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President Clinton Welcomes Prime Minister Blair to Washington

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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 5, 1998


The Grand Foyer

11:09 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Blair, members of the British delegation, welcome to America and to the White House. We apologize for the rain, but the sun is shining in our hearts today because you are here. Today we celebrate the unbreakable bond between our two nations. It led the fight for freedom in the 20th century, and we set our sights now on renewing our alliance for a new century, with all its promise and challenge.

At the heart of all we have done and all we will do together in the future is the unshakable conviction that our people have the inalienable right to pursue their dreams in peace, security, and freedom, and the sure knowledge that we can always depend upon each other to stand for that conviction together.

These are good times for the people of the United States and Great Britain. Freedom and democracy are taking hold around the world. In both our nations, a vibrant new economy is growing, rooted in new ideas, new technologies, new scientific breakthroughs, changing the way we live and learn, the way we work and compete, the way to relate to each other and the rest of the world.

In both our nations we have moved to build a government for the 21st century going beyond the dogmas of the past, focused on giving our people the tools to make the most of their own lives: a world-class education, the ability to move from welfare to work, a system of retirement security as strong for our children as it has been for our parents. In this new era a new Britain and a new America, true to our oldest and most cherished values, can blaze new paths for the world.

Our 21st century alliance, by example and exertion, must protect the promise we are working so hard to secure. We will stand together for peace, as in Bosnia where our troops are working side by side to secure the Dayton Accords. We will search for new solutions to stubborn strife, as in Northern Ireland, where the Prime Minister's courageous leadership and the determined efforts of the Irish government are clearing a pathway to peace. We will stand against those who defy the will of the international community, bringing terrorists to justice in the case of Pan Am 103; maintaining stability in the Persian Gulf, where the British aircraft carrier Invincible is patrolling the waters alongside our US fleet -- something that our men and women in uniform find great strength in, Mr. Prime Minister.

Our 21st century alliance embraces the idea of a Europe strong, prosperous, democratic, and undivided for the first time in history. So as Britain maintains its friendship with America, it is playing a leading role in shaping that new Europe: a healthy European Union, reaching out to new members; a strong NATO taking in new allies; practical partnerships with new democracies, including Russia and Ukraine -- all important steps to a more peaceful 21st century.

Mr. Prime Minister, the earliest English settlers who came to this country had the vision to see over the horizon. Like them, you have shown the foresight, the imagination, the daring to envision a new world, and the determination to make that vision real. You have invigorated Britain, issued an exhilarating challenge for a proud people whose best days, clearly, still lie ahead.

T.S. Eliot, who has been variously claimed by both our countries once wrote in the Four Quartets, "The end is where we start from." At the end of a century of friendship, let us pledge to connect our storied past to the unwritten promise of our future. Mr. Prime Minister, welcome to the United States. (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Mr. President, thank you for those words and let me say how honored we have been to accept your invitation to make an official visit to Washington and how delighted we are to be here.

Your visit to London last year was without doubt a highlight of the early months of my premiership. Perhaps more important, your visit to Northern Ireland in 1995 was a highlight of the struggle of that province for peace. Then I was leader of the opposition. But today, as Prime Minister, I know and value your concern and your support as we work towards a lasting and peaceful settlement. We value, too, the determination that you have expressed once more to bring to justice those responsible for the Lockerbie bombing.

On so many issues we think alike. We are in politics for the same thing: Because we want to modernize our countries in preparation for the new millennium; because we believe in freedom, in fairness; because we want greater prosperity for our people, a better standard of living for what you call middle America, what I call middle Britain, the majority of hard-working, decent people who play by the rules.

President Clinton, Bill Clinton, has in his time said some very kind things about me, but let me say something about him. He said what he wanted to deliver for the American people and he is delivering. He never said it would be easy, but he stuck to his guns. He never promised miracles, but he has delivered progress, real progress, for the people who elected him.

President Clinton has been here in office for six years. In Britain we are a new government at the beginning of our journey. There will be tough times and tough decisions for us, too. But we, too, our determined to deliver for our people, to fulfill the promises that we made to them. And ours is an ambitious project, precisely because it seeks to reach out beyond the old boundaries of left and right, which the people found to be irrelevant long before the politicians did. Ours is the politics of the radical center, managing that vast economic and social change that confronts us rather than allowing it to manage us.

As the next few days unfold, I know that the ties between us will strengthen further. More important, the bonds between our two countries will strengthen further also. We have stood together, as you said, before in the face of tyranny. Today, in the face of the threat from Saddam Hussein, we must stand together once more. We want a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but the success or failure of diplomacy rests on Saddam. If he fails to respond, then he knows that the threat of force is there and it is real.

We must also work together to move forward the Middle East peace process. There are few more important tasks for international diplomacy in the next few months.

So in these next few days we will spend many hours together and discuss many issues. We do so with a shared language, shared values, a shared determination to stand up for what is right. We do so confident of strengthening those bonds that tie us together and building a new transatlantic relationship, founded on the successful modernization of our two countries, a new and modern dynamic relationship for a new century.

Thank you. (Applause.)

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