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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 25, 1996
                             PRESS BRIEFING
                            BY MIKE MCCURRY

The Briefing Room

1:15 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to our White House for today's daily briefing in which there will be absolutely no news imparted by the White House Press Secretary.

Q Thank you.

MR. MCCURRY: Thank you. See you all later. (Laughter.)

Q When will President Clinton say something about the budget? Will he wait until after the House vote?

MR. MCCURRY: The President, if he has anything to say about the budget, will do so sometime after the House vote. We haven't heard when the Senate will vote. In fact, we're not even sure when the House is going to vote. But when they do and when we hope they pass the compromise agreement on the 1996 Fiscal Year budget, we will certainly say that that's an example of how Democrats and Republicans can work together for the good of the nation.

Q Do you want minimum wage added on to that?

Q Well, why send him out if we all know already? (Laughter.)

Q She withdrew.

MR. MCCURRY: She withdrew the question.

Q Minimum wage.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've now gotten some agreement at long last, seven months into the fiscal year, on a budget, the remaining portions of the budget for this fiscal year. And it was a useful exercise in how the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch can work together, Republicans and Democrats can sit down with each other, and you can do the business of the nation. And now we can do exactly the same thing on minimum wage. We can do the same thing on health insurance reform by passing a good, strong version of the Kennedy-Kassebaum legislation that has broad bipartisan support.

And the one thing we have to avoid is letting anyone hover in their own little partisan caucus and highjack these pieces of legislation so the American people don't get what they want, a balanced budget, minimum wage, health insurance reform. We can get these things done, and get them done now because they have broad bipartisan support.

Q Speaking of which, what do you think of the fact that the House now has blocked the attempt to bring up minimum wage?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, there are a substantial number of Republicans in the United States Congress who want to see the minimum wage voted, and they want to have a good, straightforward, up and down vote on that because they believe the people who are working poor deserve a living wage. And there are some people in the Congress, including Senator Bob Dole, who used to support that idea, too, because they supported past increases of the minimum wage. And the White House believes that Senator Dole, because he is the leader of the Republican Party now, presumptive nominee of that party, will be able to convince the Speaker and other Republican leaders to bring the minimum wage to a vote. If he doesn't, that says something pretty sorry about their support of people who are really struggling to make ends meet on a wage that is now historically low.

Q Are you sure he's for it now?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, he was -- he used to be for it in the 1980s. You'll have to go ask him. I don't know where he is.

Q What does it say about him if the Republicans won't pass it? What does it say about Dole?

MR. MCCURRY: It says that they've got -- they have to contend with diversity in their caucus and conflicting views in the leadership.

Q What does it say about his leadership ability?

MR. MCCURRY: You can decide what it says.

Q But you said earlier today that it shows that the Republicans really don't care about the poor making a living wage.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, those Republicans who want to block this measure and who don't want to let the broad bipartisan majority in the Congress vote for a minimum wage are denying a living wage to the working poor. And that's very unfortunate in the President's viewpoint because this is a measure that needs to be passed because we need to reward work in this country. And that ought to be an idea whether you're Bob Dole or Bill Clinton or anybody in the Congress, you ought to get behind.

Q Mike, just in terms of this deal that was struck, what was, or could you describe for us the turning point where you finally were able to say, okay, they did this, the President can sign it? What happened?

MR. MCCURRY: In reality the turning point in this measure was back this winter when the Republican Congress shut down the government twice. That was a misuse of their bargaining power. It put the American people at some risk, and it incurred substantial disappointment and objection from the American people. And since then, I think they have realized that sooner or later they were going to have to deal with these issues.

And the President's satisfied that now we've got a measure that cuts spending, cuts spending somewhat more than our original budget proposal, we acknowledge, but more importantly, it protects the President's priorities. And ultimately, the Congress knew that the President would stand very firm on those priorities he's talked about all throughout last year and this year: education, protecting the environment, making sure we've got the funding there for programs that help the elderly. And because he was standing firm on those provisions, because he indicated he would use the veto, the Congress realized they would have to deal with his priorities and address them in this budget legislation.

Q But what specifically changed between Tuesday and Wednesday evening? What were the last barriers?

MR. MCCURRY: They came together on the funding levels by agreeing to add back money to address the President's priorities. That was very significant -- so we saved the national service program; we saved the effort to put 100,000 new cops on the street; and we saved the direct lending program for college kids who are trying to get an education. In a host of areas, we really got the President's key priorities and programs addressed in a more sufficient fashion.

They closed the difference on those funding issues, and then they moved on to the very grievous attempt by the Republicans to damage our environment by adding all of these legislative riders. And they, at the last minute, cleaned away most of those so that the President will have the authority to make sure that the environment is properly protected. That was, most likely, the key sets of turning points.

Q It seems here in the White House people seem to be claiming victory on this budget agreement when, in fact, if you remember back in 1995, the original Clinton budget was $200 billion in deficits as far as the eye could see.

MR. MCCURRY: The President's strong support of a balanced budget flows from his historic work in 1993 to achieve the deficit reduction we've been able to achieve, fulfilling one of the key arguments he made to the American people in 1992 that we would cut the deficit in half. And we moved smartly through that program in 1993 and '94 and made progress in 1995. And now, in the President's view, we could very well be on the verge of an historic agreement to give the American people a balanced budget by a date certain.

Now, as to victory, look, there's no way the White House would claim that the President got everything he wanted in this bill. We had to give up a fair amount. We didn't get all of the money restored for the priorities that the President believes are important. But we made a lot of progress, and I think that was significant.

Q Well, earlier, Mike, you called the '96 appropriations measure a compromise. But except for some of the lower funding levels, which you really accepted almost from the beginning, what did you really compromise?

MR. MCCURRY: You mean what did we give up in order to get this agreement? Well, there were some provisions that, on balance, we would have preferred to see come out differently. The GLOBE program that the Vice President cares about -- we had to -- I think we had to give that one up. There was some language related to the red squirrel that we were concerned about that we had to give up. (Laughter.)

Q Aww.

MR. MCCURRY: I'll see if I can think of some others.

Q Bullwinkle and --

MR. MCCURRY: Those are not insignificant items. Those are a source of very real concern to the administration, and we had to give up on some funding levels. We're not at the funding levels that the President felt sufficient for some of the programs. We're not able to kind of extend the commitment in national service and AmeriCorps that we wanted with this level of funding. But the important thing is, of course, we prevented many of these programs from being terminated since that was the goal of this Republican Congress back in 1995, to kill all these programs that the President feels are important to the American people. We've saved many of them, even though we did so at reduced funding levels.

Q When you say fair, when you gave up a fair amount, you mean you gave up a lot, or an amount that was fair and equitable?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, both. We feel like it was a fair compromise and it was, in some cases, substantial amounts.

Q Is the White House going to do anything to try to bring about these negotiations for a seven-year balanced budget accord, or is the ball basically in Dole's court now?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the President, as I reported to you yesterday, had a good, serious conversation with the Majority Leader about that, and we indicated, look, we want to get this work done and it is a political season and people will read politics into just about anything anyone does from now until the election, but the President wanted the Senate Majority Leader to know that he is serious about sitting down, going to work and getting this balanced budget deal done if it's possible.

It may end up not being possible and Senator Dole, I think, in fairness to him, said that he would think about that and he wanted to talk to some of his folks on the Hill. And that made perfect sense to the President.

Q So are you going to wait for Dole to call you back, or what?

MR. MCCURRY: They agreed that they would be in contact again at a future time; they didn't say when and we'll just have to see how that develops. We hope that the Republican leadership in the Congress will come together, realize that they can sit down with this President and do what we just did on this '96 appropriations bill, which is to come to a good bipartisan agreement that is in everybody's interest. And it certainly would be in the interest of the American people and the American economy to get a date certain for a balanced budget. The President believes we can do that, we can set aside some of the larger philosophical disagreements and debate those later on in the fall, but we can do right now what the American people would like to see the Congress and the President do, which is to balance the budget by a date certain.

Q Mike, it's not clear to me how you can say that disagreement is an example of how Republicans and Democrats can work together when it comes seven months into the fiscal year.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I said earlier in the day, I said this is not a happy story about how the Congress attends to its duties to appropriate and write a budget.

Q You said it was abysmal.

MR. MCCURRY: It was an abysmal, I believe I said earlier -- (laughter.) I said this is an abysmally sad story about the process of writing a budget. We are seven months into a fiscal year. We're at a point where we ought to be making some serious headway on the 1997 budget, and we are here just barely finishing the 1996 budget, seven months late. That doesn't say much for the management of this Congress by the new Republican managers in our opinion.

Q Well, isn't it an example of exactly how not to go about getting the budget agreement?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the long process is certainly an example of how not to write a budget, but the agreement of the last several days to sit down and get the work done at long last is at least some small glimmer of hope.

Q Sources on the Hill said that there is some stickiness over the language in the final agreement and that the White House is having some problems with that. What kind of problems are you having?

MR. MCCURRY: I have not checked specifically. I imagine it has to do with the Tongass issue. There is some desire I would imagine by Senator Stevens to get more clarity on exactly what type of economic assistance would be available if they don't allow additional timber cutting. And I suspect that is the issue that's being addressed. I'll have to check with our folks who are working on the legislation language. I haven't heard of anything that would present a last-minute barrier. Of course, we don't believe that will happen, but we'll have to watch and see how the House and the Senate deal with any legislation language changes of that nature.

Q Also, Senators Chafee and Breaux unveiled their seven-year budget plan earlier today in a floor statement. Do you have any plans to meet with them or --

MR. MCCURRY: The President is very keen, as he indicated yesterday, in talking to those moderate bipartisan members of the Congress that want to get together on this goal of a balanced budget. And certainly all throughout last fall and in the winter and earlier this spring we have been working very closely with Senator Breaux, very interested in the ideas of Senator Chafee, and I would not rule out the possibility the President would want to sit down with them sometime very soon and really go through that package and see what elements are in there that could form the basis of a bipartisan compromise.

We've got to get this worked out. We'd prefer to do it with Senator Dole. If he's not available for whatever reason, we'll sit down with those moderate members of the House and the Senate that do want to get this work done and see if we can get a majority.

Q So if Dole doesn't come back to you and say, yes, I'd love to sit down with you, then you'll set up an independent meeting --

MR. MCCURRY: If Senator Dole ends up, for whatever reason, having to walk away from the effort to get a balanced budget we'll move ahead and try to work with those who want to get the work done.

Q Mike, isn't today's Republican vote in the House going to be rather crucial as to whether Senator Dole will engage you? If you only have, let's say, 60 percent of the Republicans in the House voting for this budget today, Senator Dole might be less likely to work with you guys than if 80 percent of the Republicans vote. Does the White House see the size of today's Republican vote in the House as rather important?

MR. MCCURRY: I believe Senator Dole is far more astute when it comes to analyzing the dynamic in the Republican caucus in the House than we are. I suspect he is looking at that. What the impact will be I don't know. I know that if there are a significant number of defections on the Republican side in the House it will make all the more important the need to work together, Republicans and Democrats who want to get some things done, working together towards the goals they share, because if there is an extreme faction in the House that just won't go along with anything that makes sense and represents common ground, we'll have to deal with that and put together the type of coalition that will pass legislation in the best interests of the country.

Q But if you have sizable defections among Republicans today on the '96 bill, isn't that going to make it that much more difficult to get bipartisan compromise on the seven-year balanced budget deal?

MR. MCCURRY: I hope not. It's hard for us to make that judgment. It might, frankly, encourage some members on the opposite side of the political spectrum to join together and work harder towards the goal of a balanced budget. So it's very hard to predict. We would hope that given the important work that got done here at the White House during those long sessions in the Oval Office when the Republican leaders and the Democratic leaders and the President got together to work this issue that we would not lose the opportunity to put that into a form now that could get bipartisan support and final passage. That's what the President believes we need to do. We need to go back to that work, take a look at that $700 billion worth of savings and see if we can't get that together and get it passed and do it building on the momentum of getting this agreement on a '96 appropriations bill.

Q Mike, how does the White House view the situation in the Middle East now?

MR. MCCURRY: We view the situation in the Middle East through the eyes of our very capable Secretary of State who is in a very painstaking way trying to get all the parties in the region to come together on an American proposal to bring an end to the fighting in south Lebanon and then turn more urgently to the question of how we address the need for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace agreement that would bring a final measure of peace to Arab and Jew in that troubled region.

Q About the deposition on Sunday, could you talk -- are you prepared to talk a little bit about how it's going to work and also what the White House wants to happen to the tape after it's aired in court?

MR. MCCURRY: There's going to be -- there will be some final arrangements that are still under negotiation by lawyers and the court, and we'll be in a better position to tell you procedurally how it will work tomorrow.

As to the question of -- the President's testifying in this case, as he made clear he would be willing to do, and we believe his testimony ought to be available to the public. It should not be misused by those who would try to take political advantage of the President's appearance because he's coming forward in good faith to deliver the truth. And our view is that as to coverage or reporting on his testimony, he ought to be treated like the other witnesses who have appeared in the trial.

Q No, I'm talking -- but when you say you want it to be available, in what ways?

MR. MCCURRY: Just in the proper way at the proper time, it ought to be available for public review.

Q That means broadcast?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I did not say broadcast.

Q If you could just be specific about --

MR. MCCURRY: We believe that someone, some proper authority ought to retain custody of the document. But, look, this is, as the judge ordered yesterday, will be argued out in briefs that will be submitted to the court. Our view is that this is not a televised trial and the President's testimony, therefore, ought not to be televised.

Q If Peres does come this weekend, when will he meet with the President and what will be on the agenda for their talk?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, our understanding is, unless his plans change for the perfectly legitimate reasons that there are things going on at home he might need to address, if his plans do not change he would be here in Washington on Sunday. He plans to meet with Secretary of Defense Perry. The President would then plan to see him Sunday evening when they together appear at the AIPAC dinner. And then the President and the Prime Minister do plan to get together on Tuesday, I believe, for lunch.

Q Then how important is this meeting viewed in light of what's going on in Lebanon?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the important work in discussions about the current situation in Lebanon have been those that have been current between the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister, the President of Syria and key Lebanese leaders. And the Secretary of State is very actively engaged in that. The President's been certainly amplifying the Secretary's message and reconfirming the importance the United States attaches to a cease-fire and to a set of agreements that will bring the fighting to an end. He did so in his meeting with the President of Lebanon and certainly would do so in a meeting with Prime Minister Peres.

Q Mike, do you have any reaction to these reports coming out of Bosnia about the Iranians training Bosnians to kill political rivals?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are concerned about those reports. They would appear to us, if true, to be in violation of aspects of the Dayton Peace Accords and we would intend to raise that issue very directly, promptly and candidly with the government of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Q Do you have any proof at all? I mean, is it a wild rumor or is it true?

MR. MCCURRY: We are aware of the reports, but to my knowledge do not have any complete confirmation of some of some of the things that have been reported.

Q Mike, the White House has had various communiques from the Paraguay issue; I think you had another one last night. The reports coming out of there indicate the situation is still confusing. General Ovieda -- we don't know if he is the new Minister of Defense or what. The President seems to be out of the capital. What do you know about Paraguay?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, you know that is a very -- as you say, a very confused situation. We fully and emphatically support President Wasmosy's decision not to offer the position of Minister of Defense to General Ovieda. That decision clearly falls within the prerogative of the President. And the United States joins all democratic peoples and governments in praising President Wasmosy for the courage he has displayed in dealing with this attempt to subvert a constitutional rule.

Q Mike, what, if any, are the White House concerns about this sudden dramatic increase in gasoline prices? What do you think is the cause of it? What effect might it have on inflation?

MR. MCCURRY: I would have to defer that question to Dr. Stiglitz. I've seen some discussion of that in some of the paperwork that the CEA has looked at. There seem to be different explanations and seasonal explanations.

There also seems to be, as you know, we have been watching very carefully the talks in the United Nations on [unclear] oil sales, and there seems to be some market reaction to those discussions. Because we're dealing with a volatile commodities market, I don't have a lot to say about fluctuations that occur day to day, but as best we can, we'll see if the CEA has any further analysis they can show.

Q Again, do you think there's a threat to inflation because of this?

MR. MCCURRY: I would need to ask people at the Council of Economic Advisors to get a better assessment before I try to wing an answer.

Q Mike, has the President sent any message, directly or indirectly, to Assad?

MR. MCCURRY: He has asked the Secretary to convey some of his views from time to time, yes.

Q And?

MR. MCCURRY: And that's it.

Q Can you amplify at all?

MR. MCCURRY: No, I mean, there's obviously very sensitive and deliberate discussions underway and the Secretary has been briefing your colleagues as he sees proper after his meetings with President Assad.

Q Why have all the daughters disappeared from the briefing?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know. Bring them back on, in my opinion. Let them come up and answer some questions. They'd probably do a little better job than --

Q I was just wondering if they were bored.

Q They could probably do a better job?

Q There's a wire story about the President auctioning off a round of golf at Chelsea's --

MR. MCCURRY: For Sidwell Friends.

Q Yes. What's the idea with that? And how much do you think that's worth?

MR. MCCURRY: The President and the First Lady are very supportive of Chelsea's educational institution, and I believe in the listing of the catalog for the coming auction of Sidwell Friends, it is described as a "priceless opportunity." (Laughter.) Now, those who have had an opportunity to play golf with President Bill Clinton might disagree with that evaluation.

Q Two and a half million dollars?

Q Can Southeby's auction it?

Q Is money involved? Big money?

MR. MCCURRY: They're raising money for Sidwell Friends, it's a charity auction on behalf of the school.

Q Is there a warning about how long it takes? (Laughter.)

Q -- prices on them?

MR. MCCURRY: You would have to contact the school. I don't know what their rules are.

Q Mike, apparently Ray Flynn, the Ambassador to the Vatican is a little bit off the script on the abortion -- the RNC is making this available to us so we know what he said yesterday. Can you tell us whether the President still has faith in Ray Flynn's ambassadorial appointment to the Vatican?

MR. MCCURRY: The President has long known Ambassador Flynn's views on the subject of choice, and they clearly have not changed. (Laughter.)

Q Does he have faith in him as Ambassador?

MR. MCCURRY: He's done a superior job of doing something that the President considers very important, which is maintain an active dialogue with the Vatican. Vatican diplomats are among the most skilled in the world, and that's the reason why we have a very high-ranking U.S. Ambassador there, to maintain an active dialogue with them. And because the White House has worked very closely, in our opinion, with the American Catholic community on issues of social justice, on helping the dispossessed, on dealing with problems of poverty and welfare and so many issues that the American Catholic Church has been concerned about, it's very proper for us to have a close and active dialogue with the Vatican with an ambassador who is very well-respected at the Vatican.

Q Has the President talked to Flynn?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't believe -- not to my knowledge, he has.

Q Does he plan to?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't see any need to. Ambassador Flynn's views, as I say, on the subject of abortion are very well-known, and were known at the time that he was confirmed and are not surprising in light of his record on the issue.

Q Mike, at the time of the President's decision on the veto, and since, the White House made clear his correspondence with bishops, outreach on behalf of him by other members of the administration. Has he since scheduled any other meetings, discussions, encounters with Catholic laity or --

MR. MCCURRY: He, because he has been out of the country, has not had the opportunity to do that. Now, our Public Liaison Office has had that type of dialogue; it is an important one to the White House because we respect the opinions of the bishops, the cardinals who, as a matter of faith and a matter of conscious, have addressed this very divisive issue in a way that they feel is appropriate. And we understand their deep, moral concern about the issue, and the President's very respectful of those views and will continue to maintain an active dialogue not only with the clergy, but with the laity as well on all the range of issues that the President deals with.

As I say, as you look at the broad expanse of those things in which the American Catholic Church, the Catholic Conference, or even the Vatican itself through the Encyclicals of the Pope have addressed themselves as matters of moral urgency, this White House, this President has worked very closely in tandem with those views. There is an issue -- the issue of choice for the women of America -- upon which there is a profound disagreement, but it is one that I believe many Americans understand and many Americans have wrestled with as a matter of their own personal conscience.

Q Mike, is the President satisfied that Yeltsin has pressed China on the nuclear testing issue as he promised?

MR. MCCURRY: The communiques that we have seen from the bilateral meetings that the President has had with leaders in Beijing indicate that the issue has been addressed. There has been some movement, but we will await a much more thorough briefing on the meetings, and we expect to have contacts, as we routinely would, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to get a better understanding of the nature of their discussions.

Q What do you mean movement?

MR. MCCURRY: That's something -- if you look at the communiques that have been issued as a result of the Yeltsin-Jiang Zemin meetings, they have addressed this issue and addressed it in a way that we hope will further the goal of achieving a comprehensive test ban.

Q Mike, can you confirm British news reports that say the President will sever his ties with Gerry Adams if there is no --if the IRA does not reestablish its cease-fire?

MR. MCCURRY: To the contrary, I can dispute those accounts. We maintain an active dialogue with the parties. We welcome the decision by Sinn Fein to participate in the May elections, and we feel and hope and will continue to urge that they move towards a cease-fire, which would allow them to participate in the all-party talks in June.

Q If there is no cease-fire, then the President would not want the --

MR. MCCURRY: We will continue to work aggressively and deliberately and fairly to promote the interests of peace in Northern Ireland. But as to the specific account of a rupture of relations, I would dispute that account.

Q On the balanced budget, why would the President prefer a one-on-one meeting with Senator Dole when only two days ago out in the Rose Garden he was making a case for needing a broader representation --

MR. MCCURRY: We want to get the job done. The President offered, said, look, if we -- let's get this job done; let's balance the budget now; let's get the people together who want to do it. Senator Breaux, Senator Chafee, Senator Daschle in the House, those Democrats who have worked together as part of the conservative Democratic coalition -- let's bring those together who want to balance the budget and get the job done.

We then, maybe in response to what the President said, Senator Dole said, look, I want to do it, too, and I'm willing to sit down and get the job done. The President said, fine, let's go. You know, the door's open, let's sit down and go to work, roll up our sleeves. So it can happen -- whatever way it happens, the President wants to make sure we get that job done for the American people.

Q So what do you tell the average American who asks why it takes seven months to do something like that?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, look, the American people, they have an intuitive sense of how best to sort out the political affairs of this country. And the American people know they elected a Republican Congress in 1994, and they knew they had a Democratic president. And they know that it's hard sometimes to get things done in Washington. But what they want to see is the kind of work that we've begun in the last several days where Republican and Democrat, where Congress and President sit down together and get the work done.

And the President is urgently appealing to the Republican leadership of Congress to do exactly that when it comes to balancing the budget, when it comes to raising the minimum wage, when it comes to protecting the health security, the wage security, the retirement income security of the American people. We can make progress on these issues because there's such widespread agreement.

And I think the American people get frustrated when they know everyone who's got any common sense knows what needs to be done, but they see the process hijacked by the extreme factions on either side of the aisle. They want to see that common ground protected and progress made on those issues. And that's what the President and the Congress have been able to do now in terms of the '96 budget and that's what the President fervently hopes we can do with respect to a balanced budget agreement.

Q Mike, for the last couple or three years the President has said repeatedly that he believes that President Assad of Syria has made these strategic decisions to move toward peace. In light of developments of the last several weeks, does the President still have this unshaken faith in the commitment of President Assad to a peaceful process to resolve issues there or would he like some evidence of that?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the reports from the Secretary of State both publicly and privately have indicated that the parties in the region including Syria remain committed to achieving a cease-fire as it relates to south Lebanon and achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace. That said, this President has never believed that achieving that type of peace would be anything but difficult, painstaking, time-consuming process. But we do want to see progress made towards that goal, and the President believes that the parties need to do it as some matter of urgency and should do it now.

Q Mike, to follow up on Leo's question, what specific steps or statements or actions have you seen from Assad since this latest episode started across the border there that would verify that he still is committed to overall peace?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, he's had very intense hours and hours-long conversations with the United States Secretary of State. And in those conversations, they've addressed directly and urgently the need for a cease-fire in south Lebanon. But that perhaps, in ways that are easier to analyze, may be related to the larger goal of a comprehensive peace in the region.

Q But why is the cease-fire so elusive? And there is a report that the Secretary is only working for a cease-fire against civilians rather than a real cease-fire.

MR. MCCURRY: No, I don't want to comment on the Secretary's deliberations because I believe it's accurate to say there at a fairly sensitive state. But it is taking time and proving difficult to get this agreement because they are looking at getting something with some measure of precision. When you take oral understandings, as we had in 1993, and attempt to codify them in writing, as the Secretary is now doing, that can be a very difficult, precise, time consuming process. And it's understandable, I believe, that it is taking some time, but it is fortunate that we have someone with the skill and the patience and the overall lawyer-like ability of the Secretary of State in accomplishing those objectives.

Q Thank you.

MR. MCCURRY: Goodbye, daughters. Thank you for being with us today. It's nice to have you here.

END 1:40 P.M. EDT