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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 19, 1999
                              PRESS GAGGLE
                              JOE LOCKHART

Mr. Lockhart's Office

10:15 A.M. EDT

MR. LOCKHART: Okay. The schedule --

Q By the way, why are we here? (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know.

Q Popular demand.

MR. LOCKHART: You've already seen the President talk about the education legislation. He'll do the Farley speech, the DNC fundraiser. When he returns he'll have a meeting with Chairman Bill Archer. This is a meeting Chairman Archer requested when he put forward his Social Security plan. I think the President met last week with the Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee, looks forward to hearing from Chairman Archer.

Q What time?

MR. LOCKHART: 5:30 p.m.

Q And he doesn't think it's dead this year?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the President very much believes that Social Security and Medicare is alive. He wants to make progress. And Chairman Archer, unlike some other Republican leaders who for political reasons have declared this dead, also thinks we can make progress this year. So he looks forward to that meeting. And then that's it for the day.

Q Hastert one day, Archer the next? It's Glasnost.

Q Joe, is there some thinking that there may be enough similarities between Archer's plan and the President's that they could come --

MR. LOCKHART: I think -- I don't want to get into the substance of it. Chairman Archer I think is going to take this opportunity to talk to the President about his plan. I think the details of our plan are well known, and we'll take it from there.

Q But you don't actually have a plan. (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we have a framework for how you divide the surplus.

Q I mean, is the President going to listen to all these people as they come up and present their plans and then, you know, pick one from Column A and one from Column B, or how does he plan to proceed?

MR. LOCKHART: On Medicare, as you know, we'll have a plan sometime within the next few weeks. On Social Security, we're going to continue looking to work in the most effective way we can to make progress.

Q And that does not mean putting out a specific proposal, I gather?

MR. LOCKHART: That doesn't necessarily mean putting out a specific proposal, nor does it preclude putting out a specific proposal. (Laughter.)

Q Why hasn't he got a proposal yet?

MR. LOCKHART: Because he's basically put out a framework for how to do this. The President has framed this debate, as far as saving the surplus for Social Security. And he's going to work with Democrats and Republican leaders who don't want to play politics with this issue in order to find a way to preserve the Social Security and Medicare system.

Q Do you think the Ways and Means Democrats were as committed to trying to figure this out as the President and Chairman Archer might be, or might they have suggested the President go slow here so that this could be an issue in the elections?

MR. LOCKHART: I think they can speak for themselves on this.

Q So the President's approach is let a thousand flowers bloom on Social Security plans?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the President is very clear about how we move forward on this and the importance of making progress now, at this particular time in our history, where we have an historic surplus. And he wants to find a way to bring enough Democrats and Republicans along so that we can solve this problem this year.

Q Has he put a stamp of approval on the Chernomyrdin/Talbott plan that is going to Belgrade today?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware that there's a Chernomyrdin/Talbott plan going to Belgrade today. My understanding is that Mr. Chernomyrdin is going to Belgrade today for the first time since the Russians signed onto the G-8 statement -- and I think everybody knows what that is -- and will take that case to the Belgrade authorities.

Q So there's no difference at all in what was happening with the Finnish President and so forth?

MR. LOCKHART: No. I think they have spent a good bit of time trying to work out how the ideas embodied in the G-8 statement would be implemented. I think there is still more work to do, but it's important that Milosevic and the Belgrade authorities understand NATO's resolve. I think you're seeing -- you know, almost anyplace you look now -- signs of problems for Milosevic. You have now demonstrations in three different towns, where he's having to divert troops to go and try to quell these internal demonstrations. And these are the mothers and parents you saw demonstrating in support of Milosevic just weeks ago now, having switched sides.

So he has a number of problems, there are a number of reports out of Belgrade now to the region that he may be looking for a deal. And it's our hope that Chernomyrdin will bring a message that NATO is resolved and is not moving until the five conditions are met.

Q Joe, if he is, indeed, looking for a deal and there's all this activity on the diplomatic front, shouldn't the U.S. be working now to preposition troops for a peacekeeping force?

MR. LOCKHART: Not necessarily.

Q How long do you think it will take to get a peacekeeping force in place?

MR. LOCKHART: Those details are all -- the peacekeeping force plans are being updated currently at NATO and we expect that report sometime soon.

Q Are you saying that the President is in concrete on these conditions, that there's no running room at all?

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, there's certainly -- when you talk about -- just take the implementation force. What we need to see is an armed force that can provide security, with NATO at its core. Now, the full composition of that force is something that can be worked on, using the Bosnia model, where a number of different countries can play a productive role. But the core minimum conditions are clear and simple.

Q What do you mean "core"? Do you mean the U.S. has to participate?

MR. LOCKHART: No. I mean on the five NATO demands.

Q What was your reaction to the Washington Post this morning --

MR. LOCKHART: It had five sections, some of them were easy reads, some of them weren't. (Applause.)

Q -- the notion that the President is willing to commit ground troops --

MR. LOCKHART: I think I was as clear as I could be on that yesterday. I don't have anything to add.

Q Joe, on the peacekeeping force, let me just make sure I'm clear on this. The administration does not now believe that it is an urgent matter to begin to position forces for a peacekeeping force, that there's nothing to be lost from not doing anything at the moment?

MR. LOCKHART: No. I said the administration is awaiting -- as is all 19 NATO countries -- the updated plan from NATO on a peacekeeping force. But I can't tell you that there's anything that I know that's going to happen before we see that update.

Q So there's no need to do anything at all in any urgent way now to preposition?

MR. LOCKHART: I think the first three answers --

Q You have already done it, haven't you, by calling up the Reserves and sending them to --

MR. LOCKHART: That's a different issue.

Q Joe, is it fair to say that the international force, whatever you want to call it, the NATO presence in it, in the U.S. view, would be even larger than what was going to be a NATO only force at the beginning? That even if you bring in the Russians and everybody else, General Clark now wants somewhere near 40,000 -- where originally the NATO force alone was going to be 28,000. So this international force is going to be a lot bigger than even what the NATO force was going to be?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm going to leave it for NATO to discuss those details.

Q So you can't confirm that 45,000 number that was in the Journal?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to confirm that number.

Q Joe, the White House reaction to Stephashin's approval today in the Duma?

MR. LOCKHART: We congratulate President Yeltsin on the confirmation of his nominee for Prime Minister. We congratulate Mr. Stephashin on being confirmed. We look forward to continuing our close work with our Russian colleagues on a full agenda of issues, including Kosovo, nonproliferation and arms control.

Q Joe, when is the President going to submit China -- or MFN to Congress and what kind of prospects do you still see for a WTO accord with China?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't have a specific date on MFN. I'll say on China, on WTO, that the administration will continue efforts to negotiate a deal for China's entry into WTO on commercially viable terms. It's very much in the interests of U.S. business, U.S. workers, U.S. families, to have China enter WTO on favorable terms because China now enjoys access to this market, while many U.S. companies and workers don't enjoy access to Chinese markets. This is something that's in the interest of both countries and our negotiators will continue working until they've reached an acceptable deal.

Q Do you think it will happen this year?

MR. LOCKHART: They're working on it.

Q Is it too late to happen in time for the MFN debate, though?

MR. LOCKHART: Not necessarily.

Q Joe, when does the President expect to get the bill for Kosovo and Central America?

MR. TOIV: That hasn't passed yet.

MR. LOCKHART: Once it has passed, it has been enrolled and sent down here. I would imagine they would send it down rather quickly, since there is some urgency to it.

Q Joe, were you actually knocking down the Washington Post story? I just want to make sure I understand your answer.

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think I could have been clearer yesterday in my briefing. So I would refer you all back to the briefing.

Q Joe, do you expect to feel pressure from Robin Cook on the ground troops option when he comes tomorrow?

MR. LOCKHART: Not at all.

Q What is that meeting supposed to be?

MR. LOCKHART: The purpose of his trip is to demonstrate NATO's unity and solidarity. All 19 countries of NATO believe that the air campaign is working and should be continued and should continue until we've met our military objectives. And that will be his message.

Q Joe, when do you expect the NATO update on the peacekeeping forces?

MR. LOCKHART: Soon, I don't have a date. I'd ask over in Brussels.

Q Days or weeks?

MR. LOCKHART: I'd ask over in Brussels.

Q The British position, though -- one they intend to communicate to you, I gather, and already have -- is that there should, in fact, be some prepositioning.

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I would refer you to the public comments on the record made by the Foreign Minister Cook, rather than some of the background things.

Q Can you confirm a build up of Serbian forces on their borders -- Macedonia and so forth?

MR. LOCKHART: I can't. You might ask at the Pentagon. I have reason to dispute that, but I don't have any information.

Q Can you describe what he's going to do in Littleton tomorrow and about his message?

MR. LOCKHART: He will meet privately with some families.

Q Do you know how many and who?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't. And after that he will speak publicly to students. I think he will articulate how the country shares the grief of the Littleton students and the Littleton community, and highlight the remarkable resilience of these students and of this community.

Q Is there anything on the schedule for Friday?


Q Is the Littleton situation tomorrow going to be any kind of resemblance of what he did with those students in that little round group discussion a couple of weeks ago, talking about morals and --

MR. LOCKHART: No. I would expect it to be a more personal session, rather than a sort of policy session. I think if you're looking for a model it would probably be closer to when he went out to Springfield and talked to the families and students there.

Q Do you expect a Fed nomination this week?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't. But I'm always surprised. (Laughter.)

Q In Littleton, there's no policy pronouncement, this is more --

MR. LOCKHART: I expect at this point that it will be more of a personal statement to the students on behalf of the country.

Q And on the Archer meeting, you expect this just to be a conversation, not something that's news making?


Q So you're saying you don't expect him to actually, you know, start sort of negotiating some idea --

MR. LOCKHART: I think it's a chance to hear out the Chairman on some of his ideas; a chance for the President to articulate the ideas that he's put forward and make the point that we do need to make progress this year and it is still possible.

Q Will Archer come to the stake out?

MR. LOCKHART: Probably.

Q Are you going to brief again?


Q We'll have to start over then. (Laughter.)

Q Joe, are you going to gaggle tomorrow?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes -- well, actually, when do we leave tomorrow? What time do we leave? We'll let you know.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END 10:18 A.M. EDT