|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Kuwait Minister of Defense Sheikh Salem Sabah Al-Salem al-Sabah
Joint Press Availability
Kuwait City, Kuwait, November 16, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MINISTER OF DEFENSE SHEIKH SALEM: Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Madam Albright in Kuwait again. The first time I met Madam Albright was when she was the Permanent Representative of the United States at the U.N., and we discussed a very important question at that time and it is still a very important question to the world -- the POW question -- and she assured me that the United States would stand behind this humanitarian question. And, she did indeed as the Permanent Representative as well as Secretary of State. Welcome Madam Albright again to Kuwait and I give you the floor.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. I am very pleased to be in Kuwait. I came here tonight in the midst of the latest crisis with Iraq, because Kuwait knows better than any other country what it is like to be the victim of Saddam Hussein's aggression.
Being here I think serves as a vivid reminder of the dangers that Saddam Hussein can cause to this neighborhood, and that is why when Kuwait was liberated, the United Nations Security Council passed a series of resolutions mandating sanctions on Iraq until it complied with the demands of the international community. Among those demands was that Iraq abandon its weapons of mass destruction program and accept the UNSCOM inspections and monitoring regimes. Saddam Hussein's decision to create a crisis with UNSCOM is a dangerous policy and the UN Security Council is united in its resolve to insist that he is reversed in that course and the people of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia -- the countries that I am visiting today -- are on the front line. If Saddam does not back down they will be the first ones to be threatened; and I am here to signal that the United States will not let that happen again.
I am here to insist, together with our Arab friends, that Saddam Hussein must comply with all relevant Security Council resolutions. As I have explained to our very good friends in Kuwait, we are actively pursuing a diplomatic solution, but if Saddam insists on thwarting the will of the international community, we can not rule out other options. But we are desirous of finding a diplomatic solution to this crisis.
QUESTION: The Kuwait Foreign Minister was quoted today saying that Kuwait was opposed to military action against Iraq. I wonder if this is indeed Kuwait's position and, if it is, what does it say about the value of the American sacrifice in the Gulf War? Madam Secretary, what have the Gulf States told you today about their willingness to support the United States politically, financially, and militarily, in this confrontation?
MINISTER OF DEFENSE SHEIKH SALEM: I think my colleague Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad was mis-quoted definitely because he corrected his statement with a statement.
But let me assure you of the Kuwaiti position. I would like to emphasize that in the context of the very close relations between Kuwait and the United States, which were consolidated by the principled stances of the United States and recalling the major role taken by the United States in the liberation of our country, Kuwait reiterates its stance to give diplomatic solutions a chance to resolve the crisis created by the Iraqi regime.
Iraq's insistence on escalations opens the door for all options which might not be in the interest of Iraq. We support the approach of the United States in the context of the close relations between the two countries. Furthermore, we emphasize the importance of demanding that the Iraqi regime should comply with all resolutions emanating from the Security Council relevant to its aggression against the State of Kuwait. Kuwait also calls on international community to continue to pressure Iraq to comply with all the Security Council resolutions so as to save the region from the dangers of instability and tension. Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As to my part of this, let me say though the day is long and not yet over, I would count this as a very good day for the United States and for what we are trying to accomplish here. I got very sustained support for our approach using intensive diplomacy complimented by a robust military posture in our dealings with Iraq, and support for our position that it is essential for Saddam Hussein to reverse course. I got that across the board in Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait, and as you know we are on our way to Saudi Arabia and I expect the same kind of support there.
Let me again make very clear that we are not seeking a military solution we would like to see a diplomatic solution to this crisis, but it has to be absolutely clear that there is no way out for Saddam Hussein if he does not reverse his decision and change course. And that is the message I think I can clearly say now is supported and applauded by the countries that I have visited and am visiting.
QUESTION: What if diplomacy fails, and if a limited strike becomes inevitable? Do you think that a limited strike like previous ones would make that regime change its positions and if it does (inaudible), can we afford to have the inspections stopped?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am not going to go into military strategy here, but I think that what we would like to see is the success of our diplomacy supported by the robust threat of the use of force that is in the region now, and for Saddam Hussein for once to get the message that the international community is united and seeking for him to turn around.
Let me just say that in our effort to make diplomacy work President Clinton has been in touch with President Chirac and President Yeltsin, and I have been in touch a number of times today with Foreign Minister Primakov and Foreign Minister Vedrine. And in our efforts to build diplomatic pressure, we look to the Russians and French, because of their unique ability to communicate with Saddam Hussein, to convince him that the only way out is by changing course.
QUESTION: I was wondering, although the day is not over, if in your talks so far you have gotten the sense that this is somewhat more difficult or more complex for you, and is what your task is because Saddam Hussein is in fact defying U.N., and has not at this point struck out at any other nation -- in other words his neighbors -- while perhaps fearful or not as fearful as they would be if he were taking some sort of military action?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Okay, let me say obviously nothing in life is as clear as a cross border aggression, and obviously while here in Kuwait that is a especially clear. But I have found on the contrary, frankly, a great understanding by those with whom I have met about the danger posed to the region by Saddam Hussein's ability and potential to acquire weapons of mass destruction. In our discussion across the board, people have understood that weapons of mass destruction know no borders, they do not discriminate in terms of which people will be affected, and we know very well that in Saddam Hussein we are dealing with somebody who has in fact already use chemical weapons against his own people. Therefore, I did not find it very difficult to persuade anybody about the dangers being posed by Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: Why does not the United States pay attention to Arab public opinion? The United States always pays attention to UN resolutions that affect the Arabs, but does not pay attention those that affect the State of Israel. So, why is it that the United States does not pay attention to Arab public opinion?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just say that the United States pays attention to all Security Council resolutions. I have given remarks while I have been in the region and other places saying that Resolutions 242 and 338 are also important, and I have made that statement clear. We also have listened to the voices of the Arab people and Resolution 986. which could be known as a humanitarian resolution, that is the one that allows the sale of oil-for-food, was authored by the United States. So I would maintain that it is the United States and our friends and colleagues in the Security Council in the UN who are much more concerned about the lives of the Iraqi people than Saddam Hussein. We have done something about it by providing the possibility for there to be food for them with the sale of oil.
QUESTION: Concerning the release of the Chinese dissident Wei who was let out on medical parole and should be arriving in the United States about now. Do you regard that release as the fruit of the Jiang-Clinton Summit or as a sort of gesture by the Chinese to American human rights concerns?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all let me say how much we welcome the release of Mr. Wei. I think it is a very important point and it is not a gesture. I think it is a very important act to have released him. He has played an important role in China. He is a sick man and he is coming to the United States to get medical treatment and we welcome his release. As you know, Steve, both the President and I over the last weeks -- if not longer -- have been urging the Chinese to release political dissidents generally, and we are both very pleased that Mr. Wei has been able to come to the United States for medical treatment.
QUESTION: The expected military strike against Saddam Hussein, is it going to be a military strike against Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime or would it have also a message to other countries in the region like Iran?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just state we are not seeking a military confrontation with Saddam Hussein or with anybody. The United States believes that diplomacy is the best way to achieve our ends and those of the entire international community. Our focus is to try to get Saddam Hussein to live up to his Security Council obligations, and if diplomacy were to fail, we would not rule out other options. But it is not our primary purpose to have a confrontation with Saddam Hussein, or anyone for that matter.
QUESTION: Saddam Hussein reported today that he would hit American interests (inaudible) in the area. What precautions has the United States put into place to actually stop him from doing such a thing?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, again, I think that he would be making a big mistake to take such action, and I can assure you that the United States is taking every precaution that is necessary.
[End of Document]
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