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20 February 1998

TRANSCRIPT: ALBRIGHT, COHEN, BERGER INTV ON ABC-TV's "NIGHTLINE"

(SecState says diplomats could accompany UNSCOM inspectors) (2730)



Washington -- Secretary of State Albright said on ABC-TV's "Nightline"
interview with Ted Koppel the evening of February 18 that "If there
should be a peaceful solution to this" situation with Iraq, "then we
will need to have a real, functioning UNSCOM, which means...diplomats
can go along, but they can't be the ones that are actually doing the
very detailed work."


Asked if, indeed, she were saying diplomats could go along with UNSCOM
inspectors, Albright replied, "Well, I mean, you know, one of the
things, we thought was some diplomats wanted to go along. That did not
undercut the integrity of UNSCOM" (the UN Special Commission in Iraq).


Albright was interviewed along with Secretary of Defense Cohen and
National Security Advisor Berger.


But if it comes to military action, she told Koppel, she really
believes "that you're underestimating the international support for
this action. We have been working hard, all of us, and there is
support out there.


"But let me make the following point," she continued, "which is that
the United States is the only superpower. We have responsibilities as
such. We stand tall and therefore we can see further. And we are very
concerned about this threat to all our societies, due to weapons of
mass destruction. And if we have to go it alone, we will go it alone.
But we are always, that's kind of where we are in the international
system at the moment. We look for partners; we seek help from others
that are like-minded; we have a lot of help. But ultimately, Ted, we
are the United States, and we are the indispensable power."


Following is the State Department transcript:



(begin transcript)



U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesman



For Immediate Release



February 20, 1998



INTERVIEW OF SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE ALBRIGHT

ON ABC-TV "NIGHTLINE" WITH TED KOPPEL



FEBRUARY 18, 1998



MR. KOPPEL: (In progress) over the past few weeks by columnists,
commentators and other armchair experts whose opinions Secretary
Albright finds less than useful.


SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: What I would like to explain is that some of the
suggestions being made by the armchair experts are basically ones that
we have considered; that we have looked at various options; that we're
integrating a variety of these options; and for people also to
understand the goal of this policy.


MR. KOPPEL:  You used to be one of those persons.



SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  I did, yes.



MR. KOPPEL: So you'd say you have a certain sympathy for the armchair
experts.


SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  Less and less, I have to tell you.



MR. KOPPEL: On the drive out to Andrews Air Force Base, Secretary
Albright stresses again that the UN weapons inspectors, she refers to
them by their acronym UNSCOM, must be allowed to do their job in Iraq.
But then she offers a hint of flexibility in the US position.


SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: If there should be a peaceful solution to this,
then we will need to have a real, functioning UNSCOM, which means the
experts not I mean, diplomats can go along, but they can't be the ones
that are actually doing the very detailed work.


MR. KOPPEL:  Diplomats can go along?



SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I mean, you know, one of the things, we
thought was that some diplomats wanted to go along. That did not
undercut the integrity of UNSCOM.


MR. KOPPEL: Joining Secretary Albright on the flight to Ohio, the two
other senior members of the President's foreign policy team Secretary
of Defense William Cohen, and National Security Advisor Sandy Berger.
They share some of Mrs. Albright's frustrations.


What is it that you see in the newspapers that ticks you off more than
anything else on the subject of Iraq right now? Mr. Berger, we'll
begin with you.


MR. BERGER: I think what makes me angrier than any other thing is when
I see (inaudible) administration officials purporting to describe
various military options, about which they know little. And even if
they did know something about them, they shouldn't be describing them.


I don't blame the newspapers for this, but it's a constant source of
frustration when people feel compelled to talk about military details
when they could have operational consequences for the safety of
American pilots. I think it's outrageous.


MR. KOPPEL: Secretary Cohen, I put the same question to you. As you
read the papers in the morning, whether it's on the front page or on
the op-ed pages, what annoys you the most?


SECRETARY COHEN: I think that those armchair (experts) -- generals,
admirals, Air Force colonels, whatever they might be, are speculating
about what the attack plan might be, what would be successful, what
would be a failure, without having any information pertaining to
exactly what is being planned.


MR. KOPPEL: Which, in part, is what brings them all to Columbus and
the town meeting.


SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The questions are going to be quite different. I
think it will show the concern of the American people for what is
happening in Iraq, and how it affects Americans. And I think it's
important for people to understand that as the US fulfills this role
of the indispensable nation that we have our people that have to have
responses to questions just as their people do, and we're not afraid
of our public. We want our publics to understand what's going on.


MR. KOPPEL: Both inside and outside the auditorium, the reception will
be more contentious than anyone had expected.


(Audio clip.)



It will not be an easy 90 minutes for the President's foreign policy
team.


(Audio clip.)



MR. KOPPEL: (In progress) -- Assume for a moment, Secretary Albright,
that you were sitting there by the side of some senior Iraqi official
in Baghdad tonight, watching what you just saw. How do you think it
would play? Grade yourself, as an old professor, here.


SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it shows what a vibrant democracy we
have; that people are able to express their views. But it was very
clear that the majority of the people in that room were very much
concerned about what Saddam Hussein was doing and wanted answers as to
what the best way to deal with it with him and the threat that he
posed was.


It was a very serious discussion. They asked us a lot of good
questions. And I think that we really gave them good answers.


MR. KOPPEL: I must confess, Secretary Cohen, I was a little surprised.
On the flight out I think I made mention that we think the polls are
indicating 76% of the American public were in favor of bombing. It was
a little difficult for me to tell in here, a Washington television set
and sometimes a very vocal minority can make a lot of noise. But
nevertheless, I had the sense that there was some considerable level
of uncertainty in that audience about whether military action is in
fact the right way to go.


SECRETARY COHEN: Well, I think what you saw was, number one, was
overwhelming support for seeking, as Sandy Berger said, a peaceful
solution to this crisis. But secondly, there seemed to me to be rather
strong support for doing much further damage in the way of a military
option other than the very focused program and plan that President
Clinton would have at his disposal, should he choose to use it. I
think there was considerable expression for going in and taking Saddam
out, without many really fully understanding what that means.


MR. KOPPEL: Mr. Berger, take a crack at the question that I've put to
Secretary Albright, which she evaded so skillfully. The notion of how
Iraqi officials, who no doubt were sitting there in the foreign
ministry tonight and possibly in one of Saddam's presidential palaces,
watching that broadcast. Beyond the fact that we live in a vibrant
democracy, which, clearly, we do, do you think they will have derived
concern, comfort, reassurance, apprehension, what?


MR. BERGER: Well, beyond what the Secretary said, I would think they
would see the three senior advisors to the President -- and the
President, if they could see him -- absolutely determined to resolve
this one way or the other.


There was a vocal minority of people who were there. I agree with
what's been said -- that I think most of the people in that room would
like a peaceful resolution; so would we. But if a peaceful resolution
is not possible, I believe if you polled those people, they would not
say, turn your back; throw the problem under the rug. They would say,
you have to take action.


MR. KOPPEL: I want to go to Secretary Albright for a diplomatic
question, but let's just take a short break and then we'll come back
with all of our guests in a moment.


(Commercial break.)



MR. KOPPEL: And we're back, once again, from the campus of Ohio State
University, with the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, the
President's National Security Advisor.


Secretary Albright, what, short of complete acquiescence on Saddam
Hussein's part, would be acceptable, would prevent war, at this point?


SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Ted, I think we have to keep in mind here that
Saddam Hussein is not here to negotiate with the international
community. The Security Council, at the end of the Gulf War, laid out
a set of rules that he had to abide by to open up the sites where the
weapons of mass destruction are. And they created a commission to do
that inspection. What Kofi Annan is going there to talk about is to
make sure that this UNSCOM, this UN inspection unit, can do its job in
an unconditional and open way.


I think, Ted, we have to remember that Saddam Hussein is the one that
created this crisis, and that he has to reverse course. And that's
what Kofi Annan is going to take with him, the message he is going to
deliver.


MR. KOPPEL: I have heard all three of you say that more was achieved
by the UNSCOM inspection teams over the past few years, in terms of
the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, than was achieved by
the bombing during Operation Desert Storm. Have I got that right so
far?


SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:  Yes.



SECRETARY COHEN:  So far.



MR. KOPPEL: If with all of the bombing during Operation Desert Storm,
which was much greater than any kind of bombing that I believe is
being envisioned now, we could not achieve what was achieved by the
UNSCOM inspectors, does it not seem to be a little bit
counterproductive to even consider a bombing series of bombing raids
that would result in the UNSCOM team being left out all together.


MR. BERGER: Chairman Butler, who is the head of this group, a very
distinguished gentleman from Australia, has said that he cannot do his
job now. In other words, the UNSCOM people are effectively de facto
out of the country. They may be into a Holiday Inn in Baghdad. But it
doesn't really make any difference if they're in the Holiday Inn in
Baghdad and can't do their job, or the Holiday Inn in Bahrain or in
Boston if they can't do their job.


MR. KOPPEL: So UNSCOM can't do its job now; won't be able to do its
job after a bombing, I think we're agreed --


MR. BERGER:  It's up to Saddam Hussein.  It's up to Saddam Hussein.



MR. KOPPEL: Well, true, he could. But I mean, if he was going to
respond to the pressure of the embargo, one would think that by now
and you have mentioned to some it's way in excess of $100 billion that
it's cost him already you've also made the point, all three of you,
that he is not hurting; his people are hurting, but he's not hurting.


MR. BERGER: He's put blindfolds on the inspectors and defied the
international community. So if we now say, well, go ahead, that's
okay, we really aren't going to do anything about it, he will have
gotten a trifecta, because at that point he will have realized the
international community has lost its will. And the moment Saddam
Hussein realizes or believes the international community has lost its
will, it's not only weapons of mass destruction that he's going to
rebuild, he's heading back to dominate the region, which is his
intent.


SECRETARY COHEN: I want add to what Mr. Berger just said, it's not
only Saddam Hussein who's at stake here. If we remain indifferent to
what he is up to, and if we turn a blind eye and if we don't take
action in the face of his flouting of the UN Security Council
resolutions, then there is nothing to inhibit Iran from continuing to
amass its chemical and biological weapons, North Korea, Sudan, Libya.
So there's more at stake than just Saddam Hussein, although that's a
very big issue at stake.


We would be sending a signal which would be, I think, unfortunate for
future generations as well. If we show a lack of will; if there is a
lack of discipline; if there is a willingness to enforce the
resolutions through military action if necessary, then I think it's a
very bad signal to the rest of the world.


MR. KOPPEL: You heard some of the questions, Madame Secretary, that
were raised here today. Let me just sort of give you a variation on
that. During all the time that we confronted the Soviet Union, we
didn't talk about going in there and bombing the Soviet Union because
they have weapons of mass destruction or because they invaded their
neighbors or because they constituted a threat to the rest of the
world. We had all kinds of surrogate fights with the Soviet Union, but
we never thought of confronting them directly. Now, if I'm hearing
Secretary Cohen directly, we are holding up the possibility of perhaps
bombing Iran, North Korea. I mean, what you were saying is, if we
don't do it here with Iraq, we may have to do it with the others.


SECRETARY COHEN: Just to the contrary. As a matter of fact, none of
these other countries have used, as Saddam Hussein has, his chemical
weapons. What we are trying to do is discourage them from enlarging
their weapons of mass destruction, and we are passing treaties, we are
trying to get compliance with them.


But the signal that will be sent if Saddam Hussein, the worst
offender, is allowed to simply flout the rules, then it could be much
harder to contain the spread of these biological and chemical weapons.
That's the point that needs to be made.


MR. KOPPEL: Secretary Albright, you put the best possible face on it.
But the fact of the matter is that the international community is not
remaining as firm as it was. And there is every reason to believe that
it will become even more weak-kneed over the next few years, which
suggests that the United States at some point, with the possible
exception of the British, has to stand alone. Are you prepared to say
at this point that we are, and that we would go back and do it again
and again and again if need be over a period of many years?


SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, I really do think that you're
underestimating the international support for this action. We have
been working hard, all of us, and there is support out there.


But let me make the following point; which is that the United States
is the only superpower. We have responsibilities as such. We stand
tall and therefore we can see further. And we are very concerned about
this threat to all our societies, due to weapons of mass destruction.
And if we have to go it alone, we will go it alone. But we are always,
that's kind of where we are in the international system at the moment.
We look for partners; we seek help from others that are like-minded;
we have a lot of help. But ultimately, Ted, we are the United States,
and we are the indispensable power.


MR. KOPPEL: Secretary Cohen, Secretary Albright and Mr. Berger, thank
you very much.


(end transcript)