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Europe: Clinton Visits London After Emotional Day In The Hague

Washington, 29 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - President Bill Clinton is in London today, exchanging views with Britain's new Prime Minister Tony Blair on a wide range of topics, including Europe's two most intractable problems -- Bosnia and Northern Ireland.

Clinton's London visit was expected to be more intimate and less formal than the day of pomp and ceremony and noble words in The Hague Wednesday with more than 50 current and former heads of state.

British officials say that in addition to sharing political ideas, Clinton's London trip is an opportunity to strengthen personal bonds with Blair, with whom he already has much in common.

Some of Blair's London critics call him "a Clinton clone" because he, like Clinton, is relatively young, a remarkably skillful politician, went to Oxford University and is married to a lawyer.

Blair, who swept to office in a landslide election for the Labour party earlier this month, has extended a rare privilege to Clinton, inviting him to attend today's weekly session of the British cabinet. The last U.S. president to sit in on a British cabinet meeting was Richard Nixon in 1969.

In their private, political discussions, Clinton was expected to urge Blair to renew efforts for peace in Northern Ireland. The United States last year tried to mediate peace talks that were stalled by renewed violence and acts of terrorism by the Irish Republican Army, and hardened positions in London.

The United States and Britain's former conservative government also at times had differences on Bosnia policy. But they now seem in accord on the need to continue an international peacekeeping presence in that troubled land, and to vigorously prosecute war criminals.

Earlier this week, the German daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" reported that Britain would hand over to the United States secret files on war criminals in former Yugoslavia.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the report but told RFE/RL in Washington Wednesday that the United States has been working very closely with the British government in the effort to prosecute war criminals guilty of atrocities in Bosnia.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met in The Hague Wednesday with Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbor at the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal for former Yugoslavia and pledged strong U.S. support for its work.

She said "there is no statute of limitations on the crimes that were committed in Bosnia and Rwanda and no statute of limitations on American support for justice."

Albright also said Wednesday she will press NATO allies to bring indicted war crimes suspects to justice.

Albright was scheduled to be in Portugal today meeting foreign ministers of NATO member states. She plans to travel to the Balkans at the weekend, returning to Washington Sunday night.

In The Hague Wednesday, Albright said she intends to deliver a tough message to Croatia's President Franjo Tudjman, as well as to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, telling them that their lack of cooperation in detaining war crime suspects is a roadblock to increased U.S. and Western cooperation.

Clinton also called for support for the International War Crimes Tribunal in an address to European leaders gathered in the Binnenhof royal palace in The Hague to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Western Europe after World War II.

He said the international effort, including America and Russia, and Germany and Poland, to keep the peace in the Balkans and rebuild Bosnia reflects both the urgency and the promise of the situation, with so many countries "in common cause to bring peace to the heart of Europe."

Clinton spoke eloquently about the unifying spirit of the 1947 Marshall Plan of U.S. economic assistance to European nations destroyed by World War II.

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl was moved to tears when Clinton spoke of Kohl's personal boyhood experience of the Marshall Plan, describing how American trucks brought soup to Kohl's school.

"That boy grew up to be a great champion of Europe and a trusted friend of America," Clinton said, as teardrops slid down Kohl's cheeks.

Clinton went on to reaffirm a U.S. commitment to help build a peaceful, democratic, undivided, and stable Europe, declaring to European leaders: "America stands with you. We have learned the lessons of history. We will not walk away...our destinies are joined."

He urged the richer West Europeans to increase investment and do more for the poorer Central and East European nations trying to bridge the gap caused by more than 40 years of communism.

Clinton said "It is tempting to pursue our private agendas, to simply sit back and let history unfold." But he said, instead, America together with a new Europe "must complete the noble journey that Marshall's generation began -- and this time, with no one left behind."

At a luncheon earlier, Clinton said that "for half the continent, the dream of recovery was denied," and that "now, at last, all of Europe's nations are seeking their rightful places at our transatlantic tables."

He said Americans and Europeans have a rare second chance to complete the job begun 50 years ago by then Secretary of State George Marshall, for whom the initiative was named, and "together to build an undivided, democratic, peaceful Europe for the very first time in all human history."

Clinton winds up his European trip in London, leaving for Washington late tonight.

(See RFE/RL series The Marshall Plan Turns 50.)