U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #74, 98-06-22
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
Monday, June 22, 1998
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Election in Colombia
2 US Ambassador Recalled from Belarus
5 Rome Conference on ICC; Convention on Plastic Explosives;
Election in Czech Republic; Slovak Election Law
1-2,16 Election of New President & Hard Line on Drug Trafficking /
De-Certification / Samper's Visa / New President Mtg with
2-5 Return to US of Belarus Ambassador / US Options for
Proportional Response /Violations of Vienna Convention on
Diplomatic Relations / Departure of US Ambassador from
5 Conference on Stingers
5-6 Secretary's Visit & Mtg Agenda
6 Treasury Deputy Secretary's Meetings on Financial &
7 Situation Update in Kosovo / Refugees to Albania /
Ambassador Holbrooke's Visit
7 Rugova-Milosevic Dialogue / Amb Gelbard's Trip to Bonn /
Amb Hill's Contacts
8 Status of NATO Planning
GREECE / TURKEY / CYPRUS
8 Ambassador Holbooke's Visit to Greece / Not to Turkey / US
8-9 President's Schedule / Human Rights Dialogue / Secretary's
Mtgs With Dissidents
17-18 Attitude Toward India, Pakistan Since Nuclear Tests
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
9-10 Clarification by PM Netanyahu re Jerusalem Boundaries /
Jerusalem Final Status ssue / Secretary's Contacts with
10-11 US Support for Opposition Groups
11-14 Soccer Match Yesterday / Impact on Relations / MEK
Designated Terrorist rganization / Appointments to
Government Positions / New Political Activity / No Change
in US Policy Toward Terrorist Acts / Investigations
14-15 Investigation Continues of Al Khobar Bombing
ARMENIA / AZERBAIJAN
15 Threats to Annex Nagorno-Karabakh / US Discussion of
15-16 Election Law in Azerbaijan
16-20 Reports of Plans to Sell Nuclear Plants to India / US
Relations / Mtg in London re India, Pakistan / Transfers
to Unsafeguarded Facilities / Penalties for Sale
20 Nunn-Lugar Military Exchanges
17 Effect of Sanctions
INDIA / PAKISTAN
18 Next Steps
20 Visa for Governor
20 Military Exercise
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY JUNE 22, 1998, 12:45 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Close today to an on-
time performance; we always strive to work harder to get closer to 12:30
p.m. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let me start with a statement on
the subject of the election of the new president of Colombia.
We applaud the people of Colombia for turning out for the their June 21
presidential election in an impressive show of support for their democratic
process. We warmly congratulate Andres Pastrana, who, it appears, has won
the election for president of Colombia. Mr. Pastrana and his government are
well-aware that they will face many serious challenges. Chief among them
will be creation of a viable and sustainable peace process, and an end to
the violence which has taken so many innocent lives, and an end to
narcotics production and trafficking.
We look forward to working with him and his new administration in meeting
these challenges. Are there any questions on that subject?
QUESTION: Does the US share the view that Pastrana is more likely than
his opponent to take a hard line on drugs? Is he more to your liking so
MR. RUBIN: Well, rather than commenting on the internal election of one
candidate as opposed to another, we applauded the election. We warmly
congratulate him, and we think that there's a very good chance that the
United States and Colombia can turn over a new page in its relationship and
work more successfully in the fight against narcotics trafficking and other
QUESTION: When you said you look forward to working with him, do you have
any concrete ways in which you're going to do that right now; or is that
something to be decided?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't believe he officially takes office for some
months, weeks; but I suspect we will be looking to try to get in contact
with him or his people very quickly.
QUESTION: Now that there is no de-certification to Colombia, a new
president, are there going to be any drastic changes on the politics
between the United States and Colombia?
MR. RUBIN: I'm sorry, the beginning - now that there --
QUESTION: Yes, there is no - on the certification process, there is no de-
MR. RUBIN: Well, what there was was de-certification, but a waiver of the
imposition of the sanctions because of the national interests.
What we're saying here today is we hope that we can turn over a new page in
our relations with Colombia, and get to a point where the decision will be
to certify rather than to decertify. That is our hope.
QUESTION: Is there going to be any change in the situation of Samper's
visa after he left the office? I mean, they are going to continue to
suspend his visa?
MR. RUBIN: I think it's a little less relevant, certainly, but we will
take that question and try to get you an answer.
QUESTION: Can you be more specific about why the new president offers
that opportunity? What does he bring to the podium?
MR. RUBIN: Things he's said and things he's done. Our assessment from the
people on the ground is that this is the kind of person who received a very
powerful mandate from the people, including in the area of solving these
kinds of problems; and that as a result, we are hopeful that the democratic
change there will lead to a new page in US-Colombian relations.
On a completely different part of the world, let me say that we informed
the government of Belarus today that the US Ambassador has been recalled to
Washington for consultations. Ambassador Speckhard and his family left
Minsk today. This action was taken in response to the Belarusian Government's
clear violation of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.
Ambassadors of the European Union and other countries represented there
have also been recalled. This is a unified stance reflecting the view
of the international community that the government of Belarus' actions are
The United States also informed the Belarusian Government that it would be
inappropriate for the Belarusian Ambassador to the United States to return
to Washington until further notice. We are taking these actions because of
the events I described to you on Friday. These actions with regard to the
access to our residence there are unnecessary. They represent a deliberate
effort by the Belarusian Government to remove ambassadors from their
legitimate residences. We regard this as a clear violation - frankly, an
unprecedented violation -- of the Vienna Convention and respective leases.
And let me say that this has further damaged relations with the United
States and other countries, and will further isolate Belarus from the
Let me also point out that this does not mean we have broken diplomatic
relations with Belarus. Our embassy remains open to continue to offer full
services, including consular services to American citizens.
QUESTION: On that, saying that it would be inappropriate to have the
Belarusian Ambassador to return to Washington - is that tantamount to
MR. RUBIN: I think if we were expelling him, we would say so. We are
saying that given the fact that their initial actions - their uncivilized
actions in removing the hospitality that goes with an embassy in violating,
in an unprecedented fashion, the Vienna Convention, caused us to return our
Ambassador. In that circumstance, we advised them that it would be
inappropriate for them to send their ambassador back here. Let me say that
we're also reviewing other options for steps that we might take.
Let me say that recalling our ambassador for consultations - and this is an
indefinite recall - is a major step. It is our view that the Belarusian
Ambassador should not return until further notice, and we are considering
what further steps may be appropriate. We're reviewing our options -- and
let me say, in answer to what I expect to be your next question -- in our
potential proportionate responses, but have none to announce that this
QUESTION: But he is persona non grata.
MR. RUBIN: That is a technical, legal term. I think, in English, it would
be a real bad idea for him to come to the United States right now.
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: What is his name, Jamie?
MR. RUBIN: I'll get you his name for the record.
QUESTION: What if he showed up?
MR. RUBIN: I think that's a bridge we're not going to have to cross.
QUESTION: Will you let him in the country? Are you barring him from the
country, or just from serving as --
MR. RUBIN: I think if we were barring him, I would have said so. We are
telling them it's a very bad idea for him to return at this time.
QUESTION: For somebody not familiar with the Belarusian relations, can
you sketch for us the nature of the relationship, so we might know what
other options you might be considering?
MR. RUBIN: Well, as I said, the other options would be in the area of
proportional responses. Let's bear in mind what they've done - the have
violated the Vienna Convention by trying to take over property that was
leased to the United States that is inviolable property, pursuant to the
Vienna Convention - the residence of an ambassador. They have done so
through a variety of means, including cutting off the electricity, cutting
off plumbing services, cutting off the telephone service, forcing the
ambassador to walk a mile to get to his residence to be with his family,
by denying vehicular access - not letting cars go through. So these are a
series of things that they have done.
Now, in this case of the embassy residence here, it's an apartment; so it's
a slightly different case. But we believe that in light of a violation of
international law this flagrant and this unprecedented, the responses we're
considering would be, pursuant to international customary law, direct and
proportionate responses. What those will precisely be in addition to this,
we're considering. But clearly, Belarus is a country we have unfortunately
had significant concerns about much of their behavior in many areas. We
have expressed those concerns in the past, and all that's happened now with
this unprecedented - and frankly, when Ambassador Sestanovich asked
his staff, what is the normal response to something like this, they
couldn't find an example from which to give the answer of what is a normal
precedent. This is unprecedently, uncivilized behavior for a member of the
QUESTION: Jamie, did the Belarusians cap this by making the ambassador
and his family walk out of the compound with their suitcases and personal
MR. RUBIN: I don't know the answer to that; I'll try to find that out for
QUESTION: I mean, if he had to walk in, did they then have to walk out
with their suitcases?
MR. RUBIN: Well, there may have been cars in the embassy that they were
allowed to get out with.
QUESTION: For them to reopen, allow the compound to reopen and function
as it did before this disagreement? Would that be enough to undo all this,
or is there --
MR. RUBIN: Well, yes, our concern here is about what they've done to try
to take over the residences. And if they were to go back to the status quo
ante - to throw another legal term of art into the mix --
QUESTION: Very sui generous.
MR. RUBIN: -- and this is not sui generous situation, as I pointed
QUESTION: It is for you --
MR. RUBIN: Oh, I guess it is sui generous - that's what I meant.
Latin was never my strong suit. If they were to go back to the status quo
ante, then we could begin to talk about the situation in more diplomatic
ways. But as so long as they're going to violate one of the first premises
of diplomatic relations - that is the inviolability of an ambassador's
residence - it's very hard to have a serious diplomatic discussion with
QUESTION: Is that it for announcements?
MR. RUBIN: I do have statements on three other subjects, but we will post
them. Number one, we have a statement on the Rome Conference on the
establishment of the international criminal court; two - and this is
related to the Secretary's speech to the Henry Stimson Center on the
Convention to Mark Plastic Explosives - there's a statement on that; and
then we also have a statement on the Czech elections and the new Slovak
election law and - there's one more here - no, that's it.
QUESTION: Speaking of the Stimson Center, that proposal for a conference
on stingers - I think it's to take shape - will you let us know?
MR. RUBIN: We will let you know, yes.
QUESTION: These things float on air sometimes --
MR. RUBIN: Not just stingers, as you know.
QUESTION: Well, I didn't mean just stingers.
MR. RUBIN: MANPADS - Man Portable Air Defense Systems - a very politically
incorrect name for a very nasty weapon.
QUESTION: Japan - she's going to Japan?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Will it be just for that day - that July 3 day? Will she go any
place else? And they have bank loans - is that in her brief, or is it sort
of heavily financial and you're going to wait for the elections?
MR. RUBIN: First on the procedure, it's one overnight; there will be one
night overnighting in Japan.
QUESTION: So she stays for the 4th?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, and then to my knowledge, that is the only additional
stop on the Secretary's agenda, above and beyond her days with the
President in China.
With respect to the topics, let me say first of all that Deputy Secretary
Summers was recently there are part of a G-7 plus Asians plus IFI
representatives - several of the key participants on international
financial matters. They had very useful discussions on the current Japanese
situation, as well as on Asian financial issues generally. We welcome the
Prime Minister's and Finance Minister's statements on the next steps for
the Japanese Government.
There was general agreement on the great importance of addressing the
problems in the Japanese banking system, and also on the importance of
achieving domestic demand-led growth in Japan. That topic - Japan's
economic place in Asia - is a matter not just for Treasury officials, it's
a matter of national interest to the United States. In recent weeks and
months when the Secretary has talked to her counterparts in Japan, either
here or there, it has been part and parcel of our discussions. So I would
fully expect that the issue of the Asian financial crisis, Japan's economy,
the relationship thereto would figure prominently in her discussions in
QUESTION: You gave a fairly positive read on what went on, but the
markets are not compressed, and people are saying the Japanese just kicked
the problem down the road until the elections; that they're not going to
take any action - any serious action. I don't mean to quibble, but aren't
you - sort of got your fingers crossed and what you said -- hoping for the
best - the end is sinking --
MR. RUBIN: There's nothing wrong with that, I hope.
QUESTION: I guess not, but aren't you disappointed with what the Japanese
MR. RUBIN: The question of specific provisions of various agreements and
ideas and suggestions in the area of the banking system and deregulation,
as well as how to promote demand-led growth, is something that I would
prefer to leave to the Treasury Department to talk about; and they have
talked about that and they can be available today. But in general, the
assessment of the discussions was such, and it doesn't seem useful to get
into a discussion of what the market allegedly responded to, because
that is - knowing exactly what the market does - if I knew that, I would do
well in my other matters.
QUESTION: Yes, quickly. Jamie, do you have the name of the Japanese
officials the Secretary is going to meet?
MR. RUBIN: We'll be giving you a full list of the trip shortly after the
briefing; Mr. Foley can give you that information.
QUESTION: Because you mentioned, you know, the Secretary is going to
discuss about financial matters, so I'm just wondering other than the
Foreign Minister on --
MR. RUBIN: As I said, I'll give you the full list of officials after the
QUESTION: On Yugoslavia, the Secretary announced yesterday that Richard
Holbrooke will be going to have a meeting with Mr. Milosevic. Do you know
when that would be; and can you tell us where things stand on Kosovo and
MR. RUBIN: With respect to a situation report, we continue to receive
reports of scattered fighting in the Decani region. We also understand
there has been some isolated violence in the Klina region. In Northern
Albania, refugees continue to trickle in with the overall number stabilizing
at around 13,000. One of the major access paths for refugees appears to be
closed off, although we have no confirmation of any overall intent to
close the border.
We have repeatedly expressed our concern that the situation in Kosovo is
fertile ground for extremist elements on both sides. We support the
moderate approach taken by the ethnic Albanian leadership, including their
efforts to begin an effective dialogue with President Milosevic. But
because of Belgrade's campaign of violence in recent weeks, this effort has
been set back and prospects for a political solution have been set
Violence by Kosovar Albanians, with respect to suggestions that the KLA is
about to launch additional measures, only makes a bad situation worse and
perpetuates the cycle of violence. Ambassador Holbrooke will be traveling
to the region, as you indicated in your question. He will be in Skopje,
Belgrade and Pristina. He will be meeting with President Milosevic in
Belgrade; he will also meet with Kosovar Albanian leader, Dr. Rugova and
As the Secretary said yesterday, he will be making clear, in a very strong
message to President Milosevic, that the Contact Group's demands are not a
menu from which he can choose. He must not only follow through in a way
that he has not yet followed through on the requirements to allow access
for humanitarian organizations in Kosovo; but he also must pull back and
canton appropriately the forces that have been involved in the violence
there. That is what Ambassador Holbrooke will be saying to him in
general form. My understanding is the meetings will be tomorrow at
some point. But the exact details of his schedule are still being
finalized; but it's my understanding that it will be Tuesday.
QUESTION: Is the peace process still on hold insofar as a meeting between
Rugova and Milosevic's people? Is that still fouled up?
MR. RUBIN: Well, yes. As I understand it, Rugova is not in a position, in
his view, to have the kind of full-fledged dialogue on a continuing basis
that we think is necessary to resolve this problem, for the reasons that we
talked about last week. Special Representative Bob Gelbard will be
traveling to Bonn, at the invitation of the German Government this week, as
well. We are continuing to try to see what is the best way, through the
work of Ambassador Holbrooke on the one hand, and Ambassador Gelbard next
week in Europe on the other - sorry, this week - is to galvanize this
effort. But right now it's not going on. Ambassador Hill is talking to both
sides, but there is not a full, face-to-face, continuous dialogue as we
believe is necessary, because this is a conflict that can only be resolved
at the negotiating table, and must not be resolved on the battlefield.
QUESTION: Same subject -- do we know what the status is of the NATO
planning? Have they completed the accelerated --
MR. RUBIN: That planning continues.
QUESTION: Ambassador Holbrooke was in Athens, and as you said he is going
to be in Skopje tomorrow. Can you say a few words about these two stops of
Ambassador Holbrooke - the agenda of the discussions?
MR. RUBIN: The primary purpose of Ambassador Holbrooke's visit is to
deliver the commencement address at the American School in Athens. During
the trip, he will meet with the Greek Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and
other senior officials, and will obviously discuss a range of issues with
his Greek hosts, including the normal topics in our bilateral relations.
But it's really up to him to describe in more detail what he has already
done and what he intends to do. But as I understand it, the Skopje
portion is more related to Ambassador Hill than Greece.
QUESTION: What about Cyprus? Now he's got another job, and even before he
was named, the people like Mr. Berger were volunteering that Cyprus was a
very high priority item for this year and the year's about half done. Is
Cyprus receding into that basket of problems you'd like to do something
about but kind of intractable. Although Israel and the Arabs are not in
that basket, as intractable as it might seem. But where does Cyprus stand
right now? Is it going to get high profile attention?
MR. RUBIN: Ambassador Holbrooke made several trips there, and I think in
the last trip that he made, he spoke very directly to what the cause of the
problem was. I wouldn't want to restate what his conclusion was. But
clearly we have made some efforts in recent weeks and months through his
work to try to resolve this problem. There are clearly problems on the
horizon that have to be resolved, including the issue of new weaponry in
the region. So we're not going to let this fall onto the back burner.
At the same time, the fact of the matter is that until the parties decide
that they care enough about resolving this and have the political will to
resolve it, outside mediation can't make the difference; and so we will
continue to work on it. We will name appropriate people to the task since
Ambassador Holbrooke will not be in a position to do that.
QUESTION: He is going to go to Turkey also?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of any trip to Turkey.
QUESTION: Last week Assistant Secretary Roth said that the President
would not be meeting dissidents on the trip to China. I gather over the
weekend that the same question was put to Berger, and he at least left the
impression with some people that that may be being rethought. Is the
Administration rethinking the appropriateness of the President meeting
dissidents? And is there some way short of meeting a dissident that - I
mean, are you thinking about something else - like meeting a family member
from one of the victims from Tiananmen Square?
MR. RUBIN: With regard to the President's schedule and any rethinking of
the President's schedule, I would have to refer you to the White House. As
far as what we believe the purpose of our dialogue on human rights and the
way in which we hope to advance it, let me say that it's been our judgment
in a series of meetings that have been had at high levels that one can
advance the human rights situation without meeting with dissidents.
And let me give you a concrete example of that.
When Secretary Albright was in Beijing, she met with a wide variety of
officials and non-officials covering a broad cross-section of Chinese
society, including intellectuals who met with her at the residence that
were very candid and outspoken in their support for democracy. I believe at
the time we made clear that one of those present talked about the prospect
of national elections in China. So one doesn't need to meet with dissidents
in order to talk about political change, talk about human rights policies
and advance those policies.
With respect to whether there's any new thought being given to that, I'd
have to refer you to the White House. But in terms of how we think we're
approaching the problem, we want to advance the human rights agenda through
whatever means that we think best do it. So far that has not always meant
meeting with dissidents, and there are different reasons for that that
Assistant Secretary Roth went through with you. But with respect to final
decisions, I would refer you to the White House.
QUESTION: I know the Secretary spoke about Jerusalem yesterday, but do
you have anything further to add to, at the risk of raising this ad
MR. RUBIN: Let me say the following -- Prime Minister Netanyahu has
sought to clarify what the Israeli Cabinet decided and what it has done and
not done. The Prime Minister told us that this decision is not an effort to
expand the municipal authority of the city into areas that extend beyond
the green line. We appreciate that clarification. At the same time, this is
a very complicated matter, and we are not certain about what impact
Israel's decisions may have in the future. Our point is - and it is a very
simple and clear point - at a time when we are trying to break a prolonged
impasse in the Israeli- Palestinian negotiations - an impasse that has
harmed the interests of all concerned - the last thing we need from either
party are statements or actions that raise suspicions and make it even more
difficult to get the process back on track.
As you know, Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues in the
negotiations. What the Secretary made clear yesterday is that anything that
is done on a final status issue at this point isn't helpful. It's that
simple. We are trying to create the final status negotiations that the
Prime Minister and others have talked about. We are working very, very hard
to do so, so that all of these issues can be resolved, hopefully satisfactorily
to both sides; and then, whatever decisions may be in the pipeline can be
implemented on both sides.
In other words, if you take the action now, you make it harder for us to
break an impasse that has been excruciatingly difficult to break so far. We
believe it would be wiser to wait and get the peace process back on track,
which will lead directly into final status negotiations so that these
issues can be fully addressed, fully aired, hopefully satisfactorily
resolved; and then the people in the region can get on with the business of
living, rather than being in the business of inciting each other and
creating additional tensions.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - his explanation?
MR. RUBIN: Well, she spoke to him on Friday --
QUESTION: Before the Cabinet --
MR. RUBIN: Right, and in the course of the weekend and this morning, we
received additional clarifications. But that doesn't change the point.
QUESTION: Did they speak on the phone?
MR. RUBIN: She didn't speak to him this morning.
QUESTION: This was Friday?
MR. RUBIN: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. No, I understand clarification; I just didn't know if
they had another phone call.
MR. RUBIN: No.
QUESTION: Another subject - last week --
QUESTION: Before we leave that, you called the word "provocation." You're
a little kinder today on what Israel is doing. Is that because you now
understand the plan differently from the way you did Friday, as not being
an expansion of the city?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say this - we talked to the Israeli Government prior to
our statement on Friday; and perhaps, maybe they clarified their intentions,
rather than we understood it better.
QUESTION: Last week, Assistant Secretary Indyck talked publicly about a
new effort by the Administration to help the Saddam opposition organize and
be effective. I wondered if you could --
MR. RUBIN: Was the Iraqi Government not impressed by that?
QUESTION: I don't know about the Iraqi Government; I was interested in
the details. How do you intend to go about this? Why do you think that
these groups can be any more effectively mobilized than they had been in
MR. RUBIN: Just because things are difficult doesn't mean you shouldn't
try; that's the first point. Secondly, we are spending the money both to
try to coordinate them better, precisely because of that problem; and in
addition, to work on making more effective the legal evidence that is in
existence about war crimes.
So this money is designed to deal with the new question, which is how to
sensitize the world and make more effective the legal case on the question
of war crimes; and secondly to use the money precisely to coordinate the
activities better to try to get better coordination by the groups, make
sure that the right groups are involved and promote the kind of policies
that will show the people of Iraq that there are alternatives to the brutal
dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: And have you started this already; have you begun to do
MR. RUBIN: I'll have to get you details on the status of the program, but
the money has been made available, I believe, and we have plans in the
works, the specific nature of which I'd have to get you details on.
QUESTION: Jamie, do you have any observations about the atmosphere that
prevailed in the soccer match yesterday?
MR. RUBIN: Well, it was somewhat gloomy in my house. But the atmosphere
on the field was clearly warm. Let me say, we congratulate the Iranian team
on their victory; we wish them the best of luck in their upcoming matches.
Clearly, it was a well-played match by two teams who put their most
determined effort into it. I think the fans greatly appreciated the efforts
of the team members in pursuing this great event; although some of us might
have wished it came out another way.
QUESTION: Do you think it's going to have any impact on the overall
atmosphere of relations?
MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't want to exaggerate it, but I would say that the
contact between Iranian people and American people is something we have
tried to promote. It's something that President Khatemi spoke about; it's
something that we support. Building bridges, tearing down the walls of
mistrust and creating better understanding is the beginning of how to
overcome what has happened in the past. It doesn't change either country's
desire to want to deal with substantive policy issues, and it certainly
doesn't change ours.
But this was a well-played game. It was not marked by incidents that could
have had some other effect. The only bad part of the game is that we
QUESTION: Any observation on the fact that thousands of Iranian fans at
the end of the game, I guess, stripped off their football jerseys to reveal
opposition tee shirts?
MR. RUBIN: Well, with respect to the specific opposition group, let me
say the Secretary has designated the MEK a foreign terrorist organization
because of its long record of terrorist attacks. It is, therefore, illegal
for US citizens to provide material to the MEK. The international fight
against terrorism is one of our highest foreign policy priorities. We are
therefore determined that US law concerning the MEK's designation be
strictly and fully enforced. We categorically condemn terrorism whether
directed at Iran or anyone else.
That said, a careful review of the evidence concerning the National Council
of the Resistance, which is associated with the MEK, has shown that it does
not meet the criteria in the law for the designation of the NCR as a
foreign terrorist organization. The question of designation of any
organization remains under constant review. I bring those points up because
of the relationship between those two groups and some of the activities in
With respect to others who were merely expressing their opinion that may
have come from the whole spectrum of Iranian political life, vibrant
political activity is something that America was founded upon, something
that we support -- except when it is by those organizations that we believe
are terrorist organizations and commit the kind of atrocities against
innocent civilians that we have worked so much to deter and respond
QUESTION: To follow up on this issue - first a clarification if I could -
the MEK is the Majahedin e-Khalq? Is that correct?
MR. RUBIN: Correct.
QUESTION: For some months now, the Majahedin e-Khalq here in Washington
has pointed out that there was strong opposition to the hard line
conservative clericals. And here's an article concerning a Mr. Khatemi --
his minister is impeached, Mr. Noori, and he goes back and appoints the
very same day - appoints that fellow to another post in defiance of the
clericals, hard liners. What is the reaction of the State Department to
this particular development, and to rising dissent in Iran?
MR. RUBIN: We are not going to be in a position to comment on each
personnel move in the Iranian Government; they are internal matters. They
do, however, indicate the intense political debate occurring in Iran. And
as the Secretary noted in her speech, the Iranian people, in voting for
President Khatemi, clearly sought changes in society such as those publicly
advocated by President Khatemi and his government in the context of this
So we believe the Iranian people have made very clear their desire for a
country fulfilling the rule of law and democracy and creating greater
openness to events around the world. We welcome that view of the Iranian
people, and that's what Secretary Albright's speech was about. With respect
to every who's up and who's down within Iran, we don't think it would be
wise to comment on internal matters like that.
QUESTION: But this government welcomes the dissent within Iran and their
MR. RUBIN: I think I was very careful to say we welcome vibrant political
activity in general, and we certainly welcome the effort that was
demonstrated by the 20 million Iranians who voted for change in Iran, voted
to have a country fulfilling the rule of law, fulfilling democratic
principles and opening itself to the outside world - that we certainly
welcome. That's what the Secretary's speech was about - the people of
QUESTION: Jamie, your policy toward Iran now is very forward-looking.
What I'm wondering about is what happens to incidents in the past? How do
you handle that - such as the allegations they were involved in the bombing
in Buenos Aires, several other terrorist incidents, Khobar, et cetera?
MR. RUBIN: We'll consider that coming from both wires.
QUESTION: Joint question.
MR. RUBIN: Joint question.
QUESTION: How do you - would you like them to make payments, admit to it -
how do you deal with all those questions?
MR. RUBIN: The short answer is we do not believe the steps that the
Secretary called for and the analysis that she laid out in the speech and
the goal that we have set out for our relationship need have any impact on
the pursuit of terrorism and the sponsors of terrorism.
With respect to Khobar, we are going to continue to pursue the investigation.
The fact that the Secretary and the President would like to see a time when
Iran and the United States can have a better relationship is not going to
change at all the position of the United States with respect to Khobar
Towers. That bombing remains under investigation. The FBI is continuing its
work. As you know, in criminal investigations, it is not possible to
comment on it. I think the fact that we were working on a plea arrangement
and the testimony of a certain individual shows that we were working; we're
trying to get it done. Obviously, that didn't happen. The difficulties in
that investigation go back some time.
But the short answer to your question is that these investigations are
going to go on, regardless of our desire for improved relationship with
Iran. Frankly, one of the ways in which our relationship could improve is
if Iran would stop its sponsorship, and that we've made clear. So it is in
a black and white situation. We are going forward with the Khobar Towers
investigation. We support efforts to investigate other terrorist incidents
around the world. That doesn't mean that we don't want to talk to Iran -
and I'm not suggesting there's a link between any of these investigations;
I'm just answering your question. And let me be very clear about that -
these are investigations, and allegations about linkages are allegations.
We have made no judgments.
But we are going to go forward with those investigations. The Secretary
mentioned yesterday that it can often take years -- many, many years, ten
years - to get a terrorist suspect back to the United States for trial. We
will not sleep, in the metaphorical sense, until we've done all we can to
investigate these problems. The fact that we see a possibility of
developing a road map to normal relations doesn't mean we're going to
reduce in any way, shape or form our determination to get to the bottom of
terrorist incidents, wherever they happen.
QUESTION: Okay, then, after Khobar, the President, I believe, or senior
officials, said that they would attack Iran if it proved --
MR. RUBIN: They did not.
QUESTION: Perry did.
MR. RUBIN: I don't believe they said flatly what you just said.
QUESTION: Okay, injecting whatever ambiguity - we would have an
appropriate response, or whatever it was that they said.
MR. RUBIN: Well, that's what we say -
-- and you interpret it in other ways.
QUESTION: And then hordes of unnamed officials say they're talking about
bombing. We don't need to talk about the way that works. But anyway, it was
a very clear threat to Iran if it proved that they were behind the Khobar
bombing. My question is, does that threat still stand? And secondarily,
there was a rather detailed article over the weekend about the Khobar
investigation - maybe that's what you were addressing - which said it is
basically over and the Saudis aren't helping us and that's that. Can you
MR. RUBIN: With respect to the investigation, we have talked to the
Saudis at diplomatic levels about this issue. We'll continue to talk to
them about that. There have been stories for some time on the difficulties
in investigating these kind of issues. These criminal investigations are
based on where the facts might lead them, not speculation about international
relations, speculation about who might or might not be responsible; they're
based on the facts. We will continue to pursue those facts and seek
assistance from the Saudis in pursuing those facts, and the State
Department will continue to raise this matter with the Saudi Government
because we expect full cooperation with the investigation.
With respect to what we will do if some third country is found responsible,
I don't have anything to add to what words were chosen by other senior
officials; other than to say that as we have shown on a variety of
terrorist cases, we pursue the facts regardless of how long it takes and we
act and respond appropriately based on the judgments that we find.
QUESTION: If I could turn your attention to the Caucasus, the Armenian
Government is now threatening to permanently annex the Nagorno-Karabakh
province if Azerbaijan doesn't change its negotiating posture. Do you have
a comment on this?
MR. RUBIN: With respect to that threat, we find the statement to that
effect extremely disturbing. It's a cause for concern and contradictory to
Foreign Minister Auzkenian's* public declarations in Washington that
Armenia would not seek to annex Nagorno-Karabakh. The international
community must regard as unacceptable a threat by one country to annex what
is universally recognized as part of another. We have called on all parties
to the conflict to avoid provocative statements and instead to lay the
groundwork for compromise, without which there can be no solution.
The United States, as a co-chair of the OSCE-Minsk process, has been active
in the search for a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We
remain ready, along with our fellow co-chairs, Russia and France, to
facilitate productive negotiations among the parties.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that - the Secretary of State said in congressional
testimony last week that she was prepared to rev it up in terms of - I
think what she meant was pursuing a negotiated peace there, since things
had sort of quieted down with the new election and everything. And I
wondered whether there was anything specific you could say about US
MR. RUBIN: Not at this point. I think she has been discussing this matter
with her advisors in this area, and considering what the future might hold.
But whatever the future might hold, the kind of statements that I just
indicated go to the heart of the problem. As long as political leaders
don't want to take the hard path of resolving these problems, there's a
limit to what the outside world can do. But she is discussing with her
advisors what options exist for accelerating or intensifying our efforts.
QUESTION: A question on the Azerbaijani election. There are some reports
that (inaudible) is getting complicated because in the last week police
arrested many opposition members at the office of the opposition newspaper
and you know that - (inaudible) -- when he was in the United States
promised to conduct free and fair elections - (inaudible) -- Secretary
Albright and President Clinton. Now the international service says that the
election law does not respond to international standards. Do you have
any comment on that ?
MR. RUBIN: With respect to the election law, the parliament has passed
two election-related laws. The law in the presidential election incorporates
a number of points reflecting some recommendations by international
organizations. Concerns remain, however, that the other piece of legislation
- the law on the central election commission - will produce a commission
that is not sufficiently representative of the full political spectrum, and
that will limit the ability of opposition parties to play an active role in
the election process.
For that reason, we urge the government to take the legislative steps
necessary to ensure that it's laws on elections, on the election commissions
and on candidate access to print and broadcast media meet international and
OSCE standards. We also call upon the government to act in accordance with
international standards in its treatment of the Azerbaijani media. We
further urge the government to continue its dialogue with the OSCE's
director and Office of Democratic Institutions and to commit itself to an
open dialogue with the opposition parties to ensure free and fair
QUESTION: The new president of Colombia has said that he is going to meet
the guerrillas next week. What is exactly the role the United States is
going to play over this peace process in Colombia?
MR. RUBIN: I think we've answered this question before, and our answer
hasn't changed; that is that this is a matter for the Colombian Government
to work out. We are, of course, prepared to be of assistance if specific
things are asked, but at this point, we don't have anything new to
QUESTION: Are you aware of reports of Russian plans to sell some nuclear
plants to India?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I am aware of reports in that regard, and they are not
good news. Even before India's latest test, we urged Russia not to proceed
with the reactor sale to India, as it is not consistent with Russia's
obligations as a member of the Nuclear Supplier's Group; that is not to
sell reactors to countries that don't have so-called full scope safeguards -
safeguards on all facilities.
The most recent Russian announcement sends precisely the wrong signal at
the wrong time. It undercuts the good work we have done together in the
Permanent Five and the G-8 to get India to understand that nuclear testing
does not bring rewards. It sends the wrong signal at the wrong time. In our
effort to fight non-proliferation, we've urged Russia not to go forward
with its nuclear cooperation with India; and we urge Russia, therefore, to
reconsider these accounts of its intention to go forward.
QUESTION: What do you make of it? I mean, the United States is always
sort of trumpeting its good relations with Russia; and yet, in so many
areas - and now this one seems to be quite egregious - Moscow is working at
cross-purposes with you.
MR. RUBIN: I would certainly disagree that I've been blaring any trumpets
from this podium with respect to relations with Russia. I will refrain from
bringing a trumpet on any subject to avoid being accused of trumpeting
But trumpet aside, let me try to answer your question. With respect to our
relations with Russia, we do believe we have built a cooperative relationship,
and that we work together on many, many issues. I'm not going to list them
all for you, but you could probably list them as well as I could. That is a
marked change from the Cold War and from the period immediately thereafter.
Let's bear in mind, American and Russian soldiers are now operating
together in Bosnia, under the SFOR operation. That is a remarkable
thing. It doesn't mean, however - and it has never been our intention
to suggest it means - that we on Russia agree on every subject or we agree
on every tactic to approach, when we do agree on a subject.
With respect to India and Pakistan, we had a very good meeting in London.
The members of the G-8 agreed to some very important steps, including the
fact that the eight would postpone consideration of loans to India and
Pakistan. So it's not simple to - it's not fair to simply say that nothing
is happening; frankly, there is a great deal happening in the sanctions
area. With respect to this particular decision, what I'm stating to you is
what our policy is -- which is, in areas where we disagree, we don't
hesitate to say so. In this case, we think that this signal is the
wrong one; that it is too close to business as usual. It sends the
wrong message to India and Pakistan at a time when the international
community is trying to demonstrate to them, as we have so successfully,
that their decision was a mistake.
With respect to this area, let me say that we do believe that sanctions
that were imposed on India are having a substantial direct and indirect
effect. Although the Indian economy had been experiencing some lags before
sanctions were imposed, it appears already that the sanctions have added to
existing concern among investors, and have further diminished investor
confidence. The reported recent downturn in the Indian economy dates from
before the test and sanctions, and is the result of broader economic
forces. Nevertheless, we are implementing our sanctions package fully,
correctly and properly; at the same time recognizing that we want to
minimize unintended consequences.
So the sanctions are working. There are many things where we and the
Russians are working together on; this one we disagree. So I'm stating our
disagreement, rather than trumpeting something that we avoid trumpeting.
QUESTION: Where do you go from here on this whole issue of trying to
force a change in the Indian and Pakistan behavior. Specifically, what, if
anything, do you want to get out of China on Pakistan at the summit?
MR. RUBIN: With respect to China on Pakistan at the summit, I think we
have stated quite clearly that we want to see greater cooperation from the
Chinese in the area of accepting international norms in the missile area,
as well as working to ensure that all that goes with that commitment are
implemented. That would have an effect on potential cooperation with
But let me add - and you can accuse me of pointing out something that isn't
bad news, and you might even call it trumpeting if it's not bad news. That
is that China has been constructive and has worked with us and has been a
part of our process to send a very strong signal to India and Pakistan that
its decisions to test were a mistake. China chaired a meeting in Geneva
that you're familiar with, and came into that meeting with constructive
positions across the board. They had an affirmative agenda on the things
that Pakistan should and shouldn't do. They've talked to the Pakistanis
about ensuring that there is no retransfer of any technology or equipment
that could be useful in this area.
So China has played a responsible role since these tests, and that is
better for the security of the United States than being in a position where
we don't talk to the Chinese because people somehow think that sticking our
head in the sand is a better way to advance the national interests of the
With respect to where we go on India and Pakistan, Deputy Secretary Talbott
had a good initial meeting with their special representative in this area,
and we would expect to have similar contact with the Pakistanis in the near
future and try to convince them that they need to make commitments along
the lines that the Chinese and the American-led group demanded; and that is
on not testing any further nuclear tests, on joining the Comprehensive Test
Ban as a non-nuclear weapons state and on not weaponizing its missiles
and not testing its missiles and ultimately getting commitments that go
beyond unilateral pledges in that area. That's what we're working on; so
far, so good. But these were setbacks to the cause of non-proliferation. We
were very honest and clear on that, and now we're working to try to make
sure the signal is not sent to the rest of the world that testing is a good
Despite this decision of the Russians, it still should be clear to any
country considering such an action that it has harmed India and Pakistan's
standing in the international community, harmed their economy and set back
QUESTION: In London, the Secretary's speech, which was quaintly called an
intervention, was distributed, and it tracked almost precisely later with
the statement or the communique issued. The only major point she made that
there was nothing in the communique to reflect was her appeal that they
stop helping India and Pakistan with their technology. And I've been asking
since then if they turned her down. This is your answer - I mean, Russia's
given the world its answer now - I don't mean you. That's the answer - that
Russia is not going to stop helping India; and why would you expect
Pakistan's friends now to back of, if that's the example being set by one
of America's terrific friends?
MR. RUBIN: Well, Barry, believe me, we're not sugar-coating this. This is
not good news, so what we're --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - talking about a few troops in peacekeeping
operations, and that's minor compared to the spread of nuclear technology.
MR. RUBIN: I don't think stopping the war in Bosnia is a minor issue at
all; and I think bringing peace to Bosnia and deploying forces - military
forces - in a joint command situation is a major transforming event.
With respect to the civilian technologies, remember what this issue's
about. This issue is not about transferring nuclear weapons or transferring
weapons-grade plutonium or weapons-grade uranium. It's about our view - and
this is very important to get the nuance right - that you should not
cooperate with a facility in a country where every facility is not under
safeguards. The Russian view is that this particular program is not
cooperating with an unsafeguarded facility; it's cooperating with
safeguarded facilities, even though there are unsafeguarded facilities in
India. So let's not over-dramatize the potential proliferation concern.
At the same time, what I said holds - the message is the wrong one. It's
the wrong message at the wrong time, and we are going to urge the Russian
Government to reconsider. It would be better for the world if all the major
countries in the world were as clear as they could be, even at the risk of
effecting its own economy - as our sanctions clearly do - because the cause
of non-proliferation is so important.
QUESTION: Have you heard from them on the Plutonium 2000 proposal she
made at the Stimson Center?
MR. RUBIN: I'll have to get back to you on that.
QUESTION: Do you know if Russia faces any penalty for this sale? From
what you're saying, it's not a clear cut violation of this Nuclear
Supplier's Group provision.
MR. RUBIN: No. We believe that the nuclear - no, that's not what I'm
saying. We believe that the Nuclear Suppliers Group provision that you only
provide cooperation to facilities when that country is under full-scope
safeguards is what pertains.
The Russians take the view that they had a generalized agreement of this
kind of thing in the past and since it is a safeguarded facility, it is
grandfathered -- to use the term of art - to permit it. We don't agree with
that. They have said they were going to go forward. Secretary Albright
raised this with Foreign Minister Primakov in Geneva, and we are disappointed
by what we are hearing. We think it's not good news, it's bad news; it
sends the wrong signal at the wrong time.
QUESTION: What they have violated, then, is the rules of the Nuclear
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, it's not a treaty and so violation is one of
those words that is very tricky in the international legal lexicon. We
believe that the Russian argument that this type of cooperation was
previous to their joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group is too general and
overly broad, and that they should be leaning against actions like these
when it comes to countries that don't have full-scope safeguards like
QUESTION: So this --
MR. RUBIN: We believe they are acting inconsistently with the rules.
QUESTION: Yes. But the contractor negotiation of it began prior to the --
MR. RUBIN: That's the dispute - is we don't believe that a generalized
commitment that was made many, many years ago to help in this area is
sufficient justification for this particular step.
QUESTION: Also on Russia - what is the point of view of the State
Department of the Nunn-Lugar exchanges between the US and the Russian
military - specifically General Habiger's trip to Russia where he visited
six strategic nuclear bases -- the Russians have been to this country doing
the same -- seeing that some of these missiles are actually not targeted
that the Russians have. Is this building confidence? Is this a good
MR. RUBIN: The short answer is yes. We believe that the more that we and
the Russians can understand the strategic posture of our countries and
understand the capabilities of our forces and the ways in which they
operate - provided appropriate security precautions are taken - it helps
avoid any miscalculations or misunderstandings. In general, that it a good
QUESTION: For the record - do you have the answer about the visa
situation of the governor - Mexican governor from --
MR. RUBIN: We'll have to get that for you.
QUESTION: Jamie, the Taiwanese are planning military exercises tomorrow.
MR. RUBIN: Taiwan is planning a military exercise?
QUESTION: Right. (Inaudible) - tomorrow? Did you have this report?
MR. RUBIN: I don't have any information on that particular exercise.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:45 P.M.)