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Secretary Cohen's Media EncounterOutside the Rayburn Building, Washington, DC

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
January 30, 1998

Q: Madeline Albright has (audible). Do you agree...number one? And number two, does that mean (inaudible)?

A: (Secretary Cohen): Well, I haven't had an opportunity to talk to Secretary Albright since she's been on the road -- in Europe, I should say -- but I will be communicating with her and she will with the President. We will obviously try to continue to exhaust every diplomatic alternative and avenue. I don't think anything is over until it's over. And we should continue to push the diplomatic opportunities to the very last extent. And it may be that we have reached that point, but I'm not aware of it yet, so I would have to withhold any comment in terms of confirming or rejecting it.

I think that she is doing her level best to make clear what our position is. She's not on a negotiating trip by any means. So she's there to explain the US position. I think she's doing it very effectively. And to the extent that other countries don't share our view, then that's something we hope to do with...

Q: If diplomacy doesn't work, then what happens?

A: Well I think the President hasn't ruled anything in or out. We obviously feel very strongly about it. We know that a number of countries who are worried about Saddam Hussein's acquisition of materials of weapons of mass destruction continue to be of concern to them. And so, we will continue to work with all of our allies in this and the talks -- discussions will continue until we're satisfied there's no other option but (inaudible).

Q: How soon would we be prepared to exercise the military option? Would it be days or weeks to get prepared?

A: We don't think that we'd want to discuss any timeframe. We are always in a state of preparation. So we feel we have forces that are in the region that are fully capable of protecting our forces should they ever be attacked or exercising any option that the President might direct.

Q: Why has Iraq been so bold on this?

A: I think, to the extent that Iraq sees an opportunity to exploit differences in the Security Council, they will continue to be bold. When they see that the Security Council members are united and determined to enforce the resolutions of the United Nations then I think that he becomes more compliant. So I think that he sees division and seeks to exploit it. And whenever that takes place, that it makes him bolder.

Q Are we sending more assets to the Iraqi area?

A: We will have enough assets in the area to do whatever is necessary. And I will review that as the situation unfolds.

Q: Thank you.