THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
1:20 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me start with a brief update of where we are, and then I'll be glad to take your questions.
The air campaign continues, with strikes over the weekend at a full range of targets, including forces in and around Kosovo directly responsible for the repression, in addition to the infrastructure that allows Milosevic to continue his repression -- including command and control, transportation, fuel and ammunition depots.
The U.S. military has intensified its involvement in facilitating the delivery and distribution of humanitarian aid to the Kosovar Albanian refugees. U.S. and Italian helicopters delivered 28,000 humanitarian daily rations to Albania yesterday. An additional 65,000 are arriving today in Italy. Daily flights will continue until all 500,000 are delivered.
In addition, 900 tents, 8,000 sleeping bags, 1,000 blankets, 1,000 comforters, and 700 cots are being flown into Albania and Macedonia by the U.S. military, beginning today. To date, the U.S. government has provided approximately $150 million in humanitarian assistance to Kosovar Albanians, stretching back more than a year.
The message to President Milosevic should be clear: There is NATO unity, resolve, and patience to continue the air campaign in a systematic and intensive way, focusing on those targets that are responsible for, or associated with, the repression of Kosovo. There will be no sanctuary for any of his repressive forces.
President Milosevic holds the key to stop the misery of all these refugees, to end NATO's military campaign, and to stop the instability that threatens the Balkans. We have made clear that he must let all the refugees return, that he must cease hostilities, and pull out his repressive forces; that he must agree to an autonomous, multiethnic Kosovo, and a NATO-led international implementation force to secure the peace.
Let me finish by saying that it would not be a surprise to see in the coming days attempts at half-measures, hollow cease-fires. They will not be acceptable to stop the bombing. We've been clear what he needs to do. President Milosevic holds the key to end this crisis.
Q Have you had some feelers already on that?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I think that --
Q What made you say that?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there's been -- there's certainly been some discussion that he might seek a cease-fire on the terms that he discussed with Prime Minister Primakov, and I think it's important -- the foreign ministers over the weekend made this clear -- we are reiterating that there are conditions that need to be met, and they need to be met fully.
Q The President says he's going to have these Kosovars return to Kosovo under safe, secure conditions. How is that going to be accomplished? What means will the President use to accomplish that?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, if you look at the essence of the Rambouillet agreement, we're looking for a political agreement that provides for autonomy, that provides for the withdrawal of Serb forces from Kosovo, which now must include the return of the refugees that have left the country and that allows for the deployment of a NATO-led force that provides for the security they need.
Q How is Mr. Milosevic going to be forced to do this if he doesn't agree?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, there will be one of two things that will happen: He will agree, because of the punishment that he is currently taking and will continue to take, or --
Q From the air?
MR. LOCKHART: -- from the air; or his military ability to impose his will on Kosovo will be so degraded, and in some cases destroyed, that he will no longer be able to impose his will.
Q Let me, Joe -- let me clear one thing up, if I may. You don't really expect the Yugoslavs and Milosevic to agree to the Rambouillet accords at this stage of the game, after the bombing, do you?
MR. LOCKHART: The Yugoslavs and President Milosevic needs to accept the essence of those accords, which is self-government and the ability for Kosovar Albanians to live free of repression. And we will continue this military objective until either he does agree, or he is no longer able, through his special police and his military, to impose his will.
Q But as a practical matter, the Rambouillet agreement doesn't exist anymore. And you wouldn't expect him to sign on to it. And then would you expect the Kosovars to continue --
MR. LOCKHART: We are not -- I am not, or we are not, going to get caught up into every item that's in what was an 81-page agreement that the Kosovar Albanians did sign on to -- which, by the way, was a good agreement for both sides because it preserved Kosovo as part of Serbia --
Q Are you saying --
MR. LOCKHART: -- but the essence of that agreement, the main points of autonomy for the Kosovar Albanians and the freedom to live a secure life free of repression, which a NATO-led force would ensure -- remains the same.
Q Joe, is there two things, two conditions there --
Q Are you saying the Kosovar Albanians still want, are still willing to agree to autonomy after they've been expelled from Kosovo? Autonomy means they're a Serbian province.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, they certainly agreed to those conditions -- and it was a big step for them.
Q Right. But a lot has happened since then. You think --
MR. LOCKHART: A lot has happened, and a lot has happened that, as we've said, threatens the Serbian -- their legitimacy to control over Kosovo. But we continue to move forward, and we've made very clear to Milosevic that this is what he needs to do to end the conflict.
Q Joe, if I can just clear up one point you just made, and then follow up. You said that the Rambouillet agreements would have preserved Kosovo as part of Serbia --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q Don't you mean part of the Yugoslav Federation?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, as an autonomous region within the FRY.
Q But the difference being important, in the sense that Serbia and Kosovo are two -- and Montenegro -- are all provinces of the Yugoslav Federation?
MR. LOCKHART: That is correct.
Q All right. Now, as far as -- some people are saying that Slobodan Milosevic has now crossed the line and he's beyond the pale, that there's no way the United States and the NATO allies can do business with him as part of some sort of political settlement. Is that the White House position?
MR. LOCKHART: I would say, as people in the administration have articulated, that it's becoming increasingly difficult. But I'm not willing to stand here and say that we can't work out some sort of agreement on the basis of the essence of Rambouillet.
Q Joe, you said that there were two conditions. One, he either accepts the political issue, which you've laid out clearly. Two is that we continue to degrade his ability, perhaps destroy it. If it's just degraded, then how does the U.S. get the refugees back in there? What is the notion of how this would work out, to let the refugees go home --
MR. LOCKHART: I can't --
Q -- unless he agrees to the first one, which is the political?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I can't speculate into the future, only to say that we will continue this effort, if he doesn't agree, until his forces are no longer a threat.
Q So you're planning on getting the Kosovar refugees back into Kosovo with some sort of NATO force protecting them. At which point do you anticipate that happening?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, when we have an agreement from President Milosevic, or we will continue this campaign until the force -- what he uses to impose his will -- is no longer an effective force.
Q So you're not going back in until he signs an agreement, or accepts an agreement?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't envision ground troops entering anything but a permissive environment.
Q Do you think you can destroy his military with the air power?
MR. LOCKHART: Pardon?
Q You think you can completely destroy his military with the air?
MR. LOCKHART: We think we have military objectives which we can reach by systematically and methodically going after what he uses to impose his will. And that is his military and his special police.
Q Do you think you can create --
Q Joe, the President talked about --
Q Will you go back without any kind of an agreement? It's entirely possible that there will be no agreement with Slobodan Milosevic.
MR. LOCKHART: We will not put them in -- we will not use ground troops in anything but a permissive environment.
Q I didn't ask you about ground troops. I asked you about how you put them back.
MR. LOCKHART: That's my answer.
Q How do you put the Kosovar refugees back, Joe?
MR. LOCKHART: I have explained it as clearly as I know how.
Q I don't get it.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay. Well, we'll leave it there.
Q Do you think you can create a permissive environment through the use of air power alone?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me say again what will happen. We will continue this military campaign until the objectives are reached, and he signs, or agrees to an effort that recognizes the autonomous region of Kosovo, refugees are allowed back, and a NATO-led force is there to provide security. If there is no agreement on that front, we will continue hitting at his military capability, the capability that he uses to impose his will on Kosovo, until it's no longer a threat.
Q The Apache gunships and the -- what are they meant to accomplish on the ground there? Who are they designed to thwart?
MR. LOCKHART: I'll leave it to -- on very specific abilities and capabilities --
Q I'm not asking, I'm just saying --
MR. LOCKHART: On capabilities of the Apache, I'll leave it to the Pentagon. My --
Q I'm not asking about capabilities. I'm saying, who are they meant to go in and attack?
MR. LOCKHART: The President, the Pentagon and NATO's use -- approval and then use of Apaches is designed to go after forces in the field.
Q Okay. So forces in the field that are doing what?
MR. LOCKHART: Forces in the field that are repressing the Kosovar Albanians that are driving people from their homes, that are standing in the way of an autonomous Kosovo, where people are free to live in an environment free of repression.
Q Okay. And they won't be there for, roughly, eight to ten days, right?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have the operational detail.
Q I mean, roughly. Is that approximate --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have the operational detail.
Q Can I just finish?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, finish. It's not too hard to forecast where you're going, so why don't you just get to it.
Q Fine. If it takes eight to ten days, or whatever it is, for them to get there, do you envision there being anyone left on the ground to defend or to fight against?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that NATO has been very clear on how quickly the ethnic cleansing has gone forward. I don't have any reason to dispute their time. There are certainly a large number of refugees that have already moved out, there are people on the move now.
But we will continue to hit his military and his military capabilities. And that's what -- the force here, because he's, again, either going to come to the conclusion that peace is in his interest, a peace that encapsules the essence of Rambouillet, or we will degrade and destroy his military's ability to do what he's doing on the ground.
Q You said one of the options is that we would bomb him until his forces are no longer a threat.
MR. LOCKHART: Right.
Q Does that then constitute the permissible environment in which we could send in U.S. troops?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't answer that question with any certainty because it will involve knowing and looking into the future. So I can't.
Q When the President says he'll return to Kosovo, does he mean all of Kosovo? Is it a firm U.S. condition that the autonomous region is Kosovo as it is now, or would there be some consideration of a partitioning?
MR. LOCKHART: I've heard no discussion or consideration of a partition. It's Kosovo as it's known now.
Q Joe, you're flying in now food, tents, blankets -- when do you start flying out the refugees that the U.S. has accepted?
MR. LOCKHART: As you correctly acknowledge, the U.S. has agreed to temporarily place and house about 20,000 refugees. The details and logistics of that are being worked out, so I don't have a firm answer for you.
Q Can you, on those refugees, are you concerned that the U.S. and the EU are inadvertently creating a permanent Kosovar --
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think the important part of my last answer was the word "temporary." I think you'll see the bulk of the refugees staying within Europe and this is a temporary measure to deal with a crisis that's at hand right now in Albania and Macedonia. And again, I emphasize that the ultimate location for their return is Kosovo.
Q Joe, do you see any scenario by which the Kosovars would return absent a protection force? In other words, might there be enough military degradation that they'd be encouraged the go back in even absent that protection force?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't speculate down the road on that.
Q Joe, previously you said that if the repression continued in Kosovo that it might become impossible for there to be a maintenance of international support for Kosovar remaining apart from Yugoslavia. And, yet, the repression has continued. At what point does President Milosevic cross that line to where international support has eroded in the absence of ground troops --
MR. LOCKHART: I cannot pinpoint any particular line, only to tell you that we will continue to pursue our military objectives through a sustained and methodical air campaign against the Serbs and their ability to repress the Kosovar people.
Q To follow up on my question, so you're saying -- when that was said that there was a line he could cross eventually, that was said without even knowing whether or not he'd ever reach that point, without ever --
MR. LOCKHART: No, that was said in the sense that we believe in the diplomatic efforts that we engaged in, in Rambouillet and other areas, that this was a good deal for Milosevic, for the Kosovar Albanians because it did protect their rights. The point we've subsequently made is as this continues the international support for that, which was unanimous with NATO backing, will come into question.
Q Joe, why after everything that's happened, do you still believe the best solution is for the Kosovar Albanians to be part of the --
MR. LOCKHART: Because we believe, looking at Kosovo as it is, that it is not a viable political or economic entity in and of itself, and will remain a regional flashpoint.
Q So what about if it's attached to Albania? I mean, there are other solutions.
MR. LOCKHART: Again, you could certainly run a number of solutions. We believe the best solution is the one that was laid down in the Rambouillet peace accords.
Q Just to be clear, is it your understanding that the Kosovars still agree to autonomy, not independence?
MR. LOCKHART: No change in the view has been communicated to me.
Q But, Joe, on this point -- I just want to try to nail it down. You're saying that despite all that's happened over the past nearly two weeks in Kosovo, the United States still considers Slobodan Milosevic a potential partner in some sort of peaceful, diplomatic settlement?
MR. LOCKHART: The United States and the NATO foreign ministers have made very clear what Milosevic and the Serbs need to do to end this conflict. They need to withdraw the Serb forces, we need restoration of self-government to the Kosovars, refugees expelled by the Serbs need to be allowed to return safely to their home, and a deployment of NATO-led international force needs to be deployed to guarantee safety. I couldn't be --
Q Joe, that's not happening. Do you have a plan B?
MR. LOCKHART: We have a systematic air campaign. And, Bill, I know you'd love this thing to be finished tonight by 6:30 p.m. so you could get on and report the conclusion. It's just not the way it works in the real world.
Q But do you have a plan B?
MR. LOCKHART: We are following a plan that we believe we can meet our military objectives and we will continue following it until it does.
Q On that point, though, Joe, is Senator Biden correct in saying that he's been told by the administration that it will take a month of bombing?
MR. LOCKHART: I hadn't heard that. I don't know where that would come from, because we have consistently said that this will take time, we need to show patience and determination, but it's impossible to put a calendar on this.
Q Joe, what can you say about all the reported leaks from military advisors saying that they were ignored when they warned that an air campaign alone wouldn't suffice? How much debate was there? And is this just people trying to distinct themselves?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't -- I mean, I'm not sure there's a utility in speculating on where or why things like this are said. I can tell you that in the lead-up to this conflict, everyone -- civilian or military -- supported the diplomatic, intensive diplomatic efforts that were ongoing. We succeeded in getting the Kosovar Albanians to sign on to Rambouillet. The Serbs chose not to.
Those talks having failed, we faced difficult choices. We worked hard to come up with a military solution. We did that. There was unanimous support for doing that. And we have launched that campaign, and we're going to stick with it until we've reached our military objectives.
Q What about the debate, though? How would you describe the debate that took place at the time? I mean, obviously there were differing opinions about how best to achieve the goals here. And there are a lot of stories we've had over the past several days, not just today, that suggest that there is military planners suggesting that what we were planning to do would not be enough.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I would suggest that the plan that the military and the administration developed, we believe, the military believes, and the military leadership has told you, is the best plan available to us, and one that will help us, and we will reach our military objectives.
Q Joe, when you said a moment ago that there was unanimous support, among what group? Among the President's national security advisors, or among the Joint Chiefs as well?
MR. LOCKHART: Among both. And we worked hard to reach -- in a situation where there were only difficult choices, we found the best available option. And all agreed that this was the right option and we'd move forward with it.
Q So you're saying that there was unanimous support within not just the national security team, but within the Joint Chiefs --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q -- for the military strikes --
MR. LOCKHART: For the option that we are pursuing.
Q Can I just follow up on that? The Commandant of the Marine Corps said publicly less than a week before the operation was launched that he didn't see an end game, he didn't see how bombing strikes alone could work. I don't -- how do we reconcile what he was saying publicly with that?
MR. LOCKHART: I reconcile it by the Joint Chiefs and the military worked closely with the President's national security team; we came to the point where we had a military plan that everyone agreed to.
Q Are you telling us that the Joint Chiefs never suggested to the President or to his team here in the White House that bombing alone would be unable to achieve --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm suggesting that we fully went through all of the available options, talked about how best to move forward, and everyone that I know of in the President's national security and military team agreed that this was the best option.
Q That's not my question.
Q That wasn't the question.
Q My question was, are you telling us the Joint Chiefs never advised the President that bombing alone might not achieve his objectives?
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I can only tell you that when I had put this question of was there support for pursuing this military option, the answer is yes.
Q I'm not asking about support once a decision is made.
Q That's the wrong question.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm answering -- I'm answering the question the best way I know how.
Q You're answering a question that's not been asked.
Q Given that the President is being criticized from an awful lot of quarters, as you know, as Commander-in-Chief is he not angry at the timing of a leak like this, where some military leaders appear to be undermining his authority as Commander-in-Chief?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, these are the brave people who don't put their names on things, and I don't know that we're going to get sidetracked from the important -- we've got a very important operation underway. We are now into the second week of it. The President has said this will take time. That means it will take time, and we are not going to allow ourselves to get sidetracked.
Q Joe, when you say that we're going to bomb the Serbs until they're no longer a threat, what do you mean? No longer able to run the country? No longer able to --
MR. LOCKHART: No longer able to impose their will on Kosovo through their military means, special police and military forces.
Q So that would mean -- just to follow through on that -- that would mean that, ultimately, the Kosovars would be able to return under those conditions. So aren't we, in fact, saying that we will continue this operation until the Kosovars return to Kosovo?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we are saying -- and I will repeat again -- that we're going to move forward with this military campaign until Milosevic agrees to something that works along the ideas laid out in Rambouillet, or we have degraded and destroyed his military ability so he's no longer able to impose his will, and ultimately the Kosovars will be able to return to Kosovo.
Q Joe, to get back to the other issue up here, do you still believe that the Kosovar Albanians, who put their faith into this agreement previously, have any faith in it now? Would they have any faith in it?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, as I answered, I think, the same question a few moments ago, there's been no change in their feelings communicated to me.
Q Joe, does the U.S. back Russia's call for a G-8 meeting on this issue?
MR. LOCKHART: I think at this point I'm not sure there is the need for a G-8 meeting. President Milosevic knows clearly what he needs to do, and I think our efforts will be concentrated on continuing and implementing the air campaign as designed.
Q Joe, why are the refugees apparently flying to Guantanomo and to Guam instead of to the mainland United States?
MR. LOCKHART: Why aren't they?
Q Why are they?
MR. LOCKHART: There's been no decision made.
Q When will that decision be made?
MR. LOCKHART: When I announce it.
Q Before that. (Laughter.)
Q Joe, the President has said --
Q How temporary is "temporary asylum"? And if the refugees so choose, will they be allowed to stay in whatever country accepts them?
MR. LOCKHART: I can't answer the first question. The answer to the second question would be no.
Q Why is everyone supposed to feel good about these air strikes when President Clinton, Friday, said there's a good possibility that these strikes could work? I mean, how --
MR. LOCKHART: People are supposed to feel good because the President has been straightforward about the situation we're in, about how we need strength, we need patience and determination to follow this through until we've reached our military objectives.
Q But the words "good possibility" leave a lot of questioning in his own ability over there -- a good possibility.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay, well, we believe that if we remain focused and determined, we can reach out military objectives.
Q Joe, President Clinton has said a couple of times that he fully expected Milosevic to step up his ethnic cleansing campaign in response to the NATO bombing, although it might not have happened so quickly if we hadn't bombed then. Given that there was apparently no surprise here at the White House with what Milosevic has done, why are the humanitarian efforts seemingly overwhelmed by the sheer numbers? And secondly, if we fully expected there to be such suffering on the ground, wasn't there a way to plan this in such a fashion as to prevent that? In other words, do this strike in such a way, maybe with ground troops, so that you wouldn't have this level of suffering?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we've gone through the problems with ground troops so I won't go through that again. I think it would be a very large mistake to say that somehow there hadn't been planning for the humanitarian effort. There is in region pre-positioned enough food for 500,000 people to eat for three months.
Q A lot of it is in Kosovo, for God's sake.
MR. LOCKHART: No, a lot of it's not in Kosovo. And I'll tell you where it is if I can find this. The bulk of it is in Albania, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Montenegro. There is some in Kosovo. But that statistically is a small amount.
Q What about in Belgrade?
Q Then why are the humanitarian workers over there saying they're completely overwhelmed --
MR. LOCKHART: Because I think there is a limit to what you can do in advance for a crisis on this level and of this magnitude. There's a limit to what you can do as far as building the kind of housing that is needed, providing relief, given that we're working with other countries. We spent an enormous amount of resources, time, and put an enormous amount of supplies into the region. We are now working with the Europeans and our NATO allies to do everything we can to meet this humanitarian crisis.
Q What about the pre-positioned supplies in Belgrade? How -- some people say, including Senator Ashcroft, say that a big chunk of those pre-supplied humanitarian relief assistance was put in Belgrade.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, there was food pre-positioned in a variety of places, probably the largest in Montenegro, which dwarfs any supply that would be in Belgrade, so we have put supplies in a number of places in the region in order to be able to react as quickly as we could to what is going on now.
Q Why would any be in Belgrade?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know the answer to that.
Q The Chinese Premier is arriving tomorrow, at a time of great tension between the two countries. Does the administration expect any concrete results to come from this visit, and if not, what's the significance of his visit at this time?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think it's important. We have an important relationship with China, and I think regular contact is useful in and of itself. I'm not going to try to advance any specific breakthroughs or announcements, but it is an important relationship. China, as a nation, is important to the United States. And again, it's important that we meet on a regular basis, but as far as specific announcements, I'll leave that until later in the week.
Q Joe, could you comment on the story in the Los Angeles Times this weekend about Johnny Chung admitting that, yes, he got money from a Chinese --
MR. LOCKHART: That story is, the facts in that story are the subject of an ongoing investigation of the Justice Department, and I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment.
Q Joe, I don't understand your reluctance to answer the question of what constitutes a permissive environment. It seems to me a permissive environment is one where you have permission to come in. Anything else would be an invasion force, right, in a hostile country?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, certainly a permissive environment that we envision is one where there is a political settlement.
Q But there's no other alternative to that, is there?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, there's an environment where the Serbs and Milosevic don't have the ability to impose their will. But I'm --
Q That's not permissive.
MR. LOCKHART: But I have been clear, and my language has been clear here, that there is no intention of putting any NATO-led ground troops into Kosovo unless it's a permissive environment.
Q So, basically, just to nail this down, Joe, what you're saying is that a permissive environment would have to win the agreement of Slobodan Milosevic or whoever happens to be in power in Belgrade.
MR. LOCKHART: I think John did a good job of defining permissive.
Q But, Joe, what you're saying here is that there may be still some Serb troops in Kosovo, however degraded they are at that point, when U.S. troops go in. Aren't you saying that?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm not. I am not saying that.
Q Wouldn't that constitute a permissive environment then, if they had been sufficiently -- you just said that.
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think I did.
Q Joe, it's not to us reporters to figure out what the U.S. policy is. Either you're saying that, yes, we'll go in only if there's a political agreement; or, yes, we can envision some other circumstances where there might be rag-tag Serb troops, but we'd still go in.
MR. LOCKHART: I think I've been direct on this. At this point I do not envision and I am not aware of any plans for a NATO-led peacekeeping force to go in in anything other than a permissive environment.
Q Which means a political deal?
MR. LOCKHART: Some sort of settlement.
Q What do you mean by the words "permissive environment"?
MR. LOCKHART: It is an environment in which the U.S. troops are not posed risk. It's one -- subsequent to some sort of deal.
Q -- 2,000 troops that are going in with the Apache helicopters. Is that not permissive?
MR. LOCKHART: They're not going --
Q Aren't they --
MR. LOCKHART: No, they're going to Albania and they are support for the Apache.
Q -- breakdown of which countries are accepting refugees, a clear breakdown?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there is a clear breakdown, but I don't have it available to me.
Q Do you know if any of the Arab countries have agreed to accept --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. I don't have the answer to that.
Q Can you tell us what you do know about the countries that are accepting --
MR. LOCKHART: I said it is known, but I don't have it available to me.
Q Can you tell us why information is so limited on this whole war conflict so far? We understand there's been a real clampdown on what is being given to the public.
MR. LOCKHART: I think the Pentagon --
Q There are no details.
MR. LOCKHART: I think NATO has held a daily briefing, each and every day; the Pentagon has held a daily briefing each and every day. They have made what information they can available and they will continue to do so.
Q Well, I don't think that's true.
Q Does there have to be a deal for there to be a permissive environment? With the Serbs, do we need a deal first with them before it would be a permissive environment?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me say it again. This is my understanding of the situation. In order for the NATO ground troops to go in as envisioned in the Rambouillet peace accords, they are a post-implementation force to provide security to the Kosovar Albanians.
Q How about non-NATO-led troops? Is there any possibility of those going in?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know anything about non-NATO troops.
Q Joe, the question here lately has been --
Q -- you seemed to have defined it in two different ways. One you're defining permissive as post- some sort of agreement. Another one, you were talking to John, you answered John and you were talking about an environment where the Serbs and Milosevic don't have the ability to pursue troops.
MR. LOCKHART: Right.
Q That doesn't mean necessarily an environment --
MR. LOCKHART: That's right, and I don't think I talked about ground troops in those circumstances.
Q What kind of accommodation is being made for refugees who may not wish to go so far away from where they are -- after having been driven out of their homeland they may be more afraid that they may not get back in if they go to Cuba or Guam.
MR. LOCKHART: I certainly don't think people will be moved against their will. I've not heard that question before, but I think there is a limit to what the Macedonians, the government of Montenegro can do -- excuse me, the Albanian government can do. And I think it's the right course for the European nations and the United States to do their share to temporarily house these people.
Q But to follow up on my question, if there is substantially enough resistance to geographically being removed -- being removed geographically, is that the kind of instance where there would be some sort of NATO force to accommodate handling these refugees in an area where they geographically are comfortable?
MR. LOCKHART: That's already going on. They are where they are now and there is a NATO force -- there is a huge humanitarian effort being led by NATO forces.
Q Irrespective of that humanitarian effort, that there would be some sort of accommodation made for troops to be able to protect these people so they don't have to go so far away?
MR. LOCKHART: If there are people that don't want the temporary housing, I'm sure we'll take that under consideration.
Q Back on China just briefly, without asking you to actually announce anything that may come out later this week, has there been progress in the last couple of days on the China WTO entry talks?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there's been progress over the last weeks on those talks. We've said for now, going back well over a decade, that there are substantial interests and advantages for entering a commercially viable deal with China to enter WTO. As I think we've reported and I think as Charlene Barshefsky, our Trade Representative, reported, they've made some progress, but there still remain gaps. And we believe that rather than looking at a calendar, we're going to look at the details of a deal and we're not going to take anything but a good deal.
Q Has any progress been made since she came back from China at the end of last week?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Joe, I still have -- there's one more question on this environment thing. And that is, aside from a political agreement which suggests maybe signing something, maybe not, if he ordered his troops to stand down and pull out, is that a permissive environment, absent some sort of Rambouillet-type accords?
MR. LOCKHART: No. I have detailed what I think he needs to agree to, and that's part of it, but not all of it.
Q But that's an end to the hostilities. I'm talking about getting the people back into Kosovo. As you know, there's been talk of some sort of sanctuary, of some sort of international protectorate.
MR. LOCKHART: And I think we've been very clear on what we think we need to see, which is a return, a ceasing of hostilities and withdrawal of troops -- but also the ability for NATO to go in and secure the peace for Kosovar Albanians.
Q Have we been giving any thought to where we're going to put these 20,000 people --
Q And you think that necessarily means a political agreement?
MR. LOCKHART: That necessarily means some sort of agreement.
Q Have we given any thought to where we're going to put these 20,000 --
MR. LOCKHART: We've given a lot of thought to it, we just haven't come to a final conclusion.
Q -- suggested that they put them in Arkansas. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: I will pass that suggestion on with your name on it. (Laughter.)
Q He had such good luck with the Cubans.
Q Is the President giving his personal guarantee to every refugee that they will go back to Kosovo?
MR. LOCKHART: We have made very clear -- oh, are you asking on the temporary, as far as the temporary?
Q No, I'm saying that is the President giving every refugee that is now out of Kosovo that wants to get back in, is he guaranteeing that they'll be --
MR. LOCKHART: We've certainly made it as one of the objectives we're pursuing that the refugees can return to Kosovo.
Q Well, back to the refugees in Arkansas issue, is the President's experience with -- the Cuban refugees playing into the consideration of where these refugees --
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Joe, on police brutality over the weekend -- did the President get a see -- hear or see any of the news reports on the rally in front of the Capitol, and is he still mulling over the fact that he is being called to reopen some of the police brutality cases?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm not sure that he got to see the coverage of the rally, but as his radio address of, now, I think three weeks ago indicates, this is something that's very much on his mind, and he's laid out a series of steps of what we can do to try to avoid situations like this in the future.
As far as reopening cases, as we've told you, there at any given time are several hundred cases that are open, but there's been no final decision from the Justice Department on the issue of reopening --
Q Has he been cc'd on any of the letters that have been sent to the Justice Department from some of the Congress persons, as well as the civil rights leaders?
MR. LOCKHART: I know that he's received some correspondence from civil rights leaders.
Q Can we go back to this guarantee of return? You said it's an objective we're pursuing. It doesn't sound like it's a promise you feel like you're in a position to make.
MR. LOCKHART: I think we've laid out very clearly the things that need to happen to end these hostilities, and returning the refugees is one of them. That's as clear as I can be. Let's move on.
Q The reason that I'm asking this question is --
Q -- how much time the President spent on Kosovo --
Q The reason I'm asking this question is --
Q Can we finish one line before we go to the next?
Q Tony Blair has been incredibly strong about this. He's been saying, we're going to stand by you, this is what we're going to do. And the President doesn't seem like he's willing to make -- he's not that confident of success.
MR. LOCKHART: Mara, that may be what you're hearing. I have told you that a series of things that have to happen --
Q And what if they don't?
MR. LOCKHART: -- have to happen to end this military campaign.
Q Right, but that's something that's up to him. I'm saying that there are things that you are confident you will make happen.
MR. LOCKHART: We are confident that, as we pursue this military campaign, we will reach our objectives, which includes the return of refugees.
Q And that is why there's no plan B. None is necessary?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, we are pursuing a military campaign. We are now into the second week, as I've said ad nauseum. And, again ad nauseum, this is going to take time.
Q Joe, as I understand it now, there has to be a deal for there to be some type of permissible environment, is that correct?
MR. LOCKHART: That has always been.
Q So what is the point, then, of bombing him to degrade his forces, where he can no longer control the province, if we're not going to go in at that point?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, he knows what he needs to do to get the military campaign to finish and to cease.
Q But that's the problem.
Q Joe, can you give us an idea of how much time the President spent on Kosovo, and what world leaders he's communicated to since he went to Camp David and then returned here?
MR. LOCKHART: I think he spoke to Chretien on Saturday. He made some phone calls to some military families yesterday. Over the end of last week he spoke to a -- both Friday and Saturday he made about a dozen or so calls to NATO allies. So he's been in frequent touch with NATO allies, almost daily with some of the other NATO leaders.
Q Joe, has he been in contact with President Yeltsin lately, or is it all being done through the Secretary of State Albright?
MR. LOCKHART: No, there are a variety of contacts with the Russian government, including at the Secretary of State's level.
Q How much of a concern is this Russian spy ship that's now gone through the Bosporus and into the Mediterranean?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, I point to President Yeltsin's statements that the Russians have no intention of becoming involved in this conflict. You know, we will be watching this and we certainly believe that they should stick to that commitment.
Q Here's the problem -- you just answered a question by saying, yes, there has to be a deal for the bombing to end. And, yet, three times earlier in this briefing you have said the bombing will end either because Milosevic does agree to peaceful terms or, you said, his military will be so degraded that he will no longer be effective in using his military to do the bad things he's doing.
MR. LOCKHART: Right.
Q Well, which is it?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, it's one or the other.
Q All right. So it's not just a deal. We could bomb him into submission.
MR. LOCKHART: No, there's a very specific question that was put to me about what are the conditions for NATO ground troops to be put in.
Q So what you're saying is that unless he agrees to a deal, the refugees will never be able to go back to Kosovo?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm not saying that. And I think we've been around enough on this.
Do we have anything else?
Q Hang on, let me take a stab at this. Unless he agrees to deal, they'll never go back with NATO escort?
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I can't go down -- but that's -- we have laid down conditions for NATO involvement now and those are the conditions.
Q Are we doing anything to arm the Kosovo Liberation forces?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
Q What about reconnaissance? Are they going to be used for reconnaissance during the Apache flights?
MR. LOCKHART: Pardon? Ask again.
Q What about using them for reconnaissance on the ground, especially when the Apaches start being used? Not arming them, but using them to spot troops, spot tanks --
MR. LOCKHART: I mean, that's a question to put to the Pentagon. I don't know the answer to that.
Q No consideration at all to arming the KLA?
MR. LOCKHART: No. As we've said here repeatedly, our effort is to try to reduce the militarization of Kosovo, not increase it.
Q But having seen three of our soldiers get nabbed last week near the Macedonian border, is there no concern at the White House that the 2,000 support troops going in with the Apaches may either invite attack from Yugoslav forces or become drawn in because of their proximity?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that we take every concern and measure to protect soldiers, whether they be in the air or whether they be on the ground. As you know, on the three who were taken, the Pentagon is reviewing the circumstances of that case, and I'll just repeat that we believe it would be a serious mistake for President Milosevic to try to widen this conflict.
Q Is there any opportunity for the International Red Cross now to visit those three soldiers?
MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of. We continue to call for the requirements of the Geneva Convention, which includes access by the Red Cross and diplomatic officials, and that has not been granted.
Q Are you dealing through a third party, the Swedish government? And have you gotten any indication that Red Cross representatives will be allowed to visit them?
MR. LOCKHART: I've got no indication that they have been able to, and I'll keep it there.
Q Thank you.
MR. LOCKHART: Thank you.
END 2:04 P.M. EDT