But I think it is important that we have it, and we are grateful that President Mubarak has pulled the people together for it.
I think the important point here is that we do have to try to reduce the violence and take a turn back for a period of calmness, so that we can move back to a peace process.
MS. ROBERTS: And do you expect to at least get that -- a cease-fire signed?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That is what we are working on, and we have been talking to the parties -- all of us have. The Secretary General has. We think it is very important to try to end this period of violence and get a period of calm.
MS. ROBERTS: Now, we've just received this piece of wire copy saying that the Russians would like to participate on the same basis as the other countries. Would you welcome that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think we have to see what -- you know, how many people are there. They clearly have been co-sponsors of the peace process, and Foreign Minister Ivanov was in the region. They have some different ideas about how things should be done. But it is not up to us to make that decision.
MS. ROBERTS: In this past week, there has been tremendous upset in this country with Yasser Arafat. People saying, at best, he has not prepared his people for peace; at worst, he is trying to get a Palestinian state and not really be part of the peace process. Most of the Senate signed a letter on Friday complaining about what they called a "coordinated campaign of Palestinian violence." And then they went on to say, and here is the letter:
"That campaign leads us to believe that Arafat either seeks to use violence as a negotiating tool to extort even further concessions from the Government of Israel, or that he in fact intends to end the peace process in its entirety as a prelude to unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood."
Is Arafat a partner in this, or is he the troublemaker?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we all know that Arafat is in charge of the Palestinian Authority. He has the responsibility for controlling the violence. We think he should do more, and he has that responsibility.
I don't think that, frankly, either side is able to choose the partner that they have to negotiate with. Arafat is the leader of the Palestinian Authority, and he is the one that has to be the one that engages in the negotiations. I think he has made some, in the past seven years, some important decisions for peace, but we now believe that he has to do more to control the violence and that the peace process -- frankly, Cokie, the peace process is the only road. I think that we are seeing what the other option is by having watched the streets for the last two weeks.
MS. ROBERTS: Now, later in the broadcast, we'll hear his negotiator, Mr. Erakat, say that Barak cannot have the Palestinians as partners and have Ariel Sharon, the leader of the opposition, as a partner, as he has proposed in a national unity government. Where do you go with that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I said, neither side can choose its partner. You have to deal with the people that are in office and who have the responsibility. It is obviously -- I'm not going to get involved in Israeli domestic politics. They have to choose whom they choose.
But I think the point here, from both your questions, is that neither side has the option. They have who is there on the other side.
MS. ROBERTS: I want to move on to the USS Cole and ask you, first of all, what is happening in the investigation? Earlier this morning, I talked to one of our affiliates in Dallas where one of the young sailors, who was killed, had come from there. And the parents were complaining that the investigation was not moving quickly enough.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the inquiry really is moving. We are getting a lot of people in there, and it is going on. Obviously these things take longer than any parent would like.
And let me say that we are all so concerned about the families and offer our condolences. This is a terrible tragedy. I just would like to assure the parents and the loved ones that everything is being done to move this inquiry on as quickly as possible, and the Government of Yemen is being cooperative in this.
MS. ROBERTS: Well, I want to talk about that because the president of Yemen did make a statement saying that this was not terrorism.
Again, let's take a look at what the president said: "Yemen does not have any terrorist elements. It has no relation to what is happening in the occupied territories, conflicts and confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians."
Now, the State Department has always said that Yemen does have terrorist elements.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I spoke with President Saleh -- right after it all happened, and it was so awful. He did originally say that he felt that this must have been an explosion, but he was going to be very cooperative and said that if there were any suspects and the inquiry proved that there were suspects, he was willing to arrest and prosecute them. Today, he actually has said that he sees that there were elements of terrorism, as we have.
MS. ROBERTS: You talked to him today?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, but he issued a statement. But what we are saying is that it appears to be terrorism, ourselves. I mean, it is very hard to make a definitive statement before the inquiry is completed, but I think that he is beginning to see that this is not an explosion on the ship because, if you look at it, it doesn't look that way. I think he sees that he has to cooperate, and he has been cooperative, Cokie.
MS. ROBERTS: There are some people who say that even if the people who claim credit for this kind of a terrorist act are just making it up, doing it for propaganda reasons, that we should go after them anyway and show them what happens to someone who even wants to attack American sailors.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have a worldwide search for terrorists generally, and we have made very clear that whoever is involved in these things, that there's no statute of limitations and that we will pursue them. There will be accountability.
We have been fighting terrorism. It is our major priority in this Administration. It obviously is a terrible problem of the 21st century, and we are doing everything we can. We have wanted posters for some terrorists, and generally make it very clear that it's an impossible way to behave.
MS. ROBERTS: Now, of course, the last huge terrorist attack like this was Khobar Towers -- well, there was the one, of course, in Africa as well -- 19 people killed in Khobar Towers. We've never found the perpetrators.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, but there are people that have been indicted and are in Saudi jails, so I think that it is -- that inquiry, investigation, is moving forward. People need to know that.
It all takes a long time. This is very, very hard. Clearly, you know people hide and they change their appearance, and a variety of things happen. But there is no end to our search for them, and their time comes. There is, as I said, no statute of limitations. And I think that we will keep pursuing.
And I'm very pleased with the way that the inquiry is moving forward. It is not easy. The forensics hasn't been completed and various aspects, but we are giving it all our attention, I can assure you.
MS. ROBERTS: We're about out of time, but of course this takes place in the middle of a presidential campaign. And Governor Bush has said that this shows that we are much too dependent on Iraqi oil, that the situation in the Middle East shows how dangerous the situation is, and says that we are using, in this country, Saddam Hussein's oil. Is that the case? And are we becoming dependent on that part of the world?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think his father, President Bush, understood very well the strategic importance of the Gulf and the importance of the oil. We have strategic responsibilities and interests in the Middle East. Obviously, to link it to the first part of this program, Israel is very important to us, and the region is important to us. I think that we need to have our forces there, we need to understand its importance, and I do believe that we are doing the right thing in the kind of stress we put on it.
MS. ROBERTS: About this question of Iraqi oil, are we using Iraqi oil in this country?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I do not believe so. I do not think so. And their oil -- you know, the truth is that we have -- a lot of the money that Saddam Hussein now gets out of the oil goes for Oil-for-Food and not military equipment.
MS. ROBERTS: Finally, Secretary Cheney, the vice presidential candidate, says our intelligence is not as good now as it was during the Bush Administration, and that we would -- we should have known this was coming.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that our intelligence has been very well-coordinated and is very good. I don't have any doubt that we have done everything we can. I believe we -- this was not something that we knew was going to happen, but we obviously are on alert all the time. But I think that I'm very proud of our intelligence.
MS. ROBERTS: Thank you. Thank you so much, Secretary Albright. Thanks for being here.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Cokie.
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