THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room
12:47 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to go quick today because the President's got his event at 1:30 p.m., but let me just sum up some of what I talked about this morning.
As you know from watching the NATO briefings today, we had the most intense period of attacks over Belgrade and Yugoslavia last night. More than 600 sorties during the last 24 hours, which is the largest number during this conflict. NATO attacked the national military headquarters that directs and controls this campaign of terror that Milosevic has run against Kosovo. NATO war planes struck the Ministry of Defense buildings, the VJ and MUP headquarters. They also struck TV transmission towers that both direct the military communications between Belgrade and Kosovo, and also are a key part of the propaganda machine that incites some of the ethnic hatred to some of the scenes we've seen.
Other than that, I'm glad to take your questions.
Q Have you seen the UPI interview with Milosevic in Belgrade yesterday? It presents a six-point plan and so forth. What is your response?
MR. LOCKHART: I've seen the report that's run based on the UPI interview. It's something that's clearly inadequate. It doesn't meet the demands laid out by NATO. It talks vaguely about an international but unarmed presence. It talks about at some point they'd be willing to talk about taking some of their forces out. We've been very clear: Their forces need to leave.
Q You mean all -- he says 90,000 would pull out?
MR. LOCKHART: All the forces need to leave.
MR. LOCKHART: All of the forces need to leave, the refugees need to be allowed in, and an international security force with NATO at its core needs to be there to secure it. As to why --
Q They had 10,000 or 12,000 there before --
MR. LOCKHART: I think my answer is clear. As to why he seems to be making these comments, I think anyone can understand after spending a night in Belgrade last night why someone may want to look for a way out. But the way out is clear, and this isn't it.
Q Are you asking for unconditional surrender? I mean, nothing is negotiable?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the NATO -- I think the conditions that NATO have laid out are clear. We need to see it demonstrated clearly to us, we need to verify that he's willing to meet those conditions.
Q In recent weeks, you and other administration officials have said that there were signs that the Yugoslav ruling coalition was split, that there were desertions and all that. Well, according to The New York Times this morning, that's not true; in fact, the army's stronger than ever -- recruiting is going great and --
MR. LOCKHART: Let me be very clear on this. The New York Times report is not accurate. I'm not going to get into a classified discussion from here about what we know, but what we do know in very simple terms is the Yugoslav military is in worse shape today than it as a week ago, and in worse shape than it was when this began; and it's, with this escalating campaign, going to be in worse shape a week from now.
Q Joe, Reverend Jackson's mission in Yugoslavia seems to be falling apart. What are your words to him? Are you suggesting that he come home right now?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it is a private mission and I think, as I've said before, done with the best intentions, but it is not part of the United States government diplomatic effort, so I would not seek to send any advice to him.
Q Is the Vice President going to Brussels on Wednesday?
MR. LOCKHART: I think he wants a chance to go and visit with the people there who have been doing important work on this military campaign and people within the NATO political Alliance, as long as he's in the region seeing the troops and the humanitarian work that's going on in Germany.
Q I think he meets with NATO officials just last week --
MR. LOCKHART: Sure. I think he met with some there, but there are certainly others there, and I think given the proximity there he wanted to take the chance to go and demonstrate his support, as the President can do, for the efforts of the NATO planners.
Q Is he going to go to SHAPE as well?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have the details on the schedule yet.
Q General Shelton described this as what he called "the domination phase." What does the President expect from the military in this phase of the campaign?
MR. LOCKHART: The President expects that we will continue to, day by day, week by week, degrade the instruments that Milosevic uses to repress Kosovo -- his military, his special police -- we will continue going after them, after command and control, after the integrated air defense, after the forces in the field. We're going to continue to do that until the calculation changes in Belgrade.
Q This isn't -- my sense, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that this isn't simply a continuation of what we've been doing for the last five weeks; this is something different, something new.
MR. LOCKHART: I think the NATO leaders were very clear last week when they came out, that they said the campaign is working and it's going to intensify, and that intensification I think you've all seen.
Q You've talked about the U.S. diplomatic efforts. What is the U.S. diplomatic effort?
MR. LOCKHART: We have been working within the NATO Alliance, we've worked with the Russians extensively to make sure that they understand what our position is, what the unified NATO position is as far as what we need to see.
Q Joe, you've said the Yugoslav army is in worse shape. The New York Times article also says they're in worse shape, it just says they're not in much worse shape. Do you think that we've significantly degraded Yugoslav forces at this point?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me defer. I think, in about an hour's time the Pentagon will have one of both a general briefing and also a sense of what our intelligence shows, so -- I mean, I completely stand by what I just said, but I'll let them do the details.
Q Joe, I'm not sure what you make of the Russian decision to bolster their supply of tactical nuclear battlefield weapons?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Let me say this, that under an agreement signed in the early '90s, the START Treaty, Russia agreed to dismantle their tactical weapons. We have received no authoritative report or communication that they have made any decision to undo that decision. There have been some reports in the newspapers; with those reports, we are taking this up at the appropriate level to try to receive a more accurate assessment.
Q Do you think there could be any connection with Kosovo?
MR. LOCKHART: We have no authoritative report of what they're doing, so I can't speculate on what it could mean.
Q Joe, in the NBC interview, the President called for a national campaign in response to what occurred at Columbine High School, and he likened it to the campaigns to help reduce drunken driving and teen pregnancy. But in those cases, the outcome, the objective was clear. Here, what would the objective be?
MR. LOCKHART: I think if you go back to the genesis of those national efforts, it took some time to figure out how to do this, how to energize, how to corral all of the different resources we have around the country and that's one of the reasons that he, sometime over the next couple of weeks, wants to bring some people here to Washington, have a strategy session to talk about how we do that.
And that's one of the --
Q But what's the goal?
MR. LOCKHART: The goal is to do everything we can to make sure that the kind of violence we have with young people, both in and out of school, that we've done everything we can to make sure that it doesn't happen.
Q Joe, when he has that strategy session, would there be a seat for the NRA at the table?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know. We're just in the beginning phases of this. I think the President talked in the interview yesterday about how this was something that he and the First Lady spent a couple days talking about. We're now trying to put some of those thoughts into practice and details like that we can provide over the next few weeks.
Q You don't know when this meeting would be?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have an exact date, but I expect it in the next couple of weeks.
Q Joe, as you mentioned, there's been a lot of diplomatic activity involving the Russians. Are you disappointed that the Russians have said that the NATO oil embargo does not apply to them?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me say this: We are in the process now of operationalizing the plan that the NATO leaders and defense ministers put forward, and it's our expectation, given what they've said publicly about becoming involved in this, that they will honor that embargo.
Q Let me follow up on that. Do you mean to say that at the end of the day, you expect Russia not to create a problem?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think what I just said was as clear as I can be.
Q Joe, back on Jesse Jackson, is it true, as was reported on NBC, that he was scolded quite harshly by Sandy Berger for the mission, saying that it might prolong the war?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I think Sandy was very clear on what our views were, and I've articulated those over the last several days. But I don't think Sandy would ever dream of scolding someone of Reverend Jackson's standing.
Q Joe, following up on that, why is it, since President Clinton is so close to Reverend Jackson, why couldn't he have told Reverend Jackson, himself, instead of sending Sandy Berger to tell him, look, you don't need to go on this mission. I mean, Jesse Jackson talks to the President quite often when he wants --
MR. LOCKHART: He certainly has, but Sandy Berger is the President's National Security Advisor, who is coordinating the efforts here at the White House on the military campaign for Kosovo. He was the appropriate person for Reverend Jackson to talk to.
Q Isn't the White House afraid that it's really coming off as totally negative on everything that -- on every possible approach that might lead to negotiations?
MR. LOCKHART: Helen, let me tell you, we've been very clear about what they need to do, and that this isn't a negotiation.
Q But that's flat. I mean, that's --
MR. LOCKHART: Let me finish, please. The United States is not standing alone here -- the United States is standing with 18 other countries in the NATO Alliance, all unified in this position -- that we need to move forward, we need to be determined, we need to persevere until we prevail.
Q Joe, you've had some encouraging words from one of the opposition leaders calling for resignation. Can NATO do anything to help protect this person or protect those opposition groups?
MR. LOCKHART: Can we do anything inside Belgrade at this point in time? I mean, I don't really think that there can be any kind of serious effort to do that.
Q Do you think those groups have much strength?
MR. LOCKHART: I think they accurately reflect that there are people in Belgrade, in Yugoslavia who understand what the truth here is, as opposed to those who seek to perpetrate something other than the truth.
Q Do you have any comment on this Washington Post article which quotes General Hawley as saying that our munitions stocks have been severely degraded, and we may not be able to fight a war on a second front at this point?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I can tell you that we know for certain from the Pentagon leadership that our critical readiness remains first-rate, it's one of the reasons we need to move quickly on the supplemental that the House is currently considering. We need, sometime in the next few weeks, to come to some conclusion on that so that we don't have a readiness problem.
I can tell you that the military leadership will say, if asked, that there has not been a single target, nor will there be a target that we will not be able to reach because we have insufficient weapons. We have more weapons available to us than we have targets.
Q Do you disagree with the proposition that we'd have trouble now fighting a second war if something broke out in --
MR. LOCKHART: No. I certainly would disagree with that, which is, I think, at the root of the QDR that was done that looked at what we needed for readiness and developed the total force concept, it was all about being able to do more than one thing at a time, and that hasn't changed.
Q Is the General in the doghouse here?
MR. LOCKHART: Here? There is no doghouse here; if there was, I'd live there. (Laughter.)
Q Joe, David Kendall was here earlier today. Did he meet with the President and what did they talk about?
MR. LOCKHART: I didn't see him; I don't know.
Q Can you check on that?
MR. LOCKHART: Sure.
Q I know he was here.
MR. LOCKHART: But I'd suggest you just give Jim Kennedy a call, who is a vastly under-used person here. (Laughter.)
Q He still works here?
Q Is he a wordsmith?
MR. LOCKHART: He is. He is. He is available for lunch most days, anyone who has an expense account. (Laughter.)
Q Is the President going to sort of delineate what he wants in terms of a summit on the entertainment --
MR. LOCKHART: I think he's going to talk a little bit about some of what you heard, if you watched the interview he did yesterday, which aired this morning. But I think he's going to talk about some of those ideas about what he wants to do and how he wants to move forward.
MR. LOCKHART: I can't give you an exact date, but I expect it to be in the next few weeks.
Q Joe, is the notion on that to get various groups to come up with sort of voluntary controls, to somehow --
MR. LOCKHART: Jim, I don't think we have a notion yet. I think one of the things we're doing is to go in and find out -- I think preconceptions can sometimes be your worst enemy as far as coming up with the best and most innovative approach. So I don't think we're going in with an idea that we have 10 ideas and we need somebody to validate them for us. We want to bring people together and find a way to mobilize all of the places we normally go to mobilize, find untapped areas to see if we can't spark a national effort to look at this problem.
Q Joe, did this idea literally happen last night in the conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Clinton and then he announced it this morning, or have people actually called some entertainment leaders and started to lay the groundwork?
MR. LOCKHART: We, I think, began late yesterday to start talking to some people, that's continued today. But I think the idea for this kind of approach really grew out of some conversations, Wednesday and Thursday, that the President and the First Lady had about some of the issues here.
Q What Hollywood leaders have been contacted?
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, I don't know the list. And we'll certainly, at the appropriate time, let you know who's going to participate.
Q Joe, you said you couldn't say, specify, whether the NRA would have a seat at the table. Would you expect the President -- the NRA doesn't represent all gun owners. Would you expect the President to try and find some way to make sure that the sentiments of sportsmen and gun owners was somehow represented in the talks?
MR. LOCKHART: Oh, sure. I mean, I think if you watched the President's speech earlier this week, he talked about some of the disconnect between the NRA leadership and sportsmen around the country, and the fact that we need to figure out a way to make sure that common sense things don't get caught up in political debates.
Q Joe, is the President considering going to Colorado after he returns from Europe?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I think -- I can't tell you an exact date, but the President -- there's been an indication from some of the local officials, they'd like the President to come out. He has indicated that he will go out. We are now working on a time and date for that, but I do expect him, sometime in the next few weeks, to make a trip there.
Q What's the week ahead? And what's this weekend? And what's the radio address?
MR. LOCKHART: Did I get a week ahead?
Q Actually, Joe, tomorrow night?
MR. TOIV: Yes.
Q Is the President going to be attending the entire dinner, including the reception, or is he coming sometime later? And, if so, why not?
MR. LOCKHART: The President will get there when he gets there. (Laughter.) The week ahead --
Q The dinner tomorrow night --
MR. LEAVY: It's Obuchi, then --
MR. LOCKHART: Okay, I got it. Okay, the President's week ahead. Monday is Obuchi. No, the Prime Minister of Japan will be here on Monday, and we will have an official visit, and have a State Dinner. We'll have a mini-press conference, all of the things that you've come to expect on these days.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday we take our trip to Brussels and Germany. Friday we travel to Texas, to Austin --
MR. TOIV: Houston and then Austin.
MR. LOCKHART: Houston and Austin. There will be a lunch and dinner fundraiser. We may have another event that could be added to the schedule -- it tells me here not to rule it out.
Q So it might be an overnight?
MR. LOCKHART: Could be. Hold on -- yes, could be.
Q Directly from Germany to Houston?
Q Wait, another event where?
MR. LOCKHART: No, we'll be back Thursday night, and we'll go out Friday morning. We may spend Friday night someplace other than Washington, D.C.
Q Would that be the --
Q You mean not Texas? Wait --
MR. LOCKHART: Pardon? Not -- no. No.
Q Not Texas?
MR. LOCKHART: No, it could be Texas. That's what I'm trying to indicate here. But we're not sure yet. (Laughter.) Well, I'm not trying to be real clear, because we don't know yet.
Q Then the next question was the radio address.
MR. LOCKHART: The radio address. The radio address will be on a topic that has to do with our environment. We'll have an embargoed briefing in here about 3:00 p.m. today, with people who are very smart on that issue, who will speak to you in a way that will be very useful to you tomorrow, and not today.
Q Is that the Vice President?
MR. LOCKHART: What?
Q The Vice President will be here?
MR. LOCKHART: He is very knowledgeable on the environment. He could speak to you in a way that you could use tomorrow instead of today, but he won't be here. (Laughter.)
Q Mr. Lockhart? Mr. Lockhart?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q The Japanese government decided the location for the next year summit in Okinawa.
MR. LOCKHART: Yes.
Q Don't you feel apprehension that for the President to go into Okinawa, where there is so much concentration of U.S. forces that there is a friction --
MR. LOCKHART: No, let me say I answered that question yesterday. I'd refer you to my transcript.
END 1:14 P.M. EDT