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National Archives

Public Papers - 1991 - December

Exchange With Reporters Prior to a Meeting With United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar


Gratitude for the Release of American Hostages

Q. What are your thoughts this afternoon, Mr. President?

The President. My thoughts? My thoughts are gratitude to the Secretary-General and to Mr. Picco. My thoughts are of courage and heroism of the five people standing in front of us. My thoughts are for their families. My thoughts are of the joy that the Nation feels at the release of these five and others preceeding them. And I think this says that we have a lot to be grateful for in America. It's a wonderful, wonderful occasion at the White House, having them here.

Now, we're going to go over into the White House itself to honor the Secretary-General, Mr. Picco, his courage, his heroism really, helped free these people. And best of all for Barbara and me, to say hello to their loving families and welcome them home.

The Yellow Ribbon

Q. Is it time to take the yellow ribbon down, sir?

The President. Not for me. Not for me until the cases are all closed. There's two Germans held against their will. There are remains of two beloved Americans who have not been accounted for. And we are grateful for what's happened, very grateful that they're all here. I just couldn't be more pleased.

Q. Can you -- --

The President. Not any louder, no, I can't. [Laughter]

Timing of the Release

Q. Do you think this could have happened sooner?

The President. I'm just grateful that it's happened. And, of course, I wish that it happened sooner. For them to spend those precious years in their lives held against their will, of course, every American wishes that it had been sooner.

In any event, why, they're home and that's what matters. And it's Christmas and that also matters.

Unresolved Hostage Issues

Q. Mr. Secretary-General, did you bring any good news about the return of the remains of Americans and about the release of the two Germans?

The Secretary-General. Well, as you know, I am extremely concerned about the fate, of course, of Mr. Higgins, Colonel Higgins and Mr. Buckley. And I hope to get some news in the next few days.

And then, as far as the Germans are concerned, we keep working and we are hopeful; as well as for the Israeli missing persons and some others who are the detainees in Lebanon as well, are a matter of concern to me. Because for us in the United Nations we see too many problems. It is not a political problem as you very well know.

The President. Thank you all very much. We've got to go over and greet the families now.

Note: The exchange began at 4:35 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House, prior to a meeting with the U.N. Secretary-General; Giandomenico Picco, Assistant to the Secretary-General for Special Assignments; and the former five American hostages.

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