Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers
The Briefing Room
2:15 P.M. EDT
MS. MYERS: We'll say this for the record. The entire White House and the President would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to the unknown White House correspondent who has a bun in the oven. (Laughter.)
A couple of things on a more serious note -- President Clinton strongly condemns the cruel and cowardly abduction of Israeli Corporal Nachshon Waxman by the violent terrorist group Hamas. Secretary of State Warren Christopher has discussed the issue with Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat, and offered American assistance. The President expects Chairman Arafat to do all in his power to ensure that Corporal Waxman is returned safely to his family.
The United States government will continue to work closely with the Israeli government and the Palestine authorities until Corporal Waxman is returned unharmed. The President shares the anguish and grief of the Waxman family and conveys the sympathy and prayers of the American people for his speedy and safe return.
Q: Can I follow on that?
MS. MYERS: Let's get through a couple of other --
Q: Well, can I follow on that --
MS. MYERS: Go ahead.
Q: Does the President think that Yassir Arafat should be entitled to receive the peace prize and --
MS. MYERS: That's a decision for the committee to make, and they'll announce that decision tomorrow.
Q: Is the fact that Waxman is a dual U.S-Israeli citizen -- does the United States government regard him as an American citizen since he is a dual citizen?
MS. MYERS: Of course.
Q: What effect does that have in all of these negotiations?
MS. MYERS: Well, certainly, the fact that he is an American citizen -- he's a dual citizen, but also an American citizen is of concern and interest to us. But as Secretary Christopher conveyed to Prime Minister Rabin today, it would not matter, this is still a cowardly and terrible act, one that the President wholeheartedly condemns. And the United States government will do whatever is necessary to help the Israel government and the Palestine authorities to return him to his family safely.
Q: Does the President share Prime Minister Rabin's belief that this is something that Yassir Arafat can, in fact, do something about? And is he also in favor of the talks stopping while this matter's pending?
MS. MYERS: As Secretary Christopher said, and as the President has said in the statement, he expects Chairman Arafat to do everything within his power to ensure that Corporal Waxman is returned safely and speedily unharmed. This is, again, a cowardly act. It cannot stand.
Q: But does he believe it is within Yassir Arafat's power to do something about it?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think he believes, as does Secretary Christopher, that Chairman Arafat must do all he can to help ensure that safe and speedy return.
Q: What American assistance did he offer?
MS. MYERS: Anything that we can do working with the Israeli government and others. So I'm not going to talk about specific steps, but we stand ready to do whatever they think would be helpful.
Q: There was speculation that the President will go to the Middle East if Jordan and Israel will reach an agreement as to offset this negative trend and emphasize the positive. Is it possible?
MS. MYERS: Well, certainly, as we have throughout this process, President Clinton stands ready to do whatever he can to move the process along on any of the tracks and has certainly been as helpful as he can, as has Secretary Christopher. But at this point we have no plans to travel to the Middle East.
Let me just go through a couple other things before we continue. Moving on to Haiti -- as you know, Raoul Cedras, Phillippe Biamby and members of their families and close associates left Haiti in the early morning hours yesterday or last night, this morning. Cedras and Biamby were accompanied by four family members flown by a U.S. government-chartered aircraft to Panama. Twenty three other relatives and associates of Cedras and Biamby were flown aboard another aircraft to Miami. After review by the Departments of State and Justice, they were paroled into the United States by the Attorney General.
So I think the departure of the two remaining coup leaders coming on the heels of Francois's departure is an historic moment as we move toward the restoration of democracy. And it certainly clears the way for President Aristide to return on Saturday. Secretary Christopher will be heading that delegation.
Q: Have you -- I asked this morning, you said you didn't know -- have you found out whether or not there's been any request from Aristide to put a hold on any of the assets of Cedras and Biamby that will be unfrozen this weekend?
MS. MYERS: No, he supported our actions in helping to facilitate the departure of Cedras and Biamby. He also supports the lifting of sanctions once -- all of the sanctions, both the U.N. sanctions and unilateral U.S. sanctions -- once he's been returned to power.
Q: Do we know how much money either of those two gentlemen has frozen in the United States?
MS. MYERS: No, we don't. And just a point of fact; the Treasury Department will draft an executive order which will lift all the sanctions. The President will sign it sometime in the next few days.
Q: Dee Dee, the 23 brought to this country are supporters of Cedras and Biamby?
MS. MYERS: They are all family members and close personal associates, but mostly family members.
Q: That felt to be in danger had they stayed in Haiti?
MS. MYERS: Cedras and Biamby requested that they be allowed to leave. And as we said throughout this process, we would do what we could to facilitate the departure of Cedras and Biamby and Francois, who had already left.
Q: But is there not some question about us accepting their close supporters in this country? I mean, why not arrange exile for them elsewhere?
MS. MYERS: I think, again, we worked with Cedras and Biamby and the government of Panama and our own authorities here to facilitate the departure of Cedras and Biamby. They were cleared in through normal procedures or paroled in by the Attorney General. I would refer you to the Justice Department for the specifics. But, certainly, our main goal in this was to make sure that they not only step down from power, but as we've said throughout this process, as a practical matter we expected them to leave, and we certainly stood ready to help them leave, which they've now done.
Q: Were there any conditions on who these people were, whether or not they were, in fact, people who had committed murders or been perpetrators of any crimes?
MS. MYERS: Their backgrounds were reviewed by the Justice Department.
Q: But can you tell us what any of the regulations were on these people --
MS. MYERS: I'd have to refer you to the Justice Department. But they were all allowed in after they were reviewed.
Q: Has the U.S. paid Cedras any money to leave?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: And how about Cedras's homes, which the U.S. is now going to rent? Are you paying rent to Cedras?
MS. MYERS: That will be reviewed to make sure that it sort of complies with all accepted government procedures, but, yes, we have agreed to lease three homes owned by Cedras, and I don't know what the terms of -- they're still working those out. And you can check with the State Department --
Q: So the U.S. government will pay Cedras?
MS. MYERS: The U.S. government has agreed, again, to lease homes owned by him. And I just don't know the specifics on how those payments will be transferred. But, yes, they're his homes.
Q: But for what purpose?
MS. MYERS: Because that was something that he felt strongly about, and it certainly wasn't something that we were going to allow to disrupt his departure. And so there are certain guidelines that -- regarding the leasing of property. And again, I'd refer you to the State Department for the specifics, but it is something that we agreed to do. It was something that he felt strongly about, and it was something that we didn't think was worth disrupting this process. We felt strongly that it should go forward.
Q: For how long? How long did you lease them for?
MS. MYERS: Again, I don't know what the terms of it are. I think they may be still working those details out.
Q: Was he concerned they would be trashed? Is that the fear?
MS. MYERS: I'm not sure what all of his concerns were, but, again, it was something that he insisted on -- doing something to deal with his property. Again, we had said all along that we would help facilitate their departure, we'd do what we could to make sure that they left. They have now left. All three of those dictators that we insisted should leave have left.
Q: Were they told in advance, though, Dee Dee, that the assets would be unfrozen? Was that a part of the deal? Was it a quid pro quo?
MS. MYERS: No. I mean, none of it was a quid pro quo. The objective of the sanctions was always to get the military leaders, the dictators to step down and to return President Aristide, the duly-elected president of Haiti. Once that objective has been accomplished, the sanctions will be lifted. And it is up to the Haitian government then, if they want to take additional action, that's something that they can decide for themselves.
Q: Cedras and Biamby, they knew that once they left, this would occur?
MS. MYERS: Again, I think it was our intention to lift the sanctions once President Aristide had been returned to power. I don't know what they may have known. I assume that they probably knew that.
Q: Are there any other similar lease arrangements or similar deals with Francois or Biamby?
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Just Cedras?
MS. MYERS: Just Cedras.
Q: Does that mean their assets would have been unfrozen had they remained in Haiti -- had Cedras and Biamby remained in Haiti?
MS. MYERS: I suppose we could have -- as you know, we already lifted all the U.S. unilateral sanctions with the exception of the targeted sanctions. It's always possible we could have left some of those in place, but don't look for a quid pro quo here. I think you -- it was our objective to get the dictators out, get the military leaders to leave. The President will sign an executive order that will end the state of emergency that sanctions were built on, and then, thereby, lifting all the sanctions. So we're bringing this process to closure.
Q: Does that mean we should take from what you're saying that there was neither an explicit nor tacit --
MS. MYERS: That's correct.
Q: with Cedras and Biamby that if they leave --
MS. MYERS: That's correct. We don't -- again, I don't think we know what the amount of their assets in the U.S. are. And if the Haitian government wants to take additional steps, that's certainly their prerogative.
Q: You've been pretty easy on them, haven't you?
MS. MYERS: Well, I mean, they've been forced to leave their country, step down from power and leave the country. That was our objective; we said that from the beginning.
President Aristide supports that because I think what he is concerned about and what he has repeatedly said is that he wants to facilitate reconciliation and the peaceful transfer of power, and the peaceful functioning of that country. And we agree with them that this is the best means to achieve that.
Q: Dee Dee, did we take the 23 because nobody else would take them?
MS. MYERS: I don't know if we tried to find another place for them or not. I know that Cedras has asked that they be allowed to come to the United States, and we worked that out.
Q: Will Cedras and Biamby and some point also come to the United States?
MS. MYERS: No, Cedras and Biamby will not be allowed to come to the United States.
MS. MYERS: Forever.
Q: Will they be allowed to return to Haiti?
MS. MYERS: That's something for them to work out with the Haitian government. As you know, the Haitian constitution prohibits exiling Haitians from the country. But that's, again, an issue for them to work out with their government.
Q: Iraq -- can you tell us what the diplomatic state of play is as far as trying to get the U.N. agreement on some sort of exclusion zone?
MS. MYERS: Again, it's still being discussed at the U.N. Conversations there, consultations are ongoing. As you know, what we're looking for is a way to prohibit them from continuing to threaten their neighbors. And that's something that we talked about, feel very strongly about. And we're working through it with the other members of the U.N. Security Council.
Q: Does pulling the Republican Guard back to a specified area satisfy your desires there?
MS. MYERS: We want to make sure that they don't deploy their troops in a threatening manner. And we're working through the details of how exactly that would be structured. Previous to this incident, they had some troops, as you know, in the Basra region, but there were no Republican Guards deployed in the south. And so what we're looking for is a return, pulling back the Republican Guard and not deploying their troops in a threatening manner, not threatening their neighbors. This is something, again, that we feel very strongly about and we'll continue to work with the allies on.
Q: Dee Dee, can you react on the record to the French claim that politics played a part in the deployment of so many troops to Kuwait?
MS. MYERS: Well, I would refer you to Ambassador Albright's comments on that topic. I believe she called the French Foreign Minister's comments ill-informed and counterproductive and suggested that that was sending the wrong signal to Saddam Hussein.
Q: What about here at the White House, though, the President's reaction?
MS. MYERS: I think we certainly share that view. But, again, I think she spoke on behalf of the United States government when she said those things.
Q: Did politics play a part in the deployment of troops?
MS. MYERS: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
Just as a quick update on what's happening -- Iraqi troops are continuing their withdrawal. There are only a few elements of the Republican Guard that are remaining in the south at this time. We are not sure what their destination is. So we're watching the situation very carefully which we'll continue to do. I think, clearly, the rapid movement of large forces in recent days underscores our concern about Saddam Hussein's ability and Iraq's ability to threaten it's neighbors, and that's why we've taken this issue to the Security Council.
Q: As a practical matter, what general difference is there between banning troops below X parallel in Iraq, in other words, banning Iraqi troops from a portion of their own country and specifying which Iraqi troops can be in a portion of their own country? Why would you tend to get more support on the U.N. Security Council for one rather than the other?
MS. MYERS: Well, we didn't -- we only put forward one plan. We never put forward a plan that suggested an exclusion zone below the 32nd parallel which was something that was reported, although --
Q: Not formally, no, but Ambassador Albright --
MS. MYERS: No, not informally.
Q: said that that was being considered.
MS. MYERS: Well, I think a couple of people did say that was being considered, but that was never something that we put forward. That was never a United States government proposal. It was never anything that we talked to other heads of state about or other governments about, I should say, not just heads of state.
It is our view that we -- because Iraq has been able to take threatening maneuvers by moving their troops around, and they have the ability to deploy rapidly, we have to do something to make sure that they don't threaten their neighbors now or in the future. That's what we're discussing at the U.N. Security Council. There was a lot of reporting today about the specifics of the resolutions that are being discussed. I think we're going to continue to work through that and get it resolved as quickly as possible, but I don't have a time line.
Q: Norman Schwarzkopf theorized that maybe Saddam has been playing what he called the Jimmy Carter card. Can you rule out the sending of any emissary to Baghdad to try to deal with this guy?
MS. MYERS: I'm not going to rule anything in or out for the future. I think that President Clinton obviously is going to retain the option of doing what he needs to do. I'll make one thing very clear, that in order to get the sanctions lifted, Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis have to comply with all of the U.N. Security Council resolutions. And as of yet they haven't complied with any of them. They're continuing to threaten their neighbors. They haven't returned Kuwaiti property or Kuwaiti prisoners from the '91 Gulf War. They haven't complied with the monitoring requirements in the U.N. Security Council resolution. They just have failed to comply with the resolutions, and the sanctions will not be lifted until they comply with all of them.
Q: I've got several questions regarding this. President Clinton has been successful in pushing forces back, but now there's a lot of uncertainty about what will happen next -- what the cost of all this is, how long troops will stay there, what will happen if the allies don't support the United States. Can you walk us through exactly what's being done to think through these next steps, and is there a fear you're going to be undercut by the end game here that doesn't seem to have a final solution as far as getting all the troops back?
MS. MYERS: Generally, we don't make plans with an end game when we don't know what the other guy is going to do. Obviously, we're going to continue to deploy, as we have over the course of the past week. We will certainly have a strong and adequate force in the Gulf region. We are watching as the Iraqis withdraw from the southern region, the Basra region, the border of Kuwait, but we don't know where those troops are going. And so we're certainly not going to take any of those movements at face value. We're going to insist that they move back and that they no longer deploy in threatening or hostile manners, and that they no longer threaten their neighbors, and that is now and into the future. The cost of the activity, the end date of that activity will all depend on what the Iraqis do.
I would just point out again that there is a lot of unity, there is, in fact, more unity in the coalition than there was in 1991. Saddam Hussein is almost completely isolated, with the exception of Sudan. And as we announced yesterday, the Gulf Coordination Council and others have agreed to set up a cost-sharing account to share the cost of this exercise. So we will continue to do whatever we have to do, and the President has made it very clear that Iraq will not be allowed to threaten its neighbors, and will do whatever it takes to make them understand that.
Q: Under the most recent developments, the United States deployed troops unilaterally before there was any decision by the U.N. Security Council as it did in 1990. Under the agreements that we have with Kuwait, is the United States permitted to unilaterally defend Kuwait from Iraqi attack? Has research been done to establish that you have the authority either under the U.N. or as a result of those treaties, that the United States can unilaterally defend Kuwait?
MS. MYERS: We absolutely believe that we have the authority to act unilaterally. I don't have chapter and verse on that, but we absolutely believe that we have the authority to act unilaterally, as we did. But it was always our intention to bring our coalition partners and our allies into the process, which we did rather quickly. And, as you know, both the French and the British have agreed to send ships and airplanes, and the GCC has agreed to send soldiers from their Peninsula Protection Unit. So this is a coordinated effort.
But there are a number of arrangements, including some that are outside of the U.N. resolutions. For example, the no-fly zones are not created under U.N. resolutions. But they are part of the coalition authority, and they're enforced, as you know, by the coalition.
Q: Has our government given any consideration to unilaterally imposing a no-troop, no-armor zone in the Basra area, with or without allies?
MS. MYERS: What we're doing right now is working with the U.N. Security Council. And that's where the focus of our efforts are. We believe that we can just continue to work in concert with the international community on this. There is absolutely no support for Iraq in the international community. There is a broad consensus that he cannot be trusted. And we think that we're going to be able to work this through the U.N. Security Council.
Q: But failing that --
MS. MYERS: Our efforts are focusing in the Security Council right now.
Q: Dee Dee, on your Security Council move, in pitting this proposed resolution on the definition of Revolutionary Guards being excluded from the southern zone, aren't you --
MS. MYERS: No, that's not language that's included. I mean, you're just going to have to -- we haven't released -- the language of what's being discussed there has not been made public. So I'd be careful about drawing conclusions about how it's worded.
Q: Okay. You tell us then what you're proposing, because the thing that's been floated in the last 24 hours is that under this resolution, the Iraqis could keep their regular troops who are now in the south in place, but could not bring in the Revolutionary Guards. And I can't figure out how you tell from a reconnaissance satellite who's a regular and who's a Revolutionary Guard.
MS. MYERS: Well, I'm not going to talk about what our reconnaissance satellites pick up. I think you know that that's a pretty sophisticated process. The objective of the U.N. resolution is to prevent Iraq from acting in a threatening and hostile manner and to prevent it from threatening its neighbors in the future. The specific details of that are being worked out. I think what's been reported is in many ways accurate. But I think certainly we will be able to enforce whatever is passed.
Q: If you don't go for a tank or heavy armor exclusion zone, those are concrete things that can be observed and you can say yes --
MS. MYERS: If you can observe a piece of artillery --
Q: Is there a difference between a piece of artillery belonging to a regular regiment as against a Revolutionary Guard regiment?
MS. MYERS: Generally there is, actually. The good stuff belongs to the Republican Guard. But that's not the point. I mean, I think we -- we know through a number of means where their different regiments are and what troops re moving where. I think that's how we knew they were moving south in the first place. We had enough information to know they were moving south this time, in addition to the troops that are normally stationed in the Basra region. So I think that's sort of an answer to the question.
Q: Can you confirm that although troop deployments are going to continue, they've been scaled back?
MS. MYERS: Well, I think Secretary Perry just spoke from Saudi Arabia.
Q: I was here.
MS. MYERS: You were here -- you weren't in Saudi?
MS. MYERS: Oh, I'm sorry you missed that. He said that -- I would refer you to his comments. I think he said that the troop deployments would stop at about 30,000, but that -- and that we would make further decisions based on Iraqi behavior.
But, no, I mean, we're continuing -- there are -- I don't know how many of them are there, but there's a plan now to deploy about 750 aircraft into the region. There are 30,000 troops either there or en route who will arrive there, as well as a number of ships in the region, and certainly a lot more that could be deployed very quickly if we need it.
As you know, Secretary Perry signed the order yesterday for a number of troops from both Camp Pendleton and from Fort Stewart in Georgia.
Q: President Bush used to urge the Iraqi people to overthrow Hussein. Does President Clinton share that same desire? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Saddam Hussein has certainly perpetrated a reign of terror on his people. He has made sure that they don't have adequate, many of them don't have adequate food and medicine. And we've seen recent examples of that as he's paraded reporters through Baghdad, even though there are exemptions in the U.N. sanctions for food and medicine. Certainly the sanctions are having an impact and weakening his hold on his people. I think it's up to Saddam Hussein to decide what the future will look like.
Q: He's not urging the Iraqi people to overthrow Hussein?
MS. MYERS: He has never said that, but I think he, at the same time, does not believe that he has the legitimate support of his people -- or is governing in their best interest.
Q: Dee Dee, you mentioned economic sanctions in the same sentence with Saddam Hussein, and I'm just wondering if we're going to lower any kind of economic sanctions, or does it involve Saddam Hussein stepping down?
MS. MYERS: The trigger for lifting of sanctions is Iraq complying with the U.N. Security Council resolutions. And what I said a couple of minutes ago was that he has to comply with all of the U.N. Security Council resolutions before the sanctions are lifted. At this point he hasn't complied with any of them.
Q: New subject, Dee Dee?
MS. MYERS: Yes.
Q: How much, if any, of the cost of the President's rally at the Dearborn Ford plant earlier this week was paid for by Ford?
MS. MYERS: I can get that for you. I just don't know off the top of my head.
Q: Did they pay for any of it?
MS. MYERS: I think they did, but I'm not sure. I can certainly take that. I just don't know.
Q: The reason I ask, Haley Barbour is out today saying that if Ford did pick up some of those costs, that's a serious campaign financing violation, since corporations are precluded from financing political events.
MS. MYERS: I think corporations and other entities pay for preparations for presidential travel all the time. But let me take that question. I don't know what the financing arrangements were for it.
Q: How would you define that event?
MS. MYERS: It was a speech to the workers at the Ford plant.
Q: So it was an official White House function where the White House paid for the plane and --
MS. MYERS: I think so. But, again, let me check. I don't generally keep tabs on exactly who pays for every single portion of what event off the top of my head. So let me take that question.
Let me just also point out -- this is big news -- at the NAPO dinner tonight, President Clinton will be named an honorary Top Cop for his courageous commitment to --
Q: With the host of "America's Most Wanted."
MS. MYERS: With the host of "America's Most Wanted," John Walsh. (Laughter.) But it's for his courageous stand with peace officers around the country in the fight against crime. So none of you will want to miss that.
Q: Back to the 23 people who were admitted to the U.S. One, again, were they all Cedras associates or family members?
MS. MYERS: Cedras and Biamby family members and close associates.
Q: And can you kind of generically characterize them as family members -- children, cousins, uncles?
MS. MYERS: Siblings -- I don't know all of them. Four people -- I think the State Department is working on possibly releasing a list of the names, which might also include exactly what their relationship was.
Q: What kind of help did they get?
Q: Are the Cedras homes all in Miami?
MS. MYERS: No, Cedras's homes are in Port-au-Prince -- or in Haiti.
Q: What kind of help do these folks get? Do they get witness protection? They just paroled them here and --
MS. MYERS: I don't think they get anything beyond what normal --
Q: No assistance --
MS. MYERS: Immigrants.
Q: No security? No --
MS. MYERS: No.
Q: Federal judgeships? (Laughter.)
MS. MYERS: Well, I didn't say that.
Q: Do you have anything on the PPI?
MS. MYERS: The PPI was, I guess, down 4.4 percent. Is that right -- .5 percent. Obviously, encouraging. I think it again underscores out belief that the economic fundamentals are sound and that we continue to have solid growth with low inflation.
Q: See a need for interest rates to go up?
MS. MYERS: Again, we think the fundamentals are sound, sound, sound.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:22 P.M. EDT
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Dee Dee Myers Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269632