- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2001

Outgoing Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright defended her policies and called at the opening of a new press briefing room yesterday for her successor to carry on U.S. policies in the Balkans, the Middle East and North Korea.

"As I prepare to leave office, I can tell you that I am very, very proud of the efforts we've made under President Clinton to build peace and foster prosperity, promote democracy, and halt ethnic cleansing," said Mrs. Albright, the first woman to serve as secretary of state.

Among other accomplishments, she listed a reorganization of the State Department that was pressed upon her by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican. She also boasted of the expansion of security in Europe, the administration's efforts on behalf of women and its struggles against crime, terrorism, pollution and disease.

In an unusual departure, she suggested that she wished for the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who at 74 has survived several years past the average Cuban life span. "And I wish them the actuarial tables in Cuba," Mrs. Albright said.

Defending the decision to intervene militarily in Kosovo, she said, "We were left with the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the question as to whether the Europeans could do it alone."

The success of democratic elections in Bosnia and in Yugoslavia, where voters peacefully ousted President Slobodan Milosevic, "have vindicated that point of view," she said.

Mrs. Albright said the subject had "obviously" come up in her talks with her designated successor, Colin Powell, who is expected to review the decision to station U.S. troops in the region.

"I believe that the story in the Balkans is not finished and that the next administration needs to keep in mind that our presence there is very important," she said.

"We, too, obviously, were going to review how long our forces were going to be there. Nobody intends them to be there permanently."

She also urged the new administration to continue her policy of engagement with North Korea in an attempt to persuade it to give up the development of long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.

Mrs. Albright made her remarks at the dedication of a new briefing room at the department's Foggy Bottom headquarters to the late U.S. Information Agency chief and journalist Carl T. Rowan.

She said she was sorry to have inherited the problems posed by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and was sorry to leave those same problems to Mr. Powell. But she said Saddam was weaker and had been contained through "the longest-running sanctions regime."

She said Mr. Powell had told her he wanted "to strengthen the sanctions, and I wish him a lot of luck in that. It is the right thing to do, but it's very difficult."

Mrs. Albright rejected criticism that U.S. pressure for a Middle East settlement at Camp David last summer was responsible for the violence that has wracked the region since late September.

"What we have done is respond to calls from the region to do something," she said. "What we did at Camp David is a seminal event in terms of having ultimately discussed the issues, the resolution of which is the only way to get to a peace.

"I think that ultimately, the only way to go forward is for the parties themselves to make the decisions."

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