- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright expressed growing frustration yesterday as an increasing number of allies mounted challenges to U.N. sanctions against Iraq.
Following the lead of France and Russia, the government of Jordan today plans to dispatch a plane carrying government officials, lawmakers and doctors to Baghdad in what Jordanian officials are calling a "solidarity flight" to assess the humanitarian situation in Iraq a decade after the economic sanctions were imposed.
Critics of the U.N. embargo say it deprives the Iraqi people of desperately needed medical help, food and other basic items.
France plans its second flight in seven days to the Iraqi capital on Friday, and India, Iceland and Syria have also said they are ready to challenge a strict interpretation of the U.N. ban favored by the United States and Britain.
"We are concerned that people can't seem to get the facts straight on Iraq," Mrs. Albright told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.
"I know there is a great deal of compassion for the Iraqi people," she said. "We have compassion for them. It is [Iraqi leader] Saddam Hussein who does not have compassion for his own people."
Mrs. Albright conceded that administering the Iraq embargo is "complicated," and several allies have argued that the flights do not violate U.N. rules so long as the panel overseeing the sanctions is notified in advance.
"We have to make our point that these flights need approval, and we will continue to press on this," Mrs. Albright said. The U.S. government has complained directly to France, Russia and Jordan, she said.
Mrs. Albright's remarks came during a hearing that otherwise had the feel of a valedictory address in a committee room where she has testified 18 times.
The secretary, who has enjoyed an effusively cordial relationship with committee Chairman Jesse A. Helms, even as she has clashed fiercely with the North Carolina Republican over policy, faced only gentle questioning and was given a round of applause by the senators at the hearing's conclusion.
When the nation's first-ever female secretary of state rose to acknowledge the ovation, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat, observed: "Surely no secretary of state has ever curtseyed to this committee before."
With just months to go in her tenure, the secretary touched on a number of issues, including:
Russia. Prodded by Mr. Helms over President Vladimir Putin's record on human rights, respect for democracy and the war in Chechnya, she credited the administration's engagement policy with Russia with reducing the danger from the nuclear arsenal inherited from the Soviet Union.
She said the administration believed Mr. Putin's March 26 election victory was legitimate and reflected a popular desire for order, but added: "We have to watch carefully that it's 'order' with a small 'o' and not 'Order' with a capital 'O' ."
The State Department's budget. Mrs. Albright again appealed to lawmakers to approve President Clinton's full $22 billion request for foreign operations, saying congressional proposals to cut $2 billion would harm U.S. efforts on peacekeeping, debt relief, promoting trade and funding international financial institutions.
"You can't cut this much out of our budget," Mrs. Albright argued. "Our diplomacy and our diplomats are the first line of defense, and I think we underfund them at our own jeopardy."
Yugoslavia. Just hours before Yugoslav officials announced a presidential runoff vote would be needed next month, Mrs. Albright voiced the strongest American criticism to date of President Slobodan Milosevic's conduct in Sunday's voting.
"Despite threats from Milosevic's thugs, the opposition waged a courageous campaign for change, and now they have won a sweeping endorsement at all levels from the Serb people," she said. "The authorities in Belgrade used every trick in the book to rig the election and distort the results, but they have fooled no one."
Despite her comments on Iraq, Mrs. Albright said the United States was not prepared to impose penalties and foreign aid restrictions available under U.S. law to countries like Russia that have approved flights to Baghdad.
"We give assistance to Russia because it's in our national interest," she said.

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