THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY NSC SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR NEAR EASTERN AND SOUTH ASIAN AFFAIRS, BRUCE RIEDEL; AND ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR SOUTH ASIAN AFFAIRS, KARL INDERFURTH
The Briefing Room
6:15 P.M. EST
COLONEL CROWLEY: We had a very important meeting today between President Clinton and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan. There was also a follow-on meeting between the Prime Minister and the Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary Rubin. Here to give you a readout of those meetings, the NSC Senior Director for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Bruce Riedel, and the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, Karl Inderfurth.
Bruce will start. Thanks.
MR. RIEDEL: Thank you very much. As P.J. said, the Prime Minister and the President had a very warm, very positive meeting. Let me run you through some of the particulars first, and then we'll talk about the substance.
They met from about 1:30 p.m. until 2:00 p.m. in a plenary meeting with their staffs -- Secretary of State and National Security Advisor on our side; the Foreign Minister on their side, and others -- Foreign Secretary. The President and the Prime Minister had a one-on-one for about 20 minutes in the Oval Office, and then they had lunch for about 45 minutes, from 2:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.
These discussions covered a wide range of issues, and I think the way Rick and I would like to do this is break those issues up a little bit. Let me start with the number one issue on our agenda, which was the issues of nonproliferation and arms control.
The President and the Prime Minister reviewed the status of the ongoing discussions that we have had with Pakistan since the tests last May. As most of you know, Deputy Secretary Talbott has been leading the American team on that effort and we have had a number of meetings with the government of Pakistan, led on their side by the Foreign Secretary.
The discussions today, both leaders reviewed the status of those talks, underscored the importance of trying to come to closure on them. I would not say that major new developments occurred there. This was more a status-taking and discussing where Secretary Talbott and the Foreign Secretary had already brought it.
The President reviewed again and expressed his support for the Prime Minister's decision to adhere to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty by September 1999. The Prime Minister reaffirmed that commitment, a commitment that he made first at the U.N. General Assembly earlier this fall when he spoke to the General Assembly and when he met with the President at New York.
The President reaffirmed our view that more progress needed to be made on these issues before we would be in a position to remove all of the sanctions that had been put on Pakistan in the wake of the tests under the Glenn Amendment.
The Prime Minister and the President reviewed the status of those sanctions. As you all know, earlier this year, earlier this fall, the President lifted some of those sanctions under the authority given to him by the Brownback Amendment. That authority only lasts for one year. The President underscored that point to the Prime Minister and made clear we need to find ways to move forward on these issues.
Why don't I stop there and let Rick talk about the economics and Afghanistan and terrorism.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: On the economic situation, there was a very full discussion of Pakistan's economic situation between the President and the Prime Minister, and of course, the Treasury Secretary and the Finance Minister of Pakistan entered into that discussion. Also discussion of the status of the IMF package. There is agreement in principle and the Paris Club will meet this month, the IMF board will meet in January, and we made it very clear that what we're looking for is a strong, credible, and fully implemented IMF package.
Made it clear also that while we want to be helpful, we stressed the limited nature -- limited nature -- of the President's decision which is confined to the IMF package, support for that package, as well as resuming Ex-Im and OPIC and TDA activities in Pakistan. That this is limited, that we need to be able to make further progress to provide further assistance. That will require additional steps -- concrete steps -- by Pakistan to address nonproliferation and security concerns.
There was also discussion about resolving the independent power producers problem in Pakistan. This was mentioned by several of the participants and it was very clear that the government of Pakistan believes that this issue is well on the way to being resolved. And that will be of great importance to us.
On Afghanistan, along with economic issues at the luncheon, this was the principal topic of the discussion at lunch with the President. Prime Minister Sharif informed the President that, of all countries, Pakistan is most affected by what is happening inside Afghanistan. The conflict there has caused refugees, narcotics, spillover effect of the conflict. So Pakistan is on the front lines of what is happening there.
The President, the Secretary of State, National Security Advisor all made it clear that we want to see the conflict end; need to see follow-up work on the so-called Six plus Two process at the U.N. under Ambassador Brahimi, and establish a broad-based multiethnic government in Afghanistan.
Secretary Albright said we have very serious problems with the Taliban, including their treatment of women and girls. All made it clear that of primary importance to the U.S. government is the expulsion of Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan so that he can be brought to justice.
While I don't intend to go into details of what was said about Osama bin Laden in the meeting, I think it's fair to say that there was no love lost, nor any sympathies expressed for Osama bin Laden in that meeting.
In our view about bin Laden, it is very simple -- he is a terrorist, he is a murderer, he plans to kill again and we want him brought to justice. And that view was made very clear to our Pakistani guests.
Q How are you going to do that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: The means to accomplish that are several in terms of working with other governments, in terms of doing things that the NSC has been responsible for, in terms of the financial assets of Osama bin Laden. This is an effort that is being undertaken by all responsible agencies and departments of government and we hope that it will be successful.
Q Well, did Pakistan promise active help in this effort, or simply that they sympathize with our effort?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Pakistan is well aware of our views on this. Pakistan is well aware of the impact of Osama bin Laden in the region, and we have asked Pakistan for its assistance and I think that that message came through loud and clear to Prime Minister Sharif.
We do not want to speak for him, or what his government intends to do. That is a decision they have to take. But they have heard our views loud and clear.
Q Rick, what was the President's reply to Pakistan's plea for mediation of the Kashmir crisis?
MR. RIEDEL: I think if you saw the two pool sprays before the meeting, the President made it very clear. He has expressed on a number of occasions that the United States is prepared to do all it can to help, but that it is only able to do things in any kind of mediation process if both parties want the United States to be a player in this. He reaffirmed that, and he indicated that it would need to be a request from both parties for the United States to play a mediation role.
Q Was there more discussion on this issue after the brief statements to the press?
MR. RIEDEL: I think that the discussion reaffirmed that position on our side. I don't think it would be a surprise to any of you that the Prime Minister put forward well-known positions of the government of Pakistan about the importance of resolving the Kashmir issue.
Q What about those F-16s? Could you tell us a little more on the F-16s as to what's the nature of the deal you have with New Zealand and how we are going to repay the balance that would be obvious to Pakistan?
MR. RIEDEL: Absolutely. Let me begin by saying, as the President I think also indicated in the pool spray, that this is an issue that he has felt from the day he came into office needed to be resolved, that it is an irritant in a relationship between our two governments, that he feels some way needs to be found to make Pakistan whole for the expenditures it put onto this aircraft deal. And as you know, he made that position clear not only to the Prime Minister; in earlier meetings, he made it clear to the Prime Minister's predecessor.
We now have the possibility of the government of New Zealand being willing to take some of these aircraft. That may put some money into a position where we could continue to do what we have been doing for some time, which as parts of that deal are sold or otherwise dealt with, we return money to the government of Pakistan. And we have returned a considerable amount of money over the course of the last several years.
Q How much?
Q Could we have a dollar figure for that, please?
MR. RIEDEL: $157 million.
Q Bruce, I'm told that New Zealand will buy the entire squadron.
MR. RIEDEL: I think that the government of New Zealand is still in a process of making a decision about this. I think part of it is whether it's going to be lease or purchase.
Q I was told that the decision was made yesterday and the agreement was made in principle yesterday for them to buy, and you should know what the amount is.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: The 28 aircraft that New Zealand has been -- we have been discussing this with them for some time. We are looking at a lease arrangement. We are waiting for their official offer to purchase or to lease. So this information is still there. We still have, in terms of the lease, the amount, the purchase amount, that's still being --
Q Well, I was told that they agreed to lease them for 10 years and then buy them, and that the agreement was reached yesterday. Is that correct?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: What we're saying is we're waiting for that official confirmation of the arrangement.
Q But they released it publicly, they released it giving all the details. They haven't told you?
Q Is it your understanding it will be a 10-year lease?
Q I'm confused. I spoke with the Ambassador of New Zealand today and he said that they had reached an agreement yesterday. And I just wanted to confirm that this is the case.
MR. RIEDEL: Clearly, we have not gotten the official word and are still -- let me just finish the point, though, because I think where you're going, Barbara, is, is this the solution to the problem or is it part of the solution to the problem. And it is unlikely that the proceeds from that will be a complete solution to this problem.
The President reaffirmed to the Prime Minister his intention to try to find ways to resolve this problem. The Prime Minister of Pakistan is considering some of the ideas the President put forward at this time, and I think we are going to wait for the government of Pakistan to get back to us on those ideas.
Q Is the published figure of $112 million correct?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: For leasing? That's approximately correct.
Q How much more was Pakistan expecting?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Well, Pakistan expects $501 million. The original amount of $648 million we have been able, through the sale of spare parts, brought the amount owed to Pakistan down to $501 million. So that is the figure that we are working on.
Q So how do you pay the balance? How will you pay the balance?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Well, that's precisely what we're discussing with them now. There are a variety of ways that we're looking at. We have not resolved anything; indeed, the discussion that the President had today was an initial discussion of our ideas on this. We need to hear more from them. Lawyers will have to talk to lawyers. We will have to talk to the Foreign Ministry. The Defense Department will have to be consulted.
This is a complicated process, but I think that it is fair to say that, of all the years we have been working on this issue, we are probably closer now to finding a just settlement for this than we ever have been. They will not receive the aircraft; they know that. But I think that we can do what the President has said to the Prime Minister, which is to find a fair settlement. And that's what we're working on.
Q Do you think the matter will be resolved before the statute of limitations has expired?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Hope so. We do not want to see a suit against the United States by the government of Pakistan. It would not be a helpful ingredient in our relationship.
Q You don't want to see a suit?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: We do not want to see a suit. Nor should they.
Q When you urge India and Pakistan to resolve Kashmir issue bilaterally, do you mean to say that the U.S. has changed its policy to -- to the U.N. Security Council resolutions -- because the U.S. has been having a consistent policy of supporting the U.N. Security Council resolutions on Kashmir.
MR. RIEDEL: And we have not changed our policy. The Security Council resolution of this summer, you're referring to -- correct? We were one of the sponsors of that resolution; of course, we're going to continue to support it.
Q Was there any discussion of rescheduling the President's trip?
MR. RIEDEL: I think what the President said in the pool spray was what he repeated to the Prime Minister, which is he hopes it will be possible for him to go in 1999.
Q Have you received any new assurances on cutting back -- on Pakistan's cutting back on the production of fissile materials or on export controls? Any of those specific points you're looking for in nuclear --
MR. RIEDEL: No, as I said earlier, there was a review of all the outstanding benchmarks in the nonproliferation area. Those we've discussed on many occasions before. I think they're well-known from the P-5 and G-8 communiques. The discussion did not change the positions on those issues. We, from our part, continue to see a need for additional progress in order to achieve the results we want.
Q Was there any discussion of the deployment or actions that would prefigure the deployment of nuclear weapons, either by aircraft or by missiles? In other words, do you know whether India or Pakistan or both have yet deployed weapons since the May tests? Or have they, in fact, taken prefiguring deployment actions, such as putting aircraft and nuclear devices at the same airbase?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: We do not believe that either country has deployed nuclear-capable missiles following the May tests.
Q Or aircraft?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Or aircraft. We believe that both countries are looking very closely at what next steps they may or may not take. We are urging, clearly, restraint. That is part of the benchmarks that Bruce has referred to and that Secretary Talbott has been pursuing now in seven rounds of discussions with both Indian and Pakistani envoys.
So we're urging restraint and we believe that both countries are looking very carefully at what next steps they may take. Clearly, deployment is one we do not want to see. They understand that and we do not believe they have deployed.
Q Prime Minister Sharif said after the meeting this afternoon that his government has information that India is preparing for another nuclear test, although he also said that he did not expect that test to go forward. Do you have information that India is laying the preparations for a test?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: India has stated that it has imposed a unilateral moratorium on any further nuclear testing. We believe that they are acting consistent with that pledge. They have also made it -- in the statement that Prime Minister Vajpayee made in New York -- that they are moving toward adherence to CTBT. And Pakistan has made similar statements with respect to adherence by September 1999, as well as a unilateral moratorium by Pakistan on further testing.
Q Are you satisfied that this time, if India does plan another test, our intelligence service will in fact know it in advance?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Yes.
Q As opposed to last time?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Yes.
Q Did the Prime Minister express any concerns about the possibility of another test? Did he express those to the President when he was meeting with him?
MR. RIEDEL: He repeated the same thing that he said outside. Yes, he did.
Q The Pakistan Prime Minister, after meeting the President, talked about informing the President about Pakistan's national security dilemma, as he calls it, as a result of prolonged American sanctions and depleted conventional weapons. How is the U.S. expected to help him resolve the dilemma?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: We can't help him unless he helps himself. The fact is that the President was able to exercise limited waiver authority under the Brownback Amendment on economic issues. Brownback does not cover military-to-military relations. For us to have any opportunity to address the conventional military needs of Pakistan, Pakistan will have to take further steps to address our concerns on nonproliferation, which would provide us the arguments needed to go up to Capitol Hill to seek further -- either repeal of sanctions or amendment of Brownback to allow some form of military cooperation.
All that we have been able to do in that regard has been to restore the IMET program, the International Military Education Training program -- which is important because it allows us to have a channel of communication with the Pakistani military which we believe is important and our Pentagon believes is important.
The conventional military sales, transfers of equipment, all that will require further steps by Pakistan to allow us to resume that kind of relationship.
Q -- specific about further steps? Are we talking about the signing of the CTBT, or are we talking about the rollback of their nuclear program?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: I would call your attention to Secretary Talbott's speech at the Brookings Institution where he went into a progress report of what we have achieved to date, and we have made some modest, I think, important steps forward. At the same time he also outlined those other things which we believe are necessary. So I would rather not sort of repeat Strobe's --
Q One further question on the nuclear side. Has the administration concluded that the thermonuclear component of India's five tests in May was a failure?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: I think Bruce will --
MR. RIEDEL: We are not going to comment on the results of our own analysis and the intelligence that goes into that analysis about these tests.
Q What did the President respond when the Prime Minister expressed those concerns about possible tests by India?
MR. RIEDEL: The President made clear our position, which I don't think is a surprise to anyone, which is we strongly oppose nuclear testing. And I think we've made it abundantly clear to the government of India and the government of Pakistan that we would oppose additional tests.
Q Mr. Inderfurth, going back to Afghanistan, according to India's newspaper that bin Laden is sponsoring terrorism in the Indian state of Kashmir, do you have any message for the government of India in this connection, or can they be helpful in bringing him to justice or his empire down?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Well, I think that the question of training of terrorists that may operate in Kashmir is a serious question. It's one that we're also concerned about. It, therefore, underscores the importance of getting bin Laden out of Afghanistan and brought to justice. And a full-court press is underway to do precisely that.
Q Would you say that the ball is now in the Pakistani court on the nuclear issue?
Q Anything new on Iraq and Saddam Hussein?
COLONEL CROWLEY: I just want to, before we conclude the briefing, go back over the F-16 numbers. The original value of the F-16s was $658 million. Through the sale of components subsequent to the imposition of Pressler sanctions, we reduced that amount by $157 million. So the balance to Pakistan is currently at $501 million -- just to eliminate any confusion on that.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY INDERFURTH: Could I just make one little P.S. addendum on those things. We are somewhat hamstrung being in the government. We need to see the papers from other governments saying that they have placed an offer on the table. Neither Bruce or I have seen that, so we've had to sort of -- yes, there is a lease agreement; yes, they're looking at purchase; yes, this is an important development. We will, I'm sure, the folks here and at State, will give you the full official recording of the F-16 offer by New Zealand as soon as it is available. We weren't trying to slip out of this; we just didn't have the official notification.
Q Thank you.
END 6:36 P.M. EST