Albright Confirmed Unanimously

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: On a 99-0 vote, the Senate unanimously confirmed Madeleine Albright as Secretary of State. Expected to be sworn in Thursday, Albright will be the highest-ranking woman to serve in any federal government post and the first to serve as the Presidentís chief diplomat. Republican senators limited their criticism to the Clinton foreign policy and schmoozed with the former ambassador to the United Nations, foreign policy hawk Jesse Helms, who never made any secret of his support during the confirmation hearings, calling her "a strong lady, a courageous lady." The honeymoon is likely to be over, however, once Albright gets down to business. Helms, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, already predicted that "as time goes by we're going to disagree." Major bones of contention are U.S. support for the financially-beleaguered UN and funding levels for U.S. foreign policy. "The UN is important and good for the United States," Albright said earlier this week, stressing that standing up for the nation's interests worldwide was not possible "on the cheap." For his part, Helms maintains that the U.S. should quit the UN if it is not streamlined. He likes Albright's tough stance toward rogue leaders like Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro and her support for NATO's eastward expansion. That issue will be up for discussion in July when Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary are expected to start formal negotiations with NATO. Enlarging NATO is also a priority for Senator William Cohen, who was confirmed Wednesday to head the Pentagon. The former Republican congressman told his colleagues in an equally amicable confirmation hearing that the U.S. cannot be "the world's policeman" and should limit its commitment in Bosnia. Instead he called for turning attention to Asia: "Our interests are potentially jeopardized by the danger of instability and rivalry among major regional powers."