View Header


                     Office of the Press Secretary
                         (Birmingham, England)
For Immediate Release                                       May 16, 1998
                            PRESS BRIEFING
                             MIKE McCURRY
                            Metropole Hotel
                          Birmingham, England

4:25 P.M. (L)

Q Can I just follow on the START stuff? Clinton and Yeltsin talked post-START II on the assumption that START II will be ratified, start talking target numbers and so on?

MR. MCCURRY: President Clinton will clearly ask President Yeltsin for a status report on the efforts to achieve Duma ratification of START II. There have been some encouraging developments with respect to that. The argument is beginning to pick up a bit. That's in an environment in which the Russian people on the Duma are getting accustomed to a new Russian government.

But I expect a conversation will proceed with the assumption that the Russian Federation is anxious to achieve ratification of START II and the two leaders will no doubt explore what that suggests for their future efforts at arms control beyond.

Q Mike, I think there's been a press conference between Yeltsin and Clinton at each of these summits. Will there be one tomorrow?

MR. MCCURRY: My understanding is there is not and that was fine with us and suggested by the Russian delegation.

Q Why was that? I mean, isn't this the first time?

MR. MCCURRY: You were at that press conference Monday and we've got a desire to get on with our program tomorrow.

Q Well, how will we find out what happened?

MR. MCCURRY: We'll give you a readout afterwards and do it promptly so that those of you who wish to depart smartly for London, may.

Q Mike, there was a Washington Post story on tobacco legislation this morning that said the White House and McCain reached agreement on a tougher tobacco bill and the President would endorse this bill out-and-out next week. Can you confirm that?

MR. MCCURRY: I can tell you that there have been, while we've been here, Erskine Bowles and others on the White House staff have been in very intense discussions on the tobacco bill. They've made a great deal of progress in addressing what we felt were some of the, not necessarily shortcomings, but some of the directions of the McCain bill that we thought we might be able to enhance and improve.

Some of the work that we've done has already won some measure of acclaim in the public health community and those who are working hard to develop a new public health policy with respect to tobacco and kids. And I expect the President will want to reflect on that progress next week, in advance of Senate consideration of the bill.

Q Will he endorse it?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the bill is the bill. The issue or the amendments that are in development now that would be offered on the floor and we have had good discussions designed to generate bipartisan support for some very critical amendments and I suspect we'll want to talk about some of those amendments, yes.

Q Mike, the President is making a big pitch in his radio address today to the Senate to ratify the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. But since the Indians began their tests this week have you people detected any shift in opinion in the Senate with regard to ratification?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, we've detected some shift of opinion with respect to ratification.

Q I mean in your direction.

MR. MCCURRY: I think that some people are reflecting on the arguments in the way Mr. Berger answered the question earlier. The increased sensitivity, the heightened degree of concern is something that suggests a closer evaluation of what a comprehensive test ban regime would mean for those who are currently non-nuclear states, but capable of acquiring that type of fissile material technology. And I think in some cases it probably makes for a more powerful argument.

Q Particularly with regard to Lott and Helms, how are you going to overcome that?

MR. MCCURRY: There have been some initial political analyses made by people who were already likely to be opponents of ratification, so I don't think we are judging the climate based solely on those that we expected to be either opposed or somewhat opposed to ratification.

Q A federal appeals court has rejected Monica Lewinsky's claim that she had an immunity deal with federal prosecutors. Are you concerned that this would force her to testify in front of a grand jury?

MR. MCCURRY: I haven't had a chance to examine that, but I know that my colleagues back in Washington have already responded to that.

Q On Northern Ireland, will the President and Tony Blair have some sort of an event tomorrow before leaving?

MR. MCCURRY: I think as some of you know, the President is supposed to be taping with Prime Minister Blair an interview program right now on the subject of Northern Ireland. And we may look for an opportunity with the Prime Minister to make some additional comments tomorrow on the referendum.

It's been the advice that we've received from the British delegation that the President's voice is listened to and heard in the course of this debate; although, obviously, the President elected not to be present in Northern Ireland for the referendum period. But when asked to do something in furtherance of an agreement that the President supports we obviously consider that and we are trying to plan to do something at this point. I don't know that we've nailed down exactly when or how we're going to do that.

By the way, an update, today's session of the G-8 has concluded, I understand, and the leaders are wrapping up. The President is still on site to do this interview program that I just mentioned. I expect that we will get a readout on the afternoon discussion with respect to employability. And Gene Sperling, the President's National Economics Advisor will give a brief readout to the pool, so you can look for a pool report that will just summarize the balance of the afternoon session that we didn't deal with yet.

Q Anything on the dinner tonight?

MR. MCCURRY: The dinner, my understanding, was likely to be mostly social. And since the President accomplished one of his other objectives, to have a discussion with Prime Minister Chretien this afternoon I think that he was looking forward to an opportunity mostly to socialize with his counterparts. Obviously, that usually involves doing some business as well. If there's any substance to pass on from the dinner we will do so to the pool; but I expect that we will roll into our Yeltsin meeting readout tomorrow any follow-up, color or detail from tonight.

Q Will we get any excerpts from Strobe Talbott's --

MR. MCCURRY: Strobe Talbott is returning here tonight and, as Sandy indicated, he'll probably -- Sandy and Strobe will talk. We've passed on some of the relevant aspects of his report to the President already. If there's anything additional to pass on to him tonight, Sandy will probably do so. And then the President will have a more detailed briefing from Strobe tomorrow. After that occurs we'll see whether Strobe wants to be available. So sometime tomorrow, but not tonight.

Q Will he be available like in a briefing here? He might do his briefing here, for instance?

MR. MCCURRY: It depends on what his availability is going to be. I think he needs to be on the premises with the President for the purpose of participating in his bilateral with President Yeltsin. So that puts him downtown and my guess is we'll, if we do anything, we'll have to do it with the pool.

Just so I get expectations set correct, we have already told you -- I have and Sandy did just a short while ago -- told you exactly what he will tell you when he has a chance to talk to you.

Q Does the administration think that what you've done on Pakistan, both criticizing and punishing India and in offering incentives to Pakistan, has had an effect -- do you think it's had the effect of delaying at least Pakistani tests?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the government of Pakistan should answer that. I think that the answer to that may well be obvious, but I think the government of Pakistan is the only one that can accurately address it.

Q You mean it's obvious because there hasn't been a test?

MR. MCCURRY: There has not been a test to my knowledge.

Q Has the President talked at all this week to the Prime Minister of India and does he plan to do so?

MR. MCCURRY: He has not. He was aware that Prime Minister Blair intended to make the call that he did to Prime Minister Vaj Payee, and it was a quite firm and stiff call, as has been reported by my British counterparts.

Q But Clinton has no plans at this point to similarly talk to Mr. Vaj Payee?

MR. MCCURRY: Having sent a high level emissary to be in direct conversation with him, having sent a letter to the Prime Minister, having had the Secretary of State make a presentation and having had less than forthcoming responses from the government of India, the answer is most likely no.

Q How's his back?

MR. MCCURRY: He's feeling better today. It was feeling a little better yesterday. I don't know that it's all better, I think he's still feeling some twinge. But he seemed to be a lot better this morning.

Q Are there any plans for the President to call Prime Minister Sharif?

MR. MCCURRY: He has already called him once and I'm not aware of any plans for an additional call. But let me check that question again after Deputy Secretary Talbott briefs the President.

Q -- that Clinton should consider postponing his trip to China until they get some more information about what Johnny Chung is saying, money that went to the Democrats.

MR. MCCURRY: That is a matter that is now the subject of a federal investigation by the Justice Department. And I think politicians ought to lay off.

Okay. What else do I need to do? Say goodbye?

Q Mike, do you want to say anything about the allegations from the Jim McDougal book, that the President pledged a pardon for Susan McDougal?

MR. MCCURRY: I think Mr. Kendall's piece of paper in response is all those allegations are worth in the first place.

Q Did you see this statement on the Jubilee 2000? Is the President going to make any effort to sort of meet with any of these people or acknowledge them directly?

MR. MCCURRY: He's actually asked that -- they have been a visible presence downtown and he has gotten a pretty good readout from some of our folks who have followed their argument closely on what the general thrust of their argument was. Part of their concern, of course, is the nature of debt relief and the ways in which debt relief is applied in the developing world -- a subject that was part of the discussion today, if I understand correctly -- and a subject that the Prime Minister -- well, Prime Minister Blair I think was especially sensitive to and incorporated within some of the discussion they had today.

So I think he is certainly aware of that. I don't know if he's seen that particular communique, but he had asked to get some information the subject matter of the protest.

Q So he's not going to meet with any of these Jubilee --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that he has any plans to meet with them, no.

Q He said they're feeling a little snubbed by the fact that these guys were all off in the countryside while they're here.

MR. MCCURRY: I can't do anything about that problem. I guess they could have gone to -- where were they today, Weston Under-Lizard -- and seen the rural life up close.

Q Will we see you tomorrow at all?

MR. MCCURRY: I guess the only thing we would do is do a pool -- the transcript can end long ago as far as I'm concerned, so don't worry.

END 4:30 P.M. (L)