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USIS Washington 
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19 February 1998

TRANSCRIPT: CLINTON REMARKS ON KOFI ANNAN'S MISSION TO BAGHDAD

(U.N. chief has "critical opportunity" to end Iraq crisis) (850)



Washington -- President Clinton says U.N. Secretary General Kofi
Annan's mission to Baghdad represents "a critical opportunity to
achieve the outcome that all of us would prefer, a peaceful and
principled end" to the current crisis over U.N. weapons inspections in
Iraq.


Clinton made the assessment in remarks to reporters on the South Lawn
of the White House just before his departure for a scheduled
appearance in Baltimore February 19.


He also announced that he has asked Vice President Gore to postpone
his planned trip to South Africa, because "in the coming days" he
wants his "full national security team on hand in our deliberations
and decisions on this vital, important issue."


Following is the White House transcript:



(begin transcript)



THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary



February 19, 1998



REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT UPON DEPARTURE



The South Lawn



CLINTON: Good morning. I just had a very good conversation with the
President of France, Jacques Chirac. We agreed that U.N. Secretary
General Kofi Annan's mission to Baghdad is a critical opportunity to
achieve the outcome that all of us would prefer, a peaceful and
principled end to this crisis.


The Secretary General is backed by the unambiguous position of the
Security Council. Saddam Hussein must give the weapons inspectors
full, free, unfettered access to all suspected sites anywhere in Iraq.
That is the clear standard which Saddam himself agreed to at the end
of the Gulf War, and that the Security Council has reiterated on many
occasions since. He simply must adhere to that standard.


Let me also say that I have asked Vice President Gore to postpone his
planned trip to South Africa. In the coming days I want my full
national security team on hand to take part in our deliberations and
decisions on this vital, important issue.


We hope the Secretary General's mission will succeed. But let me be
clear: If diplomacy fails we must be, and we are, prepared to act. The
choice is Saddam Hussein's. We hope he will accept the mandate of the
world community. He has, after all, agreed to it already years ago. If
not, he must bear the responsibility for the consequences.


QUESTION: Mr. President, what did you learn, sir, from the divided
town meeting yesterday?


CLINTON: Well, I thought it was a good old-fashioned American debate.
But I would say, I was, first of all, very proud of the Secretary of
State, the Secretary of Defense and Mr. Berger. I thought they
answered the questions well. And I believe strongly that most
Americans support our policy. They support our resolve. I think an
overwhelming majority of Americans also want a peaceful resolution of
this, but if it's necessary for us to act I believe America will do
what it always does -- I believe it will unite -- just as we did in
1991 -- I believe it will unite behind taking the necessary action.


Q: Mr. President, do you think Saddam Hussein is emboldened to
stiff-arm the international community based upon what happened in
Columbus yesterday?


A:  Not if he understands the first thing about America.



Q: Mr. President, are you ready to deal with a deadline if Saddam
Hussein --


Q:  Does that mean you're going to start bombing next week?



A:  I've made no decision about a deadline.



Q: Mr. President, are you prepared to assert executive privilege in
connection with the testimony of Bruce Lindsey and John Podesta, other
of your top assistants before the grand jury?


A: It's my understanding that the White House Counsel is trying to
resolve that issue today, and while he's working on it I don't think I
should comment about it.


Q: Mr. President, are you considering delivering a more formal address
to the American people about the need to deal with Saddam --


A: Well, if further action becomes necessary, I will obviously speak
directly to the American people about it.


Q: Mr. President, do you feel like you articulated the goals of this
policy, if we do, indeed, have to attack Iraq?


A: I believe that the speech I gave at the Pentagon was quite clear
about that. We want to significantly reduce his capacity to produce
chemical and biological weapons, and his capacity to deliver them and
to visit them on his people, his neighbors and people throughout the
world. I believe the more the American people learn about the dangers
of chemical and biological warfare and the kinds of problems they can
do -- to us now and in the future, the stiffer their resolve will be.


And so I feel that time is on our side. And I believe that 10 years
from now, and not in the heat of this moment, 15 years from now, when
people look back at this time, they will want to look back at a period
when those of us in positions of responsibility fulfilled our
responsibility by trying to rid the world of this danger.


Thank you.



(end transcript)