"A few dozen hecklers" will not deter the United States from its mission in Iraq - containing Saddam Hussein and reducing his ability to use biological and chemical weapons, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Thursday.
President Clinton said Saddam should not be emboldened by the raucus debate. "Not if he understands the first thing about America," Clinton told reporters. "I believe strongly that most Americans support our policy. They support our resolve.""Our goal . . . may not seem really decisive. But we're trying to contain Saddam Hussein. Whenever he puts his head up, we push him back. We are doing what must be done," Albright said on NBC's "Today" show.
A day after Clinton administration officials were heckled on a college campus in Ohio, former professor Albright returned to the classroom to make a case for threatening to bomb Iraq to drastically reduce its stores of dangerous weapons.
Albright was making back-to-back appearances at Tennessee State University and at the University of South Carolina. She will be working smaller audiences than at the "town meeting" at Ohio State University, where angry critics at times drowned her out, along with Defense Secretary William Cohen and Sandy Berger, Clinton's national security adviser.
"We know what we have to do," Albright said on NBC. Unless Saddam gives United Nations' inspectors unfettered and unlimited access to weapons sites, "We will be using force and the American people will be behind us," she said.
"If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future," she said.
Albright said most Americans back administration policy and the officials will continue to explain the policy to the nation.
"A couple of dozen students disrupting it is something that takes away from the spirit of the project, which is to try to talk to the American people about the stakes and American foreign policy," she said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Albright, a former professor of international affairs and head of the women in foreign policy program at Georgetown University, would have more chance for dialogue with the students Thursday.
She prefers a classroom setting, giving her a chance for an exchange of views with both critics and supporters of Clinton's threat to bomb Iraq if Saddam does not open his palaces and weapons sites to U.N. inspectors.
The protesters at Ohio State were far outnumbered by supporters and the undecided at St. John arena. But from the outset, when she began with the assertion, "Iraq is a long way from Ohio, but what happens there matters here," Albright, Cohen and Berger were confronted by jeering that sometimes drowned them out.
Others rose to the microphones with polite but sharp questions about U.S. goals in Iraq.
"I appreciate all of you coming," Berger said at the end of the 90-minute session. "I appreciate most of you listening."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was heading to Baghdad in search of a diplomatic solution where Russia, France and the Arab League all have failed. Albright cautioned that the Clinton administration would not budge from its demand that the U.N. weapons commission have unlimited access in Iraq.
"It must be a true, not a phony, solution," she said, while Cohen and Berger offered assurances there would not be "significant losses" among the 30,000 American troops in the Persian Gulf in the event of an attack.