THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (New York, New York) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release October 22, 1995
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Warwick Hotel New York, New York
2:25 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Let me, with that, in what promises now to be the longest briefing, run through very quickly a couple of notes on the President's good 20-minute bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek of Slovenia.
Just briefly, Slovenia is one of the glimmers of hope in what is otherwise the heartache of the Former Yugoslav Republic. Slovenia, after the breakup, has persistently tried to engage with Europe, and its strong and growing economy puts it in a position of really thinking more seriously about European integration, about closer ties to Western Europe, and it is, thus, a success story within Central Europe itself, and certainly perhaps, a model of what can happen in the Balkans and in the Former Yugoslav Republic if and when peace takes hold in Bosnia and those nations begin to emerge from the darkness of the conflict that they have suffered through for far too long now.
The President and Prime Minister Drnovsek discussed these issues, including European integration, Slovenia's desire to become a member of the European Union, the Partnership for Peace program, which Slovenia participates in quite actively. They discussed the current status of Italian-Sloven relations, including the issue of property disputes left over from World War II that are unresolved between the two nations.
They discussed a little bit about trade and economic relations. President Clinton made the point to Prime Minister Drnovsek that it's -- given its alpine nature, that Slovenia, as it begins to strengthen its economy, might emerge as a very popular tourist attraction for citizens throughout Europe. And indeed, they discussed at some length the prospects for developing that type of presence in the tourist and commercial trade department.
The President thanked the Prime Minister for the recent port visit of the USS LaSalle, a flagship out of the 6th Fleet. And the Prime Minister indicated that that had been a very popular port call among the citizens of Slovenia and the United States forces that had been on the ship were very well received.
On the U.S.-South Africa bilateral, President Clinton and President Mandela greeted each other very warmly. Their exchange was as friendly and private as it was during the photo opportunity. And you've all got by now the transcript of the photo opportunity. I would say that -- that has not come in yet? Well, it should be in shortly. They talked -- I think Tony Lake mentioned to you -- they began -- President Mandela began his presentation by pointing out the importance of retiring South Africa's apartheid-era debt to the United Nations and how important that was, and why it was -- why South Africa was seeking support within the U.N. General Assembly for an effort to retire the apartheid-era debts of the South African government.
They're talking about an amount of $100 million. And that was, perhaps, a painful reminder of how seriously all countries in the world take their obligations to the United Nations. But the fact that President Mandela would raise that as his first order of business with President Clinton had its certain irony.
They discussed next the subject of proliferation, especially of weapons of mass destruction, with President Mandela volunteering that South Africa remains very committed to nonproliferation and to doing everything possible to curb proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
They reviewed the upcoming meeting of the President and -- the President referred to it as the Gore-Mbeke Commission. It is, in fact, the U.S. South Africa Binational Commission -- the BNC -- that follows, in some sense, the structure of similar binational commissions that we have with other nations, particularly Mexico. But the Vice President will be in South Africa December 4th through 6th for meetings of this commission. They reviewed the work of that issue.
They then met in private for about 10 minutes and reviewed arms control issues. And that was about it -- 25 minutes in length.
Q When you say private -- Tony Lake was asked about their relations with Iran. They're storing vast quantities of Iranian oil which defies this administration's strong policy against Iran -- and they have one against Iraq, too. Private? Could it have come up then?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I believe that the answer that Tony gave to that covered the private session, as well -- is my understanding.
Q Is there -- I mean, I don't want to be a pain, but why -- it just seems like a rather --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that is, as are nonproliferation issues that we deal with, with other nations -- Russia is certainly an example of that -- the device of the binational commission is a way for us to address those bilateral concerns in greater depth.
Obviously, in this meeting, the important issues were related to the transformation taking place in South Africa, other African regional issues that both Presidents wished to explore; the question of economic development, certainly some of the nonproliferation issues broadly defined, like the NPT and the CTBT that we talked about we talked about during the session.
But given the length of that agenda and given President Mandela's very clear, straightforward statement at the beginning of the meeting that South Africa remains pledged to nonproliferation goals and objectives that are shared by the international community, that certainly was to President Clinton a signal that these issues would be dealt with in a way that reflects the good bilateral relations between our countries at the time of the Vice President's meeting in South Africa in December.
Q When is that?
MR. MCCURRY: December 4th through 6th.
Q -- this $100-million debt to the U.N., you mean he wants the U.N. to forgive the debt?
MR. MCCURRY: He is -- they are asking, if I understand correctly, and David or Jim pipe in -- they are seeking I believe a U.N. General Assembly resolution that would actually forgive the current government of South Africa from the debts that were incurred during the period of the apartheid regime.
Q What's the rationale -- that the new South Africa is --
MR. MCCURRY: A new South Africa, with new willingness to participate in the community of nations with policies that the international community itself does not find abhorrent. And given that transformation, and given the emergence of a strongly democratic form of government that includes all parties, that there should be recognition by the international community that practices of past regimes ought to be forgiven. That is an issue that will be debated.
Q What is President Clinton saying?
MR. MCCURRY: President Clinton indicated that the United States would be supportive of that position as it is addressed by the General Assembly.
Q What's the amount?
MR. MCCURRY: One hundred million.
Q Does the President go into the meeting with Yeltsin tomorrow with any set plans that he'll put on the table for a Russian role in Bosnia?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have addressed this subject in a number of ways already. Remember that prior to President Clinton's meeting with President Yeltsin, this subject has now been addressed by Secretary Perry in meetings with Defense Minister Grachev, by Strobe Talbott in meetings in Moscow with senior officials of the Russian Federation, by Secretary Christopher at a dinner with Foreign Minister Kozyrev just last evening. And as a result of all of that work, when we suggest that it is highly unlikely that they will find a formula that resolves this issue tomorrow, you can take that as an authoritative assessment of where we believe those discussions are.
Now, I would stress that these discussions will continue. Secretary Perry will be seeing Secretary -- or Defense Minister Grachev at the end of this week on October 27th. We now have a Russian General who is being briefed on NATO contingency planning at SHAPE in Mons. So there is a process under which we can continue to have dialogue with the Russian Federation on the subject of Russian participation in the IFOR, but it's not a question that has to be resolved at this point for the simple reason that there is no peace settlement.
One of the things that President Clinton intends to stress to President Yeltsin as they begin their meeting tomorrow that we have to redouble our efforts together and all members of the Contact Group working together have to redouble their efforts to stress to the parties the importance of arriving at peace in Dayton. There is no peace implementation force and no U.S. or Russian participation in a peace implementation force in Bosnia unless there's peace. We've made that clear. So have other members of the Contact Group, and the first thing we have to do is to arrive at a satisfactory settlement of the conflict itself.
Q Just to follow up, Mike, does the President plan to say or do anything tomorrow to try to defuse the very tensions over this question?
MR. MCCURRY: There has been an extensive effort through our diplomacy to reduce tensions on the question. But this is one of many difficult issues that we work through with the Russian Federation as we pursue our diplomacy. This is exactly why we have these types of working meetings with President Yeltsin when we have these international gatherings, such as the G-7, such as this anniversary celebration here at the United Nations. These are opportunities for the two Presidents to work through a complicated agenda and to make progress on issues while not necessarily resolving them. And, certainly, on this issue, it's quite clear to us that there will have to more discussion beyond tomorrow.
Q Tony mentioned the possibility of using Russians as civilians. I hadn't heard that. How much emphasis should we put on that? Is this the way out of it or is it just one remote possibility?
MR. MCCURRY: No. Russians are currently participating in the existing U.N. mission there in UNPROFOR and they have a role to play. There are a variety of ways, as you can imagine, that our diplomats have addressed the question of Russian participation. We have explored different ideas with the Russian Federation to suggest that any one of them is more likely than something else would not be a fair characterization of the status of these discussions. We have not arrived at any formula with the Russian Federation.
They will probably talk about it tomorrow. There are ideas like that that have been suggested. Secretary Perry has mentioned several of them from time to time publicly. There are other formulae that might work as well.
Q But you would still welcome Russian troops?
MR. MCCURRY: Certainly, we would welcome Russian participation in the implementation force. But arriving the way in which that happens, given our very strong concerns about unitary command and NATO leadership, is unclear at this time.
Q -- U.S. concerned over a solution that was proposed and discussed with President Chirac -- these two separate entities. Is the concern because you're worried that it will become another dual key type of situation?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. We've made quite clear that a dual key arrangement would not be a satisfactory way for the United States to lead NATO's participation in the implementation force. Now, I would caution you not to read more into the French-Russian discussions than you can based on their public statements. Both the President and -- both Presidents were quite clear that they were not being entirely transparent in describing the type of arrangements that they discussed. But in any event, President Clinton will have an opportunity to reflect on those issues tomorrow when he sees President Yeltsin.
Q Could you repeat that last answer in English? (Laughter.) What did you mean by that last sentence? I'll put it in a different way. Is it a problem that the President of France seems to agree with Yeltsin rather than Clinton?
MR. MCCURRY: No. No, it's not -- I would suggest that President Chirac was suggesting much the same that we have, that Russian participation in building and enforcing the peace in Bosnia would be helpful, might increase the chances of a successful enforcement of the peace, and finding a way by which that can happen given the very strong sentiments that NATO has about the command and control structure that is necessary is something that will have to be pursued. That was another way of saying the same thing, I think. And they clearly shared some ideas. But whether or not that can be reconciled with the strong U.S. views on the need for NATO command and control is completely unclear at this point.
Q Can we just have one more on Bosnia? Is the President not going to have any joint statement at the end of these important talks tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: We are following the same format that we used the last time the two Presidents met at an international gathering -- the G-7 in Halifax. They will have a photo opportunity at the beginning and then both sides will do their separate readouts afterwards. That was the exact way we handled it at Halifax, and that's the way we will handle things tomorrow.
A couple of other brief notes. The President did have a quick meeting with Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali prior to their luncheon, had a good opportunity again to review the question of arrears, but also for the President to reaffirm to the Secretary General the importance the United States attaches to administrative and bureaucratic reform at the United Nations.
There's a high-level working group now within the United Nations that has identified four areas of reform for the United Nations. They are expected to produce a blueprint for U.N. reform during this current session of the General Assembly. The United States and President Clinton will stress to the Secretary General the importance of making very good progress on that and addressing areas of concern that we put on the agenda.
The President was also looking for an opportunity to have a brief pull-aside with President Cardoso of Brazil to follow up on their bilateral meeting in Washington on April 20th. The President wanted to review several issues related to follow up on Summit of the Americas, also discuss some nonproliferation issues and perhaps to review the conflict between Peru and Ecuador, the border dispute. The President also thanked President Cardoso for hosting the First Lady fairly recently or intended to. He actually had an opportunity to do that during their photo opportunity and they were going to meet very briefly to do that.
Then there's also this afternoon a meeting with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia scheduled. That will be a good opportunity with -- he is a formidable and very creative leader of African regional unity, and the President has always enjoyed his encounters with President Meles. It's an opportunity to talk about regional issues in Africa, but the President in this case, I think, was specifically interested in raising the subject with Prime Minister -- I called him President -- Prime Minister Meles of Sudanese sponsorship of terrorism. They were going to explore that issue in particular. The President intended to.
That will -- that kind of constitutes a readout of the rest of the day for the President. The President -- obviously, the President is very much looking forward to his reception tonight at New York City Public Library. He's enjoyed these sessions today and enjoyed the opportunity to stun you all by the brevity, clarity and preciseness of his remarks at the United Nations.
Q I have a question on a story that was in The Washington Post this morning that said that you were thinking about abandoning the rule of two affirmative action provision in the Defense Department. Can you clarify that?
MR. MCCURRY: The story indicates that at the Defense Department some time this week they are going to be making some announcements relative to the Defense Department's administration of federal contract programs and preference programs that exist to direct some of the commercial activity of the Department of Defense to minority-owned enterprises. I didn't see anything in the article that struck me as being wrong. I'd leave it to the Pentagon to brief you in greater detail.
But the thrust of the article said that as the administration has done its administration-wide review of affirmative action programs in the aftermath of the Adarand decision, the government has started to identify those specific programs that clearly will need to be modified in order to ensure compliance with Adarand.
The Defense Department and most lawyers throughout our government and the Justice Department who have looked at the rule of two have concluded that that will need to be substantially modified in order to meet the court's test in Adarand.
That will require individual agencies, particularly in this case, the Defense Department, to begin looking at modifying existing programs while maintaining the commitment that is clearly authorized by law and by the court to continue programs that encourage minority business development and growth. So there will be an effort to make sure that within the existing and continuing effort of the Defense Department to promote minority commercial enterprise that tests laid down by the court in Adarand are sufficiently met.
Any other subjects before we call it a day? Thank you for your patience.
END 2:51 P.M. EDT