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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 22, 1998
                          PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                             MIKE MCCURRY 

The Briefing Room

2:40 P.M. EDT

MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We're going to start with some travel: a three-day trip, August 10, 11, 12. August 10, Louisville, Kentucky, a school safety event, then a fundraiser. On to Chicago for a big unity dinner in Chicago, Illinois. After the unity dinner, on to San Francisco, California --

Q What kind of dinner?

MR. MCCURRY: Unity. That means Democratic political unity, no doubt, as in fundraiser, as in campaign '98. We're still on the 10th. Then we go out to San Francisco, overnight in San Francisco. Some events in San Francisco and some political events. Then down to LA, stay in LA the night of the 11th. Events to be determined in LA, and then back by way of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for a dinner for Senator Feingold.

Look how happy Mark Knoller looks. Look at that look. That's priceless. Hey, turn around, cameras going in the wrong direction. (Laughter.) Mark, I'm sure you'll have a good time on that trip.

Q Yes, I'm looking forward to you being on it. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Maybe I ought to take one, just to prove I can still do it.

Q Oooh.

Q He's in Milwaukee on the 11th or the 12th?

MR. MCCURRY: On the 12th. The 10th, 11th, and 12th. So I've got that on the record and did my duty.

All right, what else? Anything else?

Q Mike, Daryl Jones.

MR. MCCURRY: Daryl Jones. The White House is clearly disappointed that the Senate committee did not hear clearly the arguments put forward by Chairman Thurmond, by Senator Levin, and by others with whom the President had been in very close contact with in recent days. The President thinking that Daryl Jones is a highly qualified, superb nominee. And we deeply regret the fact that the full Senate will not hear the merits of the nomination. We believe the nominee more than adequately answered the concerns that were expressed by various senators, and we will now have to consult with our supporters and those with whom the President spoke in the last several days to determine how to proceed.

Q -- still stand by him, though?

MR. MCCURRY: Say again.

Q Are you going to still try to stand by him like you did with Bill Lann Lee, maybe?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are going to assess what the prospects are. We've got strong support for this nominee, reflected in the President's work on this nomination in the last several days, and we will assess what the prospects for the nomination are. We certainly hope that we can proceed.

Q You're not saying then that it's dead?

Q Did those problems surface in your background check?

MR. MCCURRY: Say again.

Q Had those problems surfaced in your background check?

MR. MCCURRY: I can't answer that. I'd have to check on that.

Q You're not saying at this point, though, that the nomination is dead, you're not going to give up?

MR. MCCURRY: I am not saying that.

Q But, Mike, does he have the same options that he did with Bill Lann Lee? I mean, legally, could he make an interim appointment if he wanted to?

MR. MCCURRY: I think we would have to assess exactly what the options are. I don't know what the timing and the sequencing is. But we certainly -- that's among the things we will assess, is how we can proceed at this point.

Q But you believe that material adverse to him is not correct?

MR. MCCURRY: We believe that he adequately responded to each and every point, and he made clear what the circumstances were of his flight record and some of the other issues that were raised. And we think the answered it more than satisfactorily.

Q But you can't say whether those were known --

Q The committee asked for a new name. Are you saying that you're not going to do that --

MR. MCCURRY: We have no new name.

Q -- decide what to do?

MR. MCCURRY: We have a good nominee and it's unfortunate that people didn't hear Strom Thurmond and Carl Levin, and others, who made a strong case for the nominee.

Q You're unable to say whether any of these problems were known before? I thought this was a matter of public record.

MR. MCCURRY: I believe that that was all addressed during the course of the nomination proceeding and what was known to the committee and what was provided to the committee. And I think there was more than adequate information provided during the course of the consideration of the nomination.

Q So you're saying none of this --

MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check here. I just don't know, so I'm not going to say until I check.

Q All right, but what I'm asking you --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to say until I check.

Q -- were any of the things, the problems that the arose about him, were any of those a surprise to the White House?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not aware that any of them were unknown to the White House when we considered the nomination and put the name forward, but I'll double-check that point.

Q But you admit it's bleak, don't you?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm saying that we're going to assess what the prospects are, talking to senators who are in the best position of knowing what likelihood there is of further consideration of the nomination.

Q Mike, apparently, Middle East peace talks have collapsed, and Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai is urging the U.S. to send Dennis Ross to the region immediately for a three-way U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian summit and bridge the gap. Would we consider that?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that's a little preemptory to say that these talks have collapsed. These talks have always been difficult and have been from day one, but they've achieved extraordinary things. And I think declaring that a process that has brought that troubled region to the brink of peace and has achieved historic peace agreements should not be declared null and void without a good-faith effort on the sides to resolve the differences that exist.

We have told these parties for quite some time now that it was going to be hard work for them to bridge the differences that exist and we've worked hard to help them bridge those differences; that they should stay engaged and they should continue to work. They should not, just because they've come back together for direct face-to-face discussions and encountered difficulties, assume that they can't make progress. There's no progress to report, true; but it doesn't mean that they can't make progress and they ought to try harder.

Q Will the U.S. send Dennis Ross there? Will he do anything?

MR. MCCURRY: I think that Dennis Ross is available to the parties for consultation. But the purpose of visits to the region are to advance the process and we're at a point now where the parties have to make progress themselves.

Q That's a no?

MR. MCCURRY: It's a diplomatic answer. (Laughter.)

Q -- comment on Mo Mowlan's visit? Did she have lunch with the President and Mrs. Clinton?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure if she saw the First Lady. I know that she is scheduled to see the National Security Advisor this afternoon for a review of various issues. The folks here at the White House look forward to seeing her. She is a very valued leader when it comes to advancing a peace process that has brought so much hope to Ireland and to its people, and we look forward to exchanging views with her.

COLONEL CROWLEY: She met with the First Lady -- I'm not sure she had lunch, but --

MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure she had lunch, P.J. says, with the First Lady, but the First Lady did want to have the opportunity to meet her. She has heard a lot of about her and wanted to exchange views on subjects related to the Northern Ireland peace process --

Q When is she coming?

MR. MCCURRY: Later this afternoon, I believe.

Q Will the First Lady be going to Ireland and Russia with the President?

MR. MCCURRY: Yes, she will be.

Q Mike, one of the themes of Mo Mowlan's visit here that she said on Good Morning America at the British Embassy today is concern that some Irish American groups may be funneling funds to some of the splinter groups as offshoots of the IRA and other groups similar to them. Does the White House hold any of those concerns?

MR. MCCURRY: We share the concerns of all who believe that these parties should remain focused on the objectives of the Good Friday Agreement and that we should reject those who are working to undermine the fundamentals of that peace agreement. Certainly those who espouse violence and who would like to turn the clock back to the time of Troubles need to be shunned vigorously. We have our own law here in the United States that helps prevent funds from being diverted to terrorist, violent causes. And we certainly understand what Secretary Mowlan's concern would be and why she wants to articulate it.

Q Mike, why has the President recently participated and led so many events that his predecessors probably would have left to Cabinet Secretaries or sub-Cabinet officials?

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know what you're referring to.

Q Well, like this morning's event -- $135,000 grants -- not to denigrate the events themselves, but in previous administrations these kinds of announcements usually didn't include the President.

MR. MCCURRY: I think in campaign years all of you can recall Presidents participating in announcements for grants for major locales around the country. I don't think that's a fair assessment.

Q Mike, can you remember a time when the President has ever held a White House event where he's announced grants worth less than $2.2 million?

MR. MCCURRY: I'd have to go back and check, but I bet you you could find some. And remember, the principle here is the demonstration that the success that is a reality of Boston can be built upon. Now, we have pending legislation that goes well beyond $2.2 million worth of grants, and you well know that. And as I told you this morning, the purpose of these grants today and the projects that are being undertaken in these 16 communities is to demonstrate to this Congress that this approach works so we can get action on the national legislation that is now pending in Congress. So that's not a fair observation.

Q Mike, what does the President think about the House Budget Committee Chairman's new tax cut proposal, $500 billion? He does set aside $6 billion annually for Social Security.

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we think of it about as much as Trent Lott and Pete Domenici and others think of it. There's clearly no strong support within the Republican leadership for this approach, and the reason is simple, as it's been articulated well by the President. We need to keep working hard to preserve the legacy of Social Security for our kids and our grandchildren. And that should be the focus of the work to do. We haven't realized these surpluses. We're just barely coming into sight of surpluses. For example, the new June numbers which are out today will demonstrate that in June we ran a pretty healthy federal budget surplus. But we have not had a full year in which the budget has been balanced or we've incurred a surplus.

And as the President has said repeatedly, let's just take our time and be patient here and make sure that we address the long-term concerns first. In any event, it's not at all clear that the kind of tax cut ideas that are suggested by some on the Hill are going to get sufficient support even within the Republican Party in Congress to move forward. And so I think we need to wait and see if they can come up with a unified position within their own caucus. They clearly have none now.

Q Chairman Archer says that the President is using surplus money to pay for keeping U.S. troops in Bosnia, so why can't some of that money go back to the American people in the form of a tax cut?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, that goes to his interpretation of what you declare to be emergency supplemental funding, and we just would take issue of it. I mean, he could also claim that we've had disasters, natural disasters this year that need to be funded, too. But that's specifically why Congress in its own budget legislation exempted these emergency funding items from the calculation of the overall unitary budget.

Q They say Daryl Jones just appeared before cameras at the Pentagon to say he's returning to Florida to his career there in the private sector and he hopes what happened to him doesn't discourage another qualified nominee from coming to Washington.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that that's necessarily a surprise, but let me check on that, because I wasn't aware that that was going to happen.

Q Mike, is the White House doing anything about IMF funding?

MR. MCCURRY: Say again.

Q Is the White House going to do anything about --

MR. MCCURRY: I can't hear the question.

Q What about IMF funding? The Congress has put it off until September. What are you guys going to do to --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, that is a very short-sighted result of what is political theatre underway within the Congress. If they listen carefully to the testimony that Chairman Greenspan has delivered, they would have heard Chairman Greenspan say that the key factor affecting the future of the U.S. economy is how well we recover from the reverberations of the difficulties the Asian regional economies have experienced. And given that expert testimony, it is certainly short-sighted for this Congress to set aside a measure that is integral to restoring stability to those economies and to help the United States continue to rely upon Asia as good customers and good trade partners. And I think that's one more indication of why we hope that they will very quickly return to that issue and vote the full funding that the IMF needs to proceed with the work that they are doing not only in Asia, but in other parts of the world.

Q To follow up, are you doing anything to try and get them to do that? Are there talks going on now?

MR. MCCURRY: We have pressed this issue with considerable vigor amongst the leadership. We have even heard some leaders acknowledge to us they understand the importance, but they feel like their hands are tied for complicated reasons that involve the internal politics of their caucus. And we have strongly suggested that they do everything they can to break the logjam and move ahead.

Q But, Mike, is it your interpretation of Armey's remarks that you're going to get this; it's just going to happen in year-end negotiations in the fall, or that this is --

MR. MCCURRY: Armey has -- it depends on which day you hear Representative Armey talk, because he's had different positions on different days. I think that what -- it's going to be necessary for others in leadership positions to step up to their obligations to lead and to move this measure forward.

Q Is there something -- is there some kind of quantitative difference that's going to happen if you don't get it until the fall, versus now? I mean, it's just a couple months.

MR. MCCURRY: Is there a quantitative difference --

Q Is something disastrous going to happen if you don't get it until the fall?

MR. MCCURRY: It means that the -- I'd have to check at Treasury -- or you might want to check at Treasury of whether there's any crimp in the extension of new arrangements for borrowing that can be made by the IMF in the interim in an under-funded situation. Remember, they had to draw on a special reserve facility to meet the requirements of the Russian package, which was just negotiated between the IMF and Russia. So whether or not that affects potential future facilities that they might have to deal with I'm just not expert enough to say. But I think it's a good question that you might want to post at Treasury.

Q Mike, in a letter from King Hussein of Jordan to his brother that was right on Jordanian television last night, the King says he's concerned he may have a lymphoma and that tomorrow --I'm assuming that's today -- that they were going to call President Clinton's doctor, which the President has put at their disposal. Has that happened? Has that become a practice, that the President puts his doctor at the disposal of other world leaders? And how is King Hussein doing?

MR. MCCURRY: King Hussein has described his own physical condition. It's an open letter, actually, that was published in the Jordanian press yesterday. And obviously, what His Majesty has shared with his own people should be considered authoritative. He did indicate that there are indications that he has lymphoma. And he described some of the anticipated tests and treatment. The Mayo Clinic, where the King is treated, has been providing some further details, if I understand correctly.

President Clinton called the King over the weekend to wish him well. He did offer any help that the White House could provide to the King. He indicated that the President's personal physician would be available to be in contact with the King's personal physician at the Mayo Clinic. And we made clear that whatever medical resources are available in the United States, if the King's own medical team deemed it helpful to have those available, we would do everything we could to make those available.

We obviously are not in any position to make any judgment on the seriousness of his condition, but it is a matter of concern to the President. It's a matter of concern to the President because of King Hussein's courageous and brave actions in support of the peace process in the Middle East that we were just discussing earlier. I think it's also a sign of the friendship that the President feels personally towards the King and towards the respect that we have for him as a leader who has helped bring about the peace agreements that have been reached and one who can affect the outcome of the deliberations that could lead to future peace agreements. So the President felt it entirely appropriate to indicate that we would do everything we could to assure that whatever medical care the King needed would be available.

Q Has his doctor consulted with the President's doctor?

MR. MCCURRY: I would really prefer, because of doctor-patient confidentiality, to allow the King's own physicians to address that question however they see fit to address it.

Q Do you mean Dr. Mariano? Is that who you mean?

MR. MCCURRY: He asked her to be available or to make others available, but I think it really should be up to King Hussein's medical team to indicate whatever they want to indicate publicly.

Q She's not a specialist in this area, Mike, is she?

MR. MCCURRY: No, she's a general internist. But she's got access to some of the top people in oncology and other fields who are available and would be available to the President or the President's family if they needed to be treated.

Q You said yesterday that the Finance Committee's vote on fast track was more of an example of political mischief. The vote on that was 18 to 2. How do you explain all the Democrats who supported that?

MR. MCCURRY: I think I also indicated yesterday that within the Democratic Party there's considerable concern about how to proceed on fast track and how to proceed on free trade agreements. I think that some of the differing points of view within the Democratic Party are well known.

Q Well, which votes were mischief and which weren't?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, they -- look, the issue was advanced by Republicans attaching it to an unrelated trade bill for reasons of political mischief. And I think that's a fair characterization.

Q Before yesterday, July 20th was the 24th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Cyprus by Turkish forces using illegally American weapons. Do you have any comment?

MR. MCCURRY: On the anniversary? I think the fact that 24 years have gone by since the 1974 conflict only underscores our belief that it's time for this conflict to be amicably resolved by both Turks and Greeks on Cyprus, in consultation with those in the international community who have gone to considerable effort to help them address their differences.

Q Conflict or invasion?

MR. MCCURRY: It's a conflict and I think it's been well characterized. And what we need is less conflict and more opportunities for the parties themselves to resolve amicably their differences.

Q -- on the meetings held here in the White House the other day by Sandy Berger, Turkish General -- and NATO Secretary General Solana?

MR. MCCURRY: Did we do a readout on --

COLONEL CROWLEY: We addressed those last week. There were two separate meetings.

MR. MCCURRY: Two separate meetings. They were both useful. They gave -- in the case of the meeting with Secretary General Solana, we discussed, of course, a broader range of issues and it was unconnected to the meeting he had with the Defense Minister. But it was a meeting that the National Security Advisor used to advance our interest in the broad agenda we will pursue between now and next year's NATO summit.

In the case of his meeting with --

COLONEL CROWLEY: It was the Turkish General's staff --

MR. MCCURRY: It was the Turkish general staff, not the Defense Minister. We had an opportunity to review issues with respect to the Aegean, other NATO-related issues, given Turkey's status as a close NATO ally.

Q You sounded unusually angry on the breakdown of the Middle East talks. Are you reflecting the President's attitude? Something seems to have really gone awry. Usually you're much more amenable to sending Ross again or whatever --

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think I'm reflecting our sense of what is most needed at this point to advance the process that ultimately the parties themselves are going to have to move forward. We cannot make the decisions that they have to make for themselves. We cannot build confidence in each other -- they have to do that themselves.

We can help them bridge their differences, but they have to be willing to build those bridges. That has been true all along. And we have said we are -- and you've heard Secretary Albright say that we are getting to a point where we need to know whether the parties themselves are committed to trying to resolve their differences and move forward.

Q Mike, the Coverdell bill was vetoed by the President late yesterday. Can you explain why the timing was so late in the day?

MR. MCCURRY: The timing was -- contrary to what I initially thought, it was related to the signing of the IRS bill today. Some of the offsets that were contained in the Coverdell amendment were identical to some offsets that were in the IRS bill and you could not have double counted. Even though the Congress presented the President the peculiar position of having double-counted the pay-fors in both bills, one had to be vetoed before he could sign the other. So we got the IRS bill late yesterday and proceeded with our plans to have the signing ceremony we just had today, and he had to veto the Coverdell bill first. And the fact that it was late in the day.

Q Assad in his visit with President Chirac in Paris had recommended that the Europeans become more active in the Mideast peace process. How does the United States view that proposal?

MR. MCCURRY: I'm sorry, say again, who?

Q Assad has spoken with Chirac and had indicated that he wanted the Europeans more directly involved in the Mideast peace negotiations. How does the U.S. view this proposal?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are certainly aware that President Assad had a series of bilateral meetings in France, including meetings with President Chirac. It remains our view that the European Union has a very helpful and useful role to play in the Middle East peace process, but there is no substitute for the kind of direct role that the parties themselves have requested of the United States in this process.

Q What's the President doing tomorrow? There's a TBA on his schedule for tomorrow.

MR. MCCURRY: He is, of course, meeting with President Sanguinetti of Uruguay. And he is going to conduct a radio roundtable tomorrow on the rural farm crisis. He is going to be talking both with Senator Daschle and Congressman Gephardt. And then the three of them are going to be participating with other members of Congress in a discussion with farm state radio broadcasters.

Q Where?

MR. MCCURRY: In the Oval -- I'm sorry, he'll meet in the Oval and then go to the Roosevelt Room.

Q Is the President still pleased with the performance of Madeleine Albright as Secretary of State?

MR. MCCURRY: Absolutely. She's done a superb job.

Q Well, I keep reading stories suggesting that people in the administration are saying she's weak, that she -- Baltimore Sun just this last weekend.

MR. MCCURRY: Why are you reading such things?

Q Well, I don't know the author.

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know the author or the identity of anyone making disparaging comments about a Secretary of State that the President has very high regard for and who has done a superb and masterful job of advancing a broad range of U.S. diplomatic interests.

Q Is this farm roundtable tomorrow a follow-up to his radio address last Saturday and the meeting --


Q -- he had with farm state Democrats last week?

MR. MCCURRY: -- and to emphasize the importance and urgency of some of the conditions faced by farmers, particularly in the upper plains states, and also to talk about some things that we are doing to respond to that crisis. He'll reiterate some of the things that we've told you about and have some new things to discuss tomorrow.

Q Are there plans to have some kind of a drought summit? Some people are talking -- some people are saying that there's going to be a White House drought summit.

MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to check on that.

Q Sounds like a good idea to me.

Q What time is this tomorrow?

MR. MCCURRY: What time are we doing this tomorrow? Three -- 3 p.m.

Q Open coverage?

MR. MCCURRY: I'll have to -- well, it's stills, but they will obviously, since it's going to be broadcast somewhere, we'll try to make the feed available or see how the feed is going to be available.

Q Mike, what's the President's view of the congressional Republican proposal to spend $2.6 billion on trying to interdict drugs, specifically cocaine and heroine, from coming in from Latin America?

MR. MCCURRY: P.J. told me what the answer was. (Laughter.) I can't -- I have to match that up with what the President's budget request was and what's contained in our national drug control strategy. And I honestly don't know whether that's more or less than what General McCaffrey has recommended as part of our comprehensive approach. And I'll have to check with the Office --

Q P.J.

MR. MCCURRY: -- of National Drug Control.

Q Mike, could you just say what's going on in Kosovo -- I mean, our diplomatic efforts to try to settle that situation --is there anything new to report?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I have not talked about in a while, so let me refresh myself.

Q The Serbs claim to have just taken back a town --

MR. MCCURRY: There has been a lot of back-and-forth on the ground. And as a general proposition, the Serb law enforcement and military units have tried to reinforce positions that they had that were overrun by a somewhat more effective fighting force now presenting itself from the Kosovar Albanian factions. We had a discussion -- we had a question earlier about the discussions that we had with Secretary General Solana earlier. The President and Sandy Berger both had an opportunity to review with him some of the contingency planning that has been undertaken by NATO military authorities, which is there as a further option if diplomatic efforts are not conducive to producing any kind of effective dialogue between the factions.

We have been working along, obviously, these two tracks -- intensive diplomacy backed by sanctions -- to try to craft a political solution and planning at NATO in the event that military contingencies need to be explored. We continue to hold Milosevic primarily responsible for the violence there. It is clearly the machinations of Belgrade that has produced the highest order of conflict that has occurred there. His brutal suppression over many years and continued refusal to take necessary steps towards peace led to this situation. And I think that history shows that there's a pattern there that would be enough to hold him responsible.

But the situation is very volatile. There is obviously provocations that occur from those who are fighting on the other side as well. We have been trying to identify those within the Kosovar Albania movement that are interested in a dialogue that would lead to a peaceful resolution of these differences so that no more innocent civilians and no more lives will be spent in the name of a conflict that just adds further to the tensions that already exist in the Balkans.

Q But, Mike, how is the fact that the conflict there is less one-sided that it once was, how has that affected NATO's contingency plan? I mean, for a while you seemed poised to do something, and then all of a sudden things got more complicated.

MR. MCCURRY: I think that's an assessment that good military planning has to take into account, is what are the different outcomes that would exist if there was any kind of military intervention. And the one outcome that is to be avoided is the appearance of taking sides on behalf of one fighting faction or another. The purpose was to repel clearly a demonstration of aggression that was emanating from one side. You would not want to have the effect of lending support to those who were calling for a political outcome that we don't endorse -- i.e., the independence of Kosovo.

Q It's about a year after the beginning of the Asia crisis and the prices have intensified and spread. Why does the administration believe the IMF's policies are effective, because in Indonesia at this point, their economy is in gridlock?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, I'm well aware that there are some quarters that criticize the performance of the IMF, but I think it's easier to look at the absence of action by international financial institutions and what the outcome would have been of the failure of the IMF and other international institutions to act appropriately. I think that it's easy to imagine that there would have been a wholesale collapse of some of these regional economies, much more dire circumstances, and more importantly to those of here in the United States, a much more direct impact on our economy.

People might find some fault with the measures that have been developed by the IMF, but one can certainly say that the absence of that activity would have been far less preferable. Now, beyond that, I'd send you over to Treasury who can give you a more complete analysis and I think they've testified to that on the Hill.

Q Mike, any White House reaction today to reports that Norma Holloway Johnson has ordered Ken Starr to prove that he and his prosecutors are not the source of any alleged leaks from the grand jury?

MR. MCCURRY: No. It's a sealed proceeding.

Q The President of Romania said on his visit last week that Romania now is prepared to become a member of NATO. However, Romania is performing very poorly -- for instance, with comparison with, for instance, Slovakia, which was excluded from the first wave of enlargement. My question is, what is it that makes Romania one of the top candidates for the next wave of enlargement?

MR. MCCURRY: Well, the performance of its economy is a measure of the degree to which Romania has committed itself to a path of reform and of democratization, of economic modernization, in particular. And that is welcome. It is one of the signs that countries are moving in the direction of preparing themselves for membership in the institutions of the West and including the institutions of military security, such as NATO.

We took the position in the meetings with the President that we, too, believe that Romania is an excellent candidate for membership and that we would do everything we could, unilaterally, as the United States, to help prepare Romania for membership, because our view is that the door is open to Romania for potential membership in NATO. But the criteria by which a candidate member is evaluated is very clear and reflects the judgments that have been made by all the members of the Alliance, and they go to the performance of countries within their Partnership For Peace roles, how they develop as they modernize their own military forces, as they become more interoperable with NATO through the work that they do in the Partnership For Peace, and how effectively the Alliance judges their suitability for future membership in the Alliance -- whether or not they're able to carry out the commitments that exist.

And we judge very optimistically the potential for Romania, but we also acknowledge that we haven't reached the point where we can move towards granting membership at this point.

Q I'd like to ask a question on China. While you were over there, did the President or the administration protest this burning of a rocket -- a missile rocket engine -- while the President was there?

MR. MCCURRY: That is way down in the minutia of what we know is an effort by the Chinese military to modernize their military force. The fact that they tested a rocket motor is not surprising, is consistent with their overall effort to modernize their military. Beyond that, I think there's not much more I can say, given some of the classification of some of that information.

Q Is there a problem at all when you combine that with the arrests of the dissidents and their refusing to let radio reporters go over there, that in some way they were trying to dis the President?

MR. MCCURRY: I know your news organization has speculated that those are related, but I haven't seen any authoritative analysis that has suggested that they're related.

Q So you don't think so?

MR. MCCURRY: I haven't seen any authoritative analysis that suggests they're related.

Q On that point, has the detargeting taken place already?

MR. MCCURRY: They are continuing to work on the logistical elements.

COLONEL CROWLEY: Whether there's time in order to implement -- probably true, but they're moving in that direction.

MR. MCCURRY: There will probably, no doubt, be some additional military-to-military contacts that follow up on that, as was the case with the Russian Federation when we reached a similar agreement.

Q Mike, there have been reports that the President's speech in China was mis-translated, so the Chinese people did not know what he said about freedom. Do you know if that's correct?

MR. MCCURRY: We looked into that at the time of the speech in China and the State Department Language Services Division strongly disputes that. You might want to consult with them, since they provide the interpreters that did the interpretation. They checked through our embassy and through others there, who pronounced themselves well satisfied with the interpretation. There were audio difficulties with the transmission, and that had to do with the way in which the audio feed was being carried by CCTV. Beyond that I think State can help you more.

Q One clarification on the Daryl Jones nomination. You're not suggesting that the opposition was politically motivated, are you?

MR. MCCURRY: No, no -- because I think there were members of both parties who felt both ways on the vote.

Q If you would concede that Helen was right, it's bleak at this point if he's gone back to Florida. (Laughter.)

MR. MCCURRY: Well, if that is the case -- I was not aware of the statement that you read to me, and we certainly were not going to rush to that judgment. But if he's made that judgment, I think it speaks for itself.

Q If it first turns out to be correct -- and I believe it is -- why wouldn't they inform you before you came out on the briefing that he was going to do that at the precise instance you were standing here doing what you did?

MR. MCCURRY: The last I checked on it was when I talked to Mr. Podesta and Mr. Bowles who were dealing with this right before the President's event at 1:00 p.m.

MR. TOIV: That was impromptu.

MR. MCCURRY: So this developed -- it developed sometime between 1:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.

Q You mean Jones just said, look, I'm going to --

MR. MCCURRY: I don't know because I clearly didn't know that he was going to say any such thing.

Q Thank you.

MR. MCCURRY: Thank you.

END 3:15 P.M. EDT