Bill Clinton photo

Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With President Jiang Zemin of China in Vancouver

November 24, 1997

Situation in Iraq

Q. President Clinton, if we might, could we have a question about Iraq? I wondered why it was so important that the U.N. inspectors be able to—why is it critical that they see these palaces which Saddam Hussein now has made off limits?

President Clinton. Well, let me say, first of all, like all issues, this should be looked at on the basis of the real underlying facts. The term "palace" has a different meaning in Iraq than it would to the ordinary American. The ordinary American would hear the word "palace," and they would think, a very fancy residence for a head of state or a member of a royal family.

There are 78 such palaces in Iraq. Many of them are huge compounds. Some of them actually encompass more land than Washington, DC, does. So to put 78 palaces, when you look at what they really are, off limits according to Mr. Butler and our inspectors would mean that they could not adequately search for chemical and biological weapons operations. Our position is, if the inspector team says they ought to do it, that's a lot of land, a lot of buildings, and they ought to be able to do what they think is necessary.

Q. Well, do you suspect that he's using these palaces to hide illegal arms?

President Clinton. Well, they have acknowledged that in 1995—as late as 1995, that they had quite substantial stores of weapons and potential weapons that would be prohibited and subject to inspection and destruction under the U.N. resolution. And I just want the inspectors to be able to do their job. My suspicions are not important. The only thing that matters here is that the inspectors can do their job under the U.N. resolutions.

Q. President Jiang, does China support—you have one more week as President of the Council—does China support the U.S. position that there should be unimpeded inspections in Iraq?

President Jiang. I'll ask the Foreign Minister to answer your question.

Q. All right.

Foreign Minister Qian Qichen. We have supported always the completion of inspection in Iraq in the United Nations.

Wei Jingsheng

Q. Mr. President, is Wei Jingsheng going to be able to come home ever, do you think?

President Jiang. Well, this matter will be handled according to China's judicial procedures.

International Agreement on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Q. President Clinton, do you think you'll press China on global warming?

President Clinton. We've discussed this before, and I hope we get a chance to discuss it again today. I think we have a framework that's good for China, good for the United States, good for the world. We're going to talk about it some more today.

Wei Jingsheng

Q. Mr. President, have you talked with Wei Jingsheng?

President Clinton. No, we just got here. [Laughter] We haven't talked about anything.

NOTE: The exchange began at 12:45 p.m. in the Princess Louisa Suite at the Waterfront Centre Hotel. In his remarks, the President referred to Wei Jingsheng, Chinese dissident recently released for medical treatment in the United States.

William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With President Jiang Zemin of China in Vancouver Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under





Simple Search of Our Archives