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National Security Advisor Sam Berger Press Brief

Press Briefing By National Security Advisor Samuel Berger

The James S. Brady Briefing Room

11:00 A.M. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Summer is over. Terry is back at his seat. Excellent. Welcome to the James S. Brady Briefing Room at your media-friendly Clinton-Gore White House, where seldom is heard a disparaging word, particularly when the mike is open. (Laughter.) We have a trip to New York City today for the Millennium Summit, together with a series of bilateral meetings that the President will have. Here to provide you details on the President's itinerary is our intrepid National Security Advisor, Samuel R. Berger.

MR. BERGER: As you know, the President leaves for New York today. Good morning. (Laughter.) We are in Colombia, aren't we? This evening, the President leaves for the summit, which will begin tomorrow; there was a logic in that. As you know, this is the largest gathering of heads of state in the history of the world. There will be some 160 heads of government or heads of state gathered in New York for this summit. It was convened by the Secretary General several months ago.

I think it's useful for our purposes to see this next three days in three baskets. There is a U.N. Millennium Summit agenda; there is work the President will be doing on the Middle East Peace Process, and there are a series of other bilaterals which I will talk about, each of which are important and have their own agenda and purpose.

The basic U.N. Millennium Summit agenda is to discuss the fundamental challenges that the world faces as we enter this new millennium, from the prevention of conflict within and among states, to the defense of human rights, to the fight against poverty and disease, to the effort to promote growth and to protect the environment. And the summit will address both the problems and the role the United Nations must play in helping to meet those challenges.

The basic question underlying the discussions over these three days will be essentially how we reconcile, as an international community, the growing need for global collective action with the still real inadequacies of the United Nations as an instrument for collective action. How do we improve not only the collective sense of priorities, but, also, the collective machinery for meeting those priorities.

The challenges before the United Nations are getting bigger, not smaller. Building civil institutions in places such as -- from Kosovo to East Timor, increasingly complex peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone; more planned in Ethiopia, Eritrea; growing challenges of promoting human development and fighting infectious diseases, including the AIDS crisis, which as you know, we have increasingly, over the last few years, made a central element of our own foreign policy, but which ultimately will have to be dealt with as global problems.

At the same time, the U.N. is actually getting smaller, and it's getting smaller because of the reforms that have been undertaken with our encouragement, and with the leadership of the Secretary General, over the last six years, which have resulted in a budget savings of about $100 million, and a U.N. staff cut of about 1,000 people in four years.

These are critical, because the U.N. has to be effective, efficient, responsive as an institution, rather than bureaucratic, slow, redundant; but it is a process of reform, of reforming the institutions, while rising to the challenge, is what I think is the underlying issue that will be discussed over the next few days.

We remain the largest contributor to the United Nations. We pay $2.7 billion to the United Nations and its associated institutions. We also have a substantial amount of money that we continue to owe to the United Nations, which has been tied by the Congress to certain reforms in the institution and certain changes in the assessment scale, that we will be addressing with leaders over the next several days.

The need for the United Nations, in our judgment, is not diminished from the time of its founders. Its mission was, in many ways, obscured and thwarted over 50 years of Cold War when issues were clouded by confrontation. We now have a new opportunity at the end of the Cold War, with the end of the Cold War to realize the goal and objective and aspiration of the founders of the United Nations.

In order to do that, we have to fund the peacekeepers in the field, we have to give them -- in the peacekeeping area alone, we need to give them the training and equipment and organization that they need. And for us to do that, we need to have the support from our own Congress for us to meet our obligations, because either we build this institution and share burdens, or we leave problems unresolved, or we are looked to, to solve them ourselves. Our own judgment is that, more often than not, it is better to operate collectively.

Now, that's the U.N. piece of this, which I would describe as emphasizing our engagement and the importance of it, stressing the importance of reform and innovation and as describing the new mission of the U.N., which goes from the revised and changing shape of peacekeeping to the importance of fighting disease and poverty.

The second piece of this is the time the President will spend in bilaterals with leaders of the world. Obviously, we can't meet with all 160 leaders. We'll try to obviously see as many of them as we can at the margins of these meetings. But we have a number of meetings that are scheduled.

Just to go through the schedule here so you have a sense of the sequence, tomorrow morning will begin with the President's speech to the summit plenary, which will address the challenge of peacemaking and improving the U.N.'s capacity. The President then meets with President Putin. This is their third meeting in the last three months. It will be an opportunity to address a range of issues.

I met yesterday in New York with President Putin's National Security Advisor, Sergei Ivanov. We talked about a range of issues that will be discussed by the President, from regional issues -- North Korea and Korea, the Balkans, the Middle East, Afghanistan, to nonproliferation issues, to issues of strategic stability and cooperation on strategic defenses and pursuing deeper arms reduction. We will obviously also raise concerns we have about press freedom issues and other related issues.

Following that, there will be a lunch hosted by Secretary General Annan, and then the President will begin a series of meetings on the Middle East, starting with Prime Minister Barak, Chairman Arafat.

In the weeks since Camp David, as you know, we've been engaged in discussions with the parties in the region, including the President's meeting with President Mubarak in Cairo last week. Dennis Ross and others have been in the region, and engaged in discussions with the parties, and I think this is a week in which the President can take stock of where we are in this process, whether there is the possibility here for progress beyond where we were in Camp David. I think that we're all quite conscious of the fact that there is not an enormous amount of time left for the parties to come together.

Tomorrow evening, the President will also meet King Abdullah of Jordan, and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to talk about the peace process. Tomorrow night he will have a dinner, informal dinner of the Progressive Governance, Third Way Group, and then on Thursday morning the President will meet with South Korean Kim Dae-jung to continue our close consultation on not only our bilateral issues, but now the pace and direction of North-South issues, since the North-South summit in June. This is a matter we have been engaged in since 1994 with the South Koreans. I think there are interesting prospects that come from the meeting that was held in June. We hope to have missile talks, continue our missile talks with the North Koreans sometime either at the end -- in this month or next.

The President also will meet on Thursday with President Sezer the new President of Turkey, who assumed office last May, making his first trip ever to the United States. He is a former President of the Turkish Constitutional Court, strong proponent of democratic reform and rule of law and we will be talking obviously about bilateral issues, we will be talking about Turkish-E.U. issues, we will be talking about Turkish-Greek issues and Aegean issues and Cyprus. And the President then will see Prime Minister Simitis later that evening at the Progressive Governance meeting.

Now, on Thursday afternoon, we're back to U.N. business with -- I don't know if it's the first-ever, but it's one of the only summits ever of the United Nations Security Council. And there the discussion will focus on peacekeeping, in particular, Africa -- peacekeeping in general, Africa in particular. And then there will be a summit of the P-5. I don't believe that has ever taken place before. China, United States, Russia, France and the U.K. And that meeting will discuss U.N. reform.

And then finally, on Friday, the President will meet with President Jiang of China. This is the first meeting since -- the first direct meeting, although they've talked -- since the completion of the negotiations of our WTO agreement. And, of course, since the House passed PNTR, which I think those developments are probably the most significant developments in U.S.-China relations since normalization in 1978. This is an opportunity to talk about WTO accession, talk about regional issues such as North Korea, talk about human rights, nonproliferation, U.N. peacekeeping, and assessment reform for which China's support is essential.

So it is a very busy three days, and I think the way to kind of organize it in your own mind, at least the way I've organized it in my mind, is to see these three baskets. We have a U.N. agenda, a U.N. Millennium Summit agenda, we have a Middle East agenda, we have a bilateral agenda, Putin, Jiang, Kim, Sezer. There may be one or two others that we sneak in there somewhere.

Q Sandy, you said that it's time to take stock in the Middle East and you're going to decide whether there's a possibility for progress, where you've had Ross out there, and you've had a lot of conversations, the president has. What are the prospects? Where do things stand?

MR. BERGER: Well, I think we'll know better after these meetings. There has been a lot of discussion. There has been things happening in a number of different arenas. The Egyptians have been active. Chairman Arafat has done a good deal of traveling, and met with European and Arab and Asian leaders. Prime Minister Barak has been assessing -- first of all has had meetings with Mubarak and the Europeans and others.

I think we now -- there are things that the leaders will say to the President, that they won't say to any of the rest of us, so I think it's an opportunity, a timely opportunity, as we enter the beginning of September, I consider to be a very important month, to see whether there is a possibility for forward momentum beyond Camp David, or whether these very difficult decisions remain still where they were.

Q Is the onus on Chairman Arafat to show greater flexibility on the issue of Jerusalem, to press this momentum forward towards a possible convening of another summit?

MR. BERGER: I'm not going to, at this stage, place onuses, which is, I think, an ungrammatic sentence. The President will have very serious conversations with Prime Minister Barak. Prime Minister Barak obviously is deeply committed to making this process work, if he can find an honorable, principled compromise.

I believe Chairman Arafat, I have always believed Chairman Arafat is also interested in an agreement, but there are some very hard decisions that need to be made, and he has to make them in a way that also, for him, are things he can accept as a matter of principle, and he can sell as matters of integrity. So they're tough decisions.

Q If I could follow up. From this very podium, the President said, at the end of the summit, that Barak had been more flexible, had moved farther than Arafat. Is that still the administration position, and doesn't that clearly leave it up to Arafat to move in a distance that he had not at Camp David?

MR. BERGER: Well, what the President said from this podium obviously reflected our view. We've now had two months since Camp David. And I think that no one ever got anywhere in this process by looking backwards. I think our obligation -- our responsibility is to understand where they are and where they're prepared to go, and if they understand the stakes that are involved here at this particular moment in history and we will do everything we can to make sure that they do.

Q Sandy, without placing any onuses, what do you believe Arafat has been hearing from the Arab world regarding further flexibility on Jerusalem? Do you believe that most Arab leaders have been telling him, "Be more flexible," or are they saying, "Atta boy, Yasser, for holding firm"?

MR. BERGER: I don't want to speak for the Arab leaders, and I am sure there is a range of views that he has heard. I think that there would be support for an agreement in the Arab world, but I think that these issues are ones that are highly charged and emotional and difficult, and the challenge is to find a solution in which both sides can say that this was a win/win solution. I believe there are such solutions.

Whether -- there is going to be no agreement if one side is in a position of saying, "they lost; we won." That ain't going to work. Only if both sides are prepared to give some, to make principle compromises and to reach something that says, what we stand to gain here is greater than what we have to lose and the compromises are ones that stand on principle, can we achieve this. This is very, very, very difficult and I don't know whether we can do this. But I think conceptually, the ideas exist for progress if there is the political will to do it.

Q At Camp David, both parties agreed to the importance of avoiding unilateral steps, though neither pledged not to take unilateral steps. Against that background, how important is September 13th right now? And, second, how does Barak avoid a situation, given all the leaders who are going to be at the U.N. this week, how does he avoid a situation where he is, in effect, negotiating with the entire Arab and Muslim world?

MR. BERGER: Well, first of all, September 13th is important and we continue to hope that the parties will avoid unilateral actions which will make a peace agreement impossible. In terms of Prime Minister Barak, his negotiating interlocutor here is Chairman Arafat. He needs to have a meeting of the minds with Chairman Arafat and I don't believe that -- let me say I don't see that happening this week. I think what I hope will happen this week is that we see a distinct way forward.

Q Mr. Berger, if you are planning to sneak in General Musharraf of Pakistan to meet with the President in New York? And also, according to the reports that General Musharraf cannot address the U.N. because at what capacity can he address the U.N.? He's not the president of Pakistan, he is not prime minister, he is not ambassador and he is not foreign mission. Pakistan today has a head of state, a president, they have a foreign minister and they have an ambassador.

MR. BERGER: There is no current plan for a bilateral with Chief Executive Musharraf. Whether -- the President conceivably may see many of these leaders in the to and fro of the days. As to whether he speaks to the plenary, that is a matter for the Secretary General.

Q What will be on the President's agenda when he meets with the Saudi Crown Prince?

MR. BERGER: I think the peace process will be issue number one. I think that obviously the Saudis have an important perspective on this. I'm sure we'll talk about regional issues, such as Iraq, and our expectation that now that there is a Security Council resolution and a UNMOVIC that is becoming organized, that we should, Saddam either should allow them to get on with their business, or that we should just accept the fact that sanctions are going to be on for the indefinite future.

I expect that as is usually the case, they will talk about the energy situation, and mutual interest in a fair balance between production and demand, that creates stability.

Q I know you just referenced this. Can you again say the likelihood that there could be a meeting between Arafat and Barak and the President this week?

MR. BERGER: We have no plans for a trilateral meeting at this stage. My understanding is that Chairman Arafat leaves to go back to meet with the Palestinian Congress on Saturday for purposes of determining what happens on September 13th, so there are constraints here to this thing continuing indefinitely to roll into the weekend.

This is a pretty tight schedule. Over the next three days, the President will basically be engaged in three enterprises at once. The schedule is extremely tight. I haven't mentioned the reception he's giving for all of the leaders, I think on Thursday night, the lunch that Kofi Annan is giving. There are certain built in events that are part of the summit, so I certainly don't rule out anything as possible, but it's not planned.

Q Sandy, are you feeling any better about the Mideast process now, more optimistic now, then you were when Camp David broke up?

MR. BERGER: Well, I think I will be able to answer that question better at the end of the week. I would like to hear from Chairman Arafat on his thinking on some of the really key issues. He has been engaged with a number of leaders. He has met with Dennis on this and others. But I think it's important now what he's prepared to say to the President. I think it is very important for me to evaluate what Prime Minister Barak has to say, both about how he sees this situation unfolding, what he sees the time frame being.

And I am not trying to duck the question. I really think that by the end of the week we will be in a better position to make that judgment. I don't think this is a make or break week. But I think the fact is that unless there is forward progress, unless we see a decisive way forward from this week, I think it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine, in the time frame that I see as realistic, particularly in terms of what is happening in Israel, this gets more and more difficult.

Q What is that time frame? End of October, or --

MR. BERGER: I don't want to speak for the Israelis. The fact is that the Knesset comes back, as you know, at the end of October. At that point, there will clearly be issues raised about the nature of the government and whether there are elections. There are Jewish holidays that begin, I believe, around October 1st, the last day of September. So the next month, I think, is an important month in determining whether -- in seeing whether a breakthrough is possible.

Q But next week is September 13th; how can you say it is not a make or break week?

MR. BERGER: Well, it's an important week.

Q Mr. Berger, do you have any comments -- the ousted Prime Minister of Fiji is blaming the U.S. Ambassador to Fiji for his hand in the Fiji coup, because he says he is not an American national, but Pakistani national?

MR. BERGER: You know, Bruce Riedel, the Senior Director of the NSC for this region, has been following this issue very well and can give a much better answer than I can to that question.

Q Will the President meet with Mr. Khatami at any point during the next few days? And also, my second question was, you mentioned during the speech tomorrow he will talk about the need for more peacekeeping operations. Can you give us any idea of what will be the thrust of the solution that he seeks?

MR. BERGER: Well, it's not so much the need for more peacekeeping operations; there are more peacekeeping operations. We've got Sierra Leone, we have Ethiopia-Eritrea that is emerging. We have East Timor. We still have important, if somewhat more stable, situations in Kosovo and Bosnia. And the Congo looms out there as a very difficult but possible additional enterprise.

So the U.N. is being asked to do more and more in peacekeeping. Now, either we can say that we shouldn't be -- the U.N. shouldn't be engaged in peacekeeping because it doesn't have the capacity to do what it's being asked to do, or we can work to give it the capacity that it needs to do what it's being asked to do.

And I think this is really -- our focus is on both the obligations of the international community with respect to peacemaking and, B -- I say three things. A, the obligations of the international community with respect to peacekeeping; B, the need for us collectively to continue the work that has been done by the Secretary General, which has now been advanced very creatively by Mr. Berhimi in a report. We don't necessarily agree with every word in that report, but the general thrust of it is very much in the right direction. And, three, that unless we also are better organized to deal with the explosive conditions of depravation in some of the developing world, we're just going to see this situation get worse and worse.

If you look at -- and many of you were with us in Africa -- if you look at what AIDS is doing to Africa, it is a prescription for tomorrow's chaos. So, either we deal with that problem now, as the United States has been trying to lead the way in doing -- some countries with 30 percent infectious rates, 40 percent of teachers, economies collapsing -- this is not just a public health issue. We're going to see countries literally collapse unless we can get ahead of that.

And so in all of these areas, we need, as we enter this 21st century, this global -- increasingly globalized world, increasingly interdependent world with technology and problems and opportunities cutting across international borders. We need a stronger U.N., not a weaker U.N.

Thank you.

Q Khatami --

MR. BERGER: Khatami? We have no plans to meet with President Khatami. Obviously, we'll be very interested to hear his remarks. He's speaking at a forum on dialogue among civilizations. This is something we've obviously been supportive of, and have been generally supportive of the effort to -- freedom to the people of Iran.

Thank you.

Q So it is really a three-minute speech? (Laughter.)

END 11:00 A.M. EDT

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