From: Wolf Blitzer/CNN
Subject: White House Says U.S. Wants To Solve Iraq Situation Peacefully
Only hours before the start of the four-nation foreign ministers' meeting in Geneva, the White House says it wants to resolve the showdown with Iraq peacefully, but it insists Iraq must comply with all U.N. Security Council resolutions and allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return.
Press Secretary Michael McCurry said the U.S. "continues to assess its force structure" in the Gulf region, but he was unaware of any additional decisions to send more equipment in.
McCurry said the U.N. weapons inspectors must be allowed to go back to Iraq and resume their inspections "in an unfettered manner."
The Clinton Administration, he said, still does not have details of the Russian-Iraqi discussions in Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov told Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during a telephone conversation that he wants to present those details "in person" to her and the foreign ministers of Britain and France in Geneva.
Pending that meeting, McCurry says, all sides have agreed to withhold public speculation.
But privately, U.S. officials are a lot less optimistic than their Russian counterparts. They are worried, for example, that what is acceptable to Russia and probably France won't be acceptable to the Clinton Administration. They say there still is a very realistic chance that diplomacy could fail, and that is why the U.S. continues to pursue its preparations for the military option.
The president's top national security advisors, including Sandy Berger, Defense Secretary William Cohen, Joint Chiefs Chairman Hugh Shelton, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot and others, reviewed the Iraqi situation this morning at the White House.
Clinton did not participate in that session, though he has been receiving regular updates from Berger, who in turn has been in constant communication with Albright.
McCurry says it's possible that Clinton will speak directly with Albright by telephone in advance of the foreign ministers' meeting in Geneva.
Clinton spoke by phone over the weekend with Russian President Boris Yeltsin. McCurry today described that conversation as "good" because Yeltsin assured the president that Russia would press Iraq to comply with U.N. resolutions.
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Wednesday Nov. 19, 1997
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