11 June 1998
Source: http://www.pub.whitehouse.gov/uri-res/I2R?urn:pdi://oma.eop.gov.us/1998/6/9/6.text.1

                            THE WHITE HOUSE

                     Office of the Press Secretary
                         (New York, New York)
For Immediate Release                                       June 8, 1998

                           PRESS BRIEFING BY 
                             MIKE MCCURRY 
                      AND AMBASSADOR JAMES DOBBINS,
                      FOR INTER-AMERICAN AFFAIRS     
                            Waldorf Astoria
                           New York, New York             

6:05 P.M. EDT
  MR. MCCURRY:  This is your briefing.  We are passing out to you right
now a joint communique that the two Presidents authorized be issued on
their behalf, because they continue to meet at this moment.  President
Zedillo, President Clinton began their bilateral meeting at about 5:00
p.m.  and concluded the formal part of their dialogue at 5:40 p.m.  And
then they both agreed they wanted to spend some time together, and when
Ambassador Dobbins and I left, they were still at it.
  They met in the Presidential Suite here at the Waldorf Astoria for
what I would describe as an excellent meeting, the summary of which
you're being given in the joint communique.  I think there are a few
points in that that we would like to highlight, and I've asked
Ambassador Jim Dobbins, who is our NSC head for Inter-American Affairs,
who participated in the bilateral to give you a briefing.
  AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  I think the joint statement covers most of it.
They began with a brief discussion of the U.N. Special Session, noted
with pleasure the number of heads of state that have attended, discussed
a bit about the anticipated results of the session.
  There was discussion of U.S.-Mexican narcotics trafficking.  The
President congratulated President Zedillo for the recent arrest of two
major kingpins -- the Amezcua brothers.  A third one of these brothers
had been arrested several months ago.  President Zedillo talked a bit
about several other operations which are underway.
      They discussed the Casablanca issue and I think the terms of that
discussion are covered in the statement that you've got.  It was a
discussion focused on looking forward, on improving mechanisms for
cooperation, as is indicated there.  President Zedillo made clear that
he thought that the focus for the two Presidents should be in dealing in
issues of principle, looking forward and finding ways of improving
cooperation, and endorsing the efforts of the two Attorneys General to
improve mechanisms and processes for collaboration and communication on
law enforcement operations and other areas of counternarcotics
      They also discussed the recent forest fires in Mexico.  Again,
this is covered in the communique.  The President noted that these kinds
of events -- he had similar discussions with President Cardoso yesterday
evening at Camp David.  Brazil, too, has had a very serious set of
forest fires this year, both linked to climate change, to El Nino, to
unanticipated long, dry, hot spells.  This was a natural lead-in to the
issue of climate change.
      President Clinton made his usual eloquent case for cooperation and
participation by developing countries in a process of reducing
emissions, his absolute confidence that this would not inhibit growth,
and suggests that the officials on both sides in whom the President's
had confidence should sit down, try to work together on plans which
would allow developing countries, including, in particular, Mexico, to
participate in the process of reducing emissions and said that he would
never propose something that in his judgment would reduce or inhibit
Mexico's development and growth.  And President Zedillo said he was more
than ready to enter into those discussions.
      Q This communique reports to continuing all drug trafficking and
conforming to the laws of the land and respect each other's sovereignty.
So the United States won't do it again?
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  The communique is intended to be a forward
looking document on ways to improve our cooperation.
      Q   Won't do it again --
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  I wouldn't characterize it beyond what it
      Q   That's what it says.
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  That's what it says.
      Q Did President Zedillo say he was going to seek extradition of
those agents involved in Casablanca?
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  There was no discussion of extradition or
prosecution.  President Zedillo did make clear that under Mexican law,
there was a requirement that they inquire as to whether Mexican law had
been violated.  He made clear that they had come to no conclusions in
this regard and he also indicated that he thought that this was not an
issue for the two Presidents to deal with; the two Presidents needed to
deal at the level of principle and means of improving our cooperation in
the future.
      Q   Did he express any dismay about --
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  I don't think I want to characterize it
beyond what's in the communique and what I've said.  President Zedillo
has spoken on the record on several occasions; he said nothing new.
      Q Well, in principle then, did the U.S. make any commitment or any
guarantee?  Can the U.S. government guarantee that in any further
operation of this nature there will be full communications and
notification to the Mexican authorities?  Is there a guarantee that 
was --
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  I think the joint statement is pretty clear,
that the intention is that the two Attorneys General should work out
processes to improve communication and collaboration on law enforcement
operations in the future.  And that's a work in progress, it's a work
just begun.
      Q   But there was no promise that this --
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  There was no discussion beyond what's
reflected in the joint statement in that regard.
      Q Ambassador, who was at the meeting from each side?
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  Let's see, on the U.S. side it was the
President; the Secretary of State; Secretary of the Treasury; Barry
McCaffrey; Mack McLarty; Bill Richardson; Sandy Berger; Jeff Davidow,
Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs; Mike and myself.
      On the Mexican side, Rosario Green, the Foreign Minister; Jose
Gurria, the Finance Minister; Mr. Madrazo, the Attorney General; and
Juan Rabieato (phonetic) the Deputy Foreign Minister.  I think Mr.
Burros (phonetic), who's an advisor to the President in Los Pinos -- I
think that's it.
      Q This statement says that they're striving for improved
cooperation and mutual trust with full respect for the sovereignty of
both nations.  Does President Clinton think that the sovereignty of
Mexico was respected in Casablanca?
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  The issue wasn't addressed in those terms.
      Q What was the President's reaction overall to the speech that
President Zedillo gave at the U.N.?
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  He congratulated him for -- I can't remember
whether he specified the speech or for the conference as a whole.  He
did listen to the speech and he thought it went well.  I don't recall he
got into more detail on the specifics of it.  But he clearly was happy
with it.
      Q Ambassador Dobbins, the Attorney General said that given the
fact that you have to conduct these operations and protect lives of
agents, she acted like there is no guarantee in the future.  And
improving communications doesn't mean it won't happen again, correct?
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  I really don't want to be drawn in and I'm
sure the Attorney General doesn't want to be drawn in and wasn't drawn
beyond what's in the joint statement.
      Q She made it pretty clear that weighing agents' lives versus
communication, she was going to err on the side of agents' lives.
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  I heard exactly what the Attorney General
said, and you're free to quote her, but that's not what she said.
      Q Some of the points that are being discussed in the conference is
spending about a billion dollars a year on eradication of opium,
cocaine, marijuana, et cetera.  Did President Zedillo and President
Clinton talk about whether the United States is going to contribute to
these efforts in terms of financial assistance to eradicate this
so-called problem?
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  They didn't discuss eradication, per se.  
The United States of, course, is the major contributor to eradication 
around the world already.  I think some of the debate is how much of it
should be channeled in addition to what we're already doing through the
U.N.  My impression from what Barry McCaffrey said earlier today to
another press briefing was that we haven't made a decision on that, we
haven't yet seen the U.N. numbers, and when we do we'll make some
decision about how much we're going to contribute.  But the United
States already is the largest contributor to eradication.
      Q On the forest fires issue, did the President offer any further
assistance?  And also, aren't some Mexican Cabinet officers meeting with
U.S. officials this week in Washington?
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  I'm not sure of the timing.  I know both
Bruce Babbitt who -- no, I'm sorry, the Secretary of Agriculture
Glickman and Brian Atwood, the head of AID, have been meeting with their
Mexican counterparts.  They went to Mexico, and I just don't know what
their schedule is and whether there's a meeting.
      Now, there's a meeting of what's called the Binational Commission
on Thursday, which brings together virtually the entire Mexican and U.S.
Cabinets.  It's an annual meeting and I'm sure that those Cabinet
participants will participate, along with the Attorney General, with
Barry McCaffrey, with Madeleine Albright.
      Q There was nothing said in this meeting about further assistance
either of personnel or financial --
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  No, nothing specific.
      Q I wonder if the President of Mexico or President Clinton
mentioned anything about the possibility to persecute American agents
that were involved in Casablanca, the covert operation.
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  As I said, President Zedillo made clear that
his Attorney General had an obligation to determine whether there had
been any violations of Mexican law.  That process wasn't completed.
They weren't presuming that -- they had come to no conclusion.  There
was no discussion of what would happen thereafter.  President Zedillo
made clear that wasn't an issue for the two Presidents to discuss.  The
two Presidents should discuss the principles of their cooperation and
encourage their Attorneys General and other officials to improve
processes for coordination and collaboration and communication.
      Q Did President Zedillo ask for any further information on this
Casablanca to be able to determine whether any laws were violated?
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  No, but I don't know that he needed to.  Our
officials were down in Mexico City late last week for the first
exchange, where we provided information on the case, and we agreed that
we would continue to meet with the Mexicans.  So I assume he didn't ask
because he felt that they were getting full information from us.
      Q If it's a question of Mexico's sovereignty being violated, why
is there any question of U.S. agents being extradited as individuals
instead of --
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  I don't know that there is a question of U.S.
agents being extradited.
      Q   Well, there clearly in -- political circles.
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  I mean, I can't speak for the Mexican
      Q   The Foreign Minister -- extradition publicly.
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  It didn't come up in the meeting.  I mean,
what the issue was -- there's no point in my repeating it.  He said they
needed to review whether there had been a violation of Mexican law.
They haven't come to any conclusions, and there was no discussion beyond
      Q As a generic matter then can you rule out extraditing U.S.
citizens or law enforcement --
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  That's a hypothetical question, which is well
in advance of where we are at the moment.
      Q Was Casablanca the main -- would you say that the Casablanca
operation was the major subject discussed by the President?
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  I would think they spent as much time on
climate change as Casablanca.  They probably -- those two occupied the
biggest chunks of what was about a 40-minute meeting.  But there were
several other things and then they've gone on to talk privately for 25
minutes and I don't know what was in the 25 minutes.
      Q Can you characterize the tone of Zedillo's comments on the
Casablanca issue?
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  The meeting was a very positive meeting.
These are good friends, they know each other well.  There was no
negative tone in the meeting.  The issue is clearly one that is a
serious one for the Mexicans, but there was nothing in the tone of the
meeting which suggested anything other than that the United States and
Mexico were going to continue to move forward in intensifying an already
uniquely collaborative relationship.
      Q Would you try to dispel the impression that Mexico was really
very angry at the U.S. over this episode?
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  I'm trying to characterize a meeting between
the two Presidents.  I'm not trying to characterize a relationship
between two countries.  And when you talk about Mexico, are you talking
about the press, are you talking about the Cabinet, are you talking
about the Congress, Mexican Congress?
      Q -- had an adverse effect on U.S.-Mexican relations.
      AMBASSADOR DOBBINS:  All I can tell you is that this was a
positive, forward-looking meeting, the results of which are in the joint
      MR. MCCURRY:  Any last thing for Jim?  Other subjects?
      Q Ms. Reno said today that by way of saying that Mexican officials
weren't the only ones -- saying there are officials in this country left
out as well.  Can you say who didn't know?
      MR. MCCURRY:  Other Cabinet officials have addressed that,
including the Secretary of State.  But the point the Attorney General
made today is that in sensitive law enforcement operations that involve
undercover work, for the protection of courageous and heroic law
enforcement officials, information is very closely held.  And she made
the point of saying it's very closely held within our government.  There
were a number of senior ranking officials, and I can't quantify it
precisely, but many high ranking officials in the U.S. government who
are unaware of Operation Casablanca until it is formally announced by
our government.
      Thank you.  Other subjects at all?
      Q   Abacha's death?
      MR. MCCURRY:  Have we put out any formal statement?  I'm asking
you.  (Laughter.)  I haven't had a chance to -- let me say the United
States government acknowledges the death of General Sani Abacha.  The
United States government is interested in what type of opportunities
exist for transition to civilian rule in Nigeria.  A long-sought goal of
U.S. policy has been to restore to the people of Nigeria a
freely-elected democratic government that is consistent with the great
aspirations of the Nigerian people and reflective of the great potential
Nigeria has in the world community.
      Our hope, among others, would be at this moment of transition that
an accountable civilian government that is able to lead the Nigerian
people will emerge from what has been a very horrific episode in which
basic fundamental rights have been suspended, in which rule of law has
not applied, in which the results of elections have been set aside in
the name of authoritarianism.
      Q Is the United States still open to the idea of any military
ruler seeking election as a civilian?
      MR. MCCURRY:  The United States government is interested in seeing
a freely and democratically elected civilian government that can help
make the orderly transition away from authoritarianism and back to
democracy that the people of Nigeria deserve.  I'm not going to
speculate on who that might involve, and I don't think anyone is in a
position to speculate at this point.
      Q Regardless of whether or not that candidate is out of the
Nigerian military?
      MR. MCCURRY:  Well, there have been freely and democratically
elected figures throughout Africa that formerly were involved in the
military.  I'm not going to speculate about what might emerge at this
moment in the history of Nigeria.  Our interest is in a government that
will reflect what we believe is the desire and will of the people of
Nigeria to see themselves freely governed by a democratically elected
president who wants to restore prosperity and opportunity for the people
of Nigeria -- opportunity and prosperity that they once enjoyed.
      Q Did the President talk to the Secretary of State today about
Kosovo and what's the message that we're going to have on Friday?
      MR. MCCURRY:  The President did receive a briefing today from his
National Security Advisor, since they happened to be here, and both Mr.
Berger and Secretary Albright participated from here in New York in a
meeting of the President's advisors today.
      I think when you recall when the Contact Group met in early May,
we agreed to impose an assets freeze and investment ban unless President
Milosevic agreed to talks and to take other measures to avoid violence
in Kosovo, directed to the Kosovo Albanians.  President Milosevic did
agree to those talks, but in the last two weeks we have seen instances
of indiscriminate violence that has undermined the basic value and
premise of the talks that President Milosevic engaged in with the
leadership with the ethnic Kosovo Albanians.
      Therefore, the United States is going to move forward to implement
the assets ban and the investment ban that we suggested that we would
pursue.  We expect the Former Republic of Yugoslavia to live up to its
pledge this past weekend to allow access by international observers and
humanitarian organizations in Kosovo.  We call on both sides to resume
their dialogue, to urge all parties to avoid actions that would
undermine peaceful negotiations.
      We're also concerned about the refugee flows that have occurred as
a result of this violence.  There are a substantial number of Kosovo
Albanians that have fled their homes a result of these attacks, and we
and others in the international community are now mobilizing resources
that will deal with what is clearly a very pressing need for the people
who are now in refugee status.
      We're also simultaneously working with our allies, working closely
with our allies, other partners in the international community as well
-- both through NATO, through the United Nations, and through the
Contact Group that has been established to work together on problems in
the Balkans.  We're looking for measures that will help end the violence
and promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the Kosovo
Albanians and the Serbian populations in Kosovo.  We're conducting
accelerated contingency planning at NATO, and there have been a variety
of steps there authorized, as some of you may know, as a result of the
recent meeting at the ministerial level of the North Atlantic Council.
The Pentagon and others have briefed on some of the things that are
underway in the region and in and around Kosovo that involved deployment
of NATO resources.
      I'll spare you some of that.  I will say that we and our partners
have a variety of options available to us, and no decisions have been
made on that score, but again, nothing should be ruled out either.
      Q Are you going to be backing a U.N. resolution that will allow
for the use of force?
      MR. MCCURRY:  We are going to be in very close contact with our
allies, particularly with those that we have cooperated with closely on
in matters related to the Balkans.  And I expect that as this week
unfolds there will be further discussions underway about how best to
press the arguments that we want to make.  I would hesitate to say at
this point that we concluded that a single resolution or a single course
of action suggests itself, but we are consulting with other governments
even as we speak.
      Q Is there any concern -- did the President hear about the reports
that the U.S. used seran gas in Laos against American --
      MR. MCCURRY:  He did hear about those reports.  The President
expressed interest in them, although they clearly involve allegations
about behavior for administrations that are long gone.  The President's
understanding is that the Pentagon is reviewing the historical record,
and my understanding is that the Pentagon was briefed extensively on
that today.  Other than to say the President was interested in and aware
of the reports and assured that other parts of our government were
looking into it.  We're not in a position to take further action on it
here today.
      Q On Korea -- what are you planning to highlight tomorrow?  Will
the President -- has there been any consideration of the South Korean
request that the U.S. consider lifting sanctions?
      MR. MCCURRY:  Well, there has not been a request by the Republic
of Korea to lift sanctions on North Korea.  There have been some
suggestions that President Kim Dae Jung has an interest in raising that
issue and exploring it with President Clinton during their state visit
tomorrow.  We look forward to that opportunity because the future of the
Korean Peninsula is of keen interest to the people of the United States
of America, in having fought for peace there and having followed very
closely the efforts to bring about reconciliation between North and
      We have other interests that we certainly will be exploring with
the Republic of Korea as well -- our work together to contain the
nuclear program of the North, the DPRK; our common efforts with respect
to economic issues; what we do together on a range of regional security
issues.  There's an extensive bilateral agenda that we'll explore as
well.  But clearly, because we cooperate so closely with our close
friend and ally, the Republic of Korea, we will be very interested in
what this new government and this new President suggest with respect to
the future of diplomatic efforts to bring about reconciliation on the
Korean Peninsula.
      Q Mike, on that point, in the view of the U.S.  government, has
North Korea's conduct been such that it would warrant the lifting of
sanctions at this time?
      MR. MCCURRY:  North Korea's conduct has been consistent with the
October 1994 agreed framework, which is right now the most important
document with respect to the containment of a program that once posed
such great danger to the peoples on both sides the divide.
      At the same time, we still consider this a regime that has not
fully committed itself to a peaceful resolution of the disagreements
that exist on the Korean Peninsula.  That is why we have encouraged the
government in the North to pursue in the four-party talks framework a
discussion of the issues that we hope could bring about exactly that
kind of peaceful reconciliation.  We need to see a lot more before we
think of setting aside those implements and tools available to help
bring about the type of peaceful reconciliation we seek, but clearly
among those at those point, dialogue is chief and foremost.
      Q Sorry to be thick about this, but I don't see the statement, the
joint communique really speaking for itself.  I just would like to ask,
if you had the same situation, weighing the risks that you had this time
for the agents involved, in the future, with this improved
communications, would you communicate the information about this raid --
the exact same situation?
      MR. MCCURRY:  I think that that discussion of a hypothetical was
not the way the two Presidents spent their energies in their discussion
today.  They reviewed how they're going to go about creating a dialogue,
starting with the work their two chief law enforcement officers, their
Attorneys General do together to devise a procedure that will allow the
mutual interests that both countries have in avoided undesirable effects
to take place -- exactly as the communique suggests.
      There's no way to predict the future and neither is there any
particular reason to dwell unnecessarily on the past.  I think the tone
and content of this meeting was one that suggested the two Presidents
would best spend their time reviewing the principles that ought to
underpin the close cooperation Mexico and the United States have when it
comes to fighting drugs.  And that's -- reaffirmation of those important
principles is what the two Presidents concentrated their time on.
      That's a wrap for today.  There's nothing more, I think, on the
evening event tonight.  I don't anticipate any particular fireworks and
we're out of here at 8:30 p.m.
      Q Got any guidance on whether there's any line item veto in store
on --
      MR. MCCURRY:  I do not, Mark.  I haven't heard any discussion of
that.  Barry, anything?  Okay.
      That's it.  I didn't even have anything here you didn't ask about
-- on the foreign policy side.

            END                        6:32 P.M. EDT