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World: Albright Outlines 1998 Policy Priorities

Washington, 14 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is approaching her second year in office much as she began her first -- focusing heavily on the U.S. Congress as the launching pad for America's foreign policy.

In a key speech laying out her priorities for the year, Albright said Tuesday that 1998 will be a year of decision and a year of tests for American leadership in several major policy areas.

She mentioned the defiance and continuing challenge of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein, as well as the stalled Middle East peace process, but singled out four other key issues that require U.S. congressional approval for implementation.

Albright listed a new American initiative in Africa and U.S. contributions to international organizations, along with NATO expansion and Bosnia peacekeeping as programs that may stand or fall on the funding decisions of the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress.

She urged legislators to consider the dangers of blocking President Bill Clinton's decision last month to extend the presence of U.S. peacekeeping troops in Bosnia beyond a June deadline.

Albright said the infrastructure of peace and the psychology of reconciliation are slowly taking hold in Bosnia.

But she warned that a premature departure of the international peacekeepers would risk a return to war and even genocide and have wider implications.

Albright said it would also undermine America's leadership in NATO and betray people in Bosnia who put their faith in the United States.

She clarified again for U.S. legislators that America's aim in Bosnia is, in her words, "to create a climate of security that is sustainable, so that when our troops do leave Bosnia, they leave for good."

Although no American soldier has been killed in battle in Bosnia, some U.S. senators continue to question the risk to American lives and what vital interests the U.S. has in the area.

Albright said another choice the Senate will be asked to make this spring will be on NATO enlargement.

A vote for enlargement, she said will "validate America's leadership in a new NATO bolstered by new democracies, sustained by enduring principles and dedicated to deterring new threats."

Her speech at the Center for National Policy, a private research institute Albright once headed, came ten days before she celebrates her first anniversary at the State Department.

When Albright took office a year ago on January 23. she said her priorities were to improve relations with Congress and make the American public understand the importance of foreign affairs.

Supporters and critics alike say she has succeeded in confronting an isolationist Congress and that this is reflected in increased congressional funding for the State Department to run foreign affairs.

But the congressional largesse did not extend to U.S. contributions to the International Monetary Fund and the United Nations.

Albright accused legislators of blackmail in blocking legislation that would have allowed the U.S. to pay its debts to both agencies. She pledged to continue to press for funding in 1998.