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Remarks Prior to Discussions With King Hussein of Jordan and an Exchange With Reporters

March 07, 1996

Middle East Peace Process

The President. Let me say that I am delighted to have King Hussein here today, especially at this important time for the Middle East. As ever, the United States is grateful for his leadership and his courage. And I look forward to discussing with him today what we can do together to continue to stand against the forces of terrorism and for the forces of peace in the region. We'll have a number of other things to talk about, but I'm so glad that he's here.

Q. Your Majesty, what do you think the prospects are for resuming the peace negotiations?

And what do you think the goal is of the bombings?

King Hussein. As far as I'm concerned, I'd like to thank you, sir, for giving me the pleasure and privilege of being with you here today and with our friends.

I would like to say that we are more than shocked; we are really angered by what we have seen in the way of violence in our part of the world. And we must do everything we can to put an end to this.

And I believe it is the action of a small group against an overwhelming majority of people in our region who are seeking peace, who have seen the taste of peace and the new beginnings and the breaking of a new dawn. I hope that they will be mobilized to do whatever they can to help and be vocal in the face of extremism. And I think the objective is very clear: These people are trying to scuttle the peace process and destroy all that has been achieved. And they must never succeed, and we will do whatever we can towards that end.

Q. Mr. President, is there anything else that the United States can do to help the Israelis and the Palestinians deal with these immediate threats?

The President. Well as you know, we've taken some extra actions in the last few days, and we'll be discussing other options in the days ahead. There may be some other things we can do, but I'd rather not discuss it now until we've actually made some decisions.

Q. Mr. President, Chairman Arafat has called for an international conference to map a strategy to combat terrorism. Do you favor such a meeting?

The President. Well, we've been in contact, obviously, with Chairman Arafat and with Prime Minister Peres and others about all the options, and we haven't ruled out anything. We're working on the things that we ought to do, and we'll have some decisions in the next couple of days about where we go from here.


Q. Mr. President, Canada and Mexico are both raising alarms with the Helms-Burton bill, saying it will violate NAFTA. What's your reaction to that, and would you maybe consider waiving the provision before the election?

The President. Well, I believe that the bill as now written permits compliance with international law, and that is why I said that I would support and sign it.

Q. Does it also——

1996 Election

Q. Are you looking forward to running against Bob Dole?

The President. We ought to give it—I'm looking forward to getting everything settled down here and getting back to work in Washington. We need to go back to work. The main campaign we need to be waging now is a campaign for peace at home—I mean, peace abroad and prosperity at home. We've got a lot of work to do.

[At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group entered.]

Middle East Peace Process

Q. Mr. President, can you give us any reaction from Syria about the bombings in Israel? And are you satisfied with the actions of the Arab world so far?

The President. Well, I think that Chairman Arafat has made some real efforts, but I think that all of us will have to do more. And we're talking together, working together about what we can do to do more. And I have been in touch with all of our friends in the region and all the countries that are interested in what is going on there and all the countries that have a stake in continuing the peace process, and we're going to do everything we can to keep it going and also to combat terror.

Q. Do you think the peace process is endangered now, continuing, especially the Syria-Israeli track?

The President. Well, it doesn't help—what's happened. But I hope that if we all rally to the cause of peace and to the work of combating the terror, that that will permit the peace process to continue. I believe all the leaders want it to continue.

Q. If there was some—[inaudible]—against Iran, and the United States said that Iran is involved, would the United States back any action by Israel against Iran?

The President. Oh, I think it's inappropriate to speculate about such matters. I think that what we're going to do is to talk about what we can do to restore security, restore a basic sense of safety, and to keep going with the peace. And I think that's what we ought to focus on.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:07 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority and Prime Minister Shimon Peres of Israel. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Prior to Discussions With King Hussein of Jordan and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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