U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #125, 98-11-12
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, November 12, 1998
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1-2-3,5-8 Department's Response to Iraqi Minister Tariq Aziz Press
1,2,7,8,9,14 Secretary Albright's Conversations with Foreign Ministers /
UN Secretary General
2,3-4,7,9 Options / Timing / Use of Force / Authorization For Use of
3-5 Administration's Consultations with Congress
4 Status of Diplomatic Efforts
8-9 Iraq Situation and Affect on Middle East Peace Process
9 Russian Government Position on the Use of Force
9-10 Authorized Departure for Embassy Personnel in Kuwait and
10 Status of Other US Embassies in the Region
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
10 Israeli Cabinet's Decision to Approve Wye Memorandum
11,12 Israeli Decision Regarding Har Homa
11-12 Travel Plans of Dennis Ross and Aaron Miller
12-14 Israeli Cabinet's Attachment of Conditions to Wye
15 Dismissal of the Board Members of the ecumenical
Patriarchate's High School
15-16 Update on Situation in Kosovo / Problems in Implementation
16 Energy Secretary Richardson's Travel to Taiwan
16-17 Visit of the Dalai Lama
17 China's Strategic Missile Force and Development of Missiles
17 Agreement on the Disputed Islands
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 1998, 12:45 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I think
for those of you who just observed Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime
Minister, I guess, Tariq Aziz of Iraq speak about the current situation,
let me just give you a quick reaction.
Clearly, Iraq is desperately trying to shift the blame for this crisis away
from its shoulders, away from its doorstep to the United States. I think
what we've seen in the last couple of days is that that effort is failing
completely and totally. Whether it is the statement of the Gulf Cooperation
Council plus Syria and Egypt -- that is Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar,
Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Oman -- issuing a statement
placing squarely the responsibility for this crisis on Iraq and making
clear that Iraq and Iraq alone will be responsible for the consequences of
its failure to comply, that's a very strong indicator of the views of the
region, including Syria and Egypt.
In addition, Secretary Albright, in addition to the discussions she has had
with folks from that part of the world, has also been in contact with a
number of foreign ministers today on this subject. It is her impression
from those calls that the rest of the world very clearly has placed
responsibility on the shoulders of Iraq. She spoke today to Foreign
Minister Fischer of Germany, Foreign Minister of Slovenia, the Foreign
Minister of Portugal, the Foreign Minister of France, the Foreign Minister
of Japan and the Foreign Minister of Sweden.
So what you are seeing from around the world is a clarion call to change
course; because the whole world sees Iraq to blame and Iraq as being
responsible for the current crisis. Instead of trying to obscure its
failure to comply with Security Council resolutions by obsequious readings
of different documents and different signals, there's a very simple path
that Iraq can take if it wants to comply with Security Council resolutions
and wants to get sanctions lifted.
It is very simple. What they need to do is to come back into compliance.
That's the easy way, the easy path forward. If Iraq wants to see the burden
lifted it should stop trying to shift blame, take responsibility for living
up to the Security Council resolutions and acknowledge that it has failed
to cooperate. You heard a lot of obsequious readings of different letters
and language instead of acknowledgment that the whole world and all the
inspectors and all the people at the UN believe Iraq must now come back
into compliance and rescind its decision -- its decision from October, its
decision from August, its simple failure to come clean about its weapons
of mass destruction. That's what this crisis is about; it's about whether
Iraq will stop the lying, stop the obscuring of the facts and start the
No amount of polemic or attempt to shift blame is going to change the fact
that the whole world is placing responsibility for this crisis squarely on
QUESTION: This is probably a question to put at the White House or the
Pentagon, so we'll put it here. The White House is saying that there's no
artificial deadline, and so far as military moves, we all know that you can
maintain a certain force for just so long before you begin to have
problems. Is the Administration prepared to say something like sooner
rather than later? I mean, you yourself have said this can't go on
indefinitely. I don't know how long indefinitely is, but there's nothing in
Aziz's statement to suggest they're about to reverse course.
MR. RUBIN: Clearly not. He has not made that indication. In Secretary
Albright's calls to various foreign ministers, she has made clear the
gravity of the situation and made clear that this cannot be allowed to
persist. We have said that it cannot go on indefinitely for a very simple
reason; and that is, there are real dangers if Iraq were without inspectors,
without monitoring in a matter of months - not years - they could
reconstitute their weapons of mass destruction.
With respect to the President's decision-making on this, let me simply say
that Secretary Albright obviously has been involved in a number of non-stop
discussions with her counterparts in the government. It is my understanding
that there are a number of options being presented to the President to
maintain maximum flexibility. For obvious reasons, it would be inappropriate
for me to get into those options or when and how the President will decide
what the appropriate next steps will be; other than to say that for a long,
long time now, this government, Secretary Albright, the President have been
pursuing a diplomatic course.
We've pursued that course last fall; we've pursued that course this spring.
Secretary Albright and others went to great lengths to try to resolve the
crisis this winter peacefully by providing Iraq a mechanism and UNSCOM a
determined role in inspecting the relevant sites in Iraq. Then in August,
when Iraq first responded by stopping cooperation, our response was not to
rush to use military force; but rather to make sure that the whole world
understood that we were being reasonable. We have pursued the diplomatic
road for a long, long time. We are not in a rush to use military force. We
have given Iraq chance after chance time after time to come back into
compliance. Their response, as we saw today, is, who me; I had nothing to
do with this.
It's very clear to all the countries on the Security Council and to the
Secretary General himself, who Saddam Hussein's Tariq Aziz was appealing to
today, that the responsibility lies with Iraq. Secretary General Annan said
that he is saddened by the decisions, and he strongly urged President
Saddam Hussein to rescind its decision of October and August and resume
immediately cooperation with UNSCOM and the IAEA.
That's where the world is. There is no need for further warnings to Iraq.
We've been at this a long time. They understand our seriousness. This is a
grave situation. Instead of responding to the appeals from all over the
world - from the Arab world, from Europe, from Asia - Iraq is still trying
to play pass-the-responsibility instead of taking responsibility for its
failure to cooperate and its flouting of Security Council resolutions.
That's where the situation stands.
QUESTION: I ask you quickly about two senators who have the reputation of
being moderates saying different things. Senator Specter is saying what
seems to be in the offing here is something that's comparable to war, and
the Congress should get to pass judgment on this - it amounts to a
declaration of war. Senator Lugar says that if it comes to that, Saddam has
to be killed - making the point that whatever the US does, if Saddam
Hussein is still around, this problem won't go away. Can you address
either of those?
MR. RUBIN: Well, on the second one, obviously with respect to targeting,
it's not something I could get into. But I can describe for you the goal of
our policy, which is to counter the threat Iraq poses to its neighbors -
particularly the threat that would be posed if Iraq acquired weapons of
mass destruction and the means to deliver them. Therefore, any use of force,
if it were chosen, would be consistent with those goals; namely, to
degrade his capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction
as well as Iraq's ability to threaten its neighbors. Those would be the
goals if force were taken.
With respect to your first question, we have long believed that it's
appropriate and proper to consult with Congress on a subject as important
as this. Secretary Albright and others in the Administration have been
consulting actively with Congress in recent days on the situation in Iraq,
and we plan to continue those consultations.
Having said that, let me say that we do not believe we need additional
authorization for the use of force because the President has the inherent
authority to use force under the Constitution, and the Congress has
authorized the President to use force against Iraq under the Authorization
for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, stipulating that
Congress supports the use of all necessary means to achieve the goals of
Security Council Resolution 687 as being consistent with the authorization
for use of military force against Iraq.
In other words, previous congressional action, combined with the inherent
authority of the President, means that we do not believe we need additional
authorization for the use of force.
QUESTION: That inherent authority usually applies to an instant situation
where there isn't time to seek congressional approval. I'm not arguing the
case. This is a considered decision if force is used; there have been weeks
walking up to the use of force. So the Administration's position is that
this doesn't go to the Congress' authority or constitutional right to
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that this is obviously a very sensitive legal issue,
and there are legal scholars who've written many long books on exactly
where one draws the line here. I would not simply draw the line as you did
with the urgency. There are other issues that come into play when it comes
to the President's inherent authority, beyond what you said.
But regardless, this is a case where we're talking about enforcing a cease-
fire resolution that stopped a war that was authorized by Congress in a
sense, by the resolutions that were passed in 1990. So in that case, this
is different; and other scholars will talk about different pieces of it.
But clearly, we're talking about our authority deriving from Security
Council resolutions and inherent authority. Those Security Council
resolutions refer back to Resolution 678, which authorized all necessary
means, which was something endorsed by the Congress at the time.
QUESTION: Jamie, could you just respond to two comments - one by Strobe
Talbott and the other by Defense Secretary Cohen?
MR. RUBIN: Sounds like I'll agree with them.
QUESTION: We'll see. After his speech at Brookings, Ambassador Talbott
indicated that the military campaign would begin gradually and be stepped-
up over time. Perhaps you saw the comment; I don't know. Then down in
Norfolk, Defense Secretary Cohen said that the time frame for diplomacy has
not been ended - which doesn't necessarily agree with what some others are
saying here in Washington.
MR. RUBIN: I don't agree with you characterization of the second comment.
When the President has made a decision and decides how to proceed, one will
know the answer to the second question.
With respect to the first question, I can't be more specific about the
goals or the operational activities of the military, except to say that the
goal of our policy all along has been to counter Iraq's threat to its
neighbors - particularly the threat that would be posed if Iraq acquired
weapons of mass destruction. Therefore, any use of force would be
consistent with those goals - namely, to degrade his capacity to develop
and deliver weapons of mass destruction, as well as his ability to threaten
Therefore, any military campaign would have those objectives. The exact
pacing and questions about what we would do at different phases would be
determined by the military consistent with the goals I just described.
QUESTION: Just to follow up Barry's quote about Senator Specter, Senator
Specter seemed to think that members of Congress were not being adequately
informed. What, in fact, is the Secretary doing to brief them?
MR. RUBIN: She has been on the phone with members of Congress in recent
days and she will continue to be on the phone with members of Congress. I
do not have an exhaustive list of who she's spoken to, but I know she has
spoken to some important members of Congress in recent days.
QUESTION: Committees, I would assume?
MR. RUBIN: The relevant people; I just don't have the list in front of
me. But she has been consulting; the Administration has been consulting
widely, and I expect the Administration to continue to do so.
QUESTION: A second question, related to this - Tariq Aziz's main point
today was really on the lifting of the sanctions. He said, I think, at one
point that the problem with the current policy of the United States is that
there no light at the end of the tunnel, but there is a tunnel at the end
of the tunnel. I wonder if you could just spell out under precisely what
circumstances sanctions can be lifted?
MR. RUBIN: The President stated very clearly yesterday that if Iraq and
Saddam Hussein were serious about wanting sanctions lifted, there is an
easy way to demonstrate that: let UNSCOM do its job without interference
and complete its mission.
I do not want to parse all the details of this, other than to say that the
international community is united; that is, that what they really want is
not what Tariq Aziz said today. What they really want is to be able to have
it both ways, to be able to keep their weapons of mass destruction and have
sanctions lifted. That is simply not going to happen.
If Iraq wants to demonstrate for the first time that it's serious about
compliance by cooperating in full and over time with the UN inspectors --
and Ambassador Butler has laid out a road map for them about how it would
work for them to confirm the information he needs to confirm and for them
to cooperate in a way he thinks is necessary. We've said, in a letter the
Security Council provided to Iraq, that we would be prepared to see this
process reviewed if and only if Iraq were to come back into compliance,
rescind its decision and cooperate.
Instead of responding to that reasonable approach, Iraq threw that offer in
the face of the Security Council and rejected it out of hand. I think the
main point here is that Iraq is simply not serious about wanting sanctions
lifted. If they were serious, they would meet the tests that are required
under Security Council resolutions. This isn't an American test; it's not a
British test; it's not an Anglo-Saxon test. It's a test that the whole
world set down in Resolution 687 -- the Cease-Fire Resolution -- which
could have been implemented in a matter of weeks had Iraq been serious
about it. Instead they have lied, they've obscured, they've failed to
cooperate, they've prevented UNSCOM from doing its job. And we're still
here several years later with Iraq not disclosing how much weapons of mass
destruction they had, what they did with them and what they're doing
Until they do that, they're in no business and have no business telling
other countries what positions to take. The United States has made very
clear that it is very easy, there's an easy path for Iraq if it wants to
have sanctions lifted. That's to start down that path of cooperation that
they haven't started down for seven long years.
QUESTION: That letter from the Security Council referred to all relevant
UN resolutions, which is a code word. It means, I guess, return of property,
accounting for property and missing prisoners and so on. The question is
whether the Iraqis have to come completely clean on the weapons or whether
there are there additional requirements beyond that.
MR. RUBIN: They obviously have to meet the requirements of Security
Council resolutions. The point is this is a moot point. Iraq is trying to
obscure the facts. The facts are that they've failed to cooperate. The fact
is that they prevented UNSCOM from doing its work. The fact is this is a
moot point until Iraq comes back into compliance, cooperates in a sustained
way and responds to the very reasonable offer that was put forward by the
QUESTION: Jamie, we had Desert Storm and then seven years of inspections
and sanctions, and now we are in a position where you've said recently that
in a matter of months Iraq could reconstitute its program of WMDs. What
makes you think that a military campaign now will put you in a better
position vis-a-vis those WMD programs if a previous military campaign and
all this inspection still haven't done it?
MR. RUBIN: First of all, let me say we're not saying we prefer a military
solution. What we're saying is we can't fail to respond -- that we're
prepared to act -- because to fail to act would only embolden Iraq in very
With respect to your direct question, the question is compared to what?
Right now UNSCOM hasn't been operating for eight of the last 12 months.
Iraq has failed to cooperate; UNSCOM hasn't been able to find what it needs
to find; Iraq hasn't provided the information it needs to provide. So
because our goal is to counter the threat Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
poses and the best way to achieve that goal - UNSCOM - has been blocked by
Iraq, we may need to pursue other ways to pursue that goal -- by degrading
Iraq's capacity to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction.
It's not simply a choice between UNSCOM operating effectively and the use
of force; it's a choice between UNSCOM not operating and the use of force.
Given the dangers that these weapons pose, I don't accept the idea that
there's some easy other alternative.
QUESTION: But there's nothing in between those two options?
MR. RUBIN: All I can tell you is that we have given diplomacy a very,
very long time to work. It's been going back since this crisis began a year
ago, when Iraq first thought it could drive a wedge through the Security
Council when there was an abstention in the Security Council by two
For the last year, that effort has gone on and we have slowly and steadily
rebuilt the unity and unanimity of the Security Council because we believe
very strongly that if force needs to be used, it's very important to avoid
a situation where the very important sanctions regime might erode in the
aftermath. That has been one of our guiding principles as we've pursued our
clear objectives. And in turn, what we've seen in recent months is a slow
erosion of any willingness on the part of Iraq's friends or erstwhile
supporters to speak up for it.
What Iraq is hearing now is the sounds of silence. It is not hearing any
serious support for their position - whether it's from the Gulf, whether
it's from Europe, whether it's from Asia, whether it's from the United
States. There is nobody who is standing up and defending the indefensible.
As we saw just now, their position is so indefensible that they are seeking
to obscure the facts and try to shift the blame.
QUESTION: You expressed concern that the sanctions regime might erode
after a military campaign. What would be the need for sanctions after a
military campaign if, presumably, that military campaign would be directed
to doing what the sanctions are doing - to punish Iraq and to end its
MR. RUBIN: Well, we have very clearly not said that we thought the use of
force, if it occurred, could eliminate the threat of weapons of mass
destruction. We said it could degrade that threat.
As long as Iraq fails to comply with the requirements of the Security
Council resolutions by cooperating with UNSCOM and the UN inspectors,
sanctions are going to stay on indefinitely.
QUESTION: Jamie, on the previous thing, notwithstanding all the words
about the unanimity of everyone against Iraq --
MR. RUBIN: I thought they were pretty good words.
QUESTION: I want to make sure that in the UN, are you hearing anything by
some of Iraq's former friends - the people that used to stand up for them -
that maybe one more diplomatic mission may be in order? Is there anything
in the background there?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that Secretary Albright has spoken a couple of
times in the last day or so with Secretary General Kofi Annan. She's spoken,
as I said, to a whole number of foreign ministers today; and I gave you a
report of the others she spoke to yesterday. I would expect her to be in
contact with Secretary General Annan upon his return very shortly.
We have not heard of any serious intent or indication that anybody is
planning anything significant in that regard. Let me say, we have no
objection to countries communicating with Iraq about the seriousness of the
situation, the gravity of the situation, and trying to use diplomatic
persuasion or exhortation to convince them to change course. We have no
problem with that. The question is whether there's something to negotiate;
and we don't see the point of a mission when there isn't any purpose in
negotiating. It's a very clear situation.
It's not like it was in February, where there was some question about the
modalities of inspecting sites that had never been inspected before. This
is a very simple proposition - Iraq has stopped cooperation with monitors,
with inspectors across the board. So the question is whether Iraq has been
listening to all of the demands of the Security Council, of the Secretary
General, of the countries in the region and of the countries all over the
world; and will they reverse course. It's not a situation that we think
lends itself to those kind of steps.
QUESTION: Jamie, two questions - you mention that Albright spoke today to
the Foreign Minister of Portugal, Japan and Germany. Can you tell us if any
of those countries have indicated a commitment to participate in a military
campaign? Also, today Yasser Arafat said that peace in the Middle East
would be negatively affected by a US strike; do you agree or disagree and
MR. RUBIN: I haven't seen that particular quote, but let me answer your
first question first. Secretary Albright has been in touch with a number of
foreign ministers, as I indicated. Essentially what she has been doing is
explaining to these countries the stakes involved, the work we have done to
try, after a long, long time, to get Iraq to come back into compliance.
She's been informing them about the fact that we have authorized departure
of our dependents at our embassies. She has been talking to them about how
Iraq has precipitated this crisis because it wants sanctions lifted
without complying with the UN Security Council. She made clear that if Iraq
is allowed to continue its defiance of the Security Council, the effectiveness
of the Security Council will be dealt a serious blow as the primary
instrument for dealing with threats to international peace.
She's made clear that we have not acted in a hasty way; that we've worked,
as I indicated earlier, very carefully and reasonably and responsibly in
recent weeks and months to make clear that this is Iraq's responsibility.
With respect to your specific question about support, let me simply say we
have been in touch with a number of countries about the situation in Iraq.
In some cases there have been pledges of military support, but I can't go
into operational details nor should I be in a position of announcing other
countries' activities. We believe, as we've indicated earlier, that we will
have all the necessary support if the President decides to use military
QUESTION: The question about would peace in the Middle East be affected
by a US strike?
MR. RUBIN: We're not unaware of the fact that a use of force will have an
effect on the region. But let's remember where we're starting from - we're
starting from a situation where we now have a peace agreement, where the
long 18-month hiatus is over, where the Palestinians and the Israelis have
acted to put behind them that era of mistrust and lack of confidence and
breakdown and moved forward courageously and decisively to implement
an agreement that we have shepherded for 18 long months. So we've
seen some bumps in the road in recent weeks, and we know that the use of
force might be a bump in the road for some; but we do not believe that that
is a reason not to pursue what is our national interest with respect to the
threat from weapons of mass destruction.
Frankly, we do not see the reaction as being the way people often predict.
I remember when the Gulf War occurred, there was a prediction of a dramatic
wave and an uproar from one end of the Arab world to the other by some;
that obviously was incorrect. So there will be predictions, but that should
not deter us from pursuing what we regard as our national interest.
QUESTION: The Russian Government has voiced strong objection to the use
of force on Iraq. They, of course, were very instrumental, I think you
would agree, in bringing about compliance in Kosovo from Mr. Milosevic that
made it unnecessary to bomb there, which they would have objected to. So
are they going to - or do you know if they are going to be asked or going
to intercede in Iraq? And in fact, are they objecting to our particular
MR. RUBIN: I saw the remarks of Ambassador Lavrov in New York, and I
wouldn't characterize them that way. I saw them as merely pointing out the
difficulties of the use of force - from their perspective, the difficulties.
But with respect to Russian diplomacy, Secretary Albright has been in touch
with Foreign Minister Ivanov on several occasions in recent days. We have
not detected any inclination on their part or, frankly, anybody's part, to
engage in any diplomatic mission beyond countries communicating to Iraq the
urgency and the need for them to reverse course.
QUESTION: Sometime ago - maybe a week ago - you said that all options
were on the table, including the use of force. It seems like we've been
talking almost exclusively about the use of force. Can you say if you all
are considering any other options besides the use of force to resolve this
matter; and what might they be?
MR. RUBIN: Well, the President obviously wants to maintain the maximum
flexibility, and options are therefore designed to provide that flexibility.
But I am not going to get into what those options are or when and how the
President will decide what the appropriate next steps are.
QUESTION: Jamie, I'm sorry, I came in late. Have you already been asked
about what Tariq Aziz said on Paragraph 22?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: The US is evacuating dependents and non-essential diplomats
from Kuwait and Israel. Is there any plan - first of all, is there any
suspicion, reason to believe they may be targeted? And is there any
contingency plan to provide assistance? I don't know about Kuwait, is
anybody leaning on Israel not to respond as the previous Administration did
eight years ago?
MR. RUBIN: With respect to the second question, I would have to check for
you. We recognize, as we did in February, Israel's inherent right of self-
defense. Beyond that, I wouldn't be prepared to say.
With respect to other posts, other embassies in the region are reviewing
how they wish to deal with the current situation. Obviously, we are taking
precautionary measures with the three posts involved; and we're doing so
because we can't exclude the possibility of danger to them. That is one of
our highest responsibilities here at the State Department - to try to
provide all the information we can both to our employees and to other
Americans who might be in the region.
In that regard, let me say that the public warnings that we have issued to
all American citizens obviously also applies to American journalists who
may be in the region. They should be very aware of those warnings, and we
will have additional copies of those warnings available.
QUESTION: Saudi Arabia was the third targeted country in the Gulf War,
and now Saudi Arabia has joined with seven other countries in a strong
MR. RUBIN: They're reviewing their options. If I have anything further on
that, I'd be happy to tell you.
QUESTION: Do you have any numbers on Kuwait and Israel?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, three posts. I think we went through this yesterday, but
I'll be happy to review them for you. Israel, Kuwait and the consulate in
the Palestinian Authority.
QUESTION: Jamie, do you have any numbers on Americans who have taken you
up on yesterday?
MR. RUBIN: I think we're talking about a couple of dozen. The whole
potential was in the range of 100 to 200, and I think we're only talking
about a couple of dozen availing themselves of this authorized departure,
which, as you know, is different than an ordered departure.
QUESTION: Given Netanyahu's decision to continue construction in East
Jerusalem, what type of action, if any, is the Clinton Administration
taking to, I guess, pressure putting on the Israelis to continue with the
MR. RUBIN: Let me say we welcome the Israeli Cabinet's approval of the
Wye Memorandum. The focus of both parties must now be on implementation.
The Wye Memorandum was signed on October 23 by both parties without any
conditions. Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat signed
without conditions; and therefore we expect the Wye Memorandum, which was
accepted and contains obligations to be implemented by both sides, to be
carried out according to the terms of the agreement.
With respect to your specific questions about Har Homa, let me say that we
have said it before in March, and I will say it clearly again: we are
against this decision; it would have been better if it had not been taken.
For permanent status negotiations to succeed, we need to create a climate
of trust and confidence between the parties. This step hurts that process
and it will make it more difficult for us to negotiate than it would have
been already, which was quite challenging.
That said, it's essential that we move ahead and accelerate permanent
status negotiations so that the parties can begin to deal with the core
QUESTION: Has the State Department determined yet where Har Homa is,
because it makes a big legal difference, as you know.
MR. RUBIN: Right. I'm not talking about this from a legal standpoint.
What I'm saying is that we think that this step hurts the climate and the
environment in which negotiations need to proceed; and we will obviously be
working diplomatically to minimize that effect. But with respect to the
legal question, I'd have to get a legal response which I don't have
QUESTION: In other words, you are not saying Oslo and sons and daughters
of Oslo - Hebron and Wye -- have anything to do where Israel can decide to
put houses, construct homes on the West Bank?
MR. RUBIN: What I am saying is that we think that this was a bad
decision. We're against this decision, and it would have been better if it
had not been taken because it undermines the climate of trust and
confidence between the parties. That hurts the process that we have worked
so hard for 18 months to nurture and develop so much so that we were able
to achieve an important and historic agreement at the Wye River Conference.
We don't, therefore, want to see steps taken that will make it more
difficult to resolve the even more difficult negotiations -- that is, the
permanent status negotiations.
QUESTION: Could you place Ross once again. The Middle East reports - of
course, once again, son of a gun, another State Department announcements,
they have him heading for the region.
MR. RUBIN: Well, they've been having them heading for the region every
day. So I hope --
QUESTION: Well maybe this time they are right.
MR. RUBIN: If you say something long enough, eventually it becomes
I have spoken to Ambassador Ross. He does intend to leave this evening for
the Middle East.
QUESTION: Excuse me, my voice is going, but is Aaron Miller with him and
he's still talking about this new gimmick of revolving. In other words they
take turns, do they?
MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously, we don't think it's a gimmick.
QUESTION: -- sustained presence. Okay, not gimmick, approach, strategy.
MR. RUBIN: We think this is an important part of keeping the Wye
Memorandum and the peace process on track after having now worked so long
to put it back on track. We think the presence of Ambassador Ross and the
presence of Deputy Middle East Coordinator Aaron Miller will be helpful in
that regard. I do not have Aaron's travel schedule. By tomorrow or later
today I'll try to get that for you.
QUESTION: But you know what I'm talking about -- you mentioned the other
day, suggesting they would take turns.
MR. RUBIN: That still is our intention.
QUESTION: Jamie, does the passage in the Wye agreement relating to
unilateral acts relate to the situation in Har Homa? The Israeli Ambassador
said yesterday that settlements - whether this is leaving the site of a
settlement or not - are not covered under the passage under Oslo or the
passage dealing with unilateral acts.
MR. RUBIN: We are not taking a legal position here. I will check the
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - Wye?
MR. RUBIN: I will check the legal effect of the Wye Memorandum and all
the words and how we are prepared to read that. Regardless, we think this
is a bad decision that harms the peace process.
QUESTION: It's not necessarily addressed under the unilateral acts part
of the Wye Memorandum, is that --
MR. RUBIN: Regardless of whether it is or it isn't, it's a bad decision.
QUESTION: On the conditions which the Israeli Cabinet has attached to the
agreement, what's the United States' view of them? Do you see them as
having any validity or just an inconvenient encumbrance? How would you
MR. RUBIN: Do you want to ask specific conditions, or just generally the
QUESTION: Generally the concept of adding conditions to an agreement
which you've signed.
MR. RUBIN: We believe the Wye Memorandum was signed by Prime Minister
Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat without conditions. And we expect the Wye
Memorandum, which was accepted and contains obligations to be implemented
by both sides, to be carried out according to the terms of the agreement.
There are several conditions described, and I'm happy to describe our view
of them. With respect to the full PNC vote on the Charter, we've made clear
- and I won't repeat all the language, because I know we've gone through
this several times - that the process of reaffirmation spelled out in the
Wye Memorandum will have appropriate procedures which make clear that once
and for all and without any ambiguity, the provisions of the PLO Charter
which call for the destruction of Israel are null and void. It will be done
so in a way that meets Israel's needs.
With respect to the 1 percent third FRD issue, let me quote the relevant
provision. "With regard to the terms of the interim agreement and Secretary
Christopher's letter relating to the further redeployment, there will be a
committee to address this question. The United States will be briefed
regularly." I have said that during the negotiations, the US will not take
a position on the size or scope of the third phase of redeployment. The
focus now must be on resuming permanent status negotiations and making
them succeed. Only through those negotiations will be able to address the
With respect to the review and approval question regularly by the Cabinet,
we're quite respectful of the Israeli system of government and have been
for some time - its democratic system of government. But we see no need or
that process of regular review need not and should not affect both sides'
obligations. We expect both sides to fulfill their obligations under the
agreement and to implement it accordingly.
I spoke to the question of Har Homa. With regard to the claim that Israel
will annex territories if Arafat declares statehood, let me simply say that
with regard to the possibility of a unilateral decision of statehood or
other unilateral actions by either party outside the negotiating process
that prejudge or predetermine the outcome of those negotiations, the United
States opposes and will oppose any such unilateral actions.
QUESTION: Can you step back a minute and address - the larger condition,
so to speak, seems to be Israel's constantly saying, if they do that we'll
stop doing this; meaning we will stop implementing the Wye agreement. Is
there an understanding or more than an understanding that both sides have
to move along a track and if not, that the side that is offended, so to
speak, can just say, that's it, I quit? That's their large point.
Israel is saying --
MR. RUBIN: I'm sorry, run that by me again.
QUESTION: All right. Israel is saying, for instance, we'll do the pull
back of 2 percent, but if they don't do the right thing on the Covenant,
that's that, we're free, we don't do anything more, we don't withdrawal
anymore. There are these constant warnings. Is that consistent with the Wye
MR. RUBIN: Well, our view is that this is a parallel process, and that
the whole process was set up and envisaged by the United States as a step-
by-step process - steps by one side, steps by the other side; steps by one
side, steps by the other side. We think both sides need to fulfill their
obligations. Other than saying that, it depends on the circumstances.
QUESTION: Jamie, in view of all these conditions and delays and so on,
are you still prepared to say that the Israeli Government has the goodwill
necessary to carry through this agreement, or are you reconsidering that
view which you used to express?
MR. RUBIN: At the podium, we tend to emphasize the positive.
QUESTION: So we'll talk to you later.
MR. RUBIN: And the positive is that Prime Minister Netanyahu -- we
recognize this agreement wasn't popular in all quarters in Israel - has
received the agreement of his Cabinet. We believe that the Israeli
Government is now going to move to the Knesset on Monday and vote on the
agreement by Tuesday.
There was a terrorist bomb that led to a short pause, and we indicated that
that was understandable; and now we want to move on with implementation. We
do believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu made some courageous and historic
decisions at the Wye River negotiations, and has now received approval by
his Cabinet for that agreement. So we're moving in the right direction.
QUESTION: Back to Iraq -- any US leader, including Secretary of State
Albright and President Clinton, contact with the Turkish leaders last two
MR. RUBIN: I would be surprised if we had not been in contact with Turkey
at some level. I'll have to check for you what level that has been.
QUESTION: And also about the Insirlik Air Force base -- do you ask the
permission to use this air base?
MR. RUBIN: You have asked me this questions before, and my answer then is
the answer I intend to give continuously, which is that that is not a
question that I intend to answer.
QUESTION: The normal operations of their policing the northern no-fly
zone will continue?
MR. RUBIN: Absolutely.
QUESTION: On the subject I asked in the last two briefings about the --
QUESTION: Can you speak to the issue -- can you respond about the
strategy that might be applied to consolidate fly-zones to make the whole
of Iraqi airspace a no-fly zone except for US planes or allied planes; and
to basically, then, over weeks and possibly months patrol and erode
Saddam's military base?
MR. RUBIN: I have described for you our goals, should force be used; and
I don't want to be more specific about how we would try to achieve those
QUESTION: Is that too specific?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay, I understand.
MR. RUBIN: Now, with respect to your question, we've seen reports that
the Turkish Director General of Foundations has dismissed the Halki High
School's board members who are trying to clarify the situation. We are
meeting with Archbishop Spyridon I'm sure I pronounced that badly, but
forgive me. We expect him to raise his concern over reports of the board's
We have always been interested in the welfare of the Ecumenical Patriarch
in Turkey, and look forward to constructive discussions with the Archbishop
about that subject. He will be meeting with Assistant Secretary Grossman
and folks from our human rights department as well as the religious freedom
QUESTION: The specific issue, if I can have a follow-up, does the US
continue to support the re-opening of this school?
MR. RUBIN: As indicated to you before, we're trying to clarify the
situation. Hopefully there will be more clarification from these meetings.
QUESTION: Jamie, there seems to be an increased amount of violence in
Kosovo. Is that agreement beginning to unravel?
MR. RUBIN: I think that would be overstating the case. Kosovo yesterday
was tense but calm. Monitors accompanied some Serb policy patrols along the
Orahovac-Malisevo route without incident. KDOM did have reports yesterday
that the police may have fortified some positions along the road ; they are
checking those reports out. There was a serious exchange of fire between
KLA and MUP forces in the vicinity of Glogovac, as well as on a road
outside Malisevo. The monitors have continued their intensive interaction
with the KLA in the Drenica area, and they hope to establish high level
We've been working with considerable success with both sides to diffuse as
many confrontations as possible, and we continue to press both the
authorities in Belgrade and leaders of the KLA to exercise restraint and
comply with the terms of the UN Security Council Resolution. While there
have been some incidents, generally in the Malisevo and Drenica area, most
of Kosovo remains quiet and we are doing all we can to prevent their
resumption of hostilities, improve the humanitarian situation and foster
So in short, there are problems in the implementation. We expected problems
in implementation; that's why we have the monitors there. The verifiers are
going to soon be up and running, and we will try to diffuse these
situations as best we can and raise them to higher levels as we think is
QUESTION: Have you been able to get any kind of coordinated KLA presence
in these government talks? Is there any way that you have been able to get
them -- sort of co-op them into the system to cut down on these levels of
MR. RUBIN: We have several ways in which we talk to the KLA specifically
in various capitals around the world, and we've found that those channels
do help. But we're quite realistic about the bumps in the road that we are
likely to see in the coming weeks and months with respect to the KLA. I
think I have spoken to that in the past.
With respect to the negotiations that Ambassador Hill is conducting, I
think he feels like he's able to talk to who he needs to talk to and that
there isn't a procedural delay. There are substantive issues that need to
be resolved. We obviously have heard from the Kosovar Albanian side about
issue of concern to them -- to ensure that if this interim arrangement were
accepted that the Serbs would not be able to veto important activities.
We're working on those concerns. One recognizes this is a negotiation and
one can't achieve everything both sides want, but we're doing the
best we can.
QUESTION: Jamie, can NATO sustain its threat to bomb Belgrade over Kosovo
while it's in the middle of this current crisis with Iraq?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: While I realize the Middle East overshadows all, nevertheless
the harmony that the imperial system of China has been frittered away --
the Richardson mission to Taiwan as well as the Dalai Lama's quiet visit
with Mr. Clinton. I understand China this morning called Ambassador Sasser
for a talk. The spokesman in Beijing yesterday said that the US must do
something to correct its mistakes with Richardson and the Dalai Lama. Do
you know what it is that they are asking us to do?
MR. RUBIN: We recognize that the Chinese have very strong views on this,
but that doesn't mean we are not going to continue to do what we think is
right in both of those cases. We've expressed our strong support for
efforts to foster a dialogue between the Chinese Government and the Dalai
Lama and his representatives to resolve differences. We explain our
positions carefully to the government of China. They obviously believe the
Tibet and Taiwan issues are of great sensitivity to them. But we believe
the President's meeting with the Dalai Lama and Secretary Richardson's
visit to Taiwan are consistent with the framework for our relations that
we've described to you on several occasions, and reflect no change in our
official policy. That's what we've explained to the Chinese.
QUESTION: A follow-up question -- the expectations, when the Dalai Lama
approached the White House, that he would issue a statement following up on
Jiang Zemin's conditions and then all of a sudden it was turned around.
(Inaudible) - didn't issue any statement, said he was waiting for the
Chinese to agree on a statement. Can you tell us what that's all about?
MR. RUBIN: I can tell you that our role is to try to promote the idea of
dialogue between the two. We don't take a position on procedural or
substantive aspects of that dialogue. To answer your question completely
I'd have to do that, and that is not our approach.
QUESTION: Jamie, on China, there was a report in a Washington newspaper
this morning about China developing a missile with the capability of
delivering a nuclear warhead to the West Coast of this country. Can you
address that in any way?
MR. RUBIN: The test described in the press report would not involve the
missile in question going anywhere. It would land within a few feet of the
launcher, which seemed a poor way to send a message to anyone. Despite some
recent modernization, China's nuclear forces remain far smaller in number
than those of the United States or Russia.
We are seeking to build a positive, constructive security relationship with
China. The de-targeting agreement signed at the July summit was an
important symbolic step that represents progress towards our goals. Under
Secretary Holum is in Beijing now, seeking to advance discussions over the
full range of arms control and non-proliferation issues.
With respect to the basic subject matter here, China's strategic missile
force has had the capability to reach parts of the United States for many
QUESTION: The continental United States?
MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check the specifics.
QUESTION: My point is --
MR. RUBIN: I'll check the specifics.
QUESTION: Do you understand what --
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the joint economic agreement that
the summit between Russia and Japan has produced, regarding the disputed
islands and northern territories?
MR. RUBIN: With respect to that issue, let me simply say that I do have a
comment, but I am having trouble finding my comment. I will get there
eventually. When I get there I will give it to you after the briefing.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:40 P.M.)