News

October 15, 1999

PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART



                              THE WHITE HOUSE
                       Office of the Press Secretary
______________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release
October 15, 1999

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                               JOE LOCKHART

                             The Briefing Room

12:07 P.M. EDT
    

..................

    Q    Joe, you were very careful this morning when you explicitly did
not call for Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to be returned to
power.  Why is that?  Is that something the United States isn't seeking
anymore?
     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, we've made very clear our displeasure and concern
with the sequence of events that have gone forward.  Our ambassador,
William Milam, met with General Musharaf this morning, our time, expressed
our concerns quite clearly, and was -- in response, I don't know that we
got a clear view of what was going on, except that he would be making a
statement this weekend.  So we're going to watch, carefully, the events
there.
     We've made very clear that we oppose the extra-constitutional efforts
to depose the democratically-elected Congress, and we're focusing now on
impressing on the government of Pakistan the importance of moving quickly
to the restoration of civilian and democratic rule.
     Q    But not Sharif's return?
     MR. LOCKHART:  We're pressing on them to return to civilian and
democratic rule.  I think, ultimately, how they -- the direction they take
on that front when they move in that direction is an issue for the people
of Pakistan.
     Q    But Joe, in the past when something similar to this has happened,
you have called for the restoration of the democratically -elected
government, but you're not making that call this time.
     MR. LOCKHART:  I think what we're doing here is calling for the
restoration of democratic and civilian government, because we think that is
in the best interest of our bilateral relations.  We have made very clear
how concerned we are, though, about what has transpired here over the last
week.
     Q    Joe, doesn't that send a signal to the militaries everywhere that
it's okay to depose somebody, so long as eventually you return to
constitutional rule?
     MR. LOCKHART:  No, I don't think so.  Let me tell you that we will
take the steps that are necessary.  The President has asked his foreign
policy and legal team to apply the Section 508 sanctions, because clearly,
this is a situation where the military has engaged in a coup on a
democratically-elected government, and we will take the steps available to
us under Section 508.  We have made very clear through our conversations
and diplomatic exchanges with the military leadership there what our view
of this is, and we think what's best now is to impress upon them in every
way we can, whether it be in our diplomatic conversations or in our
sanctions, and in stressing the importance of and the damage to our
bilateral relations, how important it is to return to democratic and
civilian rule.
     Q    Because they say to the military that they're free to pick and
choose a -- democratically-elected leader?
     MR. LOCKHART:  No, I think, again, this will be a question for the
Pakistani people, to elect in a democratic and open way a civilian
government.
     Q    Can you explain what 508 will deprive the Pakistanis of?
     MR. LOCKHART:  The lawyers are looking at this now.  Obviously, as I
mentioned this morning, in practical terms, there's already a wide range of
sanctions applied against Pakistan, because in large part, due to the
testing last year.  But there are additional things that the lawyers are
looking at, and as soon as that is worked out, we'll make an announcement.
     Q    Joe, you seem to have written off Nawaz Sharif.  Is there
something about his character that the U.S. finds distasteful?  I mean, if
you look at a comparative situation in Haiti, we nearly went to war to
restore Aristide to power.
     MR. LOCKHART:  Listen, I think if you look at the comments made in
late September, we expressed very openly our concern and the fact that we
were very disturbed about any efforts to depose a democratically elected
government.  We made that view known in late September; we've made that
view known all this week.  And this has, clearly, a negative impact on our
bilateral relations with Pakistan.
     Q    But you're not saying let's return the government that you just
threw out of power back into office?
     MR. LOCKHART:  I'm saying -- we are saying very clearly that it is in
Pakistan's interest to return to a civilian and democratic government, and
that should be done at the earliest possible date.
     Q    Does the fact you just used the word "coup" change or trigger
anything in legal terms?
     MR. LOCKHART:  Yes, I think there were people -- that using the term
"coup" has a legal impact, and ramifications, as far as our sanctions
policy.  And I think, before moving in that direction, there was some
information to be gathered about the facts on the ground.  And we've now
had a meeting with the ambassador and the military leadership.  It's clear
what the situation -- it's certainly much clearer what the situation is
now, as far as what's gone on.  It's not particularly clear on what will
happen.  But it's clear, in our view, that this is a military coup, and
that the applicable sanctions will be applied.
     Q    Joe, you promised us a reading on the Vajpayee phone call?
     MR. LOCKHART:  Yes.  The President called him to congratulate him on
his re-election.  They discussed the situation in Pakistan.  The President
recognized the restraint India has shown to date in this situation, and
discussed the need for an early restoration of civilian government.
     Q    What kind of assurances did he get that the restraint will
continue?
     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, I'll leave it to the Indian government to talk
about their -- the Prime Minister's comments.  But the President did make
the point, very clearly, that it's important not to escalate in any way
tensions between the countries, and restraint is important.
     Q    You said this morning that the President wanted to discuss the
nuclear issue with the Prime Minister of India.  Has he done so?  And if he
has, has he got any assurances regarding a signing by India of your --
     MR. LOCKHART:  I don't have a detailed read on that.  I'm certain that
they did.  And the President made the case that he made publicly yesterday,
that the United States will continue to abide by our obligations under the
treaty that the President signed.  And it's our hope that other countries
will move forward in a positive way on nonproliferation and on testing and
that other countries will not misread the very misguided decision that the
Republican majority in the Senate made.
     Q    Could you be more specific about what applicable sanctions will
be applied?
     MR. LOCKHART:  There are sanctions that the legal team are looking at
now; when those are completely sorted through we'll have more for you.
     Q    Do you think that will be later today?
     MR. LOCKHART:  I don't know.
     Q    Do the sanctions include having the U.S. pressure the
international lending institutions, such as the IMF, withhold loans or
restructure loans?
     MR. LOCKHART:  Well, the IMF is currently withholding loans due to
some other issues with Pakistan.  So, obviously, that is not necessarily a
salient point right now.  If they get to the point where they come into
compliance we'll take a look at whether the behavior of the military
government there warrants the United States looking at blocking further
loans.  But at this point, it's a bit of a moot point because those loans
are currently suspended because of other issues.
     Q    Joe, we've already got the screws down pretty tight on Pakistan,
how much further can we go?
     MR. LOCKHART:  I think that we can look at what we can do under
Section 508.  We're already doing a lot because of the testing issue and
other issues.  I also think that the government of Pakistan and/or the
Pakistani people value their relationship with the U.S. and we have made it
very clear that this is -- that there will be no business as usual under
the current situation.
     Q    -- gave no indications to the U.S. Ambassador that he was
planning to hand power to a civilian government anytime soon.
     MR. LOCKHART:  I think what you should take from my tone is that he
gave a clear indication that he planned to speak to the people this weekend
-- Pakistan, where we will be watching that very closely.
  





................

    Thank you very much.
     THE PRESS:  Thank you.


                              END                  12:55 P.M. EDT