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Press Briefing by Mike McCurry

March 20, 1995

The Briefing Room

1:23 P.M. EST

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I apologize for being late today, but I do come bearing news, so you'll be glad that you waited. Several announcements that I would like to start with today, beginning with the following.

At the invitation of President Clinton, British Prime Minister John Major will make an official working visit to Washington April 3rd and 4th, 1995. President Clinton looks forward to the opportunity to have in-depth discussions with Prime Minister Major on a broad range of issues in which the United States and the United Kingdom are cooperating closely.

Q: Warm and special.

MR. MCCURRY: Very warm and special conversations they will have, following up on their phone call of the weekend, of which you know plenty about already. (Laughter.) Unless you want to know more.

Announcement, the second: President Clinton will travel to Russia and to Ukraine May 9th to 11th, 1995, to attend ceremonies marking the 50th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day and for bilateral discussions with President Boris Yeltsin and President Leonid Kuchma. The President will fly to Moscow May 9th to join other world leaders commemorating the great contribution made by the Russian people in the defeat of Nazi Germany and its allies during the second world war. The President will meet with President Yeltsin in Moscow for bilateral discussions on a range of issues in keeping with the commitment by both leaders to hold a summit meeting in the first half of 1995.

The President has also accepted an invitation to visit Kiev for meetings with Ukrainian President Kuchma to build on the agenda defined during President Kuchma's visit to Washington last November. In recognition of the enormous sacrifices made by U.S. veterans of World War II and to honor the memory of their fallen comrades, the President will preside over 50th anniversary commemorations at Arlington National Cemetery on May 8th. And because this commitment has made it impossible to accept invitations to take part in V-E ceremonies elsewhere in Europe, the President has asked Vice President Gore to represent him in the United Kingdom, France and Germany for commemorations that will take place in London, Paris and Berlin in connection with Victory in Europe Day.

Q: He's going to Moscow, or St. Petersburg?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll go to -- the President will go to Moscow and Kiev.

Q: So that will be the only European -- the only European visit he makes in honor of V-E Day will be Moscow?

MR. MCCURRY: Will be Moscow and Kiev.

Q: Well, Kiev isn't related to that, though.

MR. MCCURRY: I believe there may -- I not -- we're checking now to see if they plan any V-E commemorations in Kiev.

Q: Okay, but the point is Moscow is the only currently planned V-E Day observance, is that correct?

Q: Any other stops after Kiev?

MR. MCCURRY: There is Kiev -- Moscow and Kiev, and they're working out the schedule for those three days and how those cities will fit together.

Q: Right, and is he going anywhere else?

MR. MCCURRY: Those are the only two stops.

Q: Is there any message to be taken from the fact that his only -- that he's not visiting any of our closer allies on V-E Day than -- and only Russia?

MR. MCCURRY: The message to be taken is that the President, most of all, wishes to commemorate Victory in Europe Day here in the United States of America with U.S. veterans, their families and their loved ones. He fully understands that throughout Europe, European leaders will be commemorating V-E Day in their own nations. But there's a likelihood that several of these world leaders will then gather in Moscow to mark the alliance with Russia during the second world war and the enormous contribution made by the Russian people to the defeat of Nazism.

Q: Is it fair to say that it would be politically unwise for Mr. Clinton to ignore V-E Day celebrations in the United States?

MR. MCCURRY: The are many factors that go into any type of scheduling decision.

Q: What other leaders?

Q: Like what?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to leave up to each individual leader to make announcements about their own schedules. We can't announce their schedules, but we do expect a number of world leaders to gather in Moscow on May 9th.

Q: What sort of V-E celebrations are we going to expect over there? What is he going to be taking part in?

MR. MCCURRY: In Moscow? Well, the Russian Federation will brief more fully on many of the activities that they have associated with Victory in Europe Day. We'll develop that as we get closer to the day.

Q: Can you assure us he's not going to be -- is Yeltsin going ahead with his plan to have a non-military parade type thing?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll leave it up to the Russian Federation to describe the nature of the commemorative events that they will be hosting.

Q: What dates is he going --

MR. MCCURRY: On Vice President Gore's travel? I don't have all of those. I believe that begins just prior, but we'll need to develop that. I think it begins as early as the 6th, but we'll develop that.

Q: If I'm not mistaken, the original Yeltsin invitation was for the 8th. Did they have to delay it a day to accommodate the President?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure whether it was the 8th and 9th. The important event is the 9th, and that's the one that the President will be attending.

Q: Has President Yeltsin agreed to accept international monitors of the OSCE in Chechnya?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. They've announced sometime ago that they will accept a long-term presence in Chechnya under the auspices of the OSCE. And we're doing everything we can to encourage them to ensure the effective operation of that mission and its rapid deployment.

Q: Wasn't the announcement of the trip supposed to come after the Christopher-Kozyrev meeting?

MR. MCCURRY: No. (Laughter.) Having just made it, obviously not.

Q: Take it back.

Q: So much for that.

Q: Does the President, while in Russia, plan to meet with any of the democratic critics of President Yeltsin's policies --

MR. MCCURRY: As he has done previously in Moscow, I expect the President will find some occasion to reach out to a wide cross-spectrum of the political -- of Russian political life.

Q: Can you be more specific?


Do you have a follow-up?

Q: Lots.

Q: Mike, is the United States doing anything to help Japan track down whoever is responsible for the --

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we are. Any other questions on --

Q: Yes. Obviously, London is embarrassed and upset that the President will not be there, feels that this is a further --

MR. MCCURRY: Says who? I haven't -- we have not had any indication to that at all, and in fact, when they --

Q: Well, was he invited to be there?

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, the invitation has been extended for some time, and the British, it is my understanding, are delighted that the Vice President will be attending representing the United States. Befitting of the high level of that, the President and Prime Minister Major reviewed these arrangements during their phone call yesterday, and the Prime Minister pronounced himself fine with the results as they were communicated.

Q: What connection, if any, to these decisions to not go to London or Paris -- what connection to the rift or the strain in relations with France over the espionage allegations, and with England over the Northern Ireland problems -- what connection did those issues have to the President's decision not to accept their invitations?

MR. MCCURRY: Only a connection that would be deeply embedded in the mind of a great fiction writer. There's no connection that I'm aware of to those.

Q: Mike, on the other end of the war, what will the President do to mark V-J Day?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are some plans in the works for later on in the year in Honolulu that I believe have been made public in the past, but we can check on that.

Q: But he's not going to any overseas --

Q: That's as far west as he'll go?

MR. MCCURRY: I think we've indicated -- have we said that publicly? We haven't said that publicly, that we'd be commemorating that in Honolulu -- (laughter) --

Q: Will he be aboard the Missouri? Aboard the Missouri -- is that a possibility?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I -- there will be more on that to follow.

Q: There have been some reports that originally the administration wanted to invite heads of state to this Hawaii thing, but it's scaled back in deference to Japan and its current Prime Minister and the problems he's having. Is that the case?

MR. MCCURRY: You're completely accurate. There have been reports to that effect. (Laughter.)

Q: Well, is it true?

Q: Can you address that?

Q: Is this the Simpson trial we've got here --

Q: NATO expansion --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, I can't hear you.

Q: The Iran issue.

Q: How important will NATO expansion and the Russian sale of nuclear reactor to Iran --

MR. MCCURRY: Let me just spend a second. There are -- I've described to you before, the nature of the this relationship with Russia. It is among the most strategically important bilateral relationships that the United States has anywhere in the world. And befitting the nature of that relationship, there will be a broad range of issues that will be on the spectrum.

I fully anticipate that Secretary Christopher, as he meets at mid-week with Foreign Minister Kozyrev, will begin to lay in place the exact issues that the leaders will address when they meet in May. But chief among those issues will be a range of, first, economic issues associated with political and economic reform in Russia, the continuing work by the Russian Federation to both modernize and liberalize its economy and move towards economic -- market economics. The role of U.S. assistance in furtherance of that will certainly be a topic.

Secondly, security issues, as they relate to the expansion of NATO and Russian participation in Partnership for Peace, will be on the agenda of both President Clinton and President Yeltsin, I would imagine.

Third, there are a range of global issues with which we cooperate with the Russian Federation. We have a U.S. astronaut currently participating in an exercise on the Russian space station Mir; a lot of work that is done under the auspices of the Gore- Chernomyrdin Commission that will be reviewed by the two leaders; certainly the subject of denuclearization and the Nunn-Lugar program; the enormous work that is being done to end the nuclear threat posed by the large strategic arsenals of both the U.S. and Russia; further arms reduction efforts under the yet to be ratified START II, and the prospects of additional arms reductions talks beyond START II.

All of these issues I think reflect -- the only several that I've mentioned -- reflect the enormous scope of this relationship and the importance that we attach to that bilateral relationship. And all of these issues will be developed and previewed as we have diplomatic contact with the Russian Federation in advance of the forthcoming summit.

Q: Just to follow up, what do you say to critics like Brzezinski or Kissinger, Senator McConnell and other Republicans who say this is a cave-in to Yeltsin, a sell-out on Chechnya, and the President is still advised to get too close to Yeltsin?

MR. MCCURRY: Those opinions are sadly misinformed. They don't reflect the diplomatic work that we have done with the Russians to express U.S. concerns on problems like Chechnya. We have raised those concerns at very high levels, including the highest level. And there have been, as we just indicated earlier, some indication by the Russian Federation of a desire to settle this conflict, as President Yeltsin said March 9th, using peaceful means and using political means, which would be against military means.

Certainly, the acceptance of a long-term presence by the OSCE could be useful in helping to monitor the efforts toward peaceful reconciliation. Again, we stress the need for national reconciliation and for Russian authorities to work with Chechen authorities to determine how to solve this problem within the context of international law.

Q: Mike, what's the status of the exchange of letters between Clinton and Yeltsin? Has that happened yet, or when might it?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe that it has been. It's been speculated upon, but we'll have to review that as we get later in the week. I would refer you to Secretary Christopher's meeting with Foreign Minister Kozyrev. That will be the next venue in which I expect there would be some commentary on the question of NATO expansion, the role Partnership for Peace can play in NATO expansion.

Q: a letter then? Is that what you're saying?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not suggesting that. I'm just saying that'll be the next venue in which you hear commentary at high level on those related issues.

Q: This broad outline you just gave about the summit talks and the relationship that we have with Russia about arms and so forth -- did you say that that was in or out with the deal with Russian nuclear reactor sales to --

MR. MCCURRY: Proliferation concerns will certainly be on the agenda as well. The perspective sale of white water nuclear technology to Iran by the Russian Federation is an issue that we've been working on at very high levels in our diplomatic contacts, including the Secretary's last meeting with Foreign Minister Kozyrev in Geneva. There's been follow-up dialogue around that issue, and I certainly expect there will be further work to be done on that. We continue to believe that there are sound reasons to prevent this type of technology from adding to the technological capacity of a state that not only sponsors terrorism, but has given every indication of wanting to acquire weapons of mass destruction for less than peaceful purposes.

Q: Is there an effort afoot here to restructure or redefine Partnership for Peace in a way that would give Russia a preeminent role to kind of smooth over their concerns about the expansion of --

MR. MCCURRY: No, Gene. The work program for Partnership for Peace is the one that had been set out at the ministerial level in Brussels by the North Atlantic Council. It is one now in which many former members of the Warsaw Pact are participating in effectively, but the view has always been that along a parallel track, there need to develop for the Russian Federation a sense of how their own participation and their relationship to Partnership for Peace into NATO would develop. So we see it really more as a parallel development, but not one that proceeds on a separate path from the work program that's already been developed for the other Partners for Peace.

Q: With the other European leaders also in Moscow around May 9th, will President Clinton hold bilateral sessions with some of them, too, and will, in effect, there be a group meeting or kind of mini summit?

MR. MCCURRY: That remains to be seen, and I'd have to defer that question until we have a full list of those who will be attending the commemorative events in Moscow.

Q: Can you give us any kind of readout about the affirmative action meeting with the Cabinet members?

MR. MCCURRY: I've got a few more items before we get to that.

Q: Can we have one more question about on this? How opposed is the United States to an EU-Russian understanding or agreement, or letter on nonaggression as it applies to expansion of NATO?

MR. MCCURRY: I know that that has been a subject that's been under discussion within the EU, how it fits within the whole question of Europe's security identity, is one that's been under discussion within the Western European Union. I'll have to take that question and look into it more in depth.

Q: Well, they discussed it yesterday --

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I know that it has been part of their discussion, and I'll need to check and see -- we have been doing a lot of work on European security and defense and the identity of the new European Security and Defense architecture within the context of NATO, and certainly the role of the Russian Federation and the plans for integration, both economically, and then we hopefully in time, in a security sense, has been part of those discussions, so it tracks with what are the general parameters of U.S. policy as we look to questions like the future role of NATO on the Continent. But I'll look specifically at how they're addressing that question and see if we have a comment.

Q: This is connected to that. To what extent is what the Europeans are trying to do -- kind of a new approach regarding Russia -- in step with what you are, or the President is trying to do? Is the President involved?

MR. MCCURRY: There has been within, as I say, again within the North Atlantic Council, there have been considerable discussions about the future of the European security identity, given European integration and the formation of a European Union, and our relationship to those efforts and how that plays out within the context of NATO has been an ongoing part of the discussions with the North Atlantic Council. It's not something that is separate from the security discussions that we have routinely within NATO, but at the specific approach that they're developing, I'll have to check more into that. It sounds, based on the reports I've seen, fully consistent with some of the discussions we've already been having with our European allies, and certainly with the Russian Federation as well.

Q: One last question on Russia. Will the President, himself, speak about the agreement to go to Moscow on May 9th today or anytime in the future?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware of any venue from which he could speak about that today.

Q: A statement?

MR. MCCURRY: We've got paper coming out on all of these things, coming shortly.

Q: How wide a cross-section of Europe is expected at the Moscow meeting? Without naming names, is it going to be pretty nearly a quorum there, Mike?

MR. MCCURRY: There will be a cross-section. I have to --

Q: Small, large, full, partial?

MR. MCCURRY: There will be a representative group of leaders of European countries --

Q: Heads of state or vice president types?

MR. MCCURRY: Heads of state and heads of government.

Q: Have they accepted?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll leave it up to them. I can't announce -- I wouldn't want them to announce travels by our president, so I won't announce travels by their heads of government and heads of state.

Q: Mike, does the United States plan to offer any expertise in counterterrorism or in medical treatment to Japan?

MR. MCCURRY: First of all, on the attack, we obviously condemn this senseless act and offer our deep sympathy to the victims and to the families. The rapid and very efficient response of Japanese medical authorities has prevented this from becoming an even greater tragedy. At the President's direction, our embassy in Tokyo has informed the Japanese government that they, of course, can draw upon any expertise that we have for technical assistance or any specialized equipment that they might need. So that offer is available to them, and they are assessing how to proceed, based on their own competence in dealing with a crisis of this type.

Q: They haven't responded yet?

Q: Is there any indication, Mike, as to where this nerve gas might have come from? Could it come from any existing stockpiles anywhere that we know of, or would have been manufactured?

MR. MCCURRY: We just don't have enough information to make an assessment at this point.

Q: And what kind of safeguards are there here in the U.S. to prevent that kind of thing from happening here?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check on that, or you might want to check around the relevant agencies, but I think we are satisfied that we've got adequate safeguards and control procedures on any elements that might resemble what we believe might be the element that was used in this particular attack.

Q: On the two Americans being detained in Iraq -- the Iraqis say these guys entered illegally, so they're subject to 20 years imprisonment.

MR. MCCURRY: We are working aggressively through intermediaries and directly in contacts that we've now had with Iraq to secure the expeditious release of these two Americans.

Q: Didn't Hamdoon seem to hold out the hope on either Saturday or Sunday that their release would be forthcoming very quickly?

MR. MCCURRY: He made some public comments, and whether or not they represent a willingness by the government to move quickly for their release remains to be seen at this point.

Q: Have we been talking to Baghdad?

MR. MCCURRY: We've been talking through our representatives at the United Nations in New York.

Q: It was suggested that the President might want to make his feelings on line-item veto known --

Q: Can we finish on Iraq?


Q: Is there any concern within the administration that the forays by Turkey into Northern Iraq may complicate the situation involving these two Americans?

MR. MCCURRY: We don't believe there's any connection. Let me, on that item, just give you another little readout. Prime Minister Ciller had requested to speak to President Clinton this morning to tell him more about the anti-terrorism operation that began in Northern Iraq last night. The two leaders spoke for about 10 minutes this morning. Prime Minister Ciller described the operation, emphasizing its focus on eliminating PKK terrorist bases across the Turkish border. She indicated that the operation would be limited in duration, and the Turkish military had been instructed to safeguard civilian life and property. President Clinton responded by expressing his understanding for Turkey's need to deal decisively with PKK terrorism, but he also urged that every possible effort be made to minimize civilian losses, and that the scope of the operation be as limited as possible.

The President emphasized the importance also of early resumption of Provide Comfort air operations and the continuation of international relief efforts. We don't see any reason why work towards the release of the two American citizens now in Iraqi captivity should be complicated by this development.

Q: And I know there's been some speculation that the Iraqis may, in fact, use these two Americans as bargaining chips to somehow ameliorate the effects of the embargoes against Iraq. First of all, is that a concern of the administration, and would it work?

MR. MCCURRY: It's not a concern of the administration, because it's not a possibility.

Q: Was the phone call the first notice we got that this was happening?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe so, Helen. If my understanding is correct, there have been some briefings done through Operation Provide Comfort military authorities in Northern Iraq. So there was at least some contact at that point. But the Prime Minister did wish to speak to the President to go into it in some greater detail of her own rationale for this operation.

Q: When you say the President understands her decision to authorize this move into Northern Iraq, does that mean the United States supports the Turkish decision?

MR. MCCURRY: We understand the steps that the government of Turkey would wish to take against the PKK, a group that we, our own government, has listed as a sponsor of terrorism and has conducted and is responsible for acts of terrorism in which there has been significant loss of innocent civilian life.

Q: But doesn't that amount to a sanctioning of a major air-ground assault --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's been represented by the Prime Minister to the President there is a limited objective, limited duration for this mission, and it's done acknowledging the territorial integrity of the international boundaries of Iraq. And as I said, the President reiterated his own concern that that operation be done for a limited duration and cognizant of the need to protect innocent civilian life and property.

Q: Mike, on the Major phone call, can you go into any more detail of some of the reassurances the President might have given Major on transparency of the money, auditing of the money, and on the further leverage we would use to gain decommissioning?

MR. MCCURRY: Let me see if I can, or not. I don't know if they went into any great detail into those issues.

Q: You said on Friday, if I recall, that he was going to make sure that Major understood that we were proceeding very carefully in dealing with Gerry Adams. Perhaps you can buttress that with --

MR. MCCURRY: Right. Let me get back to that question -- the President did reassure the Prime Minister that funds raised by Sinn Fein should be used for legitimate purposes.

Q: Did they go into any detail on how we'll do that?

MR. MCCURRY: They didn't go into any great detail on that subject.

Q: What's the status of the affirmative action review, and when will we get --

MR. MCCURRY: It is ongoing and we expect to be able to give you an update publicly when we appropriately can.

Q: Can you talk the meeting the Cabinet members today?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't. I got to check in on it. I haven't had an opportunity to get a read out on the meeting yet. They were, obviously, going to review a variety of matters that might pertain to their own individual agencies. I'll try to get more on some of the specifics involving the individual participants and thoughts they had.

Q: Might we hear from the President this week on the subject of affirmative action?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't anticipate any major policy address by the President this week on that subject.

Q: How about on the line-item veto?

Q: How about a minor policy --

MR. MCCURRY: An update or something?

Q: Interim report.

MR. MCCURRY: I suspect as the week goes on he might have an opportunity to take a question or two on the status of the review.

Q: Gephardt yesterday made some comment that the White House was considering some sort of a bipartisan blue ribbon commission beyond the current review on affirmative action. Is that the case?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's -- the President, as you know, has been meeting with a wide cross-section of leaders, both Republican and Democratic, on the subject of affirmative action, and with others who have got a very deep interest in the fight for equal opportunity and for justice. And in the course of those discussions, the concept of a commission has arisen. It is being put forward by a number of people whose opinions we respect. And given that, I'm sure we'll take a look at it.

Q: But why -- just a follow-up -- why, with the review that the White is conducting -- why would a bipartisan commission be necessary?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are many who are publicly advocating the idea, and I'll leave it to them to explain it better. But they explain it by pointing out the need to reaffirm the commitment for equal opportunity and justice as we continue to erase vestiges of discrimination in our society, and as we continue to provide opportunities to those who historically have been denied them. There seems to be, here in Washington, now a body of opinion most associated with people from the opposition party that we somehow or other solved all these problems and we can now sort of declare a job done and move on. And as you can see from the report released last week, as you can see from the continuing litigation many places, we have not successfully ended discrimination in this society based on race or gender.

Q: But the perception of the White House reviewing it is that they really are back-tracking -- that you are back-tracking and retreating on affirmative action; otherwise you wouldn't be reviewing it. You would still think there is discrimination in this country.

MR. MCCURRY: The President, on numerous occasions, has said that those who believe that these programs have worked successfully in the last generation to erase barriers that have existed for women and for racial minorities in this country have the responsibility, if they believe these programs have been important and effective, to make sure that those programs work well. And I have not heard him say anything but that he remains fully committed to what his own life experience has taught him, that you need to be effective and affirmative in dealing with the consequences of race and gender discrimination.

Q: And he doesn't think they have been?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry?

Q: He doesn't think they have been effective?

MR. MCCURRY: He thinks that these programs have done an enormous amount of good for a generation. But if you want to protect those programs that have done an enormous amount of good, you have to make absolutely sure that you can defend the way they work. And if there's any instances in which some of the consequences of those programs are not defendable, then you need to fine-tune those programs accordingly.

Q: I'm confused about the commission -- this bipartisan commission idea. Would this be your way of avoiding coming to any conclusions on these programs, or would this be a supplementary thing in addition to?

MR. MCCURRY: The idea as it's been put forward by those who have suggested it is that it's a way to nurture what the President has called for -- a national conversation designed to bring Americans together on this subject. We are deeply fearful as we enter into a political season that there are those in America who would seek to use the issue of affirmative action to divide Americans from one another. And the purpose , largely put, of a national commission is to take leaders from all walks of life and bring them together so that the American people can see that there is truly a national consensus built around the objective of equal opportunity and justice in this society, and that might, in fact, help head off those who would attempt to use this as a political wedge issue to divide Americans.

Now, there are many people -- many people are making this suggestion that -- your question was would this allow you to duck any of the hard choices on this issue. I doubt it.

Q: Well, are they supposed to look at -- and decide whether they're productive, or are they supposed to --

MR. MCCURRY: I can't -- we have not embraced the idea. We have said we'll take a look at it. There are those who are advocating it, so you should talk to those who feel strongly about the idea.

Q: To clarify, you remain committed to the White House's own review of --


Q: this situation, and are determined to reach some, as the President suggested, conclusions from that review, whatever this commission may or may not do down the road?

MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely.

Q: And before the commission would even be established or appointed?

MR. MCCURRY: This commission is not -- we have not adopted the idea as part of the President's review. It's been suggested; we've said we'd take a look at it. So we can't describe to you any portfolio that such a commission might have absent its creation.

Q: But this review would go ahead -- this review would be finished before that would even be appointed, or something? I mean --

MR. MCCURRY: Yes -- the review is ongoing and will be over soon, as the President has indicated.

Q: Some of the Democratic senators have met with the President on this subject came out Friday and said they were concerned about the time -- with the Republicans ready to move on this, there wasn't enough time to take a good look at some of these things.

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, some of the senators said it was taking too long; some were saying it should take longer. So we come out -- we agree with our friends, the senators.

Q: But, I mean, is the White House concerned about the fact, with the Republicans ready to move on some of these programs, that there just isn't enough time to take a good look?

MR. MCCURRY: No, we're not concerned about that. We believe that we will be able to develop an argument that will be effective in dealing with those who, as I say, might use this potentially as a way to try to divide Americans instead of bringing them together.

Q: When do you think this review will be done? When do you think this review will be done?

MR. MCCURRY: Oh, when it's been thoughtfully, carefully and deliberately and effectively concluded by the President and those working with him.

Q: Mike, what does the President want to see in line- item veto legislation?

MR. MCCURRY: Are we ready to move on? Any other --

Q: Can you just tell me why you're going to the Ukraine, why is that part of the trip? There is a lot of money kind of hanging on the wings for Ukraine. Is he going to be announcing like stuff for natural gas --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've got a very broad interest in deepening our cooperation with Ukraine. We have worked successfully with them to help them bring to an end their possession of nuclear weapons. That work will continue. We've also helped provide I believe close to a half a billion dollars worth of economic assistance to Ukraine so that it can, one, become a central pillar for security and stability in Central Europe, and, two, can become a much valuable source of potential markets for American worker and their families.

And we see a future in Central Europe that has a strong, vibrant, healthy Ukraine in which Ukraine is engaged in commerce with the United States, buying goods made here in the United States, and we want to further and deepen that very important economic and political aspects of the bilateral relationship as well as address the success we've had in dealing with the security issues, particularly denuclearization.

How's that?

Q: So he's going to be announcing loans? (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: No. The IMF has already put together a systemic transformation facility that they can tell you more about at greater detail. Would you like for me to -- should I go into that at some great length right now?

Q: Please.

Q: Line-item veto.

MR. MCCURRY: I think that's enough on that subject. Moving on -- the President and the United States will have a statement very shortly. Like right now.

Q: Is he coming out?

Q: Here?

MR. MCCURRY: No. Here on paper. And the statement from the President will say that the Senate is now debating --

Q: We haven't seen him.

Q: Is he okay?

Q: How's he feeling?

MR. MCCURRY: How's he feeling?

Q: He didn't jog this morning. He may be ill or something.

MR. MCCURRY: He was feeling very short of breath. He was feeling -- I saw visible palpitations and I saw a great deal of anxiety --

Q: Don't do that. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: -- on the face of the President -- last night during the game with Syracuse. (Laughter.) The President of the United States was engaged in determined channel flipping last night because --

Q: Did he watch the First Lady or the game?

MR. MCCURRY: He watched both. (Laughter.) Anticipating that question, I inquired as to his -- he was able to watch both. He said, he and Chelsea did some very determined channel flipping, and they were very happy with her performance. They only hope that the Razorbacks have the same margin that she did in their next encounter.

Q: She's got to get a three-point shot, right?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't think so. I think they just have remote control. She had a pretty good --

Q: the Vice President have a bet on Memphis- Arkansas?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry. Say again.

Q: Do he and the Vice President have a bet on MemphisArkansas ?

MR. MCCURRY: Good question. I don't know the answer, but I will inquire further.

Q: Line-item veto.

MR. MCCURRY: Line-item veto.

Q: Mike, do you have any idea if the President will go to the -- if Arkansas or any other -- does the President want to go to the Final Four?

MR. MCCURRY: Does he want to go? What do you think?

Q: Will he go?

MR. MCCURRY: That's not entirely clear.

Q: Does that in any way --

Q: Does the President not have a VCR? Can't he record the First Lady?

MR. MCCURRY: He has a tape of the -- he has a tape of the First Lady's very impressive performance, but they were able to catch a lot of both of it simultaneously. And, Brit, to answer your question, I don't know about Final Four or Sweet Sixteen or where they might go.

Q: coincide with the end of that?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. When is the Final Four?

Q: April 1st and 3rd.

Q: Will be in Arkansas, right?

Q: We're coming back here prior to going to Arkansas after Haiti is off, correct? He's going straight to Arkansas.

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, my understanding is his plans are to proceed directly to Arkansas.

Q: Or Seattle if that's appropriate?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes. But we'll do more on schedule later because there's a very keen interest in the line-item veto. The President will issue a written statement shortly indicating that with the Senate now debating the line-item veto in the legislation he will urge the Senate to pass the strongest possible line-item veto and to make it effective immediately.

If the members of Congress from both parties are serious about cutting the deficit, the President says, give me this line-item veto, and I will get started right away. This is one area where both parties can and should come together. The President will note that we have already made some significant headway in cutting the deficit. I would be willing, if you would like me to, to go through the very impressive record that this administration has already compiled in deficit cutting and trimming.

And, also, point out that there is still too much waste in the federal budget. We've already proposed consolidating eliminating 131 programs altogether, consolidating another 270 into 27 performance partnerships. The President will point to two programs -- the SBA Tree Planting Program, $16 million; and the $12 million Cattle Tick Eradication Program. He said, if I had that line-item veto today, they would be no more. And he will also say, we will do more.

He will also that the line-item veto should be applied to the revenue as well as the spending sides of the budget so that I can curb wasteful tax and spending provisions. But the President suggested it's up to the leadership in the Senate and legislators in the Senate to determine what type of line-item veto measure they wish to send to him so that they can get on to it.

Q: Which bill does he support?

MR. MCCURRY: He is not going to get into the question of what the Senate should do. There's the Senate situation. There's the legislative situation. The Senate is fluid. The President in the executive branch looks to the legislative branch to give him an acceptable measure so he can get on with the job of cutting wasteful spending.

Q: Dole said that he should -- if he wants the line- item veto, he should come out and fight for it. Does this constitute fighting for it, issuing a piece of paper?

Q: Your reading his statement?

MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely.

Q: In what sense, and is this it?

MR. MCCURRY: He's got a strong statement on it. I recommend it to you. It will be available right after the briefing.

Q: Is this it, or are you going to talk about it this week?

MR. MCCURRY: This will be -- this measure is going to lay before the Senate for most of the week most likely, so I'm sure he'll be talking about it during the week.

Q: The President's been specific at least in a couple instances about what kind of spending programs he'd like to veto. Is he going to give a list of the tax breaks that he would like to veto if this is the king of line-item veto he got?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'll have to look, but if I'm not mistaken, I think a lot of the tax expenditures are addressed fully in our FY '96 budget proposal, and we wish the Congress would turn its attention there.

Q: Senator Daschle said the same thing that Dole said basically, that the President should come out and declare himself on this. In saying that he --

MR. MCCURRY: He just did.

Q: In saying that he wants the authority for taxes and well as spending, he's going along with one part of the Daschle approach. The other part is a majority vote to block it instead of a two-thirds vote. Where does he come in on that question?

MR. MCCURRY: He has not -- his statement does not address himself to that procedural question, but it does correctly, as you indicate, address himself to the tax and spending side.

Q: He's could live with --

MR. MCCURRY: It's up to the Senate.

Q: Does he have a preference?

MR. MCCURRY: It's up to the Senate.

Q: Would he plan to lobby any Democratic senators who might want to filibuster this item?

MR. MCCURRY: I think this subject has come up in conversations he's had with Democratic members of the Senate in the past. And I'll have to check and see whether he would raise it again in the future.

Q: that it gives too much power to the President?

MR. MCCURRY: Excuse me?

Q: Too much power.

MR. MCCURRY: I think the President, as both a candidate, as a governor, and as a candidate for the president, indicated this is something he thinks would allow him to do what the American people expect a President to do, which is do everything necessary to cut wasteful and unnecessary spending as it's passed by the Congress.

Q: Could you answer Bob's question?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, say again.

Q: Has he asked Senator Byrd or others not to filibuster? Will he ask them not to filibuster?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- I'll have to check and see. I said I would see whether he would raise that again in the future.

Q: WTO in Geneva -- are you still looking for the --

MR. MCCURRY: We're still in consultation with our trading partners on finding the right leadership for what will be a very important element of the post-Cold War global economic order.

Q: To what extent is the President involved in the process of finding the right person for that position?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, say again.

Q: To what extent is the President involved in the process of finding the right person for the --

MR. MCCURRY: The status of our discussions with our trading partners and our review of the candidates that have come forward has been briefed with the President and the President has been involved in those discussions.

Q: tax provisions, are you talking specifically about those that affect 100 or less tax --

MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not talking specifically at all.

What else have you got?

Q: Is there nothing on the public agenda?

MR. MCCURRY: I've got one more -- I actually got one more piece of news before I leave you all.

I'm sorry, what was your question?

Q: There's nothing on the public agenda virtually. What's he doing this week?

MR. MCCURRY: He's going to -- we'll be talking tomorrow about violence directed against women. We expect we are going to get the true bill from the United States Congress on unfunded mandates later in the week. The President will be meeting with some college students and editors late in the week. I expect we'll have a lot of things to do.

Q: What type of things is he going to talk about tomorrow in his speech? Any new initiatives, or --

MR. MCCURRY: We'll -- have you guys got more on that? They've got some more on that. You can get it from them.

Okay, let me do one more before we quit. President Clinton announced today -- we'll have paper on this as well -- President Clinton announced today that he will lead a first-ever National Rural Conference on the future of America's rural communities on Tuesday, April 25th, in Ames, Iowa. The conference will bring together administration officials, members of Congress and those living and working in rural America for discussion on the economic challenges facing rural Americans.

The President looks forward to this conference, to working with those who have helped to bring it about, including Senator Byron Dorgan, Representative Richard Durbin and Senator Tom Harkin. The purpose of the conference --

Q: When is this?

MR. MCCURRY: April 25th -- the purpose of the conference is to discuss a wide range of issues, such as job creation, education, business development infrastructure, agriculture, health care and the environment. The President believes honest and serious dialogue on jobs, trade and preservation of the family farm is important as we move into the 21st century.

Q: satellite thing to other places around the country?

MR. MCCURRY: Sounds like -- my able staff here has got some more details on that. National Rural Conference. Capital N, capital R, capital C.

Q: Anything scheduled for after April?

MR. MCCURRY: Nothing to share publicly at this point.

Over and out. Thank you everyone.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 2:08 P.M. EST

William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Mike McCurry Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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