Public Papers - 1990 - April
Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters Aboard Air Force One
The President. First off, I understand that the House is voting soon on Panama and Nicaragua, and I want to thank the leadership for moving it in a timely fashion. And I hope that it will pass overwhelmingly. And then I would encourage the Senate to act immediately. It is absolutely essential that we get funding for both Nicaragua and Panama, and I will continue to keep that in my sights. It is in the best interest of the United States; it is in the best interest of democracy in our own hemisphere. And so, I would encourage the Senate to move rapidly and to vote on this matter before they consider leaving town at the end of this week. It is essential. It is priority. And I would encourage the Democrats and the Republicans in the Senate to vote promptly on this important measure to help solidify the democracies in Panama and Nicaragua.
And the second subject that concerns me is this comment out of Iraq attributed to Saddam Hussein, the President. This is no time to be talking about using chemical or biological weapons; this is no time to be escalating tensions in the Middle East. And I found those statements to be bad, and I would strongly urge Iraq to reject the use of chemical weapons. And I don't think it helps peace in the Middle East. I don't think it helps the security interests of Iraq, obviously, and it was certainly wrong. So, I would suggest that those statements be withdrawn and that -- forget about talk of using chemical and biological weapons.
Assistance for Nicaragua and Panama
Q. Mr. President, Senator Mitchell says your aid package to Panama and Nicaragua have been presented as a jigsaw puzzle, and he wants to see the whole picture before he moves ahead with it.
The President. I would encourage him to move ahead promptly. There's no jigsaw puzzle when it comes to what is best for democracy in Nicaragua and no jigsaw puzzle when it comes to what is best for Panama. One of the Panamanian leaders was up here, made a convincing case to Members of the Senate. Clearly if any leader would talk to Violeta Chamorro, they'd see the urgency of getting something done on that. I did not see Senator Mitchell's statement, but I would simply say these are laser-like requests -- requests to help Nicaragua and Panama.
And in terms of our overall foreign policy, we are on the right track. And I would urge leaders to take a look at the way democracy has moved in this hemisphere, not just to these two countries but in other countries as well. So, let's keep it going, but let's give support to those who need it.
Iraqi Chemical Weapons Threat
Q. Mr. President, do we evidence that the Iraqis have new, modernized binary chemical weapons, or some new generation of chemical weapons?
The President. I've seen no evidence of that. I saw some comment about that, Norm [Norman Sandler, United Press International].
Q. They seem to refer to dual weapons -- --
The President. -- -- dual weapons, but preliminary checking -- I see no evidence that that means what we think of when we talk about binary weapons.
Q. Is there any reason to feel that he was somehow provoked by threats, real or imagined, in all of this?
The President. Well, I don't know. I know what he cites, but I have no evidence that there's been any threat to his facilities inside Iran, of one kind or another.
The President. I mean, in Iraq.
Q. But Israel could blow up their reactor several years ago.
The President. Well, maybe -- you know, this is what -- there's a lot speculation that he's talking about -- but I've seen no evidence of this.
Q. Will you personally try to contact by Iraq, or any other channels, try to press upon him how strongly you feel at -- --
The President. Well, I think we've made our views to him very, very clearly through proper channels. Maybe this will help.
AIDS Patient Ryan White
Q. Are you going to try to call Ryan White's family?
The President. I don't know. It's a very delicate moment now. And I hope I made clear how strongly I feel about this young man and about his suffering. But if I thought it would help their spirits in any way, I sure would do it
Q. Any plans of visiting him?
Lithuanian Independence and the Soviet-U.S. Summit
Q. How about updates? Have you heard back from Gorbachev yet?
The President. Have I what?
Q. Have you heard back from Gorbachev? And would you expect to -- from Shevardnadze?
The President. I've not had a personal reply, but that's not out of the ordinary because the Foreign Minister will be here tomorrow. I think he gets here tomorrow. And I'll be seeing him.
Q. On Friday.
The President. And that will be the chance to visit with him and see how that message went down in Moscow.
Q. Lock in the summit date?
The President. Well, I don't know that that'll be done on this visit or not. I hope so. I'd like to get that determined. And I would repeat my desire to see this matter handled in a cool fashion, for freedom of democracy, self-determination all goes forward, but where the result is peaceful, and no use of force. So, I was a little encouraged by some comments that I read out of Lithuania yesterday, and I just would encourage the Soviets to remember the pledge to achieve a peaceful resolution to this very difficult question.
Clean Air Legislation
Q. Cut down clean air vote?
The President. Well, I hope the clean air bill goes well. I, in this instance, salute both Senator Dole and Senator Mitchell for very strong leadership. I think the White House has been very helpful in beating back unhelpful amendments. So, this is an evidence of strong bipartisan work, and it's good. I think it sets a good example. I think the country wants it. We are not going to go to either extreme: the extreme of throwing people out of work and shutting down America and stopping all economic growth, or the extreme of doing nothing about the terribly pressing environmental questions.
Mr. Fitzwater. Mr. President, we're on final approach here.
The President. Are we? How high are we, Marlin?
Mr. Fitzwater. We're at 13/2\ feet, sir. [Laughter]
The President. Thirteen and a -- [laughter] -- those people down there are ants. [Laughter] All right.
Note: The President spoke at 3:25 p.m., en route to Detroit, MI. Marlin Fitzwater was Press Secretary to the President. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.