U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #128, 98-11-18
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
Wednesday, November 18, 1998
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Anthony Lake's mission to Africa / Bombing in Sudan
1,2 (Kartman's trip )Possibilities of Follow-on
Meeting/Commitment to Access/Issue of Compensation
2,3 Terms for Access of Site/Issue of Nuclear Activities Taking
3,4 Perry's Role in Discussions/President's Travel to
13 Resumption of Missile Talks
4 Issue of Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople
4 Direct Meetings Between Serbs and Albanians/Hill's Meetings
with Albanians on Draft Interim Settlement Plan
5 Possibility of Serbs Rejecting Draft/Issue of Statehood
5,6 Britain's Plan to Have a Meeting with Opposition Groups/US
Supports Meeting/US Involvement/Arab
6,7 UNSCOM Inspections and Time Tables/Priorities of
UNSCOM/Access to Documents and Relevancy/SecState
Contacts with Other Countries
7,11 US Concerns of Iraqi "tip-off"' of the Use of Force
7,8 Using Civilians as Targets/Did US Give a Deadline
9,10 Unanimous Support to US position for Use Force/Isolation of
Iraq/US View on Hussein Standing Trial for Crimes Against
Humanity/Tragedy against Kurds in Halabja
10,11 US Support for Seminar Being Held by Washington Kurdish
10 UN Group Concern for Chemical Warfare's Agreement Not
signed by Iraq and Israel
12,13 Issue of War Crimes and Hussein/US Doubts that Hussein Will
Ever Comply/Easing of Sanctions in the Event Hussein Will
8,9 US Position on Ocalan's Extradition/Ocalan Must Face
Justice/US Supports Ocalan's Extradition to Turkey/Why US
Chose Turkey for Place for Extradition/Possibility of
Rome Granting Asylum/International Human Rights
Treaties/Italy's Law of Not Extraditing to States with
8,11 Ocalan's and PKK's repudiation of Terrorism/US Skepticism
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1998, 12:30 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: A couple of housekeeping matters - I hope you'll notice, first
of all, the on-time performance here today, and hope you're as pleased as I
am about that.
We have a number of statements that we'll be putting out after the briefing
- one on the Lebanon Monitoring Group, another on former National Security
Advisor Anthony Lake's mission to Ethiopia and Eritrea, a statement
condemning the bombing in Sudan of a hospital by the government forces, a
notice on a background briefing this afternoon on new photo-digitized
With respect to the rest of the week, there will be a briefing tomorrow and
then on Friday, I expect Secretary Albright to have a joint press
availability with NATO Secretary General Solana in the late morning
Let me begin with the subject of North Korea. A US delegation led by US
Special Envoy for the Korean peace talks, Ambassador Charles Kartman, met
in Pyongyang November 16 through 18 with North Korean officials to discuss
the serious concerns the United States has about suspect underground
construction in North Korea. The DPRK delegation was headed by Vice Foreign
Minister Kim Gye Gwan.
During the two days of intensive discussions, the US laid out our serious
concerns about construction activities in Kumchangni, North Korea, and
reasserted the need for access to the site and other steps necessary to
resolve our concerns. Although we worked to resolve these concerns, I
cannot say that we were satisfied with the response we received. At this
point, we did agree to meet again as soon as possible, and we will settle
the details, including the location, through the normal means - the so-
called New York channel.
QUESTION: Do you have more details on the nature of the North Korean
MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, they obviously denied they were - as
expected - engaged in any prohibited nuclear activities. We did not get
access on terms we find acceptable; and that's what we're going to be
The goal of these discussions was to firmly impress on the North Korean
side the gravity of this issue and through the Foreign Ministry officials
to the North Korean leadership, the gravity of this issue. We pressed hard
for clarification of the nature of the site at Kumchangni, and we supplied
our ideas on how the North Koreans could resolve our concerns, including
the necessity of access to the site.
We've expected that this would be difficult, and we told the North Koreans,
as we've said before, that verbal assurances - as they are wont to give -
are simply unacceptable. We told them that access to the site is essential.
This is an ongoing process. There was no expectation that we were going to
resolve it right away. What the goal was, was to get the leadership in
North Korea focused on the gravity of our concerns and the serious
consequences for our relations, should our suspicions not be resolved. We
hope and expect the North Koreans will reflect on that message, and we'd
obviously like to have a follow-on meeting quickly because of the
importance we attach to this matter.
QUESTION: Jamie, what happens if you don't get a follow-on meeting
MR. RUBIN: Well, we have reason to believe we will get a follow-on
meeting. But if we don't resolve our concerns, we've said before that
failure to resolve our concerns will affect the viability of the agreed
framework because of the seriousness with which we regard the suspicions we
have on this underground facility.
QUESTION: You said you didn't get a commitment to access on acceptable
terms. Did you get an offer on access on any terms whatsoever?
MR. RUBIN: Well, as we expected, the North Koreans brought up the issue
of compensation and we flatly rejected that.
QUESTION: Do you have any figure on that?
MR. RUBIN: It's so not on as a possibility that I don't care to get into
QUESTION: So basically they offered to do it in exchange for some dollar
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't want to characterize their position in general.
I've described to you very specifically what's gone on. The short version
of this is we have not yet achieved terms for access to the site in a way
that we find acceptable.
QUESTION: Did they agree to another meeting?
MR. RUBIN: We have reason to believe that another meeting will happen,
and we're going to work on the venue through the New York channel.
QUESTION: So, Jamie, the US delegation is going back to Pyongyang
MR. RUBIN: My understanding is they will be fanning out to Seoul, to
Tokyo and to China -- different members of the delegation -- to brief those
governments on the status of this issue. I'm not going to speculate on
where and when that meeting will take place, other than we'd like to see it
QUESTION: While they're mulling over whether or not to have a follow-on
meeting, could they not change or modify anything in the underground
complex that would change --
MR. RUBIN: I think we've spoken to this issue as far as we can with
respect to our concerns about this. We have stated that we don't yet
believe it is a violation of the agreement, and we want an agreement to
meet quickly so that we can resolve this issue before we reach that
QUESTION: Jamie, about the agreement, the original framework agreement,
does that deal with the one site where you believe they were developing
nuclear weapons, or in the US interpretation does it deal with any nuclear
activities undertaken by North Korea?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to parse the agreement because I don't have it
in front of me. But certainly if nuclear activities were taking place in
North Korea, it would go against the entire letter and spirit of the
objectives of the agreement and it would affect the viability of the
QUESTION: Jamie, Kartman and company were there for three days. Were
there discussions on other issues?
MR. RUBIN: As I understand it -- I spoke to Ambassador Kartman earlier
this morning -- the actual sessions took place over two days. There were 12
hours worth of meetings; they were all at the Foreign Ministry; and they
were all on this subject. I'm not excluding that in the margins other
issues arose, because they often do; but the focus and the subject matter
was this issue.
QUESTION: Jamie, apart from the compensation issue, is there any other
obstacle to access?
MR. RUBIN: I'd rather not get into the details on this issue at this
time. Obviously, it's an ongoing discussion and what's important is that we
get the kind of on-site access that we think we need to assure ourselves
that there is no activity that would affect the viability of the agreement.
QUESTION: Isn't Perry going to step in at some point?
MR. RUBIN: I've put out a statement, I believe last week or earlier this
week, on the announcement of former Secretary of Defense Perry, also former
Deputy Secretary of Defense Perry, who is joining in this effort, and we
spoke to his specific responsibilities. I expect him to be in the
Department in the coming days, working with Secretary Albright and others
to begin the process of reviewing the issues.
QUESTION: Will Kartman brief the President in person?
MR. RUBIN: I believe he is going to Seoul to brief ROK leaders there. We
will be, obviously -- the party has NSC officials on it and will be
communicating the results of this trip, this discussion, to the White
House. I'm not aware of any direct briefing by Ambassador Kartman of the
President, but I couldn't rule it out.
QUESTION: Can you say that the North Koreans, then, agreed in principle
to inspection just to work out the --
MR. RUBIN: I really don't want to characterize it any further than I
have. We're working on this issue, we think it's extremely important, and
we have not achieved agreement on terms acceptable to us, and there's wide
gaps in our approach to this problem.
QUESTION: Jamie, after 20 days, did you find finally anything so far on
the crucial issue that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople under
terrible pressure of the Turkish Government?
MR. RUBIN: I don't even know how to address the question as posed.
QUESTION: Why? What is wrong with the question?
MR. RUBIN: Let me try to get you something after the briefing on
QUESTION: There was this meeting that took place in Pristina today, set
up by the Serbs, what's the US attitude toward this? Do you think this is
relevant, or is there any serious intent behind it? How do you feel about
MR. RUBIN: We have said that we believe that if there are going to be
direct meetings between Serb and Albanian representatives, in order to be
productive, they would have to be very well prepared and the modalities
would have to be agreed to by both sides beforehand. It is my understanding
that Serbian President Milutinovic met with other national and minorities
in Kosovo because there were no Albanian representatives at the meeting. So
obviously, this was not well prepared and the modalities were not agreed to
In the meanwhile, however, we've been working very hard. Ambassador Hill
has met with various representatives of the Albanian side and had very
constructive discussions with them in Kosovo on the draft interim
settlement plan that we've been working on. Detailed comments were
provided. This, again, is a draft; it's a set of ideas. We're meeting with
a broad cross-section of Kosovar Albanian leaders to try to make sure we
reflect all the views, including the views of the KLA. We believe that our
draft provides the basis for further discussions, and that's what we're
QUESTION: To follow up on that, Jamie, it looks like the Serbs are likely
to reject that draft. If they do so, what happens next? Will you redraft
MR. RUBIN: Well, this is a rolling draft, as these drafts tend to be. If
you remember the phrase "set of ideas" from the Middle East peace process,
it should begin to ring a bell. The idea is that we would put down on paper
a set of ideas that we think might bridge the gaps. Then we receive
comments from the sides and we try to do the best to meet the objectives
of both sides so that in the case of the Kosovar Albanians, they are in a
position to influence policies that affect them through governmental
structures; that they're in a position to have greater autonomy; and that
they are in a position to have the democratic and human rights that they've
been denied returned to them.
QUESTION: Since you raised it, in the end of the Israeli-Palestinian
process, the question of statehood gets settled. How do you deal with that
under your draft?
MR. RUBIN: I think we've explained very clearly, and I'm happy to repeat
for you, that this approach is an interim settlement that is designed to
achieve greater self-government for the Kosovar Albanians without prejudice
to their long-term aspirations by deferring that question for several years
- three years, in fact.
QUESTION: Does the fact that they had this meeting, does it make it more
difficult to arrange the kind of meeting that you want to see?
MR. RUBIN: No.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that also, so the --
MR. RUBIN: It's just a meeting that's not going to be all that effective.
QUESTION: So the US doesn't have a view on independence for Kosovo? It's
up to the parties?
MR. RUBIN: We've stated it -- Ambassador Holbrooke had a lengthy exchange
with you on it; and I'm happy to provide you the transcript. Nothing has
QUESTION: So it's still up to the parties to decide, at the end of the
day, what they're going to do?
MR. RUBIN: I don't want you summarizing a very complex subject, but I'd
be happy to get you the transcript.
QUESTION: Jamie, next week Great Britain is convening a meeting of 15
Iraqi opposition groups to urge them to resolve their differences and work
towards diplomacy. Do you have any comment on that meeting next Monday?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we have been supportive -- and President Clinton spoke
to this - of the idea of developing as rapidly as possible an engagement
with opposition groups and other parties by strengthening our political and
economic support for them. We want to do so in a prudent and viable manner
that makes the opposition a more effective voice for the aspirations of the
With respect to the British effort, we're obviously supportive of their
efforts to do the same thing - which is to develop and work with the
opposition to coordinate and make more effective the possibility that they
could present a viable alternative to the current regime in Iraq. So we're
supportive of the United Kingdom's efforts in this regard.
QUESTION: Will you all get involved in that --
MR. RUBIN: I don't know what specific involvement we will have in person,
but we've been working very closely with many of these groups for a long
time. We'll continue to do so. The British and American efforts are aimed
at the same objective, and I expect to be coordinating closely with the
QUESTION: Mr. Ahmed Chalabi was in town yesterday and possibly is today.
Does he have any meetings in the State Department?
MR. RUBIN: My understanding is he is expected to meet with Assistant
Secretary Indyk today.
QUESTION: How would you characterize the support among your Arab allies
towards this program - particularly those immediately surrounding Iraq and
in the Gulf.
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't want to characterize their position. Obviously,
we want to work to support the Iraqi opposition to make this viable
alternative as effective as possible. We will consult with other states in
the region about our plans, but I prefer not to characterize their views
QUESTION: On weapons inspections, the UNSCOM inspectors are back. What is
the US position on how quickly and intrusively these inspections should
MR. RUBIN: UNSCOM has announced that monitoring staff continue to arrive
in Baghdad and that the immediate priority will be to reestablish - as I
indicated yesterday - monitoring infrastructure, like testing communications
equipment, rebooting computer files, confirming the location of tag monitor
equipment the Iraqis may have moved. It's the necessary work to do serious
I am not going to preview UNSCOM's work for you. We have great confidence
in Ambassador Butler, and whatever program of work he develops we believe
will be an effective and important way to achieve the objectives of the UN
Security Council resolutions. It's really up to him to describe that plan.
I've talked to you about the broad requirements for Iraq to comply with in
recent days, but it's really up to Ambassador Butler to announce his
intentions as to how to go forward with an effective program. We will be
supportive of his efforts.
QUESTION: Follow-up on that - an official Iraqi scientist said yesterday
that the Iraqis would hand over relevant documents for weapons inspection,
implying that non-relevant documents would not be. Is that good enough, as
far as the US is concerned?
MR. RUBIN: Well, if the definition of relevant is relevant, that will be
fine. The problem has been that Iraq has denied documents, using whatever
excuse they can and whatever definitions they can.
What's relevant are documents that directly or indirectly bear on the
amount of weapons of mass destruction Iraq has had, the programs that it
developed and what happened to those programs. That is relevant. To the
extent that they provide relevant documents for the first time in a
cooperative, disclosing way, that will be an important indicator of their
intent to cooperate. But we're not holding our breath.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary been in touch or been working on the
diplomatic front in case --
MR. RUBIN: She has been in touch with certain countries about this issue.
I don't have a list of calls right now, but she's been working on the Iraq
issue, including with phone calls.
QUESTION: Do you know what region -- phone calls in the region, do you
MR. RUBIN: I don't have the list.
QUESTION: I don't know if you can address this, but does the State
Department have any concerns that Iraq might have been tipped off on any of
your plans concerning the region?
MR. RUBIN: People have spoken to this; we've seen the reports. First of
all, I don't think it would take an intellectual genius to know, after
Friday, that things were getting hot. I think that was something that you
all seemed to be quite familiar with. So you didn't need a Ph.D. in
military planning or an elaborate intelligence apparatus to know that
things were getting very close to the point where force might have been
With respect to any specific tip-off, I'm not aware of a big effort to try
to determine that; that doesn't mean there aren't people in the government
who were not concerned about things like that -- that's their job to always
be concerned about things like that.
QUESTION: Do you know, Jamie, if the Iraqi Government had organized any
kind of deployment of their citizens around potential targets on this
particular occasion, this last weekend?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of that, but I don't know all the details of
what they'd done.
QUESTION: Don't most governments put their citizens underground in some
MR. RUBIN: Well, Iraq is a country that tends to make its citizens pawns
in the process. For example, their refusal to buy food and medicine for
many years for their own people and then to claim concern about those
people put us in a position where we developed the oil-for-food plan, which
provided billions of dollars' worth of food and medicine that had to go
their people. They've in the past shown great cowardice and the worst kind
of behavior in putting their citizens at risk. I just don't happen
to know the facts as to what they did on this occasion.
QUESTION: Could you comment on the reports that the US Government now
does not want the Kurdish national leader Abdullah Ocalan to be extradited
MR. RUBIN: I can comment on that question.
QUESTION: Yes or no, this is the question.
MR. RUBIN: I will comment on it. I just wanted to let you know that I am
going to be able to. We are deeply skeptical of this PKK leader's
repudiation of terrorism, given the number of times he has renounced
violence in the past; on each previous occasion the PKK continued to engage
in ruthless acts of terrorism. As we have said many times, we look for
actions, not words, to prove Ocalan's intentions. As the result of their
many ruthless acts, the United States designated the PKK a foreign
terrorist organization. We believe that he, therefore, must face justice
on the charges brought against him.
We welcome his arrest as an important step in the fight against global
terrorism. We commend the Italian Government for its action on this matter.
We believe he should be extradited and brought to justice, and we hope a
way will be found to extradite him to Turkey consistent with international
and Italian law. Turkey is the only country to inform Italy of its
intention to file a formal extradition request; moreover, the vast majority
of the terrorist acts committed by this man were against Turkish citizens
on Turkish soil.
QUESTION: Why have you decided to go for Turkey? Yesterday and the day
before you didn't have any particular view on where he should be extradited.
MR. RUBIN: Well, we discussed this matter with governments and Turkey is
the only country to inform Italy of its intention to file a formal
extradition request. As I said, the vast majority of the terrorist act
committed by Ocalan were against Turkish citizens on Turkish soil; that's
QUESTION: Has this view been passed on to Rome?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Are you pushing the envelope a little bit in your statement now,
out of concern that Rome might be willing to grant -- comments they've made
publicly indicate they may be closer to granting him asylum than before he
MR. RUBIN: I don't have any answer to what Italy's intentions are. We've
encouraged Italian authorities to seek assurances from the Turkish
Government that Turkey will fulfill its obligations under international
human rights treaties and that Ocalan will receive equitable treatment
under the law. We have no doubt that this man is a terrorist and he
therefore should received no safe haven.
QUESTION: The Italian law, I guess (inaudible), is that they don't
extradite to countries that have capital punishment. How do you plan to
MR. RUBIN: Look, we think that's the kind of issue that can be resolved
between Italy and Turkey, and we hope they resolve it. Some assurance that
there won't be capital punishment, or something of that effect, is the kind
of thing that governments can work out in a case like this -- we hope,
given the nature of his crimes.
QUESTION: Can I ask another Iraq question?
MR. RUBIN: Please, I love Iraq questions.
QUESTION: Prior to the last crisis, or during the last crisis, the United
States was talking a lot about unanimous support for the United States'
position. How would you characterize the allied support today if you did
find yourself in a position where the military option again became an
MR. RUBIN: I think the decisions Iraq made in the run-up to the recent
crisis were ones that put them in flat opposition to all the countries in
the world. The fact that they were so isolated, that no country was
prepared to stand up for them, is a fact that remains. We do believe the
world is united in demanding Iraqi compliance with the UN Security Council
resolutions. In particular, UN Secretary General, former Under Secretary
General but current Secretary General Annan's statements about the
importance of cooperation by Iraq strengthen UNSCOM's hands as they go
about their work.
So we think that what happened is a result of the recent crisis is that
Iraq painted itself into a corner, lost its friends, had to capitulate and
is now facing a greater and greater demand from the international community
for more and more complete cooperation with the UN Special Commission.
QUESTION: What is the US view on whether Saddam Hussein should stand
trial for crimes against humanity?
MR. RUBIN: Well, in that regard let me say the specific case of Halabja
is an example of behavior that is truly horrific and we have talked about
the crimes Saddam committed against the Iraqi people in Halabja and
neighboring areas in 1988. An estimated 5,000 people were killed when he
used poison gas against innocent Iraqi Kurdish civilians.
As part of our effort to help the international community focus attention
on the regime's crimes against humanity we have worked with Dr. Christine
Godsden, a UK scientist who has done research on this issue, and with the
Washington Kurdish Institute to support a seminar that is designed -- that
is going to be held this week. It is designed to explore the implications
of the Halabja tragedy and ways in which the international community can
deal issues like this.
We have committed funds to help bring this seminar into being and we've
obviously worked internally and with other governments for many years to
try to develop evidence on the subject of war crimes and crimes against
QUESTION: The United States maintained friendly relations with Iraq after
Halabja, but that was a different Administration.
MR. RUBIN: Well, fortunately I don't have to speak for all previous
Administrations or it would be even harder than it already is.
QUESTION: This seminar - who did you say was going to be sponsoring it?
Are you sponsoring it?
MR. RUBIN: We have provided support for a seminar organized by the
Washington Kurdish Institute on Halabja and Iraqi chemical weapons at
Meridian House this week. Funding for this conference comes from some of
the $5 million appropriated by Congress to support the Iraqi opposition.
In other words, one piece of this whole puzzle is getting greater and
greater understanding around the world for the horrific crimes committed by
Saddam Hussein's regime.
QUESTION: Do you not, then, have a specific position about war crimes
trial for Saddam Hussein?
MR. RUBIN: I think we've spoken to this issue in the past. Let me try to
get you some past guidance on that.
QUESTION: Same subject - there was a report that the United Nations group
concerned with chemical warfare - I'm sorry, the chemical warfare agreement
out in Geneva has noted that Iraq and Israel are among those who have not
signed. Is the Administration urging Israel to sign, despite the fact that
Iraq hasn't signed and that Halabja exists and we know that she's used
chemical warfare weapons?
MR. RUBIN: We have a universal position that all governments should sign
the Chemical Weapons Convention.
QUESTION: Is there any attempt to get Saddam Hussein to sign that you
MR. RUBIN: I think that we prefer that he start cooperating with UNSCOM.
We'll worry about treaties later.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, back to this seminar - this is an open seminar;
anyone can go who would like to go?
MR. RUBIN: I urge you to get in touch with the Washington Kurdish
Institute and they - it's taking place on November 18 and 19.
QUESTION: Okay, because there was some feeling that people participating
in it would prefer to do it in private.
MR. RUBIN: You'll have to talk to them; I just don't know. It's their
show. We're supporting it because we believe the issue is important.
QUESTION: Do you have there the dollar amount the US has put in? I mean,
you said it's part of the $5 million.
MR. RUBIN: I don't have that level of detail.
QUESTION: Jamie, to go back to Mr. Ocalan, you said you were skeptical of
MR. RUBIN: Please go back in all my previous references to this terrorist
should be made sure that I properly pronounce his name; but I'm not really
too concerned about offending him.
QUESTION: You said that you were skeptical of any renunciation of
terrorism he might make, and that you looked at actions not words. You seem
to be implying there that there is hope for redemption; but then at the
same time, given time he might be able to prove himself --
MR. RUBIN: I think, on the contrary, what I was signaling is that we've
heard these kinds of statements before from the PKK about them not
intending to conduct terrorism, and then they follow that up with terrorist
acts. So those who may be seeing recent statements by him as a repudiation
of terrorism, we're telling them we're skeptical because of past practice.
QUESTION: So you're more than skeptical; you're not interested in them
and you think he should stand trial for what he did in the past, regardless
of what he does --
MR. RUBIN: We're skeptical about his repudiation of terrorism, and we
think he should stand trial.
QUESTION: And another question -- on the tip-off question, can you give
us firm assurance that the United States did not in some way, in fact,
inform -- give Iraq a deadline and inform them --
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of any such thing.
QUESTION: Because there was a very suspicious coincidence in the timing
of the --
MR. RUBIN: Certainly it was unique timing, but I'm not aware of any
ultimatum, deadline timing, that we gave to them. I'm just not aware of
QUESTION: Jamie, just to go, I'm sorry, go back to the --
MR. RUBIN: The conference?
QUESTION: Well, the bigger, the larger issue of the conference
MR. RUBIN: I really think you should go to this conference.
QUESTION: Believe me, I -
QUESTION: It's on background, he won't go.
QUESTION: Don't start with the background. I waiting for the passport
briefing. Earlier this week, or maybe late last week, it was said that if
Saddam, as unlikely as it probably is, if Saddam met the requirements of
the weapons inspections, you could dispense with the other issues, and --
MR. RUBIN: No, I didn't -- nobody said that.
QUESTION: It could be handled easily, and --
MR. RUBIN: Nobody said that.
QUESTION: They would fall under - okay, whatever it was you said,
whatever your words were.
MR. RUBIN: I stand by my words.
QUESTION: Whatever your words were, my impression was that it was
something like, we can handle -- the other issues can be dealt with rather
MR. RUBIN: I think I'm going to have to restate it all over again; but
what's the question?
QUESTION: Okay, the question is, how does that thought - however you'd
like to interpret it - jive with this, now with the war crimes issue?
Apparently, no matter what Saddam might or might not do, the position of
the Clinton Administration is, he first has to - the issue of the war
crimes has to be dealt with before anything else.
MR. RUBIN: I think I'm not going to have to repeat the issue, because
it's very simple. We have serious doubts as to whether Saddam Hussein will
ever comply with Security Council resolutions because of the behavior,
including behavior like killing your own people with chemical weapons. But
as a matter of legal and international policy, of course, if he were to
meet the conditions of the Security Council resolutions, we would see our
way clear to act pursuant to those resolutions. But we think that's a
moot point, because we have no reason to believe that he ever will
do that, given past practice.
QUESTION: But on top of the Security Council resolutions, will you also
hold him - hold up any easing of the embargo, as far as the United States
is concerned, on his coming to justice or standing trial for these
MR. RUBIN: We have a position on the question of Saddam Hussein and
responsibility for war crimes that I offered to provide you in writing.
QUESTION: Okay, and also how that would jive with the easing of the
embargo as well?
MR. RUBIN: Sure.
QUESTION: And can we expect to get that by the end of today?
MR. RUBIN: As soon as we can get it for you, but I can't give you any
QUESTION: One more back to North Korea -- in the meeting, did Ambassador
Kartman raise the resumption of the missile talks?
MR. RUBIN: I don't - I know the subject and focus of the meeting was the
other; I don't know whether that came up.
(The briefing concluded at 1:05 P.M.)