|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview on ABC-TV "This Week" with Cokie Roberts,
Sam Donaldson, and George Will
Vancouver, British Columbia , November 23, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MR. DONALDSON: Now joining us from Vancouver, Canada, site of an Asia-Pacific economic summit, the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. Welcome.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning, Sam.
MR. DONALDSON: Always good to see you on our broadcast.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you.
MR. DONALDSON: And joining us here as always, ABC's George Will.
Secretary Albright, there's an expression, I guess, that originated in sports - "It ain't over 'til it's over." So in this latest confrontation with Saddam Hussein, is it over?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, actually let me put this all into context and say what we have accomplished. First of all, Saddam Hussein has reversed his decision. The UNSCOM inspectors are in and now we have to make sure that they can have unfettered, unconditioned inspections.
The international community is together. The permanent members of the Security Council are working together. The special commissioners have given their report, and they say that there's a great deal more to do. You used a sports expression, but I say it's not over until I sing.
MR. DONALDSON: Well, I won't continue this, Secretary Albright.
Others would point out, however, that Saddam Hussein for three, four weeks, sort of held the Alliance at bay; pointed out divisions of the Alliance; and ultimately, let the Russians back in in a major diplomatic way in the Mideast, and that was a failure for us.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I don't see it that way.
First of all, what Saddam Hussein tried to do was to split the Alliance; and instead of doing that, frankly, he re-energized it and strengthened it. We are united in our determination to make sure that he lives up to his obligations that the Security Council has imposed on him.
The United States worked very diligently, under the direction of President Clinton, to make sure that the Alliance stayed together. There was very intensive diplomacy, supported by the threat of the use of force.
Then, because of the fact that the Russians talk to the Iraqis - we do not - it was very useful for Foreign Minister Primakov to have the conversation with Tariq Aziz and so, indirectly with Saddam Hussein, that it was important to live up to the obligations.
So I see it as, frankly, that Saddam Hussein made a mistake in that he thought he could drive a wedge, and he ran into this brick wall.
MR. WILL: Secretary Albright, six Americans were expelled from among the inspectors, and four went back. Why the reduction?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It is a normal rotational issue, and Ambassador Butler has made very clear that Americans are a part of the UNSCOM team. As you know, the UNSCOM team is selected by their expertise. And the Americans are great experts in all these subjects, and Americans will continue to be a significant part of the UNSCOM team.
MR. WILL: Yes, you have indicated that the nationality of the inspectors is less important to you than their expertise. But is it not the case that if the UNSCOM team winds up heavily seeded with French and Russian inspectors, that that might change the political results of what they find?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we know that those particular inspectors of those nationalities are great professionals. I think we have to assume their professional character.
But let me make the following point; and I think it's the best analogy I can think of. What has to happen is Iraq has to get a clean bill of health on these weapons of mass destruction. UNSCOM are really the doctors here. And unless they can give a clean bill of health, then Saddam Hussein is not going to be able to get out of the sanctions regime.
So whether - if you suspect certain of the inspectors - which I do not - ultimately, it is the whole UNSCOM team under the direction of its chairman that has to give this clean bill of health.
MR. WILL: Now, you're linking the clean bill of health to lifting the sanctions. I'd like to know if our policy is still as you enunciated it last March 26th, when you said, "We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted. Our view, which is unshakable, is that Iraq must prove its peaceful intentions, and the evidence is overwhelming that Saddam Hussein's intentions will never be peaceful."
So you're establishing a higher threshold; that is, once he clears up the weapons of mass destruction problem, how does he then go on to prove to you his peaceful intentions?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we have said, and we continue to say that he has to abide by all relevant resolutions. First of all, also, George, let me say this. We are continuing to be very vigilant here, and to watch to see whether UNSCOM is able to continue its work, whether it can go in unconditioned and unfettered. And peaceful intentions - we will be watching very carefully Saddam Hussein's behavior.
It is very important that they let UNSCOM work and that they do in fact abide by all relevant resolutions.
MS. ROBERTS: One of the things on the table appears to be, Madame Secretary, a broadening of the inspection team and the UNSCOM operation. There seems to be a good deal of concern that that could include some Russians who might tip off Saddam to what the team was learning, so that even if the UN is involved, he gets an advantage there.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we do believe that it's very important for USNCOM to be able to work in its most effective way. Adding experts to it is a pretty good idea, frankly, so that UNSCOM can really do its work and be unfettered, unconditioned and fan out and be able to get into all the places.
Now, I think you're making a lot of suppositions about the tipping off. But let's even presume that that is possible. The truth is that - as I said earlier - if they do not come clean, they can't get a clean bill of health. And to follow up the doctor analogy, if symptoms are masked or not talked about, it does not allow the doctor to give you a clean bill of health.
So I am not worried about that. I think we are basically dealing with a very professional organization, and I think the report out of the UNSCOM commission on Friday shows that. They are taking their work unbelievably seriously. And we should not believe that they are going to be undermined.
MS. ROBERTS: Well, of course, part of the reason for that concern has to do with the role that Primakov played in bringing about this agreement. There is a good deal of criticism here in Washington of the Administration for allowing him to play that role; allowing Russia to get back into the Middle East - and especially this Russian spy master - and have a strong voice.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me go back again to say something, which is that the United States is the one that has led this response to Saddam Hussein's throwing out the UNSCOM inspectors.
Through our intensive diplomacy and the threat of the use of force that President Clinton directed us to follow, we are without a doubt the influential power in the Middle East. As I said earlier, Primakov has had a long-standing discussion with Saddam Hussein. He was the vehicle for delivering this very important message about the importance of UNSCOM being able to go back unfettered and with no conditions.
MS. ROBERTS: But why are we saying that that's a victory, when Saddam Hussein has thumbed his nose at the UN and thrown out inspectors. Why shouldn't he be punished for that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, he is being punished. I mean, he is under the severest sanctions regime in the history of the world.
MS. ROBERTS: No, but additionally punished for this act.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Because the point here is to try to get UNSCOM back in, which is what we have managed to do. He has reversed course. You have to keep your eye on what we're trying to do here. We are trying to get access to all the records of what Saddam Hussein has and had in the weapons of mass destruction. That is the point of this exercise.
MR. DONALDSON: Madame Secretary, if a prisoner breaks out of jail, and even though he comes back voluntarily, let's say, in a month, you wouldn't say, well, you've reversed course, fine. He would get additional time.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as it turns out, he probably will get additional time. I met with the UNSCOM inspectors in Bahrain. What has happened is that they were out 20 to 21 days. It is conceivable and highly likely that as a result of their being out, some of the baseline data that they need in order to deliver this clean bill of health is going to be harder to reconstitute. So the time that Saddam Hussein will be under the sanctions regime as a result of not being able to carry out the weapons of mass destruction part of the resolutions is likely to be longer.
MR. DONALDSON: I want to switch to Korea for just a moment. In early December, a conference is set now between North and South Korea, China, and the United States.
North Korea said today that it was its understanding that the question of US troop withdrawal from South Korea will be on the table. Will it?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are talking about how to get stability for the Korean Peninsula. That has been our long range plan. There has been an armistice agreement, temporary, that has been in there for decades. We now are starting these talks in order to work to try to stabilize the whole situation in Korea on the Korean Peninsula.
That is not a subject that is on the agenda up front.
MR. DONALDSON: You mean US troop withdrawal is not on the table, or just not on the official agenda?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The issue here is to get these talks started, and to see about how to replace a temporary armistice agreement with some kind of a full-blown way to stabilize the Korean Peninsula.
I am not going to speculate about the future of American forces. They play a key role there. They will continue to be there. We are just starting down these talks, which are going to be very - I think they're going to take quite a long time. We're very glad that they have started - or the announcement that they will start, that I was able to make that.
I think that we're in for some fairly lengthy talks. The American forces there are key.
MR. WILL: Madame Secretary, going back to Iraq for a moment. People are looking for assurances that there is no quid pro quo, no American concession to get the status quo ante restored. Can you tell us if you anticipate any increase in the oil-for-food program?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me make absolutely clear that there was no quid pro quo and no concessions, no deal of any kind.
On the food-for-oil program, let me also make clear, that is an American initiative that we took up a couple of years ago, frankly, as an effort to maintain sanctions because Saddam Hussein was using the terrible condition of his people as a pawn to tug at the heart strings of the international community.
We have no quarrel with the Iraqi people - never have had. They are suffering terribly; we agree that they're suffering. It's the United States that thought up this oil-for-food program. We are looking at ways to make it more effective. We have been doing that for some time. It was Saddam Hussein who, for a year and a half, wouldn't even let this program happen.
So as an independent track here, we have been and are continuing to be interested in how to mitigate the pain for the Iraqi people.
MR. WILL: Will the U-2 flights continue, as they have in the past, unchanged?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That is a decision to be made by the chairman of the UNSCOM commission. It is my understanding that they will continue.
MR. DONALDSON: Secretary Albright, we're out of time, and it's really unfair to throw a large final question at you, and then ask you for a limited answer. But are we going to bail out the Korean economy, the South Korean economy?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, obviously, the Korean economy is a point of discussion here in Vancouver. We welcome the fact that they have asked the IMF for assistance, and everyone is focusing on the IMF programs for Korea at this time. There are no other plans.
MR. DONALDSON: Thank you very much, Secretary Albright. Please come back; it's always a pleasure to see you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you.
[End of Document]
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