Clinton Makes First International Appearance Since Leaving Office

Monday, March 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) - Former President Clinton made his first appearance outside the United States since leaving the White House, speaking Monday to European businessmen about commerce in developing countries.

Before the speech, Clinton mingled with about a dozen guests who paid $10,000 each to have lunch with him, discussing the U.S. economy and denouncing President Bush's tax plan as a ``short-term solution'' that would hurt the social security system, participants said.

He also told his lunch companions that his allergies were acting up, but that he's sleeping more now that he's out of office, said Dutch businessman Harry Mens.

``He was very relaxed. It was like talking to your neighbor about the fence,'' Mens said. ``It was worth the money.''

At the request of Clinton's office, organizers canceled invitations to the media to cover the 45-minute speech. Leo van der Kant, of the public relations firm handling the event, said the media ban had to do with the uproar over Clinton's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich on his last day in office.

The press also has been banned from covering Clinton's appearances later this week in Denmark and Germany. Last week, reporters were kept out of Clinton's talk to hotel owners in Atlantic City, N.J.

Arriving 30 minutes late Monday, the former president strode into the hotel venue, waving in the direction of a lone supporter and a battery of journalists. A Dutch reporter who shouted a question at Clinton was evicted from area.

Van der Kant did not disclose how much Clinton was being paid. Corporate executives and members of the Dutch government each paid about $1,200 to attend the speech.

Clinton also was to meet with Dutch Queen Beatrix and Prime Minister Wim Kok.