Washington, 11 February 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Questions about Iraq dominated a U.S. congressional inquiry Tuesday into America's foreign policy agenda.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the sole witness before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, came with 30 pages of testimony to tell the panel about the current priorities and principles of U.S. interests in the world. That's an annual exercise this time of year when the Congress begins to consider budget allocations.
But in two hours of statements and questions there were only brief mentions of troubles in the Caucasus, NATO expansion and arms control pacts with Russia.
Senators were most interested in gauging the effectiveness of plans to use force against Iraq.
Albright, using by now familiar stock phrases, assured the panel that the U.S. has made no decision yet to attack Baghdad, still hopes diplomacy will succeed, but has the will and the means to go to war if there is no other way to get President Saddam Hussein to comply with weapons inspections mandated by the United Nations.
Albright said "there is increasing ...public international support" for the U.S. position.
She said she is confident after her own recent trip to the Middle East that other countries will help the U.S., although they may be reticent about saying so in public because of domestic considerations.
Albright stressed that not one official she spoke to said the U.S. should go home and leave Iraq alone.
At the White House, President Bill Clinton Tuesday publicly thanked Australia and Canada for offering to join a strike if it becomes necessary, saying he is grateful others are prepared to stand with America.
Clinton, speaking at a White House ceremony, said he hopes force can be avoided, but in his words "if (Saddam Hussein) will not comply with the will of the international community we must be prepared to act."
"He said friends and allies share our conviction that Saddam must not be allowed to develop nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons or the missiles to deliver them."
At the Senate hearing, Albright mentioned six more countries backing the United States -- The Netherlands, Germany and Argentina, as well as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Asked what a military mission might accomplish, Albright said again it would be narrowly defined to diminish Saddam Hussein's arsenals, delay him from building new stockpiles and remove the threat he poses to neighboring countries. It would not seek to depose the Iraqi president, she said.
Albright said the military action, if it comes, would be very substantial and could be repeated should Saddam Hussein begin to rearm.
"This is not a one-time issue" she said - "we reserve the right to a follow-up strike if we find that they (Iraqis) are reconstituting their weapons of mass destruction."
In her prepared testimony, Albright broke with tradition to talk about the Middle East and the Caucasus before reviewing U.S. policy in Europe. She said these regions are crossroads that link continents and decisions made about them now will be crucial for peace and stability in the world in the next century. Albright laid out a set of principles, she said will guide the U.S. in developing an integrated approach to the Caucasus and Central Asia and the Middle East.
Albright said the first tenet is that nations in and outside the region must work together and respect each other's sovereignty to avoid falling victim to an external power in what she described as "a modern version of the so-called 'Great game,' in which past struggles for resources and power led to war, repression and misery."
She said, secondly, cooperation must extend to security, opposing crime and terrorism. And thirdly, nations must live as neighbors, settling their difference peaceably and fairly.
In what seemed like a veiled reference to Russia, Albright said "those outside the region must refrain from exploiting divisions and support efforts to settle conflicts."
As a fourth principle, she said "the international community must nurture inter-ethnic tolerance and respect for human rights, including women's rights."