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Special Event

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright Holds News Conference on Upcoming Trip to Syria, Funeral for Hafez al-Assad

Aired June 12, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: And we are going to take you over to the State Department right now where Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is preparing to offer some remarks on her pending visit to Syria and the funeral for Hafez Assad, the late president of Syria.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, SECRETARY OF STATE: ... expressing condolences to the people of Syria at a time of transition and grief.

For three decades, President Hafez al-Assad played a critical role in the Middle East. His passing doesn't alter the compelling logic for all parties to pursue a comprehensive peace nor America's willingness to work with all parties to achieve that goal.

President Assad made a strategic decision for peace at Madrid in 1991. He could have no better legacy than a settlement that brings lasting stability and steadily rising prosperity to people throughout the region.

I note that the United Nations will soon confirm Israel's withdrawal from South Lebanon. This will pave the way for the Lebanese government to reassert its authority in that area and open the door to a new era for that country.

Tomorrow, negotiations on the Israeli-Palestinian track will resume here in Washington. The goal is to narrow differences and make further progress toward an agreement on all permanent status issues. The two sides have asked the United Stases to participate in the talks, and we will do so as appropriate.

As I've said many times, the United States believes that a historic opportunity exists to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The issues are difficult and complex and will take time to resolve.

But both Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat understand that this opportunity must not be allowed to slip away. Both are committed to moving ahead step-by-step and to reaching an agreement as rapidly as possible. President Clinton and I have made clear that we are prepared to do all we can to help, and we look forward to Chairman Arafat's visit to Washington later this week.

As the peace process proceeds, it's critical that no one doubt America's support for those engaged in it. In this connection, I want to make clear that although the United States has real concerns about the proposed Israeli sale of Falcon aircraft to China, and we are discussing the matter with the Israeli government, we do not believe that linking this issue to our assistance to Israel is the appropriate way to proceed, and we will oppose any effort on Capital Hill to do so.

On another matter, I want to express my appreciation to the entire Missouri congressional delegation for its bipartisan leadership in gaining approval of a bill to name the Department of State headquarters building in honor of former President Harry S. Truman. This is entirely appropriate for President Truman understood well the importance of effective diplomacy is a compliment to America's economic and military strength.

During his presidency, the State Department led in founding the United Nations...

SESNO: ... coming to the funeral of President Hafez al-Assad, who died over the weekend, with a strong signal to his successor -- apparent successor at this point, his 34-year-old son Bashar Assad, saying that Assad's -- the elder Assad's passing doesn't alter what Albright calls the "compelling logic" for all parties to pursue a comprehensive peace, or the U.S. determination to assist in that process. Also, she mentions, as you may know, that Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak going to be focusing on the Palestinian-Israeli issues in the coming days here in Washington.

We'll have more on the situation in the Middle East a bit later in "NEWSDAY."

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