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Text Of Clinton-Blair Press Conference

Text of news conference with President Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair:

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 new age.

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 risk.

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 relevant sites.

But let me be clear. If Saddam oes 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 urge all the parties to show the vision and the forbearance and the determination to succeed. I unequivocally condemn this recent sectarian killings and beatings and threats. Nothing worth having in Northern Ireland can be accomplished through violence. 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 that are affected do their part, other nations should support helping them through the International Monetary Fund.

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 community.

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 ears when the baby boom generation retires.

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.

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 of America.

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 diplomatic solution rests ultimately with Saddam Hussein. He has the choice. He can bring himself back into compliance with the agreements he entered into and then that diplomatic solution can 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 ad 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 prepare.

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 Ireland.

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 process succeed.

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 possible.

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 perpetrated by a small minority must not in the end frustrate the wishes of the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland to 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 elsewhere.

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 future.

I, as I said in my speech this morning at the breakfast hosted by the vice president -- there is a new Britain being shaped today.

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 comon 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 the future.

Thank you.

Next: Part 2 of 3

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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