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, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for bearing with us while the President completed his meeting with President Demirel. I would -- a couple of notes before we get going. I'm going to have David do a readout on the meeting, but tell you first, right after the President announces the new initiative on cancer drugs, which will be around -- he will be completed around 3:30 p.m. -- I'll have the Vice President and Dr. David Kessler, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, here to brief further about that. I also expect the Vice President might have some things to say about the CBO's calculation on the FY'96 deficit numbers. So you can look forward to that at 3:30 p.m.
Another program note: Tony Lake, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, National Security Advisor, is going to give an address on Monday entitled, "The Challenge of the U.S.-Russia Relationship in the Post-Cold War World." This will be on Monday at 9:15 a.m. He'll be speaking to the U.S.-Russia Business Council over at the Four Seasons Hotel. That's a group that encourages private sector cooperation and investment with entrepreneurs in Russia. And I expect that will be an important address for you to pay some attention to.
The National Security Advisor is going to sketch out several things that really set the stage in many ways for the President's upcoming visit to Moscow for the Nuclear Safety Summit, but also for the bilateral meetings that he will have with President Yeltsin. So I call your attention to that.
David Johnson, our Deputy Press Secretary for all things foreign, will tell you more about the Clinton-Demirel bilateral meeting.
MR. JOHNSON: Johnson, comma, David T.
Q Is he on the record?
Q He is.
MR. JOHNSON: This briefing is not on background. The President and President Demirel had a meeting that lasted about an hour, which went about twice as long as we had originally scheduled it. They covered a very wide range of issues. As most of you know, President Demirel is not the head of government, he's the head of state. And in other systems, heads of state presidencies don't always have such a strong role to play, but over the last several months I think it's been proven what a pivotal figure President Demirel is as he's helped usher this coalition of exercise in Turkish democracy that's been so important for his country and for the alliance.
They covered the complete range of bilateral issues and a number of others. The President made clear that the starting point for our discussions with Turkey was that they were key in a number of relationships the United States has -- the alliance for security and stability in Europe, for, ultimately, in the Middle East, and for the United States' relations with the countries in that part of the world, particularly the Islamic countries.
The President took the opportunity to thank President Demirel for the hospitality that he and Turkey had provided for Mrs. Clinton and for his daughter. He remarked that they had a particularly enjoyable time at Ephesus and he thought he had a difficult time getting them to leave there.
He talked about Bosnia-Herzegovina and the role that Turkey was playing, in particular with the equip and train issue for the Bosnian armed forces. The President thanked President Demirel for hosting the pledging conference and for the work that we had done together there.
The President emphasized that we were in favor of the multiple pipeline approach to oil exports from the Transcaucacus region and that that would ultimately include a pipeline which would cross Turkish territory. He thank President Demirel for the work that he had done with us, in particular with Sandy Berger, on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
The President also thanked President Demirel for his help on Provide Comfort and supplying the population in Northern Iraq; for the generosity for our forces there, but also in the knowledge that the sanctions program to limit the war-making capability of Saddam Hussein's Iraq had been particularly costly for Turkey in trade terms.
With respect to the Greek-Turkish dispute, the President made clear that we consider both Greece and Turkey very valued allies, and that the conflict they have is one that deeply saddens us. The President encouraged President Demirel to consider the ICJ or another third party that both states could agree on to possibly help them with the Imia-Kardak dispute.
On Cyprus, the President asked that President Demirel work with us to try to get this negotiating process restarted; that while we didn't have a new initiative or anything to announce, we plan to make extra efforts over the next several weeks and months to try to help us get the negotiating process moving again with respect to Cyprus.
On security issues, there was a discussion of the role that Turkey plays in the alliance and the role -- and how we have worked together over the period between the founding of the alliance and the end of the Soviet Union -- had played a particularly role, but that role continues even past then with the new challenges which have come from the creation of the Newly Independent States.
And, finally, the President told President Demirel that he would, at the conclusion of this meeting -- and something which is now going on -- notify Congress of his intent to transfer the three frigates to Turkey and that with respect to the Cobras that that issue would remain under consideration.
Q Did they discuss about the Iranian issue?
MR. JOHNSON: They talked a bit about terrorism, but I can't confirm for you that anything specific about Iran was raised.
Q Was there any reference with respect to the formation of a coalition government in Turkey during the talks?
MR. JOHNSON: Only with what I had said earlier, that the President remarked how key President Demirel was to the exercise of Turkish democracy, and in working with the authorities in getting that coalition established.
Q A few moments ago, the Turkish President, Mr. Demirel expressed his gratitude to President Clinton for his full support on the Turkish proposal for a political dialogue with Greece, that no -- issues divided the two countries. Could you please elaborate more about President Clinton's reaction to this Turkish proposal for a Greek-Turkish political dialogue has been turned down already by the Greek government?
MR. JOHNSON: As I remarked earlier, we encouraged President Demirel, as we have encouraged Greece, to consider the ICJ or some other agreeable third party to deal with the Imia-Kardak dispute, and we believe that some type of discussion between Greece and Turkey would be a good idea in order to address their issues. But in terms of anything specific that you raise, I'm not certain that he or you are talking about the same thing. But what I would say is what the United States believes is that we think that a discussion between Greece and Turkey, both of whom we believe are valued and important allies, would be useful in addressing the problems between them.
Q One more question. Did they discuss specifically the issue, specifically?
MR. JOHNSON: Yes.
Q And to which extent, because --
MR. JOHNSON: I've already described to you that the United States has encouraged and is encouraging both parties to see if ICJ or another agreeable third party could be helpful in that dispute.
Q I'm asking because President Demirel told us they did not discuss this issue. That's why --
MR. JOHNSON: I've addressed the issue. I think I will leave it at that.
Q Did the President bring up the human rights practices in Turkey and the Kurdish question?
MR. JOHNSON: We discussed the Kurdish issue with respect to Provide Comfort and the work that Turkey has done in that area in supporting the United States and the allies in supplying the population there.
Q How about the terrorism?
MR. JOHNSON: Terrorism was discussed, and --
Q How large was this in the discussion?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, it was a feature of the discussion, a knowledge that the United States has that Turkey has had to confront terrorism, particularly PKK terrorism, and that it has suffered a great deal in terms of attacks on its security and police forces. And it's an issue that Turkey has to confront in its daily life.
Q Was Syria brought up?
MR. JOHNSON: In terms of the Middle East peace process there was a discussion of Syria, yes.
Q The Turkish Prime Minister -- recently launched a peace initiative with respect to Greece, and he announced a new peace package. And was this raised or was this mentioned, taken up during the talks? Did the President respond to this Turkish peace initiative?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, I think I've already discussed what our feelings are about our desire that Greece and Turkey address the issues which divide them peacefully, and in terms of discussions, and that, in particular, in the Imia-Kardak dispute, that they consider the ICJ or another third party on which they both can agree to ameliorate this problem.
Q Was the freedom of expression brought up at all?
MR. JOHNSON: There was a discussion of Turkish democracy and the way it is working.
MR. MCCURRY: The other thing I meant to call to your attention -- I'm sure you've all got the various pieces of paper available on the President and Vice President's announcements regarding the global positioning system and some of the technologies that will be available. I encourage people to take a look for that paper.
Other subjects, other questions.
Q Did he sign the debt limit bill yet?
MR. MCCURRY: He has not received the debt -- that has not come here yet. Oh, I'm sorry, excuse me. The debt limit -- no, the debt limit bill has not --
Q Debt limit, Social Security?
MR. MCCURRY: None of these measures have yet arrived her at the White House. The White House has only received one measure as of about an hour ago, and that was the line-item veto. And as I indicated earlier, the President will deal with that next week. We certainly expect to get the debt measure very shortly, and the President, of course, will sign this.
We had long encouraged Congress to extend the debt ceiling, had called repeatedly for the extension of the debt ceiling, and, frankly, consider, as the Wall Street Journal did today, it to have been a failure in tactics by the Republican Congress to use the debt ceiling measure to try to force the President into making decisions the President had always indicated he would not, specifically, accepting Medicare cuts, accepting cuts in environmental protection and education and technology funding that's important for the economy. The President indicated all along he would not take that and he would not allow them to use this debt ceiling as a weapon to hold him hostage. I think the President now has made it quite clear -- or Congress made it clear by passing this measure that that was a faulty strategy from the beginning.
Q Daschle said it's a done deal, the President will sign a three-week CR extension.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we remain in discussion with Congress. It now appears to us that they are headed in the direction of yet again a short-term funding resolution. This will the be 12th such funding measure because Congress can't seem to complete work on full appropriations measures for the balance of this fiscal year. It's increasingly looking like this fiscal year might be over by the time they get around to funding it. But the President, if that's the only form in which we have funding to keep the government open, we'll reluctantly accept that and we'll go back to work at the conclusion of the recess that Congress seems intent on taking.
Q Ross Perot is on the campaign trail and hinting broadly he may yet be a candidate. On the issues that he raises, does the White House think he's justified in running again in '96?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President believes that on many of the issues he raised in 1992 we have delivered for the American people -- a stronger economy; reform of our government; a smaller, downsized government that performs better service for the people of this country; and as you all know, eight million new jobs and, importantly an issue that he talked about in 1992, reducing the deficit.
We had confirmation today from the Congressional Budget Office of Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole that this President kept his promise in 1992 to reduce the deficit by half. We thank the Speaker, we thank Senator Dole for that confirmation that the President kept his promise.
Now, that's one of the issues that Mr. Perot raised. I have no idea what his plans are for 1996, and you can come back and ask me in about six months.
Q But do you think he's likely to hurt Clinton more or Dole more?
MR. MCCURRY: That's a September-October question. I'll be happy to entertain it then.
Q What about the other issues on Perot's list?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what's on his list and I don't know whether his list will be of any significance in terms of the campaign. So let's talk about that in about a half a year from now.
Q It seems like the Congress or Senate of Colombia wants the withdrawal of the U.S. Ambassador Miles Frechette for some statements he made regarding the commission that's investigating President Semper. Is the White House backing Miles Frechette?
MR. MCCURRY: I heard a little bit about that, but -- we do back the Ambassador fully, of course. And the State Department, I believe, was in a position to comment further on it. In fact, they may have already done that over at their briefing today.
Q -- farm bill and also partial-birth abortion ban bill?
MR. MCCURRY: The farm bill is, as I just indicated, none of these measure have come to us yet. We have not received the late-term abortion bill. The President obviously intends to veto that measure. The farm bill we expect to receive, but in many cases I think this legislation will probably not arrive here at the White House until some time next week. But we will keep you apprised. We are not anticipating any action on any of this legislation other than the debt ceiling and in the continuing resolution today.
Q Do you expect a ceremony at least for the farm bill, though, when you get to that?
MR. MCCURRY: That's not clear at this point and we'll let you know next week. We've got a lot of time open on the calendar next week to deal with the legislation that's coming down from the Hill, and I suspect there will be some public ceremonies. I expect in some cases you're just going to get written statements from the President indicating his decisions on some of these measures.
Q Will there be any statement today on the Social Security earnings limit, written or verbal?
MR. MCCURRY: That is --
Q -- part of the debt limit.
MR. MCCURRY: I thought the debt limit bill came -- no, you're right. They were going to -- at one point there was a different consideration of what they were going to attach that to, but there will be certainly a reference in the President's signed statement on the debt ceiling bill reference to that provision.
Q Is that how you're going to deal with it, Mike, put out some paper when he does that?
MR. MCCURRY: I expect that's what we'll do on the debt ceiling measure and the continuing. In both cases I anticipate written statements by the President. I don't think that we're going to see him on those issues.
Q And do you expect those this afternoon? Do you expect they'll be late?
MR. MCCURRY: The last I had heard is that we expected to receive the debt ceiling measure around noon, but it hadn't come in as of an hour ago.
Q Mike, why is the President going to Korea and what does he plan to achieve on the visit?
MR. MCCURRY: The President has agreed to adjust his departure time on April 15th so he can make a brief, but important stop in the Republic of Korea because of the central role the Republic of Korea plays in our strategic approach to security in the Asia Pacific region.
We are very keenly interested in expanding our security discussions with the government of Japan when the President goes to meet with President Hashimoto, and we believe it would be very fruitful for the President to have an opportunity to visit with President Kim prior to his arrival in Tokyo because of the very close cooperation we enjoy with both the Republic of Korea and the government of Japan in dealing with our security concerns.
There will, of course, be other bilateral issues that might arise -- economic issues, other issues related to our cooperation on global issues. But this brief stop will provide President Kim and President Clinton an opportunity to visit on subjects that will certainly be much a part of the President's overall travels not only in the Asia Pacific region, but also as he goes onward to Moscow.
Q Has anything happened in the past few weeks that would have made the visit more important than a few weeks ago when the President was unable to go?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, a meeting between the President of the United States and the President of the Republic of Korea would always be important. This one had not been scheduled simply because of the President's prior plans. But because those plans have changed and we've got an opportunity to make that stop, the President thought it was important to do so and to rearrange his plans.
Q I'm sorry, what plans changed, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: We had originally anticipated some things were happening that weekend that for a variety of reasons didn't come together, and so he has a little bit of -- more time available to him on his own travel schedule.
Q With regard to the case of Martin Pang, Attorney General Janet Reno this morning indicated that all Justice Department options have been exhausted, that the only way King County prosecutors are going to be able to try him for murder is if it comes out of the Executive Branch. Are you prepared to go forward with that?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any comment on the case. If the Attorney General has commented, that is the proper place for the comment to come.
Q She said that it would be brought by the Executive Branch. Have you heard about it at all --
MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check with the Legal Counsel's Office to see whether they have followed that issue.
Q Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Is that all you got? (Laughter.)
Q That's all I've got. (Laughter.)
Q I have one follow-up question.
MR. MCCURRY: One follow-up question.
Q Is Ralph Nader a September-October question, too?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I'd say you start clocking in on that around maybe the last week in August, the Labor Day. I think Labor Day will be -- and, by the way, I'd encourage you on some of these issues, even though I don't think they're saying much about it, but remember that both Ann Lewis and Joe Lockhart over at Clinton-Gore '96 are always available to you. And they are the proper place for comments like that to come.
We have got a lot of work to do here, and there will be plenty of time for campaigning later in this year. And I think you'll find our campaign committee responsive to you, and that's the place where a lot of that commentary should come from.
Q On Monday, aside from the O's game, what do we have?
MR. MCCURRY: Next week, the President is going up to Camden Yards on Monday, might do a little bit of work here before he goes. On Tuesday, we've got a very important state visit by President Scalfaro. I expect on Wednesday we might be doing some further discussion on the President's efforts to combat crime and gangs. And then at the end of the week, of course, he goes to Oklahoma City. And that's the week ahead.
Q Is the Garagiola event still on?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll let you know on that. It's not clear how they're going to fit everyone's plans in, but I do think they will try to do something with that.
Q Is the President going to Ed Muskie's funeral tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: He has no plans to do so, and I -- I had heard something about a delegation, but you can check with the Press Office.
Q I'm sorry. Just to be clear, the Garagiola thing, it's only dependent on whether it takes place here or somewhere else?
MR. MCCURRY: They are working on the schedule for that and how they we're going to do that, and we'll let you know.
Q Do you know what it is that he wants to accomplish with that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President is very -- as I mentioned yesterday, the President is very interested in the work that Joe Garagiola has been doing to discourage the use of chewing tobacco by baseball players, who set, obviously, an example for young people in this country. It furthers the President's convictions that we should really do everything we can to discourage tobacco use by young people.
Q Anything you can say from your podium about Montana that might diffuse the situation?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe that the Justice Department has been saying what they think is necessary in order to make sure that proper procedures are followed and the law enforcement effort there is effective. And I really don't have anything to add other than to say that Mr. Panetta continues to get updates as necessary from the Department and he advised the President of any developments.
Q Do you have any words of encouragement for the townspeople?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we well understand the concerns of the community. The Justice Department has spoken to that, and we believe extensive efforts are being made to protect the citizens. That's what the proper law enforcement effort there is much about.
Q Radio address?
MR. MCCURRY: Radio address will be tomorrow live and in color.
Q What's the subject?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll keep you guessing until tomorrow. Actually, I'll keep you guessing because it was changing around a little bit. I'm not sure that they have locked it in yet.
Okay. Thank you.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:11 P.M. EST