THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||April 23, 1999|
BRIEFING TO THE POOL BY
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
International Trade Center
11:10 A.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just give you asense of the morning, what the President's been up to.
You all came over with us. When we got upstairs --there's a greeting area right outside the Pavilion, and thePresident, Secretary of State, Secretary Cohen, General Shelton, Mr.Berger, Ambassador Vershbow, all stood in the receiving line andreceived the 19 leaders and their delegations. That was about 8:50a.m. That took roughly 20-25 minutes for the whole group to come inand get settled.
As you saw, the opening statements started about 9:25a.m., and you were all asked to leave at about 9:30 a.m. Let me justtell you how it proceeded from there. General Naumann gave about afive-minute update to the leaders on the operation and a sense ofwhere we stood in the operation. I think, to summarize, he indicatedthat we've succeeded in degrading his ability to conduct his militaryoperations, that we're beginning to provide economic isolation, andsuggested the need to stay the course and intensify the campaign. Ithink that was something that was continually repeated by all of theleaders, that this is -- we're on the right course, and we need tostay on course and intensify.
That presentation was followed by a presentation fromthe SACEUR, General Clark. He acknowledged the incredible work ofthe brave men and women in uniform, and echoed the sentiment ofGeneral Naumann in what we've done. He went into some detail, whichI won't go into, and he also talked about the need to intensify as wemove forward. He concluded by saying, "we are winning, he is losing,and he knows it."
Then there was a series of presentations by the leaders.They're about two-thirds of the way through, they're all lastingabout five minutes. It was Prime Minister Aznar, Chirac, went first.The President was about two-thirds of the way -- I left after he wasdone. And he generally made, echoed -- the general theme of all ofthem were several points. One, this campaign will work. We need tostay and continue, in a systematic way, to degrade his militarycapabilities, and we need to sustain and intensify those efforts.
The second point was, we need to continue, in tighteningthe noose, continue and increase his economic isolation. And I thinkthe third general point that was repeated by almost every speaker is,we need to continue to engage the Russians, because of theconstructive role they can play in any eventual settlement.
I think they'll probably be in there, my guess is, foranother hour at least, maybe a little bit longer.
Q In terms of the assessment, did they give any timeframe for -- they say they need to stay the course. Were they ableto give any kind of time frame, forecast, for how long this is goingto take?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, there was nospecific calendar-based time, except -- beyond, we need to continueto degrade his military abilities.
Q And was there concrete damage assessments given, orjust kind of --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes.
Q -- there was concrete damage assessment --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: General Clark wentthrough a very specific assessment of damage that has been done tothe military forces.
Q And did they talk about ground troops?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was not a majortopic of conversation. It came up in passing, in a fewpresentations. There was some discussion. The general sense was,the air campaign is working.
There was a comment -- I'm not sure made by who, but --about, you know, public support's very important here, and the publichas a right to know that we're looking at every option. There was ageneral -- there were several comments made in support of GeneralSolana and his decision to update the assessment. But it was reallynot the focus of the conversation.
Q Did the U.S. receive more specifics about theRussian plan overnight, so you know what international presence, forexample, was being offered by Milosevic? And any of the otherdetails you didn't have yesterday? Any sense of where that's going?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think we know.I think there was a general sense in the presentations that thereaction from Belgrade was inadequate. We believe that, again, Mr.Chernomyrdin can play a very constructive role here, but the wordsout of Belgrade do not signify the shift that NATO needs to see inorder to bring this conflict to an end.
Q Well, now, Belgrade's even saying that they nevereven told him that. What do you know about that exchange?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we don't knowmuch, and we've become accustomed to mixed signals from Belgrade.And only clear signals will suffice here.
Q Have you had contacts directly with the Russiansovernight, as to what Chernomyrdin knows?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't believe thePresident has, but that might be a good question for the StateDepartment, because I know the Secretary of State has been in regularcontact with her counterpart.
Q Was there anybody in the meeting who voiced somedispleasure, dissatisfaction, with the way the campaign is going?Was there anybody who said, we're not --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I don't think so.There was some sense that we need to make sure that we keepmaking our case, that the public needs to be kept informed, andpublic support is important. But there was no -- I didn't hear anysentiment --
Q How about suggestions for putting more emphasis ondiplomatic efforts? Did anybody do that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't think there wasanyone who did that, saying that we were putting too much emphasis onthe military, but I think everyone said, you know, we need tocontinue with diplomatic efforts. And I think, to a person, almostall of the leaders suggested, or made the same comment, that it'simportant to remain engaged with the Russians.
Q You said there was some talk, too, about tighteningthe noose, and economic pressure. Did you win commitments on anembargo?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think therewas, I think, general agreement among the leaders that we need tolook at ways to make sure -- several of the leaders mentioned that itwould be impossible to explain to the pilots who are flying thesemissions and blowing up refineries why we might find another way tosell them oil. I think how we're going to do that is still beingworked on.
Q Any talk about what sort of clear signals they'd belooking for from Milosevic?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think several of theleaders specifically laid out again what our conditions are, the fivepoints that the NATO foreign ministers, now, two or three weeks ago,laid out. And we've seen nothing to date that adequately addressesthose conditions.
Q Is there going to be any kind of written documentcoming out of the Kosovo meeting?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There may be.
Q Can I ask one more question on the oil? You saidthat there was general agreement we need to figure out how -- is thatstill under discussion?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Right, still underdiscussion on the how.
Q Was there any dissent voiced about an outrightembargo? I mean, why not just decide that this is how we're going todo it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think there'sdiscussions on how. I'm going to leave it there.
Q On embargo and on blockade?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't rememberhearing any specific discussion of blockade.
Q Could you help us with what the meeting lookedlike? I mean, there were those monitors in the center of the table.Did some of the bomb damage assessment stuff --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. No, it generally-- they're in a circle. Each had a microphone in front of them. AndGeneral Solana was in the window -- sort of this end, here, with thewindow --
Q Yes. He had the table to --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: -- and he has generallyjust gone around the room. I'm not quite sure what the order is. Itdidn't seem to have a real --
Q But those computer monitors weren't used foranything?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No -- which computermonitors?
Q There's six in the well of the table.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Okay, from where I satI couldn't see that, but there was nothing -- there was noaudiovisual component to this.
Great interpreters, though.