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USIS Washington 
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19 December 1998

TRANSCRIPT: CLINTON REMARKS ON IRAQ DECEMBER 19, 1998

(Ends strikes, backs efforts for new Iraqi government) (2000)



Washington -- President Clinton has halted the latest series of air
strikes on Iraq because the "operation is now complete, in accordance
with our 70-hour plan," and pledged US support for efforts to change
the government in Baghdad.


In a television appearance December 19, Clinton said "I am confident
we have achieved our mission.


"We have inflicted significant damage on Saddam's weapons of mass
destruction programs, on the command structures that direct and
protect that capability, and on his military and security
infrastructure," the President said.


But Clinton also emphasized: "So long as Saddam remains in power he
will remain a threat to his people, his region and the world." The
best way to end that threat, he said, "is for Iraq to have a different
government." He pledged to intensify US engagement with Iraqi
opposition groups, use Radio Free Iraq to help news and information
flow freely into the country and "stand ready to help a new leadership
in Baghdad that abides by its international commitments and respects
the rights of its own people."


Following is the White House transcript:



(begin transcript)



THE WHITE HOUSE



Office of the Press Secretary



December 19, 1998



REMARKS OF THE PRESIDENT ON IRAQ



The Roosevelt Room



6:00 P.M.  EST



THE PRESIDENT: On Wednesday, I ordered our Armed Forces to strike
military and strategic targets in Iraq. They were joined by British
forces. That operation is now complete, in accordance with our 70-hour
plan.


My national security team has just briefed me on the results. They are
preliminary, but let me say just a few words about why we acted, what
we have achieved, and where we want to go.


We began with this basic proposition: Saddam Hussein must not be
allowed to develop nuclear arms, poison gas, biological weapons, or
the means to deliver them. He has used such weapons before against
soldiers and civilians, including his own people. We have no doubt
that if left unchecked he would do so again.


Saddam must not be prepared to defy the will -- be permitted -- excuse
me -- to defy the will of the international community. Without a firm
response he would have been emboldened to do that again and again.


For seven and a half years now, the United Nations weapons inspectors
have done a truly remarkable job, in forcing Saddam to disclose and
destroy weapons and missiles he insisted he did not have. But over the
past year, Saddam has repeatedly sought to cripple the inspections
system. Each time, through intensive diplomatic efforts backed by the
threat of military action, Saddam has backed down. When he did so last
month, I made it absolutely clear that if he did not give UNSCOM full
cooperation this time, we would act swiftly and without further delay.


For three weeks, the inspectors tested Saddam's commitment to
cooperate. They repeatedly ran into roadblocks and restrictions, some
of them new. As their Chairman, Richard Butler, concluded in his
report to the United Nations on Tuesday, the inspectors no longer were
able to do their job. So far as I was concerned, Saddam's days of
cheat and retreat were over.


Our objectives in this military action were clear: to degrade Saddam's
weapons of mass destruction program and related delivery systems, as
well as his capacity to attack his neighbors. It will take some time
to make a detailed assessment of our operation, but based on the
briefing I've just received, I am confident we have achieved our
mission. We have inflicted significant damage on Saddam's weapons of
mass destruction programs, on the command structures that direct and
protect that capability, and on his military and security
infrastructure. In a short while, Secretary Cohen and General Shelton
will give you a more detailed analysis from the Pentagon.


So long as Saddam remains in power he will remain a threat to his
people, his region and the world. With our allies, we must pursue a
strategy to contain him and to constrain his weapons of mass
destruction program, while working toward the day Iraq has a
government willing to live at peace with its people and with its
neighbors.


Let me describe the elements of that strategy going forward. First, we
will maintain a strong military presence in the area, and we will
remain ready to use it if Saddam tries to rebuild his weapons of mass
destruction, strikes out at his neighbors, challenges allied aircraft,
or moves against the Kurds. We also will continue to enforce no-fly
zones in the North, and from the southern suburbs of Baghdad to the
Kuwaiti border.


Second, we will sustain what have been among the most extensive
sanctions in U.N. history. To date, they have cost Saddam more than
$120 billion, resources that otherwise would have gone toward
rebuilding his military. At the same time, we will support a
continuation of the oil-for-food program, which generates more than
$10 billion a year for food, medicine and other critical humanitarian
supplies for the Iraqi people. We will insist that Iraq's oil be used
for food, not tanks.


Third, we would welcome the return of UNSCOM and the International
Atomic Energy Agency back into Iraq to pursue their mandate from the
United Nations -- provided that Iraq first takes concrete, affirmative
and demonstrable actions to show that it will fully cooperate with the
inspectors. But if UNSCOM is not allowed to resume its work on a
regular basis, we will remain vigilant and prepared to use force if we
see that Iraq is rebuilding its weapons programs.


Now, over the long-term the best way to end the threat that Saddam
poses to his own people in the region is for Iraq to have a different
government. We will intensify our engagement with the Iraqi opposition
groups, prudently and effectively. We will work with Radio Free Iraq,
to help news and information flow freely to the country. And we will
stand ready to help a new leadership in Baghdad that abides by its
international commitments and respects the rights of its own people.
We hope it will return Iraq to its rightful place in the community of
nations.


Let me say in closing again how terribly proud I am of our men and
women in uniform. Once again, they have done a difficult job with
skill, dedication and determination. I also want to say that I am very
proud of our national security team. I want to thank Secretary Cohen
and General Shelton; I want to thank Secretary Albright and Sandy
Berger. The Vice President and I have relied on them very heavily --
they have performed with extraordinary ability and restraint, as well
as effectiveness. I am very, very grateful for the way this operation
was planned and executed. But again, foremost, I want to give my
thanks to our men and women in uniform. We are waiting for the last
planes to come home, and praying that we'll be able to tell you
tomorrow that every last one of them has returned home safely.


Thank you very much.



(end transcript)