THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Amman, Jordan) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release February 8, 1999
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGER J.W. Marriott Amman, Jordan
7:07 P.M. (L)
MR. BERGER: This obviously was an extraordinary gathering of world leaders. I don't know whether there has ever been such a large delegation of leaders from around the world for the funeral of any leader. Obviously a great tribute to King Hussein. I think there were several things that were quite notable about it. The President made reference to not just how many leaders were here, but the kaleidoscope of the world was here -- from Europe and from Chirac and Blair and King Carlos, and from Africa, Abacha, and from Asia, Obuchi -- and obviously from this region.
Also, this is quite extraordinary in terms of the fact that all of the Muslim countries of the region gathered together. I might note that when President Sadat died and when his funeral took place, the only Arab leader who was present for Sadat's funeral, because they knew that Israel would be there, was the Sultan of Oman. And yet today, I think every Arab country was represented here at the highest level -- Assad coming to Amman -- I think perhaps for the first time, Assad in the same place with Israelis, for the first time ever. Again, part of this power of this man and what he represented that the President was talking about.
In terms of the discussions themselves, there was about an hour and a half -- there were a number of periods in which the leaders were together waiting, for example, when they closed the city and they moved the cortege through the city to the Palace, about an hour and a half in Raghadan Palace -- the President really, I think met with almost everybody. The discussion was usually brief, but usually it was with some -- to make some point, often Jordan related: President Assad, I'm glad you're here. I hope you will help Jordan. Often Middle East peace process related, whether it was with the Israelis -- that extraordinary Israeli delegation the President spoke about, or Mubarak or others.
And then, of course, some -- depending on the leader, talked to General Abacha about the elections that are coming up; he talked to President Chirac and Prime Minister Blair about the negotiations in Rambouillet and the important 10 days before us on Kosovo. President Yeltsin stood up as the President came in and said, "Bill!" in his big bear voice. And they talked briefly also about Jordan and the King.
Let me just say a word about the meeting of the new King Abdullah and then answer some questions. I was very, very impressed by him -- I've met him before, but not recently. And the three words I wrote down here during the meeting -- it's interesting what the President said -- were "dignity, confidence, and class." The President talked about the humble dignity, the humble confidence, I think, of his father. And that clearly is there. This is a man who is well-known in the United States, well-known to many, certainly many people in our military with whom he has worked over the years and who have talked to us over the past two weeks and said, don't worry about this fellow, he is very, very strong.
He talked about his many friends in the United States. The President said that, we want to be helpful in whatever way is most valuable to you. The Crown Prince said that "we will make His Majesty proud." He talked about -- both of them talked about the peace process, the importance that the new King ascribes to that; the economic challenges here. And the King was quite personal with the President in talking about what the President had meant to his father and how important the President had been to the King.
I felt very good coming from this meeting. This is a very, very impressive man who has a very deft touch, and I think is very much like his father, but I'm sure will put his own distinctive imprint on Jordan's future.
Q Did they talk substance at all about the next steps maybe, what role specifically Abdullah can play right now?
MR. BERGER: They talked about the peace process. The President talked about the importance of reassuring the people of Israel of Jordan's commitment to the peace -- of the new King's commitment to the peace process. They talked about the relationship between Jordan and the Palestinian Authority and Chairman Arafat, a relationship historically, obviously, not always a positive one, but one that had built over time with the King. And so there was discussion of next steps and how to get the process going certainly as soon as the election is over.
Q Did he ask for anything specifically from the President?
MR. BERGER: No. He said that he hoped he would have the same kind of relationship with the President that his father had. And the President said that he wanted the King to feel free to call upon him at any time, in any way that he felt would be useful.
Q King Abdullah has said some negative things about Iran in an interview he gave to some of us here in Amman on Thursday. I wonder if Iran came up in any way.
MR. BERGER: No.
Q Did the President in his other conversations with people from the region make similar points about the peace process -- with the Israelis?
MR. BERGER: I would say that there were three themes running through conversations -- understand these conversations are standing, sometimes with the interpreter, sometimes not; five minutes, seven minutes. One point the President made to most all of the leaders he talked to was the importance of showing strong support for Jordan. Where relevant, particularly with Middle Eastern leaders, he talked about the importance of maintaining momentum in the peace process. And then with individual leaders, he would talk about the upcoming election in Nigeria with Ababaca, et cetera.
Q -- on concrete terms, was there any talk of economic aid or any kind of substance on aid to Jordan?
MR. BERGER: Well, we announced -- I don't even know what the date today is -- two days ago -- whatever day today is, go back two days -- we announced a series of steps that involved working with the IMF to try to get an IMF agreement done as quickly as possible. Our understanding is that that could happen soon. That will enable us to reschedule debt in the Paris Club. That's of very great importance.
We also said that we will go to Congress promptly to ask for an additional $300 million of aid over three years to Jordan; that's on top of the $200 million this year already in the budget. So there are a number of economic things that we hope to do for Jordan, and hopefully, other countries will do that as well. Jordan's biggest problem right now is an economy that is not strong and needs to grow.
Q Was there an Iranian representative here of any kind, and did the President speak to them, and what was discussed?
MR. BERGER: There was an Iranian delegation. There was not the opportunity present itself for them to speak.
Q -- you gestured when you said, "Bill!" Did Yeltsin embrace the President?
MR. BERGER: Yes. He said, "Bill Clinton!"
Q Did they embrace, and was there any other conversation?
MR. BERGER: Yes, they talked about --
Q Did they embrace?
MR. BERGER: Yes. Yeltsin embraced the President.
Q Did he embrace back?
MR. BERGER: Did he embrace back? (Laughter.)
Q Yes, and for how long?
MR. BERGER: I'm not touching that with a 10-foot pole. (Laughter.)
Q Was there any other conversation?
MR. BERGER: Yes, they talked and it was mostly just personal chatter. I wasn't right next, so I didn't hear the whole conversation.
Q The other side of the conversation with Assad -- you told us what the President told --
MR. BERGER: Assad sort of said, yes.
Q To what?
MR. BERGER: The President said, you know, I want you to -- I hope you will support Jordan. And he said, yes. But, I mean, you know, I couldn't see in his heart. (Laughter.)
Q -- Assad with the Israeli delegation, do you know?
MR. BERGER: No. No, I don't believe so.Senate
Q Did the President talk to Prime Minister Netanyahu about the peace process?
MR. BERGER: Yes, he talked to the entire kaliedescope of the Israeli delegation -- the Prime Minister, President Weizman, Defense Minister Mordechai, former Prime Minister Peres, Mr. Barak and several others -- and talked about implementation of Wye, and they talked about Hussein. I mean, there was a lot of -- this was a lot of simply talking about the King.
Q -- one moment that captures the dynamic between the four Presidents today? Anything President Carter might have said about his Middle East peace efforts?
MR. BERGER: I thought to me the most interesting dynamic was last night on the plane when the President came into the cabin where the three Presidents were, for about two and a half hours. And there was a very friendly, serious, substantive discussion of the Middle East peace process, Kosovo, Russia, and it was really quite an extraordinary, a very interesting discussion.
I've got to go.
Q -- Yeltsin, was he ill?
MR. BERGER: I don't know. The fact that he came I think is --
Q But he left early.
Q What do you read into Assad's presence here?
END 7:30 P.M. (L)