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Clinton Still Expects To Meet With Yeltsin Soon

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Jan. 28) -- While most of the questions directed at President Bill Clinton at today's press conference were on campaign finance reform and the federal budget, he also covered some significant international ground, with comments on U.S. policy toward Russia, China and the Middle East.

Clinton said that despite the continuing health problems of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the White House is still preparing for a Clinton-Yeltsin summit in the "March timeframe."(320K AIFF or WAV sound)

Saying that the two countries have pressing issues to discuss, Clinton outlined a potential agenda for the meeting. "We have to work through the NATO-Russia relationship in connection with expansion and other issues," he said. "We have a lot of other security issues. We have to deal with the START II [arms control] issues and where we go after START II. We have a lot of economic issues that are still to be resolved."


In a reference to rumors that Yeltsin's health may be worse than the Russian government is saying, Clinton said, "I have no private information that is inconsistent with the public statements of the Russian government on President Yeltsin's health."

Asked about human rights in China, Clinton admitted that not enough progress has been made, but said he still believes that the U.S. policy of constructive engagement is the best one.

A human rights report scheduled to come out next week indicates there are no active dissidents left in China, because all have either fled the country or are in prison.

Clinton commented on the report, saying, "It does not mean that if we had followed a policy of isolating ourselves from China, when no one else in the world was prepared to do that, that we would have gotten better results." (224K AIFF or WAV sound)

Political reform in China, Clinton said, is "inevitable."

"They're going through some significant changes themselves within their country -- economic and political changes," he said. "And I believe that the impulses of the society and the nature of the economic change will work together along with the availability of information from the outside world to increase the spirit of liberty over time."

The president did discourage China from clamping down on Hong Kong citizens' civil liberties when the mainland regains control later this year. "I'm not so sure that [the society and economy of Hong Kong] can exist, with all of its potential to help China modernize its own economy and open opportunities for its own people, if the civil liberties of the people are crushed," he said. (256K AIFF or WAV sound)


On the Middle East, the president hedged when asked about the level of cooperation extended by Saudi Arabia following the June 25 attack on a U.S. barracks in Dhahran. While Saudi officials have been helpful in relocating American personnel, aid with the investigation has been slower.

"The Saudi government has assured us that from the very highest levels that they would get answers to those questions. And so I expect that to happen," Clinton said. (256K AIFF or WAV sound)

When asked to comment on the Middle East peace talks, Clinton said that the U.S. will have a continued role in the process as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat, King Hussein of Jordan and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are all scheduled to come to Washington, D.C. during the next few months.

The president stressed the importance of bringing Syria to the table. "There will never be a comprehensive peace in the Middle East until we resolve this matter with Syria -- between Syria and Israel -- and that requires the willingness of the parties," he said.

Clinton cautioned that the U.S. can not solve the region's problems, saying, "If they're not sure it's time to make peace, no matter how close it seems to an outsider, we don't seem to be able to bridge the gap."

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