Following are excepts from President Carter's comments on some of the issues raised at yesterday's press conference. South Africa A-Bomb
[I]n response to our own direct inquiry and that of other nations, South Africa has informed us that they do not have and do not intend to develop neclear expolive devices for any purpose, either peaceful or as a weapon, that the kalahari test test site which has been in question is not designed for use to test nuclear explosives, and that no nuclear explosive test will be taken in South Africa now on or in the future.
We appreciate this commitment from South Africa and this information. We will, of course, continue to monitor the situation there very closely. We will also renew our efforts to encourage South Africa to place all [its] nuclear power production capabilities under international safeguards and inspections and encourages them along with other nations to sign a nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Panama Canal
. . . [W]e have become interested after the original discussions were concluded in assuring that some definite commitment be made about a possible future development of a sea-level canal. As you know, the existing canal facilities cannot be used for large warships or cargo ships, and if it becomes necessary in the future for a sea level canal to be constructed, we want to be sure that we have an opportunity to be involved directly in this construction and not have some possible hostile nation supplant us with our influence in the canal area.
We have asked Panama for this assurance and this will be part of the treaties that we will sign, that if any sea-level canal or modification of the present canal is concluded, that we will be part of it if we choose and also in return that any sea-level canal to be built during the terms of the treaty will be built in Panama . . .
. . . We expect to conclude the drafting of the detailed language in the next few days, but they have to be compared to be sure that the Spanish text and the English text are compatible and that all the elements have been expressed in legal and proper language.
As soon as that is done, the text of the treaty will be released to the members of Congress and also to the American people and the news media. At this time we are going on a fairly detailed expression of principles [WORD ILLEGIBLE] will be the basis for the treay [WORD ILLEGIBLE] and that set of principles in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] minute detail has already been [WORD ILLEGIBLE] .[WORD ILLEGIBLE] there has been a great deal [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] about what is being [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] in Panama, which may be [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the support for the Panama [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] at this point . . . [WORD ILLEGIBLE] obviously there are some who [WORD ILLEGIBLE] fully informed who just don't want to make any change in the present terms concerning the operation of the treaty. I wouldn't want to say anyone who disagrees with me is ignorant, but I believe that the way to arouse public support for the treaty is to let the American people know the advantages to our country of its terms.
I am convinced that it is advantageous. I was not convinced of this fact, say, a year ago. But I think that the terms that we hope to achieve in our negotiations for the benefit of our country have all been achieved . . .
. . . It is obvious to me over a period of time the Panama Canal in its origninal conformation has become inadequate. I think in the last 12 months only four of five Navy warships have been through the canal at all. Any large ship. an aircraft carrier. for instance, would have to go around the southern area of South America.
Standard oil tankers that would bring oil, say, from Alaska, to the Gulf Coast area, or the Atlantic area, could not possibly go through the Panama canal. That oil it transported through the canal, would have to be aff-loaded into small, lighter ships and taken through the canal and taken to, say, New Orleans or some other Gulf Coast port.
Over a period of time I think that the canal needs to be expanded. I think it is premature now, though, for me to decide whether a sea-level canal would be advocated or whether an expansion of the present canal facilities would be best. There has been a very elaborate study made of this, I think concluded only a year or two ago, and, I think, initiated when President Johnson was in office, to show that if a sea-level canal was needed, that it ought to be placed in Panama. That was before we had the additional opportunity to haul Alaskan oil and natural gas through we had the additional opportunity to haul Alaskan oil and natural gas through the canal. So that is an option for the future. I just want to be sure that we don't foreclose the option, if a sea-level anal would be advocated or whether an expansion of the present canal facilities would be best. There has been a very elaborate study made of this. I think concluded only a year or two ago, and I think, initiated when President Johnson was in office, to show that if a sea-level canal was needed, that it ought to be placed in Panama. That was before we had the additional opportunity to haul Alaskan oil and natural gas through the canal. So that is an option for the future. I just want to be sure that we don't foreclose the option, if a sea-level canal. So that is an option for the future. I just want to be sure that we don't foreclose the option, if a sea-level canal is built, of our nation playing a role in it, in harmony with and in partnership with Panama.
But whether we need it at this time. I doubt; in the future I think we will. Bert Lance
. . . I don't know the details of Bert's relationship with the Colhoun National Bank where the overdrafts did occur. But my information, as derived from the comptroller's report is that in his won private accounts, that of himself and other members of his family, plus a certificate of deposit which I think was in excess of $100,000, there was almost always a surplus amount of money on hand: also that there was an agreement between not only Bert Lance but the customers of the bank as a general policy that if you had more than one bank account and you were overdrawn in one but had more than enough money to cover that overdraft in other accounts, this was accepted by the bank and the checks were honored. This is a common practice in a small or country bank. That is no excuse for an overdrawn account.
I think it is accurate to say that on one occasion when this did not apply, that the money was paid back very quickly, that interest was paid on the overdraft and it was handled in a completely normal way as it would have had I been the person who had overdrawn the account.
I have spent a great deal of time charges or allegations against Bert trying to become acquainted with the Lance. It means a lot to him: it means a lot to me personally as a friend of his. It means a lot to me as a President, responsible for the integrity and reputation not only of my Cabinet officers but to myself. I don't know of any allegation that Bert Lance did anything illegal or even unethical.
Now I think there are some possibilities that have been revealed in the practices of personal loans by bank officials from correspondent banks that might be changed in the future. But at the time these personal loans were made with correspondent banks - and I understand from one of the periodicals this is done woth 93 per cent of the correspondent banks and bank officials throughout the country - it may have been advisable for Bert and all others like him several years ago to make those loans public. That was not required. At the time that Mr. Lance ran for governor in 1974, at the time Bert Lance submitted his name for approval by the Senate committee for OMB Director, he made a public statement of his debts owed and his net worth and how the debts were secured, I think it is obvious that he complied withnot only the law and the ethics required, but common loan practices among that bank officers.
Now, it may be, as I say, as a result of these investigations that sticker requirements should be implemented by law and also by the comptroller in his standard operating procedures, but I don't know of anything either illegal or unethical, even, that Bert Lance has ever done.[A reporter asked, "Mr. President do you think the American taxpayer has reason to question the competence of a man in charge of the federal budget who after he has taken that job wrote seven overdrafts on his own account?"]
I didn't know - you are referring to Mr. Lance?
[Reporter: "To the comptroller's report."]
I see. Well, obviously it is better not to write overdrafts. [Laughter]
I can't deny that I have written overdrafts on my own bank accounts on occasion and so has my wife, not deliberately, but because of an error or because of higher priorities that were assigned to other responsibilities that I had at the time. I think that there is no doubt that Bert Lance is one of the more competent and intelligent people that I have ever known in my life.
I realized eight or nine months ago, and I still realize, that the management of the Office of Management and Budget is one of the crucial assignments that will determine the success or failure or my own Administration. I cast about in my own Administration. I cast about in my mind about who, among all those that I knew or knew about, would more competently fill that position.
My choice, without any competition. I might say, was Bert Lance. I still have than much faith in his honesty and his competence and the fact that he has had overdrafts, I think, is obviously better had he not had them, but it is no reflection on his basic judgment or competence.