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CLINTON: I feel that very strongly here today with Prime Minister Blair, and I intend to act upon it. Thank you very much.

BLAIR: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Right, gentlemen, questions?

QUESTION: Mr. President, as you probably know, during our recent election here, there was a good deal written on both sides of the Atlantic about Mr. Blair being the Clinton clone, or the British Clinton. I wonder, now that you're here, how the American original thinks the British version is shaping up?

CLINTON: Well, I have a couple of reactions to that. First of all, a lot of the columns that were written about that were not altogether flattering to either one of us.

And I had half a mind to call Mr. Blair during the election and offered to attack him in the harshest possible terms, if he thought it might free him of an unwanted yoke. And now I also told you today that there is one big difference, and that's the enormous parliamentary majority that the prime minister enjoys. So I should be learning from New Labor instead of the other way around.

Let me just make -- give you a serious answer. I believe that the peoples -- free peoples in the world are interested in democratic governments that work, that have constructive economic policies, that try to reconcile the imperative of growth with the imperatives of family and neighborhood and community.

That do not accept the fact that our social problems will always worsen and cannot be made better, that do not promise to do things which responsible citizens must do for themselves, but which don't run away from their own responsibilities.

That's what I think people want. And I think that requires us to move beyond -- I don't think that it's the end of ideology, but I think it's the end of yesterday's ideology. And I think the more we -- the more people see the issues framed in terms of attacks of parties on each other in yesterday's language, that seems disconnected to their own concerns, their own hopes and their own problems, the more faith is lost in politics, the more people see the political process as relevant to their lives and their future, the more energy you have.

And what I sense in Great Britain today is an enormous amount of energy. So if you're asking me to rate the beginning, I'd say that's a great thing when the people of a democracy believe in its possibilities and are willing to work for them.

That is about all you can ask. No one has all the answers, but you want people to believe in the possibilities of a nation and be willing to work for them.

QUESTION: Sir, you told us this morning that the Northern Ireland peace process is an article of faith in your life. Given that, is there anything more the U.S. can do to nudge the process along?

And what's your take on Iran's new president, a moderate cleric who won in a landslide?

CLINTON: Well, let me say, first of all we have a new British government that has taken what I think were wise and judicious steps, and made statements that I think are clear, unequivocal and appropriate.

There is about to be an election in Ireland. The United States, I have restated what our -- the pole stars of our position are today.

An unequivocal cease-fire, inclusive talks. But I think before I say or do anything more, as with every peace, this is a peace that has to be made by the parties themselves, and we need to let this unfold a little.

CLINTON: But we'll be there, active and involved along the way.

Now as to Iran, obviously it's a very interesting development. And for those of us who don't feel privy to all the details of daily life in that country, it's at least a reaffirmation of the democratic process there. And it's interesting and it's hopeful.

But from the point of view of the United States, what we hope for is a reconciliation with a country that does not believe that terrorism is a legitimate extension of political policies, that would not use violence to wreck a peace process in the Middle East, and would not be trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.

I have never been pleased about the estrangements between the people of the United States and the people of Iran -- and they are a very great people. And I hope that the estrangement can be bridged. But those are three big hurdles that would have to be cleared. And we'll just have to hope for the best.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you've appealed again strongly today for the IRA to call a cease-fire. How soon after the calling of an IRA cease-fire would you want and expect to see Sinn Fein in inclusive talks? How long a verification process would you see as being correct? Would this be a matter of months or weeks or days?

CLINTON: I don't believe I should make a public comment on that at this moment. Tony Blair's government has just come into office. As I've said, I think they've taken some very impressive and appropriate steps.

There's about to be an Irish election. I think at this moment, for the American president to start specifying that level of detail would be inappropriate. Go ahead.

QUESTION: This may be a time of new politics, but there are some immutable old laws, like the military doctrine of not stretching your forces too thin.

Both of you are involved in downsizing your militaries. How do you do that, and at the same time, credibly make a vast new defense commitment that is involved in NATO expansion?

And the second part of the question for President Clinton, there are reports that NATO enlargement will cost American taxpayers as much as a $150 billion over the next five years. What is your estimate of the cost?

CLINTON: Well, first -- and I think the prime minister and I both should answer your first question. So, let me answer the second question very briefly.

Our last estimate was -- or it was more than an estimate. In the last defense report we got, the estimate was more in the range of $150 to $200 million a year. They are reviewing our defense commitments now.

I should point this out. The cost will be important because for most European countries, the relative costs will be greater than for the United States. Because we've already done some of the structural things that European countries have to do, most of them. So, I do not expect that that larger figure is anywhere close to the ballpark.

Secondly, the security umbrella we have is really no longer dependent upon stationing large armies along the eastern frontier of NATO. What kept any NATO nation from being attacked, in my judgment, was the larger nuclear deterrent that was present during the Cold War.

CLINTON: Now, we're also trying to reduce that, but keep in mind, see that the NATO expansion in the context of the following things. There is an agreement between NATO and Russia about what our relationships are going to be. President Yeltsin just agreed to de- target the nuclear missiles against all the NATO countries.

We will have an agreement on conventional forces in Europe, which will further reduce those forces, and after the Russians ratify START II, we will move on to START III, which will involve an 80 percent reduction in nuclear forces from their post Cold War high.

So in that context, I think the expansion of NATO is quite affordable and really should be seen not only as a cooperative security guarantee, but as a cooperative commitment to try to deal with the other security problems of our times, like Bosnia.

BLAIR: I agree very much with that, and I think what is important is to see NATO enlargement, and indeed, the joint council between NATO and Russia as part of building the security and defense of our countries, and indeed, making sure that the commitments that we have are fully realizable.

Now, we announced just a couple of days ago a strategic review of our defense, which is foreign policy led. It's not about down sizing our armed forces, but it is about making sense of the commitments that we have. But I think that NATO enlargement is a very, very important part of bringing in those emerging countries in Eastern Europe, and ensuring also, through cooperation with Russia, that we're doing it in a way that preserves the security of the world. And I can't think of anything more important than that.

So I don't see these as conflicting objectives. On the contrary, I see them properly implemented as entirely complementary.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ... for more flexible labor markets and the call from Brussels for more social legislation. Is the prime minister the right to warn against the dangers of this?

And secondly, while you're in London, you've said you wanted to go out in the part a bit. What is it you're looking forward to see most?

CLINTON: Well, I've already seen part of what I want to see most, which is the unique and unspeakably beautiful British spring. I was so hoping it would be sunny today.

(LAUGHTER)

Let me say, on the other question, there is not a simple answer. The great challenge for Europe and more for other countries even than for the United Kingdom, because your unemployment rate is already lower than some, but the great challenge you face is how to create enough jobs to be competitive and to promote not only economic growth, but to have British society.

A successful society requires that able-bodied adults be able to work. Successful families, successful communities, low crime rates, all require that able-bodied adults be able to spend their energies, a certain number of hours a day, at work, quite apart from the economic considerations.

So the question is, how do you do that, how do you become more flexible, how do you have more entrepreneurs, more flexible labor markets, and still preserve the social cohesion that has made community life strong in Europe, justifiably.

In the United States, we've had enormous success, and I'm grateful for this, in creating jobs and more in the first four years of my term than in any previous four year term in history. But we're struggling to come back to the other (OFF-MIKE).

We're struggling to find a way to give those working families -- make sure they can all afford health care for their children, make sure they can have some time off when there's a baby born or a parent sick.

Copyright © 1997 Federal Document Clearing House

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