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Clinton comes to Bern

Clinton did not fail to praise Swiss democracy Keystone

Former United States President Bill Clinton was in the Swiss capital, Bern, for a lightning visit on Wednesday.

This content was published on May 18, 2005 - 21:40

Addressing a symposium, Clinton used the occasion to criticise the foreign policy of his successor, President Bush.

Around 500 people packed into Bern’s Hotel Grand Casino Kursaal to hear Clinton’s words - and the former president had lost none of his talent for holding an audience’s rapt attention.

His wide-ranging speech set out his vision for the world, four years after leaving the US presidency. Clinton talked about eradicating poverty, stronger international organisations and saving the environment.

But his address also included some veiled criticism of the administration of his successor, President Bush, particularly in the realms of security policy.

"If you believe as I do that the world is interdependent and we cannot escape each other, a security policy alone is not enough to ensure your future... unless you believe it is possible to kill, imprison or occupy every enemy that you have or might have," he said.

"And since I don’t believe that it’s possible for any country or group of countries [to do that]... we have to go beyond security to the second job which is to build a world with more partners, fewer terrorists and fewer enemies."

Humour

A relaxed but tired-looking Clinton - he had just flown in from Copenhagen - also showed some of his famous humour.

"The nice thing about not being president any more is that I have more time to travel and whenever I go somewhere with no responsibility of office I can say whatever I believe," he said.

"Of course the bad thing is nobody pays any attention to what I say!"

After his speech, Clinton revealed that he was a big fan of Switzerland’s history and democracy.

And on a lighter note he expressed particular admiration for Swiss motorway service stations, which he said served the best motorway food he’d ever tasted.

Unforgettable

The event’s organiser, Oliver Stoldt, said the evening was something he would never forget.

"When I was on stage and Clinton walked down the aisle to get to the podium you could feel how dynamic it was, how people wanted to see and greet him. I think it was phenomenal," he told swissinfo.

After receiving his gifts at the end of the question and answer session, Clinton bowed out to a standing ovation followed by his large entourage.

His next stop is Jordan for a meeting of Nobel laureates.

swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson in Bern

Key facts

Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States.
He was president in 1992 and again in 1996 and was the first Democratic president to be awarded a second term in six decades.
He left office in 2001, and was succeeded by the current President Bush.

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