2000-10/13 Siewert press briefing
                                THE WHITE HOUSE

                         Office of the Press Secretary

                                                                  For Immediate
Release                          October 13, 2000

                                 PRESS BRIEFING
                                  JAKE SIEWERT

                        The James S. Brady Briefing Room

1:27 P.M. EDT

     MR. SIEWERT:  Good afternoon.  Let me begin with a quick statement by the
President on the Nobel Peace Prize:

     "I congratulate President Kim Dae-Jung on his selection as the winner of
this year's Nobel Peace Prize.  I can think of few leaders who have done so much
over so many years to earn this honor.  It is a fitting tribute to his courage
in promoting peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula and to his
life-long dedication of the principle that peace depends on respect for human

     "This prize not only celebrates what President Kim has accomplished; it
inspires those of us who cherish peace and freedom to help him realize his
vision.  Since his historic summit with Chairman Kim Chong-il, prospects for a
better future on the Korean Peninsula have risen greatly.  The American people
will stand with the people of Korea until the sunshine of peace and freedom
illuminates the entire Korean Peninsula."

     Q    Wow.

     MR. SIEWERT:  Poetic -- for the NSC, especially.  (Laughter.)  They must
have some new staff over there.  (Laughter.)

     The only other thing I have to tell you is that the President has been on
the phone again this morning with leaders in the Mideast.  He talked to Crown
Prince Abdullah this morning and he's also been speaking to King Mohammed of
Morocco.  And we're continuing to work with everyone in the region there to do
everything we can to break the cycle of violence and try to defuse tension in
that part of the world.

     The President will meet with his national security team this afternoon at
5:00 p.m.  We expect the Vice President to join him for that meeting.  He'll be
joined by Secretary Albright, Secretary Cohen, National Security Advisor Sandy
Berger.  And he will review both what we know about the U.S.S. Cole and the
latest in the Mideast.

     Q    The Vice President has been spending a lot of time on the campaign
trail and hasn't been here very much.  Why is it necessary for him to be here
now?  Is the President trying to give him a boost by including him?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I think it was his decision to come back here, but the
President appreciates -- always has appreciated his work on the Mideast peace
process.  He's been to the region four times, worked very closely on the
bi-national commission we have with the Egyptians, and has been in contact with
the President from the campaign trail about these issues over the weekend -- and
was back here, obviously, again yesterday.

     He's kept abreast of what happens here by his national i security advisor,
Leon Fuerth.  And the President looks forward to spending a little more time
with him today.

     Q    And is Bush also being briefed by --

     MR. SIEWERT:  I understand he's received a briefing through his national
security team.  Sandy Berger spoke to Connie Rice yesterday, who had called to
get an update.

     Q    Jake, are there conditions holding up agreement on a summit?  Has
there been any change in that dynamic?

     MR. SIEWERT:  We are not setting any preconditions to a meeting --

     Q    What about the other side?

     MR. SIEWERT:  -- although I think it's going to take -- both sides have a
right to expect something to come from the meeting.  And I think that they're
both focused on what such a meeting might produce.

     As you know, as we said this morning, President Mubarak has suggested the
idea of a summit, something that we had raised last week.  We welcome his
support for such a meeting.  We're working with him, and we'll make a judgment
about whether it's useful and whether it would be productive working with the

     As I said this morning, we don't want to set any preconditions for such a
summit.  We continue to expect, apart from that issue, that it's important that
both sides renounce violence, and recognize that differences are best resolved
at the negotiating table and not in the streets.  But we would like to get
people to a point where we could have clear lines of dialogue between the
parties directly because we think that might provide a way to defuse tension and
reduce the conflict in the region.

     Q    You say it's important for both sides to renounce violence.  But if
they don't, and since you have no preconditions and a reluctance to do so or a
refusal to do so would not preclude a summit?

     MR. SIEWERT:  We'll make an overall assessment on whether a summit --
whether some sort of meeting like that suggested by President Mubarak would be
helpful in reducing tension.  And, ultimately, that decision will be driven by
what we think might be effective or what provides some realistic chance of
defusing tension.

     But at the same time, we've been crystal clear that we think everyone needs
to renounce violence and that public declarations to renounce violence would be
helpful, given the level of violence we've seen over the last two weeks.

     Q    Last night the Senior Official One suggested that there were several
steps that needed to happen before we could really talk about a summit.  They
were sort of on the ground, backing away from violence, some steps that the
parties needed to make.  But it sounds like today the discussion really has
advanced fairly quickly, that those parties, Barak and Arafat, are, in fact,
engaged in talking about the possibility of a summit, that perhaps we've moved
further than where we thought we were.

     MR. SIEWERT:  I think that there was a lot of discussion about that
yesterday.  That's exactly -- the President was focused both on the process, but
also on the substance that might allow us to reestablish some lines of
communication between the parties; and that's why the President was burning up
the phone lines yesterday and spent the better part of his day in contact with
leaders in the region.

     Q    Jake, there are enormous security concerns for such a summit.  What
can they really accomplish in person, other than a photo op, that they can't --

     MR. SIEWERT:  We think a meeting might be productive.  We haven't made that
assessment yet, that it would be would be productive.  But a meeting could be
productive.  We obviously don't discuss security matters from this podium or
anywhere else, really.  But we think that there might be a scenario under which
some sort of face-to-face meeting could help defuse the tension and reduce the
level of violence in the Mideast.

     Q    Jake, Mrs. Clinton, Vice President Gore and a number of Republicans
have all pointed their finger at Arafat, saying he is the one who needs to come
out and make a statement renouncing violence; they've single him out.  Is the
President willing to do that, or ready to do that, to say he bears that

     MR. SIEWERT:  We're playing a role here that is somewhat unique, as the
broker in these talks and we think -- we've said it's important that public
renunciation of violence is important, statements to that effect are helpful and
we're going to continue to say that.  But we are doing our best to remain in a
position where we can play a useful role as mediator in this conflict and we'll
do everything we can to try to keep the trust of both sides.

     Q    -- from the campaign trail that the Republican Vice Presidential
candidate said that the time for diplomacy and talk is over, it's time for

     MR. SIEWERT:  Well, I haven't seen those reports.  We're actively engaged
in talks.  I'm not sure what -- I'd have to know what he was referring to, to --

     Q    Do you find that suggestion helpful?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I'd have to hear a little bit more about the context of that.
But, frankly, we're engaged in diplomacy right now.  Diplomacy is the best way
to resolve this.  I'm not sure what action he refers to.

     Q    Jake, I thought both the Senior Officials yesterday, and you, this
morning, suggested that the talks could also be a way of defusing the violence.

     MR. SIEWERT:  Yes, that's what I said.

     Q    So is that one of the possibilities now, for the summit?  That you
could actually call a summit to stop the violence, as opposed to having that --

     MR. SIEWERT:  I'm not sure I understand.  I think that we believe that
we'll make a judgment about whether or not a summit, or some sort of meeting
like that suggested by President Mubarak, would be useful in defusing tension in
the region and stopping the violence.

     What I said this morning simply was that it's probably a bit unrealistic,
although a desired outcome, to have absolutely no violence in the region before
we meet.  But we're not going to say that we can't meet while there's still some
sort of violence.  There is no acceptable level of violence.  At the same time,
a meeting might be helpful in reducing the overall level.  So we'll make a
judgment about that as we continue to consult with leaders in the region.

     Q    Do you expect to make that judgment today?

     Q    -- closing of U.S. embassies in Africa?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I understand that the State Department has closed roughly 37
embassies around the world, mostly in the region, in the Mideast.  But there are
some outside of that region.  But you'll have to check with them on the exact

     Q    Jake, would the President attend a summit if he felt there was little
chance that the summit would not result in a resumption of the peace process?

     MR. SIEWERT:  We think that in the end, that the parties need to get back
to the table, and that that's where their differences will be resolved.  I think
that -- we, again, haven't set a precondition, so it's hard to answer that
question.  But we think that in the end, it might be helpful to have a meeting,
face-to-face, so that we can reduce the level of violence.  That's our most
immediate objective.

     Ultimately, we think the parties belong at the table, belong at the
negotiating table, and that's where they're best able to narrow their
differences.  But there may be some utility to meeting in the region and trying
to find a way to reduce the overall level of tension.

     Q    How concerned are you to avoid a repetition of Paris last week, which
I think one of the Israelis described as a "fiasco"?

     MR. SIEWERT:  Yes, we would not -- I think there was good work done at
Paris.  We came very close to having the parties sign an agreement.  In any
case, they left with a shared sense of understanding of certain security
concerns and there has been some level of actual cooperation on security, even
in the midst of all this conflict.  It may have done something -- it may not be
-- it may be hard to imagine at this point, but it may have done something to
actually keep the level of violence from escalating.

     At the same time, both parties at talks there said that they were committed
to reducing the overall level of violence and they also talked to their security
forces, to their police forces and instructed them to do everything they can.

     Q    It seems to have gotten worse since then.

     MR. SIEWERT:  I am not disputing that the situation is very tense, remains
difficult.  But we don't think that there's any -- we continue to believe that
there was some valuable work done.  The Secretary of State met face-to-face and
made some progress in terms of getting their security forces to reduce tension
in what was a very volatile situation last week.

     Q    Can you give us some sense of timing on the assessment for a summit or
any other meeting?  I mean, given the fact -- given the urgency of the situation
on the ground and the risks --

     MR. SIEWERT:  The urgency of the situation is exactly why we are embarked
on the kind of diplomacy that we are embarked on.  The President canceled his
schedule today, he pretty much cleared his schedule yesterday.  We are
continuing to look at the schedule every hour to determine whether we need to do
some of the events that we had scheduled or whether we cancel them, so that the
President can devote his energies.  But no one should doubt that we're working
every minute that we can on defusing the tension here.

     In terms of making a decision, I can't give you a realistic deadline on
when we might make a decision about a meeting.  We will just be having to look
at that minute by minute.

     Q    Jake, is the United States ruling out retaliation if the perpetrators
of the U.S.S. Cole act can be found?

     MR. SIEWERT:  No.  The President said if we determine who is responsible,
they will be held accountable.

     Q    Can you define "held accountable"?

     MR. SIEWERT:  No.

     Q    And are you it a terrorism act?

     MR. SIEWERT:  That's something that we're still in the process.  We're
operating under the assumption that this was a terrorist act.  But there are
investigators in the region who are looking exactly at that issue and trying to
determine who's responsible.

     Q    Yesterday, former Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger suggested that
the peace process was effectively dead until sometime next year.  Isn't that a
fairly realistic assessment?

     MR. SIEWERT:  No.  I think that we are focused on what we can do to reduce
the level of violence right now and that's our immediate goal.  But both of the
parties have indicated some willingness, amidst some of the rhetoric that you've
heard from both sides, indicated a willingness to get back to the table to
resolve some of these final status issues and we're going to focus now on
reducing the violence.

     But we certainly would not rule out trying to push them if we're able to
accomplish that towards resolving some of their differences.  It may be
difficult, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't make the effort.

     Q    Didn't the Senior Official yesterday suggest that the wounds caused by
this were so deep --

     MR. SIEWERT:  They are very deep.

     Q    -- that it would not be easy just to pick up where we left off before?

     MR. SIEWERT:  No one is saying it would be easy.  But there's no point in
abandoning the process.  There are -- what is driving a lot of the violence in
the region are deep-seated wounds.  We heard that yesterday from this podium.
At the same time, sooner or later, we are going to have to sit down --

     At the same time, sooner or later, we're going to have to sit down with
both sides and figure out a way to narrow those differences.  And that's
something that in the long run, I think we said yesterday, was eminently worthy
of the effort that we've been expending here.

     Q    Jake, in Chicago there have been three attacks on Jewish people and
apparently the police are holding people of Palestinian descent, American
citizens who conducted the attacks.  Are you bothered by the fact that
apparently this conflict is also coming home?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I had not seen those reports, but obviously we deplore any
violence against any American citizen, whether in the United States or around
the world.

     Q    Jake, who else is on the President's call list today?  Is it odd that
he hasn't talked to Arafat or Barak today, yet, and will he?

     MR. SIEWERT:  We've been in pretty -- we, obviously, spoke to Arafat three
or four times yesterday; and spoke to Barak.  I don't know, we have a pretty
extensive call list for you and we'll try to give you updates as the day goes

     MR. CROWLEY:  Kofi Annan is also --

     MR. SIEWERT:  Kofi Annan we expect -- Sandy, I know has talked to him
several times today already.  And he is still engaged in a lot of diplomacy in
the region.

     Q    -- Kofi Annan is speaking to Arafat, sort of like, is he carrying the
water with Arafat today?

     MR. SIEWERT:  Obviously, the President spoke directly to Arafat four times,
so it's hard to imagine that we're not -- the President is engaged and obviously
has been talking to him directly.  But we've also been working, obviously,
through the Secretary General in the region, as well.

     MR. CROWLEY:  The leaders on both sides, the leaders the President is
talking to are talking to both the Chairman and the Prime Minister.

     MR. SIEWERT:  Yes.  As we said yesterday, both the King of Jordan and the
President of Egypt have been talking directly to both parties, as well.

     Q    It seems like everybody is willing to have a summit, you know, they're
all eager to do this, but can't quite get an agreement to pull it off.  Why is

     MR. SIEWERT:  Well, obviously, I think, as I said to you this morning, that
people want to make sure that maybe if they're not on the same page, they're at
least in the same chapter, before we sit down and try to work through the
differences.  And I think people want some assurances, both parties want some
assurances that the other side is operating in good faith.  Their level of trust
has been eroded over the last couple weeks, and we're doing everything we can to
try to restore a sense that we can work together.

     Q    Jake, there's a group that supposedly is claiming some credit for the

     MR. SIEWERT:  We've seen those reports.  We'll make our own determination.

     Q    Are they even credible?  Is it even possible, this group?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I'm not going to speculate on who's responsible and who's
claiming credit until we make our own determination.

     Q    Jake, if there's a meeting on the Middle East, would it have to be in
the region?  Could it be somewhere else?

     MR. SIEWERT:  Well, that's just the option that's under consideration.
President Mubarak has indicated a willingness to host a meeting.  That's an
initiative we discussed, obviously, earlier this week and last week.  And we
think it might well be a worthy one, and that's something we're pursuing right
now.  But we're not ruling out any other option in the future.

     Wow.  Complete silence.  I guess we'll wrap up.  We actually don't have a
week ahead for you.  (Laughter.)  But we're going to do our best to try to let
you know what the President's travel plans are for tomorrow, today.  So I'll try
to get that for you later today.  And we'll put a week ahead out on paper.

     I think -- since I wasn't asked, but I was asked this morning -- obviously,
there are plans underway for some sort of memorial service for the sailors of
the Cole.  And we'll be working with the Department of Defense, but we don't
have anything to announce yet.  But I think that you can expect that the
President will find some way to memorialize the Sailors who died serving their

     Q    Jake, one quick question about the conversation that the President had
with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah this morning.  Did that focus exclusively on
the Middle East peace process, or did it also concern oil prices?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I don't believe there was any discussion of oil in this
particular call, though.  That's something that we're obviously in close contact
with the Saudi Arabian government with all the time.

     Q    So the only calls he made this morning were to Abdullah and to
Mohammed of Morocco?

     MR. SIEWERT:  That's correct.

     Q    Did Mohammed offer to host a summit?

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

     Q    Are we likely to see the President today?

     MR. SIEWERT:  The radio address, I expect will -- I don't think so.  The
radio address will probably focus on the events of the last day or two.

     Q    Any specific steps that were taken to free potential American hostages
in Ecuador?

     MR. SIEWERT:  The embassy is working with the governments in the region on

     Q    Is the White House doing anything in particular?  Do we have a team
working on it?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I'll check.

     Q    Jake, what is the White House --

     MR. SIEWERT:  I thought we were done.

     Q    Yes, we are.

     Q    No, we're not.  (Laughter.)

     MR. SIEWERT:  Terry, someone is challenging your authority here.

     Q    Thank you.  (Laughter.)

     Q    Jake, what is the White House's official stand on Monday's Million
Family March led by Minister Louis Farrakhan?

     MR. SIEWERT:  I'm not aware that we have an official stand, but I can

     Q    Do you have an unofficial stand?  (Laughter.)

     MR. SIEWERT:  No.

     Q    Especially in light of all this Lieberman-Farrakhan controversy.

     MR. SIEWERT:  I don't know, I'll check.  Honestly, I don't know.  I had
literally forgotten that it was happening.

     Q    I guess that's a stand.  (Laughter.)

     Q    Is the White House in favor of unifying families like the Million Man
March --

     MR. SIEWERT:  I'll check.  I'll check it.  Thanks.  (Laughter.)

                         END                     1:47 P.M. EDT

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