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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 11, 1999
                              PRESS GAGGLE
                              JOE LOCKHART

                         Mr. Lockhart's Office

9:35 A.M. EDT

MR. LOCKHART: Okay, for those of you who are worried about the microphone here, there are some people who are on their way out to the press plane, who couldn't be here, so I just wanted to have it transcribed so it could be sent down to them.

Q I like this idea.

MR. LOCKHART: We're not going to do this every day.

Q You should do this all the time.

MR. LOCKHART: No, we're getting a definite no here. (Laughter.)

Q Then you'd get rid of most of these people, Joe.

MR. LOCKHART: Okay, let me do the schedule. I had today's schedule wrong in the briefing yesterday, so let me get it right this morning.

He's meeting as of right about now with about 15 corporate CEOs. This is a private meeting. The President has been working in a variety of forums with CEOs over the last few years to get them involved in this new markets initiative, going into areas that have not kept up or participated in the economic expansion in this country over the last six years. You've seen this in a variety of forums, the Jesse Jackson yearly forum up in New York that we've done the last two years, and some other ones.

He will be talking to them about his plans, the announcement he'll make afterwards and trying to increase their participation. Many of the people here have already done things, he will be working with them to try to get them further engaged in this issue. They will travel on down to Atlanta and be with the President for the day, the majority of them.

When the President comes out of the meeting he'll make a statement. The one thing he'll announce is that he will be traveling in July -- it looks like at this point it will probably be about a three day trip -- will travel around the country to some of these areas. I don't have the details of the trip to announce yet, but that will be the statement at 11:05 a.m.

He'll then go down to Atlanta, which I think you have the schedule there. He'll tour a market down there and an Atlanta empowerment zone and then do a roundtable with some local community and business leaders. He'll come back tonight and make brief remarks at the Hubert Humphrey Civil Rights Awards Dinner at the Washington Hilton. That should be from about 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and then he'll be done for the night.

Q Any reason he chose that market, in particular? Did he choose the market in particular, for a reason?

MR. LOCKHART: Because it is in one of the empowerment zones and has been able to take advantage of -- I mean, we have empowerment zones around the country that have helped revitalize some areas, and this was a good example.

Q Okay.

Q Can you explain the market that he is visiting, please?

MR. LOCKHART: Let me see if I've got it here, hold on.

Q It's the Sweet Auburn Market.

MR. LOCKHART: Sweet Auburn Market. It's in the paper, we'll get that out before we go.

Q We didn't do our research. (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, it's in Atlanta.

Q This July tour, will that be to depressed areas or will it be to areas that have made --

MR. LOCKHART: It'll be both to rural and urban areas of the country that -- you know, as the President has talked about, there remain pockets, and it's not just urban areas, there are rural areas that have not fully participated in the economic expansion and they are around the country.

Q So it will be in areas that need revitalization as opposed to examples of --

MR. LOCKHART: Right. And it will really be to places where some of the ideas that the President has talked about -- he talked about trying to develop the domestic APIC program, you know, modeled on OPIC, and other ways of using the SBA and federal agencies and private capital to go in and tap into these markets as a way of revitalizing them.

Q Joe, has Jiang Zemin taken a call yet from the President?

MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.

Q What do you think of the Chinese saying that they still want more than just an apology?

MR. LOCKHART: The President, I think, has been very clear on this subject, as has the Secretary of State and the Ambassador, and it's certainly our hope that those messages are communicated to the Chinese people.

Q What about the specific request that there be a bombing halt before the Security Council takes up any resolution on peacekeepers?

MR. LOCKHART: The bottom line on this is we are going to continue with prosecuting the air campaign until the NATO conditions are met. And that is, and that alone will be the cause of any suspension in the bombing.

Q So given a choice between having the Security Council authorize peacekeepers and ending and carrying out the bombing on NATO's terms, you choose the latter?

MR. LOCKHART: NATO has been very clear about what it will take to stop this military engagement, and that is meeting the conditions that NATO has laid out.

Q But this means that you essentially are going to have to go it alone. You had hoped for UN support.

MR. LOCKHART: Not necessarily. We have always --

Q Why? You've always believed that the Chinese would go along with, not veto, a UN peacekeeping force. Now you can't guarantee that.

MR. LOCKHART: Again, we've always said that we would welcome the support from the United Nations, but NATO has been clear about what we need to see in order for the bombing to stop.

Q So are you prepared not to have UN participation -- or are you preparing to continue this without the UN's help?

MR. LOCKHART: I think I'm being completely and absolutely clear here, which is the campaign will continue until the conditions are met.

Q But that doesn't rule out any efforts toward having a UN mandate or sanction after any --

MR. LOCKHART: It absolutely does not rule anything out. The diplomatic activity will continue. I think there's a lot going on on that front, which you have all watched, and will continue.

Q Do you think the President will speak about this at his event this morning?


Q Not mention Kosovo, at all?

MR. LOCKHART: No. I don't expect him to.

Q Will he take questions?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't expect him to. That'll have a lot of impact. (Laughter.)

Q Apparently, the Chinese media are carrying news of the apologies.

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not sure. I think yesterday there was some mention of it, and I think there was also some today. I mean, you guys who have people over there I think can see for themselves; but I think there has been some mentions of --

Q Any reaction to that?

MR. LOCKHART: Again, as I said yesterday, it's important for us to make sure that the Chinese people understand what the U.S. government's position on this and what the President has said.

Q Joe, last night on CNN, Ambassador Sasser said he still doesn't feel free to come or go from the compound in safety, which seems to conflict with what you told us yesterday.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, the Chinese government has guaranteed the safety of diplomatic personnel, including the Ambassador. Personnel has been able to move -- have moved in and out of facilities around China. I think that the Ambassador is expressing a general concern, but I think more than anything -- at least, has been reported to me -- he's felt it appropriate to stay at the helm in the Embassy because this is an important time.

Q So he hasn't told you that he still feels like a hostage?

MR. LOCKHART: That hasn't been reported to me.

Q Has the President talked to him yet?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know the answer to that question.

Q You're the only person left who hasn't. (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: Yes. You said it, not me. (Laughter.)

Q Any plans for a presidential phone call?

MR. LOCKHART: I've got an answer, but I'm not going to use it. (Laughter.) I'll let you know if it happens.

Q Joe, does the statement you made earlier about the President has been very clear about apologizing mean that there's likely not to be a further apology as they have demanded?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President has expressed, has articulated clearly what his views are. I don't anticipate, or I'm not aware of any further statements.

Q Joe, on the domestic side of the Kosovo debate, is the funding bill still veto bait?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think -- let me see if I can find it here. We did send up a letter yesterday that suggested, or included a veto threat based on many extraneous items that were being put in. We have said from the beginning that it's very important that we get the funding we need to continue to carry out this operation, and any extraneous items could threaten to slow it down.

We have, for instance, now environmental riders coming in from the Senate. We have issues of what to do with the tobacco settlement. We've got Native American issues and a lot of other things that have been talked about and people have read about going in. In addition, we have some 38 military construction projects that aren't even in the Pentagon five-year building plan -- including a car wash for tanks -- (laughter) -- that I'm sure they'd love to have, but it isn't in their priority list.

So I think it's very important that we focus on getting the money that we need for executing this campaign and we don't slow the process down by adding a lot of extraneous items.

Q Who's the letter addressed to?

MR. LOCKHART: The letter is addressed to -- David Obey is the one I have, but I'm sure it went to all of them.

Q Are you going to release that?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, I can get it for you afterwards.

Q Do you have representatives up there, because there's a meeting, I think, going on right about now.

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know who is up there, but I'm sure the appropriate senior level person from OMB --

Q Can you just clarify one point?


Q Do you say the President has been trying to communicate, call Jiang Zemin, but has been unsuccessful?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I didn't. I said that the President sent a diplomatic note. I mean, I said that yesterday, I didn't say it this morning.

Q Would he like to speak on the phone with him?

MR. LOCKHART: In the letter the President said that he'd be willing to talk personally with President Jiang when and if he thought that was appropriate.

Q And you're waiting for Jiang to call, to place the call?

MR. LOCKHART: If he believes that that's appropriate and useful.

Q Well, why doesn't the President believe it's appropriate to place the call?

MR. LOCKHART: The President has sent a note expressing his views and has spoken publicly.

Q Yesterday you kind of hedged a little bit on whether he had actually tried to place a phone call.

MR. LOCKHART: We expressed willingness to talk on the phone and then sent a note that also expressed that.

Q But we haven't tried, the President has not tried to place a phone call to Jiang.

MR. LOCKHART: The President doesn't sit and dial, pick up the phone and dial -- (laughter.)

Q No, but somebody does.

MR. LOCKHART: We certainly expressed a willingness if Jiang wanted to.

Q You're waiting for the Chinese to indicate to you when they're willing to receive a phone call.

MR. LOCKHART: Let me answer David's question first, because there are two separate issues. We certainly expressed a willingness to the Chinese that the President would speak to him if he thought that was appropriate. They preferred the diplomatic note.

Q So they told us -- they said, no, really, we don't want to talk right now.

MR. LOCKHART: Correct.

Q And then what's the separate point here?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm sorry, what was your question?

Q You're waiting for the Chinese to indicate --

MR. LOCKHART: We have sent a note which said, in laymen's terms, call when you want.

Q It's up to you.

MR. LOCKHART: And if they choose to initiate that conversation, the President would be anxious to.

Q Does Jiang Zemin have e-mail?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm sure he does.

Q What about any intelligence on possible troop withdrawals by the --

MR. LOCKHART: I checked again this morning, no evidence of any troop withdrawal from Kosovo. I think you can probably put this in the category of another long list of promises that Milosevic has made that he hasn't kept, going back through the beginning of this year, going back through October and going back over the six-year long experience we have with him. He very often says things that he has no intention of completing. And right now we see no indication that he's pulled back any troops.

Q Why would we want to negotiate with such a man?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think we're negotiating. We laid out what the conditions are, he needs to meet them.

Q Joe, a question about the veto threat. You said there's a veto threat on the Senate bill as it is now or what exactly --

MR. LOCKHART: I'll get you the letter.

Q Okay.

Q Joe, can you tell us what happened at the meeting yesterday when the President was supposed to get a briefing on what went wrong with the Chinese Embassy bombing? And, secondly, will there be punishment for those involved, as the Chinese --

MR. LOCKHART: The President got a briefing, I'm not going to go beyond what Secretary Cohen and the two excellent background briefers did at the Pentagon.

Q Can you tell us whether there will be punishment, as the Chinese have demanded?

MR. LOCKHART: There's a review that's ongoing, I'm not going to get into, I'm not going to pre-judge the review.

Q Has the President made his mind up yet on the Yugoslav soldiers, the POWs?

MR. LOCKHART: No. No, he hasn't.

Q Has the Pentagon made a recommendation?

MR. LOCKHART: No, they have not.

Q Joe, on the emergency funding bill --

Q Excuse me, let me just follow up. Do you expect one today? We were given reason to believe yesterday that it was imminent.

MR. LOCKHART: I have not heard that. I'll check. Nobody has given me --

Q Joe, in the emergency funding bill, is the funding for Central America in that?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, they -- Barry, they have rolled it in, right?

MR. TOIV: The House and Senate have both approved Central American funding, but only the House approved Kosovo funding. They're going to work it all out in conference.

MR. LOCKHART: That also includes the emergency assistance for farmers, also.

Q And to Jordan, also?


Q Briefing today?

MR. LOCKHART: No. So have a good time in Atlanta. Thanks.

THE PRESS: Thanks.

END 9:35 A.M. EDT