THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:22 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me start by saying at 3:00 p.m. today -- 3:00 p.m. -- Mr. Panetta; the Secretary of Transportation, Secretary Pena; Jolene Molitoris, who is the Federal Railroad Administrator; and Grace Crunican, the Federal Transit Administrator, will be here to announce several directives the President has made related to railway safety. At 3:00 p.m.
Q Does it have to do with this most recent accident?
MR. MCCURRY: In the aftermath of the tragic incident in Silver Spring, Maryland, there's been a review of certain procedures and a request for some additional information about how the federal government lives up to its responsibilities related to railway safety. And they will discuss that at 3:00 p.m.
Q Well, but the NTSB hasn't even ruled on the cause of the accident.
MR. MCCURRY: Those are all good questions for 3:00 p.m.
What else would you like to know about?
Q Do you know about these charges, allegations against the border, customs officers?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've obviously seen the report that has appeared in The Washington Post. The Treasury Department, on behalf of the Customs Service, has done a fairly elaborate response to this that's available by contacting Treasury. But, obviously, the Customs Service itself is painfully aware of the seriousness of any allegations of corruption, and Commissioner Weiss has established a review mechanism and taken several steps that the Treasury can tell you more about that deals with specific allegations of corruption. Obviously, any investigative work that's related to specific allegations would be something that law enforcement officials would be charged with reviewing.
Q As the President looks over the Republican field, who would he most like to run against?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe the President's spent much time thinking about that, and, in any event, that's not for him to decide, it's for Republican voters to decide. And they'll have to do that, whatever verdict they render.
Q Mike, in his comments at the NAACP swearing in, the President condemned the leafleting that was used against Phil Gramm in the Louisiana caucuses. That was blamed on supporters of Patrick Buchanan. Does he have any thoughts about the contributions or the lack thereof that Buchanan has made to the Republican race?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President did not raise any specific allegation against any campaign. He expressed his concern about campaign tactics that divide Americans from one another. The most noble politics are those that seek to bring people together, to try to bridge differences that exist between Americans. But politics that inflame racial hatreds, or prey upon prejudice, or attempt to drive wedges through the American electorate are exactly the type of politics that so disgust Americans. And the President today was suggesting that that particular tactic, regardless of its origin, is not the kind of campaigning that the American people expect in this national election year.
Q Buchanan constantly makes references to "them" in the course of his stump speech. Does the President feel that's helpful?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the "them" he chooses to define himself. Suffice to say that Mr. Buchanan's career as a provocative talk show host and elements of his campaign tactics seem to be aimed at dividing Americans from one another rather than bringing them together. But at the same time, I would suggest that's an issue for Republican voters, as the Republicans go to the polls and cast their ballots in primary campaigns. And we're a long ways away from knowing whether Mr. Buchanan will have the support of his party as we look ahead to the election this fall.
Q Obviously, I'm sure you'd love to run against Pat Buchanan, but does his level of support concern you in that he is getting a large disaffected vote on the economy and -- you've been President for three and a half years now -- theoretically can do something about that?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Buchanan is finding whatever slice of the Republican Party electorate he will find and that will be up to Republican voters. I would suggest that if voters in this country are concerned about who will be better for working families, they ought to look at the program that the President has advanced, especially over the course of this past year.
We have tried to prevent the Republican majority in Congress from raising taxes on working families, the poorest working families. The changes they would make, as you know, in the earned income tax credit program. The President has fought hard for the minimum wage increase. The President has tried to prevent the Republican majority in Congress from raising premiums on many hard-working American families.
So the President will continue to advance his program which he will argue is much more in the interests of working families in this country. And if the Republicans wish to join his in the appeal that they would make to working Americans, the President would see that as an effort to bridge some differences that exist between the parties, to identify and define common ground, and the President would be encouraged by that development.
Q The phrase "working families" is often used here. What exactly do you mean by a working family? How does a family qualify to be included in the White House's view of what is a working family? And when you speak of working families, that's as opposed to what other kind of family?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I used it just now to define those that live at the margins of economic existence in the case of EITC -- those who are almost poor, barely make enough to lift themselves out of poverty and who have, in fact, benefited from programs like the earned income tax credit; those who work at minimum wage who are, again, at a marginal level within our economy, but who can -- that's certainly more than a subsistence wage, but it's not by any means what we would define as middle income.
So this administration, this President has spent a great deal of time thinking about the problems of those who are at the lower end of the economic strata who hold jobs who are not dependent on any type of federal income assistance or local income assistance programs who want to work, who want to make their own way, who want to be good, tax-paying citizens and were working on ways to raise their incomes, see that they benefit from the advantages of a growing economy.
Now, there's a specific definition of different economic criteria you could get into, but I'm referring to those that I would suggest are at the lower middle income level when we talk about the programs that I just defined for you that are aimed at exactly that population.
Q Working family is, in your view, then, a lower income family with both parents working, or just one, or what exactly?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are a lot of different structures of that type of family and a lot of different definitions that are used. You've got single-family, single-person-headed households, you've got single people, you've got families of four, so defined -- the typical family of four.
Q The single person is a working family?
MR. MCCURRY: Single people often support children, as you know.
Q Would the President agree with many people who think that the last Jesse Helms campaign that Dick Morris worked on was racially divisive and inflamed --
MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to go back -- I don't know enough about that campaign to answer the question.
Q The Harvey Gant campaign? You must know about that, Mike.
Q You don't know anything about that campaign?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know enough about the campaign to comment on that.
Q Where are you from?
MR. MCCURRY: I wasn't working on that campaign or working for the -- when was that campaign '90?
Q Vice President Gore asked the AFL-CIO at Bal Harbor yesterday what he thought, what the administration thought of Secretary Reich's proposals for tax breaks for companies who are good to their workers. The Vice President kind of ducked the question. Is the administration planning any specific introduction of ideas, of programs to help do something specific about these complaints of stagnant wages?
MR. MCCURRY: We've done a number of things to support and advance the policy prescriptions to deal with wage stagnation. The President's tax proposals are at the heart of exactly that question.
Now, there's a debate going on that I've described for you in the course of the past week or so about how best to deal with some of the issues that Secretary Reich has identified. Those are at a level of discussion which I described as being part of the debate within the administration on how to respond to the issue of wage stagnation and how to best stimulate economic growth and how to fulfill the President's recommendation in the State of the Union address that we have closer collaboration between employers and employees as we attempt to raise productivity in our economy.
Now, that may very well turn into some specific policy proposals as we go through this year and into the next term. But we have not announced any policy initiative based on some of those discussions. I will say that they are not idle discussions. They are aimed at looking for solutions, and as we develop solutions or proposed solutions, we will certainly make them available publicly.
Q Does the President believe that "it's the economy, stupid" is the main domestic issues in this campaign?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President, since he took office in 1993, has done a lot to restore the health of the American economy. It was the fundamental challenge facing voters in 1992. We've had three years of steady, moderated growth, low inflation, declining unemployment, as we saw last week, improved trade figures when it comes to our number one trade competitor, Japan. But as the President looks ahead and thinks about what we need to do as a country for the balance of this century, he knows that one of the principal challenges are wages of the American worker. And that is, I think, part of the unfulfilled business the President would like to address as he thinks about his own argument for a second term.
Q Does he think it's the key issue?
MR. MCCURRY: He thinks there are a number of issues that are important to the American people. The most important issue is restoring a sense of confidence and purpose in America's future, believing that you can pass on a better life to your kids, that you can make your own way, that you'll have what you need in retirement, you'll be able to take care of your parents when they retire. These are all issues the President addressed with great force and eloquence in his State of the Union message.
Q I have a quick point on -- back on Buchanan. On one hand, you have the President denouncing these leaflets which Buchanan says he had no role in. On the other hand, we have you saying elements in his campaign tend to divide Americans, or seem to be dividing Americans. Does the White House believe that Buchanan was behind those leaflets?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have any information. You should ask the Buchanan campaign, obviously.
Q The hearing starting on the Hill on the governors' proposals for Medicaid and welfare reform. Could you tell us what the White House position is specifically on the governors' recommendations, the bipartisan recommendations on both of those issues?
MR. MCCURRY: If you go back and look at the time the governors passed their resolutions, both on Medicaid and welfare reform, I went through and had a fairly detailed analysis of our understanding of both. Now, some of those -- in both cases, both proposals need to be fleshed out, and the governors are in the process of doing that and will probably add additional information in the course of their testimony today.
As a general proposition on Medicaid, we believe that a guarantee of health care and the availability of health care has to be real, and there has to be a defined medical benefit package that's available, that's available across all 50 states that people know that they will receive, that they're entitled to receive. And that has been our concern as we expressed it about some of the structure of the governors' proposals while at the same time, the President clearly applauded the bipartisan spirit with which the nation's governors addressed what is a very significant element of health care spending.
Similarly on welfare reform, the President said that they were attempting to grapple with the issues that have been at the center of the debate on how to reform welfare as we know it, and he applauded the governors for the work they did on that issue, but in both respects, the President suggested and others in the White House had suggested, the devil is in the details and we need a lot more work on the precise details of those proposals, something the governors themselves acknowledge. They have not put this forward as anything close to a final, complete, specific package of reforms for either Medicaid or welfare.
Q Mike, back to the campaign again, having watched the negative campaigning that's going on both in Iowa and New Hampshire, I wonder if the President had any thoughts about that, and whether he, himself, is willing or has decided to take a pledge not to engage in any negative advertising personally.
MR. MCCURRY: The President's confident that the approach that Democrats have taken in the course of last year and this year, advance a very positive argument about this country's future. And now as we move into a period in which the President will be advancing his own arguments, laying out his own very positive vision about where this country can go and what Americans can do together to confront the problems we face is certainly the most powerful argument that he can advance. I'm not going to predict what the course of the campaign will hold; it will be a long many months before that type of issue arises, I suspect.
Q So you can't say that he's going to say, okay, I decided to set an example, I can tell you that I'm not going to do any --
MR. MCCURRY: The President has been setting an example, as the President has campaigned, as you know, you've traveled with him on occasion, he's campaigned both in Iowa and New Hampshire, he's been encouraged by the response that he has gotten from voters in both states as he's been very positive about what we can do together as a country to solve the problems we face.
In every case, I've seen the newspaper headlines, they say people respond to the President's uplifting message. And I think the President believes there is a reason why he is getting that type of response, because they've seen too much negativity and divisiveness on the other side.
Q Maybe the question is, what's it going to be like when he's the target of attack ads?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, he suspects -- seeing how venomously the Republicans attack each other, he's certainly prepared to face that kind of attack himself. And we will have to respond to that, and we know we will have to respond to that. We can't imagine that they won't do to the President what they're so ably doing to each other.
Q Does the President or the White House believe that ads -- that all ads which criticize the opponents' position on issues are negative and to be avoided?
MR. MCCURRY: No. I believe that in every campaign, contrasting the record, the proposals of the various candidates is part of presenting the choice. American elections are about a choice, a defined choice between two points of view. But there are ways in which you can draw those contrasts and help voters understand the differences that exist between candidates without throwing mud.
Q Well, so your view would be that comparative ads on issues and so forth are certainly not something that you're going to eschew at this stage.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we believe campaigns are about choices, about choices between candidates, between candidates' visions and proposals. And any campaigns is about contrasting those visions and demonstrating to the American people so that they understand what they're voting for when they go to the ballot.
Q So which ads would you identify among those that have been run by the Republicans that you would think do not qualify as --
MR. MCCURRY: I can truthfully say that I haven't seen any other than the brief descriptions I've seen on some television news programs, so I'm not --
Q So when you use the word "venom," you're not talking about any particular ads or anything in particular at all?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh I'm talking about what they have said about each other --
Q For example?
MR. MCCURRY: You want me to -- let's go through the newspaper clippings this morning, if you want to.
Q Well, just to get a flavor of what it is you find to be venomous.
MR. MCCURRY: We were just asked a question earlier about allegations raised and an attempt to politic based on the race of a candidate's wife. That's pretty venomous in my opinion, just as one example.
Q And your belief is that a candidate is responsible for that -- a particular candidate?
MR. MCCURRY: My belief is there was an effort to campaign or use that politically. It seems pretty clear there were leaflets distributed at a political event that were designed to influence a group of voters. Who distributed them, who prepared them is a good subject for some good investigative reporting in this room.
Q You frequently cite the President's economic record. The President does as well. If things are as good as you describe, why is Pat Buchanan able to make such deep payloads among people who are concerned about the economy? If things are so good, why do people feel so bad?
MR. MCCURRY: Why don't you -- let's all wait and see what kind of inroads or what kind of impact his is having. He's attracting some segment of support within some defined universe of Republican voters and we'll see if that really adds up to anything, whether it means anything.
Q Do you have any reaction to the return of Saddam Hussein's relative from Jordan back to Iraq?
MR. MCCURRY: None in particular. He has a right to return home if he so chooses.
Q Does that mean anything for us? I mean, we were presumably trying to get intelligence from these folks.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as you know, he provided startling revelations to the U.N. Sanctions Commission related to certain efforts by the government of Iraq to deceive U.N. inspectors. And the information he provided, both publicly and provided to those governments with whom he had contact, clearly pointed to continued pattern of violation by the government of Saddam Hussein. It was critical information important in understanding the scope and nature of Iraq's violations of existing U.N. Security Council Resolutions.
Q Does the return draw any of that into question? Does it make it more difficult to confirm anything?
MR. MCCURRY: No. The information that he provided, he provided willingly and openly in most cases.
Q Could you explain one more time the Adams' visa position of the U.S. government?
MR. MCCURRY: He had a multiple-entry visa which expired recently. If he were to travel to the United States, he would require some form of visa. The United States is focused at the moment on trying to get the parties to recommit to a cease-fire and to advance further the peace process. There's been no deliberations, nor any decision on the visa matter because there's no visit by Mr Adams pending at the moment.
Q You're not using this to apply pressure the IRA by threatening to not grant a new visa?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are certainly encouraging all parties to return to the cease-fire, to honor the cease-fire and to advance the peace process, and we're doing it in strenuous terms.
Q Can I follow up on that? This morning you said that it's conceivable that the visa could be granted even if there was not a resumption of the peace process. Is it also conceivable that he could get a visa even if there's still not a cease-fire?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't understand -- that was the same question, I think, wasn't it? Say again.
Q Is it the same thing? Can you not have a resumption of the peace talks without a cease-fire? Is it conceivable that Adams could come here when there's still --
MR. MCCURRY: We hope the parties will both recommit to a cease-fire and recommit to a peace process. They are related, to be sure, but the parties themselves have never said, to my knowledge, that they are dependent on each other.
Q Are either one of those a condition upon him getting a visa?
MR. MCCURRY: We didn't attach conditions. We are encouraging all parties to return to the cease-fire and to return a dialogue that can lead to advancement of the peace process.
Q You said that Adams visit is not pending. Hasn't he applied for a visa and doesn't he want to come here for St. Patrick's Day?
MR. MCCURRY: He has applied for a visa and indicated that some time next month he would like to visit the United States.
Q Isn't that a pending visit?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I guess technically it's pending, but it's not imminent. I should have said there's no imminent plans.
Q The NAACP is sanctified, and in many respects a beloved organization in this country, but it is nonetheless an advocacy group. After today's events at the Justice Department, can someone else who has a good-faith disagreement with the NAACP that is pending before the Justice Department consider that they will get a fair hearing from that department?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe there's anything about an event today that indicates any prejudice or lack of equanimity in the consideration of issues that the Justice Department has to consider.
Q Can you think of another instance in which that department has been used during this administration or any other as a place for the installation of an official of any lobby group?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that the facilities used by the NAACP at the Justice Department are available for rent to outside groups, and you can contact the Justice --
Q Do they pay rent --
MR. MCCURRY: You can contact the Justice Department and get the list of those organizations that have rented those facilities.
Q But did they pay rent today?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm told that they did.
Q So it wasn't rented? It was not rented?
MR. MCCURRY: What is the term that they use?
Q It was done under sponsorship of what?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the Justice Department can clarify how they make their facilities available.
Q In the meeting tomorrow by President Kuchma of Ukraine, will the U.S. -- will the President be bringing up these allegations of sales of planes to cocaine cartels?
MR. MCCURRY: During the course of President Kuchma's visit during the coming days, we'll have an opportunity to review with him those allegations. We don't have any information to indicate that those transfers have taken place, but obviously the reports they have are of concern to the United States, we'll have an opportunity in some forum in coming days to raise it. I don't want to say definitely that the President will raise it, but he will be seeing the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State and others in our government; I'm sure during the course of those conversations we will have an opportunity to raise that issue.
Q What else is on the agenda for their talks, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: He is here to accept an award from a private organization, so it is a private visit to the United States. He'll have an official working visit with the President here at the White House tomorrow. They intend to review the status of political and economic reform in Ukraine, issues related to denuclearization, the progress of the trilateral agreement and its implementation, they'll look at issues related to NATO and the expansion of NATO, most likely review the status of the Bosnia implementation force, and the work to implement the Dayton Peace Agreement and other subjects as would normally arise on our bilateral agenda.
Q We're getting close to the end of February. Has the President received his recommendations from the State Department on the certification process?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he has not, to my knowledge, and they are not due here. The President must report to Congress by March 1st, and I don't anticipate action much prior to that.
Q Mike, what's the reaction of the White House to the apparent failure this morning of the meeting between IFOR and the Bosnian Serbs in Pale?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any information to indicate that it was a failure. I understand that General Tolimir did meet with General Walker, the ground commander for the Implementation Force, the NATO Implementation Force. And I haven't --
Q The Bosnian Serb leadership confirmed they would not resume talks with IFOR before their two officers are released.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that's more recent information than I have.
Q Is it not in contradiction with what Milosevic promised in Rome this weekend? I mean, what kind of a hope do you have that this commitment will be fulfilled?
MR. MCCURRY: President Milosevic, as you know, did indicate that there would be cooperation both with the joint civilian working groups and the joint military working groups. And we expect him to honor his word and make clear to those with whom he has influence that they are to also honor their word. And I don't have any information that confirms the basis of your question.
Q What is the White House reaction to the judge's decision to move the Oklahoma City bombing trial to Denver, even though some of the families have said they wanted to attend?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the Attorney General has issued a statement indicating that, of course, we will abide by the court's decision to transfer venue to Denver. We don't have a right to appeal that decision, so we'll now prepare to go expeditiously to trial. At the same time, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Oklahoma will be working with victims' families to ensure that they have an opportunity to observe and follow events in the courtroom, in some fashion.
It's been, obviously, a source of concern to us that victims and victims' families have some access to the proceedings and to knowledge about the proceedings and we will work to make sure that they have that right.
Q Does it mean paying their way, Mike, providing expenses, putting them up in Denver?
MR. MCCURRY: The Department of Justice statement doesn't indicate that. I'm not -- they say they will be making arrangements immediately and we will refer you to the Justice Department to tell you what kind of arrangements.
Q Did the President formally cancel his meeting with economic advisors this afternoon on the Fed nominees?
MR. MCCURRY: He will be talking to his economic advisors on and off in coming days as he deals with the Fed issues, and we'll report to you any decisions that come as a result of those conversations in coming days.
Q Has a decision been made to fill the two empty seats? One of the options would be to leave those open.
MR. MCCURRY: The President has several options as it comes to the two vacancies and the question of the Federal Reserve Board chair and will announce a decision when one is made.
Q Mike, the President the other day was talking about the desirability of greater growth and wage growth and mentioned that there was no reason why the economy couldn't grow as much as 2.7 percent average. His own budget, when Stiglitz briefed, is predicated on only 2.2, 2.3 percent, which of course is in line with CBO's balanced budget estimates. Hasn't the President sort of painted himself in the corner by signing on to seven-year balanced budget CBO which restricts options for growth while at the same time he desires to go beyond that kind of a --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'd suggest it a little differently, that what the administration economists, the White House economists simply to ensure that there was no division of opinion with the economic assumptions of the Congressional Budget Office by and large aligned their own assumptions with those of CBO. So we wouldn't go into the static debate over whether one-tenth of a percentage point different in growth outcomes would lead one side to accuse the other of using dishonest numbers of some fashion.
At the same time, as much as the President is confident that his economic policies and economic program would stimulate more growth over time, if we had built those into any model of the economy that we'd use to write a budget, you can easily imagine Republicans on the Hill screaming rosy scenario. And to avoid that outcome, the President stuck with fairly conservative growth projections being advanced by the Congressional Budget Office that are by and large in line now with what the blue chip forecast is. That's a good place to be as you set budget policy.
The President's discussion of how you stimulate economic growth is a broader discussion. That requires not only the kinds of deliberations he's suggested ought to attend to monetary policy, but also the kinds of things he's advocated when it comes to investment and workers in America, in their training and higher skills, and in advancing an education system that prepares them for the work force of the future and in following federal budget and economic policies that over time will stimulate greater growth.
Q But by not looking for an alternative to Greenspan, again, aren't we looking at monetary policies that go counter to the President's desire for faster growth?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, given the President's strong belief in the independence of the Federal Reserve Board, he never suggested that there ought to be appointed to the Board only those who agree with or conform to White House thinking on economic matters, macroeconomic matters. He suggested that there ought to be different points of view that are presented within the deliberations of the Fed, but it has to and will under President Clinton remain an independent source of policy-making related to monetary policy.
Q The Index of Leading Indicators turned up this month after three months of decline. Do you feel the economy is back on track after a poor fourth quarter?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we believe we are going to go through a period of moderated economic growth earlier this year. That's confirmed by most of the forecasts we've seen today. A lot of them are weather impacted because of the bad weather, and also in some ways, perhaps even, government shutdown related because of the loss of economic activity. And all of these things have had, in one way or another, some drag on the economy in the first quarter. But you know from Dr. Stiglitz's remarks the other day and from the projections in the Economic Report of the President our confident view that over the balance of this year we will remain on a path of moderate economic growth, lower inflation rates, and lower rates of unemployment.
Q With or without some kind of extra stimulus?
MR. MCCURRY: Those projections are not based on external stimuli.
Q Any budget talks on the horizon, while we're on economic matters?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Panetta suggested last week they'll be some efforts to address the remaining appropriations bills that have not been passed. We also will be looking ahead to mid-March when we face the expiration of the current continuing resolution. I wouldn't be surprised if there are some staff-level discussions, but nothing that would approximate high-level negotiations this week.
Q Mike, is there any movement or change on the situation vis-a-vis the US-China-Pakistan -- that whole situation?
MR. MCCURRY: There's been no change. Those are matters that will be under review. They will be under review constantly because of our concern about our own -- the implementation of our own laws that relate to non-proliferation and our concern about regional security issues broadly defined. We will continue to seek opportunities to address those issues when we have bilateral meeting with the People's Republic. Those issues have been raised in the past and will likely be raised in the future as we continue our pattern of dialogue and engagement with the government of the People's Republic.
Q You don't expect the President to make any decisions in the near future about whether or not there was a violation of --
MR. MCCURRY: I do not expect him to be presented with any determination that requires action on his part any time in the immediate future.
Q Would you briefly describe the political stops in California and Washington state Friday and Saturday?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I can't. We're going to develop more information on that. All I can say at this point is that he will leave early Friday morning for California. Expects stops during the day and Saturday also in the state of Washington. They're still putting together that schedule. The only thing that I'm certain of on the schedule is his "getting to know you" summit with Prime Minister Hashimoto.
Q Is the President is meeting with the Secretary General of NATO?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q Any change in Bosnia, because the Serb General refused to show up after all these two days of discussions?
MR. MCCURRY: I need the find out more about -- General Tolimir did have some type of meeting with General Walker today and we'll see if we can -- I'm sure that by the time the President sees Secretary General Solana late this afternoon he will have more of a readout on that meeting. The encouraging developments at Rome at the summit between the three Presidents need to be fully implemented, and we will continue to press that.
You all know and saw President Milosevic's interest in further sanctions relief, and that is clearly dependent on adherence and implementation of the commitments made at Dayton and at Rome over the course of this past weekend.
Q There seems to be a renewed emphasis on the environmental question in terms of U.S. foreign policy according to changes recently in the State Department. Isn't this going to cause problems in relations with countries like Russia and China where you already have problems of nonproliferation, economic problems, and then you're going to impose upon them environmental restrictions?
MR. MCCURRY: Secretary Christopher's directive related to environmental concerns and their place in our diplomacy overseas I think was carefully crafted to take into account the deliberations we had with other governments. It has never been the view of this administration or this President that economic growth and development can be anything less than environmentally sensitive. And we believe there are ways in which you can work through the types of issues that emerging countries have and developing countries have and do so in a way that meets commitments related to sustainable development and environmental protection.
The purpose of Secretary Christopher's directive was to suggest that in our diplomacy and in our trade and economic discussions with foreign governments, these concerns ought to be part of the mix, and we also ought to seek the cooperation of foreign governments as we work in the international community to address issue of environmental concern, and that certainly is a directive that the President supports and that we applaud Secretary Christopher for making.
Q Mike, back to China for a second. When you said the President won't be making a decision any time soon -- does that mean that the people in the government that were pressing for sanctions have withdrawn the sanctions option?
MR. MCCURRY: I very carefully suggested that I didn't expect the President to be given any determination from his foreign policy advisors that would require his action in the immediate future. I also suggested that the issues that have been publicly discussed in press accounts continue to be a source of concern for the United States and remain under close scrutiny.
Q Why did it take so long to make a recommendation?
MR. MCCURRY: Because in the area of proliferation and transfers of technology, information is not always black and white, especially when it involves the kind of information that I can't describe for you publicly here, but comes to us through the different ways we have of getting information.
Q How about privacy -- intellectual properties?
MR. MCCURRY: That's a separate issue, Helen. That's not related to this discussion we're having now, but that is a deliberation that the U.S. Trade Representative's Office will be having with the Chinese government that I believe they have under way. Ongoing now, there are USTR representatives in Beijing negotiating with the People's Republic, related to our intellectual property rights concerns.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you.
END 2:02 P.M. EST