Clinton Meets Queen in U.K.

L O N D O N, Dec. 14, 2000 -- President Bill Clinton had morning tea with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace today then washed it down with half a pint of beer at a blacked out pub.

With five weeks left in office, Clinton was on the last dayof a three-day trip to Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain where he made a final push for peace in Northern Ireland and urged his successor George W. Bush to preserve a U.S. role in the process.

However the troubles of Northern Ireland were far from hismind when Clinton, with his wife Hillary and 20-year-olddaughter Chelsea flew to London by helicopter after spending the night with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at his country estate, Chequers.

Over their cups of tea, Clinton and Mrs. Clinton chatted for 20 minutes with the queen in her ornate audience room while Chelsea joined White House aides on a tour of the palace.

Hundreds of people were outside the main gate of BuckinghamPalace as the president’s motorcade pulled inside on a crisp, sunny morning.

After the audience with the queen, the Clintons went tofamed shopping area Portobello Road to do some window shopping.

Inside a pub, the barman offered Clinton a menu and pouredhim a half pint of lager. Clinton asked him to pour only “alittle bit, not much,” because “I have to stay awake to give a speech today.”

The lights were out in the pub because the electricity hadinexplicably gone out in the area that Clinton visited. Ablazing fire provided the only light.

“Feel free to blame me,” Clinton told those in the pub,according to White House spokesman Jake Siewert. “Back homepeople try sometimes to blame the weather on me.”

A ‘Successful’ Trip

White House officials have called Clinton’s visit toIreland a success, saying the parties were committed to settling their differences and implementing the 1998 Good Friday accord.

“The challenge now is to find the way to do that,” NationalSecurity Adviser Sandy Berger told reporters in Belfast after Clinton held talks with leaders at Stormont, the building where North Ireland’s once-warring groups now openly debate their differences in a power-sharing government.

U.S. officials made little progress on the thorniest issues— disarmament and policing reforms — which have put the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement in peril.

The visit was also marred by doubts over the future of thepeace process once Clinton leaves office on Jan. 20.

Clinton sought to reassure leaders in Northern Ireland thatWashington would continue to play a leadership role in the push for lasting peace. But Berger conceded that the parties felt a “sense of urgency.”

Some diplomats doubt that a Republican administration led by President-elect George W. Bush would play as active a role in the process as that of the Democratic Clinton, whose intervention was critical to Northern Ireland’s difficult journey away from communal violence and toward an uneasy peace.

When he learned of Bush’s win, Clinton had pledged to getthe president-elect off to a good start, saying Americans wanted their politicians to set aside rancor and personal attacks.

Picking a Bone With Supreme Court

But Clinton, in the aftermath of a bitter post-electioncontest in which Bush ultimately defeated Clinton’s VicePresident Al Gore, made clear he disagreed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that cleared the way for Bush’s victory.

He said Gore, in his concession speech on Wednesday nightin Washington, had put into words “the feelings of all of us who disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision, but accepted it.”

Clinton, speaking hours after Gore’s concession, saidAmerica was stronger when politicians of all stripes reached across party lines to forge a “vital center.”

“The American people, however divided they were in thiselection, overwhelmingly want us to build on that vital center, without rancor or personal attack,” he said.

He said “I wish President-elect Bush well” and also thankedAmericans “for their patience, passion and patriotism throughout this extended election season.”