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Press Briefing by Joe Lockhart

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President's Trip to Europe May-June 2000


Office of the Press Secretary
(Lisbon, Portugal)

For Immediate Release May 31, 2000


The Sheraton Lisboa Hotel and Towers
Lisbon, Portugal

5:07 P.M. (L)

MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me say from the outset that any questions on national missile defense will be handled by Mr. Blinken. (Laughter.) He just left. I'm sorry. (Laughter.) Let me just --

Let me talk about the schedule for tomorrow real quickly to bring you up to date on the changes. I expect at about 10:00 a.m. tomorrow at the President's hotel, the meeting with Prime Minister Barak will take place. That will be stills coverage. At roughly 11:35 a.m., the President will go over to the embassy for that scheduled event, which has been pushed back a bit. I'm sorry, that will be at the hotel with the embassy personnel.

We'll depart the hotel around noon. We have the departure ceremony at the airport. We arrive Berlin about 4:45 p.m. The President will have a brief meeting with President Rau. I expect he will then see Chancellor Schroeder at around 6:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m. He will, at around 8:00 p.m. see the new leader of the CDU, and then will have dinner.

That's it for tomorrow.

Q Will there be no chance for the President to talk to the pool or something after the Barak meeting?

MR. LOCKHART: We'll try to make some of the participants of that meeting available to the pool, if not a briefing in Berlin. But as far as the President, I can't guarantee that for tomorrow.

Q When do you anticipate going with the press corps -- are you going to delay the departure here?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, we're working that out now and we'll let you know as soon as we have it done. But I expect you'll be here. Press will probably depart here at 1:15 p.m.

Q Does that mean you're going to give us a readout on the meeting?

MR. LOCKHART: That's what the next sentence says here -- hope to do readout of Barak at file following meeting. (Laughter.)

Q Knoller is always right.

MR. LOCKHART: Now, I have two pages here, Mark, so what's on page 2. (Laughter.)

Q -- talking to the Grand Jury -- (laughter) --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, Mark, join the club. (Laughter.) Okay.

Q Wouldn't the President like to say something about the Barak meeting before he goes to talk to the embassy personnel?

MR. LOCKHART: I'll ask him about that and see if he wants to do that.

Q Is the embassy meeting -- is that closed press? I think it said initially --

MR. LOCKHART: Generally, what he's doing -- I think he's just going to go in and shake hands. If, for whatever reason, we have something to say and that's an appropriate place, we would obviously bring the pool in.

Q In other venues, the embassy meetings have been open.

MR. LOCKHART: Right. Mostly if he's going to speak to them. I think he's, at this one, at this point because we've squeezed the schedule a little bit to accommodate the Barak meeting, I think he's just going to go in and shake hands. But all of this is a little bit fluid, and I think I sense your concern and will raise it at the highest levels.

Q When the President said that we might make more headway than people expect in Russia, what was he talking about?

MR. LOCKHART: I think as -- if you go back to Mr. Berger's briefing for the trip, he, I think, tried to put in appropriate context what we expected as far as breakthroughs on our arms control agenda, but also said that we're working hard on a number of other areas. I think he specifically mentioned plutonium and a potential agreement there. So I think that's what the President was referring to.

Q We already expected that.

MR. LOCKHART: I mean, he read a number of your stories that lowered expectations to such a point that he wanted to make sure that you all knew that it would be a good meeting and something would come out of it.

Q So just plutonium then. He's not hinting at anything in terms of --

MR. LOCKHART: No, he was not hinting at anything other than a few things that we've got going. But I think for those of you who bought into Mr. Berger's expectations, those are still valid. (Laughter.) For those of you who didn't, you're on your own.

Q Why was the venue changed for the meeting with Barak from Berlin to London?

MR. LOCKHART: It was done at the Prime Minister's request. I understand there is a holiday tomorrow or the next day in Israel concerning Jerusalem, and this more easily accommodated what he needed to do as far as the holiday went.

Q What's the holiday?

MR. LOCKHART: I think it's something called Jerusalem Day or -- I don't know exactly, but it's something he wanted to attend to at home.

Q When the President said -- when he was talking about missile defense and he said it would be unethical not to share this with civilized nations, is he speaking about extending the umbrella over Europe or just giving them pieces of paper that would show them how we do it?

MR. LOCKHART: This is something he has said before when asked questions about this, that as we move forward, if we move forward, based on the criteria that he laid out, that we would work with our friends as far as sharing technology. So there's nothing new there.

I think that's slightly different than the ideas that have been laid out in the last week or two by Governor Bush, who is talking about building a system that goes beyond that. And it's his right to articulate that. It's, in that context, somewhat unusual for him not to want to get more information, and somewhat odd that he would turn down a briefing from the Joint Chiefs on where we are as far as some of the ideas that he's laid out. But again, that's a decision for him to make.

Q Joe, does that include Russia?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, we've already had discussions, as you know, on early warning with Russia. So I think, obviously much of this is premature, based on a decision that has not been made. But we're going to look at this, and how we do this with our allies, with other countries, on a step-by-step basis.

Q Joe, the idea that if we went forward, we would build a system, and we would say, here's how ours works; if you want to build the same system, we'll help you, but you'll have to pay for it?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't think the ideas are formulated to the point that I can articulate beyond the President's statement today, where he's committed to sharing technology. But listen, we are a very important step away from those issues, but the consultations have been going on for quite some time. As you know, one of the important parts of the criteria is how this all works in the context of our arms control position. And those discussions are happening both in the U.S.-Russia relationship, and in the context of the U.S.-EU relationship.

Q Can you find and cite other examples in which the President has used the phrase "share technology" or similar words?

MR. LOCKHART: We'd have to go back and look, but I certainly had the feeling that I had heard it before. And I think --

Q Will you look and provide --

MR. LOCKHART: Yes. We'll go back and look. I don't know how quickly that can be done, but he has -- I know, and it's certainly his view, that if we move forward with this system, that we need to work with our allies and countries around the world with an idea of seeing what technology we can share.

Q Yes, but how would he address the concerns of the European nations that they might not be able to afford the kind of technology we might be willing to share?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, listen, as I said, this is a step-by-step process. We are now one important step away from that issue. We're going to have to make a decision, based on our national security interest, on questions of affordability, threat, and our arms control -- our overall arms control position. And what the President is committed to is working with our allies and nations around the world to work together as we move forward, and as we make our decision.

Q Well, let me just be clear here. It seems like there's a huge gap between what the President says, that we'll share the technology and ideas, and what Governor Bush says, that whatever we develop should defend our allies.

MR. LOCKHART: I think you have correctly noted that there is a difference. And I think we are going to go forward and make our decision based on the criteria that the President has put forward.

You know, the Governor has not really laid out what he means by any of this, how he would pay for any of this. And he, in the last day or so, has rejected receiving any sort of briefing on these issues, as far as national missile defense and his other ideas of unilateral arms reductions. Again, that's a decision that is for him to make. It is surprising that he would view the offer from Secretary Cohen as political, given Secretary Cohen's background and the fact that there is a bipartisan tradition of having an informed and nonpartisan debate on foreign policy.

But there have been a number of charges made over the last week, as far as this administration. And I'm sure that as time goes on, the Governor will have a chance to articulate in detail what exactly he means, how he will do it, how he will pay for it.

Q Do you get the sense that European allies have been reassured by this idea of sharing technology, that they no longer have concerns about the American system?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think if you look at the words of the Prime Minister and Mr. Prodi, they came out of the meeting in a very positive frame of mind.

Q What expectations does the President have for the meeting with Barak tomorrow? What does he expect to come out of it?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I would caution against any thought of a breakthrough in the process. I mean, this meeting in a sense will make up for the meeting that we were supposed to have, I think, about two weeks ago, that Prime Minister Barak needed to postpone.

Obviously we're at an important stage of the process. There are very difficult issues that have to be worked through. And the President, both in his conversation with Chairman Arafat today on the telephone, just after the press conference, and in his meeting with Prime Minister Barak tomorrow, is going to be looking for ways to move the process forward. So I think this is more of an attempt to make sure that we're doing everything we can to keep this moving in the right direction and to get the process going than some sort of magical formula for a breakthrough.

Q Do you have any independent --

Q -- comments today on this seemed to impart a real sense of urgency in his mind, a sense of perhaps now or never. Is it fair to move from that to an interpretation that the United States is really going to try to force the pace, not only in the conversation tomorrow with --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't think it's our role to force the pace. The pace, and the timetable of this, was set by the parties. Prime Minister Barak said very clearly as he embarked on this stage of the process that he thought the time to move was now. And he set the framework for trying to work something out by September.

So I don't think it's our view, or our position, to try to force the pace. I think it is our role to try to work with the parties and see what we can do to, where there are logjams or where there are issues that we can move the process along in our role, that we can do that. And I think that's part of the reason that the President has stayed in such close consultation with all the parties, and he'll continue over the next few months.

Q Do you have any independent confirmation that the Syrians have accepted the Israeli pullout from Lebanon?

MR. LOCKHART: I checked on that just before I came out, and I had none, and have none.

Q Has the President tried to reach President Assad, or has any senior American official tried to reach Foreign Minister Shaara?

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

Q Joe, if you share the -- if you get to a point where you can share missile technology, how do you do that without giving away the ideas that private enterprise has developed?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, obviously these are issues that will have to be worked out down the road. But I think the President wanted to make clear, and did make clear today, that it's his view as we -- if we move forward, that there is information we can share with our allies.

Q But Joe, are we not -- I'm not clear -- you're apparently not willing to say we'd share it with the Russians?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, what I said was, we've already started a process with the Russians where we're in discussions coming out of Cologne, I think -- when the President met -- or it may have been Auckland, I'm not sure -- but one of the meetings where we've had discussions on sharing information as far as early warning. So those discussions are ongoing, and this is something that will be a step-by-step process.

Q Joe, on the Barak meeting, there have been some stories that the President and Barak want to lay a plan for a Camp David-style meeting, where all three leaders get together and try and finalize the deal. Has that arisen again?

MR. LOCKHART: It certainly hasn't been brought to my attention. I know that there have been stories from time to time that talk about this, and you know, who knows as we go down the road what will serve as an appropriate vehicle for coming to a final agreement? I can't really speculate one way or the other. But I haven't heard any serious discussion about putting together some sort of imminent meeting that would look like that.

Q Joe, is there anything to say on Peru? Is the U.S. seriously weighing any sort of sanctions or any unilateral action?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think we, our effort right now is working through the OAS. They are meeting today, I believe, to try to formulate a position and a plan for next steps. And we think it's important to work within the context of that group with our friends in the region to have a united view on how we move forward.

Q Has the administration backed off from the sense of outrage that it seemed to have at the very beginning, or is that the same?

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I think there's been a sense of seriousness and very clear messages to the government of Peru, now, for several months. And I don't sense that we have backed off from that, and I don't have a sense that we've backed off from our concerns.

I think it is appropriate, though, that rather than moving forward in a unilateral way, that we work within the OAS and try to do this in a way that sends a very strong message not just from the United States, but from Peru's neighbors and partners in the region.

Q Joe, Lael said that there was no progress at all on Airbus, FSC, bananas, beef. I know you weren't expecting to totally settle these, but was the President disappointed that there seemed to be just no movement at all on any of those issues?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think the President understands that these are complicated issues that will require time to work through. I will take this opportunity to say that if you look as far as the overall relations, we have very good -- both trading relations, economic, political relations with the EU. But from time to time we have had issues that have created serious differences of opinion on both sides of the Atlantic. And we have to find a way to work through them. And this is part of the process, but certainly not the whole process.

Q Joe, with the agreement on combating AIDS and other infectious diseases, is it fair to say that in future EU and G-8 meetings, this issue will have a higher degree of prominence than it has had previously?

MR. LOCKHART: I think you'll find if you go back over the last few big multilateral summits, whether they be G-8 or U.S.-EU, it has already been put on the agenda. And that's only going to become more of the standard. I think, as we have talked about, our national interest in combating AIDS both at home and abroad, that is something that European countries share. And I think as we move forward, infectious diseases will become an increasingly important part of an international agenda. I think at last year's G-8 meeting there was discussion and I expect as we move forward, as I said, this will be a more important issue.

Q The President said that he considered the threat of attack from a rogue nation a real threat. In your memory, is that the first time he, himself, has declared that threat?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I think if you go back and look, certainly in the aftermath of reports, including the Rumsfeld report, that looked at what the threat was, I think that question has been answered for some time as far as the threat. But there are four criteria they were looking at, and the other three have to be addressed and answered in a satisfactory way before we move forward.

Q So he has said before that the threat is real?

MR. LOCKHART: We'd have to go find it, but that didn't strike me as new. Yes -- apparently, in the Coast Guard speech. But I think that this goes back some months, this is not something that we've come to a conclusion on in the last few weeks.

Q Joe, when the President meets with Chancellor Schroeder tomorrow, how receptive do you think the Germans are going to be to U.S. concerns about German courts in custody cases, and how there are concerns that --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't want to preempt Chancellor Schroeder. You will certainly have a chance to talk to him over the next few days. But I think that's an issue that we have worked closely with them on and in a way that's -- and in a cooperative way.

Q Do you think it's going to cause any awkwardness in other talks?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't expect so. I think if you look at -- as we look at U.S.-EU, our real and perceived differences are vastly outweighed by areas of agreement where we work together. And I don't expect there to be any awkwardness in the discussion with Chancellor Schroeder. I think the President enjoys a very warm, personal relationship with him and is looking forward to not only the bilateral portion of the meetings in Berlin, but also the Third Way discussions that Chancellor Schroeder has taken such a lead role in.

Q But do you expect the President to raise with Chancellor Schroeder the underlying assumption which causes this problem, namely that children are in any case better off in Germany than even with a biological parent?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I will let you know as we venture up to the line of that meeting.

Q Does this change of schedule tomorrow mean that there will be no meeting with these young leaders in Berlin?

MR. LOCKHART: It does, unfortunately. We had had a roundtable scheduled for some time now, but because we've added the meeting with Prime Minister Barak, it will make it impossible for the President to have that session.

Q Can you tell us anything more about the discussion with Arafat today, what they talked about?

MR. LOCKHART: They talked for about 20 minutes, and I -- without getting into any great detail, the conversation with Arafat I think will be somewhat similar to the conversation he will have with Prime Minister Barak -- that we're at a very important part of the process. And they just spent, again, about 20 minutes discussing where they were and trying to formulate a way to move forward and move the process forward.

Q Could you kindly share with us what percentage of the President's time today in these meetings was taken up with trade issues, how much time on security issues, and how much time on --

MR. LOCKHART: Let me take that question because -- Tony can answer that for me, because I didn't sit in on the meetings. But we'll get you an answer for that.

Q There was some discussion about -- in fact, it came up when the President was in Norway -- about a three-way summit at Camp David on the Middle East. Do you know, is that still on the table, and do you expect that idea to be advanced this month?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't expect any sort of three-way meeting to come out of tomorrow's meeting. As I said to an earlier question, it is certainly always a possibility that we view our role as one where we can help bring the parties together, but at this point, we believe that the best process is the process that Ambassador Ross had been engaged in directly with the parties.

Q When you answered my colleague from the New York Times question, can you just make that public --

MR. LOCKHART: Yes, yes.

All set? Thank you.

END 5:30 P.M. (L)


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