New Secretary of State Goes Right to Work
By Thomas W. Lippman
Madeleine K. Albright was sworn in yesterday as secretary of state and went right to work, joining President Clinton in a meeting with Kofi Annan, the new secretary general of the United Nations, whose election she helped engineer, and receiving a 90-minute briefing on relations with China.
Albright, the first woman to hold the highest position in the Cabinet, was confirmed 99 to 0 by the Senate Wednesday.
"I thank the Senate for its swift and unanimous approval of her nomination," Clinton said at a White House swearing-in ceremony. "That reflects the confidence all of us have in this remarkable American. It also sends a strong signal of the Senate's willingness to work with us to fashion a constructive and bipartisan foreign policy to advance the national interests of America."
In response, Albright said she begins her tenure "with the wind at my back" and pledged to pursue a vigorous, outspoken foreign policy to advance U.S. interests.
One of Albright's first tasks is to complete the lineup of undersecretaries and assistant secretaries who will form her top echelon of State Department leadership. State Department officials said she already has picked two international affairs veterans for top posts: Thomas R. Pickering to be undersecretary for political affairs, the third-ranking post in the department, and Stuart Eizenstat to be undersecretary for economic affairs.
Pickering, 65, one of the most honored career diplomats of recent times, was ambassador to Jordan, El Salvador, India, Israel, the United Nations and most recently Russia. His appointment is likely to be welcomed by the department's career foreign service officers, who prefer to see one of their own, rather than a political appointee, in a top job.
Eizenstat, a veteran Democratic political operative, was undersecretary of Commerce in Clinton's first term. For much of the past year, he has had the difficult task of persuading U.S. allies in Canada and the Americas to take a more vigorous approach to support for human rights in Cuba.
This seemed to many to be a fool's errand when Eizenstat took it on, but he received some of the credit when the European Union late last year adopted a common policy of tying future economic relations with Cuba to progress on human rights.
Albright may announce additional appointments at her first State Department news conference this afternoon. Timothy E. Wirth, undersecretary for global affairs, is staying on, officials said, as is Jeffrey Davidow, assistant secretary for Latin America. Rick Inderfurth, one of Albright's deputies when she was ambassador to the United Nations, is to be assistant secretary for South Asian affairs, and Stanley Roth, former Asian affairs director at the National Security Council, is to be assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
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