Press Briefing By Deputy National Security Advisor James Steinberg

Office of the Press Secretary
(Armagh, Northern Ireland)

For Immediate Release September 3, 1998


Omagh, Northern Ireland

4:40 P.M. (L)

MR. MCCURRY: Hello, everyone. Can you hear us? We have no way ofknowing whether you can hear us, but we're assuming you can hear us. Hereiswhat we're going to do. Joe Lockhart is going to provide a little bit ofcoloron the session that the President and the Prime Minster are now having with thefamilies and some of the victims from the terrorist bombing here in Omagh. Andthen Jim Steinberg, Deputy National Security Advisor, is going to give areadouton some points of the day. We're trying to work out a way in which we canget areturn signal from you all if anyone down there has questions. We willrepeatthe questions asked by your pool here -- they're standing with us in thefilingcenter here.

Mr. Lockhart.

MR. LOCKHART: Hello, everybody. The President, the First Lady,theBlairs and several members of the traveling party, including AmbassadorLader,Senator Mitchell, Mo Mowlam, and others went in to meet with about 500peoplewho were members of the immediate families who suffered either deaths intheirfamilies or injuries.

They met in a school -- we're at a leisure center here in Omagh,and theroom they met in was a gymnasium with a full basketball court. Set uparound atthe front of the room was a very small riser with a podium where thePresidentand the Prime Minster spoke from. And then out on the court, about halfwaythrough the gymnasium, were square tables with five or six people sittingaroundthem. Behind that were just audience-style seats and people had sort of -- weresitting there and had sort of filled in around the tables.

The Prime Minster spoke first, speaking for aboutfive minutes. My understanding is we're going to get transcriptsfor you on that. And also when he was done, the President spokefor about seven minutes. While the President was speaking, theroom was very quiet and people listened very intently. The onlysounds were a couple small children who were alternately laughingas they were talking with other members of their family, and acrying baby or two. When the President finished, people stoodand gave him a very warm round of applause.

Once the President finished speaking, the President,the First Lady, the Blairs, Mo Mowlam and George Mitchell andAmbassador Lader went into the crowd and for, now, roughly 20, 25minutes, they have been walking around from table to tabletalking to people. The President went first, stage left, to thecorner, and spent a few minutes with a 14-year-old girl who wasblinded in the bombing, and met with her and her mother. Hermother is a radiologist at the local hospital and was actually onduty the day that this all happened.

That's, I think, about what I have. Does anybodyhere have any questions?

Q Names?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have a name.

Q What did the President tell the crowd?

MR. LOCKHART: I do not have a read on what he said,but we're going to get you a transcript so you'll have the words.

Q Anything on the President's reaction to what heheard from folks?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, that's ongoing, so to theextent we can get something, we'll get that for you later.

Q Can you give us an idea of what's going to goon out on the streets?

MR. LOCKHART: He's going to lay a wreath and thenspend some time talking to some of the rescue workers that wereinvolved the day of the bombing.

Q From the radio pool, there was a questionabout, can you relay anything you heard the President say whileyou were inside?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I can't, because I wasn't insideand just got a report. That's why I'm going to rely on thetranscript. We were not in. The President only brought in hisNational Security Advisor. Most of the staff was left out. ThePresident, I think, brought in only his National SecurityAdvisor, Sandy Berger, and he gave me a sense of the mood, andthat, again, the room was still and silent while the Presidentspoke. He described it as a very eloquent talk to thesefamilies. Again, we'll get you the words as soon as we can.

Okay, we're going to now give you to Jim Steinberg,the Deputy National Security Advisor, to talk about today.

MR. STEINBERG: Let me just say a few words aboutthe events today, particularly the discussions that the Presidenthas had. This has been very much a working visit, beginning withthe meeting that he had with David Trimble and Seamus Mallon andMo Mowlam and Prime Minister Blair. They've been working ontrying to look at the various aspects of how to go about both thework of implementing the agreement and generating public supportfor the agreement.

In the first meetings this morning, the two leadersof the new Assembly discussed their thoughts and plans about howto get the Assembly up and running. I think they both recognizeda need for a very focused effort. They talked about theirefforts to look at the various structures that they need todevelop and how they would go about trying to do that.

When the President met with a significant number ofthe members of the Assembly, all the parties to the Assembly wererepresented in his discussions. He spent about seven to tenminutes with each of the parties, largely in a listening mode,but also indicating that the United States continues to supportthe process and is eager to see the work of the Assembly goon. Talked a little bit about the kind of support that theUnited States is providing through AID and others to help theAssembly in terms of trading and assistance to the start-up ofthe Assembly.

He met -- after he left Stormont he went toWaterfront Hall where he had a chance to have a few moments withJohn Hume, who is obviously an important architect of this wholeprocess and a leader for a long period of time for the peaceprocess. The President not only had a chance to pay tribute toJohn, but to talk at some length with John and some businessleaders from Derry about how we plan to try to help work instimulating investment.

After the speech the President had an opportunity tospend a few minutes talking to David Trimble in a, more or less,one-on-one situation, again to talk about plans ahead andparticularly the efforts beginning next week to bring the partiestogether to discuss moving forward on the Assembly.

He then went, as you all know, to Springvale, wherehe made remarks and did a ground-breaking ceremony. He alsospent about -- a period of time afterwards talking to the VIPswho were there. It included four members of the Assembly fromthe area, as well as the IFI representatives who were there. ThePresident spent about 10-15 minutes talking to Gerry Adams, againstressing the need to move forward on the process and to see thework of the Assembly and the work of implementing the agreementmore broadly, on issues like the equality agenda, security.

We then come here to Omagh and Joe has given you areadout on the events here. So let me take questions, and I'llstart with the pool out here.

Q Jim, what are the prospects for a meetingbetween Trimble and Gerry Adams?

MR. STEINBERG: I think that there is a goodexpectation that a meeting will take place next week. There iscertainly every indication that Mr. Trimble is going to bringtogether all the parties for a meeting, and I think that there isa reasonable expectation that that will include individualmeetings as well.

Q How important would such a meeting be?

MR. STEINBERG: I think, as the President has saidand we have made clear all along, that it's extremely importantfor all the parties, particularly those who are committed to thepeace process, the signatories to the agreement, to work togethereffectively. They obviously have very serious differences thatneed to be worked through, but as the President said, the issuenow is using dialogue and the new political processes to resolvethose differences rather than resorting to violence.

And so we think that the more direct and intensivethe engagement between the parties, and particularly among theleaders who are going to be necessary to make this process work,the better.

Q Jim, was the President -- what was his reactionto the more subdued tone of Mr. Trimble's speech compared to Mr.Mallon's speech?

MR. STEINBERG: I haven't had a chance to getto, and this in the questioner's words, the "more subdued tone"of Mr. Trimble's speech compared to Mr. Mallon's speech. Ihaven't had a chance to get any particular reaction from thePresident to the individual speeches except I think the Presidentis very impressed, particularly in his private conversations,with the seriousness of purpose of all of the leaders.

As I say, when he met with Mr. Trimble and Mr.Mallon at the beginning of the day it was a very focuseddiscussion on what needs to be done. Each of them are politicalleaders who have to decide how they best want to present theircase, but I think, for us, what is important is seeing theprocess move forward, seeing the Assembly put in a position whereit can begin to work effectively, seeing all of the aspects ofthe agreement be reached.

Any other questions from here?

MR. MCCURRY: They wanted me to do the update on thecrash.

Q (inaudible.)

MR. STEINBERG: I would say in terms of what thePresident was thanking Gerry Adams for, he was thanking himspecifically for his statement this week concerning the end ofviolence and the decision of Sinn Fein to appoint MartinMcGuiness in connection with the decommissioning commission. Asto whether he considers this a definitive, I think the Presidenthas made clear that he expects that it's definite and he takesthose words to mean that that's their intention.

Q The two countries are drafting antiterrorismlaws that some consider too draconian. What is our view of thoselaws?

MR. STEINBERG: The President's view and our view isthat we support the efforts of the two governments to make clearthat they're going to have an effective campaign against theterrorists, and we hope and expect and have every reason tobelieve that the two governments will implement them with realsensitivities to civil liberties concerns.

MR. MCCURRY: P.J. says people there want to hear merun through what I've already put out to the pool on Swiss Air111. We have been in very close contact with Canadianauthorities, particularly the Canadian Transportation Board whichis now investigating the crash. The following U.S. agencies havebeen in contact with Canadian counterparts: the NationalTransportation Safety Board, the FAA, the Coast Guard, FBI, StateDepartment and Department of Defense. We have indicated theresources that we have available to Canadian authorities if theyneed them. I'm not aware of any requests made so far by Canadianauthorities for help, but if they need any we've indicated tothem what we have that can be made available.

In terms of what we know about the crash, I thinkmost people are aware of the call from the cockpit -- that's beenreported by FAA. That has led the NTSB and the FBI together inconsultation to conclude that the National Transportation SafetyBoard should be the lead U.S. agency coordinating with Canadianauthorities for the investigation. That would be consistent withthe view that it's not likely it was a catastrophic event becausethe pilot was in a position to phone in a request for anemergency landing.

Beyond that, they are continuing to sift throughinformation. There's an extensive effort underway to learn moreabout the flight, about the handling of the cargo on the flight,a little more about the origin of the flight in Geneva into NewYork and then New York back to Geneva. And the President hasbeen getting updates as they are available from National SecurityAdvisor Berger. That's about all we have on this end.

Q How did we learn about the Trimble-Adamsmeeting?

MR. MCCURRY: We've had extensive contacts with theparties in recent days and were aware of some of the developmentsreported in the paper today. But we think it's best to leave itto the parties to make whatever public comment they want aboutthe meetings that they're going to have and what they set astheir own expectations for those meetings.

Okay, thank you. Thanks everyone.

Briefings - Sept 3rd

Press Briefing By James Steinberg

Press Briefing By Mike McCurry

The President's Trip to Russia, the Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland

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