THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Little Rock, Arkansas) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 1, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
Filing Center Robinson Center Little Rock, Arkansas
2:29 P.M. CDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There's not a lot more I can tell you about his calls. Obviously, I came close to confirming he talked to Major, that's no surprise. He's reached out for Chirac, he might be in touch there. He's placing some other calls to Arab leaders, but I really have to refrain from talking to them. I think as a logical matter you can probably put two and two together.
A lot of you are reporting that Shali and Pelletreau have been in Saudi Arabia. If the President were to call King Fahd, that wouldn't be a surprise; if he were to call King Hussein, that wouldn't be a surprise. There are others in the region who have got some influence who he might have had contact with. I think all of you know the way in which we see President Mubarek as someone that has a great deal of influence in the region. I'm dropping a lot of hints there, not confirming anything on background.
Q Have the Jordanians given any indication they'd be willing to allow U.S. planes to --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not going to get into the detail of any of those conversations on the record or on background.
Q What sort of contact are we having with Turkey and how does our relationship with Turkey complicate this?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Our contact with the government of Turkey is extensive. I don't know the degree to which some of our emissaries in the region have been in contact, but they've certainly been through the embassy, high level contact.
Despite the change of government, you all know that we've said repeatedly in recent weeks that we continue to enjoy very close cooperation with them not only on NATO-related matters, because they're a NATO ally, but also on matters related to Provide Comfort and some of the common concerns we have about North Iraq. Those contacts continue, we appreciate the close consultations we have with the government.
Q Might it be likely that we would be talking to Iran through Germany, as well?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not going to speculate on the that. I'm not aware that he's placed a call to Chancellor Kohl. There have been others who have been making some calls. I know that we've had at least some contact at some level with the German government.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That's what I just answered.
Q Is U.S. made -- or would it try to make, either through public discourse or private channels, some kind of warning to Iran not to get engaged here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, let me make it clear. The level of activity we've seen from Iran in support of the PUK, while there are some indications of ties and while there are some signs that Talabani has had some ties from time to time, it's not an extensive support relationship, this is not a client. The PUK, I don't think you'd accurately call a client operation of Iran there. But there have been some pattern of activity that suggests a relationship there. It is, in any event, not any acceptable explanation for what Saddam has tried to do here.
Q Yes, I understand that. But how would the U.S. react to a stepped-up Iranian --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are some people trying to report that story, there's just no indication that that's going on here. As near as we can tell, there's no sign that Iran has stepped-up any interest in the situation or is trying to exploit the current matter. They seem to be watching it probably circumspectly from the side right now.
Q Well, what about some of the charges by one of the Kurdish factions that the Iranians had actually crossed the border previously, albeit small groups, but that they were stirring things up?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This is charge, counter-charge going on between Barzani and Talabani and a lot of what they're saying is not true and some of it's designed to further the friction between the two groups, frankly.
Q What about Talabani, I mean, his suggestion that there's been so much made aircraft violating the zone. You said there's no evidence of that, I mean, is he just making this stuff up? What is the basis?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We've got significant resources in the region and we think we would know it if it were happening, and we don't see anything that it indicates that it is happening. But, again, you know, he's there and that's what he's alleging.
Q To what extent should we look for action sooner rather than later on behalf of the allies? Any idea on -- nothing today?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not going to speculate a matter of hours, a matter of days, a matter of weeks, a matter of months. I'm not going to speculate.
Q There was a question put to Leon Panetta this morning about politics. Has the campaign -- have the President's political advisors in any way been consulted or involved in what's going on here?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That would not -- that should not, cannot and would not happen. The President has to attend to his responsibilities with the national security interest to the United States firmly in mind.
I can tell you I haven't even spoken to my campaign counterpart here on the subject. I haven't given him any detailed information on this matter. I sort of said, I've got to go in and tell these guys about Iraq.
Q Isn't there already some -- or are you just in the process of putting up some structure to brief Dole as a routine matter?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think at some appropriate point, Mr. Lake indicated to me earlier today he would certainly reach out and try to provide a briefing on matters related to foreign policy. Some discussions we've had already, we have found that Senator McCain is a very good contact point there. I'm not sure what kind of channel we would use for that, but we would honor and respect whatever requests we got from the Dole campaign.
Q But would what's going on in Iraq right now is the kind of thing where Tony Lake could pick up the phone and call the Senator?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President has already directed him, prior to Dole's acceptance of the nomination, to be in a position to provide Senator Dole directly any information he needs. Given the nature of the information we provide, it is not likely he would pick up the telephone and call, for obvious reasons.
Q We're reinforcing -- as I understood the latest from the Pentagon it was that no actual hardware has moved, just preparations for that. Has any actual hardware moved yet?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: My impression, based on some of the conversations I've had, is that it is at least in the process of moving. But you ought to check with Bradley and with some of your colleagues on that, because the Pentagon has been pretty forthcoming, I am hearing, on what they've got underway in terms of just how they're dealing in the region. And I don't know how -- I don't know what level of detail they're giving, but I think they're describing the force posture pretty clearly to people who understand it certainly better than I do.
And I think the key thing that they were going to get into today was an AEF deployment. So you may want to find out more about that.
END 2:36 P.M. EDT