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Clinton Explains Barak Reference

July 15, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ ``It’s a slogan,″ President Clinton tried to explain Thursday. ``In American English it means I am very excited about the prospect of the rejuvenation of the peace process.″

And by no means did he mean to be patronizing, the president said.

The problem was Clinton’s statement at a Democratic fund-raiser Tuesday in Coral Gables, Fla., about the first visit here of Israel’s new prime minister, Ehud Barak.

``I’m eager as a kid with a new toy,″ Clinton said in anticipation of their talks, making headlines around the world.

In Hebrew, the president appeared to be referring to the prime minister as a plaything, the kind of approach a superpower might take to a small, though friendly, nation.

``No, I don’t think it is patronizing at all,″ Clinton said at a joint news conference with Barak Thursday. ``It’s just the reverse.″

And when Barak told reporters he wanted to meet with Syrian President Hafez Assad but ``it takes two to tango,″ Clinton interjected:

``Let me say that is not a patronizing remark toward President Assad as the prime minister’s dancing partner.″

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