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What the president said

Excerpts from President Clinton's news conference:

Monica Lewinsky investigation

He said he had made his points previously, and "I really believe it's important that I not say any more about this."

Asked if he felt independent counsel Kenneth Starr had overstepped his bounds, he said, "I think modestly observant people are fully capable of drawing their own conclusions."

Polls

His reaction to polls showing a majority of Americans like the job he is doing but do not respect him personally:

"You know, I will say again, all these people that have been working hard on this for seven years now _ they can affect my reputation. They can do nothing, for good or ill, to affect my character.

"And it's obvious, I think, to the American people that _ that this has been a hard, well-financed, vigorous effort over a long period of time by people who could not contest the ideas that I brought to the table, couldn't even contest the values behind the ideas that I brought to the table, and certainly can't quarrel with the consequences and the results of my service. And therefore, personal attack seems legitimate."

Newt Gingrich

"There is nothing that he can say about me for whatever reason that will affect my willingness to sit down with him and others and work for the benefit of this country."

The economy

"For five years in a row now, our economy has been rated the most competitive in the world. We are living in an American economic renaissance in which opportunity is abundant. . . . But we cannot allow the hum of our growing prosperity to lull us into complacency."

The stock market

"What I hope will happen is that we can avoid any kind of big swings in the market one way or the other by just steady, slow, and maybe not so slow, but at least steady growth."

NATO

"By admitting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, we come even closer than ever to realizing a dream of a generation: a Europe that is united, democratic and secure for the first time since the rise of nation states on the European continent."

Iraq

"Our position on lifting the sanctions is that the U.N. resolutions have to be complied with completely, and then we'd vote to lift the sanctions."

Middle East

"There's still no agreement on how much of a redeployment should be undertaken by the Israelis from the West Bank in this next phase. But they are much closer than they were just a couple of weeks ago _ much, much closer."

Tobacco

He said he hoped midterm congressional elections would not interfere with passage of legislation. "The worst thing in the world would be to play politics with our children's health. I'm not going to do it, and I hope no one else will."

Cuban embargo

"I think that it has been useful, but I also believe that we should do more to minimize the damage to the Cuban people, which is why after the pope's visit, I relaxed a lot of the restrictions on the transfer of food and medicine and on travel there."

His national race initiative

He said he did not know how he will continue his project after this summer to encourage a dialogue on race. "But in some form or fashion, we have to carry this forward because what I'm trying to do is to get people to think about our racial diversity as an enormous asset for America in the 21st century if we become more of one nation as a result of it."

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