Clinton coordinates foreign views with White House

December 02, 1992|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Even though Bill Clinton said he would focus like a "laser beam" on the economy, the president-elect is making himself heard on foreign affairs and coordinating his remarks on sensitive matters with the Bush administration.

Yesterday he spoke by telephone with a group of Latin American leaders. Last week he sent a supportive telegram to Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin that echoed President Bush's own words. And today he may speak to Caribbean leaders.

"When you're about to become president, you have to pay attention to problems you face around the world," George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Clinton's communications director, said yesterday. "But it doesn't for a minute take away the focus from the economy."

As Mr. Clinton himself said during the campaign, foreign and domestic issues overlap, particularly when it comes to trade. And some foreign issues are too hot for the next president to ignore until his inauguration Jan. 20.

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Bush advisers are communicating closely on foreign issues, primarily through Mr. Bush's national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, and Mr. Clinton's senior adviser for national security and foreign affairs, Samuel Berger.

Mr. Clinton was informed in advance of Mr. Bush's offer of American troops to safeguard relief distribution in Somalia, according to Mr. Stephanopoulos.

Though Mr. Clinton in turn keeps Mr. Bush informed of his statements on key foreign issues, it's not to get the ZTC administration's approval, Mr. Stephanopoulos indicated.

"What we try to do is make sure each side knows what the other is doing," he said.

Mr. Clinton also is receiving a daily intelligence briefing from the administration, Mr. Stephanopoulos said. He added that there is a secure telephone line linking Mr. Clinton with Washington.

Mr. Clinton has made clear since the day after his election Nov. 3 that he wouldn't try to usurp Mr. Bush on foreign policy. Indeed, he has taken pains to sound more supportive than he did during the campaign on what the U.S. role should be in the Balkans.

Mr. Stephanopoulos underscored that yesterday, when he said Mr. Clinton remains "generally supportive" of Bush administration actions regarding Bosnia. Mr. Clinton also is "generally supportive of the decision to send troops to Somalia," he said.

Though Mr. Clinton denounced administration policy toward China during the campaign, saying the U.S. should insist on human rights and democratic reforms, the president-elect softened his rhetoric immediately after discussing the issue with Mr. Bush at their recent meeting in the White House.

On some other issues, however, Mr. Clinton stakes out a different approach when asked by reporters. He says, for example, he would give Haitians fleeing their nation an opportunity for a hearing before turning them back or deporting them.

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