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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 25, 1999
                           PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                             JOE LOCKHART 
                           The Briefing Room    

2:14 P.M. EST

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have much. But I thought I'd come out, and if there are any domestic issues that you had questions on.

Q Two questions. One is, I believe the Greek Prime Minister has condemned the attack. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to ask Mr. Berger that question. Do you know whether that's true, and what is the reaction to it?

MR. LOCKHART: I hadn't heard that.

Q And the second question -- a number of state attorney generals are in the White House, I believe, talking about tobacco and the settlement with Microsoft. Can you give us any enlightenment on that?

MR. LOCKHART: They've got a series of issues. I believe they have an event very soon with the Vice President. I don't know the exact agenda for the meeting. I'd suggest that you talk to the Vice President's Office.

Q Are they talking about the Internet with him also?


Q Joe, a leading Serb politician said today that American troops are targets wherever they can be found in the world. Is there any concern for the domestic security of the United States?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think as you know, the question of security is one that we don't talk much about. But I can assure you it's something that we work at every day and whatever measures we can take are being taken.

Q What do you make of that threat, Joe, that U.S. forces anywhere in the world are now targets?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we have addressed that, that we would look quite seriously at any threat made against any American anyplace in the world.

Q But Joe, to follow up on that, I mean, Serbia is certainly not known as a country that has some kind of an international terrorist network. Is this something that you take as seriously as you would the threats of some other country --

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to grade security threats beyond saying that we take threats seriously.

Q Joe, on Russia, is it accurate that the United States, despite the cancellation of Primakov's trip or the postponement of the trip, signed a series of cooperation agreements with them on energy and other subjects?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I know that the committees in the Gore-Primakov Commission met over the last several days. I hadn't --

COLONEL CROWLEY: Yes, they did.

MR. LOCKHART: Okay, they did meet, and did we sign?

COLONEL CROWLEY: We reached several important agreements.

MR. LOCKHART: Several important agreements, which we will get out to you.

Q Joe, can you talk about the President's activities in trying to keep the Alliance together? I mean, who has he been talking to?

MR. LOCKHART: I think we've got you up to date on the calls he's made. There's a series of messages he sent to world leaders outside of the NATO Alliance. I suspect he'll be making some calls this afternoon, and as those are completed, we'll try to give you a list.

Q Not so far, though, has he?


Q He hasn't made those calls so far today?

MR. LOCKHART: No, he has not so far today, but I -- my expectation is he'll make some this afternoon, and we'll try to let you know.

Q Do you know if Italy is on the list?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't.

Q Is that -- did that concern him? I mean, Sandy said, I think, he wanted to set the guy straight.

COLONEL CROWLEY: He talked to D'Alema --

MR. LOCKHART: Yes. He talked to him two days ago, yes.

Q Joe, is it realistic to think that air strikes alone will stop the atrocities against Kosovar civilians, where it just takes a relatively handful of troops who can go into a village and --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think as Sandy said -- and I don't want to repeat at great length what he just addressed and what Secretary Cohen has said and what General Clark has said -- is that we believe that air strikes can help us meet the military objective here, which is to seriously degrade his ability to wage aggressive action against --

Q But they talked -- the nature of air strikes is targeted at fixed targets. How does that deal with small units, smaller units of troops?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, I'm not going to get into targets, or any operational detail, but on the broader point I'll repeat that we believe that air strikes will be sufficient to meet the military objectives.

Q Joe, General Wesley Clark said if Slobodan Milosevic does not accept the terms, then the objective would be to destroy his military capability, not to degrade or diminish. He used the word "destroy."

MR. LOCKHART: I would use the same word in ability -- if you look at destroying his ability to launch and wage aggressive actions against the Kosovar people.

Q Joe, the State Department has made some pretty specific warnings to Milosevic yesterday and today about moving against Montenegro. Do we have some specific reason to believe that he's about ready to do so?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into any specific knowledge we have one way or the other.

Q Joe, you've been --

Q Joe, we now have rioting in Macedonia --

MR. LOCKHART: Do we have any domestic issues? I think Sandy addressed these things. I'm not going to go through the questions.

Q Joe, given what the President is saying and Mr. Berger about President Milosevic, does this make him a prime candidate for the War Tribunal in The Hague?

MR. LOCKHART: That is interesting and I don't know where that stands. There may be --

COLONEL CROWLEY: That's why we have supported the IC2I, and entering Kosovo, and other places, and let the facts determine where they -- let the facts go where they want us to.

MR. LOCKHART: I'll stand by Colonel Crowley's wise words there.

Q Joe, we now have rioting in Macedonia, you have shelling into Albania, you have protests going on in Russia. What makes you think that the administration, or that the NATO action is not fomenting the wider war that you're trying to stop?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, you have singled out some isolated incidents. And I just don't think you can build a case that somehow the action we're taking now is working counter to the objectives that we've laid out.

Q Has the President considered whether he wants to stay in Washington during the duration of the NATO operation?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President looked at the schedule he had for the next few days, which had called for him to go out for some political travel on the West Coast, and made the judgment that it would be best to stay here and not go out for the weekend. I suspect that we'll look at next week and we'll probably return to a more normal schedule.

Q Does that mean this trip would be rescheduled for next week?

MR. LOCKHART: I think we'll reschedule the political. I mean, there's obviously some things we can't reschedule -- they won't hold the California State Democratic Convention again for us, but I think some of the fundraising things that we've committed to making sure we do it another time.

Q Joe, how concerned is the White House that an individual rescue attempt for a pilot could escalate in a large ground operation, sort of bit by bit?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to leave that answer at -- I think Secretary Cohen was asked that yesterday, I'm going to leave it with his answer. He's obviously more qualified to answer that.

Thank you.

END 2:20 P.M. EST