THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY LLOYD BENTSEN, SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER, AND SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LES ASPIN The Briefing Room
11:55 A.M. EST
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Good morning. As almost everybody in America knows by now, the President will be leaving Saturday night for Brussels directly from Arkansas. This will be the first stop in his first official visit to Europe as President, and it will be the first of three visits he's making to Europe over the next six or seven months.
This series of trips to Europe underscores the fundamental importance that the United States attaches to its relationships with Europe. And what I'm going to do is to try to give you a quick walk-through toward the trip that he is taking to Europe.
In his speech in Brussels in Sunday and his speeches at the NATO and European Union on Monday and Tuesday, the President will articulate his vision for transatlantic security and prosperity. He will reaffirm the commitment of the United States to the Transatlantic Alliance indicating that we're determined to remain engaged in Europe, keeping our unbreakable bonds in good order and in good form.
Last year, I repeatedly emphasized that successfully concluding the GATT negotiations was as important to transatlantic security as renewing NATO. And as you all know, last month the United States and Europe completed the largest trade agreement in history. Next week we'll come together to take steps to renew this important alliance, the most important successful alliance in history.
NATO now faces a very momentous choice: Will it embrace innovation, or will it risk irrelevance, which will -- if that happens, I think would be very adverse to security and have dangerous consequences for all of Europe. That's why President Clinton is bringing to Brussels a proposal to help the Alliance adapt to this new post-Cold War era, and especially to adapt to the dramatic changes that are taking place all through Eastern Europe.
The agenda that he'll be bringing to Brussels has several key elements on which we hope to secure agreement from the allies during the course of the week.
First, we'll be seeking to create a combined joint task forces, so-called CJTF, a concept which will allow flexible military structures for potential new missions outside of NATO territory as well as within NATO territory.
A second closely related initiative will be to take steps in the development of the European Security and Defense Initiative, the so-called ESDI that will reflect both NATO's flexibility and Europe's integration.
A third summit initiative will be to strengthen NATO's role in combatting proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Secretary Aspin, as would be appropriate, will be discussing these three defense-related initiatives after I conclude here.
The final and most important element, indeed the centerpiece of the NATO summit, is the plan to turn former adversaries into partners. This is the purpose of President Clinton's Partnership For Peace proposal. It will deepen NATO's engagement in the East and draw the new democracies toward the West. Through this Partnership For Peace, the forces of non-NATO states will be developing practical working relationships with NATO as they plan, train and exercise their armed forces together. The partnership will help adapt NATO's capabilities in several areas, areas such as crisis management, humanitarian relief, possibly peacekeeping. At the same time, I want to emphasize that this new Partnership For Peace will in no way erode NATO's core capabilities or undermine, in any respect, its responsibilities for the collective security of the NATO countries.
I want to emphasize that the Partnership for Peace, important in itself, should also be seen as a logical corollary to a summit declaration, which we hope will be adopted that NATO looks for and anticipates, hopes to add new members to the alliance in an evolutionary process of expansion. The Partnership for Peace is open to all nations in Eastern Europe on a nondiscriminatory basis. Nations choosing to be active in the Partnership will develop habits of cooperation and routines of consultation which are so important to the Alliance as we've known it over the last years. The partnership is a flexible tool that will allow the nations to demonstrate their credentials for potential future membership.
The United States believes that the objective of promoting security and stability in Europe could be undermined if NATO were to be expanded too rapidly. We want to avoid premature selections or hasty prejudgments. Such as course as that would risk dividing Europe by creating new blocs and unintentionally replicating a bit further to the East a line of demarkation that NATO has fought for such a long time to erase. Before the United States would extend its security perimeter to the East, the Congress -- and, indeed, the public -- must debate the impact on our military strategy and on our budget resources. That will take time. But next week's summit will launch what we expect to be a very important process for NATO's expansion to the East.
To move on now to a different subject -- the nations of Eastern Europe making the difficult transition to free market democracy must be able to deliver tangible benefits to their people. And President Clinton will be making the point that Western nations and institutions must help them do that by widening their access to Western markets. The President will be delivering that message when he speaks to the European Union on Tuesday afternoon.
On Wednesday, in Prague, when he meets with the leaders of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, he'll be discussing ways in which the Partnership for Peace will offer these countries practical forms of military cooperation so as to deepen their ties. I was very glad to read, as I was coming over in the car, that the defense ministers of the four Visegrad countries have endorsed the Partnership For Peace; I hope putting to rest some questions that have existed about the attitude of those four countries.
The President will also take this opportunity to express our country's deep admiration for the courageous action that these countries are taking, the Visegrad countries, who would be meeting with in Prague; admiration for their courageous steps toward free market reform.
The President's visit to Moscow comes at a crucial moment as Russia's newly and freely elected Parliament is meeting for the first time. The President will reaffirm that the United States is on a steady course of supporting democratic and market reform through bilateral assistance, private trade and investment. The President will also discuss how the international community can help support the Russian government's efforts to provide basic social protections during the painful transition. Secretary Bentsen, I know, will be addressing that question in his remarks in just a few minutes.
In Moscow, of course, the President will also be discussing with President Yeltsin the recently concluded NATO summit. We anticipate, indeed, we will welcome the anticipation of Russia's participation in the Partnership for Peace. One of the many benefits of Russian reform -- one that I have felt personally so many times -- is the ability that we have now to cooperate with Russia on global and regional foreign policy issues. Accordingly, the presidents -- President Yeltsin and President Clinton -- will be discussing a wide range of foreign policy issues: the Middle East, relations with the newly independent states, nonproliferation and other foreign policy issues.
From Moscow, the President will travel to Minsk as part of our effort to encourage reform and nonproliferation in the new independent states. As you all know, Belarus has made the courageous choice to ratify the START Treaty and also to adhere to the nonproliferation treaty as a non-nuclear state. The President will be discussing with the officials of Belarus, and other new independent states who may be represented there, ways in which we can cooperate with them as they go through this difficult transition.
Finally, the President's trip will conclude with a meeting in Geneva with President Asad of Syria. As you know, on the Middle East, we have structured a sequence of steps this month, beginning with the recently concluded consultations with officials from Lebanon and Syria, their heads of delegations; steps that we hope will energize the peace process. Following the Geneva meeting between President Asad and President Clinton, we have invited the heads of delegations from all the other tracks to meet here in Washington for streamlined, less structured peace process talks. The Geneva meeting between the two presidents are a very important part of this process. We remain committed to helping the parties achieve a comprehensive peace, and it is certain that Syria is essential to achieving a comprehensive peace in this region.
I thank you very much, and now let me turn the podium over to Secretary Bentsen.
SECRETARY BENTSEN: Thank you very much, Chris.
Well, I will be attending the Moscow summit with the President. I think it's interesting to note that in April on the U.S.-Moscow summit meeting that that was the first time a Secretary of Treasury has attended such. This will be the second time. What that really brings to mind is that the balance sheet has become just as important as the balance of power. So we're going to go to Moscow to re-emphasize a steadfast report for the reformers and what they're doing in that regard.
These reformers have made some real progress. For instance, prices for most goods have been freed. If you look at the operations of the Russian economy, price is now a very major factor in what's produced and that which is consumed. Also, privatization is coming along quite rapidly with one-third of the industrial labor force now in privatized firms. More than half the small businesses have been converted to private ownership. And beyond that, we see some now real progress in stabilizing the economy. We're looking at an inflation rate that in December was down to 12 percent. But Russia needs more reform, not less. There's a lot of work yet to be done. We've seen interest rates moving more toward real interest rates. We've seen some additional stabilization taking place.
Our trip to Moscow will give us the opportunity to talk to President Yeltsin about the course of economic reform in 1994. We hope this is a year in which economic reform can be solidified with further progress. But reform can only move forward if attention is paid to its social consequences at the same time, because the Russian people have faced some genuine hardship as they seek to shed the legacy of 70 years of communism.
We'll also want to talk to President Yeltsin about how Russia and the international financial institutions can energize that relationship -- make it more effective, raise more money for the purposes that have to be done. That will allow them together to advance reform and, very importantly, cushion the social impact of this transformation. We're not indifferent to the hardships that building a market economy out of the wreckage of a command economy has created for some of that population.
In addition, we will discuss with President Yeltsin and others how we can strengthen the trade and the investment relationships. We want to cover what we can to renegotiate and reinvigorate Russia's oil and gas industry; as well as discuss recent changes in the banking system in Russia.
Lastly, I won't be on the European leg with the President before the summit, but he'll be dealing with a variety of economic issues that are important to us. So, let me give you some of the specifics. First, he'll be talking with the EC about making the point that there is life after the Uruguay Round of GATT, there are more negotiations to be done as we work to further open up these markets. He wants to make it clear that this is the beginning, not an end, in our efforts to open those markets. And, second, he'll be discussing efforts to create jobs and bring down unemployment amongst the G-7 countries. If you recall, one of his initiatives is the jobs summit in March. And, thirdly, the President will stress that we need to achieve stronger growth in industrialized countries. And, finally, he'll emphasize the importance of opening our markets in the United States, Western Europe and Japan to the products of Eastern Europe and Russia.
SECRETARY ASPIN: Thank you, Lloyd and Chris. Let me just -- Chris has covered a good part of the things that I was going to say, but let me add a couple of things to the points he was making. I'd like to speak a little bit about the three major initiatives that will be going on at NATO in the security area. All three will strengthen and prepare NATO for post-Cold War missions, and post-Soviet Union missions.
First, a little more about the Partnership for Peace, although Chris covered that very, very adequately in his remarks. As we envision it, the partnership would really provide a framework for detailed operational military cooperation in the European security efforts. These efforts will have NATO as its core. In time, the partner nations will join with the NATO forces in such activities as peacekeeping, disaster relief, search and rescue operations and perhaps others.
What we hope is that we will actually see some field exercises before the end of the year, before the end of 1994, that there will be some operations going on with NATO and some of the partners. If we can do that, it will demonstrate to Eastern Europe that NATO is serious about military cooperation, and that the Partnership For Peace program is real. There are some advantages. Let me just list some of the big advantages of the Partnership For Peace program.
First, it begins a process of meaningful military cooperation with countries in Eastern Europe without drawing a new security line. That's very, very important. We have a relationship -- it will be a differentiated relationship, but there will not be a new line drawn in Europe. Instead of drawing a new line that divides nations, the Partnership for Peace will establish new lines of communication that will connect nations.
Second, it sets up the right incentives. In the new post-Cold War world, NATO can be an alliance based on shared values of a free market and democracy. The program, this program, Partnership For Peace, rewards those who move in that direction, therefore it creates the right incentives.
Third, it provides for equality of opportunity for all eligible countries. There will be differentiations, but it will differentiations based upon what activities these countries are willing to undertake in cooperation with NATO.
Fourth -- and this is very important, I think, to a lot of constituents of members of Congress in this country -- it doesn't just ask what NATO can do for its new partners, it asks what the new partners can do for NATO. A terribly important point that we shouldn't overlook. And, finally, it puts the question of NATO membership where it belongs -- at the end of this process rather than at the beginning.
The second major initiative I'd like to say just a word about, and that's what we've called the Combined Joint Task Force. The European allies have had a long desire, longstanding desire, for a capacity for military action for missions as peacekeeping, humanitarian relief and other things that would be -- could be undertaken without American participation. They had the desire to have a European pillar to the NATO Alliance. In fact, we don't object to that. The Clinton administration, in something new, in fact, welcomes that. But we wanted to actually to complement NATO, this new operation, would be to complement, not to compete with it. We've long said that a European defense identity should be separable but not separate from NATO. And the Combined Joint Task Force accomplishes just that objective.
Under the plan, NATO-trained and integrated military forces and assets can be pulled out of the command and actually assigned and deployed in European-only contingencies. And these are cases where full NATO membership chooses not to participate. A task force could actually even include people who are not members of NATO, countries that have signed up for the Partnership For Peace program, for example, could become part of the joint task forces. The Combined Joint Task Force gives the European members of NATO a capability for independent action. It will support the development of a European security and defense identity; and importantly, however, no decision to activate a task force can take place without the full consultation with NATO.
So, finally, the point on counterproliferation, three issues -- Partnership For Peace, the Combined Joint Task Forces, and finally counterproliferation. We are engaging with our allies to deal with the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
Three propositions will be emphasized this summit coming up. Proposition number 1: Proposition number 1 is that NATO members recognize that the proliferation threat, that threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction affects all of us. Second proposition: That the Alliance needs to address both the political and the military aspects of that proliferation problem. Third proposition: That we need to begin to work immediately on a comprehensive approach to this issue. That's just a very opening thin line; there's a lot more to that. But in short, we need to add counterproliferation to the arsenal of nonproliferation. Counterproliferation means that -- a certain understanding that there is a military dimension to this thing, not just a diplomatic problem. Our engagement with our allies will ensure that counterproliferation efforts are an important part of NATO's overall adaptation to the new strategic environment. NATO is, after all, a defensive alliance. And what is it that we're worried about -- clearly, one of the things is proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This summit initiative will put that higher on the agenda.
Let me just finish, when we're all finished here. Actually, these three initiatives -- the Partnership For Peace and the Combined Joint Task Forces and the counterproliferation -- will keep NATO at the center of European security concerns and, therefore, keep American involvement in the center of Europe.
Let me turn it over the Chris and he can follow --
Q Secretary Christopher, can I ask you about Bosnia, which somehow doesn't get mentioned very often, even in lengthy briefings. There are reports that the U.N. commanders have asked for air strikes. There are reports that the U.N. Secretary General is vetoing air strikes. Could you get into this a little bit and give us the current U.S. position, and also the French request that the U.S. play some role, maybe in ground peacekeeping, maybe in supplies, which because they are, to an extent.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: There are a number of questions there. With respect to discussions between the U.N. commanders and the U.N. Secretary General, you'll have to ask them about that. There's been no request made to us for the air support. The resolution adopted by NATO in Athens remains a valid resolution with respect to the air support and the NAC would have to act on any such request. With respect to the French, I've been in touch a couple of times in the last 24 hours with Foreign Minister Juppe. We're working together in close coordination. The subject of Bosnia will be under discussion, I'm sure, by the heads of government at the summit. And I would expect that we'll come forward with a coordinated position as we have in the past on that subject.
Q But haven't the Serbs crossed that line that the NATO Council set in August, haven't they violated the conditions? Haven't they continued the strangulation? I mean, they're bombarding Sarajevo to death. Haven't they taken action that calls for triggering NATO's warning in August that if you go that far you're going to get hit?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, that subject is under constant review by both the United States and NATO. We examine the facts, and if that point is reached, a decision will have to be taken by the North Atlantic Council on that subject.
Q You've told us about all of the things that the President is going to do when he talks to NATO, but isn't he going to assert some leadership over Bosnia? You haven't given us any sense of what he's prepared to say there.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, as I say, Bosnia will come up. There will be discussion of it. I've been in touch with my counterparts. But I want to emphasize that the summit was called for by the President in Athens to discuss the future of NATO, to discuss how NATO would reach out to the East, to the newly emerging democracies. That is the role of the Partnership For Peace. That's the centerpiece of the NATO discussion. We'll also be discussing the Combined Joint Task Forces. We're talking about NATO's future now. There's no doubt that one of the things we want to do is to help NATO have a greater capacity to deal with questions like Bosnia in the future. And as I said, I'm sure Bosnia will be discussed by the heads of government.
Q Secretary Bentsen, can we talk a bit about what you you said about reform? You said that Russian reform has to continue, that we need more reform not less. Immediately after the election, the Vice President in Moscow said that there had been too much shock therapy. There seems to have been a change of policy in the intervening weeks. Can you explain that, and what do you mean when you say that the IMF and the World Bank are going to have to do something to cushion the impact? What can they do to cushion it? How much money?
SECRETARY BENTSEN: Well, I think the two statements are compatible. What we're talking about is a continued conditionality. I think you have to have that. When you talk to Gaidar and you talk to Fedorov and the rest of them that have been doing some of the lead in the reform, they talk about this being assistance to them. This is a part of the leverage in helping bring about the kind of reforms that are taking place there in the way of privatization and the way of curbing some of the inflation.
Now, we also must not overlook the fact that there's is considerable pain that has taken place on the part of the population by this kind of a transformation and what we would hope to see, where the IMF has been supportive and helpful, that we see an even closer cooperation between the Russian government and the IMF and the World Bank to further energize what's being done in that regard and to give further significance to the part which has been pained the transformation.
Q But, clearly, your emphasis today is that more reform is needed. And that is very different from what the Vice President was saying in the immediate aftermath of the election results.
SECRETARY BENTSEN: Well, I think what you've seen in the aftermath of the election is a reflection of that pain on the part of some of the population in the way they voted. But by the same token, I think once again that the sooner we get the reform done and over with, the sooner that you'll see stability and that you'll see less pain and the transformation to a market economy, the sooner you'll see stabilization. I think those two things go together.
Q Can I follow on the same subject, on Russia? Secretary Bentsen, following on the question, do you expect to see an easing of conditionality by the IMF? I mean, have they been too stiff? I mean, you want conditionality to help the reform progress, but does there need to be some leniency in getting the second tranche loan out from the IMF?
SECRETARY BENTSEN: Let me just say on the first tranche, and what you saw there was some easing of the conditionality as compared to what the IMF would normally insist on. And that was something that we worked out with the IMF. So I think you see a continuation of that taking place.
Q And then, would you expect to -- again, part of the pain of the social -- the social aspect of the pain of reform, would you expect to announce an increase in the privatization fund during this summit? And will you talk about the prospects for rescheduling Russia's debt for 1994?
SECRETARY BENTSEN: Well, I think what you have to see on that is working with the other G-7 countries, in particular, who have been quite forthcoming in their assistance to have a further understanding of the difficulty of making the transformation and trying to urge on the part of the IFIs -- the international financial institutions -- a even greater participation than they've had in the past. But to try to give definitive numbers -- I'm in no position to do that.
Q On Syria, sir, what quid pro quo are you going to offer Asad? Do you anticipate taking them off the terrorism list if they recognize Israel's borders? And do you still expect to see U.S. troops enforcing an Israeli pullout from the Golan?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, let me emphasize what our role is in those talks. We're the sponsors of the Middle East peace talks -- co-sponsors, that is, along with Russia. The governments of Israel and Syria have asked the United States to play the role of intermediary. At the present time, they apparently don't want to engage in direct discussions. So they've asked the United States to be an honest broker, and we're assisting in that role. It's not our function to provide quid pro quos between them or to get into the negotiations except to try to play, as faithfully as we can, the role of full partner. And in that setting, I think it's very important, very desirable that President Clinton meet with President Asad of Syria. He's met with all the other leaders of the other three entities that are involved in these very important negotiations. And I think that's the essence of these discussions, rather than involving quid pro quos or our making offers or our providing various resources to the parties. We're not at that point yet in the discussions.
Q Mr. Secretary, back to the to the French proposition. How much higher is Bosnia going to be on the Brussels agenda? And, secondly, do you expect now, because of the acceleration of the fighting, a more concerted effort than expected on Bosnia after the Brussels summit?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, I think that it was always certain that Bosnia would be discussed by the heads of government when they meet, and it certainly will be discussed at the present time. As I say, over the last several days, I've been in touch with my foreign minister counterparts on this issue and I think you'll see this issue treated with the seriousness and gravity that is warranted by the conditions on the ground.
Q Secretary Christopher, Strobe Talbott has talked about the need to broaden American contacts with reformers and Democrats -- that we should broaden -- we should seek them out and meet them wherever we can find them. To what extent does Mr. Clinton plan to broaden these contacts beyond Mr. Yeltsin? And can you share with us whom he may be meeting with? Will he be meeting with people in the new Parliament? Perhaps even elements of Mr. Zhirinovsky's --
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think the President will be meeting with other elements at Russia at the present time. The existence of a newly elected Parliament identifies various groups and leaders who are coming into the fore, and I think the President will have an event with them somewhat comparable to the important event he had in Tokyo -- meeting with the various elements of the new constituencies arising in Japan. I don't know all the details, nor do I have for you the guest list. But I think the President plans to have an event at which he'll have an opportunity to meet with those individuals who may play a leadership role.
The one exception from that is the President does not intend to meet with Mr. Zhirinovsky because of the kind of statements, and his conduct simply does not seem to warrant the President meeting with him when he is in Russia.
Q A follow-up, Mr. Secretary. Can you just respond to Mr. Zhirinovsky yesterday saying that the President was too weak a leader, afraid to meet with him?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: No, I don't think I would dignify that with any kind of a response. President Clinton's leadership, I think, will be evident all through this trip and they're not going to get into a match with somebody whose verbal conduct is of the character of Mr. Zhirinovsky.
Q You were talking about the possibility of field exercises as early as by the end of the year with East European countries or others.
SECRETARY ASPIN: Yes ma'am.
Q How do you propose -- or what kind of proposals are on the table for funding bringing their militaries to the point where they can communicate with NATO militaries, where they can actually engage in military exercises?
SECRETARY ASPIN: Well, what we have -- are you talking about our forces or their forces?
Q Their forces. I mean, presumably their forces are not up to NATO standards.
SECRETARY ASPIN: Correct.
Q What do you do about that?
SECRETARY ASPIN: Well, what we do is we try -- it's through those exercises that we try to work out joint operations so that they can be jointly operated if something happens for real. In other words, if it's a real peacekeeping operation or a real search and rescue operation or a real crisis management situation, what you do is you run practices. And they all have exercise budgets. It would mean just taking the exercise budgets that they would now apply to their own exercises and putting them as part of a combined effort. We do the same thing -- we budget every year for exercises. If they're joint exercises, we do them jointly; if they don't, we just budget them and carry them out on our own.
Q A little bit of follow-up on NATO. I get the impression since October when this was first made public that you are more skeptical about the eventual admission of Eastern Europe and other countries into NATO than the Secretary of State is. And I wonder whether that's true or not, or whether I'm imagining it.
SECRETARY ASPIN: I think you're imagining. Basically, when we went out to discuss the proposition -- I can't remember now the particular date -- but at the time that the President made the decision that we would foster here this notion of Partnership For Peace and that this was the general stand that we would take, I went to a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Chris went on a trip that brought him into Eastern Europe. We found ourselves talking to different audiences. Chris was talking to an audience that was very much wanted to have very much more involvement with NATO and the Eastern European countries. I was talking to an audience that was very reluctant about that. If a different tone came out, I think it was essentially due to that.
Chris and I talked this thing over -- and I'll let Chris speak for himself -- but he and I talked this thing over. We had several meetings of the principals. The President considered it --we are not, were not and will not be on different wavelengths on this issue.
Q Secretary Aspin, may I follow on a question I asked Secretary Christopher about Syria? Do you foresee a time when a significant force of American troops might be in the Golan Heights to ensure a peace between Israel and Syria?
SECRETARY ASPIN: I think that's clearly something that needs to be crossed -- a bridge that needs to crossed when we get there.
Q Secretary Christopher, were you saying --
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That's why I said there's not a shade of difference between us on admission to NATO. (Laughter.)
Q Beyond the defense ministers, were you saying the four Warsaw Pact countries have now accepted the Partnership for Peace? And what does the involvement of Russia mean if it actually joined?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, on the first question I can only refer to the item I saw on the way over. The four defense ministers of the Visegrad countries, apparently acting together, had said their countries were all enthusiastic about the Partnership for Peace. They hope for eventual membership in NATO, but nevertheless, they thought this was an important first step. And I assume, like other defense ministers, they would be speaking only on authorization. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY ASPIN: Absolutely.
Q Any difference there?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: No difference. Not a shade of difference.
Q And what would Russia's role would be with -- I mean, why do you need a NATO after that?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, if the Partnership For Peace moves to the point where there's the admission of Russia -- if Russia takes the steps that would qualify it and commend it for membership, it's clear that we would have taken a very important step forward. But then it would be a security arrangement for all of Europe, and that would be a very desirable thing to have achieved. But there are other regions of the world, and I think you have to look way down the road to see that. For the time being, the Partnership For Peace seems by far the best mechanism to provide for an opportunity to reach out to Eastern Europe.
Q Mr. Secretary, do you anticipate that the President is going to offer either in Eastern Europe or in Russia or in the former Soviet states any new commitments of American dollars to any aspect of these developing countries? I understand that the U.S. has already committed a great deal, but will there be new dollars?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: John, I think I'll leave that for the President to announce, if he's going to, when he's in Moscow.
Q Secretary Christopher, you mentioned before that you think the Clinton-Asad meeting in Geneva next week in Geneva next week is an important part of the peace process. Can you tell us what you expect to be coming out of that meeting? And what impetus do you think it gives to the peace process?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: You'll understand why as the intermediary I would not want to get into any detail about what the discussions will be between the two presidents. I do think it will provide a very strong impetus for the peace process. That fact that the two presidents have met, I think, will tend to energize that process and will give new meaning to the discussions that will take place just two days later here in Washington of the heads of delegation. After all, we're strongly in favor of a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. And Syria is a key factor there. No one in the Middle East would doubt the crucial character of Syria to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. So the fact of that meeting, that fact of the relationship between the two presidents is very significant.
END12:30 P.M. EST