THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:20 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: You have no idea how bad it is to stand up here after Gene leaves and have the room empty out.
Q We're here for you, Joe.
MR. LOCKHART: Okay. Let me start with a statement, then I'll try to get off here quickly because it's hot in here.
A statement on Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland peace process has been given a tremendous boost forward by the announcement that Martti Ahtisaari and Cyril Ramaposa have inspected several IRA arms dumps and issued a positive report on their findings, through the independent International Commission on Decommissioning.
The fact that the IRA has reestablished contact with the Commission is equally significant, representing a tangible step toward fulfillment of its undertaking to put arms beyond the use in the context of full implementation of the Good Friday Accord.
I urge all paramilitary organizations and political parties to build on this progress. I believe all the people of Northern Ireland should take heart from these harbingers of lasting peace.
Any other questions?
Q Joe, in the President's budget, there were about $180 billion in offsets or tax increases -- tax increases dealing with cigarettes and various corporate loopholes. Do the Midsession Review and the surplus numbers remove the need for those offsets or do they still remain on the table?
MR. LOCKHART: It depends on what Congress decides to do. We had a, I think, tax cut gross of something like $360 billion. It depends where they -- how they move forward and how we proceed from this point. But certainly, those offsets are still all available.
Q Joe, do you have anything to say today on this controversy over Xinhua and the charges and countercharges? Does the U.S. consider them an arm of Chinese espionage?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not familiar with the charges or countercharges so I don't have anything on that.
Q On Northern Ireland, has the President spoken to anyone in this -- I know Prime Minister Blair mentioned it today -- has he talked to any of the parties involved?
MR. LOCKHART: Not over the weekend. I don't know -- in the last couple of days he has not. But I know he's been in pretty regular contact with a number of the parties over there, and at a staff level here daily contact with representatives from the British government and from the parties, the Irish government.
Q Joe, over the weekend, Chairman Arafat said that he might declare a Palestinian state before the September 13th deadline. The Israeli government said that if there were riots they were prepared to use helicopters and tanks to suppress them. How does the administration characterize these developments over the weekend as it moves ahead on the peace process?
MR. LOCKHART: We continue to urge the parties to try to narrow the differences that still divide them. We have tight deadlines here, and repeat, as we have on all occasions, that no issue that has been designated to be -- designated as a final status issue should be judged in advance of those final status discussions.
Q In the context of narrowing differences, where do these public comments from the two sides fall in the administration's point of view, helpful or injurious?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm not sure I can offer any real assessment other than we don't think we should prejudge any of these final status issues, and all parties should take steps to make sure that the environment in which they're discussing is conducive towards reaching an agreement.
MR. CROWLEY: Secretary Albright arrives in the region tomorrow and will talk to both groups.
Q -- passed by the Senate the 2000 Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, which has been applauded by the local Asian civil rights organizations. Do you think if it's passed by the House the President will sign it? Also known informally as a hate crimes prevention act.
MR. LOCKHART: Certainly, the President spoke out strongly supporting the hate crimes legislation. I know you'll remember that last week he made calls to a handful of members hoping to influence their decision. It was a very strong vote in the United States Senate and we're hoping that the House will follow suit.
Q I'm sorry, but I have another question. Last week there was a report Pakistan should be put on the list of terrorist states, but now this week, over 20 congressmen, including I think Dan Burton -- he's the one who is leading -- sent a letter to the President calling India to be put on the list of supporting international terrorism.
MR. LOCKHART: Let me just say that I think that these decisions are made based on the merits. I have not seen Congressman Burton's letter, but I don't think that letters, one way or the other are going to influence a decision.
Q Does the White House, the President, support that India is a terrorist country or supporting international terrorism?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think, as evidenced by the five-day visit to India, we enjoy very strong relations with India, and I'm not quite sure what Congressman Burton is getting at. But I remain in a state of perpetual unsureness of what Congressman Burton is getting at, so this is nothing new.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:25 P.M. EDT