[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[May 6, 1998]
[Pages 700-706]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 700]]

The President's News Conference With Prime Minister Romano Prodi of Italy
May 6, 1998

    President Clinton. Good afternoon. Please be seated. I have very 
much enjoyed having this opportunity to welcome the Prime Minister to 
Washington again. For more than 50 years Italy has been among our 
closest allies. Today we charted a course to strengthen our cooperation 
for the next 50 years.
    We discussed our common efforts to build an undivided Europe at 
peace. We welcomed the Senate's recent vote on NATO enlargement and hope 
the Italian Parliament will also act favorably soon.
    I thanked the Prime Minister for Italy's contributions in Bosnia and 
more recently in Albania, where Italian troops played a critical role in 
bringing an end to violent unrest. We also discussed our deep concern 
over the situation in Kosovo. The absence of genuine dialog there is 
fueling a conflict that could threaten regional stability. We're working 
urgently to establish unconditional talks that can avert escalating 
violence. But we must and will be ready to substantially turn up the 
pressure on Belgrade should it keep blocking the search for a political 
solution or revert to indiscriminate force.
    I congratulated Prime Minister Prodi on the historic step Italy and 
other EU members took this past weekend on the European Monetary Union. 
I admire the way he has led Italy on a path of fiscal responsibility and 
genuine recovery. I'm confident that a strong Europe with open markets 
and healthy growth is good for America and good for the world.
    We discussed new ideas to reduce the remaining barriers to trade and 
boost prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic. I'm pleased that we've 
agreed to begin the next round of talks on an open skies agreement, with 
the goal of concluding an agreement as soon as possible to bring greater 
choice and better service to our tourist and business travelers alike.
    We're also looking forward to the G-8 Summit in Birmingham, where 
we'll take the next steps in preparing our nations for both the 
opportunities and the challenges of the future.
    As to the challenges, from terrorism to drug trafficking, from 
international crime to environmental damage, threats that disregard 
national borders demand international responses. Italy has been at the 
forefront of international efforts to fight crime. It has led in getting 
the G-8 to join forces in combating crime rings that smuggle illegal 
immigrants for sweatshop labor and for prostitution. This will build on 
the work America and Italy have begun together to fight the horrendous 
international crime of trafficking in women and children. Victims are 
lured with promises of jobs, opportunity, and hope, too often to find 
themselves instead in conditions of virtual slavery and actual physical 
    In Birmingham we'll announce a new joint action plan to crack down 
on crime rings that smuggle immigrants, bring the perpetrators to 
justice, and protect the lives of innocent victims. This is not only 
about public safety, it is about basic human rights.
    The partnership between our two nations is far-reaching. Our 
extensive collaboration in science, technology, and space exploration 
makes that clear. But the friendship is anchored in basic values at the 
core of both our societies: liberty, tolerance, love of family, devotion 
to community and country.
    In closing, let me note that this is the 50th year of the Fulbright 
program between the United States and Italy, a program that has given 
generations of our young people the chance to live with and learn from 
one another. As we celebrate all the ties that bind us, we are looking 
ahead to the next 50 years, to an even stronger and more vibrant 
partnership which will shape a brighter future for all our people.
    Mr. Prime Minister.
    Prime Minister Prodi. Thank you. Very few comments to add to your 
    I enjoyed so much to exchange our views in what I can call the magic 
moment of American-Italian relations. We have no point of disagreement. 
We have--our goal is only to build up a stronger relation and to bring 
them into the future.
    In a moment that is very favorable that we did in the last weekend, 
we concluded one of the most important achievements, never seen in world 
history, to put 11 different currencies

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together. And this will bring, I'm sure--this is my firm opinion--a new 
period of strong growth, very similar to the period that you did in your 
country, President. And it's very rare to see 8 years of continuous 
growth without inflation, with decreasing unemployment, as you did in 
your country, and to think that the euro may give us the same 
possibility for Europe. But Europe needs a renewed set of relations 
between Europe and the United States because this new event needs a new 
organization of our relations.
    So I am very favorable to the proposal of transatlantic--a new set 
of economic and political relations. To this new set, we shall start to 
work immediately and with a realistic program and with a long-range 
    Second, we analyzed our bilateral relations, and this was the 
easiest chapter because there are no fundamental problems of dissent. 
But we also analyzed the hot point of the regional difficulties in the 
Balkan and Mediterranean area. In this, we have not only to act together 
but to have the continuous fine-tuning of our action. Kosovo is a source 
of worry for us. But Bosnia is still there, with all the problems and 
with these long-term solutions that, briefly, you have indicated that we 
are executing together.
    But another point that we analyzed is the Mediterranean area, not 
only the Middle East--that is, of course, the object of our attention--
but the pivotal problem of Turkey, the Greece-Turkish relation, Cyprus, 
and all of that--in the end, the enlargement of the European Union to 
the east and the consequence that this enlargement will bring in world 
    This has been the agenda. And I'm so happy that we could discuss 
this not only in deed but with a strong, strong common commitment.
    President Clinton. Thank you.
    Terry [Terence Hunt, Associated Press], would you like to go first? 
We will alternate. I will call on an American journalist; the Prime 
Minister will call on Italian journalists. We'll just go back and forth.

Court Decision on Executive Privilege

    Q. Mr. President, while the matter remains under seal, lawyers 
familiar with the case say that a Federal judge has denied your 
assertion of executive privilege in the Monica Lewinsky investigation. 
Do you intend to appeal that decision? And what's the difference between 
your case and Richard Nixon's effort to stop the Watergate 
    President Clinton. Well, first of all, as you pointed out, the 
matter is still under seal. And as I've said in all these cases, at 
least one party in every case should follow the judge's orders, 
preferably--it's better if both do. So I can't comment on it. But let me 
remind you, I have asked for the release of the briefs and the pleadings 
in the case so that you and the American people can evaluate my position 
and any differences that exist between that which we have asserted in 
previous assertions of executive privilege. I would also remind you that 
the facts are quite different in this case.
    Q. How so, sir?

Europe-U.S. Relations

    Q. Mr. President, would you consider the four European countries 
part of the G-7 as the more natural counterpart to the U.S., even more 
so now that there is a European Central Bank--not a central political 
authority in Europe? And do you subscribe to the work of President Prodi 
for the launching of a new transatlantic negotiation for a new 
    And for Mr. Prodi, the French President is resisting the idea of 
transatlantic negotiations. Will you take a leadership with that against 
his position?
    President Clinton. Well, the answer to your second question to me, 
would I support the launching of new negotiations to broaden our 
partnership, the answer to that is yes.
    I think the proper answer to your first question is that from the 
day I took office, I have supported increasing unity within Europe and 
any specific step that the Europeans might decide for themselves to 
take, including a common currency. And what I want is a strong, united 
Europe that is our partner in dealing with the challenges and in seizing 
the opportunities of the 21st century world. That's what I look forward 
to. I think that is one of the legacies I would like to leave when I 
leave office in 2001. So for me, this is a positive step, these things 
which are happening now.
    Q. I'm sorry, on the G-7 though, Mr. President, I mean, there is no 
counterpart to the European Central Bank----
    President Clinton. Well, on the G-7 we all--in the G-7, we operate 
by consensus, so it's not like--we do everything together anyway.

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    Prime Minister Prodi. On my side, it's true that the French oppose 
it at the present time, the negotiation. But they didn't oppose the 
general idea. They opposed the specific proposal, and we decided to go 
on. We decided that we must make a very concrete, step-by-step approach. 
We have a lot of things that we can deal with unanimity now, but we have 
decided that this is one of the most important issues, not because of 
Far East crisis but because of the future of humanity. We think that the 
relations between Europe and the United States are still the foundation 
of the world peace. This is what we told, and so we will have to 
accompany them with increasing economic and political relations.
    From the point of view of the transatlantic negotiation, we shall 
find concrete steps to start immediately for the negotiation. I can't 
take the initiative alone, because I am part of the European Union, but 
I am happy to start this type of pressure in order to convince all my 
colleagues to have a quick starting of this negotiation.
    I want to express also my gratitude--I already have done in another 
interview--to President Clinton, to the American people, for the 
attitude they had during this process of monetary union. It's completely 
infrequent to be so clear, so transparent, not to put any obstacle, any 
suspicion in this--such a big change--it will be a change also for 
American policy. This is enormous change in the world economy. And this 
is, I think, the real meaning of what is a long-term friendship.
    President Clinton. Lori [Lori Santos, United Press International].

Middle East Peace Process

    Q. Sir, Israel's Prime Minister says he won't accept U.S. dictates 
in the Middle East peace process. What will you do if Israel rebuffs the 
U.S. proposal for a 13 percent withdrawal?
    President Clinton. Well, I don't believe Israel or any other country 
should accept the dictates of the United States in a peace process. We 
cannot and we should not attempt to impose a peace on parties because 
they have to live with the consequences. What we have tried to do for a 
good year now is to listen to both parties, look at the situation on the 
ground, understand their respective concerns, and come forward with a 
set of ideas that we believe are most likely to get the parties to final 
status talks.
    Keep in mind, they're supposed to finish these talks a year from 
this month, by their own agreement. Now, the ideas we put forth, as 
Secretary Albright said, were accepted in principle by Mr. 
Arafat. The Prime Minister said he was unable to do so, but he asked that he be 
permitted to go home--not permitted but that he be given time to go home 
and talk through with his Cabinet what might be an acceptable position, 
bring it back to us, and see if we could bring the parties together. 
That is what we are trying to do.
    And keep in mind what we are trying to do. We are not talking about 
here a final settlement of all the outstanding issues between Israel and 
the Palestinians. We are talking about a settlement of sufficient number 
of issues that will permit them to get into the final status talks 
within the framework embodied by the agreement signed here in September 
of '93.
    And the first person to advocate a more rapid movement to the final 
status was Prime Minister Netanyahu. I 
have tried to find a way actually to do what he suggested. He said, 
``The facts have changed. The Government is different. Things are 
different than they used to be. Let's go on and go to final status talks 
and try to resolve all this at once in a package.'' I thought it made a 
lot of sense at the time, and I have done my best for a year now to find 
the formula that would unlock the differences between them to get them 
into those final status talks. That's all I'm trying to do. There's no 
way in the world I could impose an agreement on them or dictate their 
security to them, even if I wished to do that, which I don't, because 
when the agreement is over, whether it's in the Middle East or Ireland 
or Bosnia or anyplace else, they have to live with the consequences.
    Q. Will you go Monday, if it's not--[inaudible]?
    President Clinton. Well, I expect to do--first of all, we are 
working--let's wait and see what, if anything, Prime Minister 
Netanyahu comes back with. Let's wait and 
see, and then see where we are. I hope very much--I would like very much 
if we could get the parties together so they could get into the final 
status talks. I do believe if they could get over this hurdle, if they 
could demonstrate good faith to one another, and then they got in the 
final status talks and everything were on the table, all the outstanding 
pieces, then I think that give-and-take

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would be more likely to produce a final agreement.
    So I'm very anxious to get them over this hill, so they can get into 
discussing the final arrangements. That's one thing I thought Prime 
Minister Netanyahu was right about, but I 
hope that both sides will help us get there. That's what we're trying to 

Italy's Role in the United Nations

    Q. President Clinton, you have been praising Italy as a faithful 
ally of the United States. Now Italy is also a major contributor of the 
United Nations. Do you think that your Government would support a reform 
of the U.N. Security Council which would give Italy a bigger role?
    President Clinton. Well, we would support an expansion of the 
Security Council with the membership still to be determined. I don't 
think we can dictate it all. And we would support other efforts to give 
Italy a larger role, generally. First of all, let me say that as long as 
I have been President, for 5 years, the Italians have been as 
forthcoming as any country in being willing to make contributions to 
solving our common problems, whether it's in Bosnia or the Former 
Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or now in Albania, where you took the 
initiative. And all we had to do, if you will, was to sit on the 
sidelines and cheer you on and try to be supportive.
    Then, in the government of Prime Minister Prodi, we see a remarkable 
strength and cohesion and singularity of purpose, which has led to a 
marked improvement in your economic situation, early entry into the 
European Monetary Union. So I think the prospects for greater roles of 
leadership for Italy in many, many different forums are quite good. And 
I would support that. I think that Italy can justifiably say, ``We 
should be a part of more and more of these decisionmaking bodies because 
we're making a bigger contribution.'' And in general, I think that's a 
positive thing.
    Randy [Randy Mikkelsen, Reuters], you have a question?

U.S. Forces in the Persian Gulf

    Q. Mr. President, there are reports today that the United States has 
cut the level--cut its aircraft carriers in the Gulf from two to one. 
What does that say about the level of threat in the region and the state 
of U.S. relations with Iraq? And what can you say about reports that 
morale among U.S. troops there is at an all-time low?
    President Clinton. Well, we have sent--the Eisenhower is sailing on 
schedule, as you probably know. And there's been some speculation about 
the timetable there, but I can tell you that I have not--Secretary 
Cohen has not recommended a final decision 
to me on this, and I have certainly not made one, and we've done our 
best to keep all of our options open.
    The main thing I want to reaffirm is our determination to see the 
United Nations resolutions complied with and the inspection regime 
continue until it finishes its work. But no final decision has been made 
on that yet.
    Q. And the morale issue, sir?
    President Clinton. I can't really comment on that. I think you 
should talk to Secretary Cohen about that 
to see if he agrees with the assessment of it.
    But one of the things that we recognize is that as we ask more and 
more and more of our men and women in uniform and they have longer 
deployments, we're going to have to work harder to make sure they get 
adequate support and their families back home get adequate support in 
order to keep morale high. I can't comment on the specific assertion 
because I'm not sure that it's so. But I am sure that our men and women 
in uniform, because we have so many responsibilities in so many parts of 
the globe, are called upon to do quite a lot and be away from home base 
for extended periods of time. And that puts a bigger responsibility on 
those of us who make these decisions, beginning with me, to do 
everything we can to give them the support they need and to make sure 
their families are taken care of.

U.S. Aircraft Incident in the Italian Alps

    Q. Prime Minister Prodi, are you satisfied with the way the American 
authorities are dealing with the accident in the Italian Alps?
    Prime Minister Prodi. Since the first moment when I called 
personally President Clinton, I found a very warm and prompt response to 
the problem. And I have to thank Ambassador Foglietta, who is here, 
who--he understood immediately how big was our sorrow, how deep was our 
regret. And the following evolution of the problem--they've always kept 
with a daily communication between the American Government and the 
Italian authorities. So I am waiting for the future development of the 
case, but I've

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seen a deep involvement of the American political authorities.
    President Clinton. I'd like to just make a brief comment about that. 
This was a horrible human tragedy. I can't even describe how I felt the 
first moment I heard about it, and----
    Prime Minister Prodi. I do remember your call.
    President Clinton. My regret is profound. Since that time, we have 
done everything we could both to cooperate with the Italian Government 
in the investigation into the case and to handle the disposition of the 
charges, as well as the treatment of the families of the victims, in 
accordance with the agreements signed between our two countries and to 
be as faithful to it as we could. And we will continue to do that.
    I regret terribly what happened. And I cannot bring back the people 
who perished, but I will do my best to make sure that we behave in a 
completely honorable way, in a way that is completely consistent with 
the commitments we have made.
    Stewart [Stewart Powell, Hearst Newspapers].


    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to ask you about Cuba for a 
    President Clinton. Go ahead, I'm sorry.
    Q. Your former Atlantic Commander, Jack Sheehan, came back from a 
visit to Cuba--he spent a week there, spent 8 hours with Fidel Castro 
and returned with--seeing opportunities for some rapprochement with 
Castro. I wonder if you're now willing to undertake some steps to ease 
the embargo or take additional steps to provide humanitarian relief in 
Cuba, and secondly, whether you're willing to undertake any steps to 
dismantle or ease the defense perimeter around Guantanamo Bay as a 
symbolic gesture toward Cuba at this moment?
    President Clinton. Well, in the aftermath of the Pope's visit to Cuba, I did take some steps which I hope 
would send the right signal to the Cuban people--[inaudible]--in the 
hopes that it would help to support a move toward a civil society there. 
As you know, what further steps I could take are clearly circumscribed 
by the passage of the Helms-Burton Act. And furthermore, there have been 
mixed signals coming out of the actions of the Government in Cuba since 
then about whether they really wish to have a rapprochement that is more 
than government to government and maybe trade to trade but also includes 
what our real concern is.
    Our real concern is for the people of Cuba: Can we move the society 
toward freedom and human rights and a democratic system? These things 
don't have to be done overnight, but then again, they have to be done. 
There has to be some clear signal.
    I understand the desire of the Cuban Government to keep its health 
care system, to keep its commitment to universal literacy to even its 
poorest citizens. That's a commendable and laudable thing. But I do not 
accept, nor can I ever accept, some of the antidemocratic and, frankly, 
clearly anti-human-rights policies of the Government. So we have to have 
some basis for doing more, especially given the constrictions of the 
law. Now, nothing would make me happier than to see some basis for doing 
more. I think all Americans would like to be reconciled with Cuba 
because of our ties of blood in this country and because of its 
proximity to us.

Capital Punishment

    Q. Mr. President, you have spoken of the common values that unify 
our two countries, but there is one big issue that is opening an ever-
widening gap between the two countries, and it has a lot to do with 
values, and it is the issue of the death penalty. And I was wondering, 
because this issue is seen with tremendous sensitivity in our country, 
if you could give us a sense of what your personal feelings are on this 
issue. And I hope Mr. Prodi might want to add his own comment.
    President Clinton. Well, first of all, I do not believe that our 
different views on the death penalty should drive a wedge between our 
two countries, since that is a matter of essentially domestic, not 
foreign, policy and since in our country criminal defendants are given 
extensive procedural protections to avoid abuse as well as extensive 
rights of appeal.
    I support capital punishment under certain circumstances. The law in 
our country is that for most cases involving murder, it is up to the 
States of our Republic to decide whether to have the death penalty. Some 
States do have the death penalty, and some States don't. It is a 
question of State law. There are a few crimes on the Federal books for 
which capital punishment can occur. But it's, by and large, most of the 
cases--the great majority of the cases are matters of local law, State 
law in our

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country. And unless the Supreme Court were to reach a contrary decision 
and invalidate all death penalty laws, which it has explicitly refused 
to do, under our Constitution it would remain that way.
    Prime Minister Prodi. From my point of view, I belong to a country 
which the death penalty has been abolished since a long time. It is in 
the roots of our tradition, of our values, of our society not to have 
it, and I stick on it.
    President Clinton. Wolf [Wolf Blitzer, CNN].

Hubbell and 
McDougal Indictments

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President--Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. President. Mr. 
President, since your last news conference, Ken Starr has indicted 
Webster Hubbell and Susan McDougal once again. And at the same time 
Congressman Dan Burton has released all these prison tapes involving 
Webster Hubbell and his wife and his lawyer and others. I wonder how you 
would assess all of this in light of the problems that you and your 
supporters are facing as this investigation into the Monica Lewinsky 
matter continues to escalate and perhaps reach some sort of conclusion 
sooner rather than later. Obviously your thoughts on all of this would 
be interesting to all of us. [Laughter]
    President Clinton. Well, I think it was clearly a violation of 
privacy of Mr. and Mrs. Hubbell for the tapes to be released. And I 
think virtually everyone in America now recognizes it was wrong to 
release selected portions of the tapes, apparently to create a false 
impression of what the whole record indicated.
    On the other matters you mentioned, the parties have spoken for 
themselves about what they think was behind it, and I can't really add 
anything to that.


    Q. Mr. President, did you discuss the eventuality to send troops to 
    And to Mr. Prodi, is our country available to send troops to Kosovo?
    President Clinton. I suppose the literally accurate answer to your 
question is we did not discuss that. But I have made it clear, and I 
believe we have made it clear between us, that, at least from my point 
of view, no option should be ruled out. We do not want another Bosnia in 
Kosovo. Too many people have died there already in indiscriminate 
violence. And of course, it happened very quickly. Neither, however, do 
we want to get in the position where Italy has to send troops to every 
one of its neighboring countries and the United States has to send 
troops every time there's a dispute in that part of the world.
    But I don't think we can rule out any option, because we don't want 
another Bosnia to happen, and we don't want--both in terms of the human 
loss of life or in terms of the regional instability. So I wouldn't rule 
out any option. But I think the most important thing is to keep the 
carrots and the sticks we have on the table and for a genuine dialog to 
    Look, this is not--we have a saying in America sometimes--this is 
not rocket science. You've got a part of Serbia which is 90 percent 
Albanian, and they want some kind of autonomy and to have their 
legitimate concerns addressed. The Serbs don't want to give up a big 
part of their country which they believe and is legally part of their 
country. So they obviously need to sit down and talk through how the 
legitimate aspirations of the Kosovo Albanians can somehow be manifest 
in giving them some measure of self-government and decisionmaking 
authority over their lives within the framework of Serbia. There are 50 
different ways this could be worked out in a humane, legitimate way. 
They do not have to kill each other to get this done, and they should 
not do that.
    Prime Minister Prodi. I completely agree, but probably the question 
was not put in the right way. The problem is not to send troops in the 
general way, but there is the problem of how to protect the border in 
order to avoid in the short term the problem of smuggling weapons from 
one side to the other one. Even this option is dangerous because, in 
some ways, whenever you send troops, you send hostages, potential 
hostages, to the situation.
    But as President Clinton told, we didn't rule out any solution. We 
are just making an effort to arrive to a peaceful solution. And also we 
had a long conversation concerning the possibility of helping the 
civilian recovery of Kosovo in this difficult situation, in which Kosovo 
has been abandoned in some ways. But of course, you can't rule out 
anything now.
    President Clinton. Thank you all.

Note: The President's 158th news conference began at 1:50 p.m. in Room 
450 of the Old Executive Office Building. During the news conference, 
the following persons were referred to: President

[[Page 706]]

Jacques Chirac of France; Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian 
Authority; Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel; Thomas M. 
Foglietta, U.S. Ambassador to Italy; Gen. John J. Sheehan, USMC (Ret.), 
former commander in chief, U.S. Atlantic Command; President Fidel Castro 
of Cuba; and former Associate Attorney General Webster L. Hubbell, and 
his wife, Suzanna, Deputy Director of External Affairs, Department of 
the Interior.