President Clinton Meets with UN Secretary General Annan

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 11, 1998


The Oval Office

12:55 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Let me begin by saying that I'mdelighted that the Secretary General is here. We share a strongcommitment to curtailing the threat of weapons of mass destruction ingeneral and to continuing the work in Iraq. And again let me say howpleased I am at the agreement that he worked out with Iraq tocontinue the inspections, as well as the access which has beenprovided to the UNSCOM inspectors which was previously denied. Allthat is encouraging.

Now, I think we have to remain vigilant. The last sixdays is not the same as the next six months, but it's all veryhopeful. And the Secretary General deserves a lot of appreciationfrom the United States and from all Americans for the work that hasbeen done.

Q Mr. President, are you both on the same wavelengthin terms of what would happen if there is a breach in the agreementin the aftermath of that implementation? We understand there's somelittle friction.


SECRETARY GENERAL ANNAN: Between the President and me,or the President and someone else?

Q Between the President and you.


THE PRESIDENT: Well, over the weekend the SecretaryGeneral said he thought that under the resolution there would have tobe some consultations before any military force could be taken orused. We believe that the resolution gives us the authority to takewhatever actions are necessary. But, of course, we would consult.It would be unthinkable that we wouldn't do that. We do that all thetime anyway. I spent an awful lot of time on the telephone withlarge numbers of world leaders in the last several weeks as thisdifficulty has unfolded, and so I'm not sure there is a conflictbetween our positions.

Q What do you think, Mr. Secretary General?

SECRETARY GENERAL ANNAN: I think what the President hassaid is exactly what I said on television on Sunday. And not onlywas the President himself informed, as you will recall, Mrs. -- theSecretary of State Albright consulted Council members, AmbassadorRichardson, Secretary of Defense Cohen -- and so there wasconsultation even this time around. So the consultation is anongoing process and part of the way we do business in theinternational community. And I agree with what the President hassaid.

Q Mr. President, what do you think about SenatorLott's criticism that this agreement is a sellout?

THE PRESIDENT: I just don't believe it is. Theagreement on its own terms is clearly not a sellout. The agreementon its own terms preserves the integrity of the UNSCOM inspections.It does add some diplomats to the inspection process in thepresidential sites, but if the agreement is complied with -- andagain, I think the Secretary General did a good job working throughthese issues over the weekend -- then we will be able to do what theUnited States has always wanted, which is to complete the inspectionprocess.

Again, let me say -- I know I don't need to beat thisdead horse, but I think it's worth repeating one more time. I seethis issue with Iraq in the larger context of the threat I believewill be presented to the world for the next few decades frombiological and chemical and perhaps even, God forbid, small-scalenuclear weapons -- adifferent sort of weapons of mass destructionthreat than we have faced in the past. And world leaders simply haveto come to grips with the potential that is out there for organizedgroups -- not just nations, but terrorist groups, narco traffickers,international criminals -- to make and deploy such weapons for theirown purposes. So that this is very important on its own merits. Butit's also very important as the first of what I believe will have tobe a many, many-year effort by all peace-loving people to deal withthis issue.

Q Mr. President, how would you feel about testifyingor talking to the grand jury and in some way giving your side of thestory in the ongoing controversy?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know I'm not going to talkabout that today. I can't. I've got to do the work that the peopleof this country hired me to do, so I can't -- I'm not going todiscuss that.

Q Sir, with your pledge to cooperate fully, as youmentioned when this story first broke --

SECRETARY GENERAL ANNAN: I wish you would concentrateon my issues.

THE PRESIDENT: I just don't have anything else to sayabout it.

Q Sir, are you going to embrace the Conrad bill fortobacco, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me say -- I'd like to answer thatquestion and then, if I could, I'd like to make one comment aboutKosovo before you leave.

I have said that the Conrad bill embraces the principlesthat I feel strongly about. I haven't reviewed all of its provisionsand I'm not sure exactly what it does, for example, on the tobaccofarmer issue, but, in general, I think Senator Conrad has put out avery good bill. And what I hope will happen is that either his billwill attract bipartisan support or that it will lead to a bipartisanbill reflecting the principles that I've outlined in the tobaccosettlement -- for the tobacco settlement.

I personally believe, even though there are now lessthan 70 scheduled work days left in this year, that Congress ought tohave no higher priority than to get this done. We need to do thisand get this behind us. There are a thousand lives a day on theline. 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 arduoustrip. The United States and I condemn in the strongest possibleterms excessive violence that has led to the death of innocentcivilians there. We believe the cause of it is the inadequateresponse by the Serbian government to the legitimate concerns of theAlbanian minority in Serbia, but majority in Kosovo.

I believe that the decision that the Secretary and otherworld leaders reached in the last few days, the reimposition of thesanctions, and the strong statements that were made coming out of theContact Group, and the unity of the countries gives us some hope thatwe can resolve this. But this is a matter of great concern to me; Iknow it's of great concern to the Secretary General. We do not wantthe Balkans to have more pictures like we've seen in the last fewdays so reminiscent of what Bosnia endured. And I just want to makeit absolutely clear that to me it's a very serious issue.


Q -- consider military action, sir, as your Secretaryof State has said in the past, and others?

THE PRESIDENT: We believe that no option should beruled in or out now. But the Secretary of State, along with all ofher colleagues -- and there's been remarkable unanimity on this --they've taken a position that gives us a chance to avoid furtherbloodshed by all parties under all conditions. That's what I want.

Q Have you been in touch with Milosevic?

THE PRESIDENT: Not directly, I have not.

Q Will you have some travel tips on Africa for thePresident?

SECRETARY GENERAL ANNAN: I think I'll be discussing afew interesting things, and I have one or two ideas that I would wantto put to the President. I think it's great that he's going toAfrica, and I think it's good for U.S.-African relationship, and theentire continent is excited that for the first time a sitting U.S.President is doing this. And it's a sign that U.S.-Africanrelationship is on the upswing. And I'm very pleased about that.

Q Mr. President, will the American people hear yourversion in the Lewinsky matter?

MR. MCCURRY: Thank you, everyone. We're done. And thePresident has already answered that question. Good-bye.

Q Do you all --

MR. MCCURRY: No, we're done.

Q -- Middle East -- (inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we're going to discuss that. Ihope it will. We're working very hard on that. We're doingeverything we can to get it back on track. And I hope we can have achance to talk about it.

Q Will this visit have helped in some way?

THE PRESIDENT: It certainly can. It certainly can.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

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