USIS Washington 
File

02 March 1998

WHITE HOUSE REPORT, MARCH 2, 1998

(Iraq, Clinton's mood, golf) (830)



White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry briefed reporters at early
morning and early afternoon sessions.


US SAYS BUTLER AUTHORITATIVE ON IRAQ/UN MEMO OF UNDERSTANDING



Asked to comment on a "dispute" between Iraq's Ambassador to the
United Nations Nizar Hamdoon and Ambassador Richard Butler, the chief
of UN weapons inspectors in Iraq, regarding who will be in charge of
the inspections of eight so-called Presidential sites in Iraq, McCurry
said "that was a dispute only on CNN that had the good fortune of
having them both together on the same program, but it was certainly no
dispute in the eyes of the United States government."


Butler and Hamdoon appeared one after the other on CNN's "Late
Edition" interview program March 1.


"Mr. Butler spoke quite authoritatively on the interpretation of the
memorandum of understanding," McCurry said. "He's made it quite clear
what the lines of authority are as the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM)
conducts the work that it needs to do in Iraq, that the government of
Iraq has pledged to cooperate with, and of course, the question will
be whether or not the government of Iraq lives up to the obligations
it has under the agreement it has signed."


Asked if he was concerned by Hamdoon's questioning whether Butler will
supervise the entire weapons inspection process, McCurry said, "You
know of our concern about the intentions of the government of Iraq
with respect to this agreement, because the President made it quite
clear that we will remain skeptical until we see full implementation
of the agreement as it has been reached. And we will keep a
significant force deployed in that region in the interim."


The chief UN weapons inspector "couldn't have been clearer in
presenting what the arrangements are for UN Special Commission work in
Iraq," McCurry said. "Mr. Butler's remarks were authoritative on that
subject. I would disregard what the government of Iraq has to say when
they are in their 'spin' mode," the Press Secretary declared.


Asked about UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's decision to cancel a
visit to Washington, during which he had planned to talk with
President Clinton and with members of Congress about the new weapons
inspection agreement as well as a number of other issues, McCurry said
"we fully understand the Secretary's decision to be in New York as the
Security Council develops and deliberates on a further Iraq
resolution" that the British have put forward.


"Quite correctly he wants to be in the Security Council as they
deliberate this very important resolution that comes in the aftermath
of the agreement between the United Nations and Iraq."


In response to the assertion by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott
(Republican-Mississippi) that Saddam Hussein should be tried as a war
criminal, McCurry said: "What would be most productive is for all to
encourage the government of Iraq to abide by its commitments under the
agreement that's recently reached with the United Nations. We would
encourage members of Congress to so state."


McCurry said it "is really mystifying" why Lott, who had wanted a
face-to-face conversation with Annan, changed his mind, and said he
would not have time to meet with him. "The Secretary General is an
eminent figure who just concluded an important agreement that any
member of Congress would surely want to learn more about," he said.


PRESIDENT'S MOOD



Asked to assess President Clinton's present state of mind, McCurry
said "the President, behind the scenes and in public, continues to
work on those things that the American people consider foremost in
their lives. That's where he concentrates his energy and attention. He
knows the American people would not be too forgiving if he lost his
focus on the things that matter to them and to their lives."


He said that an article published in the Washington Post the weekend
of February 28 which asserted that Clinton is in a private rage over
the investigative tactics of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr are
"not an accurate portrayal of the totality of the President's
demeanor," McCurry said. "The President is in very good cheer as he
goes to work he was elected to do. He's gratified that he has the
support of the American people as he pursues the agenda he has
outlined for them."


McMcCurry said that when Washington lawyer Vernon Jordan testifies
March 3 before the Starr grand jury regarding his role in attempting
to help former White House intern Monica Lewinsky find a new job,
"someone will be in a position to testify that knows the facts." He
added that Clinton and Jordan "remain very good friends and look
forward to the day when they can be less circumspect with each other."


PRESIDENT SPENDS AFTERNOON ON GOLF COURSE



President Clinton spent the afternoon of March 2 playing golf at the
nearby Army-Navy Club. He was accompanied by Congressman Bill Hefner
(Democrat-North Carolina) and Congressman John Murtha
(Democrat-Pennsylvania).