THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:50 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everyone. I am late because I want to report to you a conversation the President just had moments ago with Presidents Tudjman, Milosevic and Izetbegovic. The President, who at the time was having his weekly lunch with Vice President Gore, called all three Presidents in a call arranged by Secretary Christopher to thank them on behalf of the American people for the very hard work that they employed in the last several weeks in order to reach the agreement that's now been reached to settle the conflict in Bosnia.
The President told them that, "you've done an honorable, noble thing to give your peoples a future of peace, and we will support you. " The President also said that "the credit for this agreement goes to you, but responsibilities go to you as well." All three Presidents in one way or another both thanked the United States for its effort. At one point, President Izetbegovic referred to Ambassador Holbrooke and Secretary Christopher as "true heroes." But they also, all three, reaffirmed that they accept this agreement fully and honestly and that all three will do their very best to see that it is properly implemented.
The President said at another point in the conversation that he felt that this really represents the dawn of a new era for Bosnia. "All I ever wanted," the President said, "out of this was peace and prosperity for your people." He closed the conversation by explaining to the three Presidents that we are on the eve of the American holiday, Thanksgiving, and he described -- he had just recently read President Lincoln's very first Thanksgiving proclamation issued during the Civil War, and he described that to them and said how at this time of thanksgiving their agreement today on Bosnia would be especially meaningful to the American people.
The President has also now completed calls to all four congressional leaders -- to Speaker Gingrich, who he spoke to shortly before his announcement this morning; to Senator Dole, Congressman Daschle and Congressman -- I mean, Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt. All acknowledged in one way or another that the President will have to work very strenuously to make the case for the U.S. deployment as part of the implementation force. The President, of course, knew that. That is a given. And he will begin immediately to make that case.
We've already had extensive consultations with the American Congress, as you know. Those will continue. We expect once the NATO final operational plan is in place to be able to conduct a very extensive presentation to members of Congress, but even prior to that we'll be in a position to brief congressional staffs. I suspect that Ambassador Holbrooke, Secretary Christopher and others who were part of the discussions in Dayton will be in a position immediately to brief congressional staff. We'd like to get them to Capitol Hill as quickly as possible. Knowing that most members are back home in their districts but might likely be facing questions from the American public, we'll do everything we can to get them the information they need about the agreement itself to be signed today in Dayton, so they can answer questions from their constituents.
And then as we move into the next phase, which will be the deployment phase for the implementation force, we will brief them on the details of the operational plan that we expect to be finalized by the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe and then adopted by the North Atlantic Council, and then also the steps that would be required by the United States as part of that agreement.
That is all a process that will unfold over the coming weeks, as the President suggested to you this morning. And some aspects of the timing and the sequencing will still be worked out as the allies begin their deliberations in Brussels.
That's about all I have to report. Maybe you have questions.
Q Mike, a New York Times columnist today posed a question I realized I didn't have the answers to myself. He said that a number of times the President has expressed the idea that NATO and the European allies are counting on the U.S. to provide troops to this. And he said, you know, we don't really know when exactly the President made this commitment and the specific circumstances under which it was made. It may be something that's out there and I just can't remember, but I wondered if you could refresh how exactly that came about.
MR. MCCURRY: I can recall from the initial stages, back to February 17th, 1993, if I recall correctly, that the United States has made the point that a agreement reached in good faith by these parties, being implemented by the parties, the United States of America believed that it had responsibilities to assist them in its implementation. That has been a commitment that the United States has had in one way or another from the very beginning of this administration.
It has been affected by the twists and turns that the diplomatic efforts have taken as we've attempted to work through the Bosnian crisis. But to my knowledge we have made clear from the very beginning of this administration that the United States would be willing to participate in a peace force or a force to implement a peace agreement subject to the agreement by the parties to reach that type of settlement.
Q Was there a specific agreement, a specific meeting or specific discussion that specifically triggered this commitment?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there was a very extensive review in the very earliest days of this administration of U.S. policy in the Balkans. One result of that were the efforts that were launched, then, in a sense, relaunched in the period between early 1993, mid-1993, and then going through 1994. But you all know that the history of the U.S. participation in the efforts to bring about this peace settlement that they have changed depending on both the circumstances in the conflict itself, what was going on on the ground, what level of fighting, and then the willingness of our European allies to use a more aggressive and robust effort to address some of the atrocities, some of the killing, some of the continued conflict.
So there have been various moments where the U.S. has been involved in various ways, but several things about our commitment have been steadfast. One, the President, as he has indicated, would never dispatch ground troops to Bosnia to be a part of the armed conflict there in a war situation. But, two, the United States would always be willing, working with its allies, to help implement a peace once the parties themselves reached an agreement that they were implementing and prepared to implement in good faith.
Q What specifically happens now? The President talked about reviewing the plan, then consulting Congress, giving them weeks, and that they would -- that full deployment wouldn't happen unless they approve. Can you give us a time check of what happens?
MR. MCCURRY: Just to tell you a little bit about just --
Q Did he say that, give it that characterization?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again -- what was the last?
Q Full deployment won't take place unless they agree.
Q He said complete -- his phrase was complete deployment.
MR. MCCURRY: The President has said all along that we will seek an expression of support from the Congress for the implementation force and for the U.S. participation in that force. And, of course, we expect to make a very persuasive case for that, and we will give Congress a timely opportunity to provide that expression of support.
Now, where we are today, to answer the question -- at about 3:00 p.m., an hour from now, the parties will actually initial the agreements they've reached today. And they will then be released to the public. There will be some briefings by Secretary Christopher, by Ambassador Holbrooke, by others who have participated in the extraordinary effort to bring about this agreement. There will be, we believe immediately, efforts by the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General George Joulwan, to complete the details of an operational plan that would establish the parameters of the implementation force. That will then be submitted to both the President, who's indicated to you earlier that he would review that plan. It will also be submitted to the Alliance, to the North Atlantic Council, for its approval.
We believe that this should occur in a matter of days, not weeks. But it certainly will have to develop into a schedule that fits with the review that will be necessary by our treaty allies. That will happen, though, over the course of the coming week and perhaps into the following week.
Once that has been -- once that has happened, once the North Atlantic Council has approved a final operational plan, the President will be in the position then to evaluate it, to be absolutely confident at that point that he can then go present to the Congress the case for U.S. participation and to formally request the expression of support we've already indicated several times to Congress that we would seek.
Q Before all that happens --
Q And what -- the President, in a meeting with congressional leaders last week, they said, told them that he would give them a minimum of two weeks from when he formally presented and asked for. Is that still the time frame. And could it be more than two weeks?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as the President indicated to you today, our desire is to cooperate completely with Congress as Congress reviews the plans as they are finalized by NATO and as they are submitted to the U.S. commander in chief. Based on our conversations, we fully believe that we will be able to work out a timetable for congressional consideration that the leadership feels is proper. I don't want to speculate; I think the President was right when he said it's a matter of weeks because the urgency of a deployment and to keep the momentum moving forward now that the parties have agreed to peace is imperative.
Q Did the President -- did he place some calls to Chirac, Major, Kohl and Yeltsin?
MR. MCCURRY: He has not yet. I wouldn't rule out that he will be in touch with them. But remember, as participants in the Contact Group, each of those nations have had their own representatives in Dayton and, indeed, the members of the Contact Group all played important roles. The European Union negotiator, Carl Bildt, was a very significant force in the diplomatic effort to bring about this agreement. But each of those countries have got their representatives there; they're now in the process of briefing their capitals. I don't rule out the possibility of a further set of phone calls by the President, but the President will very shortly be in the position to have further direct conversations with the European Union in Spain, and I suspect there will be additional contact as well.
Q Was that a conference call this morning with the leaders -- I mean this afternoon?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he called them serially. He spoke to the Speaker just prior to his announcement.
Q A serial caller. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: Sequentially. He placed calls to all four, and most of them are traveling. Senator Dole, I believe, was --
Q No, I mean to the Croatian --
MR. MCCURRY: Senator Dole was, I believe, at an event in San Diego. I'm not sure exactly where he got Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt. The three Presidents were in the course of meeting with Secretary Christopher and Ambassador Holbrooke in Dayton. And the Secretary interrupted that call to put through the call to the President.
Q And will the President go to Paris for a signing ceremony?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have always said there --- they have now initialed various aspects of this agreement. There will be a peace conference at a time and place not now certain to formally conclude this peace agreement. That should happen soon, but there's not a time and place.
Q Could it happen here? Could it happen in Washington?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have a time and place settled.
Q I thought it was supposed to be Paris.
MR. MCCURRY: Paris was speculated upon, but that is not certain.
Q Would the President go to that, Mike?
Q So is that a no, Mike, or a yes?
MR. MCCURRY: To what? What's the question?
Q To the question, which was --
MR. MCCURRY: Was it being signed?
Q No, was Clinton going to some signing ceremony on his European trip?
MR. MCCURRY: Clinton will go to a signing ceremony, most likely, but the time and place of that is not certain, and by no means is it certain it will be in the forthcoming trip.
Q The congressional negotiations or consultations you talked about, getting Chris and Holbrook back immediately. Are you talking about --
MR. MCCURRY: But I don't rule that out. (Laughter.)
Q Do you want to do some Christmas shopping? Are you talking about meetings tomorrow either here or no Capitol Hill with congressional leaders?
MR. MCCURRY: We hope tomorrow. We are now with our legislative affairs staff working to see which staffers are available. Obviously and understandably, most members of Congress have now returned to their homes. But we feel it's urgent to get information about the agreement and the specifics of the agreement before the Congress, and we'll make every effort to have briefings on the Hill as early as tomorrow so they understand the parameters of the agreement itself.
Q Gingrich said he wanted to invited the three leaders to testify at hearings on Capitol Hill. Did that come up in the phone calls today with the President, and do you agree with that idea?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I don't know that the President at the time of the phone call was aware of that specific idea. All three have indicated that they appreciate the support we have. I've indicated and told you prior all three consider participation by the United States in the implementation force to be an indispensable part of this settlement. I believe that all three are prepared to make those views known. I believe you'll be hearing from them, if I'm not mistaken, very shortly.
Q Mike, despite all the President's talk about consulting with Congress and seeking an expression of support, does it remain his position that he has all the constitutional authority he has to deploy these troops on his own and that he does not or would not submit himself to prior congressional approval before sending them?
MR. MCCURRY: It remains his position that he has his constitutional authority as Commander in Chief, as we've detailed that in the past. It also remains his very strong view that given the importance of this settlement to the people of the United States of America, given our interest in peace and security and stability throughout Europe, and given the importance of our long-lasting treaty commitments to our NATO allies, that the case for American participation in helping make this peace will be clear to the American people and, thus, also clear to the American Congress.
Q Mike, when is the earliest that American troops might be sent to Bosnia?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to give a haphazard answer to what is a very important question. It can't -- the deployment of a force that would actually be involved in some of the separation of forces and some of the monitoring of aspects of this agreement couldn't occur until we go through the process I've already detailed. We have prior indicated to Congress that there may well need to be pre-positioning of certain communications and logistics personnel. That's a separate matter. And the Pentagon has briefed in some level of detail on what the initial logistics party would look like.
Q How many troops would that be?
MR. MCCURRY: I would leave it to the Pentagon in the days ahead to give you the details on that. They're talking about principally communications and logistics personnel that they indicated that might need to pre-position. But the extensive deployment of forces that would help implement this peace would go according to the sequencing that I just described to you.
Q Any plans that we'll see the President in a formal setting to talk about this?
MR. MCCURRY: No plans that I'm aware of. Of course, you saw the President earlier as he made the announcement.
Q What about the American people?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, the President -- it is a given that the President will be going before the American people to make a case about the urgency of U.S. participation in helping to implement this peace. The American people have questions about this. They know very little about the Balkans. But they know a lot about the horror and the bloodshed that they've seen for the last three and a half years. And they know that the United States is in a position to do something about that. What they're going to want from the President as their Commander in Chief is precise information about how that's to happen. And the President will be making that available as the plans are approved and adopted by NATO. And he is confident that he can present to the American people the answers to the questions that they rightfully would have.
Q Mike, two things. I mean, by presenting to the American people, do you mean a television, formal television address?
MR. MCCURRY: That would be my best guess, yes.
Q And then, secondly, on the timing, I have this impression that the troops are supposed to go within two weeks after the Paris, or wherever it is, signing --
MR. MCCURRY: The precise timing of deployments and how that has happened have been reviewed by NATO military planners. I don't know that we've ever put that type of clock on it. But it's important that it happen, that it happen rather swiftly for reasons that you've heard the Pentagon brief about, for reasons that folks in Brussels have also been briefed about. But again, the opportunity for timely consideration of the President's request for support will be available to the Congress.
Q Is it the President's intention to wait until after the formal signing before he goes on television?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't tell you right now when we would best make that case. In the President's mind, it's very clear he wants to go to the American people as soon as he's absolutely confident that we have every aspect of the mission buttoned up to his satisfaction and when he's confident that he can answer many of the questions that he would anticipate from them having heard from many of their representatives in the United States Congress.
Q You didn't quite nail this down. If Congress says no, votes no on an expression of support, will -- does the President intend to deploy --
MR. MCCURRY: I am not entertaining the question at this point because the President is confident that he will make the case to the American people on why it's necessary. And he will enjoy that support that he expects to get from the American people.
Q If the Congress is to get two weeks or more of time to consider its position following the completion of the operation plan, then it would seem that there's no way the signing ceremony, formal signing ceremony, wherever it's to be held, could coincide with the end of the President's trip.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not -- don't know that I understand your question.
Q You just told us that starting today, it's going to take days and a maybe a week or 10 days for --
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say any of that. I said we -- in a matter of days, we will be submitting, the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe will be submitting to the North Atlantic Council an operation plan for final approval. When that happens, the President will also be in a position to have his own confidence that it represents the interest of the United States of America, and he can then both present it to the American Congress and, I presume, discuss it more directly with the American people. I'm not suggesting to you any date certain by which that will happen or ruling out the fact that some of that might happen in the course of the next couple weeks here. But we don't know at this point what that timing will be because some of it depends on the level of consultation that's now begun with members of our Alliance.
Q But whenever the President finally signs off on the operation plan, it's at that point that Congress gets its two, three weeks, whatever period for review and expression of support, right?
MR. MCCURRY: Not necessarily. I said that when the President is confident that he can put that request before the Congress he will do so. I expect that that would happen roughly coinciding with approval by the North Atlantic Council, but they may not necessarily be at exactly the same moment.
Q Well, but since the President is due to return from Madrid on the 3rd, my question simply is can you squeeze all these things in between now and December 3rd.
MR. MCCURRY: We've managed to squeeze a fair amount in the last couple of days. So it's possible.
Q Other than a formal signing, would there be anything to do at a peace conference? What else would have to --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there will be several things. One, the parties themselves can help the international community prepare for the obligations that we will have as we implement the peace by understanding fully their commitment to the peace itself. That is not an insignificant peace of business.
Secondly, there are many, as you'll see this afternoon, there are many aspects of this agreement that are quite detailed in what obligations there are for other international organizations. Just one example: the issue of arms control in Bosnia and how we measure out the relative forces of the various entities that will participate in this agreement. The Bosnia Croat Federation, the Bosnian Serb Republic -- those are all matters that could conceivably, and will according to this agreement, be addressed by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE. So one aspect of a final concluding peace conference is to provide all the different participants in making this peace a reality, an opportunity to review the plan, to express their support, and to coordinate the activity that will go into making the peace.
Separate from the question of implementing the agreements itself, there is the large issue of rebuilding and reconstructive Bosnia. I expect, as some of you know, that there will be an implementation conference to be held, most likely, in London, not necessarily at highest levels, but at a high diplomatic level, that would help address the question of how do we help the people of Bosnia return their war-torn country to some semblance of normalcy.
So all of those questions are important. They require international support, and these various conferences will be an opportunity for both Europe and other participants in the international community to come together and express their support for this peace process, and to get about the work of helping the parties themselves implement the peace.
Q The three sides that are going to initial this agreement, is their agreement contingent upon U.S. troop participation in the NATO force?
MR. MCCURRY: The agreement itself that they initialed, to my knowledge are not. But I would refer that question to the negotiators. I have not seen the final text of the documents I have. I would say as a practical matter that it's been clear from their comments privately and publicly over the course of the past several weeks that U.S. participation is an indispensable element of this agreement. If they were not confident the United States would be participating an implementation force, this peace agreement today would not have happened. That is abundantly clear.
Q Speaker Gingrich said that the President, in a telephone call, said that he was sorry about all of the confusion that might have been caused yesterday by Mr. Panetta over seven or eight years, and that really he's committed to seven years, and that Mr. Panetta's remarks about seven and eight yesterday were off base. Do you know anything about that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know nothing about that. I believe I heard one side of the conversation, but unless there was a subsequent phone call -- I would have to hear that. But I believe we were very clear about that yesterday.
Q Will any American forces begin moving into --
Q Wait a minute. Are you saying that a budget discussion did not occur on the side of the conversation you heard?
MR. MCCURRY: Maybe we can try again and answer it for you, but I don't recall -- I think the discussion was brief. It was focused on --
Q You mean today?
Q No, yesterday. He said he talked to Clinton yesterday --
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check on that and I will see. But I think I addressed that question very directly yesterday. We've got -- you all know what the text of that says. It says that you've got a commitment by the President and the Congress to balance the budget by a date certain, and you've got a commitment to address the priorities that the President was gratified were reflected in the concluding document. Those go together hand in hand, and one thing can't be agreed without everything being agreed to. We're in a situation now where the President's proposed a budget that meets the tests spelled out in what needs to be addressed as priorities, and the Congress has addressed the priorities that exist in terms of the number of years. They now have to come together and reconcile those two and balance the budget.
Q So as Mr. Panetta said, seven years might be fine, eight years might be fine?
MR. MCCURRY: The agreement is very clear as to timing, but it's also clear as to priorities, and the two have to go hand in hand.
Q Mike, does the President still plan to spend all of next week in Europe, or would he come back earlier to start selling this agreement? And, secondly, if he is in Europe all week, would we go visit U.S. troops?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to speculate on how this agreement might affect the President's schedule. I will say that many of the conversations he will be having, certainly with Prime Minister Major, certainly at the European Union sessions in Madrid, will very much be about the achievement today in Dayton and what comes next.
The President, in fact, began that work almost immediately, began thinking about what requirements there will be now to both prepare for the implementation of this agreement, to make the case forcefully to the American Congress that it's the right thing to do, and I wouldn't rule out that he would find various ways during the course of the trip in the coming days to address that and, hopefully, receive support for what we have achieved today from some of those that he will encounter during his foreign trip next week.
Q So is the trip still planned the President will leave Monday night and return Sunday night?
MR. MCCURRY: That's as planned, yes. If there is any need to adjust that, we will let you know -- usually, as we customarily do at the very last minute. (Laughter.) So all their entire life's screwed up.
Q Not to be out of bounds about it, but if you were a betting man, would you add a stop, or maybe subtract one from the President's schedule?
Q Golf game in Ireland?
MR. MCCURRY: I would know that we are -- we'll look at this schedule and do everything that's in the best interest of the President as he tries to advance these very important arguments.
Q Will any American forces go into Bosnia before the President completes his consultations with Congress?
MR. MCCURRY: The ones that I indicated. There will be some pre-positioning of communications and logistics personnel, as the President indicated to the Congress in his letter of November 13th.
Q Michael, what is being released today? Just the signed agreements or --
MR. MCCURRY: No, you'll see - I don't know how the agreements themselves are structured, but you'll see -- they will be able to today give you the formal text of the peace agreement. There are many aspects of this that have been negotiated over the last three months. For example, there is a constitution of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. I'm not sure of the detail to which they've got texts of each of these available to the news media later today because there may be some problems in just getting true, conforming texts of these agreements developed. But they will intend to brief today on the contents of the new constitution for the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. They will, of course, brief on the aspects of the territorial agreement itself, which was, as I believe most of you know, the most vexing issues that the parties faced right up until the 11th, 12th, and 13th and 14th and 15th hours.
They will brief on the very important and critical relationship of the obligations that all member nations face under the strictures of the International War Crimes Tribunal, how they apply to the parties and how they apply to individuals who might seek appointed or elective office in the new entity that's created.
They will also talk about, obviously, the implementation force and what commitments are extended to the parties, what obligations the parties have to the international implementation force. They will brief on arms control issues and the involvement of other outside organizations like the OSCE, as I indicated earlier. They'll also brief on the creation of the new Commission on Human Rights, which will be an important element of safeguarding human rights and the right of displaced persons under the agreement as they've reached it. They will brief on election principles and how they will structure free and fair democratic elections for Bosnia-Herzegovina. And they will also talk about how military authorities, through a joint military commission, will address military issues that will arise between the three parties within the federation and the Bosnia Serb Republic, and then also how they interrelate to the forces that will be on the ground as part of the implementation force. Lastly, they will also brief on new requests for U.N. international police task force.
So I tell you all of that not to bore you, Mr. Williams -- (laughter) -- but to point out this is an extensive, detailed, comprehensive peace agreement that offers what the President described as prospects for a new era for Bosnia. It is enormously significant given the detail and substance that went into the --
Q Could I just follow up?
Q Oh, no, please don't.
Q What can you possibly follow up with?
Q I have a follow-up, too -- sorry.
Q Here's the follow-up question. Is there anything that was left unresolved? Did they tie up every single conceivable loose end, or did they defer some of the more sensitive, vexing issues until a future date?
MR. MCCURRY: You will hear the parties tell you later that one issue has been submitted to arbitration, for arbitration within a year. That's the status of Brcko, and that relates to the territorial issue around the Herzegovina corridor.
Q That's the headline right there.
Q Maybe for you.
MR. MCCURRY: And as you hear the parties -- as you hear the parties brief on this agreement later today, you will understand the connection of that particular decision to the ability to achieve an overall settlement.
Q Who will be the arbitrators of that decision?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm going to leave -- I've given you more than enough detail to handle you for the next four hours. I'm going to defer all further questions on this nonsense since some of you who are running out of patience --
Q And paper. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I will refer all further questions to Secretary Christopher, Ambassador Holbrooke, Ambassador Bildt and Ambassador Ivanov, who will be briefing, I believe at 4:00 p.m.
Q Are they all going home today?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that at least some of the parties plan to return to their capitals today.
Q Is that the only unresolved issue?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's impossible -- it's impossible to say that. That is the one significant issue that has been left to further arbitration. There are a lot of what I would describe as implementation details as they go forward that will be addressed, and that's the importance -- we had in an earlier question, why have another peace conference -- that's the type of thing that can be evaluated and dealt with in subsequent meetings.
But there will be -- it's an enormously complex agreement. There will be, no doubt, lots of details that need to be addressed as the parties begin to implement. But that's the value of the process and the various bodies now established by this agreement, if it will actually help implement the peace.
Q In his calls with Republican leaders today, did the President ask them to hold off on criticism until after he makes his case to the American people?
MR. MCCURRY: He didn't. He knew they would make their own judgments on that. He made the case in brief form to each of them on why this represents a substantial achievement; on why it's a good settlement; on why it is in the interests of the parties; and most importantly, why it's in the interest of the United States of America to help the parties implement this peace. He gave them the argument and told them -- all four of these leaders are, I would say, briefed in detail on the conflict in Bosnia and on the status of the talks. So the President in a shorthand way gave them how they reconciled certain critical issues.
Q Does he hope to have them there by Christmas, the troops?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on -- I've given you the best information I've got on the sequencing and timing of consideration and deployment. And I think there will be numerous briefings in the days ahead, both by NATO military authorities, by U.S. military authorities and I'm going to turn it over to military briefers to give you a good sense in the days ahead of how they would handle that.
Q Do the Bosnian and Serb leaders have to sign on to this?
MR. MCCURRY: They were represented in these discussions by President Milosevic, and he was an authoritative interlocutor on their behalf.
Q But according to what the President said, that no one under indictment for war crimes can be a part of the political process in Bosnia, are they now out of the process so far as the United States or the other parties are concerned?
MR. MCCURRY: The agreement prohibits indicted war criminals who refuse to honor the orders of the International War Crimes Tribunal from holding military, elective or point of office in the newly-defined Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Q I don't know if you already answered or were asked this, but how was the issue of whether we would arm and train the Bosnian army resolved? Did they get the letter they wanted and where is that --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you'll get further briefings on that later. We've indicated -- as we indicated in the letter November 13th, that consistent with these agreements and consistent with the need for legitimate self defense, it will be necessary to lift the U.N. arms embargo on Bosnia-Herzegovina. And we expect that we will be working within the United Nations to achieve those objectives, subject to what you'll hear later today.
Q I'm talking about they wanted -- remember, they wanted specific --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm going to leave that -- there may have been substantive conversations in Dayton on that point that I'm not aware of, so I should refer that to the briefers in Dayton.
Q Looking ahead to next week, what exactly -- could you summarize for us what exactly the President hopes to accomplish in Ireland?
MR. MCCURRY: I would -- I have not, Peter, because of the developments here -- if I can apologize, if there's a chance I could refer that to later? Is there anyone who absolutely needs to have that today?
MR. MCCURRY: If I could -- I had intended to do that today, and we had intended to have someone from the NSC to brief this afternoon. But given the developments in Dayton we would like to refer that over until tomorrow, if that's okay.
Q On that point, did the developments in Dayton give the President any more hope that there could be some sort of last-minute advice from the Anglo-Irish track, or is that still pretty cold?
MR. MCCURRY: You mean on the theory that peace is breaking out all over and --
Q Whatever theory you might care to have.
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think the important thing is that -- the important development related to the Northern Ireland peace process is that the British government presented new proposals to Dublin last weekend. We understand that the two governments are actively engaged in dialogue on those proposals now and we certainly hope that there will be further progress in their own direct conversations prior to the President's departure. But there's no guarantee of that, and that will be up to the UK and to the Republic of Ireland.
Q Mike, just to nail down the notion of arbitration, I gather that would be compulsory arbitration, binding -- that the parties --
MR. MCCURRY: I can't -- I would have to refer that question to Dave, too, because how they structure the arbitration and how it would be carried out is something that I'll have to have them address.
Q Is it like --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate, Leo, I'll leave that to them.
Q -- the President only one hour before the thing was sealed --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, the President had just -- I'll do a little more color on that. The President, as he indicated, had his last conversation with Secretary Christopher -- it was at midnight last night. And the President said that he felt it looked pretty bleak at that point and he went to bed very much worried about a failure of these talks.
He woke up this morning really racking his brain for ways in which they might break the impasse that had developed on some keys issue. I think, as many of you know, he had talked to President Tudjman yesterday in an effort only to have President Tudjman help on some aspects of the territorial configuration of the settlement, not because that was any -- not because President Tudjman at that point was any particular obstacle, but because he could be helpful in addressing some of the territorial issues that were still on the table at that point yesterday afternoon.
Many of them had been resolved as we went through the day yesterday. Those were not the issues that were still before the parties as of midnight last night. The President at 10 o'clock began a previously scheduled meeting with Tony Lake when the call came in from Secretary Christopher saying that they had got the --
Q What do you think tipped the balance with them?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm doing a little tick-tock for people if you don't mind. He got the call both from Secretary Christopher and Ambassador Holbrook. He thanked them. After they said that they looked like they were going to reach an agreement he thanked them and members of their team for "and incredible piece of diplomacy." And they, all three, for a minute reflected the fact that three very capable U.S. diplomats gave their lives in an effort to achieve this moment, and they stopped and had a moment to remember them.
But they -- most of the rest of that call, though, very quickly turned to just the details, what needed to be addressed now, what were the next steps, what the President would pursue and what Secretary Christopher's day would hold as they went through and did.
Q Well, what actually made them finally come around in the last hour?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I have a good idea of what it was, but I think I should leave that to Secretary Christopher, who I'm sure will address that question later this afternoon.
Q Does the President still plan to veto the defense appropriation's bill, and would his view on the bill change due to developments in Bosnia?
MR. MCCURRY: We have received that bill. It's being held while we evaluate the bill. We are considering that bill in the context of the overall budget environment that we now face as we go into the negotiations next week.
Q How about in the context of Bosnia? There are some people on the Hill saying they would look more kindly on this if the President did not veto defense.
MR. MCCURRY: I will say only that we are evaluating that bill in the context of the overall budget environment that
we're now in. And we were doing that prior 10:00 a.m. this morning.
Q Mike, do you have anything further on another issue we asked you about this morning, the transportation bill ?
MR. MCCURRY: It still has not, as of an hour ago, it still has not arrived here. We intend to consider it fully when it's sent to us by the Congress.
Q It's not exactly breaking the speed limit getting here, is it?
MR. MCCURRY: They kind of get down here in due course as defined by the Hill.
Q Mike, do you know when reconciliation might in due course get here?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know. Do not have -- we haven't seen it and haven't had any indication that it's likely to come imminently.
Yes, one last one.
Q Does the President plan to make contact with British and Irish Prime Ministers before his visit next week?
MR. MCCURRY: Not that I am aware of. We have had some preparatory work being done both by our embassies and by some of our diplomats who have been over there. The President is satisfied that there has been good preparation work done for his visit. He's very much looking forward to the visits both in Ireland and in London, and he expects a full-ranging agenda in both occasion, obviously including the peace process, but also looking beyond all the questions that we've been talking about here this morning and all the issues that we face whenever we meet with our closest and friendliest European allies.
Q Mike, there are no secret parts to this Bosnian agreement, there are no secret side letters?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not the person to ask, as you well know.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:33 P.M. EST