CNN Transcript: Sec. Albright Discusses UN Reform

[CNN’S JOHN] KING: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is calling for a broad reform of the United Nations, including expanding the Security Council and increasing its emphasis on development, security and human rights.

Joining me to discuss Annan’s proposals and more is the former secretary of state and the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright. She’s now with the Albright Group.

Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us. Let’s start from one of the big issues, at least from the United States’ perspective, or the Bush administration’s perspective, in these U.N. reforms. Kofi Annan says he wants to find a more polite way, if you will, for the U.N. to debate and to have an actual mechanism, if there is a question, as there was in Iraq, of whether the United Nations should endorse military force. Can he make that work?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I think it’s difficult. I’m very much in favor of the things that the secretary- general has suggested and the fact that he really has come out with a full reform package.

He did a lot of work in getting opinions from this high level panel, and he’s talked to a lot of people. And so I think he’s come forward with a full package.

But the hardest issue is always about the use of force. And the Security Council is supposed to deal with issues that are threats to peace and security. And I think, for the most part, it would be good if we were able to come to some general agreement about it.

But ultimately, the United States will act unilaterally if it has to. We used to say multilaterally if you can, unilaterally if you must. But I am all for having a discussion about this. I think it’s a very…

KING: Is it a waste of time, though, to try to create a mechanism, like a rules of Congress in which you debate force, or is it just as it’s always going to be, if somebody disagrees, move on?ALBRIGHT: No, but I think it’s a useful thing to have a debate about what is an appropriate use of force, especially when the issue of preemption comes up. I think that the U.N. and international law has made very clear that if there has been a crossing of a border or a real attack, in time, that everybody has a right to use force.

The thing that has made this so much more complicated is the Bush doctrine of preemption, which is really based on having accurate intelligence. And so that is much of what is going to be debated, I think, internationally. And it doesn’t hurt, I think, to have a debate about an issue that’s that important.

KING: As you know, there are many who think that Kofi Annan is part of the problem. And there are ongoing investigations into the oil-for-food program. Paul Volcker, a distinguished American, to further his reporting on that.

Some say that, fairly or unfairly, that Kofi Annan is the leader of a house that is a mess. And that if there is going to be change and reform, he should go, as well. Fair? You know politics as well as diplomacy.

ALBRIGHT: Well, I don’t think it’s fair. I have the highest respect for him. I was very glad when he was elected secretary- general in the first instance. We had a lot to do with that. I think he’s very fine.

This oil-for-food thing is a tragedy. But I think that he is taking this very seriously and not only suggesting reforms that would affect the nation states, who are actually the parts of the United Nations, but also reforms as far as the secretariat is concerned.

And I think he’s in a good position to push the reforms through. But in the end, as he said in his speech to the General Assembly, the countries themselves have to make some very tough decisions. And I think we should give them a chance to fill out his term.