U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #126, 98-11-16
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Monday, November 16, 1998
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Harold H. Koh is the new Assistant Secretary for Democracy,
Human Rights & Labor.
1,2 US deeply regrets peaceful demonstrations turned violent:
18 confirmed killed, 450+ injured.
1,2 US believes it essential that momentum toward a peaceful
2 Secretary Albright follows the situation closely, believes
violence will harm, not help matters.
3,8 Secretary Albright anticipated need to return from her trip
quickly, given the situation in Iraq.
4 Secretary talked with President Clinton twice about Iraq
from her hotel in Kuala Lumpur.
4,5 US to engage more deeply with Iraqi opposition groups,
consult with Congress.
5 First, most important step is to form an effective viable
5 President Clinton spelled out elements of containment, plus
added goal of replacing Saddam.
5-6 Congressionally appropriated funds are for military
6 UN's Kofi Annan agrees that UNSCOM inspectors should have
6 UNSCOM has supervised destruction of large amounts of
7 Baghdad has yet to account for much chemical, biological
7 Iraq must clarify matters: It bears the burden of proof.
7-8,11 If Iraq were to decide to comply fully, other issues could
8-9 Unanimity favoring US position was not an accident; a range
of views on Iraq exists.
9,10 US is ready, willing, able to act if President Clinton so
10 Secretary and all President's national security advisers
support his decision.
11 US nearly acted, and only by last-ditch capitulation did
Saddam Hussein avoid consequences.
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
12,13,14,15 There is no place in the process for words encouraging
violent actions: They were wrong.
12 Wye memorandum was signed without conditions; US expects it
to be carried out.
13 US will be in direct contact with Israeli FM Sharon about
13 US expects positive vote from Knesset Tuesday.
13 Much mistrust had built up over time. Wye broke its back,
but some still remains.
14 US expects both parties to fulfill their obligations.
16 US welcomes Abdullah Ocalan's arrest, commends Italy's
action, expects justice to be done.
17 Secretary Albright met with Anwar Ibrahim's wife, expressed
US concerns on his behalf.
18 US believes access to underground facility is a major
18,20 Failure to resolve the access issue would call into
question viability of Agreed Framework.
20 Failure to resolve access issue would have negative
21 US urged Russia to work on a plan to meet debt obligations.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 1998, 12:25 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: (In progress ) -- In any event, let me start by saying that on
last Friday, Harold Hungju Koh was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State
for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Secretary Albright is thrilled to
have Assistant Secretary Koh with us, and there will be a statement laying
out his extensive credentials for this job that I'll provide you after the
briefing. During the course of the day, we'll also have a statement on
With those preliminary comments, let me turn to your questions.
QUESTION: Jamie, authorities in Indonesia --
MR. RUBIN: Were you on the plane? No, no, go ahead.
QUESTION: No, no, I missed her - I didn't have access by staying off the
plane. In Indonesia, authorities have arrested six leading critics of the
government and the government is saying there will be a crackdown. Now, the
Secretary couldn't make it to Indonesia, or presumably she would have
weighed in. But could you sort of tell us what you think of this and what
she might have said had she had the chance to say it personally?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. We deeply regret that peaceful demonstrations focused on
the People's Consultative Assembly turned violent last week. We expect the
Indonesian Government to continue to allow peaceful demonstrations.
Obviously, we urge students to keep their demonstrations peaceful, but we
strongly urge security forces to show restraint and refrain from violence.
Violence cannot solve any of the problems Indonesia faces.
It is extremely important that the international community collectively
reinforce the message, that momentum towards a peaceful transition continue
and that this process reflect the broad aspirations of all Indonesians.
Failure to continue such a peaceful process will undermine the credibility
of any outcome and further erode both the domestic and international
confidence so essential for Indonesia's recovery.
I am not aware of the specific cases that you mentioned. We've seen quite a
few cases - 18 individuals were confirmed killed and more than 450 wounded
during clashes November 10 through 13. The dead include students, security
personnel and other citizens. The violence, of course, differs in scale
from that of May when lethal force led to over 1,000 casualties. But
nonetheless, we strongly urge the government there to not use violence in
cracking down on peaceful demonstrations.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary have said pretty much --
MR. RUBIN: Absolutely. Secretary Albright has been following the
Indonesia situation very closely. For those of you who may remember a
speech she delivered this spring about the need for change there, and would,
had she had been there, made very clear that Indonesia's future will be
harmed not helped if security forces use violence to deal with peaceful
QUESTION: Do you know if there's any assistance program? Is there any
punitive action planned or --
MR. RUBIN: At this point, I don't know of any punitive action. Let's
remember, it's always tricky in situations like this. We do have a social
safety net program that we're working on for countries like Indonesia,
humanitarian assistance. And you don't want to doubly harm those who are
being attacked by the security services by stripping them from possible
assistance. But we feel very strongly about the subject.
QUESTION: What about the aim of the demonstrations, which was to
criticize the assembly for not doing enough - and Habibie for not doing
enough to bring in democracy? Do you sympathize with the aims?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to broadly state that, because so many different
views may have been stated from the street that it would be wrong for me to
make a broad statement like that.
Let me say that it is essential that momentum toward a peaceful democratic
transition continue and that the process reflect the broad aspirations of
all Indonesians. Failure to continue such a peaceful process will undermine
the credibility of any outcome.
To the extent those were calling for a peaceful democratic transition that
reflects the broad aspirations of all Indonesians, obviously we're
supportive of that; and especially when those views are expressed
peacefully. Beyond that, it's hard to speculate, given the difficulty in
knowing precisely who said what in what particular time.
QUESTION: So from what you know of the assembly itself, is it proceeding
in the direction you want or do you fear that, in fact, they are --
MR. RUBIN: We'll have to see; we're going to await judgment on that. But
I think our goals have been clearly stated.
QUESTION: Can you give us some idea of the Secretary's involvement in the
events over the last couple of days and why the decision was made for her
to come home?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. The Secretary anticipated the possibility of needing to
return home quickly in light of the situation with regard to Iraq. As you
saw from well-published accounts now what was likely to happen or almost
happened on Saturday, with respect to the use of force, which did not occur
because a decision was made to take a look at what Iraq was offering, but
nevertheless, we were on the verge of using force during the course -
shortly after her arrival in Indonesia. So she always knew that there
was going to be a possibility that she would need to come back.
At the same time, she thought it was extremely important for her to make a
presence at APEC, because this is an issue -- that is, economic and
financial health of Asian countries - that is extremely important to the
Administration and something that President Clinton helped escalate to a
leaders-level meeting in 1993.
Furthermore, had there been the use of force, it would have been important
for her to work directly with a whole series of ministers who were there to
explain what we were doing and why we had done it and what our long-term
thinking was in the aftermath of the use of force. So that didn't
In light of the fact that we have now received a series of - Kofi Annan has
laid out a series of -- requirements that constitutes serious concessions
on the part of Iraq, a wholesale reversal . Let me remind you from this
podium, Secretary Albright said on Friday: either Iraq reverses course or
faces the consequence. Well, it reversed course. But in order to sustain
that position over time, a great deal of diplomatic work is necessary; a
great deal of discussion is necessary. The President, for the first
time, talked about the need and the way in which we look forward to an
alternative regime in Iraq. That's something that draws on and states even
more clearly something Secretary Albright said last March - I guess it
would be two Marches ago. That's a very serious statement, and it has
serious policy implications that she believes it's important to work
So, knowing that there was a very high likelihood she would come home if
force were used and knowing now of the important elements of this decision
not to use force at this time, she felt it was more important to come back
and work on the other issues that could not be done from Thailand or
Indonesia if she had gone on.
QUESTION: Might she go with the President on his trip and then do
Indonesia and Thailand from there?
MR. RUBIN: Only if she wants to put her spokesman through unnecessary
physical and mental torture, but I will have to check that for you.
QUESTION: The thing about -- (inaudible) - she did say that at length on
PBS, so she was on the subject again just last week - that we look forward
to a post-Saddam regime.
MR. RUBIN: Correct. I do think that's the first time the President has
said that in those words.
QUESTION: That is significant. I wanted to ask about, I think, daily
meetings - at least one a day - in her absence. The Deputy Secretary was
there. Can you tell us, mechanically did she weigh in even though she was
on an airplane? You know there's a State Department view, but of course
people have particular ways of putting things. Did she get the opportunity
to weigh in herself?
MR. RUBIN: Well, when we arrived in Kuala Lumpur, there was an extensive
meeting that took place that she was able to participate in through the
miracles of modern technology from the hotel in Malaysia. Her plane did
have communications. I can say that at certain times, those communications
were not working perfectly and there was some frustration about that at
some important moments.
But beyond saying that she was regularly updated by Under Secretary
Pickering, Deputy Secretary Talbott and she spoke to the President at least
twice while she was in Kuala Lumpur. I would say she spoke to Mr. Berger
over a dozen times. She was involved in the discussions and the decision-
making with the exception, as I said, of that small window when there were
some communication problems.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - decisions being made?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'll have to check back and see that. I do know there
were some communication problems.
QUESTION: To follow up on this intensifying the effort to bring about a
post-Saddam regime, are there any meetings planned with Iraqi opposition
figures in the coming days? And can you tell us how you intend to go about
bringing this about?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we're not promising to bring about such a thing. What
we're saying is that we're going to intensify our work. As you know,
Secretary Albright worked very hard on the reconciliation between the
Kurdish factions that occurred some weeks ago here. That was an extremely
Right now, we're focused on providing political support for the opposition,
and Congress has given us the authority and funding to arm the opposition.
We don't rule that out, but we want to make sure that any action is
effective in achieving the goal and is well-prepared. We don't want any ill-
prepared efforts to lead to a tragic or unnecessary loss of life.
So what we're going to try to do is engage more deeply with opposition
groups, work with the Congress on some of the ideas that they've had and
try to step up our activity with them. I don't have any new meetings to
report to you, but when and as we do take action that's right for public
consumption, I will communicate that to you.
QUESTION: Do you see any way in which political action alone could
possibly bring about the downfall of Saddam Hussein?
MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, let me say we're not going to lose any
sleep if Saddam Hussein suddenly isn't their leader from whatever reason;
no tears will be shed. Obviously, the President spoke quite clearly at the
extent to which Saddam Hussein violates the international community's
standards for his people, embodied in Resolution 688, and the extent to
which his regime is in flagrant violation in several occasions in recent
years with other Security Council resolutions.
With respect to what is necessary, I'm not going to speculate on what is
necessary. There are a whole range of possibilities around the world that
have caused regime change. What I am saying is that we intend to step up
and intensify our political work with opposition leaders and will then look
at other options and consider them after the first and most important step
is taken, which is to try to get as effective and as coordinated and
as viable an opposition leadership and political grouping as possible.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea what the political views of that group -
or general policy - you don't think Thomas Jefferson is waiting in the
wings in Baghdad --
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think another way of --
QUESTION: If Saddam is so terrible, I suppose you can't do worse.
MR. RUBIN: It's hard to imagine you could do worse than Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: Do you consider this to be a new policy? Is the policy of
MR. RUBIN: No, I think what the President did is spell out the ways in
which containment remain - that is, the importance of maintaining the no-
fly zone, maintaining the prohibition on deploying Republican Guard forces
in the south, maintaining the toughest sanctions regime in history, plus
working more intensively with the opposition. So it's containment plus this
QUESTION: Is this $97 million package that Congress approved, is that
going to give you the tools that you need to carry out this policy to its
conclusion, or are you going to be looking to the next Congress to do
something more to take the strategy in a different direction?
MR. RUBIN: If one looks at that package, what that is is $97 million of
military assistance, provided as authority that the Executive Branch can
use should it deem appropriate.
What I'm saying to you is I wouldn't rule out using that authority,
provided we have a capability politically , through stepped-up efforts, to
develop a viable and effective and coordinated opposition.
So that's certainly something we wouldn't want to rule out, but first
things first. This is no easy task, and no one is exaggerating the ease
with which we can do this, but rather merely signaling our intent to work
harder on it.
QUESTION: There are those who say that any effort to unseat Saddam would
require the support of neighboring countries such as Jordan or Turkey. Do
you have any thoughts on that?
MR. RUBIN: I think I will leave it to neighboring countries to describe
their own views in this matter. I think that I can say without fear of
contradiction there are few countries in the world that would shed tears if
Saddam Hussein were suddenly to pass from the scene.
QUESTION: Could I ask about the other possible track of developments, and
that is there's going to be now inspectors going back; they're going to
have more rigorous demands, I suppose. The question is, what happens should
they be able to exhaust their questions? What are the conditions now for
MR. RUBIN: Well, that would be a lovely situation and one that the
world's been waiting for for seven years. What Kofi Annan made clear was
that the inspectors are going to be able to go where they need to go;
they're going to have free access; they're going to turn over relevant
documents; they're not going to interfere with the independence or
professional expertise; they're going to resolve the outstanding issues.
That is a view that we are pleased that Kofi Annan is going to adopt very
clearly in his examination of these issues. All we've said is that if the
UN determines that there is a pattern of cooperation, then we will be
prepared to review the situation. The easiest way for Saddam Hussein to
begin down a path he's never gone down - which is to begin to cooperate in
full with UNSCOM's inspections - I've seen some who somehow doubt what it
is that UNSCOM's done and even suggest that I've not been clear in that
Let me give you some detail. UNSCOM has supervised the destruction of - in
the missile area - 48 operational missiles, 14 conventional missile
warheads, six operational mobile launchers, 28 operational fixed launch
pads, 32 fixed launch pads; in the area of missiles as well, 30 missile
chemical warheads, other missile support equipment and materials,
supervision of the destruction of a variety of assembled and non-assembled
super gun components; in the chemical area, 38,537 filled and empty
chemical munitions, 690 tons of chemical weapons agent, more than 3,000
tons of precursor chemicals, 426 pieces of chemical weapons production
equipment, 91 pieces of related analytical instruments. In the biological
area, the entire Al Hakam biological weapons production facility and a
variety of production materials all have been destroyed by UNSCOM.
Anyone who suggests that UNSCOM hasn't done anything should take a long,
hard look at what the damage that could have been done from that material.
With respect to what remains to be done, there is a large discrepancy
between the amount of biological growth media - that's the culture in which
you grow biological weapons - procured and the amount of agents that were
or could have been produced. Iraq's accounting of the amount of the agent
it produced and the number of failed batches, is seriously flawed and
cannot be reconciled on the basis of this full disclosure Iraq has
Of the 31,000 kilograms of biological weapon growth media that Iraq
imported, Baghdad has not accounted - ready for this - about 3,500
kilograms. That's an enormous amount of growth media that can grow these
most horrific of weapons. In the chemical area, Iraq has declared that
since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, it produced four metric tons of VX, 100
to 150 metric tons of G agents such as sarin, and 500 to 600 metric tons of
mustard. But on the basis of public UNSCOM reports, plenary meetings and
unaccounted-for CW precursors, we estimate that Iraq could have produced as
much as an additional 600 metric tons of these agents.
In other words, these are the differences between what they say they have
and what we have reason to believe they have. The importance of this
agreement now is it clarifies for all to see, that the burden of proof is
on Iraq, to clarify the difference between what UNSCOM thinks is there and
what Iraq says it has. That burden of proof will be resolved only when Iraq
begins to provide the relevant documents, let UNSCOM go where it needs to
go, cooperate with UNSCOM in determining how to get to the bottom of
I haven't given you an exhaustive list, but these are the problems. The
burden of proof is on them. We would be happy to deal with the situation in
which Iraq was beginning to resolve all these myriad questions, and that's
the easiest way for them to go down the path of lifting sanctions.
QUESTION: I guess my question - that is a staggering list that you give
there, but my question is that assuming - and maybe it may be a huge leap -
that there is an accounting and a destruction, of course, of the weapons
found, are there other conditions, then, that have to be satisfied before
sanctions would be lifted? All relevant resolutions - the issue of
prisoners, the issue of --
MR. RUBIN: Let me simply say given the staggering nature of the
information I've described, I think if Iraq made a strategic decision to
finally do what it has refused to do for six or seven years - and that is,
come clean on its weapons of mass destruction, disclose its weapons of mass
destruction - the other issues could be easily resolved.
It is our view that under 687, Iraq has to demonstrate peaceful intentions.
We believe that to do that, he must comply with relevant resolutions,
including and most importantly -- given the extreme danger that they pose -
the full compliance with weapons of mass destruction.
If he's serious about wanting sanctions lifted, the easiest way to show it
is to comply with these issues.
QUESTION: The question is the prisoners issue and property - are those
MR. RUBIN: I think he has to comply with all relevant resolutions. But as
I said, if he made a strategic decision to give up his weapons of mass
destruction, which many analysts think he is determined not to do, it seems
to me the other issues, although important, could easily fall into
So it's a moot point, Roy. It's the kind of point that matters in technical
legal terms but doesn't matter in the real world. In the real world, the
big issue is will he finally and fully give up what he said he would give
up in 1991 and what, for seven long years, he's refused to do so.
QUESTION: How do you put that together with the attempt to clear the air
and clear the accounts with the President's determination, basically, to
seek a new regime? Because in order to do the one, you have to have
cooperation with the current regime. The other, however, seeks the removal
of that regime.
MR. RUBIN: Well, a different regime that was committed to the rule of law
and international security would have no trouble meeting all these
QUESTION: But how do you go to this regime and say, we want you to
cooperate and actually clear these accounts; by the way, we'd like to
remove you at the same time?
MR. RUBIN: I think promoting democracy around the world is something we
do all the time and still work to push dictators to meet international
standards. That's not a new phenomenon.
QUESTION: Why did Secretary Albright decide that she had to come back
this week and not just complete her trip and in the meanwhile make her
phone calls and what not? What is the difference that's made with her being
back in Washington in pursuing promoting other opposition leaders?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I didn't say that was all it was. What I said is that
she always anticipated the possibility of returning quickly to Washington
in light of what she knew may well go on over the weekend. So she had
contingency plans to do so.
She, at the same time, had a very strong desire to participate in the
economic forum occurring in Kuala Lumpur. As a result of the way the
situation turned out, she made the judgment that the best place for her to
work from on this issue, in light of its now nearly exclusive focus on
ensuring that other countries and other actors are in sync with the
American position - because let's remember what was really unique about
this situation this time was the fact that the entire world was supporting
the American view and was opposing the Iraqi position. Whether it was in
the Arab world, whether it was Russia, whether it was China, whether
it was European countries, they all placed blame for this crisis on Iraq.
That didn't happen by accident.
She feels that in order to ensure that if we get down the road where Saddam
is not complying with this resolution, we have said we are prepared to act.
We need to be sure that we can master the same type of support for action,
if necessary, in the future.
QUESTION: If, for instance, the inspectors who are due to return tomorrow
are rebuffed, then and there, the Secretary wants to make sure that
everyone is on the same page if the US were to decide to launch attacks as
soon as this would --
MR. RUBIN: That would be a fair conclusion if we made the decision to use
QUESTION: Who do you see the problems might come up with? Is it with the
Europeans, the --
MR. RUBIN: We don't normally talk about problems from here; we talk about
solutions. But let me just say that having a lot of experience with the
Iraq issue and knowing the ease with which some want to take yes for an
answer, if you saw what happened over the weekend, you know some countries
were just thrilled to grab on to anything they saw as evidence of an Iraqi
turnaround. We waited and we examined it carefully and we made sure that
Kofi Annan agreed with us on the meaning of all of this before we
decided that it was a complete reversal and a climb down by Saddam
So we're well aware that there are ranges of views in the international
community on this subject, and work always needs to be done; but I'd prefer
not to name those who need the most work.
QUESTION: Jamie, just to be clear, if Saddam does not cooperate then
strikes will ensue immediately?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to specify in writing for you to read back to me
every time you think you found an example of non-cooperation. Suffice it to
say we are ready, willing and able to act if the President makes that
QUESTION: What I'm trying to get at is, are you going to go through this
whole exercise of diplomacy and buildup and waste of taxpayers money with
every one of these crises, or will you act - and not to mention the
inspectors that are now there and the IAEA people, will you move forward
with them there, will you withdraw them? How is it going to look?
MR. RUBIN: First of all, I don't think you were very thoughtful and kind
to those who work very hard on this issue and all our soldiers who were
deployed at sea, regarding that as a waste of taxpayers' money. The work
that our soldiers do is something that means very much to us, those of us
in government who are responsible for them. We do not regard ourselves as
having wasted taxpayers' money.
On the contrary, in order to defend the United States and defend America's
interest, sometimes one has to make deployments to be prepared to act.
There are costs to those deployments, but as one former Secretary of State
said yesterday, sometimes that's the cost of being the world's leader. And
we don't regard it as a waste of money.
With respect to how we would proceed, I think it is fair to say that we are
ready and we are willing and we're able to act. Beyond saying that, I don't
care to specify the tactical situation which may arise depending on the
QUESTION: Jamie, the build up of forces has been suspended, although
what's there is staying there for the --
MR. RUBIN: Yes, and I think some that was on the way will continue on the
way; but the Pentagon would have to deal with it.
QUESTION: Not as much about the level, I was wondering about the people
who withdrew from embassies. Are they still --
MR. RUBIN: We haven't changed our notice at this time. As soon as we do
that, we will.
QUESTION: Jamie, although I can't say I'm overly hopeful of getting a
response on this, I've got to ask the question for the record. You spoke of
a range of views, talking about allies and other peoples' views. Can you
speak to the issue of a range of views, if any, in the decision-making
process to proceed with the strike or not to proceed, and where specifically
the Secretary stood or where she weighed in on it?
MR. RUBIN: Well, your answer to your question comes in your preamble. Let
me simply say that the Secretary, and I believe all the President's
national security advisors, support the decision the President made, and it
is not my practice to provide her personal views in any form.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- sidewise, thinking we had half a chance at an
answer by asking you while she was away and a stand-in was at the meetings,
if that stand-in represented her views -- the State Department views?
MR. RUBIN: Yes that is the kind of detailed-discussion of the inner
workings of government which I am not prepared to provide.
QUESTION: Now, this is a little tougher. Not until day -- you came the
closest I've heard an official come -- to saying if Saddam Hussein provides
unfettered access, those other resolutions just kind of negligible.
MR. RUBIN: I definitely did not say that. Let me rephrase it.
QUESTION: All your allies who aren't your allies all the time, say that's
all the guy's got to do.
MR. RUBIN: I sure hope that nobody misquotes what I said or misunderstands
QUESTION: We're not out of the room yet.
MR. RUBIN: Good. What I said was since most analysts believe that Saddam
Hussein has been determined, as one of the prime objectives of his rule, to
do two things: keep his weapons of mass destruction and get sanctions
lifted. We've said those two are incompatible. But certainly nearly
everyone agrees that trying to retain of mass destruction is the highest
national goal of his government or his regime.
All I am saying that if he were to change to his goal and decide, nope, I'm
going to provide all the information that UNSCOM needs, the other issues
that we believe are relevant in any decision that would be relevant in
determining his peaceful intentions are very important issues to the people
involved, including those Kuwaiti families who have not found out what
happened to their relatives, including those who have lost material and
But if the first decision was made, it flows from natural logic that it
might be easier to resolve the other ones. But none of that is to say we
have changed our view on the importance of so doing.
QUESTION: Earlier today Secretary Cohen said that this was Saddam
Hussein's last, last chance. Is that something that Secretary Albright
MR. RUBIN: It nearly wasn't.
QUESTION: But I mean, would she say the same thing -- this is the last
time we could expect to step back from the brink with Hussein?
MR. RUBIN: Saddam Hussein would be making a very big mistake if he didn't
see the writing on the wall. The United States was ready, willing and able
to act this weekend; we remain ready, willing and able to act. We nearly
did and only through this last ditch capitulation was he able to avoid the
use of force. He'd be making a big, big mistake if he thinks he should play
games in the future.
QUESTION: Can we move off to the Middle East, because there's a big story
MR. RUBIN: All right, let's move to the Middle East. I think we really
exploited that issue to the max.
QUESTION: Well, I just have a follow-up on Barry's question.
MR. RUBIN: You may ask.
QUESTION: Thank you. Which is, I wouldn't imagine that you would have
wanted to have any light between the Secretary and her deputy who is
representing her. Barry had asked the question whether that person did
represent her views and you said you don't want to get into the technical
questions. But I would have thought the answer would be a simple yes.
MR. RUBIN: If you would like my job, you're welcome to have it at any
time -- especially after a long weekend flying on the plane. My job does
not answer questions the way you would think I would answer them. The
answer I gave stands.
QUESTION: Arafat's rifle is ready.
QUESTION: Obviously, there's another serious crisis. There was meant to
be an Israeli re-deployment today. It's not going to take place. What's the
United States doing about it; and do you have any views on either the
statement by Chairman Arafat over the weekend or on Prime Minister
Netanyahu' response to it?
MR. RUBIN: There is no place in this process for statements which call
for or suggest violent actions. These remarks were wrong and we will be
raising them directly with Chairman Arafat.
I would point out to you, however, that in his speech in Washington,
Chairman Arafat made clear that the Palestinians would not retreat, that
they would not go back to violence and confrontation. We welcomed that
statement made at the White House -- the spirit of which should guide our
With respect to Prime Minister Netanyahu's remarks that Israeli troop
withdrawal will not begin unless and until Arafat issues a public
retraction, let me say that the Wye Memorandum was signed without
conditions. It is our expectation that both sides will implement the
agreement as signed. We understand the two leaders have spoken today, and
it is our expectation that both sides will do what is necessary to meet
their obligations under the Wye Memorandum.
QUESTION: Now, there's not - right, without what is your word? Preconditions
MR. RUBIN: Conditions.
QUESTION: But there are things that are on track. There are simultaneous
parallel tracks, right? So this came up before, and it is going to come, I
guess, again. If one side does something wrong in one respect, is the other
side entitled by the very structure of the agreement to say, if that's the
way you are doing it, we stop.
MR. RUBIN: Are you suggesting when one side did something wrong, like Har
Homa, like I suggested -
QUESTION: Well, it came up last week, exactly.
MR. RUBIN: -- and then Arafat does something wrong like today, then
suddenly the agreement is off? That's not our view.
QUESTION: No, no, I don't mean the agreement's off - of course, you'd
like the agreement to go through. I'm putting it badly. I'm just saying I
thought this intricate arrangement involved parallel, simultaneous actions.
And if one group is going down the track, is the other side supposed to --
MR. RUBIN: We're talking about actions. We're talking about security
cooperation. Steps needed to be made in the anti-incitement committee;
steps needed to be made on the letter; steps needed to be made on a work
plan. It's also true that Foreign Minister Sharon called for every settler
to seize every hilltop. It is absolutely essential that the right kind of
environment be created for permanent status negotiations. Statements such
as the one made by Foreign Minister Sharon undermine the trust and
confidence necessary for such an environment, and we will be raising
this statement with the Foreign Ministry directly.
QUESTION: I think I understand a little better.
MR. RUBIN: He started it, so let's go back to him.
QUESTION: Can we just clarify that? You're saying that anyone can say
what they like without affecting the agreement, but it is only actions that
count when you judge whether the agreement has been violated?
MR. RUBIN: Well, certainly the way the agreement was structured, the
agreement was structured that parallel steps would be followed with
parallel steps. Those are actions. We've also said broadly that we do not
think that provocative statements help the peace process, and certainly the
one by Chairman Arafat did not. I indicated that I thought that statement
was wrong by advocating violence in that way. I also pointed to other
statements he's made which said that they will never retreat from the peace
process -- they would never go back to violence and confrontation.
So it is our expectation that the Knesset is expected to vote on the
agreement on Tuesday. We expect and hope that that will be a positive vote,
and we expect that both parties will carry out their obligations and
responsibilities under the terms of the Wye Memorandum. Let's bear in mind
that there has been a long period of time in which trust and confidence has
broken down. It's pretty easy to get one side or the other into a hostile
climate. What Ambassador Ross is doing over there is going to try to
sway some of these problems and limit the damage that they would otherwise
Let's also bear in mind that we had a long, long period where there was no
trust and confidence where many words were thrown back and forth, many
actions were taken; and that built up a lot of mistrust. We think that we
broke the back of that at the Wye River Memorandum and negotiations, but
there is still a lot that remains. Ambassador Ross will be there and when
he leaves, I believe tomorrow, Aaron Miller, Deputy Special Middle Eastern
Coordinator, will be staying on for an additional period.
We think we can help insure that there is smooth implementation. We
understand there have been delays, but that doesn't mean that each side
can't carry out its respective obligations which we expect the parties to
QUESTION: Can you deal with the situation a little more directly? Are you
saying that irrespective of the rhetoric, which you disapprove of on both
sides, Israel should proceed with the withdrawal? That's the question.
MR. RUBIN: The Israelis and the Palestinians signed a document at the
White House which imposed certain obligations on them. Those obligations
did not come with conditions about every word that was said by every party.
As I recall, there were some rather dramatic exchanges of words that
occurred prior to the build-up towards the agreement of the Cabinet. That
is not to say that we don't regard Chairman Arafat's statement as wrong. We
are going to raise that with him. There is no place in the peace process
for statements which call for or suggest violent action.
Nevertheless, we expect both parties to abide by the agreement they signed,
which did not include conditions about subjects like this.
QUESTION: So the answer is, yes, Israel should proceed with -- well,
that's the visible thing, the most immediate visible thing. Israel should
proceed with the 2 percent pull-back, irrespective of --
MR. RUBIN: Both sides should live up to its obligations in the memorandum.
MR. RUBIN: There are a number of obligations that I could run through
with you in the first phase that I'd be happy to read for you. They do
include the obligation on the Israeli side that you mention.
QUESTION: Well, if you want to get into the Palestinian obligation, which
I think is a less clear area because land is land and a pull-back is a pull-
back. But if you have obligations to counter terrorism and your leader says,
we will raise our rifle in Jerusalem, you think that corroborates a process
of countering terrorism?
MR. RUBIN: Barry, you know full well there's a distinction that's been
made a long time about --
QUESTION: Well, one's tangible and one's intangible. It's difficult.
MR. RUBIN: No, about violence and terrorism. I'm not going to go down
that road with you.
QUESTION: But you understand the Israelis have to do physical things on
the ground. What the Palestinians have to do is harder to grasp. And you
don't put that in a category of violating the commitment to counter
MR. RUBIN: I don't know how to help you any more than I have.
QUESTION: Well, you could just say it doesn't violate the commitment;
it's bad rhetoric, but it doesn't violate their commitments.
MR. RUBIN: It's wrong for either side to make statements that harm the
climate. There is no place in the peace process for Chairman Arafat to say
what he said.
QUESTION: Jamie, the Palestinians are saying today that President Clinton
told Chairman Arafat in a private meeting that if things don't go well in
the final status talks when May rolls around, that he is prepared to go
along with a declaration of a Palestinian state.
MR. RUBIN: Well, I have no idea what you're quoting, and I can assure you
that I will not confirm in this job, so long as I have it, any statements
that are made by President Clinton privately - whatever he might have said.
I have no idea and I just don't intend to get into that business.
QUESTION: There are a number of stories, I think on all the wire services
today having senior Palestinian officials saying that. I'm asking --
MR. RUBIN: Well, Palestinian officials are welcome to talk about whatever
they want to talk about, but this spokesman is not going to talk about what
President Clinton says privately.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - last week's meeting between Greek -- (inaudible) -
- and Under Secretary Marc Grossman for their --
QUESTION: In this rhetorical volley that's going back and forth between
the Israelis and the Palestinians, between Sharon and Arafat, is there a
heavier burden on the person who fires the first volley? I don't even know
whether it was Sharon or Arafat in this case.
MR. RUBIN: I think we'd all have a tough time trying to figure out who
started the verbal volleying on any subject.
QUESTION: But this round, which is a very serious round, is there a
heavier burden on the person who started it?
MR. RUBIN: I certainly think both sides shouldn't start it and both sides
shouldn't do it; and the phrase "turn the other cheek" is one they could do
well to remember.
QUESTION: Any read-out on last week's meeting between Greek Archbishop
Spyridon and Under Secretary Marc Grossman for the Ecumenical Patriarch
issue in Constantinople?
MR. RUBIN: I am advised that no such document is yet available, but as
you've asked the question, it will shortly be available.
QUESTION: Anything on the leader of the Kurdish (inaudible) Liberation
Front, PKK, General Abdullah Ocalan has been arrested in Italy?
MR. RUBIN: In this case, you've struck.
We welcome Ocalan's arrest as an important step in the fight against global
terrorism. We commend the Italian Government for its action on this matter.
The US designated the PKK as a foreign terrorist organization under the
1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. We believe he should
be extradited and brought to justice, and we believe the governments of
Italy, Germany and Turkey should work together to find a solution that
brings him to justice.
QUESTION: What was the US role in his arrest, since the Turkish Prime
Minister, Mesut Yilmaz, expressed his gratitude to your ambassador in
Ankara, Mr. Parris?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know what expression of gratitude was had on that
subject. But I can say that whenever a terrorist anywhere is apprehended,
we think that's a good day for those of us who oppose terrorists.
QUESTION: What do you consider Abdullah Ocalan as an international
terrorist - why?
MR. RUBIN: I think the State Department has put out very often an annual
study of terrorism in which it spells out the reasons why we regard the PKK
as a terrorist organization. I'd be happy to provide you a copy of
QUESTION: Do you have any doubts about the Turkish demand for extradition?
I mean, you didn't really endorse it directly.
MR. RUBIN: We believe the governments of Italy, Germany and Turkey should
work together to find a solution that brings him to justice. What's
important is that this terrorist is brought to justice. Given that he's now
in Italian prison and there are other warrants for him elsewhere, this is a
matter that we needn't immediately express our opinion on, especially when
we're talking about three NATO allies who are perfectly capable of working
on this subject together.
QUESTION: I have a question about my colleague's question.
MR. RUBIN: Can you ask your colleague?
QUESTION: No, no, about you. Do you know any city in the world that's
name is Constantinople right now? The United States now recognized that the
city's name is Constantinople.
MR. RUBIN: This sounds like a discussion you ought to have with your
colleague after the briefing.
QUESTION: No, no, the question is directed to you - name is Constantinople.
MR. RUBIN: I will certainly check the long list of names of cities in the
world and give you a - I guess it would be an atlas answer to this question
and look forward to additional questions of this type in the future.
QUESTION: Vice President Gore has apparently offended the Malaysian Prime
Minister. He said some of the things that the Vice President have said in
defending Anwar have been the rudest thing that he's heard. Do you have a
comment on this and on the Vice President's comments?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't know exactly what's transpired today. I did
witness a rather bizarre exchange yesterday, when Secretary Albright merely
stated that she hoped that Malaysia would be a good host to this conference
and permit Secretary Albright to meet with Wan Azizah the wife of Anwar,
who came over to the hotel. They had a meeting for about a half an hour in
which Secretary Albright expressed, on behalf of the United States, our
concern about his treatment in prison, our concern that he have due process,
our concern about the extent to which the certain state security acts - I
may have gotten the name wrong - were being deployed.
When she mentioned that, the host from Malaysia brought up some unrelated
matter with respect to who she might want to visit when she were here. We
regarded that as a rather pathetic analogy that said more about the
Malaysian defensiveness on this subject than anything else.
QUESTION: Talking about interesting international cities - Pyongyang. I
wanted to know basically whether the meetings went ahead as planned,
whether you've got any reading yet from them?
MR. RUBIN: Well, he arrived today. As you know, our position is to focus
on the importance of getting access to this important site that is
suspicious to us - this underground site.
Let me say to those of you who seem to draw dramatic and unjustified
conclusions from Secretary Albright's comments on Friday, it is her view
and it is the State Department's view that a failure to resolve this issue
would call into question the viability of the agreed framework.
One doesn't need to repeat that position every time to have it, and I hope
people will take a look at the panoply of statements the Secretary has made
about a subject like that before imputing a particular view based on the
absence of one sentence at one time or another.
Secretary Albright from the beginning has taken the view that this is a
major problem, and that if we don't get access to this underground facility
-- that means verbal assurances are not sufficient - that it will call into
question the viability of the agreement.
One can have that view and also have the view that at the Pyongyang
facility, where the IAEA is doing its inspecting and where the rods are
being transferred, that that is going according to plan.
In other words, at the known declared facilities, the North Koreans are
doing what they need to do to ensure that they're not using that facility
to develop a nuclear weapon material capability; and still be concerned
about what they might do in the future at this other facility. So that is
Secretary of State Albright's views, contrary to what some of you might
With respect to what they're doing now, I'm advised that they simply just
arrived and so nothing really has happened yet.
QUESTION: Are they expecting to have meetings today or hoping to?
MR. RUBIN: I believe the 16th is the first day of meetings, so they
should, according to reliable sources, be having meetings very shortly. The
moment they've read out those meetings or told us that they've occurred,
provided communications is good, we will pass that on to you.
QUESTION: I mean, you know as well as anybody who says what in this town
makes a huge difference. If a senior US official is speaking on background
and says they're going to withdraw from the agreement, that's one
MR. RUBIN: I don't believe that's what they said, and certainly the way
that whole questioning proceeded argued to me to avoid having senior US
officials brief you ever.
QUESTION: Well, it would be better if they make a - when they announce a
huge policy shift --
MR. RUBIN: There was no policy shift.
QUESTION: -- they could say it -- can I finish, please?
MR. RUBIN: But, I mean, you're making things up.
QUESTION: Jamie, look at the -- I'm not making anything up and you know
MR. RUBIN: Yes, you are. Fine, make it up some more in your question and
then I'll answer it.
QUESTION: The point was that the Secretary of State was asked to
reiterate what someone else said. She even started to say exactly what you
said and stopped.
MR. RUBIN: Now you know what she was about to say?
QUESTION: No, she started with that exact sentence that you have.
MR. RUBIN: And you know what was in the remainder of the sentence?
QUESTION: No, I don't.
MR. RUBIN: Are you a mind reader now?
QUESTION: No, I don't. She started the exact formulation you've started
and stopped in mid-sentence.
MR. RUBIN: How do you know what the rest of the sentence was?
QUESTION: I don't know what the rest of it was.
MR. RUBIN: So why are you saying she started to say a certain formulation
and then stopped?
QUESTION: I say, she started what you just said - a failure to resolve
this issue would call into question the viability of the framework.
MR. RUBIN: How could you know she started to say that if you don't know
what the rest of the sentence was?
QUESTION: Because she said - look at the transcript.
MR. RUBIN: Pose a question without mind reading, okay?
QUESTION: Look at the transcript. Look at the exact words she used - "a
failure to resolve this question" -- and she stopped and went with another
thought. She just stopped right there, we'll just leave it at that - just
stopped after that --
MR. RUBIN: So you retract all your mind reading about what she was going
to say afterwards.
QUESTION: I didn't say what she was going to say afterwards.
MR. RUBIN: You did; you said she started to say something. So what's the
QUESTION: The question is, what is the policy of this government? Is it
that the viability of the agreement will be drawn into question to the
point of altering your obligations if they don't give access to the site,
or, I mean, what is it?
MR. RUBIN: I think I said what the policy is. If you all think that your
job is to take every word that someone says on background and see if you
can get the Secretary of State to say it, then you don't seem to have any
interest in having background briefings. And I will take that to heart, and
I will encourage them not to have background briefings in the future on
this subject. That is going to be my policy until I can understand better
the logic of your questioning.
But with respect to our policy, our policy is the one that I stated from
the podium and that the Secretary of State stated when she was here - which
is that this is a matter of major significance to us. If it's not resolved,
it will affect the viability of the regime.
Using words like "affecting the viability of the regime" have consequences.
I even said, I believe, from the podium that if we don't have this resolved,
there will be negative consequences. So it seems to me beyond that, it's
inappropriate for me to say other than that we are working to get to the
bottom of it.
QUESTION: Well, background briefings -- if the sole use for background
briefings is to manipulate information prior to negotiation and to give
information that US officials will not stand by publicly in the future,
then maybe it's better, by my point of view, that you don't have background
MR. RUBIN: I'll make sure you're never at a background briefing.
MR. RUBIN: Thanks.
QUESTION: On the contrary, background briefings are very helpful
-- especially those on North Korea. That moratorium in Russia is over, and
it appears that there will be quite a shortfall of repayment - I think
about $2 billion out of $6 billion, question one. And question two, what is
the state of play with regard to the food agreement?
MR. RUBIN: I think the food agreement has been on track and the Russian
bank issue is contingent upon working on the IMF facility. So I don't have
any new information for you on that.
QUESTION: And this moratorium being off and they are still talking about
reneging on debts --
MR. RUBIN: Well, we've urged the Russian Government to work on a plan by
which they can meet their debt obligations.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)