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US

Clinton: 'Happy day' as Yugoslav pullout completed

Clinton
Clinton talks to CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Sunday in Cologne

 MILITARY PLAN:
Focus on
Kosovo
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CNN's Wolf Blitzer conducts an exclusive interview with U.S. President Bill Clinton (Part 3)
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Interactive INTERACTIVE
KFOR enters Kosovo

NATO rolls into Kosovo
 ALSO:
G-8 summit ends with promise of 'strong action' in Balkans

NATO air war officially ends as Yugoslav troops leave Kosovo

U.S. officials upbeat after Clinton-Yeltsin meeting

 IN-DEPTH SPECIAL:
Focus on Kosovo
 

COLOGNE, Germany (CNN) -- U.S. President Bill Clinton said Sunday that Yugoslav troops' withdrawal from Kosovo marked a good day, and that Russia's role in peacekeeping efforts there is acceptable to NATO.

"It's a very happy day," Clinton said, referring to the Yugoslav pullout. NATO formally ended its 11-week air war against Yugoslavia on Sunday.

In a wide-ranging interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN's Late Edition on Sunday, Clinton discussed progress on the Kosovo peace plan, gun control and the 2000 presidential election.

"We have about 20,000 of our NATO peacekeepers in there. Sixty-two thousand of the Kosovars have already come home. So I feel very good about where we're going with this now, and I'm leaving here with real confidence that we are going to succeed in achieving all of our objectives," Clinton said.

After meeting with Russian President Boris Yeltsin on the last day of the G-8 summit, Clinton said he was satisfied with Russia's role at the airport in Kosovo's capital, Pristina.

Originally thought to be a staging ground for NATO peacekeepers, the airport was unexpectedly taken over by Russian troops last week.

"The division of labor they've worked out at the airport is quite acceptable to us and guarantees that the mission can go forward," Clinton said. He did not elaborate.

The U.S. president downplayed reports of Yeltsin's poor health.

"His behavior was neither erratic or shaky today. He was strong, clear, forceful and looking to the future," Clinton said.

Election 2000

Discussing the 2000 presidential election, Clinton praised Republican George W. Bush's campaign announcement last week. But he said the issues will decide how well Bush does against Vice President Al Gore on the Democratic side.

"We've got to see where he stands on the issues," Clinton said. "So far we know almost nothing of that except what we know from his record as governor."

"His announcement speech was very well-crafted. But on the specifics, I just don't know. I mean, for example, he said nothing about this gun battle going on in the House. He signed a concealed weapons bill in the Texas legislature. That's just one example."

Clinton was more effusive in his praise of Gore, who he said presented a good mix of experience and "future vision."

At other points in the interview:

• Clinton lamented the defeat of gun control legislation in the House last week.

"No one seriously questions, after the experience of the last five years of the Brady bill, that if we close the gun show and flea market loophole, that there will be fewer improper sales and it will make America safer at minimum disruption to people who buy and sell guns and use them lawfully," he said.

• On Hillary Rodham Clinton's possible run for a U.S. Senate seat from New York, Clinton said reports that the first lady planned to move out of the White House in the fall were untrue. He said he said he would be "enthusiastically supportive" if she runs.

• Asked what was ahead for his personal life after he leaves office, Clinton said: "I want to continue to be active in areas that I care a great deal about."

"I can continue to work on some of the issues of world peace and reconciliation of people across these racial and religious lines that I have devoted so much of my life to. I can continue to work at home on issues I care a great deal about including involving young people in public service," he said.

"It's too early to quit work, and I'm not good enough to go on the senior golf tour, so I expect I'll just have to go on doing what I'm doing."



RELATED STORIES:
Yugoslav military presence in Kosovo drawing to a close
June 19, 1999
Cohen receives warm welcome from Kosovar Albanians
June 19, 1999
Gore launches presidential campaign
June 16, 1999
Bush begins long-awaited campaign swing
June 11, 1999
Hillary Clinton confirms plans for exploratory committee
June 04, 1999

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