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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Conference Following North Atlantic Council Meeting
NATO Headquarters
Brussels, Belgium, December 16, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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MR. RUBIN: This is the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. She is going to make some brief opening remarks, and then she will be happy to take your questions. As the microphone heads your way, please identify your news organization and your name.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just say a few words, and then I'll take your questions. I think it's important to understand that this North Atlantic Council Meeting was an effort to continue implementing the Madrid Summit decisions and to show that NATO is keeping its promises.

What was very exciting was that this is the first time that all the new NATO structures came together in one place at one time -- the North Atlantic Council, the EAPC, the NATO- Ukraine Commission, the NATO Russia Permanent Joint Council. This really is the first meeting of the "New NATO."

More fundamentally, it's the first time in European history that the big nations are talking, while the small nations feel secure. A number of steps have been taken today that I want to make note of.

First of all, I am very pleased that NATO accepted President Clinton's invitation to hold its Fiftieth Anniversary Summit in Washington in the Spring of 1999. We also signed the NATO accession documents with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, and what this means is that they are now ready, and NATO is ready to benefit from their membership. The next challenge for all of us is the ratification process, and President Clinton and I are going to be working very hard and intensively with members of Congress of both parties in the weeks ahead, so that the old and new allies can gather at nineteen at the 1999 Summit.

NATO also reaffirmed the Open Door today. I pointed out that we should approach the next round exactly as we approached the first: no naming of names, but a steady and deliberate process, in which we make sure that new invitees are as ready as these three who have, in fact now been invited. So it's not a question of whether there will be new invitees, it's a question of when and how. So I'd be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Freddie Bonnart, NATO's 16 Nations. Secretary of State, you mentioned it was a question of when and how. When, in fact, do you anticipate that an invitation will be made to the next applicants?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it's going to be an ongoing process and as we have said considerations would come up in 1999. But it's a matter of an ongoing process, and we will be steadily talking and consulting with perspective members.

QUESTION: Secretary Albright, Steve Hurst of CNN. I was curious if you could elaborate us on the remarks that you made in your intervention. You spent a great deal of time at the end of your intervention, dealing with the new threats to NATO, and the need for a new kind of solidarity, with the United States not having to take the lead necessarily in playing, my words, the bad cops so often.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the point that I was trying to make is that basically what we have is the worlds strongest and most important Alliance where we act together, where it's important for us all to see each others side of the story and to also be able to fulfill obligations to each other. I think that there is always this tendency to see how the U.S. can continue to be involved in Europe which we obviously care a great deal about. But also it's important for there to be cooperation on a series of global issues, where we think there are these global threats.

It's a matter of pointing out more clearly than we often do, the importance of all of us being together as the Alliance expands.

QUESTION: Czech Press Agency. You met the three Ministers this evening, I just want to know what was the aim and the contents of this meeting. And another question, if I may whether you talked with the Czech Minister about the Czech Government crises being resolved right now, and what was your feeling about that. Thank you.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, the reason that I met with the three invitees was, first, to congratulate them. Also to say that we still had a great deal of work to do. As I mentioned in my opening remarks we are about to go into the ratification process. That is not just ratification in the United States, but in the other NATO countries also.

Then there is the importance of them continuing their work, all of them, in terms of getting their forces ready, making sure that their defense budgets are at the right level, working on a number of issues having to do with interoperability, language training, and basically making the point that we have just begun. The invitations are very important, the accessions we signed today are very important, but that there is a great deal of work to be done. I did not discuss the Czech Government issue.

QUESTION: David Buck, Financial Times. Secretary of State, are you worried about the fallout from the new tension between the European Union and Turkey, arising out of what Turkey sees as the failure of the EU to treat it the same way, put it on the same footing, as other applicants for membership in the EU?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well it certainly has been a subject of discussion here in the halls. We hope very much, we have the impression, that problems will be resolved. Prime Minister Yilmaz is coming to Washington at the end of the week. We will be talking with him. We feel very strongly that Turkey needs to be oriented towards Europe. That is what the Prime Minister's government is working towards, and we hope very much that this argument does not continue, because we believe it's important for Turkey to be oriented westward.

QUESTION: Martin Walker from the Guardian. Secretary, I wonder if you could say a little more about the remarks in your speech about NATO needing to be concerned about the new threat of proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons in the Middle East and in Eurasia.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we generally have been talking about what the new threats are. President Clinton and I have been pointing out that, whereas we had all been united in dealing with the Soviet threat, we now have a whole new series of threats, nuclear proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, that are clearly the highest threat when dealing with terrorism, and we hope very much that our Allies will see that they are as threatened by those particular issues as we believe we are, and that taking concerted action is the way to deal with it.

If we cooperate, we can do much better than dealing singularly. Global threats especially are the kind that know no borders. It's essential that we work together. I think that, generally, there is a sense that as we look at what are the possibilities of this new, expanded Alliance, we are able to deal with threats as they develop into the 21st Century. NATO is very relevant to what we're doing in the 21st Century.

QUESTION: Secretary, did you get any response from other nations about this idea of NATO having a more global role? Because you seem to be criticizing other European nations for leaving America on its own. Do you really believe that these nations will actually take on a global role, or would you rather they stick to the European area as they do now?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think we have just begun a discussion, and we had interesting discussions at lunch about the these kinds of issues. We're going to be talking more about it.

Let me say that criticizing is kind of a strong term for what I thought I was doing in my intervention more talking about the importance of people understanding that we are part of an Alliance -- and that while we are leading, there are others who have responsibilities also, and some of the responsibilities are towards us. This is not just a one way street.

QUESTION: Bill Drozdiak, Washington Post. Madame Secretary, one of the more divisive issues within the Alliance has been the American effort to convince the Allies to isolate Iran and Cuba. Now, in the past you have been an advocate of engaging authoritarian societies in a way to democratize them. How do you reconcile that with your insistence on keeping Iran and Cuba isolated, at a time when the Europeans, particularly, are clamoring that to deal with these societies would be a way to coax them toward more moderate attitudes?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: In terms of Cuba, for instance, what I think has not been properly understood is that we believe that it is important to have a second track, trying to do everything we can to influence a democratizing process in Cuba. One of the reasons that we have been able to waive Title III of the Helms Burton Act, is because there has been cooperation among the Europeans, generally, pressing for increased democratization in Cuba.

On Iran, we have had a basic disagreement about trade with Iran, because we are concerned about the fact that Iran has tried to acquire weapons of mass destruction, that it supports terrorism, and has not been supportive of the Middle East Peace Process. Money is fungible, and therefore economic trade with Iran does, in fact, support this kind of activity.

As President Clinton has noted we have been intrigued by the election of President Khatami, and we noted a different tone in the remarks that he made at the OISC Summit, and that is something that we are studying.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, Norman Kempster of the Los Angeles Times. In your intervention you said that NATO should not become an Alliance that stands up bravely to hypothetical future challenges, while running from the challenges of the present. After tough words like that, do you think it's even conceivable that the United States could withdraw its forces from Bosnia next June 30th?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well let me make very clear that the President has not made a decision on this subject. The NATO Military Committee has been asked to study options, and give a report, and we will be consulting heavily with our Allies and members of Congress, probably until mid January, at which point this report will be coming back.

We all believe that there has been great progress made in Bosnia in the last year especially and its very important to build on that progress. But I have to make absolutely clear to you that the President has not made a decision. To coin a phrase, "it ain't over until the President says so."

QUESTION: Yugoslav Independent News Agency. Secretary, you mentioned today at your speech in the ministerial meeting that two countries specifically, Serbia and Belarus, are the major, the most dangerous countries in Europe for democracy and freedom. Why do you mention those two countries?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are concerned about the fact that, in Serbia, that there does not seem to be an understanding of the importance of cooperating with the Dayton Process, as well as holding fair and free elections. And in Belarus we have been very concerned about the movement backwards in terms of any sense of democratization.

I think that within the region, we are talking about those countries that are of concern to us, because they are not moving towards democracy and free market systems, in a trend we see as positive.

QUESTION: Michael Evans from the Times. Iraq said today that it would not allow UNSCOM inspectors ever to go into the Presidential Palaces. What is your response to that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think that Iraq has a responsibility as enunciated in the Security Council resolutions, to allow for, to make sure that it does not produce and store weapons of mass destruction. Chairman Butler believes, and we agree with him, that he should have unfettered and unconditional access to the sites that he needs to get into, in order to do his job. I think it's very important for the international community to continue to stick together, and make sure that Saddam Hussein does allow unfettered and unconditional access to the sites, because that is the only way that we will all be assured that he does not continue to possess, or have the capability to possess, weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: Romanian TV. Mrs. Secretary once again you request NATO members to not nominate the future invited countries of the next (inaudible). May I ask you if in your view Romania is still under a negative list?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Romania is not on a negative list. We only said that as we were considering the first tranche of three countries, it was not a question of whether Romania would become a member, but when. Obviously, they will continue to be very active candidates. And we will be looking at the various criteria, and what various steps they have taken.

We are very encouraged by Romania's development. It is not on a negative list.

QUESTION: Slovak Press Agency. Secretary, today NATO has signed the accession agreement with three members of the so-called Visegrad group, excepting Slovakia. I want to ask you when Slovakia will be in the same position as these three countries. Does Slovakia have a place in the second round of enlargement? Thank you.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I've said, invitations to NATO are open to all countries that have democratic systems of government and a market economy, where civilian institutions are dominant over the military ones, and where there is a sign that the democratic system is working . I think, originally, Slovakia was part of this Visegrad group, and I think that there was evidence that it had not met the various guidelines that I have discussed.

And as I've said NATO is open to all democratic and free market systems.

QUESTION: Kosovo Information Center. Madame Secretary, the situation in Bosnia, where, as you know, progress has been slow, presents another looming crisis. What do you think, is the preventive policy of America and its Allies?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well we are very concerned, obviously, about the situation in Kosovo, and believe very much that it's important for there to be a unified approach making sure that there is not any violent action there. We hope very much that it will be possible to work it out in the most peaceful way, and that some of the problems raised about Kosovo at the recent Contact Group meeting will be resolved.

Thank you.

[End of Document]

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