THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Rome, Italy)
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
June 2, 1994
The Excelsior Hotel Rome, Italy
7:45 P.M. (L)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You can ask questions. How about if I say something first and then -- or do you just want to ask questions? I'll talk -- I'll talk fast. No, no, I'm going to talk first, and then you can ask questions.
Today, he advanced one of the central themes that you'll be hearing more of, and that is that in order to honor, we must remember. That is why in today's speech he talked about the liberation of Rome and how important it is that we recall what happened 50 years ago. This is a theme that he started at Annapolis and continued yesterday at the 1st Division Memorial.
In his talks, with both the Prime Minister and the President today, he was very encouraged by the strength with which they both volunteered that they, too, are recalling the lessons not only of that period, but of the subsequent 50 years. There is much discussion on both sides about the importance of the promotion of democracy around the world and, in particular, in Russia.
The President was the first foreign leader, I believe, who has been here to meet with the new government in Italy, and it was, therefore, very important to learn what they were saying not only about the strength of their commitment to democracy, which was, as I said, very, very firm, but also with regard to Italian foreign policy. And each of them went well out of their way, asserted very strongly and over and over again the word "continuity," that the new government does not, in any way, represent a break in Italian foreign policy and, indeed, if anything, they seemed determined to strengthen U.S.-Italian ties.
The Prime Minister said, "We can be your closest partner in Europe."
The President took the --
Q The Prime Minister said that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, the Prime Minister.
President Clinton took the opportunity, as he has obviously during the whole day, but in particular in those meetings to reaffirm the American commitment to Europe and the American commitment to the U.S.-Italian relationship. The President said, "We have an energetic commitment to this relationship." That was to the Prime Minister.
When they were discussing the larger issue of support for democracy around the world, the President said to the Italian President that the forces of freedom, prosperity and order must forge a coalition against the forces of chaos, like those promoting ethnic violence in Bosnia and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction as in Korea.
At both meetings and in the meeting with the Pope, they discussed, as the President now has said in his various remarks during the course of the day, a very wide range of issues -- and I won't run through all of them because you have heard the President discuss them.
A couple of specific points I might mention. With the Prime Minister, the President raised the issue of intellectual property rights with regard to computer software and especially videos. And the Prime Minister noted that he had previously been in business bringing videos into Europe and said that he would see what they could do. The President did note that they had made some progress on this, but pressed for further progress by the Italian government.
With the Pope the President was especially pleased, first of all, by the atmosphere of the meeting, which was very good. He met one on one with the Pope, but gave us a report afterwards. The meeting went for something over a half hour. In any case, the President reported he was very pleased with the atmosphere of the conversation with a very wide range of issues that they discussed, and I think especially with the common view that they had on Haiti and the importance of restoring democracy there.
I might note that the President and the Pope discussed very briefly His Holiness's visit to the United States in October. The President said that he was looking forward to welcoming him to the United States again. And they agreed that a time and a location that will be worked out.
Tomorrow at Nettuno will be the first major commemorative event. Again, the President will be talking about the importance of our recalling, commemorating the sacrifices that were made in the truly terrible battle at Anzio and Nettuno. Secondly, underscoring again the importance of American engagement in Europe and with Italy, we have learned twice now in this century the dangers of disengagement from Europe. And the President will be emphasizing the importance, thus, of our continued engagement in European affairs.
And third -- and a number of you have heard him speak of this, and I will not go to great length -- but he will speak of the importance of this generation's not only recalling the sacrifices of the generation of World War II, but seizing the opportunities that that generation and the generations of the Cold War then afforded us to build the kind of future that they would like to see us build. Thank you.
Q A couple of questions on Korea. Has Blix notified the U.N. yet to your knowledge? Has Yeltsin called the President? There was some indication in Moscow that he intended to. And what can you tell us about the state of play?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The two questions were, first, has Blix yet informed the United Nations that the North Koreans -- if I can paraphrase it -- the North Koreans have now conducted the defueling in a way that could destroy the possibility of determining the character of the diversion in 1989? And the second question is whether Yeltsin has called the President -- of which there are some reports. And then it moved on into a generally, where are we?
First on the two specifics. To my knowledge, and we were just checking on this -- Blix has not yet sent such a report to the United Nations. It's possible that it happened and I simply haven't heard yet, but I'm pretty sure it did not. But we believe that that could well happen. We thought it might happen during the course of today; could well happen within the next couple of days.
If and when that happens -- and the "if" looks increasingly smaller and the "when" increasingly larger in that phrase -- when that happens, then we intend to pursue the issue of sanctions at the Security Council.
As we speak, a phone call has just come in saying that, yes, Blix has now sent that letter to the United Nations saying it can no longer be assured of the historical analysis. We do not have the exact language yet. So we will be, then, as I said, pursuing the question of sanctions, the issue of sanctions at the Security Council.
We have been in discussion with the Russian government about the possibility of a telephone call between the President and President Yeltsin. We have not yet been able to make the arrangements for that call because of the scheduling problems. The President has been on the fly all day. But we would hope that such a call could be worked out in the very near future.
Q What's the purpose?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The purpose of the call would be to discuss the situation in Korea. As you know, the Russians have some ideas on the subject. President Kim of South Korea is now in Moscow and has been discussing the issue with the Russians.
Q There has been a lot of criticism of this new government by other European politicians. And what the American government has said so far, including what the President has said today, is being interpreted in the Italian press as, if not an endorsement of the idea of having fascists in your government, a condoning of it. That's in this afternoon's Italian paper. What's our response to that, and in what way do we think that this is any less alarming than, for example, we thought the idea of some communist ministers in the early Mitterrand government was alarming?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as the President said this afternoon, a number of governments around the world -- just for example, in Poland now -- have members whose parties had roots in nondemocratic traditions. In that case, communism; in this case, not. What matters now is whether they are committed to democracy, and what matters now is not the labels they have been given, but the acts that they perform.
You heard the Prime Minister this afternoon say that he would not have people in his government who were not committed to democracy. So we will proceed on that basis. And as I said, thus far in our conversations today with the Italian government and over the past period -- for example, when the Foreign Minister was in Washington -- we have been very encouraged by their statements of commitment both to democracy and to a continuity in their foreign policy and close relationships with the United States.
Q So this does not in any way give pause to the American government?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President said -- and he was reflecting, I think, all of our views, as he always does -- that we, of course, are concerned about the strength of democracy around the world, whether it's in Europe or anywhere else. It is not that it is not an issue, one that we pay no attention to. But the fact is that it is, as I stated them, that the Prime Minister has said that he would not have people in his government who were not committed to democracy, and that we are well pleased with what they have said and what they have done so far. And, again, it is facts, not labels that matter.
Q about North Korea. Can you explain why you feel that the Chinese might -- some sort of sanctions? And if they don't what other options are you thinking about -- some kind of outside --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Could you hear her? The question is, why do we believe that -- correct me if I get this wrong -- why do we believe that the Chinese might go along with sanctions, and if they will not, do we have other alternatives in mind.
We are not in a position, obviously, now to say what the Chinese government will do. Their statements have certainly been unenthusiastic about sanctions, but they have, to my knowledge, never stated that they would veto a sanctions resolution.
We were pleased that on Monday they agreed with the statement by the President of the Security Council calling on North Korea not to defuel in a way that the IAEA did not approve of. We have been in close touch with the Chinese government on this issue, not only over the past few days, but now for many months, and I think it's simply premature now to reach a conclusion as to what the Chinese government will do.
Ambassador Albright has been discussing this issue with the other members of the Permanent Five of the Security Council for some days. Those discussions will continue. We will now proceed there with real persistence, trying to build a consensus, work through both determined and careful diplomacy and see where we come out. And it's simply, I think, premature to reach a conclusion as to what we would do if we cannot build that consensus.
I'm told I have to change for dinner.
Q Did you invite Mr. Berlusconi to the United States for a visit? Are you going to do that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. The President mentioned to him that he looked forward to welcoming him to the United States. We have not decided on a time yet.
Maybe just two more, and -- but very brief, and then I'll have to go, I'm afraid.
Q Did the President have any reaction -- I think he ran into Fini twice today -- did he talk with him; did he have any reaction to meeting him?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I don't --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Whether the President had a reaction to meeting with Fini today. And I don't think it was an issue today. He may well see him at one of the events in the next two evenings, but so far -- I'm not even aware that they had a conversation.
Q In terms of the United States' desire to build this consensus, what kind of timetable would you like to be on? Do you want to give us in a few days, a few weeks? How quickly is --
Q What's the question?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The question is how quickly we can move at the Security Council. And I would like to give you an answer, but I can't because I think it will depend on the nature of the discussions now that we're into the real -- engaged on the real issue in the light of Blix's report, and we will simply have to see. I think it's impossible to predict now. What is important is that we work, as I said, not only very carefully to try to build this consensus, but with real determination, and that is what we are going to do.
Q clarify the urgency of the U.S. government in doing it faster rather than slower?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We would like to proceed in the timetable that's most consistent with building that consensus. And, again, I just don't know what that timetable will be.
Q North Korea has made some very drastic statements on war and grave consequences and so forth. Are we on the alert? I know that South Korea is supposed to be on the alert. Are we prepared if she does something drastic now? Is she capable of doing something now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The question is, Helen said that the North Koreans have made a number of drastic statements in the last couple of days. Let me just make a couple of points about that, and then I will have to run.
The first is that this is not the first time that the North Koreans have made such statements. And you were also asking what are we doing to prepare. The second point is that neither we nor the other members of the international community, we believe, will be deterred or intimidated by such statements from pursuing what we think is the right and prudent course at the Security Council. And third, as you know, we have taken those measures over the past few weeks that we thought were prudent and necessary for the protection of our troops and of South Korea. These were defensive, not offensive, measures. And we will certainly keep that issue under review in the coming weeks.
Thanks very much.
END 8:00 P.M. (L)
Q Blix said in the letter?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, we don't know that. But we do expect that it could be very soon.
Q form that the letter will say that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no. As I said, we don't have exact language. We expect that when there is a letter that is the sort of thing it would say, but we do not --
Q You've been told that the letter will say what sort of thing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. What I said is that the -- this part I got right -- is that when there is such a letter it would say that, presumably, that the IAEA could not confirm that it could carry out the analysis that it needed to. We don't know what the letter will say. We do, as I said, believe, and as Gallucci said this morning, that it could come at any time. But I regret to say that we do not yet have hard word that there is such a letter. And I apologize. And I will look into this, as they say. The last time I take a note at a podium ever. I'm sorry. Thank you.
Q The statement where you said we will be pursuing sanctions, then, that's not operative either?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: When the letter is sent -- and we expect it almost certainly will be unless something dramatic happens, then we will pursue the issue of sanctions at the Security Council.
Q What made you think it was on its way?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I got a note saying that we had word that it had been received at the U.N., and that was inaccurrate.
Q It has not been received by them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it has not yet been received at the U.N. We don't know whether it's been sent yet, okay. But we do expect that it could happen soon. I am holding a bus here.
Q Do you know that there is such a letter?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, we do not know that he has sent the letter. But we do believe that such a letter may well be sent in the very near future.
Q Was there another letter sent today?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- that we believe that a letter may well be sent in the very near future. And that when such a letter is sent, that we will pursue the issue of sanctions at the Security Council. It's the first version I gave you before I got the offending note. I am now about to do a handwriting analysis of the note, and I will take it from there.
Q Do you mean the near future in hours or sometime this week or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It could be today, tomorrow. We just don't know.