THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT UPON DEPARTURE
The South Lawn
11:45 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. A year ago, Bosnia was racked by the bloodiest war in Europe since World War II. Yesterday, Bosnians went to the polls in peace to cast their votes for their future. The road ahead will be hard, but yesterday was a remarkable step forward. The Bosnian people, the international community and the American people should be proud.
Our observer delegation, led by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, reports that the elections generally were orderly and calm. Close to 70 percent of Bosnia's registered voters cast a ballot freely at one of 4,400 polling places all across the country. And nearly 80 percent of the registered refugees abroad voted by absentee ballot.
I want to thank IFOR, the international police task force, and the more than 1,200 international election monitors for helping so many Bosnians take part in these elections. By voting yesterday, the Bosnian people gave life to the institutions of national government: a presidency, a parliament, a constitutional court, key government agencies. These institutions can bring the country together instead of driving it apart. Now, we have to get them up and running and help the Bosnian people in the hard work of building a unified, democratic and peaceful Bosnia.
Our commitment to Bosnia does not end with these elections. We will continue to do our part to hold Bosnia's leaders to their commitments and to turn the promise, born nine months ago at Dayton, into a reality.
Q Mr. President, there are reports that Iraq has fired more missiles at U.S. planes. Do you know if those reports are true, and if so, do you plan to respond?
THE PRESIDENT: I can't confirm that now.
Q Mr. President, what do you say to criticism by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, especially in light of the confusion with the ground troops, U.S. ground troops potentially going to Kuwait, now waiting, he says our policy over there makes no sense, that it's a typical muddle?
THE PRESIDENT: That's just election year talk by Mr. Gingrich.
Q Mr. President, is Kuwait at all delaying or not approving the deployment of U.S. ground troops?
THE PRESIDENT: No, we have no information to that effect. I think that what I would do is just let the orderly processes that are always followed in these kinds of cases go forward. I think that there is no problem here, based on what I know. I think that what happened was that the decision on the movements that we had made actually became public before we had done our regular consultation and the Kuwaitis had done their regular review. As far as I know, there is nothing irregular or troubling here.
Q Mr. President, what do you think of Senator Nunn saying that Saddam is stronger now, and are you all set to retaliate again if something happens?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I believe that he's in better shape than he was the day after the Gulf War in 1991, but strategically, I do not believe he is stronger because of the expansion of the no-fly zone. I think the expansion of the no-fly zone was designed to do one thing and one thing only: to increase our capacity to monitor and to limit his ability to threaten his neighbors in light of his increased aggressiveness. And I think that we will achieve that, and I think we are achieving that, and that was exactly what we set out to achieve.
But he was not taken out of office in the Gulf War, he has managed to survive and he is still in power. But the important thing for the United States is that he not be able to threaten his neighbors, and to do what was done in 1991 in the Gulf War, we don't want to have to do that all over again, and that's what we're trying to avoid, and I believe we have taken an appropriate step to do that.
Q Is there a breakdown in communications between you and Capitol Hill? They act like they don't know what's going on.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I can't comment on that. We've done our best to keep them very carefully informed, and I expect to have some personal consultations in the next few days, and we'll see about that. But I believe we did the right thing, and I think it was the appropriate course, and I will do everything I can to answer whatever questions any member of Congress has. Thank you.
END 11:52 A.M. EDT