October 12, 1999

PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART The Briefing Room







                              THE WHITE HOUSE
                       Office of the Press Secretary
______________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release
October 12, 1999

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                               JOE LOCKHART
                             The Briefing Room

1:14 P.M. EDT

          MR. LOCKHART:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Welcome to the White
House briefing.  Questions.
          Q    Pakistan.  What do we know?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, we know from our embassy there and from
other sources that, clearly, there's a political crisis unfolding.  We are
trying to ascertain hard and certain information as we speak.  This is,
obviously, a fluid situation.  There are a number of rumors and reports
running around the city, and at this point we have not ascertained the full
extent of the situation.
          Q    Can it be characterized as a coup at this point?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think there's obviously a crisis unfolding.  I
don't think we have information available to us which would enable us to
characterize it that way.
          Q    Joe, has anyone in this administration in any way sought to
find any information on whether Pakistan's nuclear holdings have been
safeguarded through this?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, we have been talking at a variety of
diplomatic levels and trying to gather information.  I don't have any
particular information on that subject at this point.
          Q    Are there any concerns about the security of their nuclear
holdings?
          MR. LOCKHART:  No concern like that has been relayed to me.
          Q    Do we know where the Prime Minister is?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't have specific information on that.  I know
there are reports in the Pakistani media, but I don't have independent
verification of that.
          Q    Has anyone spoken with him?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't have any independent verification on his
location or if there's been any communication.
          Q    The Prime Minister dismissed the Army Chief of Staff.  Was
the administration aware that he was going to do that, or did they
recommend or encourage that at all?
          MR. LOCKHART:  No, I don't think there was anyone in the
administration that was aware of that move.  I think, as you know, there
were some conversations several weeks ago about keeping the Chief of Staff.
Nor was anyone in the administration aware of the events that have
precipitated this crisis today.
          Q    Do you think this had anything to do with the Kashmir
agreement reached with Sharif while he was here?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think that we're dealing with a very fluid
situation where the facts are unfolding, and I would caution everyone to
try not to speculate based on incomplete or pieces of information that are
coming in.
          Q    Are there any concerns that India might try to make an
aggressive move against Pakistan during this time of turmoil?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I haven't heard any comments coming out of
the Indians, or the Indian government.  I think that we -- obviously,
anyone trying to take advantage -- we would be concerned about anyone
trying to take advantage of any uncertainty in the current situation.
          Q    Has the President or anybody from the administration
contacted Prime Minister Vajpayee in India and asked him to show restraint,
in light of the current developments?
          MR. LOCKHART:  The President has not.  I'm not aware of the
diplomatic conversations between the United States and the Indian
government.  You might check at the State Department on that.
          Q    Joe, I wasn't sure what you said earlier.  Do you have any
concern about the control of any nuclear materials between civilians and
military in Pakistan?
          MR. LOCKHART:  Again, no concern has been relayed to me as
something the United States government is currently worried about.
          Q    What about Americans, Joe, and American facilities there?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think there are around 4,000 Americans in
Pakistan.  The State Department has issued a warning for them to show
caution and care in this moment and to stay close to home.  I have no
reports of Americans or American facilities that are specifically at risk.
          Q    Joe, is there any concern that the current political crisis
there could potentially swing towards Islamic fundamentalism?
          MR. LOCKHART:  I think before we draw any conclusions, we want to
have more facts, so I will resist the temptation to go down any of these
hypothetical roads.
          Q    Do these events place into context the debate in the Senate
over the test ban treaty?

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          Q    It's been announced that the Army Chief of Staff will
address the nation.  Does this change your assessment of the situation at
all?
          Q    I can update that.  We just ran a bulletin saying that the
fired Army Chief of Staff --
          MR. LOCKHART:  That's great, but --
          Q    -- says the Sharif government has been dismissed.
          MR. LOCKHART:  Okay, well, I haven't had the ability to get that
information independently, so I can't possibly comment on it from here.
         
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          THE PRESS:  Thank you.
                          END       1:48 P.M. EDT
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