Press Briefing by Joe Lockhart (09/18/2000)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release                        September 19, 2000

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                               JOE LOCKHART

                  The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:20 P.M. EDT

     MR. LOCKHART:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Sorry I'm a little bit
late.  I was trying to gather some information.  Let me just take a couple
minutes at the top here because I know there have been some questions
coming down into the Press Office about what the U.S. government's response
to the Cuban plane has been.

     We received word from Havana air traffic control to FAA in Miami
around 10:00 a.m. this morning that a Cuban domestic flight had been
hijacked and was in international airspace.  At that point, FAA informed
DOT and all other relevant law enforcement airport officials and the
Pentagon were notified.

     At this point, the Coast Guard has launched, or diverted three boats
to the scene.  The U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat, Monhegan, is arriving on
the scene now, along with the U.S. Coast Guard Falcon Jet.  There are three
HH-65 helicopters that will be on the way shortly, and another patrol boat,
the Nantucket, is en route.  The Coast Guard cutter, the Courageous, is
also on the way, and a C-130 has been dispatched to the scene.

     As is custom in cases like this, F-16s were launched, although they
never picked up the plane on radar.  AWACs are now being deployed in the
area, looking for a signal or beacon from the downed aircraft.  All this
information is incomplete, as, I think, the story is unfolding, but we did
want to bring you up to date on what we knew.

     Other questions.

     Q    Joe, I know security was very tight around the Blair House and
the Secret Service did a great job, but despite all that, a man was found
in the Prime Minister's bedroom.  He was arrested, and the case is now in
the U.S. District Courthouse or whatever.

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I would refer calls on the specifics of that case
to the Secret Service, that are doing an investigation now.  But the part I
can confirm is that the Prime Minister was not at the Blair House when this
incident occurred.

     Q    The Secret Service confirmed the original story, but what I'm
asking you, would you say that this was a security lapse or security
blunder --

     MR. LOCKHART:  I'd say that it's certainly something that the Secret
Service will be investigating, and I'd refer questions there.

     Q    Finally, if you can assess the Prime Minister's visit to

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think it was a very successful visit from the point
of view of deepening our relations with India.  I think the President said
it best when he talked about having turned this relationship around from
one of mutual suspicion to one of deepening understanding and cooperation.
The President certainly hopes that this is the start of a more regular
dialogue and reaching out between the nations, and we never go as long as
we have in the past for a U.S. President to visit India and for us to
concentrate so much on an important relationship.

     Q    Can you talk about the Mideast peace process?  Has Israel walked
away in frustration?  What will the U.S. do from here?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I've seen some of the reports.  They have not indicated
to us any sort of time out.  I understand that there was a meeting for
today that won't take place.  Obviously we're at an important time in this
process, and time is not unlimited, but we also understand that this entire
process has its ups and downs, has its moments of frustration on both
sides, in differing ways.

     Since Camp David, there have been a series of discussions that have
gone on, both in the region and in New York, with the gathering there at
the U.N., and it's certainly our hope that those will continue.

     Q    You said that you hadn't heard there was a time out?

     MR. LOCKHART:  They haven't used that language with us, no.

     Q    What language have they used?

     MR. LOCKHART:  That they are not meeting today.

     Q    Is there a reason for that?

     MR. LOCKHART:  You should talk to them about their reasons.  I think
if you take a step back, you'll find that there are often points in the
process where one side does something or the other side does something in
response.  Obviously this isn't easy, but it's certainly our hope that this
does not signal anything other than a temporary lull in the discussions and

     Q    Is that how you would characterize it, as a temporary lull?

     MR. LOCKHART:  See, you're asking me today.  But again, I saw the
phrase used about time out, a time out in the process, and that hasn't been
the language that's been used with us.

     Q    Might this alter the President's assessment of a few days ago,
when he said it wasn't a time for despair, but neither time for hope in the
Middle East peace process?

     MR. LOCKHART:  No, I think it actually reflects the wisdom of the
President's remarks the other day as this being a difficult process that
does not go in a straight line, but in a very uneven way, with ups and
downs.  But I don't know that we read this as a time for either hope or

     Q    Joe, do you know if the Cuban plane was indeed headed towards the

     MR. LOCKHART:  We have information from Cuban air traffic control that
the plane was headed into international airspace and headed north.  We do
not, as far as I know at this point, have independent radar confirmation of
that.  That's correct, right, P.J.?

     MR. CROWLEY:  Yes.

     MR. LOCKHART:  Yes?

     Q    The Senate Armed Services committee is meeting today on policy
toward Iraq.  In your view, are the sanctions working, the military
presence there?  Is there an end game for the United States?

     MR. LOCKHART:  The policy is working to contain Saddam Hussein, to
limit his ability to threaten his neighbors, the Kurds, and to keep him
from reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction.  The end game on this,
I think, as was articulated at the hearing, is an Iraq that people have
much more of a stake in, and an Iraq without Saddam Hussein.

     Q    Is there a policy shift coming that you see?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think the hearing should have indicated that the
policy is working and we believe that we should stick with it.

     Q    On Peru, Montesinos seems to be challenging President Fujimori's
order to dismantle the intelligence service, and it appears he is supported
in some way by a faction of the military.  Does the administration have a
sense of where the military loyalties like, what Montesinos might be trying
to accomplish, and what the situation is in Peru?

     MR. LOCKHART:  We've seen the reports of house arrests.  I don't know
if that has been independently verified by anyone in our government.  We
believe -- we expressed concerns from the outset after the election of the
move away toward democracy.  We believe that the process that we embarked
upon with the OAS to move Peru back on the path toward full democracy is
the correct way and we believe that all parties in Peruvian society should
work toward that goal.

     Q    Does the administration have any sense of what role the military
or a faction of the military may be playing in this instability in Peru
right now?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, there are certainly, in the aftermath of the
announcement by President Fujimori, there's some uncertainty about how they
will move from the position they're in now toward full democracy; and we're
going to continue to work with the OAS.  I don't have an assessment of a
particular faction within the military beyond saying that it's our hope and
the hope of the OAS that all parties, including the military, will work
toward moving on the path toward full democracy.

     Q    One last question on that.  The opposition in Peru says the
situation is such that Fujimori should resign right away and call for
elections immediately because the situation is so destabilized.  Does the
administration have a comment on that?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I think, obviously, the United States and the OAS
believe it's in Peru's interest to move quickly back to full democracy, but
the particulars of how they do that is a matter to be worked out internally
in Peru.

     Q    Joe, there's a report coming out on the Hill today that takes the
Clinton administration to task for the prosecution of its relationship with
Russia, saying that you all squandered a post-Cold War opportunity.  Have
you seen the report and do you have a response?

     MR. LOCKHART:  We have not seen the report.  My understanding is that
report comes out tomorrow.  Let me make a couple of points about it.  We
have worked very diligently over the last eight years to engage the
Russians to try to promote democracy and to make the world a safe place.
It is very difficult work, but we have done -- we have taken very important
steps.  We have dismantled thousands of nuclear weapons, we have parts of
the world now, parts of the former Soviet Union that no longer have nuclear
weapons because of the work that has been done, and we have worked very
hard, particularly on the issues of economic reform and the promotion of

     This work is all ongoing and unfinished, but there is a lot to be said
for what's been done in the last eight years.  As far as the report, I
think you're going to have to look at this report for what it is.  This was
done -- this is not a new investigation or a piece of new work, this is
just pulling together some things, and it's being done completely by the
Republican Party.  They excluded all the democratic members who have
jurisdiction or an interest in this part of the world.  And coming so close
to election time, it raises questions about why an important foreign policy
issue is being done in such a partisan matter.

     Finally I'd say, if you look at the report, I'd urge you to take a few
minutes, go back and look at the last report that came from Congressman
Cox, and see how well the conclusions of that report have stood the test of
time, and take that into account when you look at this one.

     Q    Joe, back on the Middle East.  Have the Israeli negotiators
informed the administration that they expect the talks to resume as early
as tomorrow?

     MR. LOCKHART:   I don't know that we've been informed of that or we
have that expectation.  It's certainly our hope that the contacts that have
been going on since the discussions at Camp David will continue.

     Q    Joe, any progress report from the Labor-HHS appropriations
meeting this morning?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I have not heard back from OMB Director Lew and his
deputy, Sylvia Matthews.  But as I said this morning, the President
believes it's crucial we get going.  It's near the end of September now and
we do not have a commitment yet for smaller class sizes with additional
teachers, we don't have a commitment yet on school construction.  We don't
have the proper commitment yet on after-school programs or on
accountability.  These are central to the President's agenda, I think
central to the country's agenda, and it's getting very late in the game to
have such important educational issues still not being resolved.

     Q    Joe, on oil prices, Secretary Richardson said today that the cost
per barrel is getting dangerously high and the White House would keep its
options open to reduce prices.  Does that mean dipping into the oil
reserve?  And secondly, Saddam Hussein was accusing the Kuwaitis of
stealing oil.  Any comments on that?

     MR. LOCKHART:  On the first question, obviously we've been watching
the situation on the oil markets closely.  All options remain on the table,
but we have reached no conclusion as of now as to the particular question
of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

     The second question was --

     Q    Accusing the Kuwaitis of stealing oil.  Anything on that?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Listen, he is engaged in rhetoric that could not be
backed up over the last 10 years.  It's one of the reasons he's in the box
that he's in right now, as far as his inability to get free from the
sanctions that are containing him, and as I said earlier, his ability to
threaten his neighbors.  He's well-known for these kinds of statements, and
they should be taken for what they're worth.

     Q    Joe, does the President agree with Bill Richardson that oil
prices are dangerously high?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I haven't seen the Secretary's comments.  I think the
President certainly, based on his comments in the past, knows that the
prices are above the historical level, and understands that we need to work
with OPEC to try to move the prices, as they've indicated they want to do,
back closer to the historical level.

     Q    Joe, the last time Saddam Hussein accused the Kuwaitis of
stealing Iraqi oil, he invaded; and these comments now have caused a spike
in oil prices.  There is a concern, on the oil markets at least, that he
might do something aggressive toward Kuwait.  Does the administration share
those anxieties and is it doing anything militarily to prepare for --

     MR. LOCKHART:  As I said, the administration has a robust force in the
region that can enforce our containment policy if Saddam Hussein again.  I
think if you went back over the last 10 years and looked at all of his
comments, you would find a lot of things that will go down as statements
that he could not back up in one way or another.

     Q    Joe, on oil still.  You keep saying that there are going to be
decisions, so forth, but the price keeps going up.  When do you think some
of these decisions about whether to tap the Strategic Oil Reserve and so
forth are going to be made?

     MR. LOCKHART:  No, I think there's ongoing discussions, and if we get
to the point where we make a judgment whether it's appropriate to tap the
Strategic Petroleum Reserve, that decision will be made, and it will be

     Q    When are you going to make that decision, approximately?  In a
week, a month, or --

     MR. LOCKHART:  I can't give you a time.  When we believe that it's

     Q    Is there a feeling here that there's -- basically this is
domestic issue now, that there's not a lot more that OPEC can do,
considering where supply levels are at, or is there still international
work to be done?

     MR. LOCKHART:  No, I think there's still discussions that are going on
with OPEC countries, and as I said this morning, there are elements to the
oil futures market that have to do with supply and other elements that have
nothing to do with supply.  So I think over time, the market will continue
to digest the information available to them.  We'll continue to monitor it.

     Q    Joe, has the President been in contact with Janet Reno yet on the
Wen Ho Lee case, or is that meeting scheduled?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I don't think he has discussed with -- had a
conversation with her yet on that, but I'm certain there's been no meeting
set yet.

     Q    Joe, yesterday you said you will get back on the President's
stand on amnesty for H/1B or amnesty for half a million illegal immigrants.

     MR. LOCKHART:  There are currently discussions going on trying to get
the H/1B provision passed in the Senate, but also provide amnesty for about
500,000 immigrants.  The President believes that we can and should do both
of those things, and will continue to work to get both of those things

     Q    Does he still think that those things should be linked?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, he thinks that we should get both of them done,
and the procedural fight that's going on right now is to try to delink
them, to kill one part of the proposal.  We believe that both should be

     Q    Anything more on hate crimes?

     MR. LOCKHART:  No.  I know that the defense authorization is working
its way to a vote.  It's certainly our hope that the majority party will
listen to the instructions that were sent in the vote last week and that
hate crimes will be included.

     Q    Can you give us an update on when you're going to have the list
of White House sleepover guests and Camp David guests?

     MR. LOCKHART:  My guess is either late tomorrow or early Thursday.

     Q    Can you explain why it takes several days to produce a list like

     MR. LOCKHART:  Because we don't get a second chance at this, we want
to get the list right.  And when it's right and it's finished and it's
done, we'll release it.

     Q    Format, Joe?  Is it going to be strictly paper?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Yes, my guess it will look very much like the list we
produced in 1997.

     Q    And no dates; correct?

     MR. LOCKHART:  I haven't seen the list, but I think in '97 we gave you
just names and categories, so that's what I expect it to look like.

     Q    Are you talking to the people who did spend the night and
alerting them that they're going to be on the list and talking to them
about --

     MR. LOCKHART:  I don't know what the process here is.  I can try to
get an answer to that, but I don't know what the answer to the question is.

     Q    Over what time span will the documents cover?

     MR. LOCKHART:  1999-2000.

     Q    Joe, going back to the Senate, which part do they want to kill?

     MR. LOCKHART:  The 500,000 immigrant part.  I can't remember the name
of it, but it's not the H/1B.

     Q    Amnesty?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Yes, the amnesty.,

     Q    You've -- left little doubt that you don't like the bill, but the
debt reduction plan that the Republicans have, 90 percent of the surplus,
passed the House I think with something like three votes against it.  Is
the President going to have to sign that bill?

     MR. LOCKHART:  Oh, listen, it's passed the House where gimmicks
abound.  Who knows what will happen in the Senate.  I guess the problem is
we're at September 19th in getting our work done and the House is still
trying to figure out a way, rather than doing their business, to play
politics.  I mean, let's take a step back here for a second.  This is like
the mother of all Emily Litellas -- let's pass $2 trillion of tax breaks,
and then when you get as far into the game as you can and you realize it's
not working, saying, well, we were never for that, never mind; we're for
debt reduction.

     It's not credible, and anyone who takes it seriously hasn't been
watching over the last two years.  Other than that, I don't really have any
views on it.  (Laughter.)

     Q    Joe, the Senate is expected to pass PNTR for China this
afternoon.  How do you feel about the vote, and what in terms of a reaction

     MR. LOCKHART:  Obviously, this is an important vote.  This has been a
very important piece of the President's agenda that he has worked as hard
on this issue over the last probably 12 months as on any issue.  And we
expect a positive vote this afternoon, and in the aftermath of a positive
vote I expect the President to stand somewhere right about here and come
down and talk to you about that.  Around 3:30 p.m.

     Q    When will he sign it -- if it does pass today, how long will be
before he signs it?

     MR. LOCKHART:  My guess is we'll sign it rather quickly.  It's just a
question of how quickly they get it down here.

     Q    One more question about that bill the Republicans have made such
a priority.  Whether you call it a gimmick or not, doesn't it, in fact --
they're saying it would leave about $27 billion to play with tax cuts and
spending.  There had been talk that the spending might go even above that,
based on the desires of either side.  Doesn't the bill actually effectively
limit it to that number, and isn't there a real --

     MR. LOCKHART:  Listen, hey have not gotten it out of the House.
There's really -- I haven't seen anyone who has looked at the prospects in
the Senate here in a positive way.  But it goes along the same ways of
their budget resolution, which was meaningless.  And if we want to look for
a positive here, maybe now that they've put down that they're for debt
reduction, they may actually be for it, and maybe when we get through this
process we won't have the sort of porked-up bills that we've seen over the
last couple of years that have threatened the fiscal discipline.

     I have a -- P.J. hands me a note saying the AWACs now have detected an
emergency beacon in the area and on the scene where they are searching.
But I have no further details yet on exactly where.


                              END                 1:44 P.M. EDT


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