U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #174, 97-12-04
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
Thursday, December 4, 1997
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Background Briefing Today on Secretary Albright's Trip to
1 Representations Made for Burial of Ambassador Lawrence at
2-3 Secretary Albright's Meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister
3-5 Status of Detained American Richard Bliss
5-6 President Yeltsin's Comments on Troop Cuts
6-7 US-Cuba Migration Talks
7 Hunger Strike by Human Rights Group Members
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
7 Secretary Albright's Meeting with Israeli Prime Minister in
8 Prospects for a Clinton-Netanyahu Meeting
8 Renewed Demands to Limit UNSCOM Inspections
8-9 Promise to Russia to Dismantle Nuclear Program
10 IAEA Inspection Findings on Nuclear Facilities / Monitoring
9 Chamber of Deputies Adopts Penal Reform Bill / Senate to
Consider Bill / Influence of Drug Dealers Working From
10 Latin American Reaction to US Measures on Certification or
10-11 Attempts to Acquire Nuclear Missile Technology from South
11-12 Human Rights Watch Report Critical of US / US Leadership
Role in Human Rights Efforts / US Efforts to Remove Land
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1997, 12:50 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the slightly tardy State Department
briefing. I have no statements. As you know, there will be a backgrounder
this afternoon on the Secretary's trip to Africa.
QUESTION: Are you prepared to talk about the background check of Larry
Lawrence when he was nominated in '93?
MR. RUBIN: I am prepared to run through with you the representations that
the Department made to the Pentagon -- in particular the Department of the
Army - at the time that Ambassador Lawrence died.
Pat Kennedy, then the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration,
wrote to the Secretary of the Army making the request that an exception be
granted to Department of the Army regulations to permit Ambassador Larry
Lawrence to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. That representation
included a description of Ambassador Lawrence's service in the United
States Merchant Marine, and was also based on a memorandum from Assistant
Secretary Holbrooke to Assistant Secretary Kennedy describing Ambassador
Lawrence's wartime service.
As I understand it from speaking to Ambassador Holbrooke, his information
came from Ambassador Lawrence himself. I gather there was information that
was released today suggesting that this is not true. Certainly I can say
that at the time the representations were made, there was no reason to
believe that it wasn't true. And based on the information released, of
course we're going to look into it. I don't know what else one could say
QUESTION: Who does the background checks? Is it the State Department or
MR. RUBIN: Well, the vetting process for a presidential appointment
includes both the State Department investigative unit -- the Diplomatic
Security -- as well as a White House process. I can get you some formal
descriptions of how that process works. But I guess it would be fair to say
there's a combination, and that will presumably be looked at when we look
into this information.
I would also emphasize that one has no reason to believe the new information
changes it or doesn't change it. What one has a reason to do is to look
QUESTION: A different subject - can you talk a little bit about the
Secretary's meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. Secretary Albright did have a meeting with the Turkish
Foreign Minister just a few moments ago. It included both a group meeting
and a one-on-one meeting.
She told me that she thought it was an excellent discussion. It was
designed to prepare for the President's meeting with Prime Minister Yilmaz
on the 19th of December. It focused on the central importance of the Turkey-
US relationship and that work should be done between now and the time of
that meeting to lay out a strategy for the year ahead to focus on issues
where we believe we can make progress, including the question of Caspian
energy, the subject of human rights, the subject of democratization and,
of course, the subject of Greece-Turkey and the bilateral issues there, as
well as the prospects for peace in Cyprus, and finally, of course, our
efforts in Iraq.
So that was the agenda, and it was hoped that the two sides would work in
the coming days and weeks to make the President's meeting with Prime
Minister Yilmaz as successful as possible and with an emphasis on those
QUESTION: What specifically are you looking for from the Turks for on
Caspian energy issues?
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, that is an area of the world that there are
clearly significant resources. I think our position on that is well known --
to ensure that there are multiple access routes for that important energy
resource -- and Turkey is obviously a player in that process. As you know,
one of the issues that came up recently was the pipeline for Turkmenistan
So there is normally a discussion of the importance that both sides, two
NATO allies, have and care about this important energy resource. They
talked about the importance of working together to pursue, in our view, the
goal of ensuring multiple access routes.
QUESTION: And how about Iraq? What specifically did the Secretary ask of
Turkey on Iraq?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not going to get into any specifics of what she
asked or what they said back. I can obviously focus on the importance of
Operation Northern Watch -- the importance of our mutual interest in seeing
Saddam Hussein finally agree to comply with the international community's
demands; that he finally and completely allow unfettered, unconditional
access to weapons inspection sites; and that is the objective of the
United States and Turkey and the entire world.
QUESTION: Does the United States think that Turkey is too involved with
Talibani's group, the Kurdish group?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know how to handle that question directly -- too
involved, not too involved. When it comes to the question of Turkish action
in Northern Iraq, I think our position on that is well known. As far as
Turkey's role in maximizing the chances for the cease-fire to be restored,
we obviously want to work very closely with Turkey on that subject and we
care about it a great deal.
QUESTION: You keep saying Turkey has - you understand Turkey's need to go
after terrorists, but that their presence in Northern Iraq should be of a
finite duration. They've been there since May. Was there any indication
from the Turks that they were prepared to leave?
MR. RUBIN: Again, I'm not going to tell you what the Turkish Foreign
Minister said in a meeting with the Secretary of State. But I can assure
you that our view that any intervention or action should be limited in
scope and duration and ensure proper regard for human rights is well-known
to the Foreign Minister. I don't have any further comment on that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - what did they discuss exactly on the Aegean and
Cyprus issues, if you know?
MR. RUBIN: Again, I think in general there's a desire for the United
States, as you've seen for many months now, to have both Turkey and Greece
work together to resolve problems. The problems are ones you're quite
QUESTION: One more question. Do you have an answer to my pending question
yesterday on the Aegean issue?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I think we have posted something for you on that, and
we'll be happy to --
QUESTION: They told me that it would be on camera, not to post.
MR. RUBIN: No, I think it's going to be posted, or it has been posted.
QUESTION: Jamie, following up one of the questions that Carol had,
without telling us what the Turkish Foreign Minister might have said, can
you tell us whether he gave the Secretary an indication in terms of
duration of the current incursion?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to characterize the Turkish Foreign Minister's
comments in that regard.
QUESTION: Another subject - an American has been detained by --
MR. RUBIN: Do you have more on Turkey?
QUESTION: An American has been detained by Russian authorities on
suspicions of espionage. What can you tell us about Richard Bliss and his
MR. RUBIN: As I understand it, the Russian investigation is continuing.
Mr. Bliss is still being detained, but he has not been charged with
The Russian-American Consular Convention provides for our regular access to
American citizens who have been detained or arrested in Russia. This
provision has been fulfilled, and we have had appropriate access to Mr.
We are also in frequent telephone contact with Qualcomm's representative in
Rostov, who is in touch with Mr. Bliss' attorney. The attorney has full
access to Mr. Bliss. An American consular officer visited Mr. Bliss on
Monday, December 1, and is returning to Rostov today, December 4.
By Russian law, the authorities must decide by the end of the day on Friday,
tomorrow, December 5, whether or not there is enough evidence to charge Mr.
Bliss. The basic facts remain unchanged of the case.
QUESTION: In this type of situation, does the American Government
actually work on his behalf, or is he working on this on his own? Are you
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think I've indicated that he has a lawyer, and I think
it's my understanding that he feels the lawyer is doing a good job.
The role of the United States, through the consular services, is to make
sure that he is getting proper access to legal treatment, to make sure the
Russians are allowing us to see that he's properly treated. Obviously, if
the process continues, we occasionally have views as to the appropriateness
of the actions. But at this point, he has not been charged.
QUESTION: Does this constitute any kind of precedent? An American working
under contract, or at least an American company working under contract with
a Russian concern, that they would be exposed to this kind of charge in the
course of their duties?
MR. RUBIN: Well, certainly we hope there is a climate in Russia that
permits the maximum kind of economic access for our companies to be able to
promote developments in Russia that are good for the Russians and good for
US companies. We obviously want to promote that environment. But I'm not
going to make a comment about the linkage between a case that is still
pending and there hasn't even been a charge, and an overall business
QUESTION: Jamie, is this man an employee of the US Government in any
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to comment on that kind of issue because it
leads to the obvious next issue, which is the question that we went over in
this room a few days ago.
QUESTION: Jamie, the Russians have said now, two days in a row, that
Bliss admitted to having illegal equipment.
MR. RUBIN: I can say this - Mr. Bliss is a private sector engineer
employed by the Qualcomm Corporation. The firm is working on the installation
of a wireless telecommunications telephone network under a legal agreement
with a Russian client.
QUESTION: Two days running, the Russians have said Bliss admitted to
having illegal equipment on the record at the Foreign Ministry. Can you
address that in any way?
MR. RUBIN: I don't have any information on that. I can try to get it for
QUESTION: Have you issued any kind of advisories to Americans working in
Russia, that given the circumstances where he was arrested basically for
possessing something that wasn't declared on his Customs form?
MR. RUBIN: Your questions are all making certain assumptions about the
validity of the charges, and therefore, drawing conclusions about what our
policy should or shouldn't be.
What I'm prepared to say in this forum is that we are getting consular
access; we are trying to be sure that he is treated fairly and that he has
a lawyer. As far as drawing conclusions about a case that hasn't even been
charged yet, we're not prepared to do that.
QUESTION: Yes, but prior to the pending espionage charge, he was arrested
and detained because he did not - say the Russians - because he did not
declare on a Customs form that he was bringing into the country GPS
equipment. Now, is that the kind of thing --
MR. RUBIN: That information hasn't been presented to me, but I'll
certainly look into that and maybe we'll have a view on whether that was
appropriate or not.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the Secretary's upcoming --
MR. RUBIN: Same subject? Yes. There's obviously a dearth of information.
QUESTION: I don't know if it was you or another briefer, but one of you
all said the other day that he did have proper license or proper permission
to bring GPS equipment into country.
MR. RUBIN: Again, I may have - we will try to get you our view of the
issue of his equipment, as opposed to the other issue, which is what the
Russians are presumably charging him with.
QUESTION: Jamie, also on Russia, but not in that case - have you had a
chance to examine the statement by President Yeltsin yesterday about a
large troop cut in the Baltic area?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we haven't had an opportunity to study the proposals,
but we've had a cursory look at them.
We welcome efforts by all nations in the region to foster stability and
enhance regional cooperation. We also note that Russia previously proposed
measures designed for further cooperation among Northern European states on
economic, social and environmental issues. We support such cooperation, and
are willing to participate actively in it.
QUESTION: And do you see any catches, any hookers in it?
MR. RUBIN: Well, other than to say we welcome Russia's efforts to improve
relations with its neighbors, but we also respect the inherent right of the
Baltic States to choose the means to ensure their own security.
QUESTION: Do you see any connection - indirect or otherwise - with some
of the Baltic States' desire to become part of NATO eventually?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think I just said we welcome Russian efforts to
improve relations with its neighbors, but we also respect the inherent
right of the Baltic States to choose the means to ensure their own
QUESTION: Yes, on Cuba, do you have anything on the migration talks that
were held in Havana this week?
MR. RUBIN: The United States and Cuba have been meeting to discuss
migration matters since 1980. During these meetings, we reiterated our
commitment to their full implementation. The United States has meet the
goal of issuing 20,000 travel authorizations in each of the three years
since the September 1994 accord.
We believe the accords are achieving their central purpose of encouraging
safe, legal and orderly migration between our two countries. These talks
were technical in nature, and we had a full, comprehensive, constructive
and frank discussion of all the matters related to the implementation of
the accords. The atmosphere in the talks was very business-like, and the
talks dealt exclusively with migratory matters.
QUESTION: The Cuban Government radio says that during these talks the
Cuban Government protested for the improvement of the signal of TV
MR. RUBIN: Well, I can say that the Cuban Government has expressed
concern about TV Marti testing of UHF signals. The Libertad Act mandates
conversion of Television Marti broadcasting to Cuba to ultra-high frequency
The United States Government observes all pertinent international
agreements concerning broadcasting. This is a highly technical and
legalistic field, and so I will try to get you any further information you
might need on the specific rationales for the different frequencies.
QUESTION: And on the hunger strikes, do you have anything?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, we understand that 11 members of a human rights group in
the Province of Santa Clara began a fast. They're consuming liquids. The
fast began on October 9th to protest the arrest of one of their members.
That member, apparently, has since been released, but other members of the
group have been arrested in the interim.
The United States strongly condemns the arrest of persons solely because
they are peacefully seeking to exercise fundamental rights guaranteed by
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Cuba is a party. We call
on the Cuban Government to release pro-democracy and human rights activists
and to take the steps necessary to guarantee the exercise of fundamental
QUESTION: On another subject, Netanyahu said as he was departing for
Europe that he's not going with a defined plan on a pull back, that
nothing's been hammered out yet. Is that the state of affairs that the
Secretary had been hoping to hear as she prepares to set out?
MR. RUBIN: Obviously, we're not going to make a preemptive comment on
exactly what we would react to what Prime Minister Netanyahu would bring,
since we haven't even left the United States yet.
I can say that Secretary Albright expects to have a very serious,
substantive discussion on all the elements of the four-part agenda
including, and especially, the question of the further redeployment of
Israeli forces. And she expects, and has no reason to doubt, that there
will be a full discussion of all the substantive elements of that. Whether
someone calls that a plan or not a plan, I don't know. But she does expect,
and has no reason to doubt, there will be a full substantive discussion
that would merit her going to Paris to have such a meeting.
QUESTION: Because he also said that he's going to discuss with the
Secretary of State their train of thought, as he put it, is there a danger
that this is going to become like an intellectual exercise and nothing
comes out of it?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think, as I indicated in response to the last
questioner, that we have every reason to expect that this will be a
substantive discussion on all the elements of the four-part agenda,
including and especially a focus on the substantive aspects of the further
redeployment. And so I don't have any particular comment on how one
characterizes substance. What we're looking for is substance; we expect to
have substance; she's going on the expectation that she will discuss
substance; and I suspect when we're done we will say that we talked
QUESTION: Is there any possibility that the talks this weekend with Prime
Minister Netanyahu will set up a meeting between President Clinton and
Netanyahu next week?
MR. RUBIN: I have not heard that as being the program or any timeline
sketched out of that kind. But again, we don't normally announce proposed
Presidential meetings from this podium. But I've not heard that particular
QUESTION: Back to Iraq.
MR. RUBIN: Okay.
QUESTION: Any comment, Jamie, on Baghdad's renewed demands to set limits
and terms for the UN inspection team?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. The bottom line is that so long as Iraq doesn't get the
message that it must comply fully and unconditionally with the requirements
of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions -- which specify
unconditional, unrestricted, unfettered access to all the sites that UNSCOM,
the UN inspectors, think they need, we're not going to be out of the woods
on this issue.
We will be fully supporting Ambassador Butler's trip and his effort to get
the kind of access that he needs to do his job; and that job is a job that
was given to him by the entire world through the United Nations Security
Council. It's one that the statement yesterday demonstrates the entire
Security Council supports. And he will need unrestricted, unfettered,
unconditional access to locations in Iraq that he deems necessary to
determine not only what Iraq may or may not have imported, but what Iraq
may or may not have destroyed, and what capabilities Iraq may or may
not have to develop weapons of mass destruction.
QUESTION: But it's not a good sign that Tariq Aziz, at this point, is
sending another letter to the UN trying to spell out conditions.
MR. RUBIN: Well, we have never stated that this is over. We have made
very clear for some days and weeks now that we need to see unfettered,
unconditional, unrestricted access. This has been a problem for some time.
It preceded the recent decision, and then reversal of that decision, by
Iraq to try to determine who the inspectors would be.
It's been going on for some time. And until Iraq gets the message and
allows unconditional, unfettered, unrestricted access, we're going to be
continuing to talk about this subject. And as you know, as Secretary Cohen
indicated, this is a matter of great concern to the United States and no
options have been excluded.
QUESTION: Just one more question, Jamie. Do you think that there's any
chance the UN or the US would bow to Russian pressure to accept Iraq's
promise that it has dismantled its nuclear program?
MR. RUBIN: That's easy: no. I wouldn't accept the premise of the question,
that the Russians would ever impose such pressure; except to say that if
that hypothetical happened, I will break the hypothetical rule and answer
the question "no".
QUESTION: This is on Colombia. Do you have any statement or comment about
the law that the Colombian House passed this week, about the jail
MR. RUBIN: We understand a penal reform bill was passed Tuesday in the
Chamber of Deputies. But we have not had a chance to fully review the
Based on what we have heard so far, we believe such an initiative would be
a serious step backwards in Colombia's efforts to reform its judicial
system and combat the problem of impunity.
It has always been our position that criminals, including the drug kingpins
currently incarcerated in Colombia, should serve sentences commensurate
with their crimes, and that the already inadequate sentences given to the
kingpins should not be reduced in any way.
We urge the Colombian Senate to vote down this legislation, and the
Colombian Government to bring its influence to bear on the Congress to stop
this bill in its tracks.
QUESTION: Do you think it's a new sign of the influence of the drug
dealers from prison - working from prison?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to try to analyze the motivations of members of
the Chamber of Deputies. What I am prepared to say, as I just did quite
strongly, is we think this is a serious step backwards, and we hope the
senate and the government join together in stopping this bill in its
QUESTION: The United States doesn't see these actions by the Congress of
Colombia as a legitimate step according to their laws or unilateral laws.
Why is the United States trying to influence the senate to vote against
this measure when nobody from Latin America is trying to influence the
Congress of the United States in decisions like the certification
MR. RUBIN: They don't.
QUESTION: Why are you trying to --
MR. RUBIN: I mean, there are so many false premises in that question, I
don't know where to begin. But let me state it this way: Often when I don't
express our views on a possible action of another government, many of you
in this room criticize us for not having a position on a possible action in
Obviously, drugs and the fight against drugs are extremely important to the
United States, and we think it's appropriate for us to express our views;
and we have just done so.
QUESTION: But you don't think this kind of actions are emerging in Latin
America in reaction to the imposition of unilateral measures by the United
States, like the certification or the Helms-Burton?
MR. RUBIN: In your last question, you put forward the position that
nobody in Latin America has ever questioned the legislation in the Congress
of the United States, which is obviously not true.
QUESTION: There was a report that the president of the IAEA saying that
the Iraqis are not rebuilding their nuclear program. Are you satisfied
yourselves? Do you agree with him?
MR. RUBIN: Since resuming inspection operations November 22, the IAEA has
visited known nuclear related facilities in Iraq to determine if any
proscribed activity took place during the suspension of inspection and
To date, the IAEA has not detected an effort by Iraq to resume operations
during the suspension of inspection and monitoring operations. It continues
to take steps to restore continuity in monitoring operations.
The IAEA's position is clear. While it has removed, destroyed or rendered
harmless known elements of Iraq's nuclear program, it still cannot close
the nuclear file or shut down this problem because, as it stated in its
October report to the UN Security Council, for example, Iraq has yet to
provide information about its procurement and concealment efforts, which
are obviously very important.
The IAEA has done an excellent job in its efforts to uncover Iraq's nuclear
program in the face of continuing Iraqi concealment efforts.
QUESTION: Is this progress on this issue - (inaudible)? You don't
consider this progress by doing that?
MR. RUBIN: That sounds like a lot of reports that I saw in New York over
a long period of time - sounds pretty similar; namely, the first point that
it has removed, destroyed or rendered harmless known elements of Iraq's
nuclear program. Iraq has yet to provide information about its procurement
and concealment efforts.
I think if you go back and look at the IAEA's various reporting over recent
months, you will find those two sentences very familiar.
QUESTION: Do you have any guidance on yesterday's question about whether
Iran is trying to acquire nuclear missile technology from South Africa?
MR. RUBIN: We are aware of a variety of press reports, dating back
several months, suggesting that Iranian officials have requested South
African assistance in providing Iran with technology which could assist
development of a nuclear weapons program.
One report alleged that a meeting between South African and Iranian nuclear
officials occurred in South Africa in 1996. In response to that report,
South African officials publicly clarified many inaccuracies in the
The United States has high confidence in South Africa's commitment to its
obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty not to assist efforts of any
other countries - including Iran - to acquire nuclear weapons. South
Africa's solid nuclear nonproliferation credentials are well-known to us.
In addition to being a signatory to the NPT, it played a significant role -
a leadership role - in securing indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation
Treaty in 1995. It is a member of the nuclear suppliers' group, and
voluntarily abandoned its own nuclear weapons program in 1992.
Iran, on the other hand, remains a significant and serious concern. We
believe Iran continues actively to attempt to develop nuclear weapons and
other weapons of mass destruction capabilities, in violation of the Non-
Proliferation Treaty and other international nonproliferation treaties and
QUESTION: Have you seen the report by Human Rights Watch, which is very
critical of the United States?
MR. RUBIN: I have not.
QUESTION: Okay. (Inaudible) -- is criticized on land mines, on use of
children of soldiers and on the international criminal court issue. But
obviously you can't respond, because you haven't seen it.
MR. RUBIN: I will try to get us a response for the record. I can make
some preliminary responses. The United States has been a leader in trying
to create the international court to prosecute violations of humanitarian
Secretary Albright herself played a leadership role on that in her time at
the United Nations. President Clinton is one of the leaders in that effort.
He gave a speech in Connecticut, laying out the needs of that court. So any
suggestion the United States has not been a leader in trying to create an
international humanitarian legal instrument like a court is obviously
As far as the land mines are concerned, I think you're quite familiar with
our position. We believe we have been a leader in the fight to de-mine and
stop the danger of mines from killing and maiming innocent children. I
think there is no question that the United States spends more money and
effort than all the other nations in the world combined to try to de-mine
those locations where there are mines that have been laid.
So there's no question we've played a leadership role in trying to fight
the land mine problem. We obviously have a difference of view with other
governments as to whether the signing of this treaty is necessary to try to
continue work on this problem. But to suggest that we are not leading in
that fight, I think, is ridiculous.
QUESTION: In the report, Human Rights Watch says that the United States
has an attitude of forgiveness in terms of the war on drugs, and also by
the economic and commercial interests --
MR. RUBIN: I think I started down a road I will be sorry about. But, yes,
QUESTION: Well, that was my question. Do you have any answer that they
said the United States don't pursue the human rights abuses --
MR. RUBIN: That specific charge, claim, assertion, analysis, I haven't
seen. I think I could have surmised the rationale for the Human Rights
Watch report's analysis of our position on those other two issues, which is
why I was prepared to react to them. But I'll be happy to take a look at
that specific issue.
QUESTION: Kind of a follow-up. Part of the criticism is that because of
the record of the US in human rights, they have lost some of the moral
authority to request respect for human rights in other countries.
MR. RUBIN: I think that if you look around the world and you ask the
people of the world which nation they look to as the beacon for human
rights, democracy and freedom, there's no question the answer will be the
That's a nice high note to end on.
(The briefing concluded at 1:25 P.M.)