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Clinton: Elian Raid Was Right Thing

April 22, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton said today the government had no alternative but to take 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez from the home of Miami relatives after negotiations failed to find a voluntary transfer to his father.

He said Attorney General Janet Reno made the right decision, and he supports it.

``The law has been upheld, and that was the right thing to do,″ Clinton said.

White House press secretary Joe Lockhart said there were no plans for Clinton to meet with Elian’s father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

Clinton made a brief statement to reporters from the White House lawn before leaving to spend Easter weekend with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.

``This was in the end about a little boy who had lost has mother and had not seen his father in more than five months,″ Clinton said.

``There was no alternative but to enforce the decision″ of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and of the courts that custody of the boy should transfer to the father.

When negotiations failed, federal agents raided the relatives’ Miami home and seized the boy.

Clinton said he had been in extensive contact with Reno during the attempt to negotiation a voluntary end of the ordeal.

At about 5 a.m. EDT, Clinton’s chief of staff, John Podesta, informed the president that all-night negotiations to resolve the custody dispute had failed.

Clinton told Podesta he was disappointed, and gave the go-ahead for seizing Elian, according to Lockhart. About 40 minutes later, Podesta called the president to inform him that federal agents had taken Elian from the Miami home of his great uncle Lazaro Gonzalez, where Elian has lived since last Thanksgiving.

``The president was pleased the boy was safe and going to be reunited with his father,″ Lockhart said.

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