Clinton meets queen, gives foreign policy speech in Britain

AYLESBURY, England - After a brief social call with Queen Elizabeth II, President Clinton was off to a British university Thursday to deliver, in probably the last major foreign policy address of his presidency, his view of the future of world affairs in a global age.

His late-morning visit to Buckingham Palace marks a return to familiar territory. He was at the palace in November 1995 and also met the queen in 1994 during D-day anniversary commemorations aboard the royal yacht Britannia.

The afternoon speech at the University of Warwick was a new chance for Clinton, in the last weeks of his administration, to highlight his work around the world and share his visions for its future.

''People have benefited enormously from this tremendous explosion of technology and information and prosperity, and yet, there's a globalization gap in the world. In many ways the world is more divided between rich and poor than ever before,'' Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger said Wednesday.

''He's going to speak about the obligation of both the developed countries and the developing countries to, once and for all, undertake to close that gap.''

Clinton was expected to mention problems like AIDS, Third World debt, education and the digital divide in the speech, his second on world affairs in a week. On Dec. 8, speaking at the University of Nebraska, he talked about rebuilding the nation's alliances and welcoming former enemies into the international community. He spoke of trying to harness the global economy, fight terrorism and bring peace to trouble spots around the world.

The president visited one of those trouble spots Wednesday before flying to London for his fifth visit to the city during his eight years as president. He landed at Heathrow International Airport, then took a helicopter to Chequers, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's country mansion, where he spent the night.

On Wednesday, both Clinton and Blair were in Belfast trying to prop up the peace process.

The two visited Stormont, a stately building on a hillside that houses the fragile new Northern Ireland Assembly, a power-sharing government set up by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. The agreement aims to end three decades of sectarian and political violence in the British province.

Implementation of that agreement has stalled, however, over its call for police reform and disarming terrorist groups. At the talks, the United States, the Britain and Ireland agreed to do more to counter terrorists unhappy with the joint Catholic-Protestant government in the north.

Speaking later at a new sports arena in Belfast, both Blair and Clinton gave pep talks, urging about 6,000 people to stay the course, continue to implement the 2-year-old agreement and resist the temptation to return to violence.

''It was never going to be the case that suddenly, one day in 1998, there were the troubles, and the next day there was peace,'' Blair said. ''It is a process that is painstaking, difficult, full of obstacles.''

Clinton said the problems the young government faces is nothing compared to being powerless and living with constant insecurity and violence. He urged them to continue to commit themselves to effecting change, peacefully, ''through ballots, not bullets.''

''That means putting all arms fully, finally and forever beyond use,'' Clinton said.

The comment was directed at the Irish Republican Army's failure, so far, to disarm.

''They still haven't got one gun from the IRA,'' said Tim Alan, who runs an Internet start-up company and was at Stormont for Clinton's visit for private meetings with political leaders. ''What they want to hear from Clinton is that the IRA is going to enter the peace process completely and start to hand over weapons.''

Some people in Belfast, like 28-year-old office clerk Angela McGrath, aren't optimistic that a lasting peace can be sustained.

''Many times my husband has said to me 'Let's move to Scotland.' He would love to pack up and go, because he doesn't want to see his kids have what he has grown up with,'' she said as she waited in a chilly rain outside a Belfast hotel in hopes of getting a glimpse of the American president.

Would they really move?

''No,'' she said. ''This is home.''

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