THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (New York, New York) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 20, 1998
READOUT ON BILATERAL WITH PRIME MINISTER PRODI BY A SENIOR ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL Waldorf Astoria Hotel New York, New York
9:28 P.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The two leaders met for just under an hour. The meeting began with Prodi briefly talking about the economic situation in Italy and the fact that, although overall economic performance was good, that they were feeling the effects of reduced trade as a result of the global economy situation.
They then turned to a rather lengthy discussion of the situation in Russia, talked about the new government and the fact that Prodi thought that the fact of having a government that had political support was a positive development but that it was clear that the Russians needed to take steps themselves to make it possible for the international community to help them move forward on the economic front.
The President talked at some length about the fact that it was important for the Russians to develop the institutions, the infrastructure and the laws that were necessary to make it possible for them to return to growth.
They then turned to a discussion of the global economic situation. Prodi commended the President for his speech, indicating that it provided a good road map, and he thought it was important for the G-7, and ultimately the G-22 more broadly, to embrace a plan for how to deal with the crisis. They both look forward to the meeting of the financial officials in Washington in connection with the IMF meeting on October 6th and the G-22 report that's coming out later this fall. Prodi indicated that it was very important that the leaders of the G-7 demonstrate that they're involved and active in helping to solve this crisis.
They then turned to a discussion of Albania. The President asked Prodi for his assessment of the situation. Prodi indicated that in his view he was hopeful that what he called the "acute crisis phase" is over. He was encouraged that the police force in Albania acted as a normal police force in helping to restore order and supporting the government.
They talked about the problems of leadership and the challenge that the actions of Mr. Berishi opposed towards law and order. Prodi put himself in the corner of being not pessimistic. He said that the economy was going somewhat better but that there was -- it was important to avoid a civil war. They talked -- both the President and Prodi and Secretary Albright discussed the efforts of the OSCE and the Council of Europe to try to help broker a political solution and move forward on the political front.
They also discussed the formation of what we've been calling a Friends of Albania group and hope to get that launched this week during the first week of the UNGA.
They turned then to talk about Kosovo. They discussed the negotiating efforts of Ambassador Chris Hill and the small positive indications of this past weekend that at least an important segment of the Kosovar Albanian leadership would be willing to accept autonomy short of independence. The President indicated that it would be a good thing if Milosevic and the Albanians could reach an agreement, but that it was very important that the international community act forcefully to make sure that the humanitarian crisis did not extend into the coming months as the weather gets worse, particularly with the number of people who are exposed to the elements.
And both the President and the National Security Advisor stressed the fact that we ought to move forward with the resolution in New York this coming week, if possible, indicating the need to move on the humanitarian crisis.
There was a brief discussion of the Bosnian elections. As you all know, there are still -- the results are not in and it's very close. But there have been some indications in recent days that things may be moving in the direction of the Sloga coalition, but still no formal results.
And finally they ended with a discussion of Libya and the proposal for a trial of the two suspects in the Hague. They both agreed that there should be no conditions or qualifications to Libyan acceptance, that it was acceptable for the Libyans to seek clarifications, but not negotiations on the terms of the handover. And Prime Minister Prodi indicated that they would make very clear to the Libyans that they shared the U.S. view on that question.
Q Does Italy have relations with Libya?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They have more contacts with Libya certainly than we do.
Q And this resolution on Kosovo, what resolution this week is he talking about?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The British have proposed a resolution, in effect -- I'm trying to think what the operative word is -- basically indicating that Milosevic was responsible for the humanitarian crisis; that he needed to take a number of steps to allow the refugees to go home, to move his forces out, to create a safe environment for the returns; and indicating that the Security Council would remain seized of this issue.
Q And what is the forum for that resolution, the GA?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Security Council.
Q Do you feel like that they got through everything they planned to do? Anything that they did you didn't expect? Tell me sort of that sense of --
Q Actually, it was -- it was very much as planned. We have a shared sense of the issues on the agenda. And it was particularly helpful to get their perspective on Albania because of the close contacts that they have with the Albanians.
And it was a very interesting discussion on the economic issues. As you know, Prodi is an economist, and so it was a very substantive discussion about some of the strategies that were discussed in the President's speech, in terms of reforming the international financial system, the kinds of changes to the bread-and-water institutions that the President talked about and that the G-22 are working on.
Q The speech you're referring to is the Council on Foreign Relations speech?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q Any surprises tomorrow on the speech?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The speech tomorrow is going to focus on the global nature of the threat of terrorism, the fact that while there are terrorist attacks against the United States people and interests have been in the news lately, that this is a phenomenon which is being seen around the world -- whether it's terrorism in Sri Lanka, terrorism in Kashmir, assassination attempts against President Mubarak. But these are things that the international community as a whole has an interest in.
The President is going to make a point -- a strong point that we don't see this as a clash of civilizations, but rather as a set of behaviors and activities which the entire world ought to condemn; that whatever political differences people have and whatever challenges they face, whether it's on the political or economic front, that violence and terror can never be a legitimate tool. He'll talk about Northern Ireland, and he'll talk about some of the basic principles that all states should agree on in terms of what their responsibilities are: not to harbor terrorists, not to support terrorism, to be effective to try to deal with the -- particularly with the growing danger that terrorists would use weapons of mass destruction.
Q Is the President upset that there might be something else on television tomorrow morning that might distract the attention of the nation from his U.N. speech?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He certainly did not indicate that to me.
END 9:36 P.M. EDT