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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #159, 97-11-04

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


Tuesday, November 4 , 1997

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1-4		Secretary Albright's Statement on New Economic Sanctions
		  Against Government of Sudan
1-2		Consultations with Congress/Allies re Sanctions
2-3		Effect of Sanctions re Human Rights/Religious Rights/People
		  of Sudan

IRAQ 4 Reports of Iraqi Military Build-up 4 Arrival of UN Delegation Team in Baghdad/Purpose and Mission 5,6 Saddam Hussein's Threat to Shoot Down U-2 Aircraft 5-6 UN Secretary General's Request to Iraq re UN Delegation 6 Authority/Approval for Possible Military Option 6 Saddam Hussein's Actions/Motivation 7-8 US Policy Toward Iraq 8 US Contacts with Other Governments re Iraq

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 8-9 Secretary Albright and Dennis Ross' Meetings with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy and Palestinian Authority Negotiator Abu Mazen 8,9 Palestinians Sending Additional Experts for Discussions 10 Secretary Albright's Meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Mordechai 10-11 Delegations to the Doha Summit/Secretary's Attendance 11 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's Visit to US Next Month

RUSSIA 10 Reported Incident with Russian Ambassador in New York/Russian Protest

GREECE/TURKEY 11 Meeting of Two Prime Ministers in Crete


DPB #159

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 1997, 12:35 P.M


MR. RUBIN: Before we get to our other subjects, if you have any questions on the Sudan subject, we can start with that.

QUESTION: Does this obviate any need for further congressional action, because Congress was considering tougher sanctions? And does the US suspect that Sudan, the government, I mean, had anything to do with attempts on President Mubarak's life?

MR. RUBIN: The answer to your first question is, we have been consulting with Congress extensively on various aspects of its views on what ought to be done with respect to Sudan. We have consulted with Congress in the last day or so about this particular decision of President Clinton that Secretary Albright just announced, and one gets the impression that this is receiving widespread support on Capitol Hill.

We tend to not, as a matter of practice, support sanctions put in place by Capitol Hill because of the fact that they normally lack flexibility. So it would be hard to say that now we don't need the legislation passed, because I doubt we would have necessarily supported particular pieces of legislation, unless they had the necessary waivers. So we hope that as a result of the consultations we've had, and as members of Congress see the sweeping nature of these sanctions, that it won't be necessary for them to pursue any further legislation.

QUESTION: And on President Mubarak's -

MR. RUBIN: At the time that we were considering ramping up sanctions in New York, it was very clearly stated that we believe that Sudanese officials were aiding and assisting the people responsible for the assassination attempt against President Mubarak. Indeed, the Security Council resolution specifically states that they need to provide access to the three suspects in that case.

QUESTION: Jamie, two questions. First, would you like to see some of your allies, particularly those in the region, join in this effort? Did you attempt to do this through the United Nations at any point? And secondarily, what does this mean for the notion of re-staffing the Embassy in Khartoum?

MR. RUBIN: The answer to the first question is, we've been consulting with our allies extensively in recent months, going back to longer than a year ago; and obviously we have not achieved the kind of unanimous and widespread support in the United Nations for a toughened stance against Sudan. We would like to achieve greater support from other countries around the world in putting the squeeze on those countries that support terrorism and have abysmal records in the area of human rights and religious tolerance, like Sudan does; but we haven't received as much support as we would like.

We have now imposed our decision. I believe this decision has been communicated to countries in the surrounding area, the countries around Sudan, and many of our allies on the Security Council. And yes, we'd like to see the maximum amount of support for sanctions like this, because I think we recognize that, at the end of the day, the success of a sanctions regime is partially determined on the extent to which more and more countries support it.

But we believe this is important enough for us to take these unilateral, sweeping measures alone. And hopefully, this will be the harbinger of additional action by other countries. But we have no assurance of that, and that's why we're taking these actions alone.

As far as the question of the diplomats are concerned, we've made no decision on that. If that decision moves forward, we'll try to communicate it to you as effectively as possible.

QUESTION: What practical effect do you think this will have on the Christians in Sudan who say they are suffering from extreme persecution and terrorism?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it's certainly our hope that the Sudanese Government will get the message; that they will see that their practices in the area of human rights, their practices in the area of religious rights are one of the reasons why President Clinton has taken this sweeping decision; and they will improve the lives of people there, and limit the effect on human rights of the people of Sudan; and equally important, convince the Sudanese Government to stop its assistance of those terrorist organizations who have been based either in Sudan or received the aid and comfort of the Sudanese Government.

QUESTION: You made some reference to congressional actions don't usually have the flexibility that you want. While these are hard and sweeping, is there also built in some --

MR. RUBIN: As the Secretary indicated, for example, there will be a licensing mechanism by which we can make exceptions. It is not the intention of the Administration to unduly impact US economic interests, for example, in certain specific commodities. We will consider issuing licenses on a case-by-case basis to allow for continuation of some limited activities important to us. For example, there's a product galled Gum Arabic, a large portion of which is found in Sudan, and that might be a case where we would need to look at it.

QUESTION: One more thing. With all due respect, her caveat that we're not aiming at the people, of course you're not. But I've never known a case where sanctions didn't impact on poor people, because rich people have a way of taking care of themselves. How are you going to shield the poor people of Sudan from the brunt of these sanctions?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we have provided over the years $650 million in humanitarian assistance to war-affected Sudanese civilians. So we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance; we will continue to allow humanitarian exceptions to any number of activities. That's normally the way we do business because our objective, to the extent possible, is to squeeze the regime and not harm the people. That doesn't mean that it always works perfectly. But we try to build in exceptions, build in ways in which we can eliminate the impact or ease the impact.

QUESTION: New subject - Iraq.

QUESTION: I have one more follow-up. Again, on my question, do you think the Christians are in greater danger because of these sanctions?

MR. RUBIN: No, we don't - if we thought we were putting them in greater danger, we wouldn't have imposed the sanctions.

QUESTION: Can I do another one on Sudan? What is the difference between what this new executive order will put into place and what was existing prior?

MR. RUBIN: We're going to have a background briefing at about 3:00 p.m. this afternoon to go into some of the details on this. I guess the short answer - and I do have an answer here somewhere, but I have so many pieces of paper, I fear I am not going to get to it quickly.

The pre-existing measures restrict US exports to Sudan, control some incoming financial transactions from the Sudanese Government and limit visa issuance to Sudanese officials. The sanctions announced today are based on a range of policies of the Sudanese Government. They make comprehensive the ban on exports to Sudan, and impose a total ban on imports from Sudan, and prohibit US investment in Sudan.

So the comprehensiveness has been increased. As far as a specific answer to your question at a detailed level, I hope to be able to provide that at 3:00 p.m.

QUESTION: Do you have any numbers on the trade levels?

MR. RUBIN: I do have some numbers on the trade levels. Our rough estimate at this point is that there is some $70 million in total trade between the United States and Sudan, which occurred last year; of which about $50 million were the US exports.

QUESTION: One more - the Secretary said that the government assets would be blocked. Do you know how much --

MR. RUBIN: We'll try to get you that information at 3:00 p.m.

QUESTION: The second question is, the United Nations two years ago, when they tried to impose sanctions on Sudan, they made a study about the impact on people.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: They discovered they cannot impose sanctions on Sudan because of the humanitarian issue. It's going to make Sudan more impoverished. Did you look into that before you made this decision?

MR. RUBIN: I think I tried to answer that question. We don't agree with the study that you can't impose sanctions on Sudan without having that kind of overwhelming impact on the people. We believe that if it's done right, you can minimize the impact on the people; provide humanitarian assistance; allow for humanitarian exceptions; and still get the message across to the government of Sudan, which has conducted and supported such heinous positions as supporting terrorism and threatening the human rights of its people and imposing religious intolerance.

QUESTION: Can we do one more on Sudan? Correct me if I'm wrong. Wasn't an exception granted recently for some sort of American oil investment in Sudan? And if --

MR. RUBIN: I remember the case you're referring to, and let me try to get you an answer on that. I don't think it's quite that simple, but I will try to get you an answer.

QUESTION: On Iraq, Saddam Hussein has renewed his threat to shoot down any U-2 planes. There is, according to many reports, considerable evidence of a military build-up there. Just wondering whether you have any response to that and to the continuing expulsion of the inspection team.

MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, I'm not going to be in a position to characterize the specific Iraqi military posture. I would leave that to the Pentagon.

The three envoys - Ambassador Brahimi, Eliasson and Cardenas, will arrive in Baghdad by tomorrow morning. We are expecting they will likely remain there until Friday or Saturday. They are due to report back to the Security Council next Monday.

The mandate of the group is clear. The UN delegation will send a message, transmit a message. The message is that Iraq must comply with the United Nations, and that its unacceptable decisions on UNSCOM will not be permitted to stand.

The group is traveling to Baghdad to impress upon Saddam the need to comply immediately with UN Security Council resolutions. Let's bear in mind, the UN didn't create this problem; Iraq created this problem. Iraq can solve it by allowing the UN to do its job. We're not looking for confrontation; we're looking for compliance. That is what the Security Council is looking for here.

As far as the threat to shoot down the U-2 aircraft is concerned, let me remind you this is a UN flight, and it would be an irresponsible escalation just to threaten to shoot it down, and it would be even more irresponsible, more dangerous, to actually do so.

As I think we've made clear, it is Iraq that bears the responsibility for the safety and security of UN personnel, and we will hold Iraq to that responsibility. We have said many times before that we're not going to rule any option out here. I think in the case of an Iraqi attack on the U-2, that would be a very serious mistake on Saddam Hussein's part.

QUESTION: Jamie, if I could, what about Kofi Annan's request to Iraq that they not make any move until at least the arrival of this UN delegation?

MR. RUBIN: Well, as you know, the Iraqi Government has indicated that Wednesday, tomorrow, is the day by which they want all Americans to leave. What decisions Ambassador Butler, on behalf of the UN Special Commission, makes will be up to him to make.

I think Secretary General Annan was just stating the obvious point of hospitality, going back thousands of years in traditions all around the world. If they are going to be engaged in a mission to try to change his mind, that would be a particularly egregious act to kick the people out just as - or try to kick the people out just as the mission was arriving.

So we certainly hope that Saddam Hussein doesn't break that kind of diplomatic convention, but it's hard to know what he will do. Our view is very simple -- he should never have made this threat; he should stop imposing threats on the personnel of the United Nations, on the practices of the United Nations, on the equipment of the United Nations; and he should let the United Nations do its job.

QUESTION: Jamie, can you just update us on what contacts the Secretary may have had with Russia, France, or any of the other allies?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have any new information on that. I can give that to you a little later.

QUESTION: To follow-up on Andrea's last question about Kofi Annan's call to the Iraqi Government, asking about the extension and begging him to do the diplomatic thing and allow the team, the envoy, to meet with them, is this - some might surmise that the Secretary General was, in some ways, encouraging his behavior and bargaining with him as though he was a legitimate person in his reaction to the rules and breaking the rules the UN has placed on him.

MR. RUBIN: We don't see it that way. The Secretary General is trying to convince Saddam Hussein to do the right thing. He's made a serious miscalculation. He has suggested that he can pick and choose which inspectors do the job for the United Nations. The Secretary General of the UN has made very clear, his spokesman did yesterday, this is not a negotiating session; this is delivering a message.

As Secretary General Annan apparently said in a phone call today, it would be particularly egregious behavior for them not even to receive the messengers before they began to take action in the specific area that the messengers are coming to talk about.

QUESTION: It may seem like an obvious question, but is the United States prepared to do what it has to do to protect its pilots and its equipment over Iraq?

MR. RUBIN: The United States believes it would be a serious mistake for Iraq to shoot down this plane. I'm not going to speculate on what we will or won't do if he makes that kind of serious mistake.

QUESTION: The French have said that they believe that the US must get approval from the UN before there is any sort of military air strike, which you seem to be hinting at, were things to escalate. Do you agree with the French assessment - that the US or any other country needs to seek Security Council permission before there were any sort of military action?

MR. RUBIN: Yesterday we went around and around on this subject of the difference between technical legal authority and the policy. I made very clear that it's our policy that if this mission doesn't succeed, and we have two decision points coming - first is tomorrow, whether they kick out the inspectors or try to have them removed, even though the mission is just arriving. We have next Monday, when the mission will return and report its findings to the Security Council. At that point, it is the policy of the United States that if Saddam Hussein has not changed his mind, if he hasn't accepted the will of the international community and doesn't allow the UN to do its job, the Security Council should take firm action.

That is our policy. As far as what our technical legal analysis of what our options are, and the fact that we haven't ruled any options out, I think you're familiar with what I said yesterday. And there's no need to really go back over it, unless you really want to.

QUESTION: Jamie, some observers of this latest confrontation suggest that Saddam Hussein is actually getting some mileage out of this. He has effectively halted the weapons inspections, even if it is temporary. He has managed to bring greater international scrutiny on the former Gulf War Alliance, and expose some differences of opinion and strategy towards Iraq. And he's managing to do all this and it's unclear at what cost. How would you respond to that?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I'm always puzzled and stunned when people say that -- when the whole world has decided that Saddam Hussein is behaving like an international outlaw, that he's a pariah in his part of the world, that he is even farther from the day that sanctions will be lifted, even farther from the day that he'll be accepted by the international community, when his army was defeated in war, his weapons of mass destruction, many thousands and thousands of tons of agents and particular types of weapons have been destroyed, his country is under the most comprehensive sanctions in the history of the world - that somehow he's winning.

I've never understood this logic. It seems to be logic more to make the commentator seem important than to justify the position.

QUESTION: Nizar Hamdun, the Iraqi Ambassador, said that the Americans are dragging their feet to prolong these sanctions, and Tariq Aziz, the Vice Prime Minister of Iraq, said that the United States' real aim is to overthrow the national regime of Iraq. Is that your aim, and why don't you state it, if so? And are you aware, when you plan your policy, that the alliance, especially in the Arab world streets, is not really accepting or taking well the use of force when it is only a barring of several weapons inspectors?

MR. RUBIN: I think we have stated very clearly our policy towards Iraq over the last five years, and let me restate it for you today. Our policy is to compel Saddam Hussein to live up to the resolutions the whole world has voted for, the whole world has supported. Those are the UN Security Council resolutions. There are a number of requirements in those resolutions, which all of you are familiar with.

That is not an American position; that's the position of the entire world. Countries from the Arab world, countries from Europe, countries from Africa, countries from Asia, they have all united in unanimous resolutions demanding that Saddam Hussein's Iraq accept the norms of international behavior and accept the work of the Special Commission.

It is not the United States that is prolonging the work of the Special Commission. As we can see from what's happened in the last week, Saddam Hussein has refused to allow the Special Commission to do its work. And if the Special Commission can't do its work, I don't see how it can be any one country's fault that sanctions are still on. It can only be Saddam Hussein's fault.

As far as the question of the use of force is concerned, we are not at a stage where we are seeking the opinion of governments around the world on the wisdom of that option. If we get to that stage, we'll obviously take into account concerns of relevant countries. But at the end of the day, Saddam Hussein is a threat to the international community.

It was the United States that responded to that threat the last time. Many of the other countries involved never would have had us eject his forces from Kuwait, if they had had their opinion. But I think at the end of the day, after the work was done, the whole world realized that it was the right thing to do to remove him from Kuwait. If the United States sees that its security interests are threatened, it will do what's necessary to defend those interests.

QUESTION: Is the right way to remove him from power in Iraq, too? Is that the American policy, to remove Saddam Hussein from power?

MR. RUBIN: We certainly would shed no tears if a cruel dictator like Saddam Hussein left power. But it's our view that the government of Iraq needs to comply with the resolutions of the Security Council.

We're not optimistic that this kind of a leader could see himself clear to meeting the standards of the international community. The evidence is to the contrary. The evidence is that this is not a man who has peaceful intentions, as required by the international community's resolutions. But our position is that Iraq must comply with these resolutions.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to the Jordanians about what's going on with Iraq? And if so, can you characterize their support --

MR. RUBIN: I will have to leave that to the Jordanians at this time. I'm sure we've had discussions with them in the recent day or two about this incident, and over the last week. But let me see if I can get you something for the record.

QUESTION: Do you feel that it would be appropriate for Jordan now to cut its trade with Iraq?

MR. RUBIN: We don't believe that any country should be trading with Iraq, pursuant to sanctions. There are some special considerations that have long been in effect, with regard to Jordan. And I'm not aware that any of those special considerations are being rethought in the current environment.

QUESTION: On another subject, do you have a read-out from today's talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians?

MR. RUBIN: I do know that they began at 11:00 a.m.; that there was a trilateral meeting last night between Foreign Minister Levy, Abu Mazen and Dennis Ross. They began meeting at 11:00 a.m. - I don't have a report about what happened in the last two hours.

As a result of yesterday's discussions, however, the Palestinians are sending additional experts to assist those here on issues related to the various interim committees. The goal of these discussions is to deal both with those narrow issues related to the seaport, the airport, the industrial park, as well as the famous four-part agenda, which I will not repeat for you again.

They began discussing that four-part agenda. We want to get down to work. We expect the talks to last at least several days. When we have more to report, we will do so.

QUESTION: What part - (inaudible) --

MR. RUBIN: Sorry?

QUESTION: What part of the agenda did they take up first?

MR. RUBIN: I think in one context or another, they've surely touched on all four points.

QUESTION: Have you been able, as the mediator, to set a schedule for taking up issues? A work schedule for yourselves - for the talks?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have any information on a specific agenda item for the next several days. I know that we won't be able to get to some of the meaty issues related to the airport and the seaport until those additional people get here. We're expecting, I think, them to come tomorrow.

QUESTION: One other thing -- the Prime Minister of Israel has again spoken out strongly on what he sees as a security problem; most specifically what he calls a "revolving door." You've heard the phrase before; that despite US best efforts, terrorist suspects are taken in and then released by the Palestinian Authority.

When you hear this type of statement by the Prime Minister, it usually suggests that he's not too willing to move on other fronts because he's concerned about security. Has this come up in the talks? Do you get any sense that Israel is still apprehensive about making some of the concessions you ask them to make, because they're fearful of security lapses?

MR. RUBIN: Let me start by saying that we fully share Prime Minister Netanyahu's concern about the importance of security to this process. It's a sine qua non of a successful peace process.

As far as whether those comments indicate that these talks cannot succeed, we have no reason to think that Foreign Minister Levy is not in a position to negotiate; on the contrary, he has assured us he is in a position to negotiate. If he approaches those negotiations seriously, and if the Palestinian Authority approaches the negotiations seriously, we will certainly push hard to try to make some progress.

So the short answer is, I don't believe that the comments that you're referring to cast any greater doubt on the prospect of success for these discussions.

QUESTION: To use your lexicon, do you think Arafat is now giving 100 percent effort on the security front?

MR. RUBIN: As far as I know, we still think he is working very hard on this process. 100 percent effort, however, is something you can only judge over time. I am not aware of a specific problem. That doesn't mean they haven't existed - they just haven't informed me about it. So let me get you an official answer for the record.

QUESTION: Jamie, my understanding is the Palestinians are sending a three- man delegation tomorrow. I might be wrong. My understanding, also, is that the Israelis have about 14 members in their delegation. Would that satisfy the American Administration of full participation of the Palestinians in these talks?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we will have to see when they get here whether they're in a position to engage in the necessary work to do the job. But certainly it's better to have them here than not have them here.

QUESTION: One reason that they brought - the Palestinians are saying one reason they came with only three people is because of disagreement over the agenda. They want to put emphasis on the redeployment and settlements. Do you think that by accepting to present two more people for the airport and the, I think, safe passage - does this solve the problem in your mind of the agenda - of the disagreement on the agenda?

And the second question is, do you think these talks will be one of the issues that Mr. Mordechai will discuss with the Secretary this afternoon?

MR. RUBIN: I'm sure that peace in the Middle East and these discussions - peace with the Palestinians - will come up in the meeting between Defense Minister Mordechai and Secretary Albright.

As far as whether the subject of - we're not interested in making a procedural scorecard each day as to whether the procedural problems have been resolved, or the agenda differences as described by the different participants are resolved. What we're interested in is making progress.

When these additional officials get here, if their presence contributes to progress and the work of the Israeli Government contributes to progress, we will then report on the progress. If the work of the different officials does not yield progress, and we have a view as to why, I suspect we'll be telling you why. So at this point, we don't see the value of getting into a procedural scorecard.

QUESTION: Do you have a response to the Russian protest about the incident with their ambassador in New York, where his car was broken into by a cop, by a local cop?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have an answer for that, but I'll get you one for the record as soon as possible.

QUESTION: On the Middle East, the Abu Dhabi Government official minister concerned with the Doha Conference has said that they're not going to attend unless there is progress. You are using the word progress quite liberally here. Are you going to declare progress regardless, in order to help the Doha Summit, come next Monday?


QUESTION: Not to take you through the scorecard, but a while ago, you had some specifics - who might come, who wasn't, what kind of level --

MR. RUBIN: We'll try to get you a detailed list.

QUESTION: It might be changing.

MR. RUBIN: Assistant Secretary Indyk is discussing this issue in the region with various officials. He's had good discussions with regional leaders on this. Not all states have decided yet on attending the conference. We are continuing our discussions with them.

As you know, Secretary Albright intends to lead the delegation. We're certainly not going to sugar-coat the Middle East peace process in the interest of improving the chances of the conference. For those of you who've traveled with Secretary Albright and watched her talk about this subject, I assume you would know that that's not her pattern.

QUESTION: Is Indyk going to Syria as part of this survey?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know his agenda, but I'll try to get you an answer on that question.

QUESTION: Do you have a read-out of the re-assessment that was sent to North Korea?

MR. RUBIN: I don't believe they're quite back yet. As soon as they do come back, we'll be giving you further detail.

QUESTION: Do you have a reaction on the meeting yesterday during the summit in Crete, between the Prime Ministers of Greece and Turkey?

MR. RUBIN: I do have a readout of that meeting. We understand the meeting was constructive and beneficial. The two sides reiterated their commitment to reducing tensions in the Aegean and working toward the resolution of bilateral problems.

We were pleased that the two prime ministers had the opportunity to discuss bilateral issues. Much concrete work remains to be done if we're going to achieve results, and we will continue to work closely with our Greek and Turkish allies to support their resolution of the issues which separate them.

QUESTION: Two days ago, Assistant Secretary Davidow announced in the Senate that the State Department is preparing some meetings between the President of Mexico and leaders on the Hill. I just want to know if you have any idea with whom President Zedillo is going to meet in Congress. He talked about the chairmen of the committees, and I want to know if they are trying to set up a meeting with Senator Helms.

MR. RUBIN: I do not have his schedule, and I'll try to get that information for you.

QUESTION: I'd like to go back to the Middle East for a quick second. There are some stories out of Israel in the last day or two about the United States - about President Clinton refusing to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he's here later this month. Can you address that in any way?

MR. RUBIN: I think you'd have to address that question to the White House about the President's schedule for meetings.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:15 P.M.)

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