THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
1:30 P.M. EST
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let us start with China. The Chinese government earlier today announced that they intend to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. That is a document that sort of codifies and implements the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It covers freedom of expression, religion, peaceful assembly, participation in public affairs and elections, freedom of movement and equality before the law.
Obviously, the United States government welcomes today's decision by the Chinese government as a positive and constructive step forward. President Clinton and President Jiang Zemin of the People's Republic, when they met here in October, had a discussion about the importance of the covenant, the President stressing the utility of the covenant as a way of measuring progress on issues related to human rights. This decision by China to sign the covenant will represent a formal commitment to the principles that are espoused in the covenant. It creates an international standard by which future Chinese actions can be evaluated. And by announcing intention to sign the covenant, China has also indicated in more concrete terms than ever before that it accepts the universality of human rights.
Even more important in some ways is the fact there's a formal process under the covenant by which countries measure and report on internationally their effort to address human rights practices. And, of course, that will develop a strong multilateral mechanism for an examination of China's human rights record. So we welcome that development.
Q Mike, do you expect this to diffuse the situation in Geneva when --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have not made decisions with respect to the position the U.S. delegation will take on individual country's specific human rights issues at Geneva. But, clearly, this announcement by the Chinese Deputy Premier Foreign Minister will be of significance and it will be taken into account.
Q Mike, this is a government that sells the organs of prison inmates. Do you actually believe that signing this piece of paper is going to result in a revolution in their outlook on human rights?
MR. MCCURRY: Signing this document commits the People's Republic to a formal mechanism by which they take on certain international obligations. It expands the concern that has long been taken by the United States in our bilateral relationship and makes it an object of a more specific measurement in the international community. For that reason, it is much welcome.
Q But, Mike, you just said the Chinese, by signing this, accept the universality of human rights, where President Jiang, in the news conference with President Clinton just a few months ago, specifically rejected that.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, this statement is a significant statement by the Chinese Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister, and a signature on this document is a formal commitment. It has long been sought by human rights activists who are concerned about human rights practices in China and it is a welcome development.
Q Is this the U.S. pressing China for it to sign this covenant?
MR. MCCURRY: As I indicated when the President did so when he and President Jiang Zemin met here in October and it has been referred to often in high-level diplomacy between the two countries.
Q Is that why the President decided to move up his trip to China?
MR. MCCURRY: The President had a number of reasons to think about the scheduling of a China trip. Clearly, we want to keep the momentum in this relationship that has been progressing because of the exchange of high-level leaders and delegations, including the summit meetings between the two Presidents -- we want to build on that momentum and continue to address differences that clearly remain in the relationship.
Q So it will be in June?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not in a position to announce that, but it's clearly seriously under consideration.
Q Mike, there is some thought that the trial in Little Rock might go on six to eight weeks, and if it started at the end of May that would run beyond the end of June. How would the trial, what effect would the trial have on the President's travel plans?
MR. MCCURRY: I have no way of speculating on that.
Q Well, if the trial were ongoing would he make the trip?
MR. MCCURRY: We haven't announced when we would actually make this trip and we have no way of speculating on what the trial schedule might be.
Q Is the President thinking of going to Little Rock for that trial?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't had anything definitive on that communicated to me.
Q Well, Mr. Hunt's question -- clearly, I mean, if the President were in China and the trial were to come to a conclusion and the President loses, it would be very embarrassing to him and to the country, wouldn't it?
MR. MCCURRY: You're correct that he could not be in China and Little Rock simultaneously.
Q That wasn't the question.
MR. MCCURRY: That wasn't your question?
Q No, it wasn't.
MR. MCCURRY: Did I miss the question?
Q Wouldn't it be embarrassing if the trial concluded -- the President doesn't have to be there -- and he lost, and the headlines are, "the President loses suit," and he's there with the Chinese leaders?
MR. MCCURRY: You're willing to speculate on an outcome of the trial that I haven't heard anyone here speculate about.
Q The word "if" was there. I'm asking whether that would be embarrassing.
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't heard anyone speculate on that possible outcome to that trial.
Let me do some other -- let me move on to some other stuff. We've got three African scholars on Friday who will be here to brief on our Africa trip. I just want to tell you who they are so you can make some arrangements to do this. What time are we doing this tomorrow -- 11:15 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Richard Anthony Joseph, who is Candler Professor of Political Science at Emery University, very distinguished expert on African politics and comparative democratization, will be here; along with Marina Ottaway, who is a senior associate and codirector of the Democracy Institute at the Carnegie Endowment and also a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University. She is an expert also on African politics, on ethnic nationalism; has written most recently I think on South Africa and political developments in South Africa. And Dr. Terrence Lyons -- Dr. Lyons is a fellow at the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institute, is an authority on African politics and international peacekeeping; has written most recently about Ghana, and, of course, one of the stops on the President's trip. Three, I think of the nation's most distinguished scholars on Africa and here to give you some academic background.
Q -- any administration officials brief before a presidential trip?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh, we certainly will do that. We'll do that next week. But as we've done before the Latin America trip, we give you and opportunity to talk to some people not of the administration, but people who are recognized authorities on the subject.
Q Is that available on camera?
MR. MCCURRY: It's fine by me. Maybe we should check with all three of them and make sure they're okay with it.
Q What time?
MR. MCCURRY: At 11:15 a.m.
Q Has the President met with these people and discussed Africa?
MR. MCCURRY: No. They are all well known to our Africa specialists on the National Security Council staff and highly regarded. I don't believe the President will see them, although I think in the briefing he will get on the trip some of the work that they have done will be incorporated in the briefing that he will receive.
Q Which is when?
MR. MCCURRY: Tomorrow. These three will be here tomorrow at 11:15 a.m.
Q When will the President be getting his briefing?
MR. MCCURRY: Oh. He's going to have a series of them. I think they've already had some preliminary discussions, but he'll have a series of briefings next week on the trip.
Q Mike, the Mayor of the District of Columbia yesterday said that elected officials should be on the D.C. Control Board. You know that the five appointments are up --
MR. MCCURRY: In June, they're up in June.
Q It would require an amendment to the law. But does the President feel that elected officials should be on the Control Board?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President is very concerned about the status of the District and the efforts to revitalize it. He's very concerned about the status of the District's ability to govern its affairs. He has got the important responsibility under federal law to make the appointments to the Control Board; that issue is under consideration. I don't think it's proper right now while it's under consideration to indicate a direction one way or another.
Q Right now the law would preclude him from appointing elected officials. Is the administration in favor of an amendment which would allow the President to --
MR. MCCURRY: We're not taking a position on that at this point, but we're well aware of the debate within the District on the issue.
Q One more on Africa. On Africa again.
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q The administration -- and last week you said that Louis Farrakhan was not so consequential a person in his travels to Africa to be a hinderance to the U.S. policy there --
MR. MCCURRY: I think more precisely that his visits and where he was going would not be a hinderance to the work that we were going to be doing in Africa.
Q I'd like to ask -- he has traveled and been received by the Presidents of Senegal, Ghana and South Africa. And in Uganda, without commenting on his importance or relevant importance, there was a report on the -- an African new agency which picked it up from New Edition newspaper which said in essence that the Vision newspaper said it had reliably learned that United States State Department issued an ultimatum to Uganda to choose between receiving Minister Farrakhan, or President Clinton would cancel his scheduled visit back in January. Would you comment on that?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, very obviously and very clearly that report is in error.
Q Mike, what's the chance that the President could stop in Japan to give a readout on his China trip? And does the President have any problems with going to China in June given it's in the same month as Tianamen Square occurred?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have any information on an itinerary other than the consideration of a possible stop in China sooner than when it was originally contemplated. The anniversary of Tianamen is one that reminds the world of the need to continue to press for full implementation of human rights and civil liberties in the People's Republic, as I've just described in the reaction we've had to their decision on the covenant. But I'm not aware that we have any plans under consideration to go anytime in and around the anniversary of that date.
Q Mike, was their signing -- was the Chinese government signing of this covenant a quid for the White House announcing the trip?
MR. MCCURRY: No, it was not. We have not announced the trip. To stress once again, we are considering moving up the date of the trip. We had already indicated that we were going, it's only a question of scheduling when we go.
Q Mike, what does the White House have as far as information regarding heightened states of alert in various federal buildings and tours as far as preventing terrorist activities?
MR. MCCURRY: I have nothing on that here. We are always very conscious of the security situation here and adjust it every day accordingly. I think you may be asking about some things at the Pentagon, and the Pentagon is in the best position to address that.
Q The Pentagon did address it, but it also mentioned the White House as one of those buildings that wasn't necessarily affected by that heightened state of alert because it had adequate protections already in place. Any reasoning that you know of?
MR. MCCURRY: They claim to do a good job of briefing as they can over there. I am always customarily reluctant to discuss security matters, other than to say that we are well protected while we're here working at the White House.
Q Mike, what's your view of the hearings on the Hill where Republicans are threatening to withhold money for overtime for White House staff until they get additional --
MR. MCCURRY: Overtime? I would love to think that we get paid overtime. (Laughter.) Where are they now?
Q You're not in the group.
MR. MCCURRY: The only people who qualify for overtime here I think are clerical people covered by federal civil service rules, which -- that would be unfair to take out their whatever it is on that category of employee.
Q Some domestic staff and some others also.
Q Republicans are claiming that they've been denied documentation on the way the staff --
MR. MCCURRY: We have a White House official there testifying who is providing ample opportunity -- they're up to political mischief and making a nuisance of themselves, and we are there to answer the questions.
Q Mike, the other half of that inquiry concerns whether the White House Counsel's Office is being used appropriately in the Lewinsky investigation. This question has arose about debriefing the lawyers for other witnesses. Does the White House Counsel's Office consider that an appropriate use of taxpayers' money?
MR. MCCURRY: Mr. Kennedy as a spokesman on behalf of the Counsel's Office would be best in the position to address that. But as I've told you often here, the White House Legal Counsel's Office, which is under the direction of one of the most honorable people in all of government, Chuck Ruff, has the responsibility to serve as lawyer to the office of the presidency and protect the institutional prerogatives of the presidency. And I can assure you from my own personal experience, he takes that responsibility seriously. And if anyone wants to question the integrity of the operations of that office, he will have a very forceful response.
Q They are questioning, Mike, whether or not --
MR. MCCURRY: But there will be -- Mr. Ruff, I'm sure, will be in a position to forcefully respond to that. But contact Mr. Kennedy, his spokesman.
Q What's the coverage for tomorrow's visit by the Thai Prime Minister, and what will be discussed?
MR. MCCURRY: They will have an Oval Office photo opportunity at 10:45 a.m. tomorrow morning. They have got a lot of work to do. Not surprisingly, the President will be interested in Prime Minister Chuan's views on the status of the Asia regional economy. And then he will learn more about the progress that Thailand has made.
Thailand has done remarkably well in weathering some of the difficulties the Asian regional economies have faced. I think the IMF granted conditional approval of their standby authority last week. That was one measure of the progress that they have been making. They will certainly discuss that issue. There will also be other regional and bilateral issues, including security issues. I would not be surprised if Burma and Cambodia come up in their discussions. But they'll talk, certainly, about security issues as they relate to the Asia-Pacific region.
Q Mike, I have two questions about the killer asteroid. First of all, can you explain why this morning none of the senior staff wanted to hear Jack Gibbons --
MR. MCCURRY: No, no, no. I shouldn't have indicated that. He was available to talk at greater length on it, but he gave a report on it very briefly. There is not -- I mean, there's not much beyond what has already been publicly reported that there is to know.
Q My second question is, Congressman Rohrabacher thinks there is something beyond what's been reported, which is that the President line-item vetoed an asteroid interceptor program last year from the U.S. Air Force. And I'm wondering if the President is willing to reconsider his line item veto.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know a thing about that. I'll have to look into it, or maybe we can -- these folks can help you out.
Q Mike, Bruce Lindsey's before the grand jury again today. Has the White House Counsel's Office and the OIC come to an agreement on the issue of executive privilege?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the status of whatever conversations they may or may not have. I don't even know for a fact that Mr. Lindsey is before the grand jury.
Q He is.
MR. MCCURRY: He is?
Q He's already been.
Q So you don't -- the answer to the question is, I don't know?
MR. MCCURRY: The answer is, I don't know if they have had any further discussions about the matter. There's been none reported to me or no outcome of that reported to me.
Q And for the record, has the President officially exercised his executive privilege right?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not have any knowledge of that.
Q How do you assess the importance of the President's visit to China this time?
MR. MCCURRY: I think the President has already in a sense assessed the importance of the continuing dialogue he has with the highest level of the People's Republic leadership because that has been one of the ways in which we have taken arguably one of the most important relationships the United States has on Earth and moved it into a process that we can both manage the differences we have and take advantage of those areas in which we have agreement, and work together to accomplish goals that we both find mutually beneficial. I think the President looks forward to continuing that type of detailed concrete dialogue with President Jiang Zemin, and I think he hopes that this will be an occasion that we can continue to make process on the issues that are central in what is a very expansive bilateral relationship.
Q When you said that they were considering moving up the trip because you're concerned about losing some momentum, what kind of areas are we talking about? What momentum would be lost if you waited until November?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have worked on -- I mean, just for example, a lot of the work that we have done on regional security issues, the cooperation we've had on the question of Korea and their attempt to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula, the work the People's Republic have done in connection with the 4-party talks have all been very, very helpful. There's also been a variety of ways in which in both international issues, multilateral organizations, other places, we have found common endeavors. And we think building on that record of supporting and continuing to move forward is important.
We also have seen some progress, albeit measured progress on occasion, in addressing the difficulties and the disagreements we have. We've made considerable progress on nonproliferation issues. We've made some progress, although I'd have to describe it as measured progress, with respect to human rights. But there have been developments there that we have noted favorably, as you know. And I think the President wants to see that kind of momentum for improvement in the overall status of the relationship continue.
Q Mike, how does this volume of presidential travel over the next three months or so affect his -- what's become his constant call for Congress to take action on what's become his to-do list on tobacco, on child care? If he's not in town to prod them along, how much of a say does he have in this?
MR. MCCURRY: He will continue to be prodding them along, and the quantity of time that he is in town is, of course, far greater than the quantity of time that he's out of town.
Q Has the President read Primary Colors, and does he plan to see the movie?
MR. MCCURRY: I do not know and do not know.
Q On Gerry Adams, could you please give us a rundown on what he might do here, and also an assessment on how you think American attitudes toward Gerry Adams might have changed?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think that Americans, to the degree they follow the search for peace in Northern Ireland, know that Sinn Fein is now a participant in the all-party talks -- again. They most likely know that they were briefly suspended by a joint decision of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom for reasons that both governments have publicly addressed. I think they have come to see the participants in that process, whatever their differences, whatever the past records of their organizations, as being those who are committed to what is now the available venue to address the differences that exist between the sects in Northern Ireland so that the peace that the people of all Ireland want can be found.
Q Well, would you say he is held in high repute by the American people, or is he --
MR. MCCURRY: I would say he's probably largely unknown to the vast majority of Americans, but those who are concerned about events in Northern Ireland and follow that process know that he is a participant in a peace process that holds out the hope of peace that everyone so often wants.
Q Mike, today is the second anniversary of the Helms-Burton Act. How would you assess the projection it's had on American foreign policy and in its relations with a lot of the allies who don't like the Helms-Burton Act?
MR. MCCURRY: The Helms-Burton Act has not brought about the peaceful change in the communist regime in Cuba that the United States fervently desires. But neither has the engagement by other countries with Cuba brought about the kind of change that those countries often say would be the result of engagement. So it's safe to say that no one's policy designed to bring about peaceful democratic change to the nature of that regime at the moment is working. And we have to continue to address it.
Q How about the relations between the U.S. and a lot of countries -- Europe, Latin America?
MR. MCCURRY: Helms-Burton is a source of some disagreement with our allies in Europe and we address that through very high-level diplomacy. The work of Under Secretary Eizenstat I'd credit in being very important in reducing tensions that exist between Europe and the United States. And we will continue to attempt to resolve those differences even as we all remain united in our goal of trying to bring about the kind of change that the world wants to see in Cuba.
Q By meeting with the wrestlers, is the President trying to shine a spotlight on enhanced cultural exchanges in Iran --
MR. MCCURRY: It would be accurate to say that he's drawing attention to an exchange, a people-to-people exchange that is maybe off the beaten path of diplomacy, but it has something to say about the prospect and hope for more beneficial relations between peoples. Now, it's still going to be the case that the way in which we can address the serious and deep differences that exist between the United States and Iran is through a formal diplomatic dialogue. But as we have said, and said specifically in response to President Khatami's recent remarks, we do see utility in the kind of people-to-people exchanges that included the visit by the U.S. wrestling team recently to Iran.
Q Mike part of that court decision involving the death of the woman in Soweto said that Iran was a sponsor of a Jihad organization. Does the administration agree with that?
MR. MCCURRY: In our Patterns of Global Terrorism report most recently -- and we probably have another one coming up in April -- you can see exactly how we describe Palestinian Jihad and you can see that we do see an element of Iranian sponsorship in the work of that organization.
Q Does the judgment in that case against Iran, might it have an adverse effect on U.S. desires to establish a more normal relationship with Iran?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, the impediment to establishing more normal relationships with Iran has been, among other things, their continued support for terrorism, in addition to their effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction and their virulent opposition to the Middle East peace process. So, in a sense, that decision codifies what has been a central element of the tension that exists between the United States and Iran, and that is its state sponsorship of terrorist activity.
Q Tomorrow, the Paula Jones' lawyers are going to file their rebuttal to the President's lawyers' motion to summarily dismiss the whole case. Are officials here, are the President's supporters getting nervous about what the Jones' lawyers might put in their motion?
MR. MCCURRY: I haven't talked to Mr. Bennett about that subject, so I don't know. But you should ask him. You might check with Mr. Kennedy and see if he's had any conversations.
Q As far as you know, are there some ground rules what they can and what they cannot, as far as earlier depositions in the Jones case are concerned, what can go into their rebuttal?
MR. MCCURRY: I cannot describe them for you in any detail, but I have heard from some of the attorneys working on this that there are ground rules as to what can be filed in front of the court. How that works, I honestly don't know. You'll have to ask Mr. Bennett.
Q Any reaction to the report that Web Hubbell may be indicted again? And, specifically, if, indeed, Mr. Hubbell didn't pay proper income taxes or failed to disclose his fees to the sentencing judge, would it be appropriate to prosecute him?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe Mr. Kennedy was responding to that on behalf of the White House last night, so contact him.
Q Do you know for sure, though, that -- can you confirm that Webb Hubbell has been notified that he's about to be indicted?
MR. MCCURRY: I believe Mr. Kennedy was saying that we had no independent knowledge of what may or may not be contemplated by the OIC.
Q Given that you admit that Helms-Burton hasn't properly worked, are you considering another policy for Cuba, another policy that's not --
MR. MCCURRY: No, we have given an assessment. What I just told you is exactly what Secretary Albright said recently on the Hill, and we've indicated that we need to continue to search for ways in which we can promote the kind of peaceful change in Cuba that we desire.
Q On Cuba, are you dismissing, then, the apparent success of the Pope's trip and the subsequent release of the political prisoners by the Cuban government as not a sign of achieving the changes that people like to see?
MR. MCCURRY: No, not at all dismissing it, because one of the things that His Holy Father did while he was there was to press very hard on the regime there to make further changes. There has been some modest change, but certainly not the kind of change that is desired by the world community.
Q The President of the United States -- to change the embargo policy?
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct, and we responded to that at the time.
Q The Wall Street Journal said the United States is telling Tokyo that Japan urgently needs to cut tax cut and raise spending by between $65 billion and $80 billion. Is that true, and has the United States ever used such figures?
MR. MCCURRY: I knew that that news account was going to appear. The Treasury Department has been responding to that on behalf of our government today. The response is something that it's long been our view that a demand-led fiscal growth would be in the best interests of the people of Japan and the people that participate in the international economy.
Q Mike, the Republicans are determined to add anti-abortion language to the IMF bill and language forbidding the FCC from awarding free air time in the supplemental spending bill, and daring the White House to veto them. What will be the President's response if they arrive on his desk with that language?
MR. MCCURRY: It will not be an unfamiliar one because they know that the determination of this President to address the emergency needs we have without seeing it gummed up by issues that are however important, extraneous to the purposes of both the supplemental bill and some of the other pending measures. We need to get on with funding the work that we are doing in the Persian Gulf to contain the threat that we see -- or we perceive in the actions of Saddam Hussein; we need to get on with doing the important work of building a civil transformation of life in Bosnia; we need to give needed disaster relief to those people who have suffered so much from the terrible weather we've had; and we need to do the things that other aspects of the supplemental would cover, including fulfilling our obligations at the United Nations.
Why the Republicans, given the urgency of those needs, insist on attaching things that are purely ideological disputes -- I'm not saying that people of conscience aren't behind them, but I'm just saying that they are sure-fire formula for gridlock. And the Republicans always seem, in the face of these urgent needs that we have around the world and the people of the United States have, they always seem to find a way to want to try to play politics and to gum up the works. And I think the American people have made it clear over and over again that they don't like that. So why the Republicans would try to do that again is certainly mystifying to the White House.
Q Are you astonished that they're doing it again?
MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely astonishing.
Q Does that threat hold true for both the abortion language and the FCC prohibition?
MR. MCCURRY: This falls kind of the category of dumb and dumber.
Q Are you making that threat for both of those things, the abortion language attached to IMF and the prohibition on free TV time? In other words, if they came to you separately, you'd veto each one?
MR. MCCURRY: They are both in the category I described to you yesterday. I'm reluctant to issue specific veto threats because that's done through the Office of Management and Budget. But it is very clear that in both of those matters they are moving in the wrong direction and very clear that they're moving closer to a veto by the President.
Q Mike, you were going to check to see whether anybody wanted to comment on the helicopter pilot who threatened --
MR. MCCURRY: They don't. (Laughter.)
Q Some critics are saying that the President's upcoming trip to Africa brings back an old issue that the administration seems to be running from, apology for slavery and reparations. How will the administration justify not giving an apology for slavery after this trip that will take Clinton to a slave house and also a former slave --
MR. MCCURRY: We have addressed that question before and the President is confident that is not an issue that is central on the minds of any category of Americans. Americans, whatever their racial backgrounds, want economic progress; they want opportunity; they want to be able to live out their dreams; and they want to look ahead. And I think the President has made it very clear that that's what the purpose of his work is about, and getting into an issue that for most Americans is extraneous and off point is not something he intends to do.
He certainly is going to talk about the legacy of slavery and the scar that it represents on America, and address it in the context he's addressed it before. But this other question is a question that is very far off the mark when it comes to what real work we need to do to improve the lives of all Americans as we look ahead.
Q I'd like to follow up to that. A few weeks ago when Prime Minister Blair was here, one of the White House invited guests, Stevie Wonder, said the only way that America could heal is not only to apologize for slavery, but apologize to the Native Americans as well. Would the President ever consider a lump apology not just of African Americans but --
MR. MCCURRY: Stevie Wonder is a fine human being and a great entertainer, and he's entitled to his views.
Q Mike, does the President plan to hold a press conference on American soil anytime soon? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't rule it out.
Q Would you rule it in, though?
Q -- golf match with Casey Martin? Golf match, the President, Casey Martin -- the disable golfer. Is anything in the works there? There was a report that somebody was --
MR. MCCURRY: I've heard of the idea before, but I don't know if anything is in the works or not.
Q Can you explain why at this late date the U.S. still doesn't have a position on Geneva? Are you anticipating further action by the Chinese or hoping for further action?
MR. MCCURRY: We just applauded the further action today, so --
Q I know, but why aren't you prepared now to move forward and announce your position --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we'll be assessing some of these developments as we prepare -- but, remember, the conference in Geneva runs some duration of time and we'll be taking our position as we represent, as are our delegation represents our view in Geneva.
Q Do you think what the Chinese have done should be weighed in Geneva?
MR. MCCURRY: I think I've said we didn't take a position, but it clearly is something that should be factored in.
Q Anything new on the --
MR. MCCURRY: These folks are going to check for you on that.
Q I'm from the Danish newspaper --
MR. MCCURRY: You want me to congratulate Prime Minister Rasmussen. I can't do that, because I don't have anything formal to do that with. Are the election results formally announced yet? We have enjoyed --
Q Go on. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: We have --
Q Get ready for Tony Blair.
MR. MCCURRY: We have noted the election results and we congratulate the Prime Minister on reelection. We have enjoyed a good working relationship with him and with his coalition. And while the decision made by the people of Denmark is theirs to make, we certainly do expect the very close working relationship we've had with the government to continue as we pursue all of the matters that are both on our bilateral agenda and on the agenda of the work we do with Europe proper.
Q Hear, hear. (Applause.)
MR. MCCURRY: Now, there's going to be someone in the European division at the NSC -- "but he didn't say." (Laughter.) Thanks for the question.
Q Moving ever eastward, is the White House considering adding Moscow to the G-7 summit, and is that contingent on Duma action on START II?
MR. MCCURRY: We have long made it clear to the Russian Federation that ratification of START II is a very high priority. The President has stressed that in his conversations with President Yeltsin; the Vice President and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin talked about it yesterday. The President has said to President Yeltsin that one of the key ingredients of his next summit meeting will be to build on our overall proliferation on arms control agenda. That certainly includes spelling out in greater detail and beginning the work on START III as the two Presidents foresaw in their meeting in Helsinki. That can't happen until START II is ratified by the Duma. So while there is not necessarily a direct linkage there, there certainly is the anticipation that the next summit meeting between the two Presidents will feature a very important, forward-looking discussion about START III and that, of course, presupposes ratification of START II.
Q So there can't be a bilateral meeting between the two heads of state before START II is ratified?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm being very careful in addressing that question very specifically.
Q I thought the U.S. position was that these meetings have become regularized and they didn't meet the sort of tangible, concrete achievements to have them --
MR. MCCURRY: They have. They have become regular and routine.
Q Clearly, more than a year has passed between the meetings. These were supposed to be both the annual exercises. passed between the meetings, it's supposed to annual exercises. Aren't you worried about momentum fading in this relationship?
MR. MCCURRY: They become regular and routine.
Q But Mike, you were specific but unclear. (Laughter.) You seem to be saying that there can't be a bilateral summit until the Duma votes on START II.
MR. MCCURRY: Scott, when you go back and look at the transcript, you'll see I was very careful in how I announced -- addressed the question.
Q Mike, since Mr. Kendall is not returning phone calls, could you please tell us specifically which White House aides are part of the joint defense agreement and what exactly that entails?
MR. MCCURRY: Part of the what?
Q Joint defense agreement.
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what that is. There is not -- all I've heard there is not such a formal thing as was described long ago in a Wall Street Journal article. But I'll talk to Mr. Ruff and see if he can develop anything. But I would -- you should actually pose the question to Mr. Kennedy, who does return phone calls and he might be in a position to help.
Q Could we get a Jim Kennedy briefing daily, maybe?
Q Yes, he doesn't return them at the rates that you're sending us to him.
MR. MCCURRY: We don't do that here.
Q Mike, so I understand what you're saying is you have heard that the original story of the joint defense agreement is incorrect?
MR. MCCURRY: I ask you to call Mr. Kennedy.
Q Mike, is the President concerned at all about the fact that apparently Kathleen Willey is now cooperating with Ken Starr?
MR. MCCURRY: You know I don't comment on that here.
Q Do you have anything yet on her employment record at the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: What did Jim come up with on that? Mr. Kennedy apparently has something. You should call him.
Q Is there any White House response to the Jerry Falwell column today in USA Today?
MR. MCCURRY: What he should respond to is the stories earlier in the week about some of the financial contributions he's directed.
Yes, anything else? Okay, good-bye.
END 2:05 P.M. EST