THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
JOINT PRESS BRIEFING BY THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN AND THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN The Briefing Room
2:53 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, let's get the matter of attribution down, because it is different for some. Welcome to the White House Press Lobby, those of you who have not been here before. And we are briefing under Press Lobby rules, in which I shall be identified as the President's official spokesman, and I am on the record as the President's official spokesman, because I was doing it as a convenience to my colleague here, who has got a number of people who are on deadline. I'm trying to help him out. The Prime Minister's official spokesman is here with me and is well known to many of you by his correct, proper name, I think.
Let me just quickly tell you what the President and the Prime Minister have done since you last saw them during the photo opportunity. They had a working lunch in the Oval Dining Room that lasted approximately an hour and 40 minutes. Alastair can tell you a lot more -- we can refer you to by name.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: You certainly can.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: But you cannot -- I can refer to him by name, but you can't. (Laughter.) I think that's -- I rather enjoy this. I wish more of my briefings these days I could do under these ground rules.
The President started the working lunch by asking the Prime Minister a simple question on the subject of Northern Ireland: How can I be of help and how can we be of help? And the Prime Minister then gave a very good -- what the President described as a very thorough assessment of the situation with respect to the peace talks, how he sees things unfolding. I think I should let my colleague tell you more about that, but the President praised the Prime Minister's role and said that he had demonstrated an enormous amount of courage in advancing this process and in some of the decisions he has made.
They then turned to the subject of Iraq and probably spent the bulk of the time during the working lunch on Iraq. The President asked Secretary Albright to summarize her trip, and she gave a description both of her recent visits in the region and also her own assessment of the prospects for diplomacy. What they said to each other privately reflected very much what they told you publicly -- that they both together believe that it is far preferable to seek a diplomatic resolution of the current conflict, but that requires firmness, and it requires governments to continue to make very clear to Baghdad the need for compliance with mandates of the United Nations. And the President following the meeting said it was very clear to him there's absolutely no light between us at all on this subject.
The third item they talked about was Iran, specifically US sanctions law with respect to Iran and Libya -- the Iran Libya Sanctions Act -- and that was an opportunity to review more the processes that exist under that Act and to compare notes on the various views that the two governments have with respect to how we might best produce the kind of change that we all would desire to see with respect to the government of Iran.
At the end of the working lunch, the small group that had been meeting in the dining room -- and on the U.S. side that consisted of the Vice President, Secretary Albright, and Sandy Berger, the National Security Adviser -- they went back to the Cabinet Room and joined the expanded delegations who had been also having a working lunch nearby in the Roosevelt Room. And that session, I'll tell you briefly, was a good opportunity for many colleagues in the two governments to get to know each other better. We saw Gene Sperling and David Miliband bonding at one point, and wonking away with each other. (Laughter.) They were clearly enjoying themselves.
But there were other -- in addition to that, other working groups. Eric Holder, the Deputy Attorney General, was here, and was meeting with Jim Steinberg and talking to some of their counterparts about crime and the importance that crime will play in the agenda of the G-7, G-8 meetings in Birmingham later this year. And that indeed, as the President and Prime Minister came back to the Cabinet Room with the melodies of Elton John wafting from overhead, they talked -- they began with a preview of the Birmingham G-7, G-8 meetings that the Prime Minister gave. And I'll let Alastair tell you more about that, but the Prime Minister really shared his thinking about he sees the agenda developing and the kinds of work that we'll be doing later in the year.
They spent time on the subjects of global warming, with the President suggesting that it's important to have a strategy to continue to involve developing nations in the implementation of the Kyoto Conference. They spent time on the issues of crime and fighting crime and the way in which the international community can organize itself in the post-Cold War era to deal with the threats of terrorism, drug trafficking, and some of the other transnational threats we face from organized crime syndicates. And they spent a brief time on trade issues.
That meeting ended just a short while ago with the President noting it was time to go off to school and the Prime Minister noting that the school, like everything else here, seems to be named Blair, and the President suggesting that that was to make him feel quite at home while he is here in the United States.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Thanks, Mike, and apologies for the bizarre attribution. But until November I didn't even exist, so we're making progress.
Just to say by way of introduction, the Prime Minister is obviously delighted to be here, as he has made clear in the interviews you have seen today. He is a friend and an admire both of the United States and of President Clinton, and we're pleased that they're able to spend so much time together both to address the current pressing international issues but also the broader political questions that they both enjoy discussing.
As Mike said, although the lunch was overwhelmingly dominated by discussions of Iraq, they did start on Northern Ireland. And the Prime Minister briefed the President on the progress in the peace process. He was at the talks himself a few days ago, and he was able to say that despite what are real serious difficulties, there is still grounds to be optimistic. People are coming at this process from different directions but all determined to try and keep it moving forward.
He expressed his admiration and gratitude for the supportive role that President Clinton had played in this. And you may have seen the text we put out this morning of his remarks to the Irish Congressional lobby, in which he stated that again.
He briefed also on where the different parties were finding this process helpful and where they are finding it difficult and said again that the U.S. was able to play a supportive role with all the parties -- not just the Nationalists but the Unionists as well in keeping this process moving forward.
On Iraq I would say that they agreed on the strategy that can be summed up as educate, diplomatize, and prepare. On the education side, the President was aware of -- he expressed interest -- this document which we've just, I think, given out now that we published yesterday which was sent to all members of our parliament, which really -- I think anybody who reads it sees a compelling case for taking the tack that were taking on this at the moment.
I mean, the figures are appalling and this is just the stuff that's just been uncovered -- let alone what has not been uncovered. And I think there are facts in there which the more broadly they can be disseminated, the more people will understand why this issue is so serious and so worrying.
Now, they agreed that every possible diplomatic avenue has to be pursued. But, in the end, Saddam Hussein has got to comply with the UN resolutions. And they agreed as well that UNSCOM must have complete access, and that the integrity of UNSCOM has got to be preserved as a professional organization, accountable to the Security Council.
So the diplomacy will go on. But in the meantime there will be the necessary preparation for military action should that be necessary. And obviously they have agreed to stay in very close touch on that over the next period of time.
In the extended session, as Mike said, the Prime Minister briefed those present on our priorities both the G-8, where we're trying to make it less cumbersome than has been the case in the past by focusing on two issues in particular: the first is the whole issue of employability and what the Prime Minister often calls the third way in economic reform and the job creation, education, skills, welfare reform; and secondly, organized crime and the Home Secretary Jack Straw, who'd had a separate meeting earlier with Jim Steinberg on this.
He made a presentation on, in particular, Nigerian organized crime, but also the whole question of drugs and how that might be addressed within G-8. He then gave a brief exposition of our priorities as the current holders of the presidency of the European Union, in particular spelling out where we are on the process of enlargement and also the single currency.
And finally I will just say that we were pleased at the tribute that the Vice President made in the meeting to the role of our Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, without whom he said the Kyoto agreement simply would not have happened. And they agreed that there's work to be done in pushing that forward.
They were also -- they touched briefly on Bosnia and Lockerbie, both of which subjects they'll be discussing, we understand, in the car on the way to the school.
Q If force comes to be used, would Britain participate in any use of force?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, the Prime Minister said this morning that if the diplomatic approach fails and force has to be used, then that is something that the British government would support.
Q If I may, he made clear that he would back policy, but I'm asking if actual forces will be employed.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, there are British forces there now.
Q There are, but would they be used?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I don't think there would be much doubt about that.
Q How do the two leaders feel about the question of Iraq -- the fact that they seem to stand together on the willingness to use force if diplomatic approaches fail, that they seem to be standing apart from most of their allies on this.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, Mike can come again in a minute, but in the last two days, the Prime Minister has spoken to both Boris Yeltsin and President Chirac. And everybody is agreed about the absolute determination to make sure that Saddam Hussein is brought into line. And you could argue about the degrees of enthusiasm with which they might pursue those objectives. But on the objectives, there's no disagreement whatever.
Q Can I follow up on that?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Let me add on that, I think based on the Secretary of State's consultations that she has completed, while force is not encouraged, because diplomacy is encouraged, no one specifically suggested to her, as she reported after her trip, that force should be categorically ruled out as an option, and we take that as a significant posture by a number of governments that we've been in contact with.
It is no question that most governments prefer to see a diplomatic solution. That's not a surprise, because so does the government of the United States, and so, obviously, does the government of the United Kingdom. But diplomacy, as we've all suggested, has been running out. The option -- pursuing diplomatic options is beginning to dwindle, and that's why other options begin to come into focus, as they have been for us and for others.
Q For both you gentlemen, on tactical nuclear force, though, has that been discussed? Does Prime Minister Blair have a problem with that?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, I think that question arises because of some of the speculation that we were dealing with here a number of days ago. I think we made quite clear the posture of our government on that question. I'm not aware that that came up in their discussions today.
Q Can I just ask you both, without, obviously, going into the details of it, how much did they begin to think about the nature of military action and the way it might be employed? I mean, there's a good deal of argument, isn't there -- at least, air strikes, land strikes, whatever. While you might not tell us that, did they begin to get into some thoughts about how that would operate?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, as I said, the three -- there's an agreement upon this three-pronged strategy.
Q I'm talking specifically --
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Yes, but they're all unfolding at the same time -- educate, diplomatize, and prepare. So the preparations are being made, and should that path have to be followed, then I think they're pretty clear about what that would mean.
Q On the diplomatize one, was there any discussion of the further UN Security Council resolution, which I gather is being discussed at present?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, they would both be aware of what was happening on that, and so the answer is yes. I'm not up to speed of actually what's going on there now, but certainly there's a -- among the diplomatic activity, it does include activity at the UN.
Q What's the British government's view on whether any military action should be postponed until after the end of the Olympics?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: After the end of?
Q The Olympics. (Laughter.)
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I'm not aware that it was a --
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: That's the way I looked when I got that question. (Laughter.)
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I'm not aware that it was a factor in any discussions on the third prong of the three-prong strategy. However, we --
Q The IOC has made an appeal.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, fine. (Laughter.)
Q They must be chopped liver. (Laughter.)
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Somebody's made an appeal about Winnie the Pooh, as well -- (laughter) -- but that wasn't raised, either.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Alastair, as I suggested to --
Q We like him better than you. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I'm getting the impression.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, they like him better than me.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: While I can't speak for the other government, as I told many of you yesterday, we are well aware of the concern that's been expressed by the IOC, but we believe this matter, given the seriousness of the subject that we're dealing with -- and Alastair just outlined some of it -- chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and the capacity to develop them by this government, we have to proceed very carefully and very prudently but with some sense of urgency. And our timelines and deadlines are not affected by those kinds of external events but what is best as we pursue our own national security interest in addressing this moment.
Q Mike, there's a report that 2,000 Marines are being sent to the Persian Gulf region. Can you tell us why they are being sent there and what this --
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I'm aware of that report, and I'm also aware that there has been discussions, as the Secretary of Defense has indicated -- there have been discussions with the President about what additional resources might be necessary in the Gulf. I'd prefer to leave details of any operational deployments to the Pentagon. They can make those available to you in due course.
Q Is the report true, if I could follow up on that?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, if it is true, it would be best for the Pentagon to tell you more about it because they can tell you authoritatively about the kinds of things that have been requested and that the Commander in Chief may or may not have approved, depending on what they tell you.
Q Could you in a general way just talk about why the forces there needed to be beefed up?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Again, General Zinni has made some recommendations that have come through the Pentagon and have been a part of the discussions, and there's some -- without getting into specific assessments of the military situation, there are some particular points that they wanted to address with their operational deployment -- for good reason. But I think you can learn a lot more about that at the point that the Pentagon is ready to brief on it, which I gather will be sometime fairly shortly.
Q Mike, don't today's comments from Boris Yeltsin make it sound as though as he is unalterably opposed to the use of military force against Iraq, more so even than his comments yesterday?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I mean, I briefed yesterday on the Prime Minister's phone call with Boris Yeltsin. And again, I think what was interesting was the extent of agreement on the determination to make sure that Saddam Hussein complied with the resolutions.
Now, I'm not going to pretend that when it came to discussion to the third part of that strategy that there was absolute agreement because there wasn't. But having said that, there was agreement on pursuing those objectives. Now, we welcome the fact that the French and the Russians are able to make -- to pursue those objectives in different ways. And that may lead to something. Our Foreign Secretary today has welcomed some of the suggestions that have been coming out from the Russian side of things.
So, there can be progress, but I think the bottom line for us is that if the diplomatic path proves to be fruitless, then there does have to be the option of the threat of force and the reality of force if that fails.
Q These two governments are prepared to go ahead by themselves, if that's what it means?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, I think -- I would say that these two governments are absolutely determined that Saddam Hussein is brought into line and recognize that those diplomatic efforts have to be matched and backed up by the threat of force and force if necessary.
Q Mike, how would this three-pronged approach work out here? How would it manifest itself here, especially the educational component of it. Do we expect the President to step up his efforts to explain what's at stake to the people?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, we have tackled that somewhat differently. I think you have seen the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, others in our government, in a very careful way review for the American people what the stakes are as we address this provocation by Saddam Hussein.
We have been unmistakably clear in what we see as the threat posed by the ongoing programs that exist in weapons of mass destruction and the concealment and the deliberate lying by the government of Iraq with respect to information that they provided to the U.N. Special Commission.
So we believe that the American people have been following this situation carefully. They are well aware that 24,000 of their sons and daughters are in the Gulf region precisely because of the threat that we now face. And they've heard the President speak very clearly, most recently in the State of the Union, but as he did yesterday and as he will continue to speak, on why we think it's so necessary to see compliance by Iraq and why we must be prepared to consider other measures if they become necessary.
Q And what about the diplomatic avenue, Mike? Now that Secretary Albright is back, what course diplomatically is the U.S. --
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I think as many of you know, we have said -- we have said what Cohen is doing, right? Yes, I think Secretary Cohen is leaving directly from the state dinner here this evening to go to the region, where he'll conduct additional consultations and there will be other discussions. There are some discussions underway at the Security Council, as we indicated, but there will be very determined diplomacy in the days and weeks ahead, without specifying any timeline.
Q Congressman Gephardt this morning said that he hoped the administration would seek express approval from the Congress before military action is taken. What is your position on that?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I'm sorry -- I missed it.
Q Congressman Gephardt asked that you have -- that the administration come to the Congress and get explicit approval.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, the administration believes that we have ample authority in existing law to address the present crisis, but of course we would always welcome expressions of support from our Congress. And based on the briefings and the consultations and the dialogue we've had at high levels in recent days, we're confident that Congress is prepared to give that approval or expression of support in some fashion.
Q Mike, you just used the term "determined diplomacy in the days and weeks ahead." Does the word "weeks" literally mean that for weeks diplomacy will be given a chance to work?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I don't want to suggest anything about our timeline or suggest that there is any artificial deadline. We will be pursuing this matter in a very determined way day by day, and I'm not going to speculate on when the string may finally run out on diplomacy.
Q -- mood of the British and American people towards Saddam, why is the first prong necessary?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, because you may say that and people may have feel a general sense of distaste and the sort of guy that he is, but I think actually I would answer that by actually looking at the response within the British media today to the document that we put out yesterday. I mean, there were facts in there which I think did genuinely shock people. And I think when you go through them, this guy has got 600 tons of a chemical, one drop of which can kill, and 200 tons of which can wipe out the population of the entire world.
Now, you go through the stuff about 38,000 chemical weapons, 480,000 liters of live chemical weapons agents, six missile launchers -- this is the stuff that's been uncovered by the weapons inspectors.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: We are going to make that document available to US press people who may not have seen it.
Q Why didn't the Administration put out something like that -- have the same information?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: We did sometime ago. If you recall, last November we did put a declassified version that was similar. Recall Secretary Cohen, when he was on the TV with the bag of sugar, did a document that's similar. The President was impressed with this one, and has asked our intelligence community to look at that and see if there's some way we might be able to match that.
Q Mike, were you trying to suggest earlier that you felt that the education effort in the US so far has been sufficient? In other words --
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: No, I don't think it's sufficient. I said I think the American people are alert to the situation in the Gulf. They are aware of the problems the United Nations Special Commission has been having. They're well aware that we have a significant force deployed in the region. And I think that they're watching very carefully to see what the course of diplomacy brings and what other options might present themselves, and they will want to hear very clearly from the President, as we pursue, if we do pursue other measures, why they are necessary and what the risks are and what the probability of success are.
Q Under what authority does the President act? War Powers Act? Bush felt compelled to go to Congress and get a resolution, even though that act --
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I can get you -- they've briefed at the State Department in greater length on this, but the 1991 post-Gulf War resolution is the one that we believe provides authority under existing statute to address this situation. It authorizes US support to fulfill existing UN Security Council resolutions. We simultaneously believe that within those existing Security Council resolutions, there's authority for the international community to act to compel compliance by the government of Iraq.
Q Would it have been better if you got congressional approval?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I think it would be -- as I've said, we would welcome and be delighted with support from our Congress.
Q I don't mean just welcome, that he would really feel he has the strong authority.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Can I just add to that, as well, as was clear in Parliament yesterday, both the main opposition parties in Britain were absolutely four-square behind the position set down by the Prime Minister.
Q Is it right that you asked for a two- or three-week delay to allow diplomacy to act a bit longer before any action was taken?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: No.
Q Does Britain have a policy like we do of not going after the leader of another country, like our directive that says it's against the law?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I think, as the Prime Minister has made clear in the interviews that he's done, I mean, that is not the issue. I mean, I don't think anybody is -- I think there are very few people who wouldn't be pleased if Saddam Hussein were to disappear. But that is not the issue; the issue is making him and the Iraqi regime comply with the Security Council resolutions.
Q May I follow on that, please? I'm still confused about the mission and the purpose. Surely Saddam Hussein won't voluntarily give up this material. So how are you ever going to recover the material without getting rid of Saddam Hussein?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, we've made clear that we believe the purpose of our diplomacy and other measures that may become necessary is to thwart or limit Iraq's capacity to use or develop weapons of mass destruction, and simultaneously to limit his ability to project force and to threaten and intimidate neighbors in that region as he has previously.
We believe that is -- that there are ways in which diplomacy could accomplish those objectives but, failing success, there might be necessity for other measures to achieve those objectives. We've got a high degree of confidence that we could achieve those.
Q Do you honestly believe that he will turn over this material while he's still in power?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: There is nothing about the decisions that he has made or what he has done to date to believe he would do that. He has begrudgingly, reluctantly, only under duress been willing to allow the UN Special Commission to do the work it has done, to destroy the weapons capacity that it has destroyed. So I think that's why the international community and our two governments are well-advised to continue to bring enormous pressure to bear on him.
Q Does the Prime Minister have to notify Parliament before he launches an attack? You say he has backing of the major parties. Does he have to notify them before? Or does he notify them after the fact, in case an attack should come?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, I think he would observe any proprieties that had to be observed, and he would also ensure that there was political support for what we did, and both the British Cabinet and the British Parliament and British public opinion would be mobilized behind anything that had to be done.
But, as I repeat, the desire and the whole aim of the approach we laid out is actually to avoid that happening. But that in the end all depends on Saddam Hussein.
Q May I try another approach to this? Is it British policy/American policy that Saddam Hussein still has to stay in power as a counterbalance against Iran? Is that still on the books?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I don't believe --not being thoroughly familiar with the policy in the United Kingdom, but I can say on behalf of our government that has not been the policy of our government. And that has not been a view I've heard expressed within the councils of the President's senior foreign policy advisers.
Q Did the President and the Prime Minister talk about the lessons learned from the Gulf War from the last time around, and what were those lessons? And how would they intend to do things differently this time around?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, I think the short answer to your question is no -- that there was -- they were focusing on here and now and the near future. President Clinton obviously has more experience in this field than the Prime Minister does. But I can assure you the Prime Minister has gone into this whole issue in quite extraordinary depth. I mean, last weekend he's devoted virtually the entirety of the weekend to reading on this issue -- both its history, both the where we are, looking at all the options, looking at all the difficulties, looking at all the things that could go wrong. And he --
Q Is there an acceptance that it was a job half done last time around?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, I think that the Gulf War was concluded, and one of those conclusions was that Saddam Hussein agreed to do certain things. We're in this situation and this crisis now because some of those things he agreed to do, he's gone back on that. And I think that's why it now has to be addressed in whatever way.
Q Does the President still believe that the comments of the Speaker and the Majority Leader yesterday about how one of the goals of the military action should be the removal of Saddam Hussein. Does he believe that those comments are damaging to his efforts to hold an international coalition together?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: No, I think that the President welcomes free expression of views on this. We have had -- through our senior policy makers who have been on the Hill -- very detailed discussions on exactly these questions. We have raised questions of the leadership in Congress about how they would prepare to accomplish that kind of objective without deployment of ground troops in significant numbers, given the experience that we had in the Gulf War and given what the requirements were just to accomplish the objectives and the mission during the Persian Gulf war.
But I think it's healthy that we have that kind of debate back and forth. And I think we've been very clear about the purpose of our diplomacy, the environment in which other options would have to be considered. And we're very confident that we can have bipartisan support in Congress for those measures if the President pursues them.
Q Mike, it can't be helpful to have the President of Russia talking about world wars coming from this. Were there specific discussions between the Prime Minister and the President about diplomatic efforts to keep him from saying things like this?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I don't know specifically that I came up, but both delegations were quick to note that clarification had been made about those comments. Now, it had been suggested earlier that there clearly is a disposition against the use of force by the Russian Federation. And that's no surprise. They've been saying so publicly for some time. But there is a clear determination on the part of the Russian Federation, through the diplomacy they have conducted, through the efforts of Primakov, Posavalyuk, others, to send the message to Baghdad that they are required to comply with the mandates of the international community. We believe that they have extended that message in an unambiguous way to Baghdad, and that is helpful.
We would prefer, of course, that that would produce some result.
Q When the President was asked in the Oval Office whether he thinks a use of force would provoke world -- another world war, his exact words, I think, were, I doubt that it would. He doubts that it would?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, we have some -- if and when the Commander in Chief approves plans or deals with plans presented to him by military planners that involve military options, as you all know, we would have a high degree of confidence in the probability of success. We would have confidence that the planning was done in a way that would address the objectives that we had, and we have stated those for you very clearly. And world war is not among those objectives or outcomes foreseen in the pursuit of force.
Q Does the British Government also believe that --
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Just a second.
Q Let me just follow up. I'm not clear what forces might be out there that would engage in a world war.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: It's not clear to me either, so that's why it's hard for us to interpret the statement.
Q I wondered, does the British Government also believe that the Security Council resolutions already on the books provide sufficient authority to consider and launch a military strike?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: We're not out there yet, where we are with regards to the Security Council at the moment. As I said in answer to Peter a moment ago, that is one of the diplomatic channels that is being pursued. But I think that the -- as Mike said earlier, there is a bit of time on this.
And the other thing I would say is that one of the reasons -- to go back to the question -- the remark about the need for education on this, is that it's not like Kuwait, in a sense. Kuwait, you've got one country, another country invades that country. It's obvious that some huge wrongdoing is taking place. But the Prime Minister's view and the reason why he's so keen to get all these facts out is the potential for wrongdoing and the potential for the instability and the havoc and the damage and the destruction that can be wreaked by Saddam Hussein is far greater than what was done then.
And, therefore: educate, pursue all the diplomatic channels, but that threat of force has to be there and has to be realistic. And in going back to the question from this lady here, the lesson is that he has never responded to anything unless there has been that threat of force and, on occasion, the use of force.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: As much fun as we're having, we do want to pipe in the President and the Prime Minister at the proper point, so maybe just a few more.
Q Can the spokesman just say something about the financial dinner last night with Treasury officials and with Greenspan?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Right. Which they discussed, the Prime Minister briefed him. He had a 45-minute bilateral with Mr. Camdessus, where they discussed Asia, the single currency, and Third World debt. Asia, it's fair to say I think, took up the lion's share of the discussion. And the Prime Minister was very supportive of what the IMF is trying to do. He made it clear that he didn't agree with those attacks that there have been in Congress on the IMF. But also there was an agreement that more transparency was needed and also that continuing support had to be allied to reform -- reform of the recipient countries, reform of the IMF itself, greater openness and transparency, and also a better assessment of the way the private sector might help.
And then over dinner, they were joined by Mr. Rubin, Mr. Greenspan, Mr. Summers, and there was a very useful exchange of views. And I think we felt -- there were other Congressmen there as well -- and we felt there was a beginning of a dialogue there; that people who had been absolutely blind to any sense that the IMF could be a force for good, that maybe that was beginning to change. But there was also an agreement that the IMF can do its job better.
Q Mike, I'm still not clear why you were having discussions at the UN Security Council if you and presumably the UK government also believe that you already have enough authority from existing resolutions. Are you looking for more political support?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: It's more that that is another proper venue to review the status of diplomatic efforts. And that is the source from which the mandates that now exist on the government of Iraq emanate. So it's a proper place to have further discussions. I'm not aware that our government is pursuing any additional authority from the Security Council. But the Security COuncil has indicated it's remained seize d of the matter, and it's perfectly natural that dialogue continues at that venue.
Q Mike, can we take it from the remarks of the Prime Minister's spokesman that the matter of the extradition of Winnie the Pooh did not come up, and that it is now closed as an issue? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Winnie.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Oh, right, Winnie the Pooh.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: As the President indicated to some of us, the notion that the United States would lose Winnie is utterly unbearable. (Groans.)
Q What does your counterpart say?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: See if he can top that.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I can't.
Q But wait, you can't escape that easily. What's the -- can you clarify the position of your government, since it seems that a member of the Prime Minister's own Cabinet is seeking to -- (laughter).
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Let me just -- no. Gwynneth Dunwoody (phonetic) is a respected and admirable Member of the Parliament; she is not a member of the Cabinet. (Laughter.) Had she been a member of the Cabinet, she would have been expressing a government position. The government position is that we admire the President and the United States, and we believe that they will look after and care for these animals, sufficient for them to rest here with the British people happy that they're well looked after. (Laughter.)
That's the first time Boris Johnson has taken a note in the entire briefing. (Laughter.)
Q This hour and 40, did this include --
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: No, I'm sorry. It was an hour and 40 minutes during the working lunch, and then they continued for roughly another half-hour in the expanded format in the Cabinet Room.
Q Are we going to give back the Grecian marbles? (Laughter.)
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Pass, just take a pass.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I think I'll take a pass on that.
Q Can you tell us about tonight's dinner? The guest list, who's performing, the venue.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: The First Lady's office, I think, is putting out sometime this afternoon an embargoed guest list. I believe they have already delivered both the menu, which sounds wonderful, and the entertainment is by Sir Elton John and Stevie Wonder.
Q Can we go?
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Hands across the ocean, when it comes to entertainment. And you can actually -- if you've listened carefully, been listening to the rehearsal underway upstairs. because they're doing this --- this is the first time, I believe, since 1979, that the President and First Lady have entertained on what we call the West Terrace, which is right above the Briefing Room here.
Q And it almost collapsed last time. The Prime Minister of Japan was there; it hadn't been used for years. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, given what we've been dealing with in this room, we'll think about that.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Hold on, can I just add something on the dinner? The Prime Minister, as part of the toast to the President, which he has to do, will be referring to the importance in history of people who entertained the troops, in which he concedes the Americans have got an even finer record than we have, and will be announcing -- just to show that we are not just about the new generation, and that we have broad political outlook as well, he'll be announcing that the Queen is being pleased to confer and honorary knighthood upon Bob Hope.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: You finally made some news. (Laughter.)
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: So that's all part of educate and all that.
Q He'll be there as well?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: No, he won't, he won't.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: The President has learned of this very gracious gesture by Her Majesty, and is quite delighted and will no doubt express gratitude on behalf of the American people.
Q We ought to name an airport for Her Majesty. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Helen, the last question.
Q Why is he getting knighthood?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: In recognition of his contribution to film, to song, and to the entertainment of troops in the past.
Q And when will this occur?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Well, I'm not sure about his health. It will be a ceremony of sorts, and that will be fixed up between -- through the -- over here.
Q How many Americans have had this honor bestowed upon them by the Queen?
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: I think the last one was Casper Weinberger. Is that right, Peter? Schwartzkopf? And I think it is an honorary knighthood, but I'm not sure if he they can call themselves "Sir."
Q I'd like to nominate Mr. McCurry for the next one.
THE PRIME MINISTER'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: He will be going to a reformed House of Lords.
Q Mike, I'm assuming that you've found this quite a pleasant relief, after the harrowing last week or so in the briefing room.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Easy.
Q Do you expect the media troops to be any less -- any more combative tomorrow, come 11:00 a.m.?
Q Four 'o clock this afternoon.
Q Just you wait, Mr. Higgins. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: That's right, I think that's up to you. But I think our -- I think you will find your colleagues from the United States entertaining to watch tomorrow.
Q We haven't asked you about that yet, because we're waiting for the cameras at 4:00 p.m. We need you on the record.
THE PRESIDENT'S OFFICIAL SPOKESMAN: Oh, all right. I'll be back here after the speeches.
END 3:36 P.M.