THE WHITE HOUSE
(San Francisco, California)
BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL Aboard Air Force One En Route to San Francisco, California
5:20 P.M. PDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: First, on the speech, it will cover a number of points and themes. First, harkening back to the vision of the Founders 50 years ago of a democratic, more peaceful world, the President will say in essence that the U.N. still has the same vision, but the world has changed, and now we encounter some very new threats. And one he will emphasize lies in the linkage between terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. And other new threats lie in states that oppose peace and that support both terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and then disintegrative forces and problems like environmental decay.
The point here is that we need, and the President will vigorously assert, the need for a strong United Nations to address such threats. And he will express his opposition to the isolationist and unilateralists who oppose our participation in the U.N. He'll say the United States will, of course, act when necessary alone, but that we are more effective when we lead and work with others; and that the end of the Cold War provides a new opportunity for the United Nations to act in strong ways.
So the first part of the message is a defense of the need for an effective United Nations.
The second point, major point here, is, however, that we need a United Nations that works much better than it does now. And it must be reformed. The President wants to work with the critics of the United Nations in the Congress and elsewhere to promote such reforms and to make sure that while we pay our fair share of U.N. expenses, we pay only our fair share and get a better return on our investment in the United Nations.
Q -- you've thought about working on a smaller budget, that we would scale back on contributions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As you know, we're already committed to reducing our contributions to 25 percent or so for the next fiscal year
Q (inaudible) -- how much of a reduction is this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's now 31. --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: 30.4.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: 30-what?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: 30.4.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, down from 31-something to 30.4 now.
Q -- beyond what --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was 31 point something. It's now down to 30.4.
Q Is he going to propose any specific reform -- any specific reform of the United Nations?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, they're -- both in the United Nations and within our own government, we're working on the specifics of reforms. There are a lot of ideas out there. He will urge that the U.N. adopt very specific reforms next fall at the next session --
Q Is the audience primarily domestic -- in this country or not in this country at this speech?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Both. The speech addresses both an international audience. Of course, there will be some 145, I think it is, permanent representatives of foreign governments there. But there will also -- he certainly is addressing a domestic audience in, again, making the case for support of the U.N. but also of a better U.N. You may have seen -- I'm afraid I don't have them with me, some of the recent polling. I saw some today in the Boston Globe, showing very strong support -- certainly a lot stronger than the perception is -- public support for the United Nations. We hope that members of Congress see that as well.
Q When you talk about reform, will the President mean in the administration in management of the U.N. or as it executes is mission around the world?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Both. Both. Yes.
QQ Is Bosnia part -- the Bosnia situation, does he defend that, what the U.N.'s doing there? Will we hear a defense of that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I think -- I mean, he will say something about peacekeeping and making sure that the -- that we do not ask U.N. missions and troops to take on jobs that they can't fulfill, missions that they can't fulfill.
I really don't want to get more into the details of the speech --
Q Can you tell us whether -- just one thing -- whether he'll speak specifically about any of the measures pending in Congress that would, you know, force the U.S. to give --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it would be in more general terms.
Q -- message specifically for Boutros-Ghali? He's going to be meeting separately with Boutros-Ghali -- is there any -- is there any --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- Boutros-Ghali is form reforms, so --
Q Could you give us a little something on the meeting with President Walesa tomorrow? I read something that there was an agreement that Walesa will hear from the President concerns about him not taking a firm enough stand against anti-semitic sentiments expressed by church leaders in Poland?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think there is a formal agreement on what will be said on these issues. But I would certainly expect that the President will emphasize the importance of opposing anti-semitism in Poland and, of course, as he would anywhere else. You saw earlier that Walesa did make a statement himself that anti-semitism has no place in Poland. And that was a statement that we welcomed.
Q -- set conditions on this meeting, that he would have to make that kind of statement before it could come off? There were some reports to that effect coming out of Warsaw.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We did not place conditions on the meeting. We did express our concerns about the priests' anti-semitic statements.
Q What is the point of the discussion? Is it to talk more about, you know, the progress for peace in NATO --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Oh, I'm sure -- also we will be discussing -- yes, NATO enlargement and Partnership for Peace and other bilateral issues between us.
Q Does he have anything to tell him as far as NATO?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And then I'm sure with Boutros-Ghali there will be discussion of the importance of reform and the prospects of reform at the United Nations.
Q Does he have anything to tell Walesa about NATO? There's no announcement --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, there's nothing new coming out of it, I think -- it was just stock-taking.
Q Back to Haiti -- moderate turnout, is there --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: To go off the record, since out policy is perfect, it is therefore immutable. (Laughter.)
Q Getting back to the U.N., you're saying that the President is recognizing that there is a bit of criticism coming from the Congress -- he's willing -- working with him. But it seems like a lot more than, you know, criticism. There are people who really --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION: There's two sorts of critics here. Let me go back on background here. Some of the criticism comes from those who simply would have us abandon the U.N. and who oppose it on ideological grounds. And those critics, the President thinks are simply wrong. There are other critics who are not opposed to our participation in the United Nations, who would like to see the United Nations be more effective and are critical of the United Nations current shortcomings.
Let me note that for the last two and a half years the United States government has led the United Nations in both supporting it, but also in criticizing it for those shortcomings and in working to correct them. We've been doing that on peacekeeping, pursuant to P.D.D. 25 -- I think you know about that -- in insisting that there be clear missions, that it be paid for, et cetera, and in pushing for an inspector general and for other reforms, and in pushing for reducing our assessments to a more reasonable number.
So it is not as if the administration is opposed to criticism of the United Nations. What we hope for is constructive criticism rather than simple ideological opposition to the United Nations. And we want to work with the constructive critics.
Okay, I'm out of here.
Q -- a rough idea -- how much money do we owe the U.N.?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Our current debt to the U.N. --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no, how much money do we what?
Q Owe the U.N.? I mean, I want to know -- we're like two years in arrears --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no, no. We were caught up. Well, go ahead --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Peacekeeping --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If you'll excuse me, I'll leave --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are two budgets. We owe money every year for peacekeeping, and we owe money for the general budget. In peacekeeping, we are currently caught up, but by the end of this calendar year we will probably owe about a billion -- $1 billion -- for peacekeeping.
Our general budget assessment, we are meeting our current bills, but we are late in paying what we have owed in the past. There's a five-year plan to pay off our past debt, and we are somewhat behind on that. So that by the end of this calendar year, we'll owe about $300 million on the general assessment.
Q Is this from the Reagan years or both Reagan-Bush?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: From the Bush years. So that by the end of the calendar year, if you combine the peacekeeping debt, on the regular assessment debt, it will be about $1.3 billion that we will owe.
Q But $300 million is old --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Past debt, yes.