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CNN Today

Crisis in the Middle East: Clinton Says Time Has Come for Final Peace Deal, Cancels North Korea Trip

Aired December 28, 2000 - 1:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We have a top official in the Clinton administration saying today that the enemies of Middle East peace will stop at nothing. The same official adds it's decision time for the Palestinians.

CNN's Major Garrett joins us now from the White House, where they're waiting for that decision -- Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Lou.

Well, the president of the United States made it very clear in appearance here at the briefing room of the White House, just moments ago: in his words, he said it's time to close -- meaning it's time for the Palestinians and the Israelis to make that final peace deal, a comprehensive one, one that's been envisioned since 1993, when the Oslo Accord set this process in motion.

The president said it's not going to get any easier, and the violence today and throughout the last three or four months has proved very clear to all sides the cost of not moving forward on peace.

But the president was also asked, directly, about the most recent violence in the Middle East and its effects on the peace process. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I condemn the violence, and I believe it is the violence in the -- in the bus that prevented the prime minister from going to Egypt. I don't think it is lack of desire to pursue the peace process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT: And on this question of the Palestinians needing more details, the president was also very emphatic, far more emphatic than he's been as this process has moved along, that the Palestinians and the Israelis know all they need to know: The boundaries have been established, the president put forward this plan at their request, and now time to get within those boundaries and hammer out the final deal -- Lou.

WATERS: And Major, the president seemed to be suggesting to expect more violence in the Middle East.

GARRETT: Well, that's what the president has always said, if there is no -- well, it's actually in two contexts. That's a very good question, Lou.

One context is, if the process moves forward, he expects the enemies of peace on both sides, but primarily the Palestinian side, to increase the level of violence to try to stop that process.

But in another context, the president said if there is not a comprehensive agreement before he leaves office, clearly, violence will continue, and that's what the Israelis and the Palestinians will continue to inherit: More and more violence, and that inheritance, obviously, will spill over, quite possibly, to the larger Arab world -- and that's something the next president will have cope with -- Lou.

WATERS: And the intended presidential trip to North Korea -- it's been canceled. What do we know about that?

GARRETT: It's been canceled. As CNN first reported, the president of the United States decided, just today, not to travel to North Korea. The idea of a trip would be for the president to sign, with the communist government of North Korea, a framework on restraining that government's missile program.

But disagreements over sales of missile technology and verification of existing stockpiles stopped that deal. But the president made clear that substantial progress has been made on the front; he hopes that President-elect Bush and his new team will carry that progress forward, reach a deal with the North Koreans, and -- in his words -- reduce an element of instability throughout Asia -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Major Garrett, at the White House today.

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