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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #71, 98-06-15

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


809

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Monday, June 15, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

STATEMENTS/DEPARTMENT
1		Secretary's Speech to Asia Society Dinner, June 17 in New
		  York
1,8-9		Detention of Bosnian Serb War Criminal by SFOR
1		Creation of Bureau of Western Hemispheric Affairs at
		  Department of State

INTERNATIONAL WAR CRIMES 1-2 U.S. Position on Creation of International Criminal Tribunal

SERBIA (KOSOVO) 2-3 Jurisdiction of International Tribunal Court on the Former Yugoslavia 3 Update on Fighting in Kosovo/Number of Refugees in Northern Albania 3 Status of FRY Compliance with Contact Group Requirements on Pres. Milosevic 4 Secretary Albright Telephone Conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Primakov 4,5 President Milosevic's Meeting with Russian President Yeltsin Tomorrow 4-6 Legal Authorization for Possible Use of Military Force in Kosovo/UN Security Council Resolution on Use of Force 6 Emergence of Foreign Mercenaries in Northern Albania 6-7 Use of Force by Kosovar Albanians/Root of Civil Conflict Lies in Actions of FRY 8 NATO Air Exercises in Albania 9 Dr. Rugova's Leadership of Kosovar Albanians

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 9-11 Status of Peace Process Talks/U.S. role 11 CIA Director's Reported Presence in the Region 11 Whereabouts of Ambassador Ross 11-12 Under Secretary Eizenstat's Trip to the Region/Fund-raising Conferencefor Palestinian Authority 12 Demolition of Homes in East Jerusalem 12 Israeli Popular Support for a Peace Agreement

RUSSIA 12-13 Visa Denials to Russian citizens/Complaint by the Mayor of Moscow


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #71

MONDAY, JUNE 15, 1998, 1:00 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. We have a statement on the Secretary's speech on Wednesday to the Asia Society in New York. We'll be giving you more details on time and place, but it is in the evening on June 17. More details on media coverage will be available.

In addition, we have a statement on the detention of a Bosnian war criminal today, which NATO has announced. Finally, we have a statement announcing the Secretary's decision to create, within the Department of State, a Bureau of Western Hemispheric Affairs. The bureau will combine the Office of Canadian Affairs with the existing offices of the Bureau of Inter- American Affairs. This decision, taken after long and careful consideration within the Department, reflects several factors that are laid out in the statement, not the least of which is our effort to reorganize the Department in such a way as to reflect the realities of the 21st Century.

If there are no questions on those statements, let me turn to --

QUESTION: On the war criminal, does the U.S. Government take a position on whether there should be a permanent International War Crimes Tribunal?

MR. RUBIN: Boy, that was a stretch.

QUESTION: War crimes are war crimes.

MR. RUBIN: President Clinton and Secretary Albright, I think, have been at the forefront of advocating an international criminal court. That is why Secretary Albright and the President named Ambassador Scheffer as the special ambassador for war crimes matters and international humanitarian law - expertise that he brings to bear. He will be leading our delegation.

We support the creation of a serious, strong, effective and properly- constituted international criminal court. The American people believe in the importance of justice, and an appropriately-structured international court will advance the cause of justice on a global scale. There are a number of legal factors going into how we create that court. Let me just say that this has been something that has been going on for many decades to reach this point. President Clinton and Secretary Albright have been working and leading the effort in the world to try to create such a court. We are going to be working very, very hard to get the details right; because if you don't get the details right now, the court won't be able to serve its critical purpose in the coming decades.

QUESTION: Would the U.S. idea of such a tribunal have the independence to bring cases by itself, or would it have to be done through the Security Council?

MR. RUBIN: There are a number of factors that are being considered in the negotiations. Without being drawn into too many details, let me say that we believe that founding a permanent international criminal court is a revolutionary and unprecedented event - the culmination of over 50 years of work and advocacy. The Rome treaty hopefully will mark the development of a powerful instrument.

But creation of the court will not take place in a vacuum. We must distinguish carefully between the ideal of an international criminal court and the reality of the world today. Negotiating the court's establishment should not ignore existing institutions that can support the court's goals, or vexing problems that could cause its politicization. A productive international criminal court must defer to international legal systems with the will and ability to exercise jurisdiction. This deferral, called complementarity, is an essential part of our determination to create the most effective and successful court possible.

A practical international criminal court will also recognize and reinforce the work of the United Nations Security Council to maintain international peace and security. The Security Council should have the ability to refer situations to the court for investigation, and direct all countries to cooperate with the court when necessary and appropriate. When states' parties to the treaty - if it ever is made - refer a situation to the court, the Security Council should have the authority to review such a referral. The court must not undermine the authority of the Security Council.

In other words, this is being discussed backwards. We want to make sure that the Security Council role is properly reflected in this treaty structure because of the importance of the Security Council. Let me add, the ability to get compliance with any such court, as we've seen in the past, can be assisted and helped and made possible by the determination of the Security Council to hold people's feet to the fire in implementing the requirements of the court. So the Security Council can help make this court succeed.

Of course, as a practical matter, we think the Security Council should have the authority to review referrals, given its preeminent role in the maintenance and restoration of international peace and security.

QUESTION: Was it the eight that spoke - well, actually they met - it was the same eight, but meeting on Kosovo. When they spoke of extending the War Crimes Tribunal's authority to events in Kosovo, do you think - I know it's all hypothetical right now - but would that reach to Belgrade? And this time, would it reach to the presidency, who apparently is not reachable under the Bosnia horrors?

MR. RUBIN: Well, what we have said is that we think that the statute creating the War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia does cover the territory of the former Yugoslavia. That means Kosovo. If we believe it constitutes an internal conflict under the rules of war, and therefore the Tribunal's work will reflect, we suspect, that kind of a judgment, it is really up to the Tribunal to make a judgment as to legal responsibility for actions they judge to be violations of international humanitarian law. They haven't made that judgment yet, and so it would be premature for us to make a judgment based on the work of the Tribunal.

Clearly, as I've said to all of you before and the Secretary's made clear, politically, President Milosevic is responsible for the events in Kosovo. That's why we believed it was so important to get him sitting at the negotiating table, making the decisions. Because without his commitment to change the situation, all we're going to see is a further deterioration and further danger and threat to the international peace and security of the region.

QUESTION: And unlike Bosnia, there's no middle man. There are no local --

MR. RUBIN: Well, certainly that legal distinction that was made wouldn't apply in this case.

QUESTION: May I ask about the latest intimidations - I mean, the floodlights and all - terrorizing refugees? Evidently your Western rhetoric and menacing gestures haven't had any impact that's discernible, and yet you spoke Friday in London - I mean, the eight did - of an immediate -- demanding immediate action by Milosevic. Have you seen any signs that he's getting your message; or must he wait for Mr. Yeltsin to tell it to him - or his version of it?

MR. RUBIN: We continue to --

QUESTION: Sotto voce a little bit.

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I appreciate the sentiment of the question. We continue to receive reports of fighting in the Decani region south towards Prizren. We also have some reports of violence in the Klina region on the highway between Pristina and Pec. The number of Kosovar refugees in northern Albania appear to be stabilizing at around 12,000. Humanitarian organizations are continuing their efforts to supply sufficient supplies for the refugees and their Albanian hosts.

The eight laid down very clear requirements for President Milosevic: cease security activities affecting the civilian population; allow effective monitoring by the international community in Kosovo; allow the refugees to return and the displaced persons to return, and give full access to the region to international humanitarian organizations; and finally, accelerate a genuine dialogue between the Serbian authorities and the ethnic Albanian leadership. There is complete agreement in the Contact Group on these specific requirements. I cannot say that these requirements have been met so far; clearly they have not.

Secretary Albright spoke yesterday on the telephone with Foreign Minister Primakov in advance of President Yeltsin's meeting. I would expect other phone calls will be taking place prior to that meeting. As I understand it, President Milosevic is going to be arriving around now in Moscow, and will be meeting with President Yeltsin tomorrow.

We believe, and we understand, the Russian President intends to deliver a tough message to Milosevic; and we hope that the Serbian leader is finally wise enough to take advantage of this opportunity not only to commit himself to the Contact Group demands, but to announce measures to fully implement them as soon as possible.

So that is what we are seeking. There is full agreement amongst all the Contact Group countries on what we are seeking; and hopefully President Milosevic will get the message tomorrow in his meeting with President Yeltsin. If not, the Contact Group ministers described what the possibilities are, and they include further measures. As you know, NATO military planning has been accelerated and that effort is ongoing. So we are waiting to see whether President Milosevic will respond tomorrow in a way he has not yet responded.

QUESTION: Yesterday - just a quick add-on - any change in the Russians' negative view about using force?

MR. RUBIN: Well again, as you would expect in the day before a meeting between President Yeltsin and President Milosevic designed to avoid the use of force, the Russian Foreign Minister was not volunteering the subject of the use of force. What we are wanting here is a mutuality of demands; and that is where the United States and the Russians both demand the same requirements from President Milosevic. We are satisfied that President Yeltsin will deliver a tough message, based on her phone call.

QUESTION: If I can ask you still on Kosovo - you just talked, in the context of the court, about the importance of the Security Council and its authority. And you talked, in the context of war crimes, about how this was an internal conflict under the rules of war. So can you now explain to me what legal authorization the United States thinks it has to threaten, without any UN Security Council resolution, military action in a sovereign nation - call it Serbia, call it FRY?

MR. RUBIN: These are apples and oranges here. The question of what laws of war apply within Serbia for international War Crimes Tribunal purposes is a legal question about conduct. The question of authorizing the use of force or the inherent legal reasons for the use of force is a question about international peace and security. They are not the same issues.

We believe that, as a result of and stemming from and relying upon the existence of Article 51 of the UN Charter, as well as the Washington Treaty that created NATO, that there is a position that such a Security Council resolution would be desirable, but not imperative. That is our assessment of the situation. Without getting deep into the legal terminology - because that would really be up to the lawyers - let me say what the common sense reason is.

NATO was created to protect the security of Europe; NATO's enlargement is designed to enhance the security of Europe. The foreign ministers at the meeting in London made very clear that the continuing conflict in Kosovo constitutes a threat to the security of Europe. And that is the essential common sense reason why we may -- if the decision is made, which it has not been made - believe that we would have the right to act.

But as far as a more considered legal judgment that addresses the different countries' different interpretations of the NATO Charter, the UN Charter, international customary law and all that, I would have to defer to the lawyers.

QUESTION: Can I ask you further, though, the EU has come out today and said that it believes that a new UN Security Council resolution is required. Given a large number of the EU members are also NATO members, is there a precedent for the United States to use NATO stuff without NATO approval? In other words, can you call it a multilateral action if it's just you and the Brits as over Libya - does that become NATO? Or are we talking about actually using the Christmas warning in a unilateral way; or is this all left to be decided?

MR. RUBIN: Thank you for the last option.

(Laughter.)

Seriously, these are very serious matters - we're talking about the potential use of force here. And while I have not seen the specific communique you're referring to by the European Union, we are aware that certain European countries have greater reliance on the need for a Security Council resolution than the United States does; that is not new. Whether that will be their ultimate position however, I think, depends on the circumstances.

So what we are hoping for, number one, is that President Yeltsin can get through to President Milosevic and this situation can be resolved peacefully. Number two, if not, and we are forced to move forward on a Security Council resolution, that the Russian Government sees that diplomacy alone was unable to work, and this is a legal bridge we will not have to cross because we will be able to get such a resolution approved. If those two things don't happen, that is some days down the road and it's just un-diplomatic and probably unwise for me to begin to speculate beyond that at this point.

QUESTION: I don't mean to push you too hard, it's just that, you know, Secretary Cohen has come out and said what you said at the beginning - that it'd be nice but not mandatory; Secretary Albright said that. Other people have reacted with mixtures of shock, horror and understanding.

MR. RUBIN: Depending on their position on the subject, probably.

QUESTION: Oh, sure, no, no, but it's just that this isn't the kind of unified threat that one would necessarily want to make Milosevic cease and desist and start substantive negotiations, which seems to be the point of the policy.

MR. RUBIN: I think the answer to that question is, however you slice it, President Milosevic will see that the use of force is being seriously discussed by the major powers. And he knows that the use of force made a significant difference in the Bosnian Serb-held areas in 1995. What he will see from all this discussion and this legal discussion is that we are so serious about this potential, that we are engaged in a legal discussion of how exactly to get it right - not that he will see differences of view, but that he will see the seriousness of purpose that lie behind discussions of legal justifications.

QUESTION: Jamie, is the Administration and NATO concerned about the numbers of foreign mercenaries that are starting to pop up in Northern Albania?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't have any specific reports on numbers. But let me say that in every conflict like this around the world, there is a tendency for people who consider war their business to get involved. Since we are opposed to the conflict being settled on the battlefield, we always have concerns when those who are interested in promoting fighting, as opposed to promoting peace, find their way to these conflict areas.

I don't have any specific information on who or what kind of foreign mercenaries might be there; but as a general rule, we do not regard those people as helpful in the least to the cause of peace or justice.

QUESTION: You don't have specific information - vaguer information on --

MR. RUBIN: Well, what I'll do is take the question and try to get you what we can provide.

QUESTION: Jamie, you all are using Mr. Yeltsin of Russia to get the message to President Milosevic to cease and desist and do what the Contact Group is asking him to do. Is anybody doing this with the forces fighting the Kosovar Albanians? To get them to stop?

MR. RUBIN: We believe that the guts of this conflict begin in Belgrade; that the decision by Belgrade to crack down, with the use of heavy military equipment, to drive people from their homes and to use modern military equipment against lightly-armed or unarmed civilians is the problem that is at the core of this issue - not the fact that civilians are becoming increasingly radicalized by President Milosevic's decision.

We have made very clear in the communiques our view on the use of force by either party, including the Kosovar Liberation Army. We don't think the people of Kosovo will end up better off from the Kosovar Liberation Army prolonging a conflict if we were able to get President Milosevic to stand down.

So we have made clear our views on both sides. We will obviously be working with Mr. Rugova, in terms of daily contact with him; and if necessary, at the appropriate time, with others in the Albanian community. But the guts of this conflict is the responsibility of President Milosevic. When he has stood down, it will be much easier to convince those Albanians who started out peacefully - and that is the bulk of the Albanian people - who have only become radicalized by his heavy-handed and bloody business.

QUESTION: Is there any concern within the government that perhaps the military exercises today, the threat of the use of force that you're speaking of, may actually embolden the UCK or the KLA -- whatever you want to call it - and prolong and make bloodier the fighting in Kosovo?

MR. RUBIN: We believe that those elements of the Albanian community that are using terrorist tactics should stop; we've made that clear.

To not go forward with these exercises or not go forward with planning because of the potential downside you've described would be missing the forest through the trees. President Milosevic has radicalized the population; and with every passing day that he uses military power to crack down on primarily innocent civilians, he will further radicalize the population. That will be the determinate of the position of the Albanians in Kosovo, not the question of whether the United States is in a position, with its NATO allies, to convince him to stop that crack down. That is the determining factor.

Is it possible? I was interested to read an article over the weekend in which a person described any time the United States does anything in the world, the liberation armies around the world become inspired. When people are prepared to fight and die for their cause, they are not likely to fight more and die more because of some comment they may have seen on TV., or some comment they think may or may not represent the views of the international community. These are people who have made decisions to fight and die for their cause - rightly or wrongly. The idea that we can calibrate, through a word here or a word there, and change the behavior of these liberation forces around the world is naive in the extreme.

QUESTION: Does that apply to Hamas too?

MR. RUBIN: I don't understand the connection.

QUESTION: Jamie, just for reference, the attack yesterday by the KLA on a Serbian convoy - a couple of officers were killed. Do you consider that a terrorist attack or a military attack?

MR. RUBIN: If it's on a convoy, then it would be military. I think - as they like to say - the answer to the question was contained in the question itself.

QUESTION: Okay, so every action of the KLA is not a terrorist action?

MR. RUBIN: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay, what type of activities do you see as terrorist activities?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think the definition of terrorism has been pretty well established. I think you and I have had this exchange about a month ago. If you kill an innocent non-combatant in the furtherance of some political cause - the way people have blown up innocent civilians on the streets of Tel Aviv, or killed innocent Serbs who are not part of the Serbian internal police forces, and murdered them for who they are and not what they've done - that's terrorism.

QUESTION: Jamie, do you know if the Russians were briefed on these air maneuvers?

MR. RUBIN: Secretary Cohen has made quite clear that during the course of discussions last week at the military level, the idea of these NATO exercises was well-known to all. Frankly, anyone reading the newspapers knew this was coming. So the Russian authorities were well aware of what NATO was planning, and we were somewhat surprised, therefore, at their expressions of shock.

QUESTION: You're referring them to recalling their --

MR. RUBIN: Well, as I understand it, that is not the reason for that particular diplomat to be leaving. I gather there are some visa issues that are more germane than anything; but their defense minister has spoken to their concern on this subject, which was surprising to us, given all that was said in NATO last week and all that anyone who watched CNN or read any of our fine newspapers or watched any other network or any news service or any magazine or any other media outlet that operated in the last four days that I would not want to offend, would have known.

QUESTION: Can we ask you about the Middle East, please?

MR. RUBIN: Let's stay; they want to stay.

QUESTION: One more in the Balkans. You mentioned in the top the detention of a war crimes suspect. Do you have any details on that?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I do. SFOR military forces detained a Bosnian Serb, named Milorad Krnojelac, indicted for war crimes by the Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He was detained in the area of Foca. He's being flown to The Hague, and will be placed in the custody of the Tribunal there. There were no incidents or injuries in the course of the operation. Today's action was taken in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions and the General Framework for Peace. This was not an action against the Serb people of Bosnia. It was an action to bring to justice those indicted for war crimes. All persons indicted for war crimes, including Radovan Karadzic, belong in the Tribunal.

This was an SFOR operation, and the Pentagon can provide additional details. General Wesley Clark was in charge of it.

With respect to other indicted war criminals, all possible options for future action, including additional operations, will be kept open if the parties continue to fail to meet their obligations. Clearly, this operation and previous operations sends a message; and the message is that all persons indicted for war crimes belong in The Hague, including Radovan Karadzic and others. Anyone who surrenders now will receive fair and just treatment by the Tribunal.

QUESTION: You did refer to the Pentagon; but do you happen to know, is this a more aggressive SFOR operation than the previous ones, or did he just fall in their lap?

MR. RUBIN: As far as operational matters, I'm just not in a position to answer that.

QUESTION: One more - you talked about talking to Rugova and, if necessary, at the proper time, others in the Albanian community. There are a number of people who think it's time to pull the KLA into these negotiations, because they feel Rugova can't deliver the people who need to be delivered. Is that what you were talking about? And are you making - I mean, where does that fit in this plan?

MR. RUBIN: In diplomacy, we try to be as comprehensive in our options as possible. We believe that Dr. Rugova is a leader who has received overwhelming popular endorsement by the people of Kosovo, and that endorsement still stands. That is why Ambassador Hill and others are in direct contact with him and his people, as Ambassador Hill is in contact with authorities in Belgrade.

That doesn't mean that we will have contact with no other members of the Albanian community. But we regard Dr. Rugova - the President of the United States met with this man just two weeks ago. We believe that his approach is one that can advance the prosperity and peace and security of his people in a way that those who are committed to the kind of reprehensible tactics that we have talked about cannot. Because if we were in a position where we were able to change the behavior of President Milosevic and were able to get him to stop the outrageous steps that he has taken, we would then want to be in a position where a credible negotiating process took place. If there are those who don't believe in a negotiating process, there's really no point in bringing them into it.

QUESTION: You're not at the stage where you're urging him to expand the reach of his delegation --

MR. RUBIN: No, I'm just pointing out, in my answer to your earlier question, the fact that we would want to have contact with all elements of Albanian society at the appropriate time for whatever purpose we decided. But that is not going on right now to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Could you spell the name of that place where this guy was arrested?

MR. RUBIN: Foca, f-o-c-a. I didn't even have to look at that.

QUESTION: There are reports again that the incrementalists are incrementing and you may have, in the Middle East, some sort of an agreement. The Palestinians don't know anything about it; but Israeli reports suggest that they have bought on to - the Israelis have bought on to the 13 percent if you can just finesse that charter thing that somehow can't get settled, you'll have the withdrawal you want on the West Bank. Anything to these reports? Or should I ask you if Albright still considers the talks going on constructive; and where is Dennis?

MR. RUBIN: Wow.

QUESTION: Any way you want to approach it.

MR. RUBIN: There are so many in there.

QUESTION: No, these floating reports come up every few days, and here they are again.

MR. RUBIN: Without referring to any particular report from any particular media, let me say the following. If we did not believe that there was still a value in continuing our contact with the parties, we would no longer do so. We, therefore, do believe that we should continue our work. There has been progress in recent weeks or we wouldn't be still at this; but in the Middle East peace process, an inch is as good as a mile when it comes to an agreement. We have not reached an agreement, and any reports suggesting that we reached an agreement are factually, substantively and procedurally incorrect.

We will continue working with the parties as long as they are constructive and as long as we believe there is a possibility to reach an agreement. If the Secretary believes that that is no longer true - that there is no possibility to reach an agreement, and that we are wasting our breath - she will stop the talking and make clear that we could not do so based on the U.S. ideas. So that's where we are; we continue to have contact. Reports of the kind that you mentioned are simply not accurate.

QUESTION: Well, that give us an overview; but the reports are focused on one specific persistent hang-up. And the U.S. has a view of that issue and you know the Israeli view - they really want that covenant clause -

MR. RUBIN: Our view --

QUESTION: - shredded. Your view is -- the State Department's view, unless I misunderstand it - is they've kind of done it already - I mean, they've said they disavow it. I mean, let's not be so Talmudic about it and try to tear it apart. So if that were the only hang-up --

MR. RUBIN: Do you want to switch places?

QUESTION: No, no. If that were the only hang-up, then you're pretty much there. Is that still a hang-up or not? Is there a hang-up on the covenant or isn't there?

MR. RUBIN: We do not believe that it would be wise to get into a public discussion of where the remaining disagreements are. There are remaining disagreements. As I indicated to you, in this business an inch is as good as a mile; even a small disagreement can be enough to derail the whole process.

With regard to our existing and standard and well-known view on the charter, at the time when Chairman Arafat was here, we released a letter that he had provided to President Clinton. We said that this was a step in the right direction and that further efforts should be discussed between the two parties. That is still our view.

QUESTION: What was the Director of the CIA doing in Gaza last week meeting with Yasser Arafat?

MR. RUBIN: We are in regular contact with the parties. I am not in a position to confirm or deny the Director of CIA's schedule; you'll have to check with the CIA Office of Public Affairs, which has a very excellent group of dedicated bureaucrats there to answer your questions.

QUESTION: How about Ross' trip?

QUESTION: Hold on, let me just -- it would suggest that you are coming to closure in the half of the deal that involves the Palestinians.

MR. RUBIN: I fail to see the connection. Visits to the Palestinian Authority and leadership have occurred at times when we were far away from agreement, when we're close to an agreement and all the places in between.

QUESTION: I didn't see Dennis in London - but then again, I didn't look all over the city.

MR. RUBIN: He wasn't with us in London.

QUESTION: We only had 26 hours.

MR. RUBIN: I'm unaware of his whereabouts today, but I'm not aware of any meeting.

QUESTION: But you said something about it's still constructive -- to keep at it -- so something's going on.

MR. RUBIN: We continue to have contact with the parties. We will do so as long as we think there is a chance that we can come to closure and get on with the accelerated permanent status talks that we want to start so a permanent peace can be established in the Middle East.

QUESTION: Is this a new fund-raising activity or gala planned for the PLO that you can tell us about? Someplace there was a report about --

MR. RUBIN: About Stu Eizenstat's trip --

QUESTION: Stu Eizenstat, exactly.

MR. RUBIN: I don't have any more information on that, but I'll try to get it for you.

QUESTION: The Israelis blew up some Arab houses in East Jerusalem today - did that help the peace process?

MR. RUBIN: At the time when we are trying to bring the parties together, these house demolitions send the wrong signal. The Secretary has called repeatedly for a time-out on provocative activities, including house demolitions. At this delicate moment in the talks where we are still hopeful that we can reestablish the peace process that has been unable to succeed in the recent year, we renew our call on both sides to refrain from provocative acts which only make the task of reaching agreement more difficult.

QUESTION: And this is a provocative act?

MR. RUBIN: I think I said it sent the wrong signal.

QUESTION: But you said she asked for a time-out on provocative acts, and this is --

MR. RUBIN: Including house demolitions.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu has suggested that once there is a deal, he would take it to the Israeli people under referendum. Does the United States think that is a good idea?

MR. RUBIN: First of all, this would be problem we would love to have to deal with -- that is, how to get popular support for an agreement between the Prime Minister of Israel and the Palestinian Authority on reestablishing the peace process, getting implementation of the further redeployments, additional steps to fight terrorism by the Palestinians and the opening of permanent peace talks. That would be a watershed event that we would be thrilled to work with the Israelis on in any way.

As far as how they would determine their political support, that would be an internal matter for the Israelis.

QUESTION: Yuriy Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow, has attacked the State Department for denying visas to some of this friends and associates, claiming that it's being done for political reasons against him. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. RUBIN: As a matter of policy to protect American citizens, we reserve the right to deny visas to those we think may be engaged in criminal enterprises. Although I cannot get into any specific case by law, I can say that in several cases we have made decisions designed to protect the American people from those who may be involved in criminal enterprises.

QUESTION: Does that include Sergei Lisovsky?

MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't be able to get into any specific case, pursuant to the privacy regulations of the system.

QUESTION: Because you're trying to protect us?

MR. RUBIN: No, because of privacy rules and regulations - a thick document of which I'd be happy to provide you the rationale for the privacy laws of our visas. Because these things come up every day in every country in the world; and to put us in a position of having to provide publicly the files, reasons, rationales of every person in the world who would want to enter the United States, I think would be not only an enormous burden, but we would regard as untenable.

Furthermore, let me remind you that the burden of proof is on the applicant in this case, and visa officers have to work with what they have available. We're just not in a position, pursuant to the law, to provide any public information on specific cases.

QUESTION: Well, without mentioning any specific names, would it apply to any associates or friends of Mayor Luzhkov?

MR. RUBIN: I think I've tried to do the best I can in stating our policy, the reasons for our policy. But being more specific would be prohibited.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:25 P.M.)

[end of document]

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