THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Moscow, Russia) _________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release April 19, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
Radisson Hotel Moscow, Russia
8:00 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: The President had a wonderful day and there's no better description of what he did today than the two pool reports that you've already received which give you a good blow-by-blow account of his touring in St. Petersburg as to his feeling.
Q Do you think he --
MR. MCCURRY: I think he addressed that himself outside Kazan Cathedral, so you've got that transcript. All in all, a very enjoyable day for him. He arrived here this evening after being briefed en route by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, National Security Advisor Tony Lake, by Dan Turillo, who is our sherpa at this summit, and Sandy Berger, the Deputy National Security Advisor.
And he got a good sense of where they are in addressing some of the issues that will be the focus of the summit tomorrow. The summit derives from the meeting in Halifax of the G-7 and the G-7-plus, President Yeltsin, which has now grown into the nomenclature of P-8, Political 8, that will gather here in Moscow tomorrow.
There's been a lot of progress on the work that is underway on the various areas that they will cover in the communiques. And the President, as he told the pool en route to Russia from Japan, feels that it's very significant that these countries together are going to pledge to take the steps that they will on matters related to proliferation nuclear safety, nuclear waste management, the range of issues that are falling under this heading of nuclear safety and security.
So he is looking forward to his meeting. He anticipated at dinner tonight that there would be considerable discussion, at least in some portion, of the subject of Lebanon, given that President Chirac has been engaged in some of that diplomacy through his foreign minister, Foreign Minister De Charette, who has been in the region. And it's likely that the Russians will also be similarly engaged with the coming journey of Foreign Minister Primakov. So there's some discussion of that anticipated tonight also. Also, a general discussion previewing the issues of the subject tomorrow and other subjects that might arise.
I will try to get some type of brief readout from our dinner participants within the hour and see -- come back in here if I've got anything more to say about the President's reaction to the dinner tonight. The dinner is supposed to conclude around 9:00 p.m., and then they're going to have an entertainment program afterwards. So I should be able to be back after that.
Q Mike, do you have an update on Lebanon?
MR. MCCURRY: The only update I have on Lebanon is that Secretary Christopher remains very active on that subject in and around his meeting in The Hague, which is still going on Chinese Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Qien Qichen. You'll hear from The Hague a readout on that meeting. It's a very significant bilateral meeting between the United States and China. They took a break a while ago; they expect to go back in and have dinner later on. And in between the Secretary expects to be making some calls related to Lebanon.
There are some erroneous wire accounts coming out of The Hague, as I understand it, that suggest that a cease-fire is imminent. That's obviously what Secretary Christopher is working on, but I'd steer you away from any reports that something is imminent. We clearly are working on it. We'd like to get it, we'd like to achieve one quickly, but I'm not aware of anything that would lead us to believe that any announcement like that is imminent.
Q Has the President been briefed either by Christopher directly, or through Blake, on these calls that he got through Shara and through the Lebanese Foreign Minister?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, in general, not in detail, but it's just where we are in working through those series of calls. The President got an update just prior to arrival here in Moscow.
Q By whom? By Christopher or --
MR. MCCURRY: By both Mr. Lake and Mr. Talbott via Secretary Christopher's party. I don't know whether the Secretary himself called since he was in his bilateral meeting, or whether one of his folks called here.
Q Mike, just in terms of those wire reports, is it correct to say that the Lebanese and the Syrians have said they would try to use their influence to effect a cease-fire?
MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is that those accounts are based on a session that Nick Burns, the State Department spokesman, had with reporters there and he's in the process of making sure that those reports are more accurate than they've been.
Q Mike, I'm wondering if it wasn't just a little bit insensitive on the part of the President to go to the cemetery where a half a million people are buried and spend two-thirds of his remarks talking about Oklahoma City.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe so. I think he obviously very eloquently addressed the tragic loss of life that the Russian people experienced during World War II. He did that, I think, movingly. He did that in a way that made the director of the museum -- the director of the museum was very touched by his remarks. And I think you see that reflected in your account of the pool.
But it was appropriate also given the anniversary of the bombing in Oklahoma City to comment on that. The setting seemed to the President to be extraordinarily appropriate given the commemorative nature of the location.
Q What's the assessment after Sharm el-Sheikh? You know, there was the big meeting, the big gathering of all the heads of state to try to set the peace process flying. I mean, has there been a discussion whether that meeting was a failure or whether one is trying to deal --
MR. MCCURRY: That meeting led to many positive results and bringing together the countries of the region, of the Middle East, and more extensive efforts at cooperation in fighting terrorism. Those efforts are ongoing. And if the disputes that are arising because of the degradation of the agreements in place since 1993 concerning conflict between Hezbollah and Israel are the precise subject we're dealing with now and there is an aspect of that that one might consider terror -- Ketyusha rockets on Israeli villages in northern Israel. But I believe that there are larger issues that grew out of Sharm el-Sheikh that continue to be addressed and, indeed, will most likely be addressed tomorrow by the leaders gathered here.
Q The NRDC has sent over a group of nuclear experts, and one of them, Tom Cochran, made an observation yesterday critical of the heads of state for, as he put it, backing away from their desire and their pressure to close the Chernobyl-type reactors. Can you address their criticism that the summit meeting has backed away from the idea of --
MR. MCCURRY: I think the most direct response to that allegation would be the statement that is made on the Ukraine tomorrow by the leaders gathered here, which will be significant, which will address many of the concerns raised by the NRDC.
Q Russia is saying there will be a political statement coming out of the summit that will deal at least partly with the Middle East and will go further than has been called before. Do you know anything about that? And does the United States support such a statement?
MR. MCCURRY: We would appreciate the support of the efforts that the President has initiated by directing Secretary Christopher to be aggressively involved in the effort to achieve a cease-fire. And as I said a moment ago, we do expect that will be a subject or some part of the conversation at dinner, and I'd expect to see that summarized in any concluding document coming out of the summit.
Q Mike, is the U.S. pushing for such a document? Or is --
MR. MCCURRY: As I say, we would appreciate an expression of support for the efforts the President directed that Secretary Christopher undertake.
Q To shift gears to politics for a minute, Bob Dole gave a major speech today, I guess, to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, and he spent, it looks like about half of it talking about the President's judicial hall of shame, and in addition to Judge Baer, went on to name a number of other judges that he has a problem with and he says he think this should be a major issue in the election. Did you know about this?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President's very strong record on crime, his support of measures that have won him a great deal of support within America's law enforcement community will, indeed, be something he intends to talk about in the campaign ahead. And I imagine Senator Dole will continue to talk about his desire to put very conservative justices on the court who will do, among other things, criminalizing abortion for women who want to exercise that choice.
Q Mike, I'm still a little confused about the disconnect between what the quotes are on the wires and where you guys are. Could you just tell us specifically what your understanding is of what the Secretary heard in those conversations today?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I'm not going to talk about what the Secretary's privately heard in conversations that are aimed at trying to get a cease-fire in place. The Secretary had a lot of important phone calls today and is working an issue very hard. That's about all I'm going to say about it.
Q Nick is quoted as saying as you know -- so we're trying to understand what it --
MR. MCCURRY: He's in the process of making sure that people understand with greater clarity what that's about. It's just a bad account of the conversation that he had, I am told.
Q Can you make us understand with greater clarity?
MR. MCCURRY: I can't, but he's in the process of correcting the accounts based on something he said. I'm not going to try to do that for him.
Q Mainly, the problem is that things aren't as imminent as the wire copy would suggest.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I think there's a wire copy that moves this thing very close to an agreement, and we would hope that's true, but we don't have any indication at that point that that is, in fact, true.
Q Mike, to go back, you said you wanted some sort of statement supporting Christopher to come out of this summit. Did I understand that right?
MR. MCCURRY: No, we're not asking for such a statement. There's been some suggestions among other delegations that there might be such a document. I expect that the conversation will be held tonight, and as I said we would appreciate an expression of support for the efforts that we have underway.
Q Is anybody briefing you on the progress of that -- there have been some wire reports --
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't had a chance to check in with Washington on that. There have been some budget deliberations underway, and they are briefing on that back in Washington.
Q Would the expression of support -- would it come tonight, or would it be in the final communique tomorrow, presumably?
MR. MCCURRY: I have no way of knowing. As I say, the subject may come up at dinner tonight, and if it does, we would appreciate any expression of support for the diplomatic efforts underway to bring a cease-fire about.
Q Can I go back to the last question for a second? Lake, a couple of days ago, seemed to criticize Dole for criticizing the President while overseas -- we thought we had this understanding; now, Dole is criticizing him on domestic politics. Are you upset that Dole is criticizing the President while he is overseas?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it used to be a tradition that we would suspend domestic politics when a president was on foreign soil, but I think that tradition went by the wayside sometime ago. It used to be a tradition.
Okay, we're back further if there's anything to say on the dinner, if we get a readout on the dinner.
Q What's he doing in the radio address?
Mr. MCCURRY: He'll probably try to put the conference tomorrow and his trip in some larger context.
Q Will you tape it?
MR. MCCURRY: He's taping it I believe tonight, so we should be able to get it out early to people.
Okay, thank you.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 8:25 P.M. (L)