THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART
The Briefing Room
1:22 P.M. EST
MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon.
Q Do you have anything on the President's trip to Asia?
MR. LOCKHART: Nothing definitive yet. I think we'll sit down and make some final decisions this afternoon. As I told you this morning, I expect the President to complete the Japan, Korea, Guam section of the trip. I'm sure you all noticed that late last night our time the elections were certified in Guam, thereby eliminating one of the problems that we discussed last week at this podium. But my expectation is, for your planning purposes, that we're looking at a Wednesday departure. That's most likely, but we'll let you know.
Q Is there a chance he might not still go? Is there a remote chance he might not go?
MR. LOCKHART: There's always a chance that the situation either domestically or around the world can change in a way that necessitates the President remaining. But at this point I believe he intends to make this trip.
Q There are some people who are saying he really wants to go, in addition to other reasons, because he wants to be out of town when Kenneth Starr testifies publicly before the House Judiciary Committee.
MR. LOCKHART: Those people, if that's their view of our politics, shouldn't give up their day job.
Q So you're denying that that is a consideration?
MR. LOCKHART: I am denying that. Love to have a debate with those people --
Q Has he ever answered the 81 questions? It seems to be a long time.
MR. LOCKHART: No. On the 81 questions, the lawyers have made good progress on the 81 questions. Obviously, most of you who were around this weekend know that they did not get the opportunity to spend the time with the President that they had hoped they would have, but I think they will be able to. I can't give you an exact timing of when they will be released -- or, excuse me, sent to the Hill, but I don't expect that to be today.
Q Do you expect it to be before Thursday or on Thursday?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't be completely definitive on that, but I think they have made some progress and once I know I'll let you know.
Q By progress you mean he's going to answer every question?
MR. LOCKHART: I have no updated guidance on what the format of the answers will be.
Q On the question of travel, can you clarify whether or not there is a problem if both the President and Vice President are out of the country at the same time?
MR. LOCKHART: I know that there was some discussion of the tradition of both of them not being out of the country. I know there is no statutory or constitutional issue and it's something as we put the schedule together I'm sure they'll take into consideration. But I don't have a final answer on that.
Q Will they be out of the --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know because I don't know what the schedule is yet.
Q Joe, there have been a lot of news reports about some of the President's closest advisors being in agreement we should attack Iraq and some not. For the record, will you set us --
MR. LOCKHART: For the record, I can tell you that the President, as you know from what he said and what some of his -- from the National Security Advisor and the Secretary of Defense, who were here yesterday -- was faced with a decision Saturday morning whether to move forward action or whether to pause. His advisors offered him advice, weighing the pros and the cons, and that advice will remain private to the President. He made his decision.
Q U.S. officials now have said that the next time Saddam does not comply with all that's required of him, there would be a military strike without warning -- they suggested that. Does that mean that aid workers there, the members of the U.N. inspection teams itself would be there and they would not have any opportunity to leave the country?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think it would be useful for me to speculate down the road. We're in a position right now where Saddam Hussein has capitulated and has backed down. And as the President told you, it's now time for him to live up to the obligations that he set forth through his communications and letters with the United Nations.
Q But this is the point, is it not? This is a point that is certainly a concern to the people who are there, whether the United States would attack without giving them some notice that it might come.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, clearly, the U.S., the U.N., always keeps the safety of those people foremost in mind. It's something that will always come under consideration, but I don't see any use in trying to go into a speculative discussion of a future operation.
Q Do you know why Secretary of State Albright has rushed back to Washington?
MR. LOCKHART: My understanding -- and I understand Mr. Rubin has had a briefing at the State Department -- but I understood she turned around yesterday -- is that correct -- in order to come back to deal with the situation. But I think you'll get a much more fulsome answer from her spokesman.
Q You said that the President has met, will meet with Sandy Berger for his daily briefing. Does he expect to meet today with his National Security Council?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't expect that there will be any formal meeting. I think he will get his daily briefing and will be briefed as appropriate.
Q Joe, recognizing you're not going to give us the advice given to the President, is it inaccurate to say that some senior advisors wanted the attack to go forward, that there were differences within the Cabinet on --
MR. LOCKHART: I believe it would be inappropriate for me to share with you the candid advice and the issues that were raised, both pro and con, from the President's advisors.
Q Joe, do White House lawyers anticipate cross-examining Starr on Thursday?
MR. LOCKHART: We received a communication within the last half-hour from Chairman Hyde which articulated the rules of the committee, which provides 30 minutes for cross-examination of Mr. Starr. That letter, as I understand it, also set a deadline for giving a response, which is tomorrow. And I've been informed by our lawyers we will comply with the deadline and we'll have an answer tomorrow.
Q Thirty minutes for the lawyers?
MR. LOCKHART: Cross-examination, yes.
Q Total, for the White House lawyers?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q For your lawyers or for the Democrats --
MR. LOCKHART: No, as I understand the letter and I understand the rules of the committee -- and the lawyers will correct me if I've got this wrong -- but the way they explained it to me just before I came out was they have designated 30 minutes and they've asked --
Q Are you going to take it?
Q Thirty minutes for Democrats or for the President?
MR. LOCKHART: For the President's. I don't know why Chairman Hyde would communicate it to us rather than Mr. Conyers about the Democrats on the committee.
Q Do you think 30 minutes is adequate?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me get an answer first on whether we're going to use the time, and that will come tomorrow.
Q The deadline of tomorrow was for what, to reply to this?
MR. LOCKHART: To reply, so that they -- as a matter of planning for the committee.
Q Whether you will take the time and who will do the questioning?
MR. LOCKHART: Or we won't. At least whether we'll take the time. I don't know that we're under any obligation to tell them who will do the questioning. We may be, I just don't know.
Q On the tobacco deal, the tobacco deal gives the federal government the right to claim some of the money involved because of the federal share of Medicaid. Will the federal government exert that right?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, my understanding of this is the federal government is under some obligation to claim some of this money under the Medicaid program. But we look forward to working with the states to figure out the best way to do that or the best way to come up with some comprehensive way to make sure the money is used for children in the reduction in teen smoking.
Q Will you make sure the fact that the federal government can get some of this money doesn't undercut the deal and make it less attractive to the states?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we look forward to -- I mean, obviously, this is a deal that's set to be announced later today. Has that already been announced?
MR. TOIV: No, later today.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, later today, so we look forward. There are some obligations as far as the Medicaid program, but we're going to work closely with the states and also with Congress in trying to craft an overall comprehensive legislation, which I think will go to meeting the needs of some of these questions.
Q Joe, do the White House lawyers anticipate calling their own witnesses before the hearings?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have any news to update where I left it last week.
Q Was there anything else in the Hyde communication --
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of. I actually haven't seen the letter, it was just as I was walking out I got a heads up.
Q You said releasing the answers to the 81 questions and then you corrected yourself to say, send to the Hill. Does that mean the White House will not release the answers publicly?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I mean, no decision has been made, sorry. I am not aware that we've made a determination one way or the other. I suspect that whether we decide to do it or not, you'll see them.
Q To be clear, Joe, has the President seen the questions yet?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q The President has seen the questions?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q When did that occur?
MR. LOCKHART: I know he spent a little bit of time -- the days are running together -- I think Thursday.
Q With his lawyers or --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, with his lawyers.
Q What's his reaction?
MR. LOCKHART: I didn't get any reaction.
Q There are reports at the U.N. that the President tried to discourage Kofi Annan from sending one final letter to Saddam Hussein Friday evening. Is that true?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any communication like that. I know that the President talked to Kofi Annan through the week and through the weekend, but I'm not aware of any communication that sought to do that.
Q Was the White House unhappy when Annan made a last-ditch attempt?
MR. LOCKHART: If you take this back to where we are on the policy front, I think the answer should be obvious. We believe that as a matter of policy -- and the President has articulated this now for a long time -- that the best way to pursue our goal of limiting Saddam Hussein's ability to reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction, deliver those weapons, and threaten his neighbors is through an aggressive UNSCOM and an effective UNSCOM.
Q That's not my question.
MR. LOCKHART: And where we are now is we have a situation where those inspectors will be going back in and they will be going back in in a situation where the burden is completely on Saddam Hussein to prove and to demonstrate that he is going to cooperate and do the important work.
Q Well, the letter from Kofi Annan obviously turned the trick here. So did you try to discourage it?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any communications.
Q Can you list the things that the President has now authorized the government to do to try to remove Saddam Hussein from power?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have a specific list. This is obviously something we've been doing in the past, working with opposition groups to encourage and to try to help strengthen opposition groups, because we believe that they are an important voice of change for the people of Iraq. That work to date has been mostly political, but as we move into the future, I can't rule in or rule out any potential options.
Q You say you've been doing that in the past, but it is said now that there is a new policy here, that there is a new face on what Washington thinks about removing Saddam. How would you describe it? Tougher, more aggressive --
MR. LOCKHART: I would say that we're going to increase our actions that works to strengthen the opposition. We have -- the President signed several weeks ago the Iraq Liberation Act, which appropriates about $100 million for this effort. And we believe that we can work prudently and effectively with opposition groups to help them be a stronger voice.
Q I'll give up, but if I could just have one last crack. I'm trying to see is there something new here, or is a restatement of a policy the Iraqi --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think if you look at our policy, we are going to move forward with the thought that -- we've discussed over the last two days many of the short-term things that we need to do to keep him from threatening his neighbors. But we're very cognizant of the real threat he poses to his neighbors. And as a long-term policy we believe we need to work with opposition groups to look to the day where there can be a government of Iraq that respects human rights, respects the international -- and can rejoin the international community.
Q Joe, are you saying that it's the goal of the policy -- it's one of your policy goals to remove him from office, from power? It's a goal of U.S. policy to remove --
MR. LOCKHART: It is a goal of long-term policy to see a different Iraqi government, because we believe it's --
Q What's the difference between that and saying that your goal is to see him removed from power?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm articulating it the way I'm articulating it, that we believe --
Q I was going to just try to clarify that. Is the policy of containing Saddam Hussein dead now, that instead the policy is to remove him?
MR. LOCKHART: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. We have, as is appropriate, we have short-term steps and we have long-term steps. Short-term, the policy of containment is very much alive and very much stronger today than it was last week. The burden of proof has shifted back to Saddam Hussein. The international community is stronger than it has been at any time since -- and more united -- than at any time since the Gulf War. But those are short-term steps. And over the long-term, as the President articulated here yesterday, we believe that working through opposition groups we can take steps to come up with a different solution.
Q The Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister says that's a flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter, to try to interfere in the domestic affairs of Iraq.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that he is the one who ought to be an expert on flagrantly violating the will of the international community and the United Nations and its Charter.
Q The Pentagon is now -- Secretary Cohen has now announced that deployments are ceasing, that some of the forces that were flowing over the Gulf are now going to be rotated back. Doesn't that send to Saddam a signal that he can breathe easy?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think that would be a terrible mistake if he read it that way. I think what he should read from this weekend is the forces that are in the Gulf are configured and able to deliver a swift and decisive blow. The forces that you're talking about are forces that would not have been there this weekend.
So I think he should get the message -- and it's an important message -- that this is a credible force that's out there and that the President and the international community are united. The President will use this force. We obviously came close to using it this weekend before taking this pause to get the commitments that we got from Saddam Hussein. So I don't think that news from the Pentagon on deployment should send any message like that at all.
Q The leaders of U.N. arms inspections teams say there's nothing in the five conditions that the President set down that Saddam Hussein wasn't already obligated to do. Is that your understanding, too?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think there's -- certainly under the U.N. sanctions he was obligated to do, but he, over the last year, had not been doing. And in this capitulation he has now expressly committed to work -- affirmatively working with UNSCOM. And I believe the burden in that relationship is squarely on the shoulders of Saddam Hussein in helping them get the information they need. And if he does not meet that burden and they are not getting the kind of cooperation that Mr. Butler and UNSCOM deserves, then perhaps others steps will have to be taken.
Q But the burden was there before, right, the very same burden?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, this is I think an important point of why we believe we're in a different position today than we were some months ago. If you remember, back in February we were in a situation where the international community wasn't united. There were some people who were going through what they called sanctions fatigue and there was actually some receptive capitals listening to Saddam Hussein's pleas for release of sanctions. We're not there now. We're in a completely different position. We're in a position where six Gulf states plus two other Arab states sent a strong message to Saddam Hussein, where the Security Council is united behind the idea that the burden is squarely with Saddam Hussein to comply and affirmatively act to comply with the UNSCOM inspectors.
Q Is there any difference between the kind of commitments he made this weekend and the kind of commitments he's made in the past, in the other crises? Is there any difference between -- I know that the international community is more united and all that, but is there any difference in the commitments that he's made?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that these commitments are explicit, and I think the international community is -- and I can't separate the two for you -- is united in making sure that the burden remains on him and committing to them.
Q Were his commitments in the past less explicit?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there are various commitments and there are various commitments he hasn't lived up to. And I think now the message is very clear for him what he has to do and what will happen if he doesn't.
Q Along that point, does the President or anyone else at the White House, for that matter, really think that Saddam Hussein will live up to this latest set of assurances?
MR. LOCKHART: It's not a question of whether we trust him or whether we believe him; it's whether -- what he'll do. It's whether, now that he's backed down, will he live up to his obligations. We have a strong and united international community that wants that to happen. We have a military that's poised to act if it doesn't happen.
Q Would it have been worth -- Joe, there is a report in The Washington Post today that there was an estimate that 10,000 civilians would be killed in this initial attack --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure that's what that said, but go ahead.
Q There would be 10,000 casualties -- 10,000 Iraqi casualties, I assume, not 10,000 U.S. casualties -- 10,000 Iraqi casualties if the order would have gone forward. The question is two-part. Does President Clinton believe it's worth getting those inspectors in to kill 10,000 people? And the second part of the question is, is that report accurate?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into the assessments that the Pentagon made on various options. I'm not sure I understand the first part of the question.
Q The first part of the question, the bombs, the cruise missiles -- if they would have killed 10,000 people in the initial wave, would it be worth it to kill that many people to get those U.N. inspectors back in?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think you're looking at this perhaps from the wrong way. What's worth it is trying to limit the threat that Saddam Hussein poses to his own people and to his neighbors, and ultimately to the world, through his weapons of mass destruction. The policy goal here is to keep him from being able to reconstitute and deliver those weapons and thereby threaten the rest of the world.
The most effective way to do that, in our judgment, is through UNSCOM. Now, if UNSCOM is not allowed to do their work, we have to look at other options. Those options might prove as effective as an effective UNSCOM regime would be, but I don't see a direct connection.
Q Let me try this again. How much did that 10,000 figure weigh on the President's mind Saturday morning?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think, obviously, all of the -- the idea -- and again, I'm not subscribing to your point of view about what someone else may have reported, but obviously the President has to take seriously, and does, the idea when you embark on an operation like this, there is a risk both to U.S. servicemen and women, a risk of collateral damage to civilians.
But, ultimately, the President is prepared to move forward, even in the face of these risks, if he believes that UNSCOM will not be able to do their job effectively. There will be a test now for whether the Iraqis are serious in this unconditional capitulation and we'll just have to watch, remain vigilant and remain poised to act.
Q Had the raid been carried forward the timing appears to be that the bombs would have fallen at dusk or late afternoon, as opposed to sometime in the middle of the night. Was that a consideration? Isn't that a possibility of more civilian death?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into operational detail, nor am I going to suggest that you have correct information there.
Q On tobacco, Joe, what percentage of the state claim is the federal government -- of the $206 billion --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know the precise percentage. I think there is a formula for recoupment.
Q Will it be approximately what the Medicaid payments, the federal Medicaid payments --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. What I do know is that we'll be working with the states on this issue.
Q Have the states agreed to share this?
MR. LOCKHART: They have not yet announced the agreement, so we have not yet begun our work.
Q Has anyone here at the White House actually seen the tobacco settlement that the President is planning to endorse at 3:30 p.m.?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the team that's been working on tobacco -- Bruce Reed and others -- have been monitoring the situation quite closely and I think they're aware of the details.
Q Joe, what effect do you think the release of the Linda Tripp tapes tomorrow will have on the legal, political and public relations case that the President has been trying to make for the past many weeks?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have the slightest idea. I really don't. I think there are a lot of burned commentators who are in the business of speculating how something that was released to the public might impact the environment, and I really don't -- I wouldn't even know how to try to --
Q But do you oppose the release of these audio tapes?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't take a view one way or the other.
Q You talked about the unconditional compliance -- what if Saddam goes back to some sort of middle ground thing like he was doing in August, in which he basically says, no field inspections, monitoring is okay, as he was just about two weeks ago, is that then enough for us --
MR. LOCKHART: I think the four points that we had an agreement -- and I'll go through them again -- that he stated in writing the decision to cooperate with UNSCOM was clear and unequivocal; that he rescinded in writing the decisions of August 5th and October 31st; he made clear that UNSCOM would be allowed not simply to monitor, but to resume all their activities; and, four, withdraw the nine unacceptable conditions on the -- review that was linked; and then the five additional points that the Secretary General agreed with us on -- I think all of those things put together make one clear and unmistakable point, is there's no middle ground for Saddam Hussein anymore.
Q I understand it would be a violation of that. My question is, is that enough for us to ratchet back up the military buildup to get back into the position that we were just a day or two ago? In other words, we didn't do that until he went the full step --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, I think if you look at where we were this weekend, I think you'll see that we were ready with the forces deployed to strike decisively and quickly. And if we get to the point where it's in our judgment that he is not in accord with what he and his government has agreed to this weekend, then that option will be available to us and the military remains poised.
Q -- August 5th, the structure they set up on August 5th is not in accord, as you've said, so, therefore, if he goes back to some sort of regime like that, that again would trigger the possibility of a military confrontation?
MR. LOCKHART: We expect him now that he's backed down, to live up to everything he's agreed to.
Q -- make the judgment about whether he's going to live up to what he's agreed to? UNSCOM inspectors will be back in tomorrow or the next day, presumably, and will immediately begin testing. How long are we going to take to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein will live up to the obligation?
MR. LOCKHART: That is a determination that Mr. Butler and the UNSCOM team can make. They will be going back in tomorrow, it's my understanding. And they -- I can't put a timeline on it. I wouldn't expect it to be tomorrow. But he is in the best position to know whether he believes he's getting full cooperation. Again, he has not been shy in the past about expressing his views when he believes his work has been obstructed.
Q If I could follow that up, we're now in a position of paying for a much more costly military deployment in the Persian Gulf. Do we expect to know within days, weeks, or is it months whether or not we're going to have to continue that deployment for an even longer period of time?
MR. LOCKHART: We have what we believe is an effective force deployed in the Gulf. They will remain there for the time being. They have been there now for some time. I cannot predict for you when and if Saddam Hussein will not comply. We certainly have a hope that he will comply, but that is not something that we are betting on. And we will be prepared to deal with any other alternatives.
Q Joe, just in this year alone, because of the two military buildups that Saddam Hussein singlehandedly provoked, American taxpayers have spent about $2 billion with these deployments. Is there any price to pay that Saddam Hussein will have to come up with other than basically going back to what he had agreed to do originally? We've got him back to square one, and meanwhile the taxpayers are out $2 billion.
MR. LOCKHART: I disagree with your assessment that we've got him back to square one. I think we're in a much stronger position than we were earlier this year, given the strength and unanimous view of the international community. We have explicit and unconditional agreements that the burden rests on him to prove that he will fulfill. And if he doesn't fulfill, our options remain open.
Q Joe, just to come back to Peter's question, for three months we accepted a certain level of operation for UNSCOM and we didn't threaten to go to war over it. Now it sounds like we have a new -- we've set a new bar for him. Is that correct? I mean, our policy has changed. What was acceptable to us for inspections for three months --
MR. LOCKHART: I think what's gone on -- partly what's gone on in three months is we have in many ways strengthened and built the kind of consensus among the international community that we had at the end of the Gulf War. And that's an important point.
Q So you're saying that you didn't provoke a crisis --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. And that's an important point which I neglected to mention, which was we had, through the normal United Nations process, we had a sanctions review policy that came up on a biannual basis that was completely taken off the table -- bimonthly, sorry. But that was completely off the table. There is no process now for him to get out of what he most desperately wants to get out of, which is the sanctions, until he demonstrates that he will comply.
Q So you're basically saying that for the three months that we put up with fettered access, we did a lot of good diplomatic work and created this consensus in the international community that didn't exist before, right? That's one of the things we've accomplished.
MR. LOCKHART: That is certainly where we are today.
Q But what I'm asking you is if he hadn't done what he did on October 31st, which is say he was going to kick the inspectors out altogether, we would not have been ready to take a military strike against him.
MR. LOCKHART: We work through the situation as it is. I'm not going to try to get into what-ifs here.
Q What obligation does the United States recognize to consult with allies before any future military action if Iraq reneges on its promises?
MR. LOCKHART: We believe we have the authority should we deem it appropriate or necessary to move forward.
Q Joe, how is the United States going to judge compliance? If a single team is turned away from a single factory, is that enough? Do we have essentially a zero tolerance policy now?
MR. LOCKHART: I think we will leave it to the auspices of Mr. Butler and UNSCOM, and they will report back to the U.N. and ultimately to us if they believe Saddam Hussein is living up to the obligations he agreed to this weekend.
Q Joe, the First Lady is in Central America. Will she be reporting back by telephone to President Clinton like Tipper Gore did?
MR. LOCKHART: I imagine she will talk to the President. I don't know that it will be something in the same forum that we did with Mrs. Gore. But I imagine she will report back on a regular basis. The President is keenly interested in the work that's being done down there. She will also have a series of announcements today. And without preempting her, it will be an announcement of some more significant new money coming from the U.S. for the operation, some details from the Department of Defense of how they're deploying -- they have increased their deployment and some additional food aid. But I'll let her make that announcement.
Q Do you know if the President's still planning on addressing the situation in Iraq at the top of his remarks at his 3:30 p.m.?
MR. LOCKHART: 4:00 p.m. -- the event's now at 4:00 p.m. Yes, the answer's yes.
Q Is it true as reported today that the Justice Department is about to launch an investigation -- a formal investigation -- into Kenneth Starr's alleged mistreatment of Monica Lewinsky?
MR. LOCKHART: That is a question for the Justice Department. I have no information on that beyond what I read in the newspapers and news magazines.
Q What would be the President's view of an investigation? It's a delicate matter, is it not? I mean, here's the Independent Council investigating him, and his Justice Department's investigating the Independent Council.
MR. LOCKHART: The President would rightly view that as the provence of the Department of Justice and the Attorney General and would have no comment to make on it.
Q What's the White House response to the charge by Charles Bakaly that the President's allies are trying to make Starr the subject of the impeachment hearings and that Starr has been vilified by the Clinton allies.
MR. LOCKHART: Vilified by vindictive people at the White House? I will leave it to objectives and others to decide who has been vindictive and who is in the vilification business.
Q Can we talk about the events in the Middle East?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, let me just --
Q Can you talk about a question you answered here about Mr. Butler? Do I read you right at saying that the U.S. is leaving up to Butler to determine whether or not Saddam Hussein has complied, that the U.S. will not make a unilateral action, and that we will wait for him?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think it's -- what these agreements are for is to provide cooperation -- a permanent cooperation for the work of UNSCOM. And I think it's -- we will look to UNSCOM and the people on the ground to provide us with a judgment of whether they're living up to these obligations.
Q Does that mean that we won't act before we hear from Mr. Butler? We won't make unilateral actions?
MR. LOCKHART: There would be no basis to act without talking to Mr. Butler. Mr. Butler is the person on the ground who runs UNSCOM. That is the organization that does the inspection work.
Q But doesn't that mean that will take a while? I mean, it will take him a while to figure out whether --
MR. LOCKHART: Certainly, it's going to take some time for them to go in and for them to continue on what they're testing and establish whether they believe that Saddam Hussein is in compliance.
Q Joe, this letter you got today from -- coming from Henry Hyde, was that in any way in answer to a request from the White House or was that --
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Well, didn't the White House know beforehand, however, that it did have the right to cross-examine --
MR. LOCKHART: Sure, we talked about it last week. I think maybe the letter -- because I found out about the letter about the time that the news media found out about the letter -- might have had another purpose.
Q The White House reaction to Yasser Arafat's statement about declaring statehood and how the Palestinian Authority would defend Jerusalem with rifles, and as well as Bibi Netanyahu's response that he'll suspend any troop withdrawals --
MR. LOCKHART: Let me say that we believe that there's no place in this process for any statement that calls or suggests violent action. Chairman Arafat's remarks over the weekend were unfortunate and we'll be raising them with him directly. We remember that at the Wye memorandum signing last month Chairman Arafat stated clearly that the Palestinians would not retreat from the path of peace. It should remain at the core of all of his pronouncements and actions.
I'm sorry, the second part?
Q You were going to tell us about Bibi Netanyahu's threat to postpone any withdrawal of troops until there's a public clarification --
MR. LOCKHART: Again, the Wye memorandum was signed by both sides without conditions and it's our expectation that both sides will implement it. We understand that both leaders spoke today. It is our hope and expectation that they were able to get the process back on track.
Q Do you think that Netanyahu was correct to support his suspension of troop withdrawals?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think that we believe that both sides committed to implementation of Wye. As I said, I believe they've spoken together and we believe both sides should concentrate and focus on implementing the Wye agreement.
Q Is the President still going?
MR. LOCKHART: As far as I know.
Q Does the President plan any phone calls to either --
MR. LOCKHART: None that I'm aware of. If there are, I'll let you know.
Q If you could comment on a couple things on Japan. First, the Japanese government today announced the details on a new stimulus package. Do you think that this will be, in the administration's view, sufficient to restore Japan's positive growth and significant domestic demand led growth?
MR. LOCKHART: This just in. The Obuchi administration recognizes that it must take sufficient stimulus measures to lead Japan out of its worst postwar recession. As we have said, swift action is urgently needed. We look forward to getting the details of the tax measures and to examining the package in more detail, particularly in light of the deterioration of the economy since the summer.
Q Also, there was an election in Okinawa for governor over the weekend, and the governor who had long opposed U.S. military presence in Okinawa was actually unseated. Does this provide a better prospect for cooperation with Japan on reconfiguring the base?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me say that the gubernatorial election we view as a matter for -- a domestic Japanese matter. We continue to work with the government of Japan on the implementation of the final SACO report, which was in November of '95, to look at ways to ease the burden of the people of Okinawa caused by the presence of U.S. forces. A number of recommendations contained in the SACO final report have already been implemented, and we continue to work with the government there.
Q Joe, back to the Middle East. If you have Yasser Arafat talking about picking up guns, and Netanyahu suspending the agreement, it may not have actually fallen apart, but isn't Wye on the point of falling apart?
MR. LOCKHART: We believe that there were important agreements made at Wye River and both sides should concentrate on implementing those agreements.
Q I have one on money on Iraq. Since the U.S. has paid so many billions of dollars to help enforce the situation, can any of that be used against the money that the U.S. owes the U.N. for dues?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that's budgetary apples and oranges.
Q That's a serious question. Has anyone --
MR. LOCKHART: Still budgetary apples and oranges.
Q On tobacco, the President is going to endorse legislation -- making this a legislative priority next year. Has the administration decided what it will propose next year in terms of a tax hike on cigarettes?
MR. LOCKHART: No, we are very early in the budget process, so I don't have any specific news for you on the budget or any of the implications of comprehensive tobacco legislation. But that process is ongoing and I think will become clear as we get closer to the release of the budget in February.
Q Will this proposed legislation strengthen FDA regulatory authority over tobacco?
MR. LOCKHART: We're looking for comprehensive legislation. One of the things that the President will do also today is announce that the Solicitor General will be moving forward to seek cert on the FDA rule case that was in the Fourth Circuit. So we're looking to put together a package that meets the President's principles on all areas to reduce teen smoking, but that includes FDA control.
Q That would be part of any legislative proposal the White House makes next year?
MR. LOCKHART: Any proposal or any principles have yet to be put together, but that is certainly one of the main principles that the President has articulated.
Q Joe, last year on cigarettes, you never were specific in your wording other than to say that the administration supported a price increase. Do you expect to be more specific this year as to whether that increase would be a tax increase?
MR. LOCKHART: I expect to be more specific about how specific we'll be sometime in the near future.
You guys want to -- I'm talking up here, okay? Not you, Scott. I mean, it's Mr. Knoller and Mr. Blitzer. I want to see you after class. (Laughter.)
Are we done? Thank you.
END 2:02 P.M. EST