Clinton more assertive on foreign policy issues Israel, Russia, Serbs draw comments

December 18, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- President-elect Bill Clinton, discarding any remaining reticence about speaking out on foreign affairs, sent up a flurry of crisp foreign policy signals yesterday.

Mr. Clinton asked Israel to halt its mass expulsion of Palestinian activists, assured Russia's Boris N. Yeltsin of continued U.S. tTC support, urged Serbs to vote their hard-line government out of office and said he planned to meet next month with Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

Mr. Clinton's comments, his most specific statements about international issues since his election, broke no significant new policy ground, and most fell squarely within positions already taken by the Bush administration.

More notable, instead, was his willingness to comment on foreign affairs.

Last month, the morning after Election Day, Mr. Clinton admonished the world that the United States had only "one president at a time," and said that he would not interfere in President Bush's conduct of international relations.

But yesterday he was so eager to reaffirm U.S. support for Mr. Yeltsin, for example, that he returned to the podium to speak about the Russian leader after having waved the news conference over and walked away.

the Middle East, Mr. Clinton said that he was unhappy with Israel's decision to expel some 400 Palestinians accused of militant activities, but he also said that he understood Israelis' strong feelings about terrorism.

"Let me, first of all, say that I share the anger and the frustration and the outrage of the Israeli people at what has happened," he said. "And I understand how they feel they have to deal very firmly with this group Hamas, which is apparently bent on terrorist activities of all kinds.

"On the other hand, I am concerned that this deportation may go too far and may imperil the peace talks. So I hope that some other way can be found between now and the time the actual physical expulsion of those people would take place."

His comment was strikingly similar in tone and content to a written statement issued by Mr. Bush, suggesting that the two had consulted on the issue.

Mr. Clinton decided to take a more assertive stance after his transition advisers suggested that he needed to send more precise signals about his intentions, one source said.

His statements also appeared intended partly as a response to Mr. Bush's speech in Texas Tuesday, in which the president warned his successors against "a retreat from American leadership."

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