U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #173, 97-12-03
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Wednesday, December 3, 1997
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Background Briefing Thursday on Secretary Albright's trip
1 Background Briefing Friday on Four Party Talks in Geneva
1 Suppression of Independent Newspaper "Svaboda" in Belarus
11-12 Secretary Albright Meeting with Japan FM Obuchi Canceled
Due to Early Departure
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
1-3 Secretary Albright's Trip to Paris and Geneva to Meet
Netanyahu and Arafat/Agenda
2-3,7 Secretary Albright's View on the Level of Progress over
3-4 Possibility of an Albright-Netanyahu-Arafat Meeting
6-7,11 Details on Israeli Cabinet Proposal of Further
4 Safety of American Citizens Traveling Abroad
4-5 Attack on Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul
5 Agreement on NATO Command Structure for the Aegean Sea
5 Update on Pacific Salmon Stakeholders Process
7-8 Update on Extradition Case of Jose Luis del Toro
8 US-Mexico Law Enforcement Cooperation
8 Bill Passed by Lower House Lessening Sentences for Jailed
8 Iranian Attempt to Purchase Nuclear Technology from South
8-9 IMF Economic Stabilization Program
9 Elections Last Weekend
9-11 Status of Cease-fire Between Kurdish Parties in Northern
10-11 US Policy on Iraq
12-13 Dep. Secretary Talbott's Meeting with Dep. FM
Mamedov/Pres. Yeltsin's Announcement of Unilateral Arms
Reduction/Iran as an Agenda Item/Amb. Wisner's
13 Update on Jailed American Citizen Bliss
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 1997, 12:45 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have
two announcements. We will be having a background briefing on the
Secretary's trip to Africa on Thursday; that is tomorrow. And on Friday,
we'll be having a briefing on the four-party talks in Geneva. We will get
you more times on that shortly.
We will be posting a statement expressing our deep concern about a pattern
of behavior in Belarus involving the suppression of free media. As a member
of the OSCE, we are very concerned that freedom of speech and freedom of
the press - these fundamental human rights -- are being infringed upon in
Belarus. But we will have a statement on that after the briefing.
QUESTION: On the Secretary's trip. It's pretty apparent what is being
asked of the Israelis on this trip. Could you say what is being asked of
MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say this. The Secretary will leave Washington
Thursday evening. On Friday, she will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
On Saturday she will meet with Chairman Arafat.
In preparation for these meetings she has spoken at length to both of the
leaders. The purpose of the Secretary's trip will be to continue her
efforts to move the peace process forward and to put it back on track. We
have engaged in an intensive dialogue with both parties on a four-part
agenda that you are all quite familiar with. I emphasize that point to
suggest that these discussions will not simply be about the question of
further re-deployment, because there are three other items in the agenda
that were set forth in New York; including the time out; including the
absolute sine qua non of security; as well as how to get from here to
there on accelerated final status.
So all of those topics will be discussed. Our goal on the further
redeployment is to see a further redeployment soon, one that is significant
and one that is credible. That is a step we consider necessary in order to
start the permanent status negotiations. The Secretary expects to hear
greater detail from Prime Minister Netanyahu on Israel's thinking in this
regard. Obviously, the Israeli Cabinet has made a decision in principle to
move forward. But we will want to get into the specifics. So we will be
delving into that in a very substantive way.
The same range of issues that she discusses with Prime Minister Netanyahu
will be discussed with Chairman Arafat. She will be emphasizing, as she has
in the past, her concerns on the security front, which are ongoing. As you
know, our position has been 100 percent effort means 24 hours a day, seven
days a week, 52 (weeks) a year, and we have some concerns in this regard
what we'll be focusing on.
As far as where it will lead, I can't make that prediction for you until
we've had the meetings. But those will be the topics.
QUESTION: Would you characterize your attitude going into the meetings
towards Israel as one of pressuring them?
MR. RUBIN: No, we don't use that word. I think our view is simple. The
Secretary has said that there ought to be a sense of urgency in the Middle
East by the parties and by everyone who cares about peace in the Middle
East that the time is now for there to be movement on the Middle East peace
process. She has told both leaders in her telephone conversations that 1997
has not been a good year for the Middle East peace process. The first
11 months haven't yielded the kind of progress that all of us hoped for. We
still have one month left, the month of December, and she will be looking
for both parties to do what they can reasonably do to make the tough
decisions so that 1997 can end as a year where the peace process was not
only put back on track, but moved forward.
So we have a sense of urgency. We feel a sense of urgency. We want the
parties to feel a sense of urgency.
QUESTION: Jamie, when the Secretary made her trip to the Middle East, she
left saying she wasn't going to come back merely to tread water.
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: Although she is not going back to the Middle East now, she is
still dealing with those issues. Explain to us why she is not treading
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, I think the answer to the question is contained
in the question itself. She said that she didn't think it was appropriate
for her to go back to the Middle East to tread water. She did not say that
she would not work on the Middle East peace process.
We think it's appropriate, where we see signs of openings that we can
exploit and differences that are narrowing, that meetings at the political
level - Chairman Arafat, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Secretary of
State - are appropriate. But what she was indicating at that time was,
given the range of responsibilities of a Secretary of State, one had to
weigh the amount of time and the extent of time one spent on an issue like
this in the absence of progress.
So she believes that it is appropriate and timely for her to have a meeting
like this on her way to Africa and have meetings with both the political
leaders to see whether 1997 can be made into a year that will not mean -
where it is now - that might involve actual progress.
QUESTION: Jamie, this also comes on the heels of her meetings with them
several weeks ago.
MR. RUBIN: Correct.
QUESTION: Where she had her trip around the world in some respect.
MR. RUBIN: It seemed that way.
QUESTION: What does she hope to - she obviously has a lot of things in
mind, as you said, she's talked to them on the phone about things that she
will discuss with them separately. What would you say she hopes to gain
from these two meetings, which are rather close to the first round that she
had in London with Netanyahu?
MR. RUBIN: Well, after the London and Bern meetings, I think the
Secretary made clear that she did think that there were opportunities that
were emerging for some progress. She felt it was very important to have
private, one-on-one very lengthy discussions with the leaders to see
whether those opportunities could be turned into reality.
With respect to some of the differences, she thought that there was some
narrowing of some of the differences. So the objective again is to exploit
the openings that we believe are there. I think you have seen signs of that
publicly in recent weeks; although we've seen some other signs, as well, in
terms of some of the public discussion of permanent status issues.
So we will have to see. I think going in, she is from Missouri on whether
the further re-deployment can be really implemented. But she thinks it's
appropriate to try.
QUESTION: Jamie, on the time-out issue, have you seen the new reports of
further expansion of settlements? And have you any...?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't know what you are specifically referring
QUESTION: Nine hundred units were announced yesterday.
MR. RUBIN: I can say this. Certainly, the Secretary will raise with the
Prime Minister the issue of the time-out. We feel very strongly that there
is no way to have a successful path to permanent status negotiations, and
certainly no way to have success in those negotiations, if the very issues
that are so sensitive, that are so emotional are being affected by actions
in the meantime.
So she will be making that point and it's certainly our position that
increasing settlement construction now does not help to create the kind of
environment necessary to achieve success in the Middle East peace process.
So that is our view.
QUESTION: Jamie, can you rule out any possible three-way meeting on this
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to rule meetings out on a permanent basis. But
I've heard no planning for such a meeting.
QUESTION: Is there at least an option for her to have a second meeting
with Prime Minister Netanyahu? Maybe on Sunday?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I have tried to answer this question to some of you on
the telephone. Again, I don't want to be in a position of saying no, and
then it changes at the last minute. But in past circumstances we have
scheduled ourselves with an eye towards that; for example, during her trip
to the Middle East. We are not scheduling ourselves with an eye towards
that -- if that made any sense.
QUESTION: In light of recent turmoil overseas, do you think international
travel is safe for Americans this season?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I think that it depends on where you go. There are places
in the world that we have travel warnings on. I will be happy to get you
the different travel warnings. But I think as one of the - frankly, the
important goals of American foreign policy is to help create a world in
which our citizens can travel, can conduct business overseas, and can
communicate with others around the world. We believe the world is not a
less safe place in general. But there are specific problem areas that
we identify in the interest of trying to make sure our citizens have all
the information they need before they travel. I would be happy to get you
those specific --
QUESTION: Would these would be obtainable by American citizens, just
MR. RUBIN: We do have a system by which we provide that through the
Internet and other means. We certainly are always looking for ways to
improve that system. But I can get someone from Consular Affairs to run
through with you what our procedures are and explain how we would go about
QUESTION: Yes, do you have anything --
MR. RUBIN: Welcome back.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. The same I wish also to you. Do you have
anything on the Turkish terrorist attack against the Ecumenical Patriarchate
MR. RUBIN: We understand that yesterday evening an explosive device was
tossed over the wall of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul. The device
landed on the roof of the building and exploded. A patriarchal deacon was
severely injured in the attack. No other injuries were reported. The
Patriarch was not present at the time of the explosion.
I can say that, as far as we know, no one has claimed responsibility for
the explosion. But in our view, we strongly condemn this act of violence,
as we condemn any act of terrorism. Our acting consul general in Istanbul
has visited the injured deacon in the hospital and met with the Patriarch.
We understand that the Turkish Government has condemned this attack. We
also understand that an investigation is being undertaken. We assume that
the Turkish Government will take appropriate security measures for the
protection of the Patriarch.
QUESTION: Have you spoke to the Turkish authorities through this
MR. RUBIN: I'm sure there's been some contact between us and the Turkish
Government. That's probably how I was provided this information.
QUESTION: One more -- the Aegean - along with yesterday's congratulations
of the decision Greece and Turkey to share the air space over the Aegean,
could you please clarify now, if the US considers the Aegean Sea belongs
equally to both countries?
MR. RUBIN: I don't even know how to begin to address that question
without dipping my toe into waters that can't possibly help the situation.
But I can do this.
MR. RUBIN: I can offer to provide you an official view of the United
States Government, for the record, on our view of the Aegean Sea.
QUESTION: Based on this decision by the Turkish --
MR. RUBIN: And whether it has been affected at all, if any, by yesterday's
actions in NATO.
QUESTION: This morning Tim Wirth met with a Canadian official David
Anderson and they talked in large part about Pacific salmon. Anderson said
afterward that he was pretty optimistic that the United States and Canada
might reach some agreement in the next six months. I'm just wondering how
you would assess the prospects for an agreement.
MR. RUBIN: Yes, Minister Anderson met this morning with Under Secretary
for Global Affairs Tim Wirth, and will also have meetings at the Department
of Commerce and the White House.
As the President said in addressing the salmon issue in Vancouver on
November 23rd, the United States is fully committed to the stakeholders
process and believes that it can produce an agreement in good faith. US
Special Representative William Ruckelshaus has been working with his
Canadian counterpart, David Strangway, for several months to secure a
resumption of stakeholder talks. They have held extensive consultations
with industry stakeholders, as well as meetings with the US and Canadian
They are now in the final stages of preparing their recommendations for
restarting the talks and we hope to see them resume as soon as possible on
the basis of those recommendations.
QUESTION: I've got one more question back on the Middle East.
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: You said that she had spoken at length to both leaders. I was
wondering if during those talks the Israelis had put any sort of finer
points on the government's vague decision about re-deployments that was
announced Sunday, I believe.
MR. RUBIN: Right. Well, without getting into the specifics of any
particular conversation, I think we expect that our meetings in Geneva and
Paris will get down into detail on the question of how much and what kind
of further re-deployment will take place.
I can say that some of the floated numbers in the media out of Israel were
obviously too low. Similarly, some of the floated numbers out of the
Palestinian side were obviously unrealistically high. But beyond that, I
don't want to characterize the specific discussions she's had until we've
had a chance to try to work this through, because we do not believe that
public discussion of any specific proposals at this time would increase the
chance that we could actually achieve an agreement.
QUESTION: Can I follow on this?
MR. RUBIN: Please.
QUESTION: What's credible and significant for you, then, if the Israelis'
numbers are low and the Palestinians' are high? What is acceptable to you -
you're going to --
MR. RUBIN: We will know significant, credible and meaningful further re-
deployment when we see it.
QUESTION: Jamie, does it still have to be three stages? Or can it be one
fell swoop? Are you flexible? Is that a flexible point?
MR. RUBIN: What we have said is we intend to stand by our commitment that
the further re-deployment process will be completed no later than the
middle of next year.
Now, what you have to bear in mind as a possibility is that one would
overleap some of the time that was envisaged for Oslo to take place by
accelerating the permanent status and beginning permanent status talks well
before they were envisaged under Oslo and completing them before they were
envisaged. So if that were to happen, the time frame that was previously
envisaged would be different.
But what we are going to look to discuss is what kind of further re-
deployment will be significant enough, credible enough, meaningful enough
so that enough of Oslo can be acted upon prior to the moved-up permanent
status talks that both parties feel that Oslo, the declaration of
principles, the Hebron agreements have been met. But they made a joint
decision to accelerate the pace of the further re-deployment. So it depends
on a lot of factors. But in principle, the timing could be different.
QUESTION: So as long as the parties are satisfied and you can move onto
final status, it's fine? It doesn't have to be the exact modality?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we will have to see. But, yes, the objective here is
there is four parts to our agenda: the further re-deployment, and the
accelerated permanent status, the time-out, and security. If you talk about
the first two parts - the further re-deployment and the accelerated
permanent status - what you are saying is, these are all related. They are
integrated, and one can envisage situations in which a certain kind of
further re-deployment will yield a different kind of pacing for accelerated
QUESTION: Jamie, just to follow up on one of your previous answers, just
so that we are talking about the same numbers. When you were talking about
these floated numbers, I presume that you were talking about the 6 to 8
percent floated by one side and 30 percent floated by the other?
MR. RUBIN: If I start down that path, then I'll end up - because I am
sure some number has been floated by somebody - but we have seen floated
numbers that are obviously too low, and we have seen floated numbers that
are obviously too high. That doesn't mean that one hasn't seen a number
that might, if it were true, not be too low or too high, because there are
so many numbers that have been out there.
QUESTION: You've spoken about the fact that the last 11 months haven't
been particularly successful in terms of moving the peace process forward.
Does that mean that the Secretary sees the end of the year as something of
a deadline by which she wants to see some kind of significant progress?
MR. RUBIN: I think the short answer to that is no. It's not a deadline
other than in the sense that each year, when we all look at our lives and
we say what did we accomplish in a given year, the calendar is a way to
characterize the state of progress. That is why people have resolutions
about what they're going to do next year on December the 31st. Certainly, I
would think that at the end of the year, when she is spending her New
Year's Eve and thinking about what she wants to do next year, she will
take into account what progress there has been made in the Middle
East peace process.
QUESTION: Two questions. Yesterday, Senator Torricelli, his office
mentioned that the Mexican Government has already set the extradition of
del Toro. I just want to know if the State Department has any information
about it. And the second question is, the US Embassy in Mexico announced
yesterday that there's going to be a kind of training for the Mexican
police in Mexico City with the new government of Cuauhtemoc Cardenas. I
just want to know if you have any details about it.
MR. RUBIN: Yes, on the first question, I am not in a position to comment
on that specific meeting and the discussions you are referring to. My
understanding is that the Department of Justice is in the process of
implementing our bilateral extradition treaty formalities on this case. I
would refer you to the Department of Justice to explain the terms and
timelines for such a request.
As far as your second question is concerned, there are numerous cooperative
efforts between Mexican and US law enforcement agencies. What you may be
referring to are published remarks by our charge, regarding a sister city
program between Mexico City and Los Angeles under which three experts from
the Los Angeles Police Department visited Mexico City and gave a seminar on
the protection of tourists. I am not aware and have not been advised of any
specific training, however.
QUESTION: This is on Colombia. Yesterday, the house of representatives in
Colombia approved - changed the law for the time in jail and is going to be
giving breaks to many narco-traffickers. One of the points says 60 - if any
person in jail has already been 60 percent of the time in jail, they just
can actually go free. And that includes narco-traffickers and all those
people involved scandal - in the political scandal with the narco-
traffic. If that goes through, Mr. Botero and Mr. Medina will go free
next week. What is - is there any comment from the State Department
MR. RUBIN: Well, I hesitate to comment on your characterization of what
effects these laws may or may not have. What I'd prefer to do is to get a
statement for the record for you, after analyzing what did occur yesterday
and what effect it would have on our obviously very important interest in
ensuring that we work with countries in Latin America in the fight against
QUESTION: When can - when can that be possible?
MR. RUBIN: Very soon.
QUESTION: There was a report in the past week to the effect that Iran is
trying to get its hands on or purchase parts of South Africa's former
nuclear and missile development programs, and that it may have an inside
track. Does the US - the US obviously has concerns about such material
going to Iran from other countries. Is that a direction that you've looked
MR. RUBIN: Well, that doesn't sound like good news to me. But I have not
heard any specific confirmation of that report. We will try to get you our
views on whether we think that this is a new angle by which Iran is seeking
to obtain weapons of mass destruction. But I have no specific information
QUESTION: Do you have any information on how far they've gotten with the
IMF and South Korea? Will they secure the loan by tomorrow?
MR. RUBIN: What I know is that an agreement on an economic stabilization
package has been reached between the Republic of Korea and the International
Monetary Fund in Seoul.
We commend the Republic of Korea for dealing with it's painful economic
problems in a decisive and constructive manner. The implementation of an
economic stabilization program will ensure a bright economic future for
As far as details on the package are concerned, I would have to refer you
to the IMF and the Koreans. But I can say the United States fully supports
Korea's efforts to stabilize and reform its economy. The Republic of Korea
is an important U.S. ally and an economic partner of the United States, and
we have committed $5 billion in contingent financial support to reinforce
the IMF package. For details on how that contingency funding will
work I would refer to the Treasury Department.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the elections in Honduras? Any
comment on them?
MR. RUBIN: We are supportive of free elections, and we are pleased that
they have been held.
QUESTION: Northern Iraq. Yesterday I asked a question about David Welch -
Assistant Secretary David Welch - meeting with the two Kurdish parties.
MR. RUBIN: The US has been in regular contact with two parties -- the two
factions in this case, the KDP and the PUK -- to solidify a cease-fire and
resume talks aimed at political reconciliation between the two parties.
During our contacts with the KDP and PUK last weekend, the two parties
recommitted themselves to the cease-fire and to efforts to stabilize the
situation in Northern Iraq. They also committed themselves to ensuring that
in areas under their control, no other parties will undertake attacks
across the cease-fire line. No parties should take actions which jeopardize
the ongoing cease-fire or the prospect for resumed political talks. An
enduring cease-fire is the foundation on which the political process is
built. What is important is that the two parties negotiate their differences
at the negotiating table and not try to settle them on the battlefield.
With the ongoing cease-fire efforts, the focus now needs to be on the
resumption of those talks.
As far as the Turkish military involvement in North Iraq is concern, our
policy on Turkish military activities in Northern Iraq is clear. We
recognize Turkey's right to defend its security interests and combat
terrorism launched by the PKK from Northern Iraq. We continue to emphasize
to the Turkish Government that their operations need to be of limited scope
and duration, and that the human rights of the civilian population of
Northern Iraq be scrupulously respected.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - of Iraq. I mean, you're not calling them to
withdrawal and get out.
MR. RUBIN: I think we have been very clear in numerous Security Council
resolutions, which I'm sure you've studied very closely and have voted for
over and over again, endorsing the territorial integrity and sovereignty of
QUESTION: But do you see the presence there as a threat to the --
MR. RUBIN: What we see the issue as is one in which the threat of
terrorism is real, and we recognize the right of Turkey to act, so long as
the operations are limited in scope and duration and take due account for
human rights concerns.
That is not the same thing as calling in to question our long-standing
commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.
QUESTION: When you talk about these contacts with the Iraqis last weekend,
was this David Welch?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't think we normally specify who makes what
contacts, but I do believe --
QUESTION: Actually, often you do.
MR. RUBIN: I didn't say we don't often, I just said we don't normally. I
believe that's correct, yes.
QUESTION: Is this part - I mean, given the crisis with Iraq recently, is
there any attempt by the United States to make a new effort to try to
reinvigorate attempts to get these two together?
MR. RUBIN: I think this has been a long-standing problem in Northern Iraq,
and we have been working very hard to try to ensure that the kind of
factional fighting that yielded the response last Fall does not recur.
We have been operating at the same intensity level throughout this recent
period, as we have in the recent period before that, which is to make sure
we've done all we can to see that the parties in that region understand
it's not in their interest to continue fighting and to draw in outside
influences. So we want to get them back to the negotiating table.
I don't think there was any ramping up of that intensity in the context of
the recent issue in UNSCOM. This has been a long-standing concern of ours;
something that Mr. Welch and other senior officials in the Department work
on regularly. I'm not sure there's any direct linkage, other than that the
issue is taking place in the country of Iraq.
QUESTION: Then more broadly, in following the apparent diffusing of this
crisis with Iraq - latest crisis with Iraq, there have been considerable
criticisms about US policy and the fact that it's too focused on sanctions
and really doesn't try, in a more broad way, to get at the problem of
Saddam. I was wondering if there was any intent on the part of the
Administration to take another look at the policy.
MR. RUBIN: Well, one of the advantages of democracy is that critics will
be critics. There will be some critics who will always want to see a policy
of the United States acting in some dramatic way to unseat the Iraqi
Government. Those critics pop up every time Iraq pops into the newspaper.
So we expect to see those same critics pursuing their same agendas every
time Iraq arises. I am not led to believe that the fact that these
critics are taking their normally critical position has had any critical
impact on our policy.
QUESTION: I just want to ask if this language which you say has been
around for some time, "limited in scope and duration," if you'd like to put
any parameters on that? I mean, is it the end of the year, is it next month,
is it six more months?
MR. RUBIN: We normally try to not do that.
QUESTION: Why am I not surprised?
MR. RUBIN: Back to the Middle East, in the respect of US position, did
Netanyahu go far enough regarding his latest announcements about further re-
MR. RUBIN: Well, we'll have to see. Secretary Albright will be traveling
to Paris to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I'm sure they will get
into great detail on what the substance of the Prime Minister's ideas are.
She will be looking to understand better his thinking on what a further re-
deployment might look like. Based on that conversation, and perhaps further
conversations, we will be in a better position to assess whether it is
indeed credible, meaningful and significant.
QUESTION: Can we just go back to David Welch - those contacts were in the
region? And were the Turks and the Brits involved, as they normally
MR. RUBIN: I believe there have been a series of contacts over many
QUESTION: But the ones last week.
MR. RUBIN: The ones last week I do not believe involved his travel, but I
will check that for you.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary be meeting with Foreign Minister Obuchi
tomorrow, prior to her departure?
MR. RUBIN: No, my understanding is that he will be meeting with Sandy
Berger, the National Security Advisor, and other senior officials at the
Pentagon, because of our basically eliminating two days of the work week to
go to Paris and Geneva. There was some scheduling difficulty.
QUESTION: But he won't meet with anyone here?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know whether he will have a meeting with someone at
the State Department, but he will surely have meetings with very senior
government officials from the United States.
QUESTION: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Georgiy Mamedov, is in
town now for talks with Mr. Strobe Talbott. These are regular consultations
on strategic stability. They used to have them twice a year, or maybe even
more often. Usually they discussed the ABM and START treaties, nonproliferation
and arms control issues. Could you tell us, what are they going to
discuss right now, and specify some topics on their agenda?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think you've quite eloquently laid out the agenda for
the talks, and I wouldn't adjust it at all.
As far as the new element, as you know, there was press reporting yesterday
of President Yeltsin's remarks in Stockholm, and the subsequent remarks by
his spokesman and foreign minister. It appears that President Yeltsin was
stating publicly what we have previously been told privately - that his
willingness to consider reductions in strategic nuclear forces below the
START III levels agreed to at Helsinki; that is, below the 2,000 to 2,500
strategic nuclear warheads for each of the parties.
We would be not in a position to make any final decisions or conclusions or
judgments about what to do on the specifics of START III until, as I said
yesterday, Russia is able to follow through on its ratification of START
II. But that doesn't mean that through these discussions by Deputy
Secretary Talbott and Deputy Foreign Minister Mamedov, there aren't
discussions of what might be and what might work and how one can develop a
process for START III in the event that START II is ratified. So I would
expect that to be part of the agenda.
As you know, we have many topics, in a relationship as multifaceted as we
have with Russia, that we bring up; and I wouldn't be surprised if there
were many other topics.
QUESTION: Will Russia's cooperation with Iran be on that agenda, as
MR. RUBIN: I would be surprised if it were not.
QUESTION: Would you say that's the main topic, or is that putting too
fine a point on it?
MR. RUBIN: That would be putting too fine a point on it. Thank you for
QUESTION: Will Ambassador Wisner be participating in any of these?
MR. RUBIN: I will have to check on his current whereabouts. I don't
believe that is normally the way it's done. Normally what happens is there
is a separate channel between Ambassador Wisner and a counterpart in Russia
by which they talk about these things, and then report back to deputy
foreign ministers and foreign ministers who then raise these issues. That
normally doesn't require the presence of Ambassador Wisner at a meeting
between two deputy foreign ministers.
QUESTION: On Russia, anything new on the spy case?
MR. RUBIN: Nothing new.
QUESTION: His family seems fairly confident that he's going to be
released. Is there any indication that --
MR. RUBIN: I don't have any - I hope to have new information for you
(The briefing concluded at 1:15 P.M.)