THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER AND SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TO THE PRESIDENT AND SECRETARY OF STATE'S
FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DAYTON PEACE ACCORDS ROBERT GELBARD
The Briefing Room
10:53 A.M. EST
MS. LUZZATTO: We'll have a briefing now from the President's National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, and from Bob Gelbard, the President's Special Advisor and Secretary of State's for the Implementation of Dayton for Bosnia.
MR. BERGER: I'm not going to make another statement. I do feel a little bit like we are the Allen and Rossi of this show. You may remember that Allen and Rossi was the act that followed the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in the early 1960s -- small piece of trivia.
Q You're dating yourself.
MR. BERGER: If you're too young, ask Wolf. (Laughter.)
Q Sandy, how likely is it the Europeans are going to go along with the benchmarks outlined by the President? Any indication of how they might feel about --
MR. BERGER: I think that there is a general consensus that we ought to define as clearly as we can the objectives that we need to meet to make this peace self-sustaining and we ought to review that on a regular basis. The statement that came out of the NAC meeting on Tuesday speaks of six-month reviews and that we ought to evaluate on a six-month basis how we are doing in meeting those objectives, rather than setting a specific deadline.
Q What is manageable cost? Have you guys set a cap for that? How much are you willing to ask the Congress to pay for this?
MR. BERGER: I think you have to start with mission; then you go to force size; and then you go to cost -- as opposed to the other way around. Obviously, the most important thing is defining clearly what the mission is for this period. That then determines by the military planners what the force size is. The composition of that force is something we'll be discussing among the Europeans. And that then will take you to the cost.
Obviously, there will be significant costs associated with this on an annual basis, but I think those costs have to be associated with the costs of not getting the job done. We were spending an enormous amount of money enforcing sanctions against Bosnia. We were spending an enormous amount of money air-dropping food from Aviano into Bosnia. And we would certainly be spending an enormous amount of money if that were resumed and we were drawn back in, not as peacekeepers, but as warmakers.
Q Sandy, what about refugees? By your figures --
MR. BERGER: Bob, if you want, at any point, just kick me.
Q By your figures, about 350,000 out of some 2 million displaced persons have returned home. How hard is it to get the rest of those people back to their homes, and how important is that as a part of what you need to do in the follow-on force?
MR. BERGER: Let me take the first crack and ask Ambassador Gelbard to answer it. Refugee returns is an important part of Dayton; it's an important objective. As the President noted, about 350,000 have returned. We have established -- we, the international community -- an orderly refugee return policy in a way that seeks to manage these returns so that the international resources can be brought to bear in a way that helps relocate or locate these people with as much economic and other support as possible.
I think it will continue to be an important area in the coming year, and we hope to expand this program of orderly returns. We have a program called Open Cities program, where local mayors and civic local leaders have agreed that they want to bring back minorities, and we'll try to expand that.
Let me just ask Bob to fill in what I've left off.
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: What is very clear is that there has been an increase in the trend for returns over the last year, as the peace has sunk in, as there has been more job opportunities, economic reconstruction taking place, particularly in the Federation. We have now begun to see the first examples of minority refugee returns in the Republic of Srbska. And there are communities which, based on arrangements with the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, supported by us, or the U.S. government working alone or working with the communities to make, as Sandy says, the process of managed returns the way we want to proceed.
But what we expect, based on increased prosperity -- GDP going up in the Federation by 60 percent this year, for example -- we feel that with increased job creation, more opportunity, a lot more people will be coming back. But at the same time, it's very clear that refugees in a number of European countries where there are large numbers, such as Austria, are being permitted to stay. And a lot of them do ultimately want to stay in those countries.
Q So how many are left in the country that you need to move back? And I gather you're saying that the pace will pick up, but at the pace you've been going it would take several years to get people back to their homes.
MR. BERGER: Well, it's not clear, as Bob indicates, that all refugees seek to return, but we would expect a very large number next year. As I say, there have been 350,000 of 2 million, and I would expect that number to be no less next year.
Q When you say, Sandy, that there will be a significant cost on an annual basis, can you give us a ballpark? You must have some sort of estimate --
MR. BERGER: No, there can't be any estimate that's reliable at this point until we know exactly what the force size is, what percentage of that force size the Americans will bear. We were about a third of the IFOR mission. We are about 20 percent of the SFOR mission. So it's not clear what percentage of the overall force we will be. So I don't want to be in a situation where I give you an estimate that is not based on --
Q Is it fair to say it's hundreds of millions of dollars, or billions of dollar?
MR. BERGER: I think it's fair to say there will be a significant cost associated with it, but I can't give you an estimate.
Q Sandy, what's the cost now on an annual basis for us being over there?
MR. BERGER: The military cost or the overall cost?
Q The military cost.
MR. BERGER: I would refer you to the Pentagon. I don't know the answer -- or we can get you the answer.
Q Sandy, it's your job to coordinate -- help the President coordinate different advice he gets from the military, from the State Department, and so forth. In the end, was there consensus on this, or did the President make a choice among conflicting opinions on this? And how much continuing debate is there within the administration about the proper force structure and force size?
MR. BERGER: The answer to your first question is that there was not only consensus, there was unanimity among his national security advisors with respect to the decision the President announced today. That includes everybody. Unanimity usually does.
And I think that all of us came to the conclusion that the President articulated earlier. That is, we have made substantial progress. Bosnia is a different place today than it was a year ago, than it was two years ago, certainly than it was two and a half years ago -- that we're headed in the right direction, but that it takes longer than we anticipated and it would be foolish for us to abandon the effort. And the ultimate objective here is a self-sustaining peace that does not require international participation.
I think everyone agreed to that; everyone agreed that there must be a follow-on force, there must be U.S. participation, there must be participation on the ground in Bosnia.
Now, the next set of questions, which is, what is the nature, shape, mission, dimension of a follow-on force, is one that we will be discussing over the next probably month and a half, among ourselves, with our NATO allies. There are a number of different options that NATO is studying for a different size force, different scope of mandate and mission and, therefore, some different costs. And we look at all those options and make a judgment on what we think makes the most sense.
Q Why did it take longer than anticipated -- and what I'm trying to get at is, what were the concrete goals during the period just ended and what factors militated against realization of those goals?
MR. BERGER: Well, the concrete goal is a self-sustaining peace. That is, a peace that will last in Bosnia after the international military presence is gone. I assume there will be an international presence in Bosnia after there's an international military presence. I think that on a number of things the President talked about -- for example, infrastructure has improved markedly. Economic activity is beginning to pick up. Joint institutions have been formed, but are still quite fragile --
Q Because? I'm really trying to find out what hasn't worked or what are the factors --
MR. BERGER: I don't think it's a question of what hasn't worked. I think it's a question of it takes time. It takes time after four and a half years of a very bloody internecine and, to some degree, international war -- because there was a Serb dimension of this as well -- for the habits of peace to take hold.
Q But was the original 18 months simply over-optimistic, or was it reasonable, but factors on the ground interfered with the process?
MR. BERGER: Well, first of all, we are, to some degree, operating here in uncharted waters. The United States does not have extensive experience in the peacemaking role. The Canadians, others have been involved in far more peacemaking ventures than we have.
I think back a year ago we made the best estimate of what we thought it would take to get to a point where this would not require some kind of continuing international security presence, to give both the international civil workers and the parties the confidence to keep going in security. I think we underestimated that. I think it's taken longer. So I think it's been -- the car has been moving, but it has been moving at 30 instead of at 50.
Q You're not saying that anybody was undermining the efforts.
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: If I could just add to that. With the breakup of Yugoslavia, Bosnia, for the first time in modern history, has become a country. And it's a country where there had not been a democracy before and they're now trying to establish democratic systems, democratic institutions for the first time. There had not been a free market economic system before. They are trying to develop those kinds of institutions.
The President talked before about police. They're trying to move from a traditional, top-down, repressive, totalitarian type of police institution to one that is more community-oriented and democraticallyoriented. But the development of the consolidation of these kinds of institutions, whether they're political or economic or social, particularly given the four and a half years of war, takes time. And trying to heal a country that's been fractured in this way does take some time.
Q How could anybody really have believed that it would only take a year or a year and a half to reach a stage where they didn't need help? I mean, I know it's past history now, but why was any assessment ever made that it could be done in such a short period?
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: Well, it does take time to develop and then get these institutions moving and functioning. But they are moving along. As I mentioned early --
Q My question is who came up with the initial assessment that all of this would only take a year?
MR. BERGER: It was a NATO judgment. All of the 16 NATO countries agreed to that assessment, not just the United States. You know, deadlines are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, deadlines provide a --
Q Selling point. (Laughter.)
MR. BERGER: No. That's more cynical than I know you mean to be, Helen. (Laughter.) Deadlines put pressure on the parties; they put pressure on our allies. I think in many ways Secretary Cohen, over the last year and a half, has been very effective in creating that pressure on our allies by saying we've got to get as much done in the next 18 months as we possibly can get done. So in that sense, deadlines are useful.
On the other hand, deadlines are artificial, and they are by definition things that you devise before the fact rather than at the fact. And you can underestimate how long something like this will take. I think the most important thing here to come back to though is, again, if we were not making progress, if we were not -- if we did not see the very realistic prospect of self-sustaining peace in the future, we would not, I think, feel it was worthwhile staying. It is because we do see that and we have seen the progress that we believe that it is important to finish the job.
Q If you folks acknowledge, as you plainly do, that you were wrong about the amount of time that it would take the first go-round, or the second go-round, and you now acknowledge that without a deadline there is less pressure than there otherwise would be, why shouldn't we believe critics who say this is a morass, they're not going to be able to get out, there is no exit strategy? What I'm saying is, why should we give you credibility when you say it's not a permanent fix and not believe your critics who say it is?
MR. BERGER: First of all, let's put this in perspective. I think people who often use the Vietnam analogy for the point you're making -- you know, Vietnam went from 10,000 to 30,000 to 100,000 to 200,000 to 300,000, okay. We started with 27,000, went down to 8,500 -- and I don't know what the force size will be. It certainly will not be larger than we have. We're talking about an important operation, but we're not talking about hundreds of thousands or even tens of thousands of American soldiers, number one. Number two, we're talking about a trajectory that is heading in the right direction in terms of America's ultimate departure.
I think the credibility comes from making your own judgment about whether or not things are better than they were, and whether they are headed in the right direction, and whether the achievement of a self-sustaining peace in Bosnia is possible. In my judgment, that is the case.
I think we need to have the discipline without deadlines of benchmarks, of reviews, of accountability of Congress, of accountability of the American people. We are not off on some unfettered lark here. There are plenty of institutions that will hold us accountable. One is the Congress; two is you; and three is the American people. And the standard to which we should be held is, are we making progress towards achieving a durable peace in Bosnia so that we can bring our forces down even further and ultimately withdraw them.
Q But, Sandy, you keep talking about it in terms of creating a self-sustaining peace in the long-term. What about the larger goal of Dayton of achieving true union and not partition? Can that be done without a much more robust mission than we have now?
MR. BERGER: When I say "self-sustaining peace," read that to mean self-sustaining peace within a unitary Bosnia. That doesn't mean a self-sustaining peace within a partitioned Bosnia. I think the President made this point earlier. Partition has a kind of easy sound to it, but it makes no sense, either morally or practically.
Morally, it's a ratification of aggression and ethnic cleansing. Practically, you've created one or more rump states surrounded by hostile forces. And if Bosnia's viability is difficult to establish, can you imagine the viability of a tiny Muslim state a third of the size of Bosnia? It doesn't make sense economically. It doesn't make sense politically. So self-sustaining peace of a unitary Bosnia, obviously with two relatively autonomous entities --there are other models in the world like that.
Q But what's the evidence that you're actually getting there?
MR. BERGER: Multiethnic entities.
Q What's the evidence that they're actually moving in that direction? And can you get there without a much more interventionist mission than --
MR. BERGER: I think there is plenty of evidence. Number one, you've had 24 months of peace. That's pretty good evidence. And it's not just because there is a soldier on every corner. The fact of the matter is the Bosnian people want peace. That is further reflected in polling that's been done in Bosnia by USIA and others, which look at the desires of the Bosnian people by ethnic group. They all want peace.
Number two, you've seen a restoration of a far more normal life -- heat, water, housing, electricity, economic activity picking up. Three, you've seen three elections that have taken place within Bosnia in the last two years, where participation has been broad-based, where people have been elected. The people obviously want to create their own institutions and have control over their own lives.
So I think there are a lot of objective criteria here that reflect the fact that we not only heading in the right direction, we've made a lot of progress.
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: To add to that, the joint institutions are developing. There are fundamental functioning institutions with the joint presidency, the parliament. The central bank is up and functioning. They have reached agreement now on rescheduling their commercial bank debts just this week and started paying them off.
We're seeing inter-entity commerce developing in ways that hadn't been before. People are working together in very different ways than had been the case two years ago or even a year ago. So, obviously, this takes time, particularly after the war.
But first, the idea of the single state of Bosnia has begun to take shape, with a single national budget, a single system of tariffs, institutions functioning. They reached a major milestone that got no publicity at all by destroying almost 7,000 heavy weapons on October 31, and there is now contact and liaison officers between the two armies; they're meeting regularly and tensions have moved downward. So gradually, the single state of Bosnia is taking shape in a strong way, even while the two entities called for under Dayton are also moving. But we continue to support the full implementation of the Dayton agreement.
Q Sandy, what cooperation does the U.S. government feel it's getting from President Milosevic of Serbia, and President Tudjman of Croatia? Do you think they're backing the Dayton Accords fully or --
MR. BERGER: Let me ask Ambassador Gelbard, who deals with those folks.
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: We've been getting a lot of cooperation from the Croatian government, particularly over the course of the last several months. And I think that was particularly manifested by the use of their influence to turn over 10 Bosnian Croats, based on negotiations that I had, to go to The Hague Tribunal. That was done on October 6th.
We've also seen them use their influence to try to get the Bosnian Croat population to participate much more as full actors in the implementation of Dayton, and we find that they have now begun to play a much more positive role than had been the case before. Meanwhile, by the way, they're also doing an excellent job in implementing the agreement on the turnover of Eastern Slovonia, which is expected to take place fully on January 15th, under a U.N. mandate.
With President Milosevic we've begun to see a bit of cooperation. I spent a lot of time talking to him, as I do with President Tudjman. And we've told him that if he expects the outer wall of sanctions that we have to be removed, or to have any effect ,there are a number of conditions, but prime among them is his cooperation to ensure full implementation of the Dayton agreement. We hope we're seeing some positive evidence of the use of his influence in the Republic of Srbska right now, after the assembly elections. And the proof will be in January, when we hope a new Dayton-oriented assembly or government will take office. But that will be one of the criteria on which we will judge Milosevic's cooperation with us.
Q Will the United States approve aid to the Serb Republic? And, secondly, should Europe contribute a larger share of money and troops to the follow-on force?
MR. BERGER: We are prepared in a very, very targeted way to provide aid in Srbska, and targeted in this way: Either targeted to communities that have manifested their desire to cooperate with Dayton, or targeted to projects which, in and of themselves, are pro-democracy, open media projects, et cetera.
So on a very, very targeted basis, we are prepared to do that. The second question is?
Q How much?
Q How much and should Europe contribute --
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: It's a small amount.
MR. BERGER: Two million dollars --
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: It's a very small percentage of our aid to the country.
MR. BERGER: But it's important here that people who are cooperating with Dayton, who see their larger future in terms of a united Bosnia that is connected to the international community, as opposed to seeing their future as isolated from Bosnia and isolated from the larger community feel that they have some support.
There was a second question here?
Q That was on, should Europe contribute a larger share of money and troops to the follow-on effort?
MR. BERGER: Well, we will be talking very intensely to our European allies about burden-sharing. It is a very important issue. They have contributed substantially; we hope they will contribute more.
Q Sandy, to follow up on that, there is a process in NATO now, combined joint task force, where the Europeans are supposed to be able to take missions on their own using U.S. assets. Now that this mission is shrinking, now that everyone is very familiar with the region and the operating, isn't this the perfect time and a perfect place to try this new concept within NATO?
MR. BERGER: Well, first of all, the European Security Defense Identity that you're referring to is about nine days old and I'm not sure quite yet ready to establish its running legs.
I think the fact of the matter is that we are the leader of NATO; this is a NATO-led operation; and I think the United States ought to lead. Number two, I think we've seen in Bosnia from the beginning that while the European contribution has been enormous and the sacrifice that the Europeans have made during the UNPROFOR days and since has been substantial, that American leadership has made a difference. America's leadership has made a difference when NATO used military power that contributed, I think very importantly, to Dayton, a peace process led by the United States, and that this force has had from the very beginning an American commander. And I don't think there's any question among the Europeans that they would like to see it continue to be commanded by Americans.
Q Sandy, last July when there was the British arrest of the war criminal, there was a lot of statements that this would be the start of a more robust approach towards tracking down war criminals, and that didn't seem to be the case until just recently. Why not? And secondly, was the Dutch arrest last night total coincidence, or was it in any way timed to today's announcement?
MR. BERGER: The Dutch arrest last night had nothing whatsoever to do with the President's announcement today, number one. Number two --
Q There was no discussion of it back and forth between the United States and NATO --
MR. BERGER: Of course, there was discussion; we participated.
Q -- that it would be useful to have this event take place now?
MR. BERGER: No. No. There was another part of your question.
Q The other part of that was in July there was an expectation this might be the start of a wave of arrests that didn't materialize --
MR. BERGER: The fact of the matter is that since July, in addition to Prijedor, there was the Gelbard 10 -- the Croatian 10 indicted war criminals that Bob spent an enormous amount of time and energy on securing their arrest and turning over to the Tribunal. And last night the Dutch operation. And we will continue to take opportunities that present themselves to bring these people to justice. And none of them by any means -- Karadzic on down -- should feel any sense of immunity, impunity, or safety.
Q Mr. Berger, on something of a different issue --
MR. BERGER: Bob just said the number in The Hague has tripled since July.
Q The President talked about the importance of the credibility of the media in Bosnia. With that in mind, could you give us your version of the phone call to the Voice of America on this interview with Mr. Wei -- why that should not be seen as pressure or trying to affect the credibility of the Voice of America?
MR. BERGER: There was no pressure on the Voice of America at all. It was implicit and explicit in the conversations that took place that this was their decision to make. The purpose of the call was to simply explain to them the larger context of the broadcast, both with respect to future releases of dissidents and otherwise. But there was no pressure brought to bear on VOA not to broadcast, and in fact they broadcast.
Q Is this a common practice, for the NSC to call the Voice of America and weigh in on issues?
MR. BERGER: I don't know the answer to that. I think it is a common practice for USIA to talk to -- I defer to others -- the State Department or other foreign policy people about the foreign policy context in which they make their decisions.
Q Sandy, just to follow on that for a second, USIA is a slight different issue. Did you ask them not to do it?
MR. BERGER: No.
Q Because you're muddling a little bit by saying --
MR. BERGER: No.
Q You didn't ask them not to broadcast; you just gave them -- what did you say to her?
MR. BERGER: The conversation -- I don't want to get into the conversation because it involves the context of how we hope that we may get other prisoners released. But it was a simple effort to make sure that they were aware of the context in which this was going forward. And it was explicit that this was their decision -- explicit.
Q You didn't tell them that you would prefer that they not broadcast --
MR. BERGER: It was explicit that this was their decision to make.
Q Sandy, could I just ask a question on a different subject for a second? On this LA Times story about the Jackson-Vanik Amendment and Vietnam -- is the President ready to take this step to improve relations with Vietnam?
MR. BERGER: We have had, first of all -- just a little bit of background -- we have had very full cooperation with Vietnam in the area of accounting for POW-MIAs. Their cooperation has been very solid, and on that basis the President has moved forward to normalization and to appointing our ambassador.
They also have had a solid record in implementing other immigration programs -- orderly departure programs. This is essentially for the screening of people who left Vietnam during the war and have been in refugee camps. They have put forward a plan for continuing and revising the screening program and improving it. Based on that, which we think is a sound one, we are consulting with Congress about the possibility of making a Jackson-Vanik waiver which would allow Ex-Im and OPIC and others similar programs to operate in Vietnam. And those consultations are ongoing now. If those consultations go well, I would expect that we would go forward.
Q On a totally unrelated matter, on Iraq, with Ambassador Butler presenting his report to the Security Council, how would you assess the current temperature as far as possible military confrontation between the United States and Iraq at this point?
MR. BERGER: Centigrade or Fahrenheit?
Q Either one.
MR. BERGER: Ambassador Butler will come back and make his presentation to the Security Council today. It is my understanding that he did not receive total satisfaction from the Iraqis on the question of whether or not UNSCOM would have access to all sites that it deemed necessary to do its job. That is a fundamental principle that is articulated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, the mother of all Security Council resolutions on Iraq.
I think the first step, or the next step here is to seek very clear statement from the Security Council that access means access. And we will take it from there, one step at a time, in a steady way. But our belief is that for UNSCOM to do its job it must have access to all locations. It cannot go simply where Saddam Hussein says it can go. Sanctions, obviously, will remain in place. There's no way in which UNSCOM can certify that it's lived up to its obligations if it's saying that there's certain places that it can't go. So at the very least we would hope that this would extend the sanctions indefinitely and, as the President said, we have ruled out no other options.
Q Is the administration going to tell the Turkish Prime Minister tomorrow that U.S. companies will get the marketing licenses they need to compete for attack helicopter contracts? Or will this happen before the December 31st deadline?
MR. BERGER: Well, we've had discussions with the Turks on that question. To some degree it depends upon representations that they might make in the human rights area. So those conversations are still going on.
Q Is increasing the number of arrests for war criminals one of the benchmarks?
MR. BERGER: Well, the benchmarks will be -- what I've tried to do, what the President tried to do was to give you illustratively the nature of what such benchmarks will be. Clearly, war criminals remain very important, both because it's part of Dayton, on moral grounds, and because, with respect to some of these people, they are obstructionist in terms of achieving peace. And I don't know how this will be ultimately expressed, but it certainly will continue to be part of the overall objective in getting Dayton done.
Q Back on Iraq for just one more second. What do you make of -- at a time when Butler is going to the U.N. and these semi-officialofficial Iraqi newspapers coming out today and saying President Clinton is an ugly adolescent and saying he's pouring fuel on the fire -- I'm not asking you to respond tit for tat, but rather to say what signal, if any, does this send to you about what their feelings are vis-a-vis this U.S.-Iraq confrontation.
MR. BERGER: I wish I had the clip. This is actually in the Iraqi news service, which does show that the American journalistic profession is superior to the Iraqi journalistic profession. (Laughter.) And it also attacked Buddy -- (laughter) -- and I think you can attack the President, but it's indefensible to attack Buddy. (Laughter.)
Q What is the criteria for Vietnam to meet, to get this kind of lifting of the --
MR. BERGER: At this point there really are two -- number one, the continued progress on helping us in the POW-MIA area, which has been very, very strong. Those of you who have been to Vietnam, I think, have seen it. And second is implementation of an orderly return policy with respect to Vietnamese who were displaced.
Q There is a number of human rights groups who are concerned about the $18 million World Bank loan going to the Republic of Srbska and it's going to go to cities that are under the control of war criminals, or under the influence of war criminals. What about that? And also, that the U.S. is putting too much of its hopes on the RS president to implement the Dayton Accords. And will the President meet with her while he's in Bosnia on Monday?
MR. BERGER: Let me ask Ambassador Gelbard to answer the first two questions and then let me give you a couple of details on the trip which may actually affect your lives.
AMBASSADOR GELBARD: A very small percentage of the World Bank -- the proposed World Bank loan would go to the eastern part of the Republic of Srbska. The overwhelming majority is going to go into the west where there is much more support for people who are very supportive of implementing the Dayton agreements. A lot of it is infrastructure. A lot of it is also going to the town of Brcko -- the area of Brcko which is still awaiting a final arbitral award which will come out in March and which is in the American sector, MND north, and where we have a very strong interest in seeing a strong program of economic reconstruction.
The small amount of World Bank funds that are proposed for other areas are really for humanitarian purposes, for water and sewage construction and so on. But we have looked at this very carefully. We feel very comfortable that the 85 percent that's not going towards those areas is geared to helping further the process of Dayton implementation.
MR. BERGER: First of all, if I answer any more questions I'll be accused of going on too long.
Q You're going on half as long as the President did. (Laughter.)
MR. BERGER: But let me just give you a couple details about our escapade to Bosnia -- our mission to Bosnia. We will be leaving Sunday afternoon in the 4:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m. range. Obviously, Mike will be giving you -- or others -- closer detail -- and be returning late Monday night or Tuesday morning, somewhere around 1:00 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.
We will go -- obviously, stop at Aviano and then go into Bosnia; probably going to Sarajevo and then Tuzla, although not 100 percent locked down on the order.
Q Why is that?
MR. BERGER: It has to do with weather, when the airport opens, how you can maximize a fairly brief period. Probably Sarajevo -- at this point, it looks more likely. In Sarajevo the President will meet with the joint presidency and presumably some other Bosnian officials. He will address the Bosnian people at the Opera House. He will wander around the city to some degree. And then we will head off, get back on the plane and go to Tuzla, where he will get a very short briefing from the Commander, but mainly spend the time with the troops, address the troops and perhaps have a meal with the troops.
And then back on the plane, stop in Aviano to change planes, probably talk to the troops in Aviano, and then back on the plane and back here.
Q Does the President have to be out of Tuzla before it gets dark?
MR. BERGER: I don't know the answer to that.
Q Last time we were there --
MR. BERGER: Yes, but there's -- a lot has changed since the last time. It's been interesting working through this. There's obviously a lot more possibility. Do you know the answer? He does not have to be out of Tuzla by dark.
Q And what about the -- last time, remember, there was the fog question in the morning. We couldn't get into Tuzla.
MR. BERGER: The Commander in Chief has ordered that there will be no fog. (Laughter.)
Q Who has he invited?
MR. BERGER: The congressional delegation at this stage consists of -- from the House of Representatives, Mr. Murtha, Mr. Skelton, and Mr. Kasich; and from the Senate, Senator Coats, Senator Biden, Senator Lieberman, and there may be a few others.
Q When the President mentioned Mr. Dole, do you have a commitment from him to actively help build public support for this policy?
MR. BERGER: I think it's fair to say that Senator Dole is supportive of the President's decision. I'll leave it to him to determine what -- how active he is. But he does support the President's decision.
Q Can I get my question in? It doesn't have to do with this, it has to do with Cuba. Yesterday a District Court ruled that Cuba had to pay $187 million in punitive and compensatory damages for the downing of the two American -- the two planes and the three American citizens. Cuba says it does not respect the jurisdiction of American courts. Will the U.S. government be willing to use part of the frozen Cuban assets in this country to pay those families?
MR. BERGER: I don't know the answer to that. There's a legal question underlying which I just have not had a chance to look at. But, obviously, there's no question in our mind who has moral responsibility of those planes. Where the legal responsibility lies is ultimately for the courts to decide.
Q What is the security situation for an American President? Is it okay there?
MR. BERGER: The Secret Service has been there and they're obviously watching out for that.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 11:35 A.M. EST