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11 March 1998

TRANSCRIPT: BACKGROUNDER ON CLINTON/ANNAN MEETING MARCH 11

(See need for vigilance on arms inspections in Iraq) (1760)



Washington -- President Clinton and UN Secretary General Annan agree
on the need for vigilance in monitoring Iraq's compliance with the
terms of its pledges to Annan regarding weapons inspections, senior
administration officials said March 11.


The officials told reporters that the President and the Secretary
General noted during their Oval Office meeting that since the signing
of the agreement between Annan and Iraqi official Tariq Aziz, there
have been a number of successful weapons inspections in Iraq,
including inspections at previously off-limit sites.


However, one official said, the two leaders agreed that "one week of
successful inspections and one week of Iraqi compliance is far from
adding up to the kind of sustained, long-term Iraqi compliance with
the Security Council resolutions and the MOU that is required, and
that we will need a great deal of vigilance in the days ahead."


Officials said Clinton and Annan also discussed the President's
upcoming trip to Africa, Annan's impending visit to the Middle East
and Clinton's effort to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention.


The President again reiterated his commitment to work with the leaders
of Congress to get that body to appropriate funds to clear up US
arrears in its financial commitments to the United Nations.


Following is the White House transcript:



(begin transcript)



THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary





March 11, 1998



PRESS BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS



The Briefing Room



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This was the Secretary General's
second visit to the White House since becoming Secretary General. And,
as always at these kind of meetings, the President and the Secretary
General did a broad range of discussions across world events. They
began by talking about Iraq, and my colleague will brief on that
discussion.


They then discussed at some length the President's initiative to
improve the Biological Weapons Convention and to try to achieve
verification mechanisms in the Biological Weapons Convention similar
to those in the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Secretary General
fully supported that initiative and discussed the moves that he has
made to strengthen the disarmament department at the United Nations.


The President and the Secretary General then discussed at some length
the upcoming visit by the President to Africa, the first time a
serving President will be going to those nations. On the President's
itinerary, they discussed some of the specific stops and some of the
issues involved in the African trip. They then discussed the upcoming
trip of the Secretary General to the Middle East. And, again, my
colleague can cover that.


They then finally discussed the financial issues between the United
States and the UN The President reiterated the administration's firm
support for paying our UN dues, our UN arrears; reiterated his
commitment to work with the Congress and the leadership of the
Congress so that we can get those appropriations made this year. The
President asked about the implications of Article 19 of the UN
Charter, which could cause the United States to lose its voting rights
in the General Assembly if we do not make payments of a necessary
amount this year. Article 19 means that if you are in two years
consecutive arrears you may lose your voting rights in the General
Assembly. The Secretary General described Article 19, at the
President's request, and the President again promised his maximum
efforts to get the Congress to appropriate those funds.


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. The President and the
Secretary General, and then in a follow-on meeting between Mr. Berger
and the Secretary General, were able to devote some time to discussing
the situation in Iraq. I think you probably already heard the
President's comments during the pool spray regarding Iraq; I won't
repeat them.


I think the most important part of the discussions that the two had
was agreement both by the President and the Secretary General on the
need for vigilance now in monitoring Iraqi compliance with the
arrangements that were made in the Memorandum of Understanding that
the Secretary General signed with Tariq Aziz in Baghdad.


They took note that since that agreement was signed there have been a
series of inspections in Iraq, particularly in the last several days,
of some sensitive sites, some sites that Iraq had previously declared
off limits to UN inspectors, and that those inspections had gone
forward. But there was agreement between the two of them that one week
of successful inspections and one week of Iraqi compliance is far from
adding up to the kind of sustained, long-term Iraqi compliance with
the Security Council resolutions and the MOU that is required, and
that we will need a great deal of vigilance in the days ahead.


They also discussed briefly some of the arrangements for upcoming
inspections of presidential sites. Those arrangements are being worked
out by the Special Commission and the Secretary General's appointed
representative, Mr. Dhanapala who was in Baghdad today to continue
those arrangements. Those inspections have not yet been scheduled. We
are comfortable so far with the arrangements as we have seen them
proceed.


My colleague also mentioned that the Secretary General raised his
upcoming trip to the Middle East. He noted to the President that in
all of his stops he will urge regional leaders to support his efforts
to get Iraqi compliance with the MOU and with other Security Council
resolutions. And they discussed briefly the need for movement forward
in the Arab-Israeli peace process.


The President and Secretary Albright, who was also in the meeting,
underscored our view that we cannot continue without some movement
forward on the peace process and that the burden is on the leadership
of the Israeli and Palestinian Authority to take the hard decisions
necessary to move this process forward.


I think that pretty much summarizes the conversations, and we'll take
questions.


Q: What did the President mean by promising a maximum effort to get
Congress to come up with the money for the arrears?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as you know, the President last
year put forward a detailed proposal for getting the arrears paid off.
We did reach -- after several months of negotiations with the
Congress, we did reach an agreement, which, unfortunately, didn't pass
both Houses. The President has reintroduced legislation that's
essentially based on that arrangement that was negotiated last year.
It is one of the administration's priorities with the Congress this
year.


Q: Do you see the President making speeches or calling members of
Congress to try and get this passed?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, he's already called members of
Congress. He's discussed it with the Speaker. He's discussed it with
the Majority Leader. The Secretary General is now on Capitol Hill
meeting with key members of the Congress; he will do that again
tomorrow morning. And my understanding is he has expressed his
willingness to come back after the Easter recess and meet again with
the leadership.


The President will do -- we don't have a specific speech on this
subject scheduled yet, but the President will do everything that he
can to convince the Congress that this is a treaty obligation of the
United States to pay off these dues. This is not charity. This is
something that the United States has undertaken by treaty to do. It is
something that is in our national interest. And I think that there is
bipartisan support for paying it off. The details, however, have been
the problem in the past.


But the Secretary General has committed himself to the necessary
management reforms that the Congress has always wanted. And I think
there is a common set of management reforms that the Secretary General
is beginning to implement and has already done that go a long way to
doing what the Congress has asked to be done. So now I think the
administration's view is that it's up to the Congress to meet its part
of the bargain.


Q: Just one more point on that if I may. How soon might the US lose
its vote in the General Assembly if it doesn't come up with the money?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If it doesn't come up with the money
by the end of this calendar year, we will be two years in arrears in
total above the threshold level, and, therefore, technically we could
lose our vote at the end of the calendar end. It's a vote in the
General Assembly, not necessarily in other bodies.


Q: Did the President raise any objections about the appointment of a
Russian to lead the inspection process?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President noted that in our view
this is not the time for structural change in UNSCOM. I believe
Ambassador Richardson has also made that point very clear in the
Council. We think UNSCOM is working well, and this is not the time to
tinker with it's structural -


Q: The Secretary General said what?



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The Secretary General had forwarded
the request that the Russian government has put to the Security
Council. He did not give his own view on this issue.


Q: So, in other words, the President just said, I don't like this
idea, and the Secretary General just acknowledged that he made a
mistake then, or what?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, the Russian idea has now been
sent to the Security Council for any actions that will be taken on it.
Since we have the authority to prevent any such changes as a permanent
member of the Security Council, it remains to be seen how hard the
Russian government wants to push on this issue. We just do not feel
that it makes any sense at this time to do structural changes in the
way UNSCOM works.


Q: So it has nothing to do with his nationality?



SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's clear in the -- the
enabling legislation that created UNSCOM says there shall be a
chairman and a deputy. We don't see any reason right now for a second
deputy.


Q: Is the United States absolutely convinced there was no secret deal
between Anna and Saddam?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have no reason to believe there was
any secret deal. If there was any agreement or any understanding that
we are not a party to, of course, we are not obligated to live up to
it. But we have no reason to believe there is any secret deal.


THE PRESS:  Thank you.



(end transcript)