THE WHITE HOUSE The Briefing Room


MCCURRY: The President's major event of the day tomorrow is earlier in the morning. We are really going to demonstrate the wide-ranging and bipartisan support that exists for the Chemical Weapons Convention and has existed through a number of administrations, showcasing some former administration officials who had a role in both negotiating and promulgating the Chemical Weapons Convention who now strongly support its ratification by the Senate.

And the President in very strong terms will call upon the Senate to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention by the end of April, when the deadline for original adherence to the Convention expires and the United States' role in the enforcement and implementation of the treaty will be severely restricted if we don't get ratification by April 29th.

The President, among other points, will make the case that this treaty has been now before the Senate since November of 1993. There have been 13 Senate hearings, hundreds of questions answered on behalf of this administration and previous administrations, and more than 1500 pages of information about the impact of the treaty. And it's time now to get on with ratifying a convention that will reduce the threat to our soldiers by requiring others to do what we are already doing, which is going out of the chemical weapons business. And it will also make it harder and more costly for terrorists to acquire these types of weapons.

Q: Does he feel --

Q: What time and where?

Q: -- he pretty much has a deal and it's going to go through when Helms's problems have been addressed?

MCCURRY: Well, there is going to be a lot of hard work over the course of the coming month to secure the votes necessary for ratification, but the President is determined to do that, will work personally on it, and has already had substantial portions of the administration engaged towards that end.

Q: Is he enlisting any of the former Presidents to personally call members of the Senate?

MCCURRY: Some of them, if my understanding is correct, have been supportive, and of course they signed a letter to that effect that has circulated within the Senate. But we will remain in contact with officials of the previous administrations, including President Bush and representatives of the Reagan administration, to see if we can't secure help.

Q: Where is he going to be and who is going to be there and what time is it?

MCCURRY: It's going to be at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow on the South Portico, a list of participants to be announced.

Q: What would be the immediate consequences of a failure to ratify by the end of April?

MCCURRY: One of the immediate consequences is -- you know the technical name of it, David, but the consultative mechanism that actually implements the convention.

DAVID JOHNSON: We would not be a member.

MCCURRY: It's whatever -- what's the name of it? That's what I'm grasping for. In any event, if the Senate doesn't ratify by April 29, the United States would not be an original member in the consultative committee that actually implements and monitors the treaty as it takes effect -- or the convention itself as it takes effect. And that would put us at a real loss of a leadership role as we assure that other countries fully comply with the stipulations of the convention itself, as we figure out ways to monitor and verify implementation of the convention. I think that would be very disadvantageous to the United States as we protect our own strategic national interests in the world.

Q: Any other consequences besides that?

MCCURRY: I think also, the effect of having our country, which is already in the process of eliminating chemical weapons, not in the leadership role in encouraging other nations that might be exploring these types of weapons programs to do so and to shut their own down would be a real tragedy. And the principal loss would be the loss of the power of the U.S. example as we help encourage other countries to refrain from any research and development programs of this nature or any potential plans for use.

Q: It would not bear upon American intentions to continue to go out of the chemical weapons business?

MCCURRY: No, we are already doing that. It just means that we would lose a real advantage we have, given that we are already doing that, a real advantage we would have in exerting our leadership in the world.

Q: Aside from exerting leadership, is there something else that you would lose by not being part of the original body?

MCCURRY: Many people in our own domestic chemical industry feel like they would lose some of the ability they have to monitor types of chemical development and chemical R&D that would be occurring, because that's the information that flows into the international body that would promulgate and implement the treaty. We'll do more, by the way, on all of this tomorrow, so -

Q: I thought they would also lose some marketing -

MCCURRY: I think there are some market implications, too, but listen -- a lot of interest in this. We obviously will trot out some people to do some more significant briefings tomorrow. I think Bob Bell was going to be available tomorrow, so we'll load you up more fully on this tomorrow.

Q: Is the Secretary of State working on her newfound friend, Senator Helms, on this subject?

MCCURRY: She's had discussions with him. A number of people from the White House have been in discussion with the Majority Leader as well. We have been working this quietly and sometimes publicly for a number of weeks now, but the President tomorrow will really launch a push to devote considerable effort during the month of April to ratification.