THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Moscow, Russia) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 2, 1998
PRESS BRIEFING BY JIM STEINBERG, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS, AND MIKE MCCURRY Hotel National Moscow, Russia
5:42 P.M. (L)
MR. STEINBERG: As we finish our important discussions here in Moscow, I wanted to give you a little bit of preview of the events, particularly of tomorrow, in Northern Ireland. Actually, the White House activities in Northern Ireland are beginning as we speak. The First Lady has just arrived in Northern Ireland, where she will be concluding the two and a half day Vital Voices Discussion, which has brought together women's NGOs and groups from both Northern Ireland and the United States. It's been a very important and well-received conference. Most of the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland have spoken at the conference, and it is going to have a lot of follow-on in terms of long-lasting partnerships between organizations in Northern Ireland and the United States. A number of administration officials have been participating in that.
I think while there may be some disagreements on the issue of use of force in the discussions today, there is less and less disagreement in Northern Ireland on the question of violence. Over the last several days, we've seen a number of developments which are very positive in terms of generating momentum in support of the peace process there. The tragic events at Drum Creexx** and Omagh have given a new impetus, I think. It has more and more marginalized those who would try to use violence to achieve political means and given strength to those who were supporters of the agreement that was overwhelmingly approved by voters in north and south.
Among the important developments of recent days, as many of you know, yesterday the head of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, made a very important statement in which he indicated that the violence in support of the political process is over, done with, and gone. It's a very important and categorical statement, one that was welcomed by the President, by Prime Minister Blair, by the Taoiseach, Bernie Ahern, and all the major political parties in Northern Ireland, including David Trimble, the head of the Ulster Unionists.
In other events which are happening is that Mr. Trimble, who is the first minister and Seamus Mallon, the Deputy First Minister, will be convening the leaders of all of the parties, probably next Monday, to try to begin the work of preparing for the beginning of the Assembly, which will start in mid-September -- September 14th and 15th. And as we speak, Martin McGuiness, a senior figure in Sinn Fein, has announced that he will act as the overseer for Sinn Fein in connection with decommissioning, which is, again, another positive step along the process towards making the Good Friday agreement a reality and giving support for putting the process into effect.
The President's visit, I think, can be seen in this context as trying to give further impetus to the peace process. When he arrives tomorrow, the first event will be a meeting first with the two leaders, David Trimble and Seamus Mallon, and then individual discussions with the leaders of all the political parties at Stormont. Although this is not a formal meeting of the Assembly, it is part of this process in which the preparatory work is getting ready for the first formal meetings of the Assembly and, as I say, giving a real sense of opportunity and movement, which is very important in the early days of this work.
The President will then go from there to give a major address on the task ahead at Waterfront Hall in Belfast, which is both a symbol of the renewal and the opportunity that the peace process has made possible. And by speaking more formally to the members of the Assembly there, he will have a chance to give his perspective on those issues.
I think from there, as you probably know, the President is going to go to Springvale, where he will undertake a ground-breaking of a new community center that's going to involve education not only for young people but for lifelong learning, which is not only important in terms of opportunity for the people of Belfast but also reflects a priority of his own, which is the need to make sure that people have the skills they need to take advantage of the new opportunities that are going to be available as the peace process deepens.
He will then go from there to Omagh, the site of the terrible bombing of a few weeks ago, which is not only an opportunity to remember the victims but also to talk about the process of healing and reconciliation.
From there he will go to Armagh, for a gathering for peace, where those of you who will be joining us there will have an opportunity to hear Mary Black, who will headline the program, and a number of the leaders of the process.
So we're very encouraged by some of the developments that we've seen over recent days. There is obviously a lot of work to go forward, and the President will speak in some detail to that when he speaks at Waterfront Hall. But I think that, as I say, this week is a week of very encouraging statements that we see all the parties responding to the challenge. And it's something that we all very much welcome.
Q Did the White House have any involvement in drafting the Adams statement on violence?
MR. STEINBERG: The statement was a statement from the parties. We've obviously encouraged for some time for all the parties, including Sinn Fein, to give an unequivocal statement. It's something that we have urged on them and something that we welcome the fact that they've done it. But the drafting of the statement is not something that we did ourselves.
Q The White House did not suggest language or in any way help --
MR. STEINBERG: I think other than to suggest unequivocally about what the message ought to be, we did not draft language. We have been in contact with Sinn Fein. We are regularly in contact with all the parties. This has been a priority for us because, as those of you who go back to it will recall, in 1995, when the President was in Belfast, he called on all the parties, particularly those associated with the paramilitary movements to renounce -- I mean, the language he used at the time was that the day is gone for violence. And so I think it's a positive sense in that the words that Mr. Adams used echoed what the President had to say three years ago. But we did not suggest specific language.
Q If I could just wrap up this line of questioning, is the Adams statement one hundred percent of what the White House and the President wanted to hear?
MR. STEINBERG: I think that in terms of a statement that is a statement we very much hoped to hear. As I said, it was welcomed by all the parties committed to the process as well as the two leaders. Now, of course, but there are still challenges ahead, because that is the language, but we still want to see the actions. The administration, the President still strong supports moving forward with decommissioning, as required under the agreement. So as we have always said, it's word and deed. But I think that these are very strong and unequivocal words, and for that reason they're quite welcome.
Q Two questions. One, will the President be encouraging in his talks with Trimble, will he be encouraging Trimble to drop his refusal to speak directly to Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein? And secondly, both sides agree that the U.S. has played a critical role in getting the peace process to this stage. How would you define the U.S. role from here on in?
MR. STEINBERG: First, in terms of discussions between the leaders of the parties, we've said from the beginning we think it's very important for all the parties, particularly those who are positively supporters of the agreement, to work together to make this work; that the without communities and leaders of all the parties have to be able to work together to find ways to resolve their differences, to develop compromises, to make a political process work.
What we're seeing here and what we so strongly support is the transformation of this from a war in the streets to a true political process in which the people of Northern Ireland have their own institutions that give them an opportunity to have a say over their own lives, to shape their own destiny. That's only going to work if it's politics in its classic sense, in which they come together, they discuss, they debate, disagree, but try to find ways through their problems. So there is going to be a need for conversations and engagement in all kinds of different fora, and the more of that the better, as far as we're concerned.
In terms of our role, this is something where the United States has seen itself in a supporting role to, in the first instance, the political parties themselves in Northern Ireland, and the two governments, which have had the lead and deserve the lion's share of the credit for what's been accomplished. It's been the courage of the political parties who took these steps, supported by tremendous leadership by Prime Minister Blair and the Taoiseach, Bernie Ahern, as well as their predecessors -- Prime Minister Major and John Burton, who brought this to pass.
I think it's also fair to say that the President has been deeply engaged in these issues, has really believed that this is a process that we ought to support, and that through our engagement, both politically and economically, that we can provide support for those who are taking risks for peace, something that the President has personally been engaged in. And I think that we are able to both to give backing to those there and to give a sense that the United States is really going to support those who make those decisions, that has a real impact.
And I also want to -- I think some of the credit goes to Irish America, which has also been a very strong supporter of this process. The President has been able to rally a very, very broadly based sense in the United States that the American Irish community also wants no violence, wants a political process. And I think that very strong message from the White House, both from the White House and from the people of the United States, has had a big impact on the process.
Q Jim, you spoke about the Omagh bombing having marginalized some of those actors, but what difference does it make if they're marginalized? I mean, if there is still a committed minority, however small it is, that wants to kill the peace process, what leads you to believe that that won't be effective?
MR. STEINBERG: I'm convinced that if it is a very small minority who is now essentially reviled by the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland, that it will be impossible for them to derail this process.
The difficulty before is that we didn't have a political process around which the people who wanted peace could rally. There was nothing to cling on to, there was nothing to support. And you had too many people sort of feeling a sense of hopelessness so that the people who use violence, while even though not supported by the majority, still had some sense that there was a legitimacy to their objectives. Now it's clear that it's not. I mean, the statements that Sinn Fein has made about the so-called "real IRA" are very unequivocal in condemning it. And I think in a situation like that obviously you can't rule out the possibility that there will be continued acts of violence. But I don't believe that terrorists can operate effectively in an environment where the vast, vast majority not only don't support their methods, but don't support their goals.
You can see the fact that the people who were associated with the real IRA and their political arm, the 32-country group, are on the run. They're defensive, they're unwilling to stand up and defend the actions that they've taken. And I think it's a very powerful message. Again, that's not to say there won't be more bombs. There will always be more bombs. But I think when you have both a consensus in a community and a set of institutions that allow people to pursue their aspirations through a political process, that the process can succeed.
Q It sounds like what you're saying is the war is over, a statement that Gerry Adams felt he couldn't make. Do you think the real IRA are the wrong -- the traditional IRA with a cease-fire, Sinn Fein says violence is no longer an option --
MR. STEINBERG: I think there's a real opportunity. I think that obviously this is still a work in progress, that the parties have to transform the very strong commitments that they made in word and writing, both in the Good Friday agreement itself and in the statements we're hearing from party leaders, to actions on the ground that change the lives of the people. The people have to see the kinds of changes that allow them to believe that this process is going to work.
But we're on the right path and the events of the last couple of days are really encouraging. It's sort of the beginning of a new year, of a new opportunity for the people of Northern Ireland, and an opportunity for a really strong start for the new Assembly.
Q Given the historic linkages, do you think there's a possibility that Sinn Fein or the IRA could share information about the real IRA with the authorities in Ireland or Britain?
MR. STEINBERG: I would certainly hope that all those people who are committed to the peace process and committed to exclusively peaceful means would make clear that they are not going to in any way harbor or protect those who use violence. I'm not going to predict from here what will be done, but it's certainly the strong message that the President will bring and that we are bringing, that there should be no harboring and no condoning in any way these absolutely reprehensible acts, such as the action in response to Dumcreeexx** or the bombings in Omagh. There's just no place for it and there should be no shelter for those people.
Q Will the President have a message for those Unionists who are against the agreement, who politically don't agree with the agreement and think it's selling out the Unionists' position on union with Great Britain.
MR. STEINBERG: I think one of the things that all along the President has made very clear is that he has been a very strong supporter of the principle of consent. And this is something that for many Unionists was an important principle. It's one of the things that was a hallmark of the Good Friday agreement: that nothing will be done and nothing will be changed in terms of the political status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the people. And I think that that's a very reassuring message to all communities, but particularly to many in the Unionist community who have made that important.
I think that the President is going to say, you have a chance for a political process here. You're going to have disagreements on issues, but it's a democratic process in which you will be able to fully express your views. And I think in that sense it's an opportunity for all of the Unionist community as well as the Nationalist community.
Q Is he meeting Reverend Paisley?
MR. STEINBERG: I expect that Reverend Paisley will be at the meeting with the political leaders at Stormont tomorrow morning; I have no indication to the contrary.
Q Will he meet him individually?
MR. STEINBERG: He will meeting individually with one or two or three leaders of each of the groups. I can't tell you whether it's -- you know, it's probably going to be more than the Reverend Paisley by himself, but it will be with two or three of the leaders of the DUP.
Q Jim, just a follow-up to the earlier question. Will he tell Mr. Trimble that he believes the Sinn Fein has met Mr. Trimble's requirements and therefore he should sit down and talk with Gerry Adams?
MR. STEINBERG: I think the President has on previous occasions urged the parties not to put too many preconditions on discussion. There are a lot of issues in terms of the opportunity to -- in terms of what the legal requirements are and various aspects of participating in the activities of the Assembly and the like.
But the President favors talk -- even before issues had been fully resolved, the dialogue and the opportunity to discuss these issues is extremely important. And so consistently the President has urged dialogue and discussion, and he will continue to do so.
Q Jim, how much time has the President got to prepare for the trip to Ireland, given the heavy schedule he's had here in Moscow and before he got here?
MR. STEINBERG: Well, as I think you know, the President spends a lot of time and has a deep personal engagement. It's not as if this is something his attention has been away from for a period of time. He's had a number of phone calls over the past weeks with the leaders, with Prime Minister Blair, with the Taoiseach. So he's quite engaged and we discuss this daily with him, have for a number of weeks in anticipation of the trip.
But also it's been a rolling process, as you know. The President was deeply involved in helping to bring the agreement about, in supporting the referendum, in supporting the process that led to the selection of the Assembly members, in dealing with the consequences of the violence this summer. And so it's something that is continuously part of his work and something he has a lot of -- he comes up to speed even as we begin to prepare for the final days of the trip.
Q But just to follow on your answer on Paisley, given that Paisley has condemned the President's involvement in this, said he wasn't welcome in Northern Ireland, refused to condemn the killing of the three boys, why would the President want to meet with Paisley?
MR. STEINBERG: He's a democratically elected leader. We fundamentally disagree with some of the principles that Reverend Paisley has taken. But for the very reason, as I said, that the President urged dialogue among all the parties, I think it's appropriate for the President to meet with democratically elected leaders -- particularly, although we disagree with him, it is certainly the case that they have not advocated violence. And the President believes very strongly in the situation that -- he will have a chance to have a discussion.
He doesn't have great illusions that he will necessarily convince Reverend Paisley of what we're trying to accomplish or what our role ought to be. But we know that the vast majority of the parties and the people welcome the President coming there and I think the President feels that it's an opportunity for Reverend Paisley and all the party leaders to have a chance to say their piece and he's ready to answer them in turn.
Q Is the President bringing any new business initiatives or investment initiatives to --
MR. STEINBERG: Well, we're working on a number of initiatives, working through the international fund for Ireland and also working with some of the grassroots community leaders to help stimulate investment. Secretary Daley was there with the trade mission earlier this year, in June; he will be part of this delegation.
We have some things that are sort of on the verge of ripening and we'll just have to see tomorrow whether -- I think that, again, I think he's going to be able to talk a little bit about some of the initiatives that we have under way, some of which are near to fruition but not quite there. But he will be talking about some of that tomorrow.
Q Jim, in his press conference the President said he had talked with world leaders about the situation with Lewinsky, and they had urged him to -- they supported him and urged him to get back to work. Are you aware of conversations like that? Can you give us any further detail on that?
MR. STEINBERG: Without getting into detail, I think that the President regularly talks to his counterparts. He has a very strong relationship with all of them. He gets a lot of support in general for his leadership. This is a time -- the conversations are typically put in terms of the strong desire for sustained American leadership and their conviction that the President can provide that leadership. And in a number of conversations over the last months, as we faced the Asian financial crisis and now the situation in Russia, people looking to the United States, people looking to the President -- and they have a lot of confidence in him and they express that confidence to him.
Q Did they express to him concern that the investigation was taking his time away from his --
MR. STEINBERG: In none of the conversations that I'm familiar with has that ever been said. As I say, the one thing they say is that we support you, that we need the United States, we know you will provide that leadership, and we're glad that you're there and doing it.
Q Can I ask you about the Middle East? Do you have any comment about what seems to be a new crisis in the -- any comments about the recent declarations of Netanyahu and Palestinian leaders?
MR. STEINBERG: I think, as we all know, the process of trying to come to closure on an agreement on redeployment has been a difficult one. There's been a number of steps taken over recent weeks that have brought the parties closer together, but we obviously want to see that process completed because we recognize that if the process doesn't go forward there's real risks there and we don't want to see that happen.
So we're working very hard and urging the parties to come together. I think that we recognize that it's not particularly useful at this stage to respond to each of the public utterances; what we are focusing on is trying to persuade the parties that the differences can be narrowed, that there is an opportunity to move forward, and we'd very much like to see them do it.
Q This morning the Prime Minister of Israel --
MR. STEINBERG: I think, as I said, a lot of statements get made in the course of this process. I think I'd prefer not to respond to individual ones. Egypt has obviously been an important part of this process, an important partner in the peace process, and we look to President Mubarak and the Egyptians to continue to play that role.
Q Jim, the President referred in his comments today to talking with world leaders about his troubles with Monica Lewinsky and they have urged him to move on. He referred to it twice in one of his answers on that subject. Do you know whom he was talking to, with whom he's spoken, and what have they urged him to do?
MR. STEINBERG: Again, what the President has heard from world leaders is that they continue to believe that the United States has an indispensable role to play in dealing with world crises like the Asian financial crisis, like dealing with Russia, like dealing with the problem of the nuclear arms race in South Asia. And in many of the conversations leaders will say to the President, the United States continues to be indispensable, we look to your leadership, we know you're going to provide it and we're strong supporters.
Q Can you name names?
MR. STEINBERG: I could give you -- I mean the names are all of the leaders that he has talked to over the period of the last six or eight months. He's talked to almost every major world figure from --
Q And they all brought it up?
MR. STEINBERG: -- and they all say they want American leadership, they look to American leadership, and they have confidence in the President.
Q Mike, obviously, the President anticipated that he would be asked about the Lewinsky affair at the Kremlin today. Did he give the kind of answer and as full an answer as he intended to to those questions, and will there be other opportunities?
MR. MCCURRY: On this matter, the President obviously wants to speak from the heart, and he did. He said what he wanted to say, and I don't think it's the role of staff to try to amplify or comment further on his remarks.
Q The President said that he had asked to be forgiven. Can you help us out as to when that was?
MR. MCCURRY: I just gave the answer that I'm going to give on the subject.
Q Seriously, he said that and I can't find the reference to it.
Q Can you tell us why the President was willing, or decided to, or maybe even planned to address this topic in the Kremlin --
MR. MCCURRY: I just gave the answer I'm going to give on these questions.
Q Mike, we were given to understand before the news conference that there would be four questions on each side. The news conference was obviously cut short. Was that because of the Lewinsky questions or because Mr. Yeltsin appeared to have lost his way?
MR. MCCURRY: No. First of all, I take some dispute with your characterization of Mr. Yeltsin. I think he elected not to answer what was obviously a difficult question dealing with the internal political situation in Russia. It was our original understanding that there would be four questions per side, and shortly before the press conference we heard from the Russian side that they wanted to make it three and three. And we had no objection to that.
Q So that was a decision before and not during the news conference?
MR. MCCURRY: That's correct. It was just before the beginning of the press conference.
Q The President also said today that he had expressed regret -- deep regret, I think he said -- to all those that had been hurt in this matter, the Lewinsky matter. When did he express regret to Monica Lewinsky?
MR. MCCURRY: I gave the answer I'm going to give to questions on this matter already.
Q But he keeps saying he's said things that he hasn't said.
Q The President didn't seem to be aware of the fact it was only going to be three each? He turned around and said, "Is that all?" Was he not told of the switch from four to three?
MR. MCCURRY: I told him before, when we were preparing, there were going to be four, and then I heard just before the press conference that they were going to do three and three. And I didn't have a chance to tell him that in advance.
Q Mike, while the question certainly wasn't a surprise to the President, was he annoyed, embarrassed, weary of the question? What was his reaction afterward?
MR. MCCURRY: I think you saw him answer, you saw his demeanor, and you can report it as you see fit.
Q Why didn't he take the opportunity, when given, to say something about his tone about Kenneth Starr?
MR. MCCURRY: I gave the answer I'm going to give on these questions already.
Q In other words, he stands by what he said about Mr. Starr.
MR. MCCURRY: I gave the answer I'm going to give on these questions.
Q I didn't hear you.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, you can go back and look at the tape. It's there.
Q Mike, your characterization of Mr. Yeltsin's last answer was that he was --
MR. MCCURRY: The impression that I had and that others -- Ambassador Collins and others who watched him believed that he did not want to answer that question and elected to give the answer he did. That's the interpretation that a lot of our people --
Q He looked at the press secretary, as if "help me out, what should I do here"?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I saw the press secretary looking at him as if he wanted to say, is there any more you wanted to say.
Q Let me go at this another way. Was there anything that the U.S. government, U.S. personnel saw either publicly or privately during the summit that would lead anyone in our government to believe that perhaps Yeltsin is not all there, either mentally or physically?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't think there was anything about the meetings that we've had with President Yeltsin that changes our general understanding of his capabilities, as were expressed to you by the Deputy Secretary of State when he briefed yesterday.
Q So you believe that he is fully mentally and physically capable?
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say that. We have --
Q Mike, were any of the meetings with Yeltsin over the last couple of days --
MR. MCCURRY: I didn't say -- look, I don't mean by saying that that I have any -- would not have exactly that assessment myself. But we've got confidential assessments we make and we don't discuss them publicly.
Q Were any of the meetings with Yeltsin over the last couple of days cut short because the Russian President was fading?
MR. MCCURRY: No. In fact, as we briefed you yesterday, one ran considerably longer than we had anticipated, the one-on-one format.
Q And actually, why did those meetings run so much longer? Did it take a long time to answer --
MR. MCCURRY: It's consistent with the pattern -- every time they have met, the initial plan is for them to meet one on one and then have an expanded meeting with their delegations. And I can't recall a summit between President Yeltsin and President Clinton where they've actually gone into the expanded format. President Yeltsin and President Clinton enjoy doing business directly, and that's the way they tend to meet.
Q Have you had a readout yet from this meeting with the opposition leaders?
MR. MCCURRY: I've gotten the same snippets that we had here. We were not in a position to get all of the President's conversations yet, but they are of the kind that you heard characterized earlier.
Q Well, is this answer to whether the President discussed with Mr. Zyuganov Zyuganov's view that the country could go into civil war?
MR. MCCURRY: They each had their own assessment of where events stand right now, what the implications are for Russia's future. The President's message to them was consistent with what he said publicly, and I'd rather let those leaders who wish to characterize what they told the President publicly, let them do that on their own.
Q Mike, back on Yeltsin's health. Not to belabor the point, but yesterday I think Strobe said that he was vigorously engaged during the meetings that were held yesterday. That's not an overall assessment, that's just during those meetings. You say now that the U.S. view of -- assessment of him has not changed, so you're talking about an overall assessment, and you're saying that there's confidential information that you won't discuss. But what is the overall official, publicly made U.S. view of that?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm just not going to -- I mean, he is the duly-elected President of Russia and he functions in that capacity, and we have worked with him over the course of the last two days to address the items of concern we share bilaterally. And he's been in the position to do that work and represent the people who elected him. Beyond that, I'm not going to characterize it.
Q But this is a man in control of a serious nuclear stockpile.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, if you want to talk about safeguard of their command and control or nuclear weapons, we can talk about that. We have talked about that a lot in the last two days.
Q Can you talk about the value of these meetings or this particular meeting, given that there's sort of a limited outcome in terms of programmatic or --
MR. MCCURRY: I think that it has been true for a long, long time that the drama of superpower summits has given way to the routine of working through issues that occupy the bilateral relationship that we have with the Russian Federation. I've often said on occasion of other meetings that the extraordinary has now become routine. It is routine now for these two Presidents to work together to address their common concerns, to make sure that we make progress when we can and to address the differences in the relationship that come up when there are differences, as there clearly are.
That is the purpose, that is -- not an insignificant purpose for a meeting like this at a time of some turmoil and at a time when Russia is still in a position for a lot of different reasons to be a nuclear power and to have some influence on events in this region, on this continent, and elsewhere in the world.
Q Back on the meeting with the opposition leaders, your colleague said that everyone talked about not wanting to go back, I assume to a Soviet style system. And yet he refused to really give an encouraged assessment of what they were saying, that there wasn't any real sign that they would commit to the reforms necessary.
MR. MCCURRY: No, I think I'd characterize what he said a little differently. He said that there was not a unanimous view of what that future would be or what it would like, and there are different -- different of those leaders will say different things about how they perceive the immediate future and what the future needs to be, and some of them already have publicly.
Q So you are encouraged that when the political dust settles, there is a prospect that they will go along --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we can't predict that future in any certainty, but we can sure say that we've done everything that we can do, representing the United States and the people of the United States, to try to make that more hopeful outcome a reality.
Q Mike, the President has said repeatedly now that he wants this matter -- the investigation, I presume he's talking about -- over with, and wants to get on to do his job. What does the White House want to see happen now?
MR. MCCURRY: The same thing that the President wants to see.
Q But I'm saying specifically, what do you want to see happen?
MR. MCCURRY: We want just to see things wrapped up, however they get wrapped up.
Q But he said he wanted to give the people their government back. What did he mean by that?
MR. MCCURRY: I already gave you the answer I'm going to give on that question.
Q Just to my question, when you say "wrapped up," do you want Starr to stop?
MR. MCCURRY: No, he's got -- he's going to bring his -- we can't advise him on how to conclude his work, but at some point he's going to have to conclude his work, presumably. Maybe not. Maybe it's going to go on forever. One would think, and he has indicated publicly, that he wants to conclude his work. Our hope is that that happens.
Q So, if I may follow up, so he concludes his work, he gives a report to Congress and then --
MR. MCCURRY: I don't know that. I don't know how he will proceed.
Q I understand, but I'm asking -- the President has said he wants it over with. I'm trying to figure out what the White House wants to have happen. A report goes to Congress and Congress just --
MR. MCCURRY: David, I can't predict for you. I don't know that there is going to be a report even. Maybe there will be; maybe there won't be. I don't know. I don't know how Mr. Starr will go about the business of bringing his work to a conclusion. I can't predict that.
Q The President called the meeting between Treasury Secretary Rubin and Japanese Finance Minister Miyazawa profoundly important. Could you give us a readout on what the U.S. wants to accomplish in that meeting in San Francisco?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, it's a very important moment as we look at the global economy. We've been focused on Russia and some of the tension in emerging markets. But you need to think about the pivotal role that the Japanese economy plays in Asia at a time the Asian regional economy is struggling to get back on a growth path, and recognize that the health of that economy and its capacity to make investments and to make purchases and to import goods and services from its other neighboring economies is vital to the future of that region.
And how the new Japanese government will go about pursuing the policies of reform that are necessary dealing with some of the issues that we have long stressed in our own meetings with will be of keen interest to the Treasury Secretary, to others in our government, and to the President as well.
Q Are there any concrete accomplishments you want to see come from the meeting, any considerable --
MR. MCCURRY: We've talked a lot about the kinds of things that we would like to see. I don't want to enumerate all of them, but we've talked about the importance of banking, reforms in the banking sector dealing with some of the asset questions that clearly exist, doing those things to stimulate domestically demand-led economic growth so that there is a sustained basis for rising imports in Japan, and certainly more export activity for countries like the United States and others in Asia.
There are other things as well that have been suggested with respect to how they structure their macroeconomic policy, how they deal with monetary policy, and I'll leave it to those that will speak at Treasury to address some of those things further.
Q Mike, how has the President responded to Judge Webber Wright's footnote raising the specter of citing him for contempt?
MR. MCCURRY: If I understand correctly, the White House Legal Counsel Office back in Washington has issued a statement on that.
Q What is it?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't have it, but you can get it from them.
Q They wouldn't tell you?
Q You haven't discussed this with the President?
MR. MCCURRY: I just don't have the exact word -- it's to the effect that --
MR. LOCKHART: The President testified truthfully in his January 17th deposition.
MR. MCCURRY: You can get that from Jim Kennedy.
Q Testified truthfully to the January 17th deposition? Not the --
MR. LOCKHART: Call Joe Kennedy, you're asking me from memory.
MR. MCCURRY: They've been dealing with that back home.
Q Have you discussed that with the President?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I have not heard any discussion of that here with the President. I don't know whether he's talked to anyone back home about it or not.
Q Does he have any plans at all tonight, for the rest of the day?
MR. MCCURRY: His plans, I think, are to stay in. He had some phone calls he was going to make tonight and I think he's -- his current plan was to stay in. If that changes, we'll let you know.
Q Is he going to be talking to other world leaders about the summit in those phone calls that he's making?
MR. MCCURRY: If he does, we'll let you know.
Q To follow up on Jim Steinberg's answer, has the President specifically talked about the Lewinsky controversy with other foreign leaders, and if so --
MR. MCCURRY: My impression, just to add -- and I don't have anything to add to what Jim said on that -- but I don't have the impression that he has discussed it specifically with anyone. I think the conversation has been more general, general references of the nature that Jim mentioned to you earlier.
Q He said he had. I mean, didn't you hear him?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, I think how Jim described it is very accurate.
Q I mean the President. Isn't that what he said at his news conference?
MR. MCCURRY: That's exactly what the President said.
Q Well, you don't think he meant it?
MR. MCCURRY: He talked about it in a general fashion with the people that he's chosen to talk to about it. I don't think he's talked specifically about it.
Q Excuse me for interrupting. Staff is surprised by that statement by the President?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q Was the staff generally unaware that he had talked to foreign leaders?
MR. MCCURRY: I think most of us who are familiar with his conversations with other leaders in the world were not at all surprised by what the President said.
Q It's been reported that sometimes you give readouts of conversations he had, talking about --
MR. MCCURRY: I think the readouts we gave were exactly like the ones that you got from Jim moments ago.
Okay, what else? All right, we're done.
Q The statement from Kennedy's office, can we get it here? If it's a written statement, can you ask them?
MR. MCCURRY: We can, yes. We can get it, make sure it's available.
END 6:16 P.M. (L)