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Public Papers - 1992 - February

Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Carl Bildt of Sweden

1992-02-20

The President. Well, look who's here. You're not going to need this, I don't think.

Q. Mr. President, why have you not condemned the latest Israeli invasion into Lebanon, sir?

The President. We're not going to take any questions at this photo opportunity. We're going to be discussing very important relations between Sweden and the United States and also get into a lot of multilateral questions. But that's it.

Q. Will that issue come up in your talks, sir?

The President. Any issues he wants to talk about will be coming up.

Q. Do you think the invasion might hamper the current Mideast peace talks?

The President. You missed it. I'm not going to take any questions. Thanks.

Q. Thank you.

[At this point, one group of journalists left the Oval Office, and a second group entered.]

Q. Are relations with Sweden different since Carl Bildt took over?

The President. Put it this way: I don't think they could be much better. And we're very happy with the relations with Sweden. We view it, incidentally, as a very important bilateral relationship. And I have great respect for what this gentleman on my right is doing and what he has already accomplished. And he's already had a very good, thorough discussion with the Secretary of State, and now I look forward to having one with him. But I welcome Prime Minister Bildt here, and just to say he comes to a fertile territory because there's an awful lot of respect for what he's doing, right here in this Oval Office, the State Department, all across our Government.

Q. Do you really have time with Sweden after the setback in New Hampshire?

The President. Yes, I've got time for it.

Q. Shouldn't you put America first, to quote the famous -- --

The President. I'd like to think America is first. But that's the way I look at it. But I don't think any President would look at it differently. But we are going to stay engaged around the world. We've got a leadership role, and we're working closely with leaders from different countries. And clearly, Sweden is a very important country. I can learn a lot from him -- --

Q. What can you learn?

The President. -- -- about what's happening in Eastern Europe, for example, what's happening in the Baltics, what's happening in Europe itself. And I can tell him that we plan to stay engaged. And no domestic politics is going to dissuade us from that.

Q. What specific roles do you see Sweden -- --

The President. Listen guys, this isn't a press conference. This is what we call a photo op. But I just really wanted to say, with the Swedish journalists here, a warm welcome to this very able Prime Minister. We're just so pleased he's here.

Thank you all very much.

Note: The exchange began at 11:03 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

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