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U.S. aims to limit casualties in Iraq, Albright tells group

A day after hecklers tried to drown her out, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told a more subdued college audience Thursday the United States wants to limit civilian casualties if it decides to bomb Iraq.

She said the U.S. will use force if diplomacy fails to persuade Saddam Hussein to open his weapons sites to full inspection."We are going to do our utmost not to have civilian casualties," said Albright, a former university professor. "There will be some. We have selected our targets very carefully."

In Washington, President Clinton said Saddam should not be emboldened by Wednesday's raucous dissent. "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."

The gathering at Tennessee State University sharply contrasted with a forum at Ohio State University in Columbus, where hecklers tried to drown out Albright, Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Sandy Berger, the national security adviser.

Albright on Thursday condemned Saddam as a tyrant who threatens his neighbors and used chemical weapons against his own people. "He's a repeat offender," she said. "Ultimately, biology will work and he will disappear. We sure would like to deal with a different regime. But until that happens we will keep him in his box."

A few protesters were outside, including one with a sign that said, "Spare Iraq's children." Inside, some students were not convinced that the United States should use force.

"From what I hear, it is a political ploy. She is dodging the question," said Jonathan Little, a junior from Nashville. "The issue of women and children has not been brought across."

Constance Carlisle, a junior from Toledo, Ohio, told a reporter, "Force may be necessary now, but I think it could have been avoided if we had been tougher" with Saddam in the Persian Gulf War seven years ago.

Albright was to speaking later at the University of South Carolina.

"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.

"We know what we have to do," Albright said. 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.

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. The majority of the students, faculty and others in the audience did listen.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is going to Baghdad to pursue a diplomatic solution where Russia, France and the Arab League all have failed.