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Clinton quiet on Lewinsky; forceful on Iraq

Clinton reaffirms his stance on the Lewinsky case   
February 6, 1998
Web posted at: 2:29 p.m. EST (1929 GMT)

In this story:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton on Friday repeated his assertion that he never asked anyone to lie about the Monica Lewinsky matter, but he wouldn't elaborate on his relationship with the former White House intern, saying he shouldn't comment while an investigation is under way. icon (189K/17 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Clinton, at a White House news conference with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair, tried to focus attention on international issues, including the showdown with Iraq over U.N. weapons inspections, but he was forced once again to defend himself in the Lewinsky case.

The president declined to say what he would tell Lewinsky if he were to talk to her in the aftermath of allegations that they had a sexual relationship and he urged her to lie about it.

And he criticized those "leaking unlawfully" grand jury testimony in the case, and replied "never" when asked if he had ever thought about resigning.

"I would never walk away from the people of America and the trust they placed in me." icon (315K/29 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Blair supported the president, saying Clinton's "pretty impressive record" should overshadow any allegations.

'On Iraq .. we are prepared to act'

On Iraq, the two leaders agreed that efforts to persuade President Saddam Hussein to allow the arms inspectors to resume their work must be backed by the credible threat of force.

Sounds from the news conference

Clinton on Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
icon 276K/26 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Clinton on the possiblity of military strike
icon 341K/31 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Blair on the use of force in the Persian Gulf
icon 236K/22 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Blair summarizes issues discussed with Clinton
icon 360K/33 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

"On Iraq, we stand together," Clinton said referring to Blair. "Saddam Hussein must know that we are determined to prevent him from threatening his neighbors and the world with weapons of mass destruction."

Britain is one of the only nations to openly support Clinton in his threats of military action against Hussein, sending an aircraft carrier and warplanes to the Gulf to join the formidable U.S. force already there.

Blair repeated an announcement made just hours earlier in London that Britain is sending eight Tornado jet warplanes to Kuwait in case they are needed.

"These are ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft," Blair said. "It will take place over the next few days."

The news conference came during Blair's first official visit to Washington since he was elected last May.

Clinton noted that diplomatic efforts were still under way to persuade Saddam to back down and allow U.N. inspectors free access to suspected chemical and biological weapons sites, adding: "The prime minister and I would both prefer a genuine diplomatic solution."

But, Clinton added, "if Saddam does not comply with the unanimous will of the international community we must be prepared to act, and we are," Clinton said.

vxtreme Clinton and Blair's statements
Clinton and Blair answer questions from the media

Clinton said there was more international support for the tough U.S. and British line than it may appear.

"I believe there is more agreement than at first it appears about the necessity to push this thing through to the end," he said.

Blair also stressed his desire for "a diplomatic solution, but it must be a diplomatic solution based on, and fully consistent with, the principles which we have set out ... We have of course to prepare in case diplomacy cannot work."

Clinton: 'I have said what I think is essential'

On the issue of Lewinsky, Clinton was asked whether his silence on some aspects of the case was leaving the American people "in the dark."

Clinton responded: "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. I do not believe I should answer specific questions."

The news conference unfolded in the face of reports that the president had summoned his secretary, Betty Currie, to the White House the day after his deposition in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case to go over their recollections of Lewinsky's contact with Clinton.

The president rejected any notion that he tried to mold his secretary's testimony and said he was heartened when Currie's lawyer, Larry Wechsler, issued a strong denial of any improper influence.

"I never asked anybody to do anything but tell the truth," Clinton said.

Someone is 'leaking unlawfully'

Blair and Clinton
Blair and Clinton shake hands after the news conference   

When CNN's Wolf Blitzer, noting that Lewinsky's life has been "changed forever," asked Clinton what he would say to the 24-year-old woman, the president appeared to be considering an answer during a long pause. But ultimately he declined to reply.

"That's good," he said in evaluating the question, a comment that drew laughter from reporters. "But at this minute, I'm going to stick with my position and not comment."

Without identifying independent counsel Ken Starr by name, Clinton suggested that prosecutors are violating a federal judge's gag order by talking to reporters about the case.

"I'm honoring the rules of the investigation" by refusing to provide details of his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, Clinton said. "And if someone else is leaking unlawfully out of the grand jury proceeding, that is a different story."

He said he has limited his comments on the matter "even though the judge's orders have been routinely violated by the other side in the case."

Asked if he agreed with his wife that a "vast right-wing conspiracy" is behind the allegation of a sexual relationship with Lewinsky, Clinton laughed and noted: Hillary Rodham Clinton is "hardly ever wrong."


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