President Bill Clinton, Prime Minister Tony Blair Joint News Conference -- Feb. 6, 1998
CLINTON: First let me say that it's been a real pleasure to
welcome my friend, Prime Minister Blair, here to Washington with
the entire British entourage. It continues a great tradition of
partnership between our nations anchored by common values,
driven by common vision, eager to meet the challenges of this
Today, we'll pay tribute to that heritage with a visit to the
FDR Memorial. Earlier in this century, President Roosevelt and
Prime Minister Churchill led the community of free nations that
prevailed in world war. Now on the even of the 21st century,
the prime minister and I seek to shape the peace in a world that
is rich with possibility and promise, but still not free from
We have a very similar outlook on preparing our own countries
for the future. And if I might just take a moment to talk about
the latest economic news.
The strategy we are both working is to prepare all our people
for the Information Age and the global economy.
Today, we have new evidence that strategy is working here.
In the last month, America had 358,000 new jobs --
over a million in the last three months. We're approaching 15
million new jobs in the last five years, with the lowest
unemployment in 24 years. Wages are rising, inflation is low.
The role of government has changed. We have the smallest
percentage of these new jobs in the public sector and the
highest percentage in the private sector in the United States
since the 1920s. By maintaining fiscal discipline, opening more
markets, investing more in our people, we will continue to
expand opportunity and promote prosperity.
We also share a common view of the changes that are occurring
in the world and a belief in the importance of working together
to harness them to the benefit of our people. We've reviewed
our progress in building an undivided Europe, welcoming Hungary,
the Czech Republic and Poland into NATO, forging strong
relations with the new democracies there, including Russia and
Ukraine, helping the parties in Bosnia to fulfill the
requirements of the Dayton peace accord.
Both our nations agree we should take part in a follow-on
security presence when the SFOR mission ends in Bosnia in June.
We reaffirmed our determination to combat modern cross-border
threats, like terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass
destruction. On Iraq, we stand together. Saddam Hussein must
know that we are determined to prevent him from threatening his
neighbors and the world with weapons of mass destruction.
The prime minister and I would both prefer a
genuine diplomatic solution. The best way to stop Saddam from
developing an arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons and the missiles to deliver them is to get the
inspectors back to work with full and free access to all
But let me be clear. If Saddam does not comply with the
unanimous will of the international community, we must be
prepared to act -- and we are.
On Libya, ten years later, we haven't forgotten the victims
of the bombing of Pan Am 103 in the skies over Lockerbie,
Scotland or their loved ones. We'll not rest until Libya
complies with the requirements of the world community and
surrenders for trial in the United States or Scotland the two
Libyans accused of that brutal crime.
We addressed our commitment to advance the cause of peace,
and I welcome Britain's efforts as president of the European
Union to spur greater cooperation in the Middle East peace
process. I also commend the prime minister for his courageous
steps in cooperation with the Irish government to promote a
climate of confidence and hope in Northern Ireland.
The multi-party talks provide the best chance for a real
solution to that conflict....
.... I told the prime minister that we will
continue to do all we can to advance the cause of peace, and of
course, I asked for and received his advice in that regard.
The recent financial crisis in Asia demands action from the
international community. On our increasingly interconnected
planet, trouble in the far end of town can easily become a
plague in our own neighborhood. We agree that every affected
nation must take responsibility for implementing tough reforms
and that other nations, when they do that, when those nations...
We also looked at ways that we could work together to benefit
our people at home.
As president of both the European Union and the
G-7, the United Kingdom will host two important summits in
Birmingham this May. The prime minister has told me he wants to
take these summits to take action that really will make a
difference in our people's daily lives; that lift their horizons
and their dreams, stepping our efforts to combat drug
traffickers and helping every child to grow up in a safe
Shielding our planet from the threat of global warming and
bringing our people the benefits of a growing economy and a
clean environment are important to us as well. It is also
important that we give our people the tools to make the most of
their lives through world-class education and training, help
people to move from welfare to work -- and I applaud the efforts
that the prime minister is making on that -- give them access to
the wonders of the information age.
That is something we talked about yesterday at the Montgomery
Blair High School in Maryland.
And dealing with the question of how to provide
greater security in the retirement years when the baby boom
We finally know that our two nations must continue to work
and to lead the world for security, prosperity and peace.
In 1942, in the midst of the Second World War, President
Roosevelt sent a message to Mr. Churchill that said as follows:
"When victory comes, we shall stand shoulder-to-shoulder in
seeking to nourish the great ideals for which we fight."
Today, on the very of a new century and a new millennium, that
prediction has proved right. America is proud to stand with the
United Kingdom and with Europe and to work with its leader,
Prime Minister Tony Blair, to build an even brighter future.
Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.
The floor is yours.
BLAIR: Thank you, Mr. President.
And can I begin by saying how grateful we have been
for such a wonderful and warm welcome here in the United States
As the president has just indicated, we discussed obviously a
range of different topics. At the top of the list, of course,
was the situation in respect to Iraq. And what we agreed was
that we had to do three things in particular.
We had first of all to make sure that our own public opinion
was properly educated as to why it is so essential that the UN
inspectors are able to do their work. The amount of weapons
that they have already uncovered in the six or seven years that
they have been doing this task, and why it is therefore
absolutely essential that Saddam Hussein is brought back into
line with UN Security Council resolutions and the inspectors can
go about their tasks unhindered.
We ourselves a couple of days ago in Britain published a
document where we listed precisely all the various weapon finds
the inspectors have made.
And when you go through that list and see all the
various attempts there have been to try and prevent the
inspectors carrying out their functions, then I think people can
understand why it is so necessary, so important for us, to be
prepared to take whatever action is necessary to ensure those
inspectors can go back in and fulfill their task.
Secondly, though, in relation to Iraq, it is important that
we stress all the time, of course we want a diplomatic solution.
But it must be a diplomatic solution based on and fully
consistent with the principles that we have set out.
The question of whether there is such a diplomatican be fulfilled.
Thirdly, however, we have of course to prepare, in case
diplomacy cannot work.
In view of the situation, we in Britain have been looking at
our own military readiness in case a diplomatic solution does
not in the end prove possible.
We have decided to base eight Tornado GR-1 aircraft
in Kuwait, with the full agreement of the government of Kuwait.
These are ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft. Their
deployment is a precautionary measure and it will take place
over the next few days.
So, all the way through in respect of Iraq, we've agreed that
we must educate, we must engage in diplomacy, but we also must
In respect of Ireland, I want to place on record yet again my
thanks to the president for all the support he has given us in
searching for a lasting and peaceful political settlement in
As I've found when I've addressed many members of Congress
and the Senate here in Washington, there is tremendous interest
in the United States of America in this process and there is a
great, much appreciated willingness on your part to have that
It isn't going to be easy.
These things never are. But we do believe that we
have the best chance that we have had for many generations to
secure peace. And I wanted to emphasize yet again to you our
total and complete determination and commitment to find a
peaceful way through. With good will and with proper
cooperation and with some trust on all sides, I think it is
And I thank the president for his condemnation of those
sectarian killings that have so disfigured the process over the
past few weeks. And I say yet again what we must ensure is that
those random, brutal, unjustified acts of violence perity of people in Northern
secure a peaceful and stable future for themselves.
We discussed, of course, the Middle East peace process and
Bosnia and our commitment there. We discussed, as the president
has mentioned a moment ago, the global economy, the Asian
crisis, and what measures we should take in order to ensure that
such crises are mitigated and do not happen again.
We also laid out for the president and his colleagues
our strategy as president of the European Union -- our
commitment to insure that monetary union is successfully
launched, our commitment to the enlargement process, bring into
the European Union those countries in Eastern Europe and
And we discussed as well and agreed that it was important
that Europe strengthened its relationship with Turkey, and that
we build a strong relationship with Turkey -- between Turkey and
the European Union -- for the future.
As good and interesting as anything else has been also the
possibility of exchanging ideas -- ideas about how government
meets the economic and social and political challenges of the
I, as I said in my speech this morning at the breakfast
hosted by the vice president -- there is a new Britain being
It is a Britain of confidence, dynamism. It is a
Britain that is proud of its past, but is not living in it, and
is shaping a future of which we can be proud also.
And I think, in exchanging ideas and in seeing how much there
are common themes and common ideas for government between us, we
can gain strength in Britain and the United States from that
partnership and relationship.
And finally, I would like to say personally how tremendously
grateful I've been, as I say not merely for the warmth of the
welcome extended to us here, but for the great comradeship and
partnership between the United States of America and Great
Britain that I know will strengthen and strengthen ever more in
CLINTON: Now, here's what we're going to do. We're going to
alternate. And so I'll call on an American journalist, and the
prime minister will call on a British journalists. And of
course, you are free to ask whomever whatever you please.
QUESTION: Mr. President, despite the ongoing investigation,
you've felt no constraint in saying what your relationship with
Monica Lewinsky is not -- was not.
So it seems by logic that you ought to be able to
say here and now what was your relationship? Her lawyer says --
called it colleagues. Is that an apt description?
CLINTON: Well, let me first of all say once again -- I never
asked anybody to do anything but tell the truth. I know about
the stories today. I was pleased that Ms. Currie's stated
unambiguously this morning -- unambiguously -- that she's not
aware of any unethical conduct.
But this investigation is going on. And you know what the
rules for it are. And I just think as long as it's going on, I
should not comment on the specific questions because there's one
and then there's another, then there's another.
It's better to let the investigation go on and have me do my
job and focus on my public responsibilities and let this thing
play out its course.
That's what I think I should do, and that's what I
intend to do.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) leaving people in the dark.
CLINTON: Well, I'm honoring the rules of the investigation.
And if someone else is leaking unlawfully out of the grand jury
proceeding, that's a different story. I am going to do -- I
have told the American people what I think is essential for them
to know about this and what I believe they want to know. What
I'm doing is going on with my work and cooperating with the
investigation, and I do not believe I should answer specific
questions. I don't think that's the right thing to do now.
QUESTION: Is it not timely to drop the pretense that this is
simply business as usual? Have we not seen, with the
allegations that surrounded the British foreign secretary, but
to a much greater degree yourself, Mr. President, that this does
affect the conduct of public business?
And far from dodging the point as you did, Prime
Minister, yesterday when you were asked about the private lives
of public figures, should you not both be saying that the public
have the right to expect the very highest standard in the
private lives of public politicians?
BLAIR: Well, Michael (ph), I hope we do that. But what I
would say to you is that what is essential is that we focus on
the issues that we were elected to focus upon.
And in the discussions that we have had over this past two
days, we've been focusing on issues like Iraq, where we are
considering, if diplomatic solutions fail, taking military
We've been focusing on the peace process in Northern Ireland
that gives the chance for the first time in generations, after
centuries of conflict, for people to find a way through.
We've been focusing on the problems of the world economy;
that if they're not tackled could have a serious impact on the
living standards of people here and people in Britain, as well
as people out in Asia.
These are the important questions.
For me (ph), schools, hospitals, crime, living
standards, jobs that people want us to focus upon.
And I believe that it is absolutely essential that we stay
focused upon those things and that we deliver for our people
what we were elected to deliver.
Now, that is what I intend to do. And I think that that is,
in the end, what the British people would expect me to do.
QUESTION: Mr. President, switching to Iraq, the prime
minister said that there was a -- you had to educate the public
about Iraq. But I think the American public is lc note, you've got France and China and
Russia opposing this. Boris Yeltsin says that it could lead to
World War III. What gives Britain and the United States the
right to go it alone on this?
CLINTON: Well, you asked about five questions there in one.
Let me try to unpack it.
First of all, the most important thing, the best thing that
could be done, what we hope will happen, is that there will be a
diplomatic solution to this which will result in the inspection
teams for the United Nations being able to return and have
unfettered access to the appropriate sites.
Because as the prime minister, I think, put out a paper just
a couple of days ago, pointing out the incredible work that's
been done by the inspection teams. That's the best thing.
Now, whether there is a diplomatic solution or not is
entirely up to Saddam Hussein.
If he decides that he wants to continue to have the freedom
to rebuild his weapons program, then I believe that the clear
the world community, based on not only the resolutions of the
United Nations but the danger this would present to the
interests and values of the United States, the people of Great
Britain, the people of the region, is to do what we can to
weaken his ability to develop those weapons of mass destruction
and visit them on his neighbors.
You know, I never discuss operational plans. I
wouldn't do that. I think the important thing is that you know
that I don't want this. Nobody wants this. We want a
diplomatic solution. It's up to him.
The second thing I would say is, the secretary of state has
been working very hard in the last several days, has traveled,
as you know, widely. I have been on the phone a lot. I believe
there is more agreement than at first it appears about the
necessity to push this thing through to the end.
And I will continue to talk with President Yeltsin, President
Chirac and others. But consider the alternative. After all,
this man is the only repeat offender around with chemical
He used them on his own people. He used them on the
Iranians. And I believe it's a very serious thing. And I think
that the American people will understand that.
QUESTION: World war, says President Yeltsin.
CLINTON: I just -- I don't understand what chain of
circumstances would lead to that development. I don't believe
that will happen.
QUESTION: In Iraq, you said the need was need to educate,
Prime Minister. It isn't entirely clear what the objective of
military action would be. Is it intended as a punishment for
Saddam Hussein? Is it intended as a substitute for the work of
the weapons inspectors to (OFF-MIKE)? Or would it continue
until Saddam said, right, I'll let them in?
And also, you announced the deployment of some aircraft. Is
there any intention to deploy ground troops at all, British
BLAIR: No. The deployment that we have made is the
deployment that I have described of the aircraft.
And in respect to the objectives, well, the objective is very
That is to ensure either that the weapon inspectors can come
in and finish their task, or that the capability that Saddam
Hussein undoubtedly has and wants to develop for weapons of mass
destruction is taken out.
And it is absolutely essential that what we do is
focus upon the best way possible that we can do that.
Now, obviously, as the president was saying a moment or two
ago, it is not sensible or serious to start discussing the
details of the military options available to us.
But the purpose of this the whole way through, the reason we
are in this situation, is because he has been developing weapons
of mass destruction. The only barrier to that has been the
inspectors. If the inspectors are prevented from doing their
work, then we have to make sure, by the military means of which
we are capable, that insofar as possible that capacity ceases.
And that's the objective.
And it's an objective that I think is fully in line, as I
say, with the original agreements under which Saddam Hussein
undertook. I mean, remember, he agreed, he undertook to destroy
any weapons of mass destruction capability, whether nuclear or
chemical or biological. Now, he's in breach of that and we've
got to make sure that he complies one way or another with it.
QUESTION: Mr. President, just to go back to the controversy
that's been surrounding you lately, there have been various
reports that in some ways have come to be accepted as fact. And
I just want to give you an opportunity.
One of them is that in sworn testimony to the lawyers for
Paula Jones that you changed your version of your relationship
with Gennifer Flowers. And I just wonder if you can tell us, I
mean do you now...
CLINTON: (OFF-MIKE) let me just say this.
Again, even though the judge's order has been routinely
violated by the other side in the case, the judge has issued
strict orders in the case for every -- for -- for -- that covers
everybody, including me, not to discuss it.
I can tell you this -- and I'm confident as this
thing plays out it will become more apparent in the future -- if
you go back -- I told the truth in my deposition with regard to
that issue, and I also did in 1992 when I did the interview,
which I think was rerun the other night -- the interview that
Hillary and I did on 60 Minutes.
And you just have to know that and I think it will become
apparent as this plays itself out that I did, in fact, do that.
But I am not going to discuss that. The judge has given us
strict orders not to discuss anything related to that case. The
other side has violated it on a regular basis. I don't intend
to that. I'm just not going to do it.
QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. President, is it possible
for you to launch an attack if you don't have on board the
French, the Russians, the Chinese?
BLAIR: I think, John, you have to distinguish very carefully
between what, of course I accept -- varying degrees of
enthusiasm or commitment for the military option -- with the
complete unanimity there is in the world community that Saddam
Hussein has to comply with the resolutions and that his capacity
to develop weapons of mass destruction must be halted.
Now it is difficult for us to see -- and for me to see, quite
frankly -- that, if you take that as the position, how diplomacy
unless it is backed up at least by the threat of force is ever
going to work and succeed.
But it would be wrong, I think, to think that either
our -- for example, our French or our Russian colleagues, were
not absolutely insistent that Saddam Hussein comply with these
resolutions. And they are making diplomatic efforts in order to
ensure that that happens. I wish those efforts well, provided
they are fully consistent with the principles that have been set
It is just that we take the view, and I think experience
teaches us that this is the only realistic view of Saddam
Hussein, that unless you back up whatever diplomatic initiatives
you are taking with saying quite clearly, well, if diplomacy
doesn't work, the option of force is there, then those
diplomatic initiatives are unlikely to succeed.
But it's important that we realize that it is in that area
that any difference lies, not in the insistence of the world
community that he must come into line with those UN resolutions.
QUESTION: Mr. President, your spokesman this morning
described to us in his words a very dangerous environment
following these alleged leaks. What's your own assessment of
the legal atmosphere? And we understand that your attorneys are
planning to take some action about this. What action do they
intend to take?
CLINTON: I think you should talk to them. I don't want to
comment on what they are going to do. They are fully capable of
speaking for themselves and for me in this case.
QUESTION: And your comments, sir, on the effect of the
CLINTON: I don't have anything to add to what has already
been said about that.
QUESTION: Could I ask the prime minister, you could have
come here and simply talked about serious politics. But some
people have been struck by the warmth of the personal statements
of support that you've given to the president. Could I ask you
-- I mean, have you ever considered that that might be a
politically risky strategy, and could I ask the president, have
you appreciated those comments from Mr. Blair?
BLAIR: You know, to be quit honest, Phil, I mean, I've said
it because I believed it and because I think it is the right
thing to do. And I've worked with President Clinton now for some
nine months as British prime minister. I have found him
throughout someone I could trust, someone I could rely upon,
someone I am proud to call not just a colleague, but a friend.
And in the end, you either decide in politics you -- when you
are asked about people, you are going to say how you actually
feel, or you're going to make a whole series of calculations.
And my belief is that the right thing to say is what
you feel. And I happen to think if it's, then whether it's my
place to say it or not, that if you look at the American
economy, you look at the respect with which America is held
right around the world today, if you look at the standing and
authority of the president, it's a pretty impressive record for
CLINTON: You asked do I appreciate it? No, I...
He should have come here and jumped all over me. I mean,
BLAIR: Do you want me come back in now?
CLINTON: Of course I do ...
I think the people who stand up and say things that they
believe when it would be just as easy to walk away show a
certain kind of character that I think is essential in a public
leader, and I'm very gratified that Tony Blair has done that.
Not only for personal reasons, but because I think it will
strengthen his authority as a world leader.
QUESTION: Mr. President...
CLINTON: Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Mr. President, all these questions about your
personal life have to be painful to you and your family. At
what point do you consider that it's just not worth it, and do
you consider resigning from office?
CLINTON: Never. You know, I was elected to do a job.
I think the American people know two or three things about me
now that they didn't know the first time this kind of effort was
made against me.
They -- I think they know that I care very much
about them, that I care about ordinary people whose voices
aren't often heard here. And I think they know I have worked
very, very hard for them. And I think they know now more often
than not the ideas I had and the things I fought for turned out
to be right in terms of the consequences for the American
people. I think they know all that.
And I'm just going to keep showing up for work. I'm going to
do what I was hired to do. And I'm going to try to keep getting
good results for them.
The pain threshold, at least for our side, being in public
life today has been raised. But to give into that would be to
give into everything that I fought against and got me into this
race in 1991 to try to run for president in the first place.
I have tried to bring an end to this sort of thing in our
public life. I've tried to bring the American people together.
I've tried to depersonalize politics and take the venom out of
it. And the harder I've tried to do it, the harder others have
pulled in the other direction.
That doesn't mean I'm wrong. And I would -- I would -- I
would never walk away from the people of this country and the
trust they've placed in me.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, this morning you said that the UK
faced two painful years. Could you expound on what you meant by
BLAIR: Yes. I mean, as I was saying to people this morning,
I mean there are some very tough decisions that we have had to
take in order to deal both with the structural budget deficit,
with the inflation that was back in the system that we inherited
when we came to power, and with an education and a welfare
system that frankly is just nowhere where it needs to be for the
And making those changes is going to be tough.
Welfare reform isn't going to be easy. It will be unpopular in
certain quarters. Taking the measures to cure the budget
deficit has been hard when people want more money spent on more
public services and we're saying -- Look, we can't go on with
ever-higher level debt levels and borrowing. We've got to act.
So we've taken the action on interest rates and giving the
Bank of England independence. We've cut the structural
deficits. A balance budget is something we'll be able to talk
about on the other side of the water as well in a few years
We're putting through a massive program of reform on
education and welfare, but it will be tough.
And it will take us some time to get it through. But as I
said this morning, I am an unashamed long-termist. I believe in
making sure that the decisions that we take aren't based on the
next day's headlines, but are based on where we really want the
country to be some years down the line.
And particularly when we're facing such enormous global
economic challenges, we can't afford either to lose a grip on
monetary or fiscal prudence or to leave our education and
welfare system in the state they're in. So, yes, it will be
tough. But it will be worth it in the end.
CLINTON: Let me just make one comment to support something
the prime minister just said -- when he said he was an unashamed
long- termist. In a funny way, when societies change as fast
and as much as our societies are changing today, when the pace
of events and their variety make it more difficult to predict
what will happen next week or next month, it is even more
important to be oriented toward the long term because you have
to figure that if you lay in a structure of opportunity for a
free people, they'll get it right and they'll overcome all these
unpredictable developments in the meanwhile.
And I think that that's why I think the approach that he's
taking is so wise and so right, not only for Great Britain, but
for any other country as well.
QUESTION: Mr. President.
CLINTON: Yes, Mara, go ahead.
QUESTION: I'm wondering if you could elaborate on something
that the first lady said recently about a right-wing conspiracy
who's working against you. Could you explain how that
conspiracy works, and specifically, are Linda Tripp, Ken Starr
and Monica Lewinsky part of that conspiracy?
CLINTON: Now you know I've known her a long time, the first
lady, and she's very smart. And she's hardly ever wrong about
But I don't believe I should amplify on her observation in
QUESTION: Do you agree with it?
BLAIR: Yes, Adam.
QUESTION: One of your common shared themes, you keep on
telling your voters, is this matter of their rights go with
Now you as elected leaders have extraordinary rights and
privileges, yet you seem to be saying that there's no extension
of responsibilities as far as personal integrity is concerned.
Is that what you're really saying? If you're delivering on the
job, the big picture, it doesn't matter what you get up to in
your private life?
BLAIR: Nobody's saying that you don't have obligations of
personal integrity. Of course that's right. But what we are
trying to say to you is the responsibilities with which we were
asked by our people to discharge, those responsibilities are on
the issues where we can affect them as leaders of the country.
You know, if you go to Britain today and you talk to the
British people, and I do ask -- it just could be that sometimes
you guys in the media are not in exactly the same place as a lot
of public opinion in terms of the priorities people have.
But if you go out there and you talk to British people and
you say, what do you want this new Labour government to do?
They will talk to you about ensuring we don't have boom and
bust, but that we have steadily rising living standards.
They'll talk about job security. They'll talk about
the state of their schools, and they'll talk about the national
health service. They'll talk about the welfare system and the
crime in their streets. They'll talk about security in old age.
They will talk about these things and they will care about
these things, and they will expect us to deliver those
And of course it's a great privilege for us to occupy the
positions that we do. But in the end, the judgment that the
people make of us is a judgment based on what we said that we
would do and whether we fulfilled the promises that we made.
And that's certainly what we intend to do.
And I do think also that people understand and want political
leadership that addresses these fundamental questions in a way
that means something to them.
When I was at the Montgomery Blair High School yesterday with
the president, and the president got up and addressed the young
men and women and the teachers and staff and parents that where
there, and started going through the education program that he
was unveiling and had formed part of the State of the Union
address and everything, and some of those things in terms of
class sizes and new technology in the schools were very familiar
to the British contingent here as things that we are trying to
do in Britain.
I mean, the enthusiasm and the delight with which those
things were greeted, because those people knew that in the end,
that's what they elected their president to do. That's what
they elected me to do.
And that those are the things that they want from us. And
we've got to make sure, all the time, that we're focusing on
that big picture. And you know, whatever other issues come
along and distract us, in the end, the judgment of history upon
us will be pretty poor if those weren't the things that when we
got to bed at night we are thinking about. Those weren't the
things that we were worried about and concerned about throughout
the entirety of our society. Because those are the things which
really make a difference to their lives.
QUESTION: Mr. President...
CLINTON: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Let's make this the last round.
CLINTON: OK. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Mr. President, Monica Lewinsky's life has been
Her family's life has been changed forever. I
wonder how you feel about that and what if anything you'd like
to say to Monica Lewinsky at this minute?
CLINTON: That's good.
That's good, but at this minute I'm going to stick with my
position of not commenting.
QUESTION: While relations with -- with -- between Britain
and the United States appear to be splendid right now, there's a
darkening cloud over relations with Italy. The prime minister,
the president, the defense minister, has issued some very harsh
statements about the accident the other day when a low-flying
Marine plane severed a cable and the car fell. There's a lot of
anger. Some people in Italy are even asking for the closing of
the Aviano base. What do you have to say to them?
CLINTON: Well, first of all, what happened was horrible, and
when I heard about it I was very shaken. And I -- I -- as you
know, there were -- there was a period of a few hours there
where it wasn't clear how many people had died and where there
was another whole gondola suspended where many more people could
have died, and thank God they were rescued.
And the whole thing has been an agony for the people of Italy
and there were a large number -- substantial number of Germans
And I'm sure for the pilot of the plane and the
people in our military base in Aviano, where I have been on more
than one occasion, I can tell you what I think should be done.
I called Prime Minister Prodi, and I told him that I was
heartsick about it, that I would make absolutely sure there was
a no-holds-barred full investigation of what happened, that the
Italians would be kept fully informed and be a part of it, and
that we would work with them in every way possible to make sure
that they knew that we tried to get to the bottom of it and to
handle it in the appropriate way.
You know, in our military every year -- I say this to the
American people all the time, but let me just say this -- it is
an inherently dangerous business. Now, we don't know what the
facts are here. Maybe somebody made a careless mistake. We
don't know. I do not know what the facts are and I will not
render judgment until I do.
But we lose about 200 people every year in military service
in America on training exercise or otherwise on duty. And those
planes fly very fast, and I don't know what the description of
the mission was. I want to wait until I see exactly what the
But it is inherently more dangerous than I think we think
from time to time. Now, I told the prime minister of Italy and
I'll tell you -- I will do everything I can to find out exactly
what happened and to take appropriate action and to satisfy the
people of Italy that we have done the right thing.
I understand why they're hurt and heartbroken and angry and
they are entitled to answers and we'll try to give them to him.
QUESTION: Mr. President...
CLINTON: Now, go ahead, the gentleman in the back. I
promised one more. Last question.
QUESTION: Mr. President, do you believe that air strikes
alone are going to remove the threat of biological, chemical and
nuclear weapons from Saddam Hussein?
Is that a fair thing to expect from military
action, should push come to shove in the Gulf?
CLINTON: Well, there have been many thoughtful public
pieces, a lot of very thoughtful articles which have been
written about the limits as well as the possibilities of any
kind of military action.
I think the precise question should be, that I should have to
ask and answer, is, could any military action, if all else
fails, substantially reduce or delay Saddam Hussein's capacities
to develop weapons of mass destruction and to deliver them on
his neighbors? The answer to that, I am convinced, is yes.
I am convinced there is a yes answer there. But you have to
understand that those are the criteria for me.
I've told you before, I don't believe we need to
refight for the Gulf War. It's history. It happened, that's
the way it is. I don't believe we need to get into a direct war
with Iraq over the leadership of the country. Do I think the
country would be better served if it had a different leader? Of
course, I do. That's not the issue.
The issue is that very sharp question -- if the inspection
regime is dead, and therefore we cannot continue to make
progress on getting the stuff out of there in the first place,
and then keep in mind, there's two things about this regime.
There's the progress in getting the stuff out of there in the
first place, and then there is the monitoring system which
enables people on a regular basis to go back to high probability
sites to make sure nothing is happening to rebuild it.
So, if that is dead, is there an option which would permit us
to reduce and/or delay his capacity to bring those weapons up,
and to deliver them?
CLINTON: That is the -- I think the answer to that is yes.
There is an option that would permit that.
QUESTION: Mr. President...
CLINTON: You want to ask one more question?
QUESTION: Mr. President, a follow-up to that, please.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, as a man who understands the
pressures of public life and also a friend and a religious man,
I wonder what words of advice and support and comfort and
sympathy you might have been able to offer personally to the
president during these difficult times when he's under
BLAIR: That's what in the British media is called a hellful
If I can -- I don't presume to give advice at all. All I
think that is important -- which is what we've managed to do --
is discuss the issues that we've set up and listed for you.
And as I say, I think we'd be pretty much failing in our duty
if we weren't to do that.
And I've actually noticed since -- since I've been here and
I've talked to many people here that there is, of course, a huge
concern at the moment over what is happening in Iraq, this huge
interest in Britain in the new government and what we're trying
to do in Northern Ireland. And I think the best thing is for us
to concentrate upon those issues for the very reasons I've given
-- for that's what we were elected to do, and that's what I
intend to do. That's what President Clinton is doing. And I
think he's quite right.
QUESTION: One more question?
CLINTON: Thank you.