Remarks of the President on Situation in Middle East (10/12/00)
                                THE WHITE HOUSE

                         Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release              October 12, 2000

                           STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
                            ON MIDDLE EAST SITUATION
                       AND INCIDENT ON USS COLE IN YEMEN

                                        The Rose Garden

1:47 P.M. EDT

          THE PRESIDENT:  I have just been meeting with my national security
team on today's tragic events in the Middle East, and I would like to make a
brief statement.

          First, as you know, an explosion claimed the lives of at least four
sailors on one of our naval vessels, the USS Cole, this morning.  Many were
injured; a number are still missing.  They were simply doing their duty.  The
ship was refueling in a port in Yemen while en route to the Persian Gulf.  We're
rushing medical assistance to the scene, and our prayers are with the families
who have lost their loved ones or are still awaiting news.

          If, as it now appears, this was an act of terrorism, it was a
despicable and cowardly act.  We will find out who was responsible and hold them
accountable.  If their intention was to deter us from our mission of promoting
peace and security in the Middle East, they will fail, utterly.

          I have directed the Department of Defense, the FBI and the State
Department to send officials to Yemen to begin the investigation.  Secretary
Albright has spoken with President Salih of Yemen, and we expect to work closely
with his government to that effect.

          Our military forces and our embassies in the region have been on
heightened state of alert for some time now.  I have ordered our ships in the
region to pull out of port, and our land forces to increase their security.

          Tensions are extremely high today throughout the entire region, as all
of you know.  I strongly condemn the murder of Israeli soldiers in Ramallah
today.  While I understand the anguish Palestinians feel over the losses they
have suffered, there can be no possible justification for mob violence.  I call
on both sides to undertake a cease-fire immediately, and immediately to condemn
all acts of violence.

          Finally, let me say this.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of
the greatest tragedies and most difficult problems of our time.  But it can be
solved.  The progress of the last few years -- progress that brought Israel to
the hope of a final peace with true security, and Palestinians to the hope of a
sovereign state recognized by the entire world -- was not made through violence.
It happened because both sides sat down together, negotiated, and slowly built
up the trust that violence destroys.

          Now is the time to stop the bloodshed, to restore calm, to return to
dialogue, and ultimately to the negotiating table.  The alternative to the peace
process is now no longer merely hypothetical.  It is unfolding today before our
very eyes.

          Now, I need to go back to work on this, and so I won't take questions
right now.  But the Department of Defense will offer a briefing today and will
be able to answer the questions that are relevant to today's events.

          Thank you.

                         END           1:52 P.M. EDT

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