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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 18, 1999
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                      AND HIS MAJESTY ABDULLAH II,
                          IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY

                            The Oval Office

9:57 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me just begin by saying how delighted I am to have His Majesty here today. The United States values our relationship with Jordan very much. We hope to have a discussion about the opportunity and the obligation we have to continue the peace process in the Middle East. I think we've both talked to Prime Minister-elect Barak about that.

And we are also very much committed to Jordan's economic renewal. And the supplemental appropriation bill now working its way through the Congress has, among other things, $100 million in support for Jordan and I believe it will pass in the next few days, so I'm very encouraged by that.

And I'm delighted to have you here, Your Majesty.

Q What would be the first step, Mr. President, towards a renewal, a revival of the peace process? Do you have anything in mind, I mean, have you set any dates?

THE PRESIDENT: No. Well, we have to, first of all, await the formation of a government in Israel. They probably have only known for a few hours what the distribution of the vote is by parties, in terms of what the composition of the Knesset will be. And so I think General Barak is entitled to a few days to put a government together.

Q Why do you have so many hopes about this? I mean, why are you suddenly encouraged?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that, clearly, the whole issue of the peace process was an issue; and I think because of his military service the question of General Barak's devotion to the security of Israel is not in question. But he has evidenced an intention to continue the peace process. And if he's willing to do it, I think that we're certainly both willing to do it and we're hopeful that we'll have a chance to do so.

Q Mr. President, what can the United States do to help further this peace process at this point?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have an accord at Wye to implement and we have a lot of work to do on the final status issues. I think the road map is out there. And we'll do what we've always done. I've been working at this for six years and I'm looking forward to continuing. I'll do what I have done under all the previous leadership of Israel and what we have worked very closely with Jordan to do.

Q Mr. President, the U.S. and you, personally, have been very supportive to Jordan in the past few months. What immediate plans do you have now to help Jordan's economy, in addition to the $100 million?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's what -- we're going to have a conversation about that. I hope that Jordan can receive some relief on its debt problem from other countries. The United States has already done about all we can on that; we've done quite a bit. But I think other nations could do more to help Jordan, and I know His Majesty has been working on that. And I would like to see more action on that, and I will do what I can to support that.

Q Why is the United States, sir, stalling the use of Apache helicopters in Kosovo?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think that's a mischaracterization. This is a military campaign, with clear objectives. And military leaders will make their decisions about when and under what circumstances to use the Apaches. As General Clark and others have made clear, when the weather is good, as it generally is at this time of year, most of what the Apaches could do can be done with the A-10s at less risk.

But those are judgments there being made; I don't really understand this implication that the United States is stalling. They're a military asset that's there, they're there to be used under appropriate circumstances when the military commanders decide that it should be done. It's not a political decision in any way and it should not be.

Q With the air war now in its second month, are you giving more consideration to ground troops?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think the air war has accomplished quite a bit and there's a lot more that it can accomplish. I, and everyone else, has always said that we intend to see our objectives achieved and that we have not, and will not, take any option off the table.

But we are making progress and I am convinced that we will achieve our objectives one way or the other. And I'm very hopeful, obviously, that the diplomatic efforts that are being made in the State Department and with the Russians will bear some fruit. But if they do not, we will continue to press ahead. But I do believe that they've done an excellent job and now over 20,000 Sorties, a great deal of what we have been trying to accomplish has been done. I don't think that we or our allies should take any options off the table and that has been my position from the beginning, but we ought to stay with the strategy we have and work it through to the end.

Q Your Majesty, what do you hope your talks with the President will result in? And do you think the climate in Israel now is more conducive to making progress in the peace process?

KING ABDULLAH: Well, I think we have many issues to discuss with the President, and one of the main things is to thank the overwhelming support that the President has shown Jordan over the many years, but especially with the passing away of His Majesty. And, again, the President went out of his way and the American administration and government to support us through this very difficult time.

Vis-a-vis, obviously, the elections in Israel were very, very optimistic. I just had the opportunity to speak to Prime Minister-elect Barak and wish him well. And we had the opportunity of seeing him in Jordan only several days ago and we see eye to eye on many issues and we're very optimistic of taking the peace process forward.

END 10:04 A.M. EDT