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Media Encounter, Subject: Iraq, Tuesday, February 3, 1998

Presenter: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen With National Security Advisor Sandy Berger
February 03, 1998 12:00 PM EDT

Secretary Cohen: [In progress]... Secretary Albright is busy preparing a report. To brief them on the nature of [inaudible] by Saddam Hussein and to welcome their expressions of support. We had a very positive meeting and I talked with the members who seemed satisfied trying to pursue a diplomatic initiative but I'm prepared to act otherwise if it becomes necessary. And that was the purpose of the meeting and I feel really good about it.

Q: [Inaudible]

Cohen: I think the President already indicated that we have substantial forces in the region in the event that we cannot secure a diplomatic solution which mainly means that Saddam must comply fully with the resolutions in existence today, that we will consider other options. The other options are quite apparent.

Q: [Inaudible] she and others are raising questions about what the results of any [inaudible]. Is that true? Were questions raised about the possible results - - whether or not you can achieve what you wanted?

Cohen: We made it very clear what our goals are. Our goals are, in the event that diplomacy fails, to degrade his weapons of mass destruction capability and [his ability] to pose a threat to the region -- mainly to interrupt the stability of the entire region which supplies a good deal of the energy to much of the industrialized world. Those are our goals and I think it is very clear that we have spelled out how to achieve them in the event diplomacy fails.

Q: Sandy, do you see any indication at all that this thing is being settled diplomatically?

Mr. Berger: I see no evidence at this stage. There is a great deal of diplomatic activity, in terms of individuals on behalf of their governments going to Baghdad, I think carrying a strong message that we are serious and that he must come into compliance with U.N. security council resolutions. But we have not seen any evidence that he is doing so.

Q: Do you have any timeframe - - I mean how long [inaudible]?

Cohen: Obviously that's up to the President, but we would seek to give diplomacy every reasonable opportunity to produce a positive result. At some point in time, diplomacy obviously will reach a point of diminishing return. I think as Secretary Albright, Sandy Berger, and the President has said, that point is coming closer. There's just no definitive time line at this point.

Press: Thank you.