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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #125, 98-11-12

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

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


1053

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Thursday, November 12, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

IRAQ
1-2-3,5-8	Department's Response to Iraqi Minister Tariq Aziz Press
		  Conference Today
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
		  Force
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
		  Israel
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 Memorandum

TURKEY 15 Dismissal of the Board Members of the ecumenical Patriarchate's High School

SERBIA (Kosovo) 15-16 Update on Situation in Kosovo / Problems in Implementation

CHINA 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

RUSSIA/JAPAN 17 Agreement on the Disputed Islands


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #125

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 cooperation.

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 Iraq' doorstep.

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 declare war?

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 his neighbors.

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 now.

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 Security Council.

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 dangerous ways.

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 important countries.

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 military threat?

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 why?

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 force.

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 plan?

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 statement.

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 peace accords?

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 issues.

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 available.

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 true.

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 legal position.

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 describe these?

MR. RUBIN: Do you want to ask specific conditions, or just generally the fact?

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 core issues.

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 agreement?

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.

(Laughter.)

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 days?

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 goals.

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 dismissal.

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 special representative.

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 cooperation.

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 the talks.

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 appropriate.

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 violence?

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 years.

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.)


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