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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 3, 1997
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

10:12 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I'm glad to welcome Chairman Arafat here. This is our sixth meeting, and I'm hopeful that it will be as productive as our previous ones have. You will remember the last time he was here, last fall, we were facing a very difficult situation with regard to Hebron, and because of the efforts that he made in working with the Israelis, an agreement was reached, a timetable was established and we're moving forward. And I'm hopeful that we can keep doing that. This is also a difficult moment, but I think we can work through it and go forward and I appreciate his coming to see me.

Q Mr. Chairman, are the new settlements designed by the Israelis to make the annexation a fait accompli of East Jerusalem?

CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: Not only for Jerusalem, but also for Bethlehem, because their target is to squeeze and to isolate Jerusalem, but, at the same time, to build the settlements at the entrance of Bethlehem, to replace Har Homa, our capital -- in the city of Bethlehem during the 2000 years of our celebration for our Jesus Christ.

Q What are you going to do about it?

CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: I am sure that His Excellency will push for -- to prevent it.

Q Mr. President, what do you think about the settlement?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think about the settlement is what I think about all these issues. You know, the important thing is for these people on both sides to be building confidence and working together. And so I would have prefer the decision not have been made, because I don't think it builds confidence, I think it builds mistrust. And I wish that it had not been made.

Q Mr. President, the Jerusalem Embassy Act declares that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Is Jerusalem Israel's capital, and does Israel have the right to build within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you know, I've been asked that question a lot and I'm going to give you the same answer I always give. I do not believe, now that the parties have reached the agreement they reached in 1993 and they have made this the final status issue, that the United States can serve any useful purpose by saying or especially by doing anything which seems to prejudge what should be a final status issue between the parties. I think that would be a big mistake.

Q Vice President Gore, did you solicit money in the White House, Mr. Gore, during the campaign?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'll talk with you all later, not during this.

THE PRESIDENT: Nice tie, Ron.

Q Thank you. Got that in Arkansas.

Q Do you want to say anything about the storms?

Q Are you going to Arkansas?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm going down tomorrow. I'm very concerned about it. I talked over the weekend to -- I talked to the Governor twice and the Mayor of Little Rock and Representative Malone in Arkadelphia. You know, it's a bad situation. More people were killed in 18 hours than in the 12 years I was Governor, I believe combined, in the tornadoes.

Q Did you know anybody that was hurt or killed?

THE PRESIDENT: Not to my knowledge, although I did recognize a couple of people on television last night who had lost their homes. One man said -- did you see that -- where he had given away a couch to the Goodwill Industries, and whoever got the couch had their home destroyed and the couch was blown back into his house. (Laughter.)

Q You're going down --

THE PRESIDENT: I recognized three or four people on television. But I'm going down there, I'll see tomorrow.

Q You had a good birthday celebration?

THE PRESIDENT: Wonderful. Chelsea had a good birthday. New York was good.

END 10:17 A.M. EST