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Clinton-Blair Transcript

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.

Helen?

QUESTION: Mr. President, despite the ongoing investigation, you've felt no constraint in saying what your relationship with Monica Lewinsky is not was not.

QUESTION: 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.

CLINTON: 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.

BLAIR: Michael.

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, 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 action.

We've been focusing on the peace process in Northern Ireland that givethe 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 ... 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.

CLINTON: Terry?

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 largely in the dark about what to expect about a military attack on Iraq. Are you talking about something that lasts a day or two, or something that lasts for weeks, or months?

And on a diplomatic 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 mandate for 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.

CLINTON: 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 tpush 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 weapons.

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.

BLAIR: Peter.

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) 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 ground troops?

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 clear. 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.

Next: Part 3 of 3

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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