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LAS VEGAS – Women and current events-from the worldwide war on terrorism to U.S. corporate scandals-took center stage at the 2002 annual meeting and convention of the California/Nevada Credit Union Leagues. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and former Securities and Exchange Acting Chairman Laura Unger headlined the three-day event held at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel. Although league officials noted the speakers had been signed well in advance of the conference, current world events made their presentations even more timely and relevant, they said. Both Bhutto and Albright addressed the issue of terrorism. Bhutto, in response to a question from the audience, said she believed Osama bin Laden was still alive. Her comment came just one day after U.S. officials suggested that an audiotape of the man believed to be the mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States might be authentic. U.S. intelligence officials last week confirmed the tape was made by bin Laden. “I do feel that Osama bin Laden is alive and feel that he poses a danger to my country,” Bhutto said in a keynote address Wednesday, Nov. 13. She dodged the question, however, when asked where she thought bin Laden might be hiding, but hinted he could be in Pakistan. “That’s a tough question to answer because if I speak what I fear in my heart then that country would surely be accused of harboring Osama bin Laden and would be a target . . .” she said. “So I would rather see that he’s in the no-man’s land between Pakistan and Afghanistan.” In her speech, Bhutto outlined her achievements after she was elected in 1988 as the first woman prime minister of an Islamic country. She made no mention of the corruption charges that forced her from office two years later. She was re-elected in 1993 but her government was ousted again three years later on corruption charges. “My government was making dramatic progress in containing terrorism but moderation and progress is not what the extremists and military hardliners could tolerate,” she said. “I was their threat and I was eliminated.” “I’d really like to be part of the decision making process in Pakistan to counter the terrorists and militants who I fear may seek to reassemble and regroup in Pakistan,” she added. Albright, who wrapped up the convention with a luncheon speech Thursday, Nov. 14, warned of the long road ahead if the U.S. launches an attack on Iraq. While she said she supported President Bush on the “why” of a war with Iraq, she questioned what would happen afterwards. She also questioned the link the Bush administration has attempted to make between Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda and terrorism. “If this tape by Osama bin Laden is real, then it is very evident that we have barely begun the fight against terrorism,” Albright said. “I have a little bit of trouble putting that link that has been made between Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and Iraq. I know there’s been a massive effort to make that link. I know I haven’t quite seen it. That doesn’t mean that Saddam Hussein is not supporting terrorism. But that particular link, I think, is a little hard to make.” Even so, Albright said Bush has made a strong case-which she said she supports-to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. “I could have given the same speech at the United Nations . the why I understand. My problem has been the what . what happens the day after.” “What I would foresee is a long-term American or some kind of long-term protectorate taking over with us staying there for a very long time, at a cost which is very hard to estimate,” she said. “I’ve heard numbers between $50 billion and $200 billion. I think one of the issues here is the American public should be asking many many more questions about what happens the day after, the `what.’” She said some of that questioning has been stifled by people out of fear of appearing unpatriotic. “There’s been some criticism of those who have asked questions as being unpatriotic,” she said. “And I actually think it’s unpatriotic not to ask questions. I think as a citizen my main responsibility is to ask questions. I think we need to find a little bit more about the `what.’” Albright also touched on some of the world’s other trouble spots including Afghanistan, Israel and North Korea and the ongoing threat of terrorism. “I think in a nutshell what we have to do when we look at the world is apply the motto of the credit union movement, `people helping people’ to all that we do,” she said to enthusiastic applause. “That motto serves so well whether we are fighting terrorism or whether we are supporting democracy or whether we are just reaching out to others. People helping people. It reverberates everywhere.” The conference opened with Laura Unger, former SEC acting chairman, who focused on domestic economic issues. They included recent corporate scandals, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the resignation the same day of her speech of William Webster as chairman of a new national board to oversee corporate accountants (CU Times, Nov. 20). -

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