Background Briefing by a Senior Administration Official on President Clinton's Bilateral with President Jiang Zemin of China (9/8/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
                           (New York, New York)
For Immediate Release                                   September 8, 2000

                             BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY

                                              New York, New York

1:50 P.M. EDT

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  On Ahern, they had a meeting that
focused primarily on the ongoing implementation of the Good Friday Accords.
They began talking a little bit about what has gone on here this week, the
President's efforts on the Middle East peace process.  But the discussion
was primarily on the Good Friday Accords.

     Ahern kind of gave the President a little bit of an update on how he
thought the last couple of months have gone and the bottom line was, on the
whole, really quite good.  As you all know, the Executive is up and
running, which is critical, and it's starting to actually make a difference
in people's lives on the ground in Northern Ireland.  People have local
leaders and a local government that is actually doing their business for
them and they're starting to see this as having a practical effect.

     Tension between the two communities this summer, marching season,
actually was less than anticipated, and what was particularly noteworthy,
the Prime Minister thought, was the fact that when there were problems, the
two communities have been able to resolve them between themselves, with
less reliance on outside actors.  He thought that was very positive.  He
said there have been some attempts at violence by extremist groups -- for
example, extremists on the Republican side -- that had either failed or the
people had been caught, so there really wasn't much there.  And he noted
that, as some of you probably know, there has been some
Protestant-on-Protestant violence over the last few weeks, but as he put
it, that really seemed to have much more to do with gangs going at each
other over turf and over the drug trade than anything to do with the peace

     And so, on the whole, his report card to the President on the peace
process was very good.  Then they talked about what are the remaining
issues, how do we go forward.  They talked about some of the things that
are still under discussion; in particular, implementing the Patten Report
on Police Reform, and the President told him that he very much looked
forward to receiving the two leaders of the Executive, David Trimble, the
Unionist leader, and Seamus Mallon.  And they're coming to Washington to
see the President next Wednesday.

     This is something of an historic visit because it's the first time
that the two elected leaders of the Northern Irish Executive are coming to
the United States in their capacity as leaders of the Executive.  And the
President is really looking forward to hearing from them on how they see
the implementation of the Accords going forward.

     That was the bulk of the meeting.

     Q    Any plans for the President to travel over to see the parties?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No plans.  Ahern said to the
President, we'd love to have you come back.  The President said, I'd love
to go back.  But can't plan anything now, there's no commitment to go,
certainly nothing about dates or anything of that sort.

     Q    -- there would be more progress before he would go over?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, there was no linkage to the
issues, really a question of whether there was a way of scheduling
something during the remaining months of the administration, or not --
something that we'll continue to look at, but there's just nothing there.

     Q    How long did this go?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  This went on for about 20-25 minutes.

     Q    Will they have another opportunity to see one another before
Clinton leaves office if he doesn't go to Ireland?  Is there any other

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  There's nothing planned that I'm
aware of.  Don't hold me to that 100 percent; I can't think of anything.
There are no international meetings that Ahern would be at that I can think
of.  I don't think -- St. Patrick's Day is not until next year --

     Q    Reschedule --

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  That's true.  So not that I'm aware

     Q    Remind us, what's the status of disarmament question there?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The status of the disarmament is they
took a big step forward in getting over the impasse they'd had on
disarmament by the Sinn Fein and IRA agreeing to these sort of
confidence-building measures -- that is, having internationally-respected
people come and look at arms depots to verify that indeed the arms were not
being used.  And we've had one inspection -- this was Ahtisaari from
Finland, and the South African whose name escapes me.  There's supposed to
be another inspection coming up in the next month or so.  And eventually,
they have to get to the issue of putting the arms beyond use, as called for
in the Good Friday Accords.  But right now the decommissioning issue is on
a good track.

     Q    You mentioned that it was a quiet summer, and you also said that
they had been able to resolve some issues between themselves, without
having outside parties involved.  What kind of issues were those?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Primarily, this has to do with the
marching season and the desire principally by the Unionist community to
march in Catholic areas -- this has led to tension, violence in the past.
And I think what was good this year is that they really managed to get
agreement directly between themselves over whether certain marches would go
forward, certain marches wouldn't go forward, what the hours were, and so
forth.  Real progress in just dealing with issues directly and not having
to go pleading to someone else.

     THE PRESS:  Thank you.

     END  2:00 P.M. EDT

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