[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[March 11, 1998]
[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
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
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.
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
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
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
Press Secretary Mike McCurry. Thank you,
everyone. We're done. And the President has already answered that
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.