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Secretary Cohen's Impromptu Interview, Embassy Courtyard, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Presenter: Impromptu Interview at the Embassy Courtyard
January 13, 1998

Kuala Lumpur, 13 January 1998, 0830 (pst)

Q: The Iraqis are blocking the inspectors, is anything new, has anything changed? What does the United States plan to do about it?

A: At this point, the United States is obviously going to urge the U.N. Security Council to come out with some very strong language as far as demanding that Saddam Hussein open up his facilities to those inspections. He is not going to be in a position to dictate who composes or comprises these particular teams. As I have said many times before, you cannot have the parolee dictating who the parole officer is going to be. In this particular case we have U.N. inspectors – they are not picked by virtue of their country, but by virtue of their expertise and experience. It is really unacceptable for Saddam Hussein to declare who is acceptable and who is not. So, we hope to proceed with this, with the U.N., and we will wait to see what the outcome is in the United Nations.

Q: Doesn't he have the upper hand? He can just shut the door.

A: He doesn't have the upper hand because he still has the sanctions which are imposed. He has two goals: one, is to get rid of the inspectors, and second, is to get rid of the sanctions. So far the inspectors are still there – they have conducted several hundred inspections, to the extent that they are barred from day-to-day, then you can expect the sanctions will stay in place for a long time to come. So, he really hasn't achieved his goals yet.

Q: Isn't this a cycle where he goes away for a week or two . . .

A: I think it much depends on the Security Council. I think that the Security Council has to reaffirm a strong position, and to the extent that they do, I think that will have considerable impact upon Saddam Hussein. If there is any weakening of the Security Council, then obviously, that complicates matters. It can't go on indefinitely, it has been going on in to some degree in this fashion for the past six years—that he has played a cat and mouse game. But ultimately, the important thing for us to do is have the inspectors on the ground.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you delayed your trip here several months ago over Saddam Hussein. Will you stick to your itinerary for the rest of this trip?

A: I will stick to the itinerary.

Q: Just briefly, what is your message as you go to Indonesia?

A: My message is that we are a strong reliable partner to the Indonesian people and to all the peoples in this region. We are here, as I've said before, in good times and bad. We are hoping we can contribute to Indonesia's ability to stabilize its economy and get itself back on track. That is the message that I intend to bring to President Soharto and to others.

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