THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release April 11, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY
MIKE MCCURRY AND
SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT AND
SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR DEFENSE POLICY
AND ARMS CONTROL, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
The Briefing Room
12:51 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to our
continuous series of briefings today. You will recall back on March
22nd, we announced that the United States had signed the Declaration
on the South Pacific Nuclear-Free Zone. And at that time, I asked if
anyone here knew what SPNFZ was and not a single soul did. So I now
ask, does anyone know what ANFZ is? ANFZ is --
Q Australia, New Zealand nuclear free zone.
MR. MCCURRY: Well, since I correctly predicted you
would get it wrong, I'm delighted to have here Robert Bell, Senior
Director for Arms Control and Defense Policy at the National Security
Council who will enlighten you further about the African Nuclear
I'll say it first, this is also known in the argot of
the diplomatic community as the treaty of Pelindaba, Pelindaba being
the town in South Africa where the treaty was actually negotiated.
Pelindaba, I am told, is Zulu for "no comment." (Laughter.) That is
a true fact. A word that I intend to remember. So from now on when
I tell you, Pelindaba --
Q You ought to have all your briefings there.
MR. MCCURRY: -- you will know what I am saying.
Bob Bell, thank you for being here and thank you for
taking a little time. We also, as you just heard, have paper
available now on the African Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone.
MR. BELL: Thank you, Mike.
As Mike said, today in Cairo, the United States signed
without any reservations the protocols to the nuclear-free zone in
Africa, the Treaty of Pelindaba. This is a treaty that was signed
today also by nearly 50 African states.
Together with the South Pacific Treaty and prior
treaties that had established Latin America and Antarctica as
nuclear-free zones, the African Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone Treaty, or
ANFZ, in effect means that most of the Earth's southern hemisphere,
an area stretching from Australia to Mauritius and from the Equator
to the South Pole, is now a nuclear-free zone.
Yesterday, Vice President Gore called South African
Deputy President Mbeki to express the President's deep appreciation
for the pivotal role that South Africa played in the successful
negotiation of this treaty. The treaty is named after the town of
Pelindaba not only because, as Mike said, the treaty -- a lot of the
treaty negotiation took place there, but it is also the town in South
Africa where the South African government before Mandela had
conducted a covert nuclear program, a program that has now been
As I noted last month in my briefing on the South
Pacific Treaty, the signing of this treaty is another milestone in
this administration's impressive record of accomplishment in the area
of arms control and nonproliferation, a record that now includes the
indefinite and unconditional extension of the Nonproliferation
Treaty, the entry into force of the START I Treaty, the ratification
by the United States Senate of the START II Treaty, the nuclear
framework agreement halting North Korea's nuclear weapons program,
the fissile material cutoff initiative that we're pursuing in Geneva,
the detargeting agreement with Russia, and the agreements providing
for the removal of all strategic nuclear weapons from the three
states of the former Soviet Union.
The signing today in Cairo also gives another
significant impetus to the completion of a comprehensive test ban
treaty that can be signed, as the President has called for, at the
United Nations General Assembly in its session that begins this
The United States signed today two protocols to the ANFZ
Treaty. Protocol II prohibits nuclear weapon states from conducting
nuclear testing in Africa, which, of course, we have no plans or
intentions of doing. France also signed Protocol II today, along
with China and Great Britain. And it is instructive to recall that
in the early 1960s, France conducted underground and even atmospheric
testing in Algeria. So, between the Pelandaba program and the
previous French test program in Africa, Africa did have a nuclear
history that formally comes to an end today.
Under Protocol I, which we signed, each party pledges
not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against any ANFZ party.
However, Protocol I will not limit options available to the United
States in response to an attack by an ANFZ party using weapons of
As with the SPNFZ Treaty, the President will submit
certain understandings and declarations to the Senate with the treaty
for incorporation in the Senate's resolution of ratification when it
gives its advice and consent. For example, as with the South Pacific
Treaty, we will make clear our understanding that this treaty does
not restrict freedom of the sea or other navigation and overflight
rights guaranteed under international law.
MR. MCCURRY: Any questions?
Q How do you spell the town, Pelindaba?
Q One word, or two?
MR. BELL: One.
Q Does it really mean "no comment"?
MR. BELL: I'm assured by John Holliman that that's
MR. MCCURRY: Thanks.
All right. I'm getting off easy today without much
work. I've got everyone else working for me. Any other question
that you want to ask?
I'll just announce for those who had not heard earlier
that Secretary Christopher will be here at approximately 2:30 p.m. to
give you a sketch, a preview of the President's upcoming trip to the
Republic of Korea, Japan and the Russian Federation. And we'll also
have after that several experts from throughout our government who
will talk about specific aspects of the President's upcoming trip.
That's still on for 2:30 p.m.
Q The President leaves Sunday -- what?
MR. MCCURRY: The President leaves very late Sunday
night, I think, close to about 11:00 p.m.
Q Mike, what's the U.S. opinion on the stepped-up
Israelis raids in Lebanon?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we, obviously are always concerned
when we see an outbreak of fighting in that region. We've said
before that the attacks by Hezbollah against Northern Israel have
created a much more dangerous situation and the Israeli government
has been compelled to respond.
It remains our view that all the parties who have an
interest in the long-term peace and stability in that region should
carefully consider how best to use their influence with the parties
to see if we can get the fighting to subside. We've communicated
those views. We've had a lot of contact with the government of
Israel today just to determine what, in fact, is going on. And we
will continue to exchange views with them as they deal with what is
and has been a Hezbollah-sponsored threat to the security of Northern
Q You had said earlier there was confusion about
press accounts about what was happening. You've had a couple of
hours now; What's your understanding of what has happened?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have gotten more information
available from the government of Israel, and they have spoken
publicly to his. I was referring to news reports earlier this
morning that there was somehow or other Israeli naval action
indicated, and we don't see any indication of that type of naval
Q Mike, you say that the United States is urging
restraint on the parties. But it seems from the tone of your remarks
that you hold Israel relatively blameless because of the Hezbollah
MR. MCCURRY: Well, remember, there is a history now of
Hezbollah-sponsored terrorist activities that have, naturally, been
of concern to the government of Israel. But we encourage -- continue
to encourage all the parties to do what they can to restore some
measure of peace and stability in that region.
Surely, the best thing that could contribute to the
peace in that region is a comprehensive, just and lasting peace
agreement, and we continue to remain very engaged with all the
parties in the region to see if we can't make progress specifically,
of course, on the Israel-Syria track.
Q Well, the party that has influence is obviously
Syria. Have there been any contacts with Damascus to get them to
rein in Hezbollah? Or do they have any influence over that specific
MR. MCCURRY: I will not talk about specific diplomatic
contacts that we've had, but as you know from prior occasions and
when there has been violence associated with Lebanon and Northern
Israel, we have had regular contact with the government in Damascus,
as we have with other parties, and encourage everyone to use
influence that they have to see if we can get the fighting to
Q Is the Lebanese Prime Minister, in your view,
speaking for President Assad when he refuses to curb Hezbollah as
long as Israel occupies Southern Lebanon?
MR. MCCURRY: I am not specifically familiar with the
remarks you're referring to, but the parties themselves in that
region speak to their own involvements and their own sources of
Q Mike, why is it necessary for the President to come
out on camera tomorrow to announce a six-month review of the
U.S.-Japan auto agreement? Isn't that something to --
MR. MCCURRY: To take credit for all the good news in
U.S. trade figures. Our exports are up in those areas where we've
got agreements with Japan. The results are really striking. There's
been a measured increase in U.S. exports, specifically, in autos and
other sectors, and we've got bragging rights. So we'll claim them.
Is that straightforward enough?
Q Mike, on another kind of -- yesterday, following up
on the President's decision on the late-term abortions, do you think
he will be paying a political price for this now?
MR. MCCURRY: Look, the President, as you could tell
yesterday, was deeply moved by the stories he heard from those women.
And as he said in his letter to the cardinals, he thought about and
prayed about this issue. Any time you wrestle with a perplexing
moral question like that, you just have to accept whatever the
political consequences, pro or con.
And I don't know that the President has thought much
about it. We know that it will be a political issue. It's clearly
already being used politically by the President's opponents. But the
President looked into the faces of those families and reassured
himself that he did what he thought he properly had to do.
Q Is he aware of at least a couple of those cardinals
issuing statements after the veto yesterday which said Catholic
voters would now have to reexamine whether in their conscience could
MR. MCCURRY: We know that they have made those
comments. But we also know that Americans of all religious
persuasions, including Catholic Americans wrestle with this issue,
many of them are profoundly affected by the moral ambivalence other
Americans share. And the President doesn't believe, and I don't know
that any of us here at the White House believe, that any particular
religious group in America votes monolithically or as a block. I
think there's ample evidence to, in fact, suggest that they don't.
Q A follow-up, the mothers that he presented
yesterday with their very compelling stories, the President did not
address the critics' of the procedures complaints that this has
become used as an elective, surgical --
MR. MCCURRY: That's not true. The President made it
very clear that he was searching for a way with this Congress to
prohibit this procedure as an elective procedure. What he wanted was
specific language that would protect the health of mothers, like the
ones that he met with yesterday -- those who would face serious,
adverse health consequences as a result of their pregnancies and who
needed to have in the few, rare cases where this is the procedure
that would be indicated by qualified medical experts. He wanted to
make sure that it would be available to these families.
The Congress would not entertain a discussion with this
President about how to address this issue so that elective -- it
would not be used as an elective procedure. And the President made
that clear yesterday, and he also made it clear in his letter.
Q Mike, does the administration believe that Airbus
won contracts with China based on the merits or because China wanted
to do some political tweaking to send a message?
MR. MCCURRY: We can't answer the question. What
motivated a particular transaction that the government of China might
be interested in. What we can say or we can also fully calculate
what the commercial impact will be -- what we can say, because it's
true, is that U.S. manufactured aircraft are the finest in the world.
We've got a very competitive position in the Asian market -- 65
percent of the imports going into that region are U.S.-manufactured
aircraft. And we'll be more than happy to go out and compete
globally for the types of contracts that the government of China is
considering, because we think we've got the best product on the
Q Let me go back to the Retirement Security Act. Can
you reasonably expect to get that through Congress and then take
credit from a Republican? Are they going to let you do that, or is
this a positioning exercise?
MR. MCCURRY: Bill, if you look back on the history of
pension reform -- going all the way back to the passage of the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, it has been an area
that has always enjoyed a great deal of bipartisan support. All the
initial legislation developed with strong Republican sponsorships,
strong Democratic sponsorship, and this area has continued to be,
throughout the years, an area in which there is a lot of bipartisan
The President puts these proposals forward knowing that
there will be strong support in the Congress for these proposals, we
suspect on both sides of the aisle, and because there historically
has been support for the types of things we've proposed in 401K
Now, is it realistic to expect it will happen this year?
Who knows? Maybe there will be a desire to protect the income
retirement needs of future retirees, and maybe the Congress will want
to work together with this President and accomplish something that
both sides can claim credit on. We would hope so, and there's
evidence that that's happened.
We just had a line-item veto signing ceremony here, the
President suspects it's going to be possible to get a bipartisan
welfare reform bill passed. As you heard him say earlier, we fully
expect to get a bipartisan health insurance reform bill passed. And
where this is done, the President fully expects to share the credit
with the Republican Congress, and that's right and proper.
Q On the other hand, could you forgive them for
thinking that perhaps he would try to take the credit for this in an
MR. MCCURRY: Well, look, taking credit -- we'll do our
best to go out and take credit for the President for things that he's
done that are good for the American people, of course, and they'll do
likewise on their side. Most Americans will say, good, just split
the difference and we'll give each side credit for getting something
good done for the American people. And that's, obviously, fine by
Q So the President wouldn't use this as a campaign
issue then, would he?
MR. MCCURRY: You bet he will use the efforts that he
has made in his first term to protect the retirement income security
of today's retirees and future retirees, to make sure that their
pension promise from their employer is in place and it's a good
promise. The steps that we're taking to make pension coverage more
available for today's workers, that is kind of a fundamental premise
of this President as you hear him talk about what we have to do in
this country in the 21st century. We've got to reward work. We've
got to increase security for those who are working. And that's going
to be a major part of the presentation he makes to the people of this
country as he argues about America's future in the year ahead.
Q Mike, now that the official period of mourning is
over, there are some names being bandied about. Does the President
have his economic advisors suggesting names to look at for Secretary
MR. MCCURRY: The search for a replacement for Secretary
Brown is now underway. The President has not yet held any formal
meetings, but he's had one or two discussions now. He's got some
people in mind. He will continue those deliberations rather swiftly,
because he thinks it's very important for that department, which
plays such a central role in our global economic strategy, to have
strong leadership. He's looking for someone who will be capable of
leading that department into the future, and I expect he won't wait
too long before he announces who he intends to place in Secretary
Q He will send up a name?
MR. MCCURRY: We will -- he will find a replacement for
Secretary Brown and do so rather swiftly.
Q Has McLarty taken himself out of the running?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes -- let me just say one thing. I've
read several stories speculating on various names. I don't want to
get into the speculation on individual names, but in at least one
case, there is someone being speculated about who has made it quite
clear that he's happy doing what he's doing and does not wish to be
considered for the position. So I would take with a great deal of
caution what you're being told by some of your sources. Every story
I've seen so far that has named names, to my knowledge, includes
names that are not under consideration.
Q I just wanted to ask, Mike, just for -- the other
side of Bill and Mick's question. If for some reason Congress
doesn't go along with this and abandons what the President would
consider its bipartisan tradition of support for pension reform and
security, would he use that as an example of how this Congress is
extreme and out of step with the American public, and not fighting
for the concerns of working people?
MR. MCCURRY: He'll make his arguments as he goes into
the fall and goes into the campaign based on what is the record of
the Congress and his own record. But one thing he will talk about is
the steps that we need to take to protect the pension security of
America's workers and the reasons why we need to encourage the
private sector to make pensions available as we think about what the
needs of our economy and our work force will be in the 21st century.
Q I guess my question -- move forward if they thought
it had no chance at all, too, right?
MR. MCCURRY: In this area, there is ample reason to
believe from both the Democratic side of the aisle and the Republican
there will be strong support for the kinds of things the President is
talking about. And so we'd prefer to think on the bright side and say
there's going to be progress here that the President can celebrate
working with this Congress. And if not, then we will continue to make
the case we need to do these types of things, we need to provide this
type of coverage and the President will lay out that case and try to
get some support from the American people so we can let Congress know
that they do need to support that kind of legislation.
Q Did you have any discussions in the last several
days with any Republican chairmen or leaders about this legislation,
introducing it or its progress?
MR. MCCURRY: Not at the leadership level, but most of
these measures -- many of these measures have been incorporated in
some of the legislation the President has promulgated in the past --
Middle Class Bill of Rights; he talked about some of these same
things in the State of the Union address, and we have had staff-level
discussions with some of the pension experts up on the Hill on
various aspects of this legislation. So we believe there is a
working environment here certainly at the staff level, and if we get
closer towards consideration, the President would be more than
willing to be engaged in that, too. But there is a working
environment between the White House and the Congress that would
suggest that we can make some progress on this legislation.
Q Were some of these issues or proposals or something
very close to it included in the Republican balanced budget? Did
MR. MCCURRY: Some of the -- the asset reversions issue
is in the Republican budget, and we specifically have objected to and
indicated that's a source of real concern to the President. In fact,
our package of measures we've talked about today would block the step
that the Republican Congress tried to promulgate.
Q What about IRA expansion --
MR. MCCURRY: I think, again let me reflect on what we
were saying earlier, in this area there is some overlap between the
two parties on what they think needs to be done to protect pensions
and to make pensions more available and more affordable. Some of
these ideas on pension simplification and 401K plans have been around
for a while and there have been experts on both sides of the aisle
advocating these types of steps.
So I think that's -- we are encouraged. This is not in
every sense something that's new that we're putting forward because
what you need to do to expand pension availability and how you can
make it more affordable for a small employer to provide it are ideas
that I think are fairly well-known. The important thing is to try to
get it done, and we're obviously trying to put a focus on it here so
we can move the ball.
Q Mike, how about the chaos in Liberia? It seems to
be generalized. Have you heard anything lately about removal of U.S.
MR. MCCURRY: The latest we've got is the evacuation is
expected to continue over the next several days. They have made some
adjustments to reflect the security situation. But they are getting
people out. The information we have from the State Department is
they've got a total of about 560 people who have now been evacuated
from the embassy compound. And at this hour over at the State
Department I believe they are providing additional information.
Q There are many others that aren't Americans also,
MR. MCCURRY: One hundred fifty-one of those 560 are
Q Mike, you talked about the President wanting to act
quickly to find a successor for Commerce. Has he made a decision
whether he wants to put a nominee up for OMB or whether he wants to
allow someone to remain as acting --
MR. MCCURRY: He has got several vacancies, several
personnel issues that he is looking at, and OMB is, of course, one of
them, and he is working through a variety of appointment issues with
the Chief of Staff, the Vice President, and others.
Q Dr. Rivlin is expected to depart at the end of the
month, is that right?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't remember what she has announced as
her schedule. I would have to check on that.
Q Would you expect anything happening soon on that
front, on OMB?
MR. MCCURRY: I wouldn't rule that out.
Q You had mentioned bragging rights on trade. You've
got a $59-billion trade imbalance with Japan, and I think that they
have only opened up like 30-some car dealerships, not the 200 that
you had envisioned. What are you talking about?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we are talking about specifically in
those areas that we have agreements -- I think there have been
something like 75, 80 percent increase in export activity in those
areas covered by agreements under the framework. Now, we are going
to do a lot more on this tomorrow. Dr. Tyson and Mickey Kantor will
be here for a briefing tomorrow to walk through some of that.
The point is that in those areas where we have reached
agreements, those agreements are making a measured difference. There
is more work to do. We would be the first to acknowledge we have to
continue to work to open markets and continue to make sure that trade
is free and fair, and that is something that this President has
pledged to working on. But the point, is we are making progress, and
that is the progress that we will describe in greater detail
One last question.
Q Just on a lighthearted note, on this movie, the CBS
movie the President is going to appear in, what made him decide to do
this one? He must be asked to do quite a few different things like
MR. MCCURRY: Well, in this one it was the strength of
the presentation he got from Larry Horowitz and Diane Quinn, who are
the coproducers. They -- it sounds like a very -- you know, a fun
project for the President, but also a very worthy made-for-TV
special. It deals with the passage of the Family Medical Leave Act.
I think all of you know how strongly the President has supported that
and was involved in that. He has got -- it doesn't take a great deal
of time to do this, and he has nothing other than a cameo role. But
since it features --
Q Does that mean there is no comment?
MR. MCCURRY: Cameo. That's the Zulu pronunciation.
Q That was his first car, a cameo. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCURRY: That's right. So anyhow, he thinks it
would be a fun thing to do and it would promote a piece of
legislation that has made it much more possible for families to take
care of children who are facing devastating diseases. And for his
own part, his proceeds -- he has got to get paid a union wage for his
short work in it and the 500 bucks or so that he would get he will
give to the Make A Wish Foundation, donate it to that charity.
Q So is it going to have a shot where you bust into
the Oval Office with some sort of urgent message?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, I think it will be -- I think the
scene, if I checked my edits correctly, did require for the Press
Secretary to burst in with urgent news at an appropriate time.
Q When will this be filmed?
MR. MCCURRY: They're going to do it in early May. They
apparently are starting -- they're shooting out on the West Coast now
and they expect to be here sometime in early May and we'll take a
couple of hours to do this.
Q Will they do it in the Oval Office?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes. The scene, as I understand it,
involves the President meeting the child in the Oval Office.
Q Will he stick to the script, do you think, or be a
Q Now, is this based loosely on this story that he
tells about seeing this family that went through the White House?
MR. MCCURRY: This is built -- and it's a fictional
account that is a composite of two real-life stories. Ginny has got
some more information if you are interested in that.
Anything else? All right, we'll see you later on.
Q When is it going to air?
MR. MCCURRY: It will air -- my understanding is CBS
says it will air most likely sometime in December.
MS. TERZANO: November or December.
MR. MCCURRY: Sometime in November or December.
Q Not during the campaign?
MR. MCCURRY: No, not during the campaign. And we were
sensitive, of course, to equal time provisions and that -- the proper
way to do it.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:21 P.M. EDT