U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #127, 98-11-17
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
Tuesday, November 17, 1998
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1,2 Ambassador Kartman's Travel/Readout of Discussions/Access
to Suspect Site
2 Reported Iraqi Army Offensive in southern Iraq
3,4 Resumption of UNSCOM Inspections/Pace and Specifics of
4,5 Role and Purpose of UNSCOM / Iraqi Full Compliance and
5,6 Nomination of Republika Srpska Prime Minister/US Concerns
6 Comments on the death of Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
6 Knesset Vote on Wye Agreement
7 Travel Plans of Ambassador Ross
7 Current Situation in Kosovo
7 Ambassador Walker's Mtgs. with President Milosevic
8 Ambassador Hill's Mtgs. with the KLA /Status of the
8,9 Interim Arrangements for self-government
9 PKK leader Abdulah Ocalan's extradition/Request for
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17, 1998 12:55 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I just
wanted to let you know that I had a full night's sleep; I feel much better.
This whole briefing is going to be on background. (Laughter.) Just
Fire away. No announcements.
QUESTION: Jamie, Kartman is in Pyongyang and there's nothing coming out
of there that I've seen. Could you tell us, for instance, if he's getting
any place brought up or getting any place on the site you want to look at?
And is human rights on his agenda; and to what extent will he make an issue
of human rights in North Korea?
MR. RUBIN: I believe the purpose of his trip is focused primarily on the
subject of getting access to the site in North Korea that we are so
concerned about. This is the site where there's suspicious activity which,
if not resolved, would call into question the viability of the Agreed
Ambassador Kartman did meet in Pyongyang yesterday with the DPRK delegation
led by Vice Minister Kim Guy Guan. The talks adjourned at the end of the
day and will continue today. It's not possible to go into details of these
discussions, as they're ongoing. But again, the subject of these
discussions is the suspect underground construction, and we did make clear
to the North Koreans during the first day of discussions that verbal
assurances will not suffice. We're pressing for concrete actions,
including access, to clarify the nature of the underground construction.
I do not believe human rights was intended to be part of this discussion,
despite our long-standing concerns on the subject.
QUESTION: Did they respond or was it their day to listen?
MR. RUBIN: I'm sure they responded, but at this point, in the middle of
talks, I can only provide to you the basic position of the United
QUESTION: Did Kartman feel that the message was received or --
MR. RUBIN: I really can't communicate to you the ongoing nature of a
discussion like this. I can certainly tell you what our goals are; I can
tell you that Ambassador Kartman pushed very hard for access; that we do
not believe verbal assurances will be sufficient. But where we are -
especially with negotiations with North Korea - often takes quite some time
to know where one is, and certainly not in the midstream of these two days
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - President's delegation give him a briefing on his
MR. RUBIN: My understanding is that they intend to consult with the
Secretary and the President's party and let them know where they are. I
don't know about any plans or need for them to meet in person.
QUESTION: Is it still Kartman's position that he'll stay there only two
days, or would he possibly extend just to get a firsthand look at the
MR. RUBIN: Again, I don't think anyone expects him to get a look at the
site while he's there. This is not that kind of issue. We have no
expectation that he's going to be able to immediately get the access we are
His schedule is for two days. I can't rule out that he decides to stay
beyond that. But that's what his schedule is.
QUESTION: And he's only been talking to Kim Guy Guan?
MR. RUBIN: Well, there's a delegation led by the Vice Foreign Minister.
QUESTION: Are they meeting at the Foreign Ministry?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know where it's taking place, but it's in Pyongyang.
QUESTION: Jamie, you didn't mean to imply that the Secretary was going on
the President's trip, did you?
MR. RUBIN: No -- consulting and reporting back to the Secretary and to
the President's party about the status and content of the discussions.
QUESTION: On Iraq, maybe.
QUESTION: Well, I have a -- (inaudible) - one. There are reports of an
Iraqi army offensive in Southern Iraq against marsh Arabs.
MR. RUBIN: I have no information on that; I'll have to check that for
QUESTION: The inspections, which, the latest word is that they are to
begin tomorrow -- some experts say that initial inspections will only be a
test; that it will take a couple or three months to really dig in and
that's when Saddam's true intentions should be clear. Could you speak to
whether you think there will really be an early test of his sincerity?
MR. RUBIN: The pace and specifics of any inspection are to be determined
by Chairman Butler under his own authority and pursuant to his professional
judgment as to what they need to know and what they need to pursue.
Clearly, Ambassador Butler has already spoken to the importance of getting
the necessary documents from the Iraqis, getting the cooperation that has
been so sadly missing all these years.
UNSCOM is a very complicated operation and I don't want to presume to judge
for them how quickly this could or would come to a head. The bottom line
is Iraq can fail to cooperate at any stage. Certainly one of the early
tasks is to check on the monitoring equipment and try to determine what
information that monitoring equipment has provided, to try to ascertain
other information and gradually try to get to the bottom of these numerous
outstanding questions. But I wouldn't be in a position to put a time frame
on that for you. That is really up to Ambassador Butler. But I could say,
logically, at any moment Saddam Hussein could choose to thwart the
inspectors and not provide them the cooperation they need; and we are
taking this one day at a time.
QUESTION: What will happen if he does that?
MR. RUBIN: I think we've made quite clear our position on this. We are
poised to act if there's not full compliance.
QUESTION: So there will be military strikes?
MR. RUBIN: I said we are poised to act if there is not full compliance.
QUESTION: Jamie, the suggestion that, in this interim period, he's
probably moved a bunch of his stuff around, is that a view the Administration
shares with the experts?
MR. RUBIN: Well, certainly our view of Saddam Hussein is laden with a
heavy, heavy dose of skepticism about things he says and things he does.
And certainly there has been no shortage of attempts by Saddam Hussein and
his henchmen to try to deny information, access and cooperation to UNSCOM
over the recent seven-year period, and only provide cooperation when
confronted with irrefutable evidence or cornered by the work of UNSCOM
inspectors or UNSCOM monitors.
So we have no illusions about their desire to try to mask their programs,
hide their discrepancies; and that's why it is so important for UNSCOM to
do its work. Let's remember what UNSCOM really does and what it doesn't
do. There's some misunderstanding about this. UNSCOM gets proof. If
UNSCOM cannot verify Iraq's declarations, we keep the pressure on Iraq to
come clean and prove what it claims. The VX discovery, for example, is
what we discover when UNSCOM applies scientific methods to verify what Iraq
We can also get new information. By continually pressuring Iraq and
backing that up, UNSCOM forces Iraq to come out and admit things it has
denied have ever existed. An example of this, obviously, was the offensive
biological weapons program. Also, we get insurance: When UNSCOM is
inspecting, it's a deterrent and a way of ensuring that it's harder for
Iraq to begin to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction.
We've never claimed that UNSCOM has yet been able to uncover through simply
stumbling upon whole treasure troves of data and equipment. Rather, what
it does is, it corners the Iraqis and forces them to disclose their
information. Sometimes people mistake the one for the other.
QUESTION: Jamie, you say indeed that this is an UNSCOM operation and that
it's Chairman Butler's prerogative to decide one way or the other. But the
President set down five criteria, benchmarks. So there is a strong US
imprint on this operation. When, for instance, do you think the inspectors
might get these lists that the President is demanding?
MR. RUBIN: Well, the President laid out things that the Secretary General
has confirmed are his views of full compliance. That includes monitoring
any sites they choose; providing free access; turning over all relevant
documents; resolving outstanding issues; and not interfering with the
independence or professional expertise of UNSCOM.
I am not saying that any one of those or any part of one of those is
necessarily going to constitute action that will bring upon - what I'm
saying to you is that when you put all that together - I almost got myself
in trouble there, but pulled it right back in time.
When you put it all together, that is what full compliance is. And if Iraq
wants a positive review during this comprehensive review, that is what it
needs to do - be disclosing information, cooperating not only when it's
cornered, but when it's asked. That constitutes full compliance. We will
be poised to act if there is not full compliance, but I don't want to
specify in advance what specific action will cause what result.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I understand; but I don't suppose China or Russia
are waiting on pins and needles to see if Iraq complies. It's the United
States which has taken the lead.
MR. RUBIN: The Secretary General has taken this view.
QUESTION: Well, it's become - all right, that's why I'm asking you if
it's a UN operation - you understand. If the UN has adopted Clinton's
criteria, then you mean any question about when do you get your list is for
Butler and the UN to figure out?
MR. RUBIN: I'm sorry; I don't understand the question.
QUESTION: All right. The US has established tests for Saddam Hussein --
MR. RUBIN: That would constitute full compliance, right.
QUESTION: Right, which have been absorbed by the UN.
MR. RUBIN: That Secretary General Kofi Annan has confirmed are his views
QUESTION: Does that mean the US has passed off to the UN judgment on
whether Saddam is complying?
MR. RUBIN: No, I think what's important here is we think UNSCOM is
returning with a stronger sense of international support for all of the
things that I described to you than it might have had going in. By the
Secretary General of the UN confirming that all of those steps constitute
full compliance, any doubt that might have been in the minds of Iraqis or
other countries about the extent to which the US and the UN had a meeting
of the minds on what constitutes full compliance has been eliminated.
QUESTION: Non-essential personnel that was taken out of Israel and Kuwait,
are they back?
MR. RUBIN: There has been no change in our authorized departure notice
QUESTION: It was just a dozen, wasn't it?
MR. RUBIN: A couple of dozen we expected to take advantage of it. But
the authorized departure, the order, has not changed.
QUESTION: If I understood you correctly, earlier you said the inspectors
would go in and check monitoring equipment and ascertain information. It
doesn't look like they'll be very aggressive.
MR. RUBIN: I don't know how you can possibly draw that conclusion. We
expect UNSCOM and its inspectors to, as I - I was asked a question about
how they will go about doing their work. If you've been gone for a while,
the first thing you do is you check your equipment, check your materials,
find out what's there; and then you go about setting up a plan of
inspections. Any suggestion that they won't be aggressive -- I don't
understand how you could draw that conclusion from what I said.
QUESTION: Bosnia. You issued a statement late yesterday, expressing
objections about the nominee to be prime minister of Republika Srpska. You
did not outline what it was about this fellow that bothers you. Do you
have any detail on the background of this fellow?
MR. RUBIN: Well, for one thing, Bob Gelbard has been over there and has
been working very closely with the various officials in Bosnia. Based on
his assessment, we do not believe that the chosen candidate can receive the
approval of the RS assembly.
Already there are press reports that the Serb People's Alliance and the
Socialist Part of the Serb Republic have stated that Kalinic's nomination
was a "waste of time" and his nomination would not have their support. We
expect the process to take a little time to play out, and hope the
President's next nomination will better represent the Assembly's majority
He is someone who is obviously not from the moderate majority that we're
looking to see Bosnia become and this Republika Srpska become. So we
believe that he's not committed to Dayton, based on our information.
QUESTION: You don't have any details about his --
MR. RUBIN: I may be able to get you some of that if you can hold just for
a moment, there. He's the head of the Serb Democratic Party, which was
founded in 1990 by Rodovan Karadzic, who has been indicted by the War
Crimes Tribunal, and is known for promoting ethnic intolerance. Therefore,
we do not believe that this choice reflects the moderate majority within
the Republika Srpska Assembly that was elected in September. He comes from
an extremist party whose head is an indicted war criminal.
QUESTION: I'm not defending him in any way, but --
MR. RUBIN: I should hope not.
QUESTION: I mean, you certainly would - if they choose to endorse the
nomination, that's their choice, is it not?
MR. RUBIN: Absolutely; and it's our choice to not support those who don't
support Dayton. We will review our policies across the board in every way
and it will redound to the great disadvantage to the people of the
Republika Srpska if they end up with a prime minister who doesn't support
Dayton and holds and propounds extremist positions.
QUESTION: New subject - anything on the whereabouts of Khieu Samphan?
MR. RUBIN: I've seen reports about this, but we do not, I believe, have
any specific information. We're not able to provide independent confirmation
of his death nor the cause of death. We're consulting with both the Thai
and Cambodian Governments, and request they share with us any information
QUESTION: On the Wye agreement, Chairman Arafat's clarification, I guess -
what do you have to say about that?
MR. RUBIN: Well, Prime Minister Netanyahu has spoken to this and regards
it as a positive action. We hope very much and expect to see a strong vote
of approval in the Knesset today - tonight - today our time, for the Wye
agreement. We're very hopeful that in the coming days the Israelis will be
fulfilling their part of their obligations under the Wye agreement. We
think this issue is behind us.
QUESTION: As far as Mr. --
MR. RUBIN: I know that always makes it a little less interesting when
things work out, but --
QUESTION: It depends on who you are. The Foreign Minister's comments -
would you like to have seen a similar retraction?
MR. RUBIN: We've taken that issue up with the Israeli Government and made
our views known.
QUESTION: Any calls - can you detail who's spoken to who?
MR. RUBIN: Ambassador Ross has been in the region; I've been in touch
with him a couple of times. I think he's been in touch with both
QUESTION: Is he going to come back today?
MR. RUBIN: I understand he's leaving very shortly and leaving his able
deputy, Aaron Miller, in his place to continue to work on implementation of
QUESTION: Did the Secretary speak with Chairman Arafat yesterday?
MR. RUBIN: I don't believe so, no.
QUESTION: I had another question on a new subject. What can you tell us
about Ambassador Hill's meetings in Pristina? And what is the current
situation right now in Kosovo?
MR. RUBIN: Tensions remain high in a few areas, particularly the Malisevo
region. Yesterday our observers intervened in several potentially serious
situations. By doing so, they averted possible confrontations between
Serbian police and the KLA. In one case, a team near Malisevo helped
Serbian police extract themselves from an ambush by the KLA. In another
incident, the KDOM convinced Serbian police not to retaliate after they
Our observers, along with those of the European Union and others from UNHCR,
are in the village of Ljubisda, near Prizren, today, to check reports that
the village received an ultimatum from the Serb military to turn over arms
and smugglers by today "or else." The else was not specified. Our
personnel are increasing their presence in this particular village to
reduce the potential for violence.
As you may know, Ambassador Walker met yesterday with President Milosevic
for 90 minutes. He raised with Milosevic several issues of Serb non-
compliance with the Kosovo agreements. He told President Milosevic that
the verification mission will not allow itself to be intimidated by either
side. In particular, he talked about an incident in which the Serb forces
apparently fired in the direction of a monitor's vehicle, declaring this
unacceptable. Although Milosevic insists that these were backfires from
some car, we do not believe that was the case.
With respect to Ambassador Hill, he was in Kosovo. He met with KLA
representatives to discuss the security situation, and he urged -- as we
have from Washington - the Kosovar Liberation Army to exercise restraint
and reduce their aggressive presence on the highways.
QUESTION: How would you characterize the cease-fire at this time? Is it
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I think it's holding. There are problems and there are
going to be continual problems until we resolve the political - the crisis
underlying this situation, which is the political crisis between the
Kosovar Albanians and the Serbs. We don't expect anything other than
having incidents that we're trying to deal with. That's what all these
verifiers and monitors are trying to do, is to make sure that incidents
don't spin out of control; that they get on top of them very quickly. So
the cease-fire is, broadly speaking, holding; but there are problems in
QUESTION: Wire reports I read imply that Ambassador Hill's meetings with
the KLA did not go very well.
MR. RUBIN: Well, it's never an easy task to talk to either side in this
discussion - either the Serbs or the KLA. Ambassador Hill is a very able
diplomat who works very hard to try to communicate the American position.
We've made clear that if the KLA doesn't hold to the cease-fire and
conducts provocations, that will negatively affect international support
for their cause.
QUESTION: Did you see the quotes attributed to the lead the Kosovo
Albanian negotiator, in which he said for the first time that he would be
willing to allow Kosovo to remain part of Yugoslavia for a five-year period
-- experimental period?
MR. RUBIN: I did see those quotes. Let me say that our objective has
been to try to get an interim arrangement where, for some three-year period,
the question of the permanent status of Kosovo is deferred, and the issue
of specific autonomy and self-government is nailed down for those three
years: where police and other functions are permitted to be run by the
Kosovar Albanians, and their mechanisms are developed to ensure that there
is no Serb veto over activities in Kosovo.
So the fact that some Kosovar Albanian leaders are starting to understand
that an interim arrangement doesn't mean that the Kosovar Albanians need
to forego permanently their aspirations, but rather is an interim solution
that will bring them what they haven't had for more than a decade, which is
real self-government in real ways, including their own police force, and
that that can calm some of the tensions, return some of the rights that
have been stripped, and put us in a position where maybe, after three years,
it will be easier to resolve this long-standing question. So it's
encouraging, but it's not by any means a breakthrough, given the difficulty
of the situation.
QUESTION: Jamie, how much progress was made on that timeline that was set
out, back, I think it was in September?
MR. RUBIN: We're still working on it.
QUESTION: But how much progress was made? I mean, there were certain
things that had to be --
MR. RUBIN: Well, what happened was that President Milosevic made certain
unilateral concessions. He specified positions he had never taken before
by the date certain that was described -- including greater self-government,
including police for the Kosovar Albanians. In the meantime we are now at
the negotiating table, trying to bring the positions of the two sides
together, and it is a difficult challenge, and Ambassador Hill is working
on it daily. Certainly, the fact that some Kosovar Albanians are
recognizing that there can be an interim solution without prejudice to
their long-term aspirations is encouraging, but we've got a long way to go.
This is a very difficult political problem to resolve.
QUESTION: About the PKK terrorist leader Ocalan's extradition to Turkey --
do you have any new developments on the subject from the US perspective?
MR. RUBIN: Only that we believe that this is something that should be
worked out among Germany, Italy and Turkey; that known terrorists, should
not be -- that we believe that they should be in jail and face the charges
that they deserve. We believe this a terrorist organization; but we don't
have a specific position we intend to state publicly about this, other than
our view that terrorists should face charges for their crimes.
QUESTION: How about his request for political asylum?
MR. RUBIN: Again, this is an issue for those three countries, and I'd
prefer to leave that for the three of them to work out.
QUESTION: You said earlier that you didn't think he should receive asylum
anywhere. Is that not still the position?
MR. RUBIN: We do not believe that he should receive asylum. But with
respect to a specific statement by a specific government on a specific
issue, we do not want to take a position, other than to say that he should
be extradited and brought to justice. Exactly how is for the three
governments to decide.
QUESTION: Back to Constantinople?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we've checked and somebody told me there's a place in
Texas called that. I haven't found any other.
QUESTION: Coming from Texas, I can tell you that's not true. It's
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:20 P.M.)