ACCESSION NUMBER:219239 FILE ID:PO-402 DATE:03/12/92 TITLE:WHITE HOUSE REPORT, THURSDAY,MARCH 12 (03/12/92) TEXT:*92031202.POL WHITE HOUSE REPORT, THURSDAY,MARCH 12 (Israel/Patriots, China, retail sales/the economy) (410) NEWS BRIEFING -- Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater covered the following topics: COMMENT WITHHELD ON PATRIOTS Asked repeatedly about news reports that U.S. intelligence sources fear Israel has transferred Patriot missile technology to China, Fitzwater declined comment, but he cited an Israeli denial stating that it "did not transfer Patriot missiles or missile technology to China" and that "these reports have no basis." He said "that's the only statement we have." According to wire service reports, a spokesman for the Israeli defense ministry branded news reports to the contrary as "lies and totally baseless." Asked if Washington accepts the Israeli version, he said the administration doesn't comment on what it knows about intelligence determinations. Asked if the administration does not believe the Israel version, he said the administration has no conclusions it is willing to discuss in public. Pressed by reporters, Fitzwater said there have been "contacts and consultations between us and the Israelis," and he acknowledged there are administration "intelligence...conclusions." But he reiterated that the administration is "not willing to comment at this point." CHINESE REFORMS NOT EXAMINED Fitzwater said the president has not "had a chance to examine" the reported economic reforms announced in China "or to have discussions on them at this point." Asked about the defection of 110 House Republicans on the override of the 1resident's veto on Most-Favored-Nation tariff treatment of Chinese goods, Fitzwater said it means that not all Republicans agree with Bush on all matters and that the president is demonstrating leadership. "He believes it is right for the country," Fitzwater said of Bush's veto. (The bill would place conditions on continued MFN for China. Observers expect the Senate to sustain Bush's veto next week.) RETAIL SALES HAILED Fitzwater said the increase in retail sales in the first two months of the year shows that consumer spending "is likely to make a positive contribution to overall economic growth for the quarter. Consumers have started the year on a more positive note than previously expected." He told questioners the president's economic package should nonetheless be passed quickly because many economists say there is a need "to give impetus" to a recovery that "may not be as strong as we would want." Passage of the package, he argued, "would increase the likelihood of a good recovery." NNNN .