Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright yesterday praised her successor Colin Powell as “forward-looking” and handed off to him a series of burning issues ranging from conflict in the Balkans to peacemaking in the Middle East.
“I’m going to try to be as supportive of Secretary-designate Powell as is appropriate for a former secretary and [it is] the kind of support that I’ve had,” she told reporters yesterday at the State Department.
“General Powell and I have been friends for a long time, and we share the interest in making sure that America’s foreign policy is well represented.”
In meetings Sunday at her Georgetown home and Monday at the State Department, she and Mr. Powell also focused on the budget for international affairs, Mrs. Albright said.
“The new secretary will inherit an overall budgetary situation that is more favorable than at any time in the 1990s,” she said, citing an “almost 17 percent increase” in funding for international affairs during her tenure as secretary. Funding for the department had declined sharply in the early 1990s.
She said President Clinton had persuaded Congress to spend the money because “a strong and successful foreign policy is a patriotic imperative, not a partisan issue.”
Asked what issues she would be handing over to Mr. Powell, a retired general who headed the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Persian Gulf war, Mrs. Albright said foreign policy is “a continuing story.”
“We picked up a lot of issues from the first Bush administration … and there’s certain issues that continue to be on the table.”
She said she and Mr. Clinton hoped for a “positive resolution” of the Middle East conflict, noting that meetings with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators took place yesterday at the White House.
The administration leaves U.S. troops on duty as peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo, but Mrs. Albright said “the heavy lifting” of ending wars and driving out Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic has already been done. The next administration will have to solidify peace.
“The Balkan story, which I consider one of the major successes of this administration, is a continuation of what President Bush had started, which was the idea that there be a Europe that is whole and free, and the missing piece was the Balkans,” she said.
Asked what she will miss most about her job, Mrs. Albright drew on her background as a refugee from communist Czechoslovakia as a child.
“What I am going to miss most is representing the United States, the most amazing country in the world, that has given me the opportunity to work hard on its behalf and American national interests,” she said.
“There is no greater honor than representing the United States, and I will miss that.”