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Interview with Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Aired November 11, 2003 - 07:04   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The first claim of responsibility in the deadly bombing in Riyadh surfaced today, as Saudi officials announced that a group of suspects had been arrested. An Arab magazine says it received an e-mail reportedly from an al Qaeda operative claiming the terror group was behind Saturday's attack. The bombing killed 17 people.
Saudi officials say they are questioning several suspects, including one person who told investigators that al Qaeda mistakenly targeted a neighborhood housing mostly Arabs. Saudi Arabia's King Fahd says his country will strike back against terrorists with an iron fist.

So, has this latest bombing taken the war between bin Laden and the Saudi government to a new level? Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joins us this morning.

Nice to see you. Thanks for joining us.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Good to you to be with you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. Is it fair to say that a new level now between al Qaeda and the Saudi royal family?

ALBRIGHT: I think so. And especially if they did, in fact, target Arabs. I think it's interesting they're now saying they didn't, because I think that causes a huge level of concern if it's Arab-on-Arab killing, and something that does take it to a new level as far as the Saudi royal family is concerned.

O'BRIEN: So, then let's take a look at these claims that say it was a mistake. They meant actually to target Americans, and it didn't go off as planned. What do you read into that? And how credible do you think a report like that could be?

ALBRIGHT: Well, it's always very hard to tell, because there is such mayhem after something like this. But I think some of it could be that they just now are nervous about what the aftereffects are if, in fact, it is Arab on Arab, because that does, I think, undercut their message for themselves, which is they want to be popular with the Arab street. But if they are beginning to attack each other, that destroys a lot of their credibility.

O'BRIEN: Outside of that, how much of their fight is diminished if they start attacking Arab on Arab? And are you saying that that's an attack that they would never take if indeed it was a mistake? ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it certainly would be a mistake in their strategy, because I think what they're trying to do is to mobilize Arab opinion against Western or those people that have affiliations with Westerners. Perhaps they thought that the people in this neighborhood were living too high and rich a life, and that might have been something they were attacking. But they clearly will lose a lot of the support that they have if they start attacking each other.

O'BRIEN: President Bush last week in his speech said that democracy has to come to Iraq, and, in fact, he sort of visualized democracy rolling across the Middle East. Obviously, you spent a ton of time there doing lots of delicate negotiations. Do you think his vision is realistic?

ALBRIGHT: I think it's a good vision, and I think the question is how it begins. I'm very much for democracy everywhere in the Middle East. Obviously, there can be Islamic countries that are democratic. But I don't think you begin pushing democracy through the barrel of a gun. I think you have to start at a lower level, at the local level, as it's been happening in some countries such as Yemen and Bahrain. But I think it's very hard to persuade people that democracy comes with an invasion.

O'BRIEN: What do you think are the biggest obstacle to -- biggest obstacles, really, to his vision?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the fact that it looks as though it's made in America. I think that what has to happen is a sense among the people that they are the ones that are producing their own lives, that they will write their own constitutions and set up their laws, and that they may need technical assistance from Western countries, but that they have to develop a democracy that suits them, which allows their people to vote in the way that really responds to their needs.

O'BRIEN: So, the hearts and minds part of it coming along and those two...


ALBRIGHT: Right. Absolutely. Right.

O'BRIEN: "The Washington Post" reported over the weekend that U.S. officials in Washington are alarmed by what they call the inaction of the Iraqi Governing Council. What's your take on that? Do you think that's a fair criticism?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think what we know is that some of them have not kind of been showing up for work, and I think they have a very difficult job, a difficult question as to who they all are. You know, there were a lot of questions about how legitimate they were. I think they do need to seize control in some ways. Because what has to happen here is the Iraqis have to begin to run their own lives, and if this Iraqi Governing Council is not representative enough, there need to be people on it that are, and they need to have help in terms of how to begin to run a democratic country. O'BRIEN: The former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. Nice to have you, as always. And I should mention as well, author of "Madam Secretary: a Memoir." Nice to see you. Thanks.

ALBRIGHT: Thanks, Soledad. Good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you.



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