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Secretary of State Albright Comments on Yugoslav Revolution, Middle East Peace Efforts

Aired October 6, 2000 - 7:21 a.m. ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We are joined now by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is at the State Department in Washington.

Madame Secretary, I trust that you have just been able to here the news that we've got here at CNN about the Russian prime minister, Igor Ivanov congratulating Vojislav Kostunica for his electoral win.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, SECRETARY OF STATE: Great news, and I congratulate the Serbian people, President Kostunica, and the Russians for having put this last piece of the puzzle into place. The Russian recognition of President Kostunica is very, very important because they have always had a special relationship with the Serbian people. We're very glad that Russia has now joined the rest of Europe and us in congratulating the victory of President Kostunica.

HARRIS: Now that that has happened, what next?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think now what has to happen is that we all do our best to help the new democratic Yugoslavia integrate into Europe. The sanctions will be lifted as soon as it's clear that Kostunica is in and Milosevic is out. And we will also do everything we can to begin to with our European allies flow assistance into the new Yugoslavia so that it can be reconstructed, and they can have the normal life that the rest of the Europeans and the Balkans are beginning to have.

They have missed out on the great story of Europe in the post Cold War. They now need to be a part of that story and play a very important role. We are very, very pleased by what Igor Ivanov, the message that he's brought from President Putin.

HARRIS: And you've mentioned the sanctions that have been in place for several years against that country. We've already seen reports that some European leaders, some of the allies are saying that they will lift them as early as Monday. What will the U.S. wait for?

ALBRIGHT: Well, we are -- you know, everything is moving pretty quickly. We will talk about all this today. There is no reason that sanctions against the Serb people, the sanctions were against the Milosevic regime. And if Milosevic is truly finished, then we will proceed to join our European friends. HARRIS: What -- was there any coordination at all or any communication with the Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov before these talks?

ALBRIGHT: There has been a lot of coordination with Foreign Minister Ivanov. We have been on the phone many, many times. The Russians have been closely working with everybody. You know, they've been part of the Contact Group. We have been together in Bosnia and Kosovo. It is very important that they are a part of this. Yes, there has been a lot of contact.

HARRIS: Now, are you as joining the skepticism that has been expressed by some around Yugoslavia, notably the Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov this morning saying, he expects some violence, some sort of less desperate spasm from Mr. Milosevic. Is that what you're expecting?

ALBRIGHT: Well, one never knows. I mean, Milosevic has the ability to manipulate the system, but some of the news that has been coming out, in terms of where the army is, where the security forces are, and the huge numbers of people. This is not just Belgrade, these are ordinary people flowing in from the countryside, some of whom had been Milosevic supporters coming in and showing that they want a free Yugoslavia.

But it's not over until it's over, and we are going to be watching it very, very closely, very closely in the next 24 and 48 hours. But the Russian piece here, I cannot tell you how important it is, and how important it is to the Yugoslav people.

HARRIS: You know, with that in mind -- what jumps in my mind first is a question is: Now that you are so close, you being a representative of the West, and knowing what the West has been trying to accomplish in Yugoslavia, knowing now that you are this close to having Mr. Milosevic out of there, is it now time to say he does not -- asylum is not a bad deal in return for his leaving?

ALBRIGHT: We have made very clear our position on this. I think that it is important for the new Yugoslavia to be a country of rule of law and to have democratic values and to operate in that way. I think what's important now is to make clear that Kostunica is in power and we have to do everything we can to support him, and Milosevic has to get out of the way.

HARRIS: Let's change gears, now that we have you with us this morning. Let's talk, if we can briefly, about what's happening in the Middle East. Is there -- what is the next step now that there seems to be this -- at a point where almost no one can tell exactly what's going to happen next.

ALBRIGHT: Well, as you know, I've spent time in Paris with both Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat, they in front of me, and in front of each other, called their commanders and put out orders that the violence ought to be lessened. I think that some of that has been happening. Obviously that too needs to be watched very carefully. I think we need to try to figure out how to get calm and move back, and give it back to the peace talks, because that is the only ultimate solution. And we will continue to work very closely with both parties in order to make that happen.

HARRIS: I'd like to get your thoughts in response to a comment that is being reported this morning from President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who says that the settlement being urged by Washington would be a time bomb that would explode in the faces of all.

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that I saw President Mubarak yesterday, I think he understand fully that the violence has to be stopped, that we have to try to get a settlement. I think that the issues are obviously very complicated, the permanent status issues, and that has been clear to us from Camp David on, or even before that.

And I think that we need to just keep working for a settlement that puts an end to this. I feel so sorry for the people that have lost loved ones and the violence that has come out again. We can't live with this kind of violence, and neither can those people. And the United States is going to do everything it can to be an honest mediator and arbitrator, and tried to bridge the gaps between the parties as soon as calm returns.

HARRIS: But realistically, how long can this current vacuum exist before the whole thing just totally disintegrates?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that, you know, they've been through terrible times there before, and they get through periods of violence. The losses are bad and everybody regrets the loss of life on both sides of this.

I think we need to -- the United States is in a unique position to try to help. We are trusted by both sides. President Clinton has done a remarkable job in moving the process forward, and we're going to do our best. We have invited the negotiators to come to Washington as soon as calm is restored. We will do everything we can to pursue peace.

HARRIS: And Madame Secretary, as you were speaking, we're looking now at live pictures of what appears to be a demonstration near that site of the Temple Mount, where Ariel Sharon went and visited them, which some are considering to be the flash point of all the violence that has ensued in the past six or seven days or so.

And I can imagine, in advance, what your response to this question is going to be, but I have to ask it anyway: Considering how complicated things are, as you just said moments ago, is it coming near the time when the Clinton administration is going to have to admit that it failed here?

ALBRIGHT: I don't think we have failed. I think that we have pushed very hard in a variety of ways to move the peace process for. Ultimately, and I said this so many times, the United States can do everything it can to help, but it is the leaders themselves that have to make the hard decisions. The truth is they are very hard. These are existential questions for both peoples, and they have to work through with this. And I believe that our record, in terms of trying to help the Middle East peace process, is unparalleled. President Clinton's personal involvement, and we're not finished. We need to be able to be there to help, and we are there to help, but ultimately the leaders themselves are the only ones that can make the decisions to bring this all to an end.

HARRIS: You have already got a lot of frequent flying. It sounds like you are going to have to do so more.

Madame Secretary, we thank you very much for your time and your insight this morning.

ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much.

HARRIS: Take care.



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