|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Conference following the
UNSC Permanent Members Meeting to Discuss Iraq
Palais des Nations
Geneva, Switzerland, November 20, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have just been reporting to the White House what the meeting has been about this evening. Let me remind all of you what this whole crisis is about: that is, to make sure that Saddam Hussein is not in a position to threaten the international community with weapons of mass destruction. President Clinton has made quite clear that Iraq must not be allowed to be in this kind of a position, and that no outcome, short of having him accept unconditionally the return of UNSCOM, is acceptable.
I would like to say that I think we've had a good meeting here this evening. What it did was to restate and reclarify yet again the solidarity of the P-5 on this issue of the necessity for the unconditional return of UNSCOM. If you go back over the statement that was issued jointly, it is very clear that the P-5 is together in calling for, again, the unconditional and complete fulfillment by Iraq of all of the relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council.
The meeting was primarily one in which Foreign Minister Primakov was reporting on his conversations with the Iraqis, and his hope that his discussions would -- and it is stated in here -- lead to the unconditional decision by the leadership of Iraq to accept the return of the personnel of the Special Commission of the UN Security Council -- UNSCOM -- in its previous composition for work as stipulated in Security Council Resolution 1137.
We noted with appreciation what Foreign Minister Primakov had done. Now it is a matter of us watching to see whether Iraq will indeed fulfill what it said to Foreign Minister Primakov that it would do. So it's now a matter of Iraq's actions.
QUESTION: We understand that the Iraq General Assembly is about to reconvene in the next couple of hours. Would you expect them to agree to let the inspectors back, including the Americans? Would it be the same group, or could this group change in any way? What would you expect at the New York meeting in terms of making the sanctions more palatable to Iraq, and more effective in terms of this statement?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say it is my expectation -- this is what Foreign Minister Primakov believes, so my expectation is based on what he told us -- that this decision will be announced by Iraq, that they will accept the UNSCOM group back, as is stated in here, in its previous composition for the work stipulated in (Resolution) 1137. Which means that it is able to go back and do the kind of work it was doing before. That was all that we discussed tonight in terms of what Foreign Minister Primakov expected. The meeting in New York on Friday -- basically the UNSCOM Commission on a six-month basis to review the work. They are going to be having that kind of a meeting again on Friday. But I think it's very important that people understand what UNSCOM is about and what it's like. This is a group of professionals, experts, who are chosen for their expertise by the chairman of the commission. They do their work as experts, and we rely on them as experts. I expect -- and I have no reason to expect otherwise -- that it would be exactly that group that would be returning. Clearly they have rotations. But what we talked about tonight is very clear, and again I'm saying what Foreign Minister Primakov, who talked to the Iraqis about it, agreed to: That would be back in its previous composition for the work as determined by 1137.
QUESTION: What happens to the Russian proposals to expedite the lifting of sanctions?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: You have to ask Foreign Minister Primakov. He has had discussions with the Iraqis. We did not talk about that this evening. There probably will be discussions of some kind. But I have to make the following statement unequivocally: The United States has not agreed to anything. Our position has been clear, is clear, that Iraq must be in full compliance with all relevant resolutions.
QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the Iraqis have agreed to back down, to let the inspectors go back in and do their jobs, and that no concessions have been made whatsoever in exchange for that undertaking?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It is my understanding from what we were told this evening that they have said there will be an unconditional return of all the UNSCOM inspectors, that they would be allowed to do their work, and that that was all agreed to, that we saw this evening. I have to tell you: What you see is what you've got. Basically all we talked about this evening was the fact that Foreign Minister Primakov had had these discussions with the Iraqis, and that they are prepared to have the inspectors return unconditionally. We are still waiting to see whether their actions really will follow through. The announcement is to be made sometime later this morning. We then have to see whether it's really carried out.
QUESTION: Mrs. Albright, did Mr. Primakov give you any indication as to why he is so optimistic that an announcement of this kind will be made later today? And what happens if it doesn't come today?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: All I can tell you is what he said, which is that he had had these discussions with the Iraqis and they agreed to this, and we have to see whether they will or won't. I think that perhaps they saw and understood what we saw this evening, which is the unity of the Security Council in our determination to make sure that there is a status quo ante, that we can go back to where we were when Saddam Hussein expelled the monitors, the UNSCOM inspectors. Again, I have to tell you that as you have heard me many times before on other subjects, I want to see what happens. I will believe it when I see it. What we have been told is that they agreed to do this. The announcement is going to come later. This is one of these things that is a provable fact. Either the UNSCOM inspectors will go back, or they will not, but we will all be able to see them going back and doing their work. So I am going to be watching and waiting just the way you are. I am basing what I am telling you on the meeting that we just had, which I thought was important because of its reaffirmation of the unity of the P-5, the unity and solidarity of the P-5 on our insistence that Saddam Hussein reverse his decision and accept the inspectors. So we will see, we will know it when we see it.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, could you give us some kind of explanation of what UNSCOM is doing? It might seem that the discussions in New York to make UNSCOM's work more effective might seem as if they are designed to expedite the work as a carrot or an incentive. Can you explain the details of this, because this was not originally scheduled?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, it was (scheduled). What has happened is that there are regular meetings of this UNSCOM Commission. I don't know whether the date was Friday or Saturday or next week, but clearly -- and an expert can fill you in on this -- these meetings do take place at a regular time.
I think that as this paragraph says, there are those who would like to see UNSCOM's work be carried on, as we said, to be more effective, and to make sure that it continues to work on the basis of the resolutions of the Security Council. I think that there will be discussions about whether more inspections should be added and how it should work, but as far as we are concerned, we believe that UNSCOM is working effectively, that it needs to get back on the ground working, and as many of you know that have just been traveling with me, I met with the UNSCOM inspectors in Bahrain, I was most impressed by their dedication. I think we have a problem however in that they have been out of the country for I think 20 days, so one of the things they are going to have to think and look and talk about is how to make sure that they can reconstitute the work that they were involved in.
QUESTION: I was wondering whether the results of this meeting tonight mean that you have at least temporarily defused any military confrontation, whether the military buildup that both you and the British are doing in the Gulf will continue as a sort of insurance against Iraq backing down on its agreement.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all let me repeat something that I have said. Let's take what happened tonight at face value, which is that we saw the P-5 come together to reaffirm our unity in making sure that Saddam Hussein reverses his decision. We listened to Foreign Minister Primakov report on his conversations with the Iraqis, and as a result of those, expressed the hope that they would in fact announce a reversal of the decision tomorrow morning. We have not yet seen whether the announcement is going to happen, or whether they will, in fact, reverse.
So we are now watching to see the reversal, and then the proven fact that the inspectors who have been kept out of the country for almost three weeks, or have been kept from their work for almost three weeks, will be able to resume their work. Any discussion of any changes of military deployments is completely premature. Mr. Primakov is hopeful that we have taken a step that will make sure that this decision of Saddam Hussein's is reversed. The United States has made no agreements on this subject. We have looked at what Foreign Minister Primakov has stated, and we are now waiting for proof that this has really happened.
We would obviously be pleased if in fact Saddam Hussein does what he should do, and that is reverse his position and unconditionally allow the inspectors to do their work so that we can make sure that Saddam Hussein is not a threat to the region, and to security generally, because of an ability that he might have to acquire and possess weapons of mass destruction.
[End of Document]
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