THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY The Briefing Room
1:15 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Any other subjects on your wish list?
Q Yes, Secretary Albright skirted the question this morning on reports that the U.S. would like to offer Karadzic safe haven in a third country. Can you talk about that? And you said this morning that you want to see him tried. We know you want to see him tried. Everybody wants to see him tried. But are you looking for ways to get him out of that area so that he stops pulling strings?
MR. MCCURRY: Secretary Albright made no such offer of safe haven for Mr. Karadzic. Our position on war criminals, including Karadzic, remains unchanged: No exile for them, no amnesty, only a fair trial at the Hague in front of the international war crimes tribunal.
That said, we recognize that we have an obligation to make the work of the tribunal more effective, and we've been considering options to do that and indeed exploring options with our allies with respect to that.
Q What are we actually doing to try to bring this man to justice?
MR. MCCURRY: We are working with our allies and discussing ways in which we can make the war crimes tribunal more effective, obviously, given what is the reality of the situation we face with Karadzic and with other indicted criminals. Each situation is different. We've had some success in apprehending those who are under indictment.
Q Was there ever any training going on in Europe for possible missions. The Defense Department has -- the Pentagon has said that there are none now. Are there -- have any plans ever been discussed to do snatch missions?
MR. MCCURRY: You would have to ask the Pentagon. I can repeat the specific denial they released with respect to the news report last night, but as to what the past pattern of training and contingency planning has been, I should refer that either to the Pentagon or to NATO authorities.
Q Has the White House ever considered a military option or using --
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to speculate on what may or may not have been considered.
Q But, Mike, I'm not asking about speculation; I'm asking in discussions in the administration have you ever talked about it?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm going to decline comment on what we may or may not have had under consideration. It's not a wise practice.
Q Mike, I know you touched on this before but there are more persistent complaints today that it's union political support for the President that is making him reluctant, at least that's a factor as to why he is not becoming involved or more involved in the UPS Teamsters strike.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, that is not true. There's a statutory standard in law that would allow the President to invoke back-to-work proceedings under the Taft-Hartley Act. Those are rarely invoked. They've not been invoked by a president since President Carter did so in 1978, and it is a very specific statutory authority. As a general premise, we take the view that government should not step in and resolve labor-management disputes, that they ought to be resolved by the parties through collective bargaining.
That's why we have federal labor law that protects collective bargaining. And it's curious some of those calling upon the President to act are usually the first to decry government intrusion in the marketplace. Why don't we let the labor markets work here and let the collective bargaining process protected by federal law take its due course. And we believe through the efforts we're making to try to get the parties to resume dialogue, hopefully, they will amicably resolve their dispute.
Q Do you have any indication that Secretary Herman's efforts are bearing any fruit?
MR. MCCURRY: We have a lot of confidence in Secretary of Labor Herman, and she's working hard on it.
Q That's not exactly what I asked.
MR. MCCURRY: I know. That's exactly what I answered. (Laughter.)
Q When the President goes on vacation for three weeks, how will he keep up to speed on things like the UPS strike? And will he be working on things like the tobacco settlement or other issues, or is he really going to be off?
MR. MCCURRY: He's planning a vacation. We have all the customary facilities in place to get him briefings as needed on matters that require his attendance. But he will be on vacation. He, clearly, if the strike is still underway, will be following that closely and getting updates as necessary on that situation, although we would, for many different reasons, want to see if we couldn't make progress in resolving their differences even before then.
Q Is he going to get a briefing every morning as he does here, or not necessarily?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll get briefed as needed by the skeleton staff that will be with him. Anyone who's planning to be in that neighborhood anticipating briefings or news, you will be disappointed. You should plan for recreation, swimming, nice lobster dinners -- all those things that I know your organizations will be happy to expense for you. (Laughter.)
Q Does he get a national security briefing every single day of the year?
MR. MCCURRY: He has access to national security information whenever he needs it.
Q Mike, there's a report released that the United States wants to elevate the importance of the role of this three-way panel to determine security matters and particularly whether the Palestinians are doing enough to stop bombings and so forth. Can you confirm that?
MR. MCCURRY: I can confirm that Ambassador Ross has had good conversations with both the Palestinian Authority and the government of Israel about security cooperation. That's led to a number of meetings, including meetings that he's already held today with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I believe he's seeing Chairman Arafat later today or maybe even as we speak.
We are interested in a procedural mechanism that will help the parties investigate acts of terror that have been suffered by the people of the region and also prevent future acts of terror. And the United States is willing to play a proper role through proper authorities in our government as part of that procedural mechanism.
Q Just for the heck of it, would it be useful for U.S. intelligence to have a role in that, because it would be seen as a more nonpartisan --
MR. MCCURRY: It's always useful for people who have got expertise and knowledge in our government to properly take a role.
Q There has been a congressional delegation in North Korea and they've come out saying that there is some concern that some of the food aid is not getting to people, it's going to the military. Is the White House in touch with that congressional delegation, have you been advised by them? And do you have more concerns, given this current situation that seems to be coming -- the information now coming out of North Korea?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have been for quite some time, even prior to the arrival of this delegation, concerned about the humanitarian situation in North Korea that's led to I think over $50 million worth of contributions we've made to the World Food program, which is the qualified international organization that distributes that food within North Korea.
They do very hard work, sometimes under difficult circumstances, to assure that that assistance goes to those citizens who are suffering. And it would be contrary to the wishes of the international community and the program itself to see any diversion of that to satisfy only one segment of the population -- the military, for example.
We will be interested in a report of the congressional delegation and learning more about what they've seen. They've had some access that will be useful I think as we understand more of what's happening in a society that is very difficult at times to penetrate.
Q Secretary Albright is meeting with Defense Minister from Chile today to discuss arms sale to Chile. Some publications in Latin America have written that the United States is offering arms instead of trade. Do you think that the President would be in condition to offer trade when he next traveled to Latin America and how much will he be personally involved in the campaign for fast track?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, since the President has already identified fast track authority and trade as one of his top priorities for the fall, we could specifically dispute that account. We see no correlation between those two. We see a desire on the part of the United States to support and nurture the transformation to democracy that's occurring and the deepening of civilian control of what were previously authoritarian military regimes.
But that, in a broad sense, is assisted by free trade and open commerce between nations. But the President's priority, as he's already publicly indicated, will be in gaining fast-track authority. He will be personally involved; the stakes are too large for the United States not to be involved as we see our competitors in the world take advantage of growing market opportunities in Latin America. And the President, of course, himself will personally visit the region much for that reason.
Q Back on Bosnia for a second. The President has said in the past that he was interested in a proposal for a multinational police force that would somehow be attached to the war crimes tribunal. Does that proposal remain under discussion. What is the status of that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we've had a team including Ambassador Gelbard and Ambassador Holbrooke there recently and they've had additional conversations with our allies. We are looking at a number of options on how to improve the effectiveness of the war crimes tribunal and make good on some of the obligations that parties themselves have under the Dayton Accords.
First and foremost, is the obligation of the three parties who participate in the Dayton process to fulfill their obligations, and they pledged specifically to have a role in the apprehension of those who should be properly prosecuted for war crimes.
Q There are some reports from London today, from the BBC and the London Times, there are some sort of secret talks between two parliamentarians and the Libyan government concerning Lockerbie. The two parliamentarians were Sir David Steele (phonetic) and Cyril Thompson. They were accompanied by Mr. Sawyer, a father of one of the victims in Lockerbie. Currently, the Libyan, according to the Times and the BBC, are making a new proposal to solve the Lockerbie question. Their proposals are to deliver these two suspects to a third Arab country and let the Arab League negotiate with the United States and Britain about the where and when to take them to court.
MR. MCCURRY: There have been almost religiously and periodically over the last several years, periodic accounts of overtures being made, either by the Libyan government or by Muammar Qadhafi or people presumably acting in concert with him. We have always said and have stood fast with the government of the United Kingdom in saying that will not satisfy the obligations Libya has under U.N. Security Council resolutions to deliver the two suspects for trial properly for the murders occurred on the Pan Am 103 flight to the United Kingdom or to the United States. That remains the position of the United States government. So far as I know, it remains the position of the government of the U.K.
Q So you are adverse to deliver -- for them to be delivered to a third Arab country and withholding any --
MR. MCCURRY: I think the policy of our government is that if that is in fact their mission, and I don't have any specific information on the report you cite, that it is a fool's errand.
Q Mike, has a set date for the Clinton-Jiang bilateral come out of Sandy Berger's meetings, or is it still just some time in October?
MR. MCCURRY: There has been not a specific announcement, to my knowledge. We've said in general, we're looking forward to the state visit in late October.
Q Tax experts are already talking about ways that tax cut provisions can be designed in the future to avoid the Joint Committee on Taxation hit list? If that's the case, how effective can the line item veto be in the future for limited tax --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, if people are paying extraordinary sums of money to tax lawyers who try to figure out how they can protect themselves from the President's line item veto, that's at least some sign that it's working to have a positive effect, because that would be a deterrent and their activities, of course, would become among those that reach the light of day as the legislative process unfolds.
Q Thank you.
MR. MCCURRY: Thank you, Helen.
END 1:30 P.M. EDT