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Public Papers - 1992 - June

Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With President Boris Yeltsin of Russia

1992-06-16

POW - MIA's

Q. Mr. President, do you think there are any POW's in the Soviet Union, Americans? This to President Bush first and then Yeltsin.

President Yeltsin. It is possible.

Q. Are they alive?

President Yeltsin. An investigating commission is working, led by Mr. Volkogonov. Many things have been revealed after the examination of the archives of the KGB and the Central Committee of the Communist Party. But that work is continuing both in the archives and in the places where the POW's were. We shall try to investigate each individual case. And all the information will be, of course, handed over to the American side. The initial information has been handed over to the Senate.

Q. Would you expect more information this week?

President Bush. Let me just thank President Yeltsin for this because this is a matter of grave concern to the American people. He has made these observations, pledged full cooperation and support. I think this really expresses as well as anything else this new era that we were both talking about on the lawn. And I have every confidence that what he says here is true, that they will get to the bottom of it. And if any single American is unaccounted for, they will go the extra mile to see that that person is accounted for. And I think that's what the American people need to know. I think that's what President Yeltsin has clearly pledged to do. So we are grateful to him for that.

Q. Does it come as a complete surprise to you, Mr. President?

President Bush. Yes, it comes as a -- --

Q. You had no idea?

President Bush. Thank you all very much.

Q. Have you got an arms agreement yet?

President Bush. Out of here, Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International].

[At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group entered.]

Q. -- -- additional information on the American POW's.

President Yeltsin. As I just answered that question.

Q. We were behind the doors.

President Yeltsin. The commission headed by Volkogonov was working and is continuing to work, and they're opening up all the data. If they said this issue doesn't exist, that there are no POW's there now, there are a lot of factors being opened up and discovered. And it's very possible that there are a few of them still left alive, even on our own territory perhaps. So the commission is continuing its work, and we are going to carry this all the way to the very ground to find out the fate of every single last American who might be on our territory.

Q. How much time will that require? What new ideas and projects were you talking about in your opening statement?

President Yeltsin. That's ahead. That's for our negotiations.

Nuclear Arms Agreement

Q. Boris Nikolayevich, tell us please, and you, Mr. Bush, both agree that the program is very, very intense, a lot on the plate, 20 different issues. What are you going to be concentrating your attention on with Mr. Bush?

President Yeltsin. First of all, national security and deep cuts in nuclear arms. As a matter of fact, up until now we have not yet finalized this issue, but we have met with the President and with our delegations, of course, and the Secretaries of State and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to sit down and finalize this today. And I'm sure that we will find a solution, and we shall sign a balanced, equal agreement. I'm sure of that.

Q. Do you think you will be able to announce a new arms control agreement by the end of the day?

President Bush. As soon as you get out of here, we're going to talk about it.

Thank you all.

Note: The exchange began at 10:35 a.m. in the Oval Office. President Yeltsin spoke in Russian, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

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