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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 3, 1993
                            PRESS BRIEFING
                           BY DEE DEE MYERS

The Briefing Room

9:23 A.M. EST

MS. MYERS: Just a quick scheduling overview. As you know, we've added a photo op at 9:30 a.m. in the Oval Office with Senator Krueger, Vice President Gore and others prior to the 10:00 a.m. press statement. At that statement the President will appear with the Vice President, John Sharp, Phil Lader, who's the new manager director at OMB, Senators Krueger, Cohen, Dorgan, Glenn, Lieberman, Roth, and Levin and Congressmen Conyers, Clinger, Gordon, Laughlin, Price and Slaughter.

Q Tell us they won't all speak. (Laughter.)

MS. MYERS: They won't all speak. In fact, I don't think any of them are speaking.

At 1:15 p.m. he'll drop by the OEOB in the Indian Treaty Room for a meeting of the President's Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations. That will be chaired by Ambassador Kantor. At 3:30 a.m. --

Q Coverage?

MS. MYERS: None. At 3:30 p.m. he'll chair the first National Security Council meeting. It's essentially an opportunity for Secretary Christopher to report on his Middle East trip and for Secretary Bentsen to report on his G-7 meeting in London.

Q That will be open coverage, right?

MS. MYERS: That will be open coverage -- in your -- no, that will be completely closed. (Laughter.)

Q What was the title on that, Dee Dee?

MS. MYERS: At 3:30 p.m. And that's it.

Q What is this big successful Bosnia airlift that's been dropped in three days?

MS. MYERS: The operations is continuing.

Q It is, even though Aspin --

MS. MYERS: It is.

Q Less Aspin was saying --

MS. MYERS: Aspin said it may or may not be suspended. It is ongoing.

Q For how long?

Q Aspin did not say it may or may not be suspended. In his statements last night, Aspin said, "We're going to pause to reexamine this and we may not do it again or may do it again." He said there was going to be a pause.

MS. MYERS: The operation is ongoing and you can doublecheck that at the Pentagon.

Q Did Aspin misspeak in his statements last night?

MS. MYERS: I don't know if he misspoke or reconsidered, but you can check that with the Pentagon. The operation is ongoing.

Q Was he told to get back to the reservation?


Q reconciled this conflict, Dee Dee? I mean, who is really speaking here? Are you saying that he's full of beans?

MS. MYERS: No. He said -- the comment that I saw that he said is that the operation may or may not be suspended, that it was always their intention to continue to evaluate it throughout the process. That process is ongoing and the operation is continuing.

Q So did they drop today?

MS. MYERS: I believe that they will.

Q Is it going to change in any fashion or is it going to continue the way it has been or be upgraded?

MS. MYERS: Continuing as is now, with I think eight other nations now contributing food and medical supplies and obviously the Russians will be participating at some point. We're working on that.

Q But with the Serbs overrunning the town -- I think it's Cerska -- and people being shot trying to get these supplies, how do you --

MS. MYERS: Obviously, we're evaluating what happened in Cerska. That was the first night. But, again, we believe the operation has been successful, that humanitarian aid has reached it's intended people.

Q Did Aspin also misspeak or is reevaluating his statements that the convoys are now getting through because there doesn't seem to be any evidence on the ground of that?

MS. MYERS: I think in some areas that there may be evidence to suggest that. But again, for the operational details I'd have to refer you to the Pentagon.

Q Where do you get your information? (Laughter.) Do you get your information from the Pentagon? I mean, really.

MS. MYERS: We get it from a number of places. I think mostly from the President of the United States.

Q He told you that this morning?

MS. MYERS: The operation is ongoing, yes.

Q Did the President have any discussions with Secretary Aspin about his view of the operation?

MS. MYERS: They have ongoing conversations. I don't know when the last time they spoke was.

Q Could it have been last night or this morning?

MS. MYERS: It could have been. I don't know when the last time they spoke was.

Q He's still the Secretary of Defense?

MS. MYERS: He is still the Secretary of Defense. He will be here today.

Q Boutros-Ghali said in an interview with the London Times it is now time for the West to use force to bring the ethnic conflict in the former Yugoslavia to an end. What is the administration's view of that, and will that be a subject of the National Security Council meeting this afternoon?

MS. MYERS: I think that the situation in Bosnia, among other things, will come up at the National Security meeting, as will Secretary Christopher's and Secretary Bentsen's recent trips. I think the administration's position on Bosnia has not changed.

Q Was that the reason for the British Ambassador being here last night -- consultations on Bosnia?

MS. MYERS: Among other things. I mean, I think there will continue to be foreign leaders here throughout this administration on an ongoing basis to discuss a number of issues.

Q Who was here last night?

Q Would you restate the -- what is the administration's position at this point on the --

MS. MYERS: That we're working toward a negotiated settlement, that we are hopeful that all parties will continue to come back to the negotiating table, and that if the parties agree to some kind of settlement, that we would be willing to, perhaps, participate in enforcing that.

Q And you think it's still possible to reach a negotiated settlement, despite Boutros-Ghali's pessimism?

MS. MYERS: We're hopeful that we can continue to negotiate and we are going to continue to work toward a negotiated settlement.

Q How does the administration assess the position of the Serbs -- the new offensive in Eastern Bosnia, in Cerska?

MS. MYERS: Well, obviously, we're very concerned about it and we're continuing to look at the details.

Q Have you tried to get in touch with -- with their leaders to put pressure on them or force them to stop this offensive, or are you just watching and say you are concerned?

MS. MYERS: Well, we're continuing through the normal channels. We're obviously very concerned about it.

Q Dee Dee, does your statement of policy mean that the United States would oppose an effort by Boutros Ghali to get authorization for U.N. forces to impose an end to the fighting in Bosnia?

MS. MYERS: I don't know that he's suggested that.

Q But would you?

MS. MYERS: That's a hypothetical. I'm not going to answer that. But I think the administration's position on this is clear.

Q Just what is the administration's message to people on the ground in Bosnia who are likely very confused as they hear shortwave broadcasts quoting Aspin as saying there's going to be a pause in this, or whatever they're quoting you're saying at this point, and then hearing what you're saying today? Should they be watching for supplies to fall out of the skies to them, or what?

MS. MYERS: Again, as I said, the operation is ongoing. We're going to continue to try to provide humanitarian relief for the people in Eastern Bosnia.

Q Should people in Bosnia be looking for more supplies --

MS. MYERS: At this point the operation is ongoing, yes.

Q How do you explain, Dee Dee, how Aspin characterized this? You said you don't know if he misspoke or not?

MS. MYERS: I didn't see the full text of his remarks. I saw what was in the papers this morning, which said that the operation may or may not be suspended. That was always our intention to continue to evaluate it as it went forward and to make decisions about when to drop food and medical supplies. But at this point the operation is ongoing.

Q But you can do nothing more to clear up how it was that Aspin was so widely either misinterpreted or why he misspoke?

MS. MYERS: Other than to say the operation is ongoing, and again, based on his comments, I think --

Q Well, you obviously went to the President or the powers that be and asked if this was true, didn't you, knowing you were coming out here?

MS. MYERS: Well, obviously, there's an ongoing discussion about what's happening in places like Bosnia every day.

Q So you were aware then of what Aspin said?

MS. MYERS: Yes. And, of course, the White House has been in touch with the Pentagon and with Secretary Aspin on a regular basis about this. And he on board and we're moving forward with this.

Q Where is he today?

MS. MYERS: He's at the Pentagon.

Q Is he making a clarifying statement?

MS. MYERS: You'll have to contact DOD about that. But he's on board with this. He's spoken to our national security folks this morning as a part of the ongoing discussion we have with them about these kinds of missions every single day.

Q But, Dee Dee, I guess the point is, if you say that you did not know the full text and full context, whatever, you obviously, when you picked up the paper, knew that there was a message getting out by Aspin that it was going to be curtailed. Why didn't you look into a full statement by him to clear it up?

MS. MYERS: The operation is ongoing. I think I'm -- it's our position to clear it up right now.

Q Why didn't you clear it up last night?

Q Excuse me, ongoing in what sense? In the sense that delivery of supplies is continuing for now --

MS. MYERS: Correct. Correct.

Q or is going to be continued?

MS. MYERS: Continuing. At this point it's ongoing. The mission is continuing.

Q So there's absolutely no break in the --

MS. MYERS: There's been no break, that's correct.

Q Will there be one today -- an airdrop today?


Q And there will be no break?

MS. MYERS: As of right now there will be no break. At some point, obviously, we may stop, as Secretary Aspin indicated last night, to reevaluate.

Q Dee Dee, is the President embarrassed --

Q there was cessation in order to evaluate, you're just evaluating as it continues?

MS. MYERS: At this point, yes.

Q Dee Dee, is the President embarrassed that Aspin made these comments right after he'd asked that Russian is going to join in the airdrop?

MS. MYERS: No, I don't believe so. I think the administration's --

Q That doesn't bother him?

MS. MYERS: -- position is clear, the airdrops are ongoing.

Q Did the NSC contact Aspin this morning to ask him what he meant?

MS. MYERS: They're in regular contact.

Q Is Aspin a loose cannon?

Q Can I ask about the White House staff now? (Laughter.)

MS. MYERS: A day without White House staff questions just wouldn't be a day.

Q When are you going to answer them?

Q Dee Dee, could you tell me who works at the White House and how much they make and what the full amount of their salaries are here?

MS. MYERS: I'll have to get back to you on that.

Q Would you get back to all of us on that?

MS. MYERS: Sure.

Q When?

Q We'll all collectively hold our breath.

Q Four years from now? (Laughter.)

MS. MYERS: No -- soon.

Q Any word on tomorrow or Friday?

MS. MYERS: No details yet.

Q Any decision on a site for the Yeltsin summit?

MS. MYERS: We're close, but nothing to announce right now.

Q Canada?

Q Any word on who's running the timber summit and when that's going to --

MS. MYERS: We should have an announcement on that relatively soon. As you know, the President is committed to a summit and we're making progress on it.

Q Do you know who in the administration is heading that?

MS. MYERS: I believe, among other people, Katie McGinty, who is the President's Environmental Advisor, and I believe that Secretary Babbitt will be involved. I don't know how involved he is at this point.

Q The senators who are going to appear at reinventing the government, are they all supportive of the plan?

MS. MYERS: Of this initiative? Yes.

Q Are you going to reinvent press briefings? (Laughter.)

MS. MYERS: There seems to be some interest in that, but mostly unnamed interest in that.

Q I think you already have.

MS. MYERS: Yes. Thanks.

Q Whatever happened to those credit crunch rules that were supposed to be --

MS. MYERS: We'll have an announcement on that fairly soon. I don't know if it will be this week, but --

Q Fairly soon.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END9:40 A.M. EST