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Clinton Comments on Belgrade Unrest

Aired October 5, 2000 - 11:54 a.m. ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Live to the White House now, more on this issue. We will come back and talk about it.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States stands with people everywhere who are fighting for their freedom. We believe in democracy.

I have said before, the Opposition candidate, who according to all unbiased reports clearly won the election, obviously also has strong differences with us. This is not a question of whether he agrees with us. All we want for the Serbian people is what we want for people everywhere: the right to freely choose their own leaders.

And, you know, it's been a hard-core dictatorship. They had an election. The election results were then, apparently, altered, and now the court has made this decision. I think the people are trying to get their country back. And we support democracy and the will of the Serbian people.


QUESTION: If I may, sir, will the U.S. in any way intervene if force is used against the citizens in Belgrade or other parts of Serbia?

CLINTON: Well, I don't believe that it's an appropriate case for military intervention, and I don't believe that the United States should say or do anything which would only strengthen Mr. Milosevic's hand.

The people of Serbia have made their opinion clear. They did it when they voted peacefully and quietly, and now they're doing in the streets because people tried to -- there's been an attempt to rob them of their vote.

And I think if the world community will just stand for freedom, stand for democracy, stand for the will of the people, I think that will prevail.

It did all over Eastern Europe. We've had a peaceful transition, democratic transition, with an election in Russia. The world is moving toward freedom and democracy, and the United States should support those forces, and we will do so strongly.


QUESTION: Mr. President, the latest crisis in the Middle East comes at a politically sensitive time in Israel, and actually for this country as well. Do you still hold out hope that, before you leave office, a comprehensive peace agreement can be reached? Or is there a point where you just say it has to wait for the next president, the next Congress and the next Israeli leader?

CLINTON: Well, first of all, the timetable has to be dictated by the leaders in the Middle East. But the answer to your question is, we know what the issues are, we know what the differences are. And what my obligation will be, and what the next president's obligation will be, is to do whatever we can to either help make the peace agreement or make sure it takes hold.

But our timing should be completely irrelevant to this, you know. I should be available around the clock, every day, as long as I'm here, and we should try to do it as soon as we can, because it'll keep more people alive and give a much brighter future to the people in the Middle East.

So our timing here should be completely irrelevant to that.

But let's get back to basics here. The first thing we've got to do is to stop this violence and to get beyond it.

Now, yesterday, Prime Minister Arafat -- I mean, Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak, excuse me, and Secretary Albright had what I think was a very productive meeting. They made clear commitments which they communicated from Paris to their people to take steps to shut this violence down. They're trying to work out a process in which we've offered to be involved that would evaluate what happened and why and what went wrong.

But the most important thing is to stop people dying, and then to get back to the negotiating table. So the commitments that were made yesterday and communicated by the leaders back to the Middle East now have to be implemented on the ground. That's the most important thing. There will be ample time for reassessments, there will be ample time for evaluation.

But the most important thing is to stop the killing and the dying and the violence.

Now, the next most important thing is to get on with the peace process. That's, by far, the next most important thing because it's obvious that on both sides there is still underlying anxiety and fear and misunderstanding. And, you know, we've just got to get beyond all this.

We've come too far in the last seven years -- seven and a half years now -- to turn back. We've just come too far. We've got to stay after this. QUESTION: The United States has taken steps to increase the oil supply. Do you feel that the United States government can still do more? Is there anything else your government can do in the United States or abroad to increase the oil supply?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I'm going to watch it every day. We have been -- we've been fortunate that the price has dropped several dollars a barrel after the last step we made. But, you know, there still are significant questions about how soon the product will be -- can go to the refinery and whether we not only can get fuel but fuel oil out of the refinery and into the supply chain in time to make sure there's no adverse price impact for the winter. I do think we're going to have enough supplies to get through the winter. And I'm just going to watch it every day and do what seems indicated.

I would just say this since you raised that question and then I have to let these members of Congress go, and Mr. Casserly and Secretary Riley will go out and talk more about the education report. But what I would hope is that what we're going through here would prompt the majority in Congress to work with us on some longer term strategies on which we ought to be able to agree.

We are very close to the development of very high mileage vehicles, with fuel cells, alternative fuels, blended fuels. We are within sight of cracking the chemical mystery of the conversion of biomass to fuels at a ratio that would make it change the of this issue. Right now it takes seven gallons of gasoline to make eight gallons of ethanol or any other biomass fuel.

But the chemists believe they can get the conversion down to one gallon of gasoline for eight gallons of fuel. When that happens, then all of you will drive to work everyday with the equivalent of 500 miles a gallon.

And this will be a very different world. We will be living in a different world when that happens. And we ought to be investing money in that.

There are technologies available today, off-the-shelf, that pay out in two years or less, that would permit us to dramatically reduce energy consumption in homes, offices and factories all over America.

We ought to give people a tax break to buy them. And we ought to do it now. We ought to create a market that will move quickly to a very different energy future that will actually grow the economy faster.

So, you know -- you know, where we differ over -- and there are some production incentives we could adopt now, that we agree on.

The most significant difference we have, I think, is over whether there should be drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And, you know, that's an issue that's being debated in the election. The American people can draw their own conclusions. I think we're right; they think they're right. They can hear the debate. But that should not be an excuse to walk away from the long-term elements of an energy strategy, that I've been trying to pass for more than two years, that we can do today at very modest cost and enormous return.

Thank you very much.

HEMMER: President Clinton, a number of issues there at the White House. But again the thing that took our attention, certainly, is the latest in Belgrade. President Clinton saying, quote, "We believe in democracy. All we want" -- the U.S., he is speaking about -- "is the right to freely choose leaders."

Ask about U.S. intervention, whether or not that was appropriate? He says, "It's not an appropriate case. The people of Serbia have made their opinion clear." President Clinton from the White House now.



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