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19 February 1998

TRANSCRIPT: RUBIN COMMENTS TO PRESS AFTER INT'L TOWN MEETING

(Says despite protesters, most in audience supportive)  (940)



Columbus, Ohio -- Despite some protesters, most of the audience
attending the February 18 international town meeting on Iraq involving
top Clinton Administration officials at Ohio State University was
"generally supportive" of the efforts the President is making to
contain Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, according to State Department
spokesman James Rubin.


White House organizers selected central Ohio as the site of the
meeting because the region is traditionally considered to typify the
so-called "heartland" of the United States.


During the discussions, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright,
Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen, and National Security Advisor Sandy
Berger sought to explain why the United States is considering military
action against Iraq.


The meeting was broadcast live worldwide by the Cable News Network
(CNN) both on television and radio. Listeners from around the United
States and from countries as far away as Holland, Israel, and the
United Arab Emirates phoned in questions to the participants.


According to Rubin, "80 to 90 percent of the audience were interested
in a serious discussion and were generally supportive of the efforts
the Administration was making." Despite the heckling, Albright, Cohen,
and Berger "felt quite comfortable with the level of support in the
room and the seriousness of the discussion," Rubin reported. "They all
felt like they were welcomed to the democratic process here in Ohio."


Rubin gave this assessment to the press following the event while
still at Ohio State University. Albright will speak on Iraq February
19 at Tennessee State University in Nashville and the at University of
South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.


Following is the State Department transcript:



(begin transcript)



U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesman



February 18, 1998



Remarks to the Press by

James P. Rubin, Spokesman

French Field House

Ohio State University

Columbus, Ohio



February 18, 1998



RUBIN: I had a chance to talk to the three participants in the hold
room after the event. I think they all felt like they wanted to come
to Ohio to talk to the American people. They feel like they were
welcomed to the democratic process, they enjoyed it, and they felt
that although 5 to 10 percent of the audience were quite loud, 80 to
90 percent of the audience were interested in a serious discussion and
were generally supportive of the efforts the Administration was
making.


Their general reaction was that someone in the room, who I shall not
name, said that the protesters couldn't even organize themselves very
well. They remember much better organized protests from the 60's.


QUESTION:  Were you expecting this, Jamie?



RUBIN: Well, we picked a large audience because we felt it was very
important. We all do a lot of interviews in Washington. Washington is
a very insulated environment, and all of the principals rarely get a
chance to talk to a large group of people. So we promoted the idea of
a very large audience. When there is a large audience, there is a
recognition that there will be a chance of disruptions. But they felt
it was more important to talk to a large number of the American people
and risk the disruptions.


So, they all felt like they were welcomed to the democratic process
here in Ohio. They enjoyed it, and felt quite comfortable with the
level of support in the room and the seriousness of the discussion,
other than the 5 to 10 percent that was quite loud.


Q: (Inaudible) on television, to a worldwide audience and Saddam
Hussein watching?


RUBIN: We recognize that the democratic process can seem loud, that
there can seem like many voices. But I think when Secretary Albright
made clear that we were all (inaudible).


Q: (Inaudible) said that you felt the audience was generally
supportive. Do you also mean to say you thought the audience was
supportive of a strike on Iraq should that happen?


RUBIN: Supportive of the goals of the Administration. In other words,
it was a very tiny percentage of people who weren't interested in
having a serious discussion, that were interested in having the
opportunity to state -- how would I call this -- counter-establishment
views. The overwhelming majority were very supportive of the goals of
the Administration. You know, it's hard to know exactly who's for
what, but I think they came away feeling that the overwhelming
majority of the audience was supportive of their goals and asked the
kind of legitimate questions they came here to answer.


Q: Do you think the three feel as though, having come to the
heartland, that they would have the support from the American people
for a strike on Iraq, should it happen? A thumbs-up, if you will?


RUBIN: The judgment that the President has to make will take into
account very many factors, but the impression that all of them got
from the audience, from the work they've done on Capitol Hill, from
the discussions they've had in other fora is that by and large the
American public and Congress supports what the Administration is
doing.


That doesn't mean there aren't hard questions. There were some hard
questions today. They expected that; that's why they came here. They
feel that the general reaction was supportive of the goals and
supportive of the Administration's determination to act. The general
view of Secretary Albright, I know for one, is that the Congressional
leadership and the members of Congress that she has spoken to are
generally supportive of what the Administration is doing.


(end transcript)