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Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and an Exchange With Reporters

November 14, 1997


Q. Mr. President, are you willing to extend the no-fly zone across the remainder of Iraq?

President Clinton. Let me first of all say that I believe that the Secretary-General and our team, the United Nations team, made the right decision in withdrawing the team of inspectors there and not just leaving them there. But the real issue here is, how can we stop Saddam Hussein from reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction program, and what will achieve that goal. Any specific tactic will be designed to achieve that goal.

The world has got to understand that he had a weapons of mass destruction program, that he is one of the few people who has ever used chemical weapons against both his enemies and his own citizens, and that there will be a big market for such weapons out there among terrorists and other groups.

This is not just a replay of the Gulf war; this is not throw a man who invaded a country, Kuwait, out of the country and reestablish territorial integrity. This is about the security of the 21st century and the problems everybody is going to have to face dealing with chemical weapons.

So as you know, I don't think it's appropriate for me to speculate about what we might or might not do with specific options, but I think that we have to steel ourselves and be determined that the will of the international community, expressed in the United Nations Security Council resolutions, will have to prevail.

This is simply—it's too dangerous an issue that would set too powerful a precedent about the impotence of the United Nations, if we didn't proceed on this, in the face of what I have considered to be one of the three or four most significant security threats that all of our people will face for the next whole generation, this weapons of mass destruction proliferation. We've got to stop it.

Q. Given that, sir, are you willing to let the situation last where he's able to manufacture weapons of mass destruction with no one on the ground watching? And if I may ask a second question, sir, why are you ordering a second aircraft carrier into the Gulf region?

President Clinton. Well, I'm ordering the carrier in there because I think it's appropriate under the circumstances. And let me say on the first question that one of the reasons the United States has supported the U.N. decision to continue the flights is that if we're not on the ground, it's been more important that we observe what we can in the air. And we are working this very hard.

We also—I want to say this is a United Nations endeavor, a United Nations resolution we want to implement. We want very much to work with our allies. We want to make sure that we've done all we can to see that they agree with us about the gravity of the situation, and I expect—the Secretary of State is meeting with a lot of the foreign ministers over the next several days, and I will be talking to a number of heads of state, and we'll keep working this. I don't want to put a timetable on myself, because it's not just me, but we're working it hard.

Q. With the inspectors out, Mr. President, does he have some reason to believe that he's gotten his way?

President Clinton. Well, if he does, that would be a mistake. And of course, what he says his objective is, is to relieve the people of Iraq, and presumably the government, of the burden of the sanctions. What he has just done is to ensure that the sanctions will be there until the end of time or as long as he lasts. So I think that if his objective is to try to get back into the business of manufacturing vast stores of weapons of mass destruction and then try to either use them or sell them, then at some point the United States, and more than the United States, would be more than happy to try to stop that.

But if his objective is to lift the sanctions and to divide the coalition and get people more sympathetic with him, I think that he has undermined his objective because we could never, ever agree to any modifications of the larger economic sanctions on Iraq as long as he's out of compliance. And by definition, that's the way the U.N. resolution works. When I say "we" there, I mean the whole world community. So I would think he would not be furthering his objectives, if his stated objectives are his objectives.

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

President Clinton. Buenos dias.

Q. Hi, Mr. Clinton. How are you?

President Clinton. I'm fine, thank you.

Mexico-U.S. Cooperative Drug Efforts

Q. President Clinton, how are you going to convince people in Congress that the United States—[inaudible]—it is a fact, the consumption on drugs, and also narcotraffickers inside of the United States, and convince people that only see Mexico as the bad guys?

President Clinton. Well, first of all, I don't think that's quite fair. I think that Congress has targeted a number of other countries in a more focused way where the problem is not primarily the transit of drugs, but is the production of drugs, so I wouldn't agree with that.

I do believe that, as least for our administration, we have been very clear that the reduction of demand and dealing with the infrastructure of drugs in the United States has to be a key part of our strategy, and we intend to implement that. I think the real issue, what we should be focusing on is how we can work together in our mutual interest, because drugs present a threat both to the United States and to Mexico.

My objective in working with Congress is to try to get a united American position without regard to party, where we should have partnerships with all of the countries that are also beset by this problem in one way or the other, and we should work together on all aspects of it. That's what I believe we should do.

Fast-Track Trade Authority

Q. President Clinton, are you going to be pushing for the fast track approval?

President Clinton. I think that this is not the last chapter in this story. I believe that you will see some more movement early next year, and I wouldn't be too discouraged. Keep in mind, we had—our preliminary vote in the United States Senate had almost 70 percent of the Senators and majorities of both parties in the U.S. Senate in favor of extending fast track. And I believe there is a working majority in the House of Representatives for a good proposal. We're going to work it hard over the holidays and see what happens.

But I would urge our friends throughout Latin America not to overreact to the House vote, that this story is not over yet.

Q. Do you see your failure to get fast track as a referendum of NAFTA?

President Clinton. I think that—no, first of all, I don't, because fast track doesn't have anything to do with NAFTA. That's the first thing. We have our agreement, and we're implementing it and we're working at it. So in a strict sense, it has nothing to do with NAFTA. And there are no two countries anywhere in our hemisphere—indeed, there are no two countries anywhere else in our world—that have the same relationship with either one of us that we have with each other, with so much promise and so many challenges. So NAFTA is not fast track.

But I personally believe that our relationships and our individual economies are stronger because we passed NAFTA than they would have been if we hadn't passed NAFTA. And I think there is enough recent history—you just go back over the last 25 years and look at what's happened in times of economic difficulty either in Mexico or the United States, and you look at all kinds of other issues—we are cooperating across a wider range of issues than ever before; we have a more integrated economic partnership than ever before; we are working on more labor and environmental issues than ever before. So my view is that we did the right thing to pass NAFTA and that both the United States and Mexico are in better shape today than they would be if we hadn't done it. That's what I believe.

But I also have made it clear to Congress that I think they're two separate issues.

[At this point, two questions were asked and answered in Spanish, and a translation was not provided.]

Mexican Economy and Democracy

President Clinton. I'd just like to make one comment about the question—you just asked him about the financial crisis, right? I think it is an indication of the strength and the direction that President Zedillo and his administration have taken that Mexico has done quite well in these last difficult weeks. It also, I think, is clear support for the decision that I made a couple of years ago to enter a partnership with Mexico when it was in difficulty, because I felt very strongly that the potential of the Mexican economy and the Mexican people was very great, and that President Zedillo was pursuing the proper course.

And I would hope that—it's not for me to say, but if I were a Mexican citizen, I would be very pleased with the performance of Mexico and its economy and its markets over the last several weeks in what has been a very challenging time for the world. And I think we need to focus—instead of focusing on the changes in these markets on a daily basis, our goal should be to work with all of the developing countries and all the sort of booming economies to make sure their underlying fundamentals are right.

If the underlying fundamental economic policies are correct, then, over time, the markets will follow that, and that should be the key. I think Secretary Rubin and his colleagues did a good thing to try to stabilize the situation in Asia, for example, but the long-term goal is, if the fundamentals are right, eventually you will have good markets and a good economy.

That's the most important thing, is to have a good economy for ordinary people.

Q. [Inaudible]—economy? In Mexico?

President Clinton. Where?

Q. In Mexico or the developing economies?

President Clinton. I just have to say, to me, just as an observer and a passionate supporter of democratic government over my lifetime, that of course Mexico has a lot of challenges. But if you look at this transformation you've made to a multiparty democracy, it's quite amazing that it's happened in a way that we've seen stability maintained, government's freedom to pursue a responsible economic course maintained. It's been very impressive to all of us who are on the outside looking in that Mexico has made a dramatic change in its political system, which I think will stand you in very good stead over the long run.

We find our competitive system—although none of us who are in office like competition— but our system has stabilized America over the long run. I think Mexico will be stabilized by the political transformation, but it's amazing that it's happened so quickly and so well. And so for me, the political developments there have been interesting and very impressive, very hopeful.

Q. You don't see any obstacles——

President Clinton. There are always obstacles. There will always be obstacles.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:20 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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