Interview With Kim Ghattas of BBC
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Thank you for speaking to the BBC, Madam Secretary. I want to ask you first about the UN resolution that is being tabled at the UN in New York by France and Britain and Lebanon. Among other things, it would try to establish a no-fly over Libya. Does the United States support the resolution as it stands now?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Kim, as we speak, the United States and other Security Council members are in intensive discussions about what should be in the resolution. We greatly appreciate the leadership shown by Lebanon, the UK, and France. And we think it’s significant that the Arab League made its statement on Saturday, so we want to be sure that there will be Arab leadership and participation in whatever comes out of the Security Council. So there’s a great deal of discussion, and I think there is a sense of urgency that was precipitated by the Arab League’s courageous stand on Saturday. And we hope that there will be a resolution of the discussions and a decision made very soon in order to enable us to protect innocent lives in Libya. We are well aware that the clock is ticking.
QUESTION: Do you want Arab participation, Arab military participation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are in the midst of discussing the details about what Arab participation and leadership would mean. But I think it’s important that, number one, we get international authorization through the Security Council. This cannot be a unilateral action by anyone in Europe or the U.S. or, frankly, anyone in the Arab League. It has to be international and authorized. And then we have to be very clear about what Arab leadership and participation will be.
QUESTION: But is there still time for a no-fly zone, or is it too late for that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there will be other things considered in addition to a no-fly zone. That will certainly be one of the actions considered, but there are other ways to assist the opposition. As you know, I met with one of the key leaders in Paris. There are other ways that we can assist, and all of those are on the table and being examined.
QUESTION: Could you tell us anything more about what those other ways are?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m going to let the resolution speak for itself when it is introduced because I do not want to intervene into these delicate negotiations. As you know, prior to the Arab League statement on Saturday, there was a great deal of opposition. There were countries which said they would veto anything. There were other countries that were adamantly opposed. That has changed. So now the discussion is of a different tenor with a level of detail that we were just not able to have before.
QUESTION: But at the same time, the British and the French seem frustrated and, frankly, a little bit upset almost with the United States. They feel that you are dragging your feet, that you’re not really warm to the idea of a no-fly zone, or perhaps that you can’t make up your mind about what it is you want to do about Libya. Is that fair? Is that what the situation --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think that is fair. I think, based on my conversations in Paris with the G-8 ministers, which, of course, included those two countries, I think we all agree that given the Arab League statement, it was time to move to the Security Council to see what was possible. I don’t want to prejudge it because countries are still very concerned about it. And I know how anxious the British and the French and the Lebanese are, and they have taken a big step in presenting something. But we want to get something that will do what needs to be done and can be passed.
It won’t do us any good to consult, negotiate, and then have something vetoed or not have enough votes to pass it. So I think that we are where we need to be right now. And yes, I understand the frustration before the Arab League because there was a lot of ambivalence and opposition and concern about whether this would be accepted or not. But now that the Arab League has spoken and that there is active consultation with our Arab friends and partners, I think you will see a resolution coming forth.
QUESTION: You say you want a resolution that will pass and that will not be vetoed. Would a resolution that isn’t vetoed be tough enough to do the job, which is to get rid of Colonel Qadhafi?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the job is really to protect innocent Libyans. The job is to prevent the kind of massacres and slaughters that, unfortunately, everyone expects from Colonel Qadhafi and his regime. And so there are a lot of steps that can and should be taken. But I don’t want to prejudge the discussions because they are intensely going on right now.
QUESTION: But Madam Secretary, sanctions, arm embargo, no-fly zone – these are all long-term solutions, perhaps they’re not even solutions. We don’t know what the outcome is of those steps. But 13 days ago, President Obama said he wanted to see Colonel Qadhafi go. What is the United States prepared to do to make sure this actually happens quickly?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are prepared to join an international consensus that comes out of the Security Council. And we would want to see that consensus include actions that would protect the Libyan people and would assist the opposition in their legitimate aspirations.
QUESTION: Targeted strikes?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think everything is on the table. Everything is on the table. But it’s important to underscore that unilateral action is not an option; that is not anything that either can or should be supported. International action must be the route we take. And so therefore, we are hoping to see a consensus reached in the Security Council.
QUESTION: At the same time, while the talks continue in Benghazi – sorry, in – while the talks continue in New York about the resolution, in various European capitals and in Washington, Qadhafi’s forces are advancing on Benghazi. The rebels seem to be losing ground day by day, perhaps hour by hour. If Benghazi falls to Colonel Qadhafi because the U.S. was seen to take its time deliberating, history won’t judge the Obama Administration very kindly, will it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Kim, first of all, I don’t want to engage in hypotheticals. We don’t know what will happen. And secondly, the United States under President Obama is engaged in numerous efforts around the world to ensure peace and stability. And it is important that no one sees the United States acting unilaterally. This is what we were criticized for in the not-so-distant past.
I think President Obama has been very clear. He has said there needs to be action. This man must go. He has lost legitimacy to govern. Let’s get an international consensus as to how we’re going to do that.
There’s a lot in making a decision like that. I give the Arab League an enormous amount of credit to take an action that is aimed at a member of the Arab League; that’s unprecedented. And of course, it takes time to consult and think this through. Now I hope that everybody understands that we don’t want to see countries going off and doing things unilaterally. What we want to see is exactly what is happening – a very thoughtful process. Yes, the timeframe is very short because of what’s at stake. But I believe that we are moving in the right direction and that hopefully there will be a consensus and the United States will be part of that consensus.
QUESTION: When you look at what’s going on in Libya and in Bahrain, it seems to me that – or it seems to a lot of people that the lesson from the Egyptian revolution is quite clear, a lesson that Arab leaders can draw: Don’t give an inch to the protestors, unleash your fire power, or you’re out the door like President Mubarak.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that’s a wrong reading of history. I think the --
QUESTION: But isn’t that what these leaders are doing in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they may be taking short-term measures that will not have the long-term effects they are seeking. I think the situation in Bahrain is alarming. We have made it very clear at the highest levels of the government there that we think they’re on the wrong track, that they need to resume immediately a political dialogue. We deplore the use of force against demonstrators, and we deplore the use of force by demonstrators. We want a peaceful resolution. We also would remind the Bahraini Government to protect medical facilities and to facilitate treatment of the injured, and we have called on our friends in the Gulf – four of whom are assisting the Bahrain security efforts – to force through a political solution, not a security standoff.
QUESTION: But they’re your allies, and they’re not listening to you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I wish we could get everybody in the world to do what we ask them to do. I think that would make for a more peaceful world, but countries make their own decisions. But the United States stands very clearly on the side of peaceful protest, nonviolent resolution, political reform. And I think that what happened in Egypt and Tunisia are really the models of what will happen. It may take a little longer, but there is no turning back the tide of democracy and the universal human rights of every person to have freedom and an opportunity to fulfill his or her own dreams.
QUESTION: So what leverage do you still have on countries like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia? They’re your allies. You – they – you train their armies. You supply them with weapons. And yet when the Saudis decided to send troops into Bahrain – and I believe Washington made clear it wasn’t pleased about that – they said, “Don’t interfere. This is an internal GCC matter.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they are on notice as to what we think. And we will intend to make that very clear publicly and privately, and we will do everything we can to try to move this off the wrong track, which we believe is going to undermine long-term progress in Bahrain, to the right track, which is the political and economic track.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for your time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Kim.
QUESTION: Thank you.