THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (London, England) _______________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release November 29, 1995
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY American Embassy Filing Center London, England
1:50 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: Hi, kids. I'm glad you're all awake. I'm serving no other purpose than to provide a very brief readout on the bilateral meeting that the President had with Prime Minister Major.
They met for about 40 minutes, tete-a-tete, in the Cabinet Room at Number 10 Downing; had a good discussion that my understanding is covered Northern Ireland, Bosnia at some level, and then other subjects as well, although we don't have a complete readout on that session.
They were then joined -- the President and Prime Minister were then joined by the U.S. and British delegations, and they met for an additional hour and 15 minutes, again in the Cabinet Room. And I will brief on the substance of that dialogue.
They picked up a conversation that clearly was perhaps in mid-sentence between the President and Prime Minister on the subject of Bosnia. And the President, for the benefit of the British delegation, summarized his view of the Dayton accord, the current status of operational planning for the NATO implementation force, some of the nuances of both the operational plan and the diplomatic effort that will now go forward including the very important conference here in London on civilian implementation. And they then had a very general discussion with the Prime Minister responding, calling at one point on Foreign Secretary Rifkind. The President calling at another point on Tony Lake to add to the dialogue. It was very conversational and very much a part of the spirited, warm, friendly dialogue that characterized all of the discussions the President had with the Prime Minister today.
The Prime Minister then raised the subject of Nigeria. They had a brief exchange of views on that and the continued cooperation we have with the United Kingdom in attempting to bring additional pressure to bear on the Abacha regime. There was an agreement that the effort to build pressure on Nigeria needs to be precise and it needs to be universal; that as we explore various forms of sanctions or pressure, we need to be sure that the rest of the international community will join in those efforts for them to be successful.
And since that was just spoken in hieroglyphics, if you want me to translate that in precise detail, I can.
They then turned to the subject of Northern Ireland, this time with the Prime Minister taking the lead and making the presentation of views as he reviewed the dialogue he's had with Prime Minister Bruton over the last several months and especially the last several days. A very candid, very open discussion of what is now a very hopeful moment in this peace process.
At one point, although it's undiplomatic for me to quote the President's interlocutor, I will in this instance to say at one point the Prime Minister said to Senator George Mitchell that "I'm very grateful to you for undertaking this role. It certainly won't be easy. It's an extremely difficult situation, but I'm confident it's in very good hands."
And I think as you all know, Senator Mitchell has been invited by the two governments to chair the international body that will deal with the decommissioning issue. Senator Mitchell last night accepted that offer, and the Prime Minister said he was grateful for the Senator's acceptance.
Rather than -- a lot of the -- about all I can say on the substance of these discussions I think the President and the Prime Minister covered themselves as they took questions from you following the meeting. I'll only just say that the other subjects that they covered in some detail include international terrorism and the efforts the U.K. and the United States will make together to combat it; Libya and the status of the Pan Am 103 suspects; NATO and the prospects for the discussion underway now in NATO on the plan for addressing the question of enlargement that will be undertaken by NATO during the course of the coming year.
They both shared views on the current status of Russian-U.S. and Russian-U.K. relations and efforts to integrate Russia with the West. And with that abbreviated, brief, we turn now to Brit Hume of ABC.
Q On Northern Ireland, is there any concrete result that the President hopes will come out of this visit that was not already achieved by the two Prime Ministers last night?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'd say the President had felt from the beginning of the planning that went into this trip, that it was important for him as the first American President to go to Northern Ireland to congratulate the parties and the peoples who are doing so much themselves to bring peace, in a sense, by using his presence to complement the sacrifices that they will make, the risks they will take and the courage that it requires to make peace.
So from the beginning of our planning for this trip, that personal statement was very much a part of what he wanted to do. Clearly, he prefers doing it in an environment in which the twin-track process is now engaged and making the process itself seem much more hopeful.
Q What was the answer to that?
MR. MCCURRY: That we've got a peace process that's now underway, and the President can both nurture and lend support to that process by his presence. In fact, that point was made to him directly by the Prime Minister today -- and that it will be helpful to the people of Northern Ireland who are struggling with the issue, "does this peace make a difference in our lives," "does this process make a difference in our lives," to see the American President will be an instant affirmation that it, indeed, does.
Q A question on Bosnia. The President's -- the public approval of U.S. involvement in Bosnia in the polls nudged a little bit, but not much. And I'm wondering how the President feels about that following the speech.
MR. MCCURRY: The President was confident that he began an important conversation with the American people with his speech Monday night, and that with the additional attention he will bring to the subject and certainly speaking to it directly to the British Parliament today is a part of that effort, that he will continue to persuade a skeptical public that this is the right course for the United States and very important as we meet the challenges we face in the world.
Q To follow up, what's the reaction from Congress? I mean, what do you expect there?
MR. MCCURRY: The reaction -- I mean, the reaction from Congress, I believe you should judge for yourself. The President had an opportunity to see the membership and other members yesterday, and many of them have commented publicly. We certainly are gratified both by the public and the private remarks of the Republican leadership of Congress. They are clearly keeping an open mind and encouraging members to keep an open mind. And in that environment the President is confident that he will make a persuasive and winning case in favor of the responsibilities that we must assume in order to achieve peace.
Q What impact does the White House think that Clinton's trip had on Bruton and Major making their agreement?
MR. MCCURRY: I think he would agree with the Prime Minister's assessment that it helped concentrate the mind.
Q What is the status of defense appropriations? You've got, what, 48 hours left on that.
MR. MCCURRY: The status hasn't changed.
Q Is the President having one-to-one meetings with Gerry Adams and David Trimble --
MR. MCCURRY: He will, during the course of his visit, encounter many, including, we believe, some of the leadership of the parties. And I can probably in an environment of background session provide a little more detail on that.
Q To follow up on Todd's question on DOD appropriation, have you offered a deal to the Republicans that you would sign the bill in exchange for being allowed to reprogram some of that money into Bosnia?
MR. MCCURRY: There have been discussions of those issues, but I wouldn't characterize it as a deal being offered. If anything, there have been some suggestions coming from the other side on how we might deal with some of the funding and appropriations issues. And the White House has had good faith discussions with the Republican leadership, both budget committees on the House and Senate side. Those discussions will probably ripen during the course of the day today in Washington, and I'd direct you back there for questions because Mr. Panetta will be having additional discussions today.
Q But the President is waiting to hear what comes out of those discussions before he makes a decision.
MR. MCCURRY: Indeed, he is.
A couple more.
Q So reports from Democrats that the President had told them that he's signing this bill and has gotten an agreement on reprogramming are in error?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that they are premature. I don't know that they have necessarily gotten a final agreement yet. They had not as of six o'clock, when I departed the White House last night. Now, if something has developed overnight -- as you know, Mr. Panetta was on the Hill and there may have been developments back there in the time since I departed.
Q Mike, did the Anglo-Irish agreement yesterday comes as a surprise, or has the administration been in continuous contact with --
MR. MCCURRY: No, it was by no means a surprise. At the President's direction the National Security Advisor Tony Lake, had had extensive discussions with both the British and Irish governments. And during the course of recent weeks, as you know, the President, the Vice President and others in our government have had a dialogue with the parties.
Q Any change of status on Pan Am 103 suspects?
MR. MCCURRY: No change of status based on the discussion.
Q Gerry Adams said that it did come as a surprise to him, that nobody briefed him on this before it was released. Do you think that Clinton can now go over and smooth the waters?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think it would be proper for us to comment on how the two governments issued and promulgated the communique that they issued yesterday.
Q Can you say who else is going to be on this international commission, and will Senator Mitchell report first of all to the United States, or to the two governments?
MR. MCCURRY: No, in fact, and I know a lot of you, many of you know Senator Mitchell; he is here in the building and I expect him to be here shortly and you might want to direct that question specifically to him.
He has a role in his capacity now as a private citizen and former member of the United States Senate, he has a role serving our government as special advisor to the President and the Secretary of State for economic initiatives in Ireland. That is his only -- the only capacity in which he functions in an advisory capacity to the President. He will be making his own independent judgments. I think he will be expected to make those independent judgments by the two governments and the parties, and his report goes as the communique makes clear, to them. How he will undertake that is a matter that he, himself, will design.
The President, certainly, is very encouraged by his selection, believes it's a very important and wise choice. And we will, naturally, be in a position too see how he is doing as he works between now and mid-January to complete his survey, as required in the communique. But he will not be acting on instructions from the U.S. government.
Q This lengthy list of guests of the President tomorrow -- do they all pay their way, do you know?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. I'll have to look into that for you.
I've got one housekeeping announcement: Pool 6A and 6B, if you're going to Buckingham Palace you need to leave right now. Thank you.
Q Some of the members of the President's party today, I'm wondering why they might be here. Do you know, for example, is Susan Thomases here in any official capacity or is she just here --
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't even know she was here, so I'd have to check on that. I haven't seen her. In fact, I can't even confirm she's here.
Q She is here.
MR. MCCURRY: She is here? Okay.
Q Could you just put out a list?
Q Yes, could you?
MR. MCCURRY: Of all the Americans in London at this moment? I don't think I can do that. (Laughter.) I can try maybe to do -- there is an event this evening for the American community here in London at the Ambassador's Residence. Maybe we can see if we can put together that reception list for you.
Q Could you put out the guest list for that, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: I could certainly try. Yes, sir.
Q Mike, what was the nature of the conversation between Tony Lake and Gerry Adams last night when they spoke?
MR. MCCURRY: It was a review of the communique and the announcement.
Q Was any commitment sought from Adams or was his response sought? And if so, did he --
MR. MCCURRY: I think any discussion was fully consistent with what the President answered to that question earlier.
Q Do you have a date yet for the trip to Japan?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't, unless that's changed. Anybody know? I haven't seen anything new.
Q Would it be inaccurate to use the shorthand and call Mitchell an envoy?
MR. MCCURRY: Say again.
Q Would it be inaccurate to use the shorthand and call Mitchell a U.S. envoy?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. That would be quite inaccurate because he is not an envoy from the United States to the parties. He is a participant in their dialogue at the invitation of the parties themselves. That's a very important role. He is chair of an international body which is now being assembled on the issue of decommissioning.
How am I doing? You want to do any more? Okay.
Q Did anyone as senior as Lake speak with any Unionist representatives last night?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: What?
Q Who were they?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to detail all the contacts we've had with all the parties, but they have been, will be and will continue to be extensive as we seek to understand the views of the parties as they prepare for what we hope will be successful, inclusive talks.
Q Would you characterize the first day of budget negotiations from your perspective?
MR. MCCURRY: I cannot. I don't have a report on that.
Q Are you going to go on background now, did you say, and talk about --
MR. MCCURRY: I've got someone who might be a little more helpful than I am who can maybe undertake that for some.
Q -- if they popped the cork on the bubbly?
MR. MCCURRY: Did we ever pop the cork on the bottle for Tony or is it still sitting there to drink on the way home? It's still on ice.
Okay, thanks. And what we'll do is, a couple of us will float around here. I will bring -- Senator Mitchell's doing a couple of interviews for consumption here, and then I'll, for those of you who are interested in that, in talking to him --
Q Who? George Mitchell?
MR. MCCURRY: Boy, you guys are brain dead. It's really awful.
Q On ice.
MR. MCCURRY: Yeah, you guys are on ice. He'll be around here and some of you who know him may want to chat with him. But he's actually doing some other interviews at the moment.
Okay. Thanks. What about for later on in the afternoon? My plan was -- let's see a show of hands. How many people need a readout on the Tony Blair meeting or could we convey a couple of points directly to the pool who will be over at the Ambassador's Residence.
And then ditto tonight on the dinner. We don't expect any major breaking news tonight during the dinner. I suspect some here might have their own dinner plans. So we will have someone attending the dinner collect some color notes and convey those directly to the pool. So they'll be in your report. And with that --
Q Can I just -- the context of Tony --
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. By the way, on the question of who has Tony Lake talked to, there's a backgrounder coming off the plane last night, transcript. If you check the transcript of that backgrounder, you'll see answers to those questions in there on background from a senior administration official.
Q And you will handle similarly the pool -- whatever there is to say about what happened at Buckingham Palace?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Do you know if Prince Charles is supposed to be there. I gather Prince Philip will be.
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know, nor do I know whether Princess Diana attended the meeting that the First Lady had with leaders in the women's community. But I'll find out.
Okay. We're done for the day and then what we'll do is look for a pool report, readouts on the palace, the Blair meeting and the dinner tonight.
END 2:06 P.M. (L)