[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 11, 1998]
[Pages 354-356]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks Prior to Discussions With United Nations Secretary-General
Kofi Annan and an Exchange With Reporters
March 11, 1998

    President Clinton. Let me begin by saying that I'm delighted that 
the Secretary-General is here. We share a strong commitment to 
curtailing the threat of weapons of mass destruction in general and to 
continuing the work in Iraq. And again let me say how pleased I am at 
the agreement that he worked out with Iraq to continue the inspections, 
as well as the access which has been provided to the UNSCOM inspectors 
which was previously denied. All that is encouraging.
    Now, I think we have to remain vigilant. The last 6 days is not the 
same as the next 6 months, but it's all very hopeful. And the Secretary-
General deserves a lot of appreciation from the United States and from 
all Americans for the work that has been done.

Secretary-General's Agreement With Iraq

    Q. Mr. President, are you both on the same wavelength in terms of 
what would happen if there is a breach in the agreement in the aftermath 
of that implementation? We understand there's some little friction.
    President Clinton. Well----
    Secretary-General Annan. Between the President and me, or the 
President and someone else?
    Q. Between the President and you.
    Secretary-General Annan. I see. Okay.
    President Clinton. Well, over the weekend the Secretary-General said 
he thought that under the resolution there would have to be some 
consultations before any military force could be taken or used. We 
believe that the resolution gives us the authority to take whatever 
actions are necessary. But of course, we would consult. It would be 
unthinkable that we wouldn't do that. We do that all the time anyway. I 
spent an awful lot of time on the telephone with large numbers of world 
leaders in the last several weeks as this difficulty has unfolded, and 

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I'm not sure there is a conflict between our positions.
    Q. What do you think, Mr. Secretary-General?
    Secretary-General Annan. I think what the President has said is 
exactly what I said on television on Sunday. And not only was the 
President himself informed, as you will recall, Mrs.--the Secretary of 
State Albright consulted Council members, Ambassador Richardson, 
Secretary of Defense Cohen--and so there was consultation even this time 
around. So the consultation is an ongoing process and part of the way we 
do business in the international community. And I agree with what the 
President has said.
    Q.  Mr. President, what do you think about Senator Lott's criticism that this agreement is a sellout?
    President Clinton. I just don't believe it is. The agreement on its 
own terms is clearly not a sellout. The agreement on its own terms 
preserves the integrity of the UNSCOM inspections. It does add some 
diplomats to the inspection process in the Presidential sites, but if 
the agreement is complied with--and again, I think the Secretary-General 
did a good job working through these issues over the weekend--then we 
will be able to do what the United States has always wanted, which is to 
complete the inspection process.
    Again, let me say--I know I don't need to beat this dead horse, but 
I think it's worth repeating one more time. I see this issue with Iraq 
in the larger context of the threat I believe will be presented to the 
world for the next few decades from biological and chemical and perhaps 
even, God forbid, small-scale nuclear weapons--a different sort of 
weapons of mass destruction threat than we have faced in the past. And 
world leaders simply have to come to grips with the potential that is 
out there for organized groups--not just nations but terrorist groups, 
narcotraffickers, international criminals--to make and deploy such 
weapons for their own purposes, so that this is very important on its 
own merits. But it's also very important as the first of what I believe 
will have to be a many, many year effort by all peace-loving people to 
deal with this issue.

Independent Counsel's Investigation

    Q.  Mr. President, how would you feel about testifying or talking to 
the grand jury and in some way giving your side of the story in the 
ongoing controversy?
    President Clinton. Well, you know I'm not going to talk about that 
today. I can't. I've got to do the work that the people of this country 
hired me to do, so I can't--I'm not going to discuss that.
    Q. Sir, with your pledge to cooperate fully, as you mentioned when 
this story first broke----
    Secretary-General Annan. I wish you would concentrate on my issues.
    President Clinton. I just don't have anything else to say about it.

Tobacco Legislation/Kosovo

    Q. Sir, are you going to embrace the Conrad bill for tobacco, sir?
    President Clinton. Let me say--I'd like to answer that question and 
then, if I could, I'd like to make one comment about Kosovo before you 
    I have said that the Conrad bill embraces the principles that I feel 
strongly about. I haven't reviewed all of its provisions, and I'm not 
sure exactly what it does, for example, on the tobacco farmer issue, but 
in general I think Senator Conrad has put out a 
very good bill. And what I hope will happen is that either his bill will 
attract bipartisan support or that it will lead to a bipartisan bill 
reflecting the principles that I've outlined in the tobacco settlement--
for the tobacco settlement.
    I personally believe, even though there are now less than 70 
scheduled work days left in this year, that Congress ought to have no 
higher priority than to get this done. We need to do this and get this 
behind us. There are a thousand lives a day on the line. We do not need 
to wait until next year.
    Let me just make one comment if I might about Kosovo, because the 
Secretary of State has just returned 
from an arduous trip. The United States and I condemn in the strongest 
possible terms excessive violence that has led to the death of innocent 
civilians there. We believe the cause of it is the inadequate response 
by the Serbian Government to the legitimate concerns of the Albanian 
minority in Serbia, but majority in Kosovo.
    I believe that the decision that the Secretary and other world leaders reached in the last few days, the 
reimposition of the sanctions, and the strong statements that were made 
coming out of the Contact Group, and the unity of the

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countries gives us some hope that we can resolve this. But this is a 
matter of great concern to me; I know it's of great concern to the 
Secretary-General. We do not want the Balkans to have more pictures like 
we've seen in the last few days, so reminiscent of what Bosnia endured. 
And I just want to make it absolutely clear that to me it's a very 
serious issue.
    Secretary-General Annan. I agree.
    Q. [Inaudible]--consider military action, sir, as your Secretary of 
State has said in the past, and others?
    President Clinton. We believe that no option should be ruled in or 
out now. But the Secretary of State, 
along with all of her colleagues--and there's been remarkable unanimity 
on this--they've taken a position that gives us a chance to avoid 
further bloodshed by all parties under all conditions. That's what I 
    Q. Have you been in touch with Milosevic?
    President Clinton. Not directly, I have not.

President's Planned Visit to Africa

    Q. Will you have some travel tips on Africa for the President?
    Secretary-General Annan. I think I'll be discussing a few 
interesting things, and I have one or two ideas that I would want to put 
to the President. I think it's great that he's going to Africa, and I 
think it's good for U.S.-African relationship, and the entire continent 
is excited that for the first time a sitting U.S. President is doing 
this. And it's a sign that U.S.-African relationship is on the upswing. 
And I'm very pleased about that.

Independent Counsel's Investigation

    Q. Mr. President, will the American people hear your version in the 
Lewinsky matter?
    Press Secretary Mike McCurry. Thank you, 
everyone. We're done. And the President has already answered that 
question. Good-bye.
    Q. Do you all----
    Press Secretary McCurry. No, we're done.

Middle East Peace Process

    Q. [Inaudible]--Middle East--[inaudible]?
    President Clinton. Well, we're going to discuss that. I hope it 
will. We're working very hard on that. We're doing everything we can to 
get it back on track. And I hope we can have a chance to talk about it.
    Q. Will this visit have helped in some way?
    President Clinton. It certainly can. It certainly can.

Note: The President spoke at 12:55 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to President Slobodan Milosevic of 
the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro). A tape was 
not available for verification of the content of these remarks.