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USIA - Transcript: Secretary Albright News Conference, 97-01-24

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United States Information Agency (USIA) Gopher at <gopher://gopher.usia.gov>

(New Secretary of State plans to focus on Europe, Asia) (4250)

Washington -- During her first day at work Secretary of State Madeleine Albright held her first press conference to say she plans to focus her attentions on Europe and Asia.

Speaking in the State Department Briefing Room which was packed with reporters January 24, Albright announced that she plans to visit Europe and Asia sometime in February.

"The destinations, obviously, are not accidental," she said. "We see our most important task as sustaining momentum towards the creation of a Europe that is united, stable, and democratic, and an Asian Pacific community that cooperates increasingly, based on shared economic interests and a common commitment to peace."

Albright explained that "We believe that America's key alliances and relationships are the bonds that hold together not only our foreign policy, but also the entire international system. When we're able to act cooperatively with other leading nations, we create a dynamic web of principles, power, and purpose that elevates standards and propels progress around the globe."

Albright listed her other priorities in the year ahead as including: "controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction; keeping the Middle East peace process on track and consolidating the peace in Bosnia; paying increased attention to the sometimes overlooked regions of Latin America, South Asia, and Africa; fighting the forces of international terrorism, drug trafficking, and transnational crime; strengthening those around the globe who are working for human rights, democracy, development, a healthy environment, and the rule of law; and advancing prosperity at home by striving for an open and expanding global economic system."

Following is the State Department transcript:

(begin transcript)

FIRST NEWS CONFERENCE WITH SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE ALBRIGHT

THE STATE DEPARTMENT
WASHINGTON, DC

1:47 P.M. EST
FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 1997

BURNS: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the State Department. Glad you could all be with us. As you know, Secretary Albright will have a couple of remarks to make, and she'll be glad to answer your questions. If you do want to ask a question, I would ask that you look at me; I'll identify you. And if you could identify yourself by name and affiliation, that would be very helpful. As I said yesterday, all of us at the State Department are very excited to welcome Secretary of State Madeleine Albright here to the State Department. Madame Secretary?

ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon, everybody. The purpose of my visit here this afternoon is to introduce myself and to begin a dialogue that I hope will serve well the American people and those from around the world who care about and are affected by what we do.

The press plays a vital role as educator, interpreter and constructive, or usually constructive, critic of our foreign policy. I respect that role, and, as I do my job, I will strive to be open and available, thereby helping you to do yours.

Over the past 10 days, I have had a confirmation hearing and a swearing-in, and we're having a reception later this afternoon. So I have just about exhausted my supply of metaphors, and I think that, as you will notice throughout the course of this conference, maybe my voice. But I suspect that you will forgive me if, in my discussions with you, I speak very plainly and leave the rhetoric aside.

Before taking questions, I would like to touch briefly on three subjects: people, travel and priorities. As a student and teacher of international relations and as our Permanent Representative to the United Nations these past four years, I have gained enormous respect for the people who serve America here in the Department of State and at our missions abroad. They work hard, sacrifice a great deal, care deeply about their country, and are often denied the credit they deserve. I look forward to working closely with them and to soliciting their ideas.

With respect to high-level appointments, I don't have anything for you today. As you know, appointments are made and generally announced at the White House, not here. I cannot confirm anything you may have read in the newspapers except to say that we expect to have a very strong and experienced team. We will be able to identify key members of that team soon, but we have no set timetable.

Second, with respect to trips, I know that Secretary Christopher was the most traveled secretary of State in American history. Contrary to what some of you may think, I don't view this as a challenge. My first trip, already taken and to be followed by many more, was to Capitol Hill. The president is serious and I am serious about working with Congress on a bipartisan basis.

We also will reach out beyond the Beltway. We intend to schedule many events around the country -- some speeches, some town meetings, some simply discussions -- and I hope many of you will come along.

As I said when the president nominated me, we have an obligation to explain clearly the who, what, when, how, and especially the whys of U.S. foreign policy. We have a strong case to make, but we cannot expect that case to explain itself.

Finally, I plan during the next several weeks to meet with my counterparts from a number of capitals. We haven't worked out the details, but I expect to make a trip sometime in February to parts of Europe and Asia. My purpose will be to establish good personal and working relationships and to renew acquaintances with leaders I have met and to get to know those that I have not met yet. The destinations, obviously, are not accidental.

As I told the Senate committee, we believe that America's key alliances and relationships are the bonds that hold together not only our foreign policy, but also the entire international system. When we're able to act cooperatively with other leading nations, we create a dynamic web of principles, power and purpose that elevates standards and propels progress around the globe.

Thus we see our most important task as sustaining momentum towards the creation of a Europe that is united, stable and democratic, and an Asian- Pacific community that cooperates increasingly, based on shared economic interests and a common commitment to peace. Other priorities in the year ahead include controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction, keeping the Middle East peace process on track and consolidating the peace in Bosnia; paying increased attention to the sometimes overlooked regions of Latin America, South Asia, and Africa; fighting the forces of international terrorism, drug trafficking, and transnational crime; strengthening those around the globe who are working for human rights, democracy, development, a healthy environment, and the rule of law, and advancing prosperity at home by striving for an open and expanding global economic system.

Fundamental to all of these is our ability to work with Congress to obtain the resources required to protect our interest and advance our leadership. As you know, funding for international affairs has declined sharply in recent years, despite the vast political changes that have increased the number of foreign countries and created both new threats to our security and new opportunities for building a more stable and democratic world.

I am committed to the most efficient possible management of this department and to seeing that America's responsibilities and obligations are fulfilled. Those are commitments that I hope members of Congress from both parties will embrace. The president's budget will be released on February 6th, and we will have more detailed discussions about the resource issue at that time.

So that is a brief summary of where we are and where we will be going. Now, as some of you know, I have been under wraps for a while. I have been let out. I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet with you, and I'll be very pleased now to respond to your questions.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, welcome to our humble briefing room. As you can see, we've turned out in force. A couple of years ago, Andrei Kozyrev, a reform-minded and then foreign minister, wrote in a book a plea. He asked the West to not screen Russia out with new "Iron Curtains." He said it would strengthen neofascists and hurt reformers. With the expansion of NATO in mind, I wonder if you would tell us how this can be done without contributing to a sense of humiliation in Moscow. And while I am at it, of course, I must ask you whether you think President Yeltsin's health is up to the summit that the president intends to hold in March.

ALBRIGHT: Barry, it's very nice to see you. I'm very glad to have you, as is appropriate, ask the first question.

Let me say that I think it is very important as we look at our agenda over the next years to understand that our relationship with Russia, a good relationship with the Russian Federation, is paramount to our interests. I think that is evident to both countries.

I have just gotten off the phone with Deputy Secretary Talbott, who is on his way back from Moscow, where he and Leon Fuerth have had some very important meetings getting ready for the Gore-Chernomyrdin summit here on February 6th. I think what is very important to keep in mind is the following -- that we believe that it is essential to enlarge NATO. We understand that the Russians have some problems with that. But what is clear is that both countries are committed to working this situation out and develop mutual understanding based on our national interests.

We understand the importance that Russia will play. As I said, the good relations between our two countries are very important to both of us and to the international community.

On President Yeltsin's health, obviously, he is going through his recovery period. We wish him well. But, again, to return to what I said earlier, Deputy Secretary Talbott has just come back, or is on his way back, and clearly, it is possible for us to do business with the Russian government and the Gore-Chernomyrdin meeting is yet another example of that.

Q: Madame Secretary, you have stated the importance of China on the U.S. agenda and the fact that the United States wants to integrate, not isolate China. The trends in Hong Kong, though, seem to be increasingly ominous. How do you intend to structure a relationship with China given the fact that Hong Kong seems inevitably to be an irritant if not a worse problem?

A: Carol, you've stated it correctly that I have indicated the importance of our relationship with China, and the President has made that very clear. We are not going to agree on everything that involves our relationship with China.

I stated during my confirmation hearings that I would tell it like it is to the American people and to whatever foreign leaders I deal with. I will tell it like it is on the human rights issues and on Hong Kong to the Chinese when I meet with them.

I think the important point here is that we understand the importance of Hong Kong as it reverts to China; that it has to be done in a way where the civil and human rights of the people who live in Hong Kong are respected. May I say parenthetically, this morning my first phone call from a foreign leader was from Malcolm Rifkind -- very appropriate given our special relationship. We talked about the issue of Hong Kong as one of the ones that we would have to address ourselves to.

I think it's important on the overall relationship with China to understand that it is a multi-faceted relationship. It cannot be held hostage to any one issue. We have a set of issues that we deal with with the Chinese, and we have some very positive relations with them and cooperation, for instance, on the issue of North Korea or Cambodia or CTBT/NPT. But there are some on which we differ, and human rights is one of them.

We have made clear that what happens in Hong Kong is very important to the overall relationship.

Q: Madame Secretary, what are the foreign policy implications of the lack of cooperation by the Saudis with U.S. law enforcement agencies in the Dhahran bombing matter? The Saudis have said that those guilty have ties to Iran but they have not, I gather, allowed U.S. access to the suspects. Does that mean you cannot depend on the evidence and that Iran will not be punished?

A: Let me say here that the FBI is in charge of this investigation. We have had cooperation with the Saudis and we expect full cooperation from and with the Saudis as this investigation goes forward.

Q: Assistant Secretary Kornblum and his predecessor in that job, Dick Holbrooke, both said that they regarded Europe as the most volatile and unpredictable part of the world these days. I want to know if you share that assessment? And, if so, what besides the enlargement of NATO is on the agenda for dealing with it?

A: Let me say, I don't want to get into a rating of what is more or less volatile. Clearly, our relations with Europe are very important. As you mentioned, NATO enlargement is a key issue for us this year, but we also have other issues that we're going to be dealing with.

We have to keep a very watchful eye on Bosnia so that the SFOR mission will wind up as we want it to on time, and there is an evolution or the reconstruction of Bosnia can take place.

We're also very concerned about Cyprus and the whole set of issues that go with that, and believe that we have some opportunities this year to improve that unfortunately long-running dispute. But I think we have a lot of opportunities and a lot of challenges not only in Europe, but also in other places.

Let me just say that one of the issues here is that, as we look at very specific problems, what I have tried to do is to step back a little bit and see what our ultimate goals are here. And let me just try the following formulation with you. I have thought very much that obviously the major goal of American foreign policy is to make sure that the American people are safe, secure and prosperous, and are able to operate within a safe, secure and prosperous world, which means that the more democracies and market economies that exist, the better it is for Americans and therefore, we believe also it is better for other countries when they are able to enjoy the advantages of a functioning international system.

I have tried in my own mind to organize some way of thinking about countries at this current stage. I think there really are four groups of countries. The first group is the largest group, and that is of what I would call those who see the advantages of a functioning international system; who understand the rules, who know that a rule of law system works; that diplomatic relations can go forward. This is the largest group.

The second group are the newer evolving democracies who would very much like to be a part of an international system and obey the rules but may not have all the resources yet to fully participate in it.

The third group are what we have called the rogue states, and they not only do not see an advantage to a functioning international system, but they feel that they are more important when they can disrupt the international system.

The fourth group are basically the failed states. Now, a long-term goal for the United States and for other countries, in order to make sure that our citizens prosper, is to try to get everybody into the first group which means to see that the new democracies have some ability to participate properly, to look at the rogues case by case, but basically have them understand, because they are being isolated, that they get no -- that they need to change their behavior in order to be able to benefit from the international system.

And the fourth, to all together work somehow to make the failed states not wards of the system. I think these are our long-term goals, which is why I think rating which area is more or less important is not right now the way to go about it.

Q: Madam Secretary, your predecessor, as you referenced, made countless trips around the world but focused so much on the Middle East. I'm wondering if you could tell us when, first of all, you might be planning to return there? And, second of all, what sort of strategy you have for moving the peace process from where it is with the Hebron hurdle having been crossed now, and with the Israelis apparently trying to talk to the Syrians?

A: Let me say that achieving a comprehensive peace is a very high priority for the President and, therefore, also for me. I feel a lot better about the situation than I did before Dennis Ross came back from his very successful negotiations over Hebron.

I believe that it is important for the Secretary of State to be involved in the Middle East peace process. I will make my judgments about when to travel to the area based upon how the situation evolves and on advice from Dennis. I think that it's important for everyone to understand that achieving a peace is something that is in our highest priority; that it is important. The Israelis have asked that we try to get other parts of the peace process back on track. It's very clear that the Palestinian-Israeli track has taken a step forward, or the parties have, and now to get the other tracks going again -- the Syrian one and the Lebanese one.

I am going to be working very closely with Dennis and make my judgments about when to go to the area based on his very fine advice.

Q: Madame Secretary, the President and other top officials have now acknowledged that there were inappropriate contacts between the President and others with major Democratic party contributors, including many with foreign policy interests.

How do you propose to protect the foreign policy of the country as you proceed from interference at levels so far below you, in the Commerce Department or elsewhere, that it may be very difficult to try to preserve initiatives from political interference?

A: Andrea, I think the important point here is that whatever contacts may or may not have taken place previously, they did not affect any foreign policy decision. And I think it is very important, and I obviously will continue this practice of making sure that the foreign policy process is based on the national interests of the United States and that the decisions we come to are as a result of putting the best interests of the American people foremost.

Q: I just want to follow-up. Could I just ask whether you think that the exemptions for Sudan and Syria from the terrorist sanctions were exempt from political considerations and were in the best interest of the United States?

A: I do. There was no exemption asked for and no exemption was given. I think the issue here was that we have to understand the following issue. It is the United States that put Sudan on the terrorist list. We are very concerned about Sudan's support for terrorist activities. It is a subject with which I dealt with fairly frequently in New York at the United Nations, and we will continue to insist that Sudan desist from supporting terrorist activities. And we'll be following up in New York to try to get additional sanctions.

Q: If I could ask you about the former Yugoslavia? A year or so after Dayton we still have troops there, but Mr. Milosevic seems to be teetering; Mr. Tudjman appears to be dying. I wonder whether the change in fates of two of the main signatories to Dayton makes Bosnia a more stable or less stable place, and whether you will be looking at American policy to see how it might shift along with those events there?

A: I think that it's important to keep in mind that Dayton is the central framework of the Bosnian peace, and it is supported by more than just two leaders. Part of what we were trying to do in Dayton and have in fact been moving successfully down that road is to develop institutions within Bosnia itself that would underpin the Dayton accords.

It is very important, I think, generally not to base policies on any one individual but to develop institutions that can support an evolution towards democracy and capital markets. So I think here, we're going to keep our eye on the ball, which is to make sure that the various aspects of Dayton are carried out. I am not in any way underestimating difficulties here. There are still bumps in the road as far as Bosnia is concerned, but I do think, again, that we have to keep in mind what amazing progress has taken place there, and it is as a result of our insistence on carrying out the Dayton accords.

Q: On Khobar Towers. If the U.S. could satisfy itself that that was an act of state-supported terrorism, would you support military retaliation against whichever state was involved?

A: David, I think the important thing here is to keep in mind that the investigation is currently going on. I am not going to leap to any conclusions on this, and I think it is very important to do this one step at a time. As I said, the FBI is in charge of the investigation, and we obviously will be following this whole issue very carefully.

Q: Madame Secretary, these can be answered in two yes-or-no questions, and they follow up what both my colleagues asked. Were you consulted or was the State Department consulted before both Janet Reno and Louis Freeh made their remarks that clearly accused Saudi Arabia of failing to turn over important information on last summer's bombing? And secondly, do you share their view -- yes or no -- that the Saudis have been less that cooperative?

A: Helaine, you usually like more than yes-or-no answers.

Q: (inaudible)

A: The stand of the U.S. government here is a unified stand. The FBI is in charge of this investigation. There has been Saudi cooperation, and we expect that there will be full Saudi cooperation as we go forward.

MR. BURNS: We have time for two more questions.

Q: Madame Secretary, there has been some debate recently about the effectiveness of the dual-containment policy towards Iran and Iraq. Would you tell us, please, do you support that policy, or do you think it's time for a review of policy towards those two Gulf countries?

A: Bob, I support the policy. I think that it's very important for us to make clear that we cannot deal with states that support terrorism. If you go back to my analysis of the four groups of states, those two fall within the "rogue" category. We think that it's very important to make clear that somebody cannot -- nations cannot be involved in terrorism by night and have us deal with them during the day. Basically, it is not -- we have to watch the actions of those two countries. They are the ones that will make it possible for us to change. They have to stop supporting state terrorism.

Q: Madame Secretary, Senator Helms yesterday compared the trip of the Canadian foreign minister to Cuba as akin to Neville Chamberlain's trip. How do you view that trip to Cuba and its relationship to U.S. relations with Canada and U.S. foreign policy goals overall?

A: We have the best of all -- best possible relations with Canada, and I have met Lloyd Axworthy before. I plan to meet with him as soon as its practicable. We expect to continue to have very good relations. I think it's very interesting that actually the subjects of human rights were brought up in such a trip. That, I think, is a subject of discussion that has not been there for high-level people before, so I think that we have certainly put that agenda on everybody's calendar.

I think what's very important, though, to remember here, and that is that -- again the behavior of Castro and the way that he has ruled his country for the last decades. There is no evidence of change in his behavior recently. There have been dissidents arrested in the last week -- I think six of them -- and I think it is very -- I, myself, believe that it is a mistake to have a romantic view of Fidel Castro. He is a dictator who runs his country in the way that dictators did in the '50s and '60s. Cuba is an embarrassment to the Western Hemisphere, and I think we ought to keep making clear that there needs to be a change there.

Thank you.

(end transcript)


From the United States Information Agency (USIA) Gopher at gopher://gopher.usia.gov


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