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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #139, 98-12-16

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

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


1209

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Wednesday, December 16, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

TERRORISM
1		Rewards Program for Suspects in Dar Es Salaam Embassy
		  Bombing

IRAQ 1-3,6 Secretary Albright's Activities/Meetings/Contacts with Foreign Ministers/Congress 1-2,6,8,10,11 Chairman Butler's Report/Iraqi Non-Compliance 3,4-5,7,8-10, 11-12 Other Options/Comprehensive Review/Prospects for Military Action/Timing 3-4,5,6,7-8 Other Countries Support/Consensus for Military Action 6-7 Status of Embassy Personnel/Dependents at US Embassies in Region 12-13 Middle East Peace Process and the Situation with Iraq

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 12-13 President Clinton and Secretary Albright's Recent Trip to Israel and Gaza 13-14 Israeli Statements on the Next Phase of Withdrawal

TURKEY/GERMANY/ITALY 14-15 Reported German Withdrawal of International Warrant for Ocalan's Arrest

MEXICO 14 Disappearance of American Journalist/US and Mexico Efforts to Locate Journalist

SERBIA-MONTENEGRO 15 Ambassador Holbrook's Travel/Meetings 15 Situation in Montenegro 15-16,17 Update on Situation in Kosovo

AZERBAIJAN 16 Azerbaijani Court Fine on Newspaper

INDIA 17-18 Prime Minister Vajpayee's Speech on Nuclear-Related Issues

CONSULAR AFFAIRS 18-19 Consular Notification Requirement/Vienna Convention

RUSSIA 19 Nuclear Cooperation with Iran/Bushehr Reactor Project 20 Anti-Semitic Statements by Russian Politicians


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #139

WEDNESDAY, DECMEBER 16, 1998, 12:30 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing here on this Wednesday. We do have a statement that we're putting out after the briefing on the rewards program on the suspects with respect to the Dar-Es-Salaam bombing that we'll put out after the briefing.

With respect to the topic of the day - and that is Iraq - let me say that Secretary Albright has had a busy morning. She was at the White House earlier this morning, meeting with the President and other national security advisors. She has been on the phone since then with a number of foreign ministers, including the Foreign Minister of France twice, the Foreign Minister of Russia, the Foreign Minister of Brazil and the Foreign Minister of Costa Rica, British Foreign Secretary Cook, as well as, when I left her, the Swedish Foreign Minister. I would expect her to continue to call foreign ministers from around the world, primarily those that are on the Security Council, to talk about the gravity of the situation that has been created by Iraq's failure to comply with the commitments Iraq itself made at the end of the last crisis.

Let me say on that that it has been more than seven years since Iraq was kicked out of Kuwait, and yet the regime in Baghdad still refuses to meet its obligations under the resolutions which defined the cease-fire from that war - that is Resolution 687. Throughout these many long years, Iraq has managed to block, impede, delay and frustrate efforts to implement that resolution right down to today. There is no end in sight for this pattern of obfuscation, obstruction and outright violation.

We can find no grounds for optimism that the Iraqi leadership, if left to its own devices, will suddenly change course and opt for cooperation in the new year or, if it remains in power, in the new millennium. On the contrary, the latest report from Chairman Butler gives the clearest possible indication that Iraq's cooperation will at best be limited, selective and intermittent. This is simply not good enough.

The resolutions are clear and we've seen over the last year a serious, serious problem; where eight out of the last 12 months, UN inspectors have been unable to do their job. This, in a sense, began last October when Iraq tried to bar inspectors from the country after the Council adopted Resolution 1134. Since then we have witnessed provocation after provocation after provocation.

On November 3 of last year, Iraq threatened to shoot down aircraft performing aerial surveillance. On January 13 of this year, the issue escalated when Iraq blocked an inspection team and expelled weapons inspectors. Then in February, facing the credible threat of force, Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding with the Secretary General and began, at least in the initial phases, to comply; but that compliance ended soon thereafter. In August, Iraq declared that it was not going to allow challenge inspections. And then we've had the most recent crisis in November, which again ended with Iraq promising - promising -- to allow the UNSCOM inspectors immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access. Despite these promises, what the report of Ambassador Butler reveals in clear and stark terms is that Iraq has not fulfilled the promise they made just a few weeks ago. This is a new record in terms of promises made and promises broken.

Ambassador Butler concluded that Iraq did not provide the full cooperation it promised on November 14; that it barred UNSCOM from inspecting a base in eastern Iraq, controlled by the Iranian terrorist group MEK on November 25, even though UNSCOM had been allowed to inspect those facilities in the past. Iraq blocked access to Baath Party offices in Baghdad on December 9, and an Iraqi official said UNSCOM would never be allowed in. There are no exemptions for party offices, and UNSCOM had previously inspected Baath Party offices.

Then Iraq added a further restriction, saying that UNSCOM could not inspect on Fridays, despite seven years of doing so. On a different occasion, Iraq removed virtually all documents, furniture and equipment from a special security organization office which UNSCOM was about to inspect. Then during a December 5 monitoring inspection, Iraq restricted UNSCOM's ability to photograph, and on November 23, an Iraqi helicopter endangered UNSCOM personnel by closely over-flying an UNSCOM helicopter.

So what we're seeing is Iraq trying to create new safe havens, deny access, create new conditions, strip offices clean of any information that might be of value, block photographers, buzz helicopters. This is a pattern of behavior that reinforces the conclusion that Iraq has no intention of meeting its obligation to cooperate fully with UNSCOM.

That is why Secretary Albright and others regard this as a grave matter. She has been, as I said, consulting with foreign ministers during the course of the day. She has made clear to those foreign ministers that Chairman Butler's report is credible, it's based on expert work. We have, as you know, worked very hard in recent months to provide the extra mile for Iraq to prove that it is willing to comply with Security Council resolutions.

But again, what we see is a pattern of obstruction, obfuscation and outright violation. That is the situation that we are in today. The Security Council is meeting and, as I said, Secretary Albright is talking with her foreign minister colleagues around the world.

QUESTION: Is she in touch with people in Congress? There was some question as to whether she could get to, and was trying to, Jesse Helms.

MR. RUBIN: My understanding is that this morning, her calls have been directed towards the foreign ministers and that she hasn't placed calls to members of Congress. I wouldn't rule it out in the future.

QUESTION: Can you characterize, either individually or in a general sense, what these foreign ministers are - how they're responding; specifically if there's anybody this time, apart from Britain, who stands clearly and unqualifiably and in an unfettered way with the United States?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'd prefer not to characterize any specific phone calls, but let me say this - for the last several weeks when Secretary Albright has traveled abroad or spoke to foreign ministers, uniformly the blame for the current problems between UNSCOM and Iraq have been placed squarely on Iraq's shoulders.

In November, as you know, we saw a case where the Gulf Cooperation Council, and in addition Syria and Egypt, signed a statement and put out a statement making clear that Iraq would be responsible for the consequences of a failure to comply. We've seen no movement from the general mood that has existed for several weeks now. I think that after fully absorbing Butler's report and seeing how short the time has been between Iraq's statements of just a few weeks ago, promising full and complete cooperation, and Chairman Butler's report that makes clear that on the contrary -- that whether it's buzzing helicopters, blocking photographers, cleaning out files before UNSCOM gets there, creating new conditions for inspections or creating new safe havens -- that we've seen anything but the cooperation the Iraq promised just a few weeks ago.

QUESTION: There's never been a question that they all fault Iraq. The question is how united might they be on supporting US and British military action?

MR. RUBIN: Again, with respect to military action - and this may become a refrain if you ask me other additional questions on this - I am not going to get into presidential decision-making on this subject. With respect to the response of other foreign ministers, I'm going to leave it to a general discussion of the clear reality, which was not true a year ago - let's remember how far we've come. A year ago we had a situation where even on the subject of travel sanctions, there was a split in the Security Council that was evidenced by the abstention of two key members. We have come a long way since last year. The Security Council is united in recognizing that Iraq has failed to comply. That is the situation we're in. I can't be more specific on your specific question.

QUESTION: I'm not asking you whether the President is going to take military action. I'm asking you whether there is a consensus or whether there is significant dissent from having all options available. They have not been very supportive, all of them.

MR. RUBIN: I think it depends on who you ask.

QUESTION: Like France, I would ask France -

MR. RUBIN: We fully expect, on the subject of Iraq, that there will be a range of views from those who are fully supportive of whatever action the President chooses, to those who are medium-supportive, to those who are going to oppose anything the United States does. To answer the question of how they would respond to something that I'm not in a position to talk about is hard to answer.

QUESTION: Well, there's a range of -

MR. RUBIN: There's always been a range of views on Iraq, but I think what's fair to say is that the range of views now includes a unified consensus in the Security Council that the failures are Iraq's; that the consequences are Iraq's; and that the international community believes that Saddam Hussein is failing to comply with his required obligations.

QUESTION: Is it still the US position that further authorization by the Security Council is not required for military action?

MR. RUBIN: I think one need go no further than talk to the subject of the cease-fire resolution - Resolution 687 - which set forth the conditions for a cease-fire, in the absence of which, the authority to use force, provided by Resolution 678, was operative. It is clear to us that through this pattern of violation of the Security Council Resolution 687, Iraq is in flagrant violation of that resolution; and therefore, the authority to use military force exists in Security Council resolutions.

QUESTION: I'm not clear why the Secretary is going through the trouble of polling other members of the Security Council if their authorization is not required.

MR. RUBIN: Well, you are jumping to conclusions as to what she is doing in those phone calls. She is consulting with foreign ministers from other countries. This issue is now before the Council; it's to be discussed today. Secretary Albright believes it's very important to try to ensure that all the foreign ministers have the latest and best available information and understand the seriousness with which the United States takes this subject, so that as we proceed and the days unfold, that we can maximize the support from the international community.

QUESTION: Does the United States support another round of negotiations between the UN and Baghdad?

MR. RUBIN: The question of what decision the President would make in the face of this blatant non-compliance by Iraq - that is, diplomacy, force or any other option -- is something I will leave unstated and unanswered at this time.

QUESTION: Well, could you say - the Secretary, I believe, said last week that no more diplomacy would be required, no more warnings. Is that still your position?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we haven't changed our position. Secretary Albright has consulted with several countries in recent weeks directly and many on the telephone, and has made very clear that we do not see a need for further warnings. We have not seen the international support for our position in November erode. On the contrary, we have been quite heartened by the extent to which people understood the reasons for our allowing Iraq another opportunity to show whether it would comply. But we certainly haven't changed our position from the time you identified.

QUESTION: Are you specifically referring to no more diplomacy is required, either?

MR. RUBIN: We haven't changed our position.

QUESTION: One month ago, you were able to announce Egypt, Syria and several of the Gulf states have signed a joint statement supporting the US position. Are all of those states still onboard as far as you know?

MR. RUBIN: It is our view that the statement that was put out at that time and the statements made by countries around the world at that time were statements that reflected the situation at that time. That situation was a wholesale non-compliance by Iraq with UN Security Council resolutions that required UNSCOM Chairman, Richard Butler, to withdraw his inspectors.

Based on this report, which lays out in a quite detailed way, as I made clear to you - namely, Iraq has tried to create new safe havens; they've cleaned out sites before UNSCOM has arrived; they've interfered with photography; they've interfered and put at risk helicopters; and they have engaged in a pattern of non-compliance -- there is no reason to think that the views of just a few short weeks ago will have changed. On the contrary, those countries that want or tend to hope that Iraq will somehow change its ways have now even a shorter time frame with which to see that Iraq has not changed its stripes and it does not intend to comply.

QUESTION: So they are still on board as far as you know - and Syria in particular?

MR. RUBIN: If you want a lay down of the position of Syria and Egypt and the other Gulf States of their current position, I'd recommend you contact their ambassadors.

QUESTION: Is there anything Iraq can do at this late hour to sway the Administration?

MR. RUBIN: Well, Ambassador Butler's report is pretty definitive about Iraq's behavior over the recent weeks. Let's remember, this comes just a few weeks after Iraq promised full, unfettered cooperation. This report demonstrates that Iraq has, across the board, violated its own commitments of just a few weeks ago and the very conditions that the President and the Secretary General talked about at that time.

QUESTION: So is the answer no, then -- that there is nothing that Saddam can do to avert a military strike?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, as I said, Ambassador Butler's report is quite definitive on Iraq's behavior; and we hope and expect that other Security Council members will see it as grave a matter as we see it. With respect to the President's decision-making on this, I am not prejudging his decision- making one way or another. Prior to you coming in, I made clear that I am not going to comment specifically on military decision-making.

QUESTION: Jamie, there is a domestic situation that is added into this mix, and that is the President's situation on the Hill with Congress seemingly ready to vote on impeachment shortly. Has this been an element in this? Is this going to make any action that's taken more difficult?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the wags will continue to talk about whatever it is we do, and they've been doing it for a month. But when you look at this situation amongst all of the situations, this is a situation that was generated by Iraq's failure to comply with a commitment they made just three weeks ago. UNSCOM set up a series of inspections that just ended yesterday. The timing here is generated by Iraq's failure to comply.

If you like, I would go through, over the last year, the list of occasions on which Iraq has generated crises. We have responded to those crises that Iraq has generated, based on the circumstances created by Iraq and no other circumstances. There's no reason why that would change now.

QUESTION: But the circumstance is there; it is very real whether it's --

MR. RUBIN: Well, as I said, you're going to ask me questions and commentators will commentate; that's what they do. All we can do is point to you the fact that if you look at the time lines for the last year as to what Iraq has done, when it's done it, when it's not done it, when it's provoked crises, how the United States has responded, I think you will see a clear pattern of the United States responding to Iraq's non-compliance with different actions and being prepared as recently as three weeks ago to use military force. We were just hours away. Iraq capitulated at the last minute and said it would comply.

Now, today, last night, UNSCOM Chairman Butler has prepared his report and presented us with a situation that makes clear Iraq has failed to cooperate across the board. That is the reality; everything else is speculation.

QUESTION: Can you say whether other countries have brought up this situation in conversations?

MR. RUBIN: Well, over the recent weeks and months, every time one of you has asked us a question we have tried to answer it as honestly and carefully as we can. It is not a subject that comes up from other countries, except to say a certain puzzlement. You're all familiar with that, and I don't care to add to it.

QUESTION: Jamie, when the last crisis happened a month ago, three weeks ago, the US issued not a travel warning, an advisory and you allowed for the voluntary departure or authorized departure of certain US Embassy personnel and family members. A, is that still in force; b, have you updated it; c, can you tell us how many people, if any, have left or are planning to leave?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. That was issued last month. Embassies Tel Aviv and Kuwait, as well as the Consulate in Jerusalem provided authorized departure status on November 11, 1998, due to increased tensions with Iraq. The Department of State has extended the authorized departure of non-essential employees and family members into next year until January 9, 1999.

To date, approximately 43 family members have left Tel Aviv and Kuwait. No one has left Jerusalem, and no employees have left the three posts. The three posts remain fully staffed and operational.

QUESTION: Is there any Administration official that is still in contact with an Iraqi official, or are we beyond the point of listening to words from Iraq? I'm not sure I understand when you were asked is there anything Iraq can still do - are we still even listening to Iraq, or are we beyond mere words?

MR. RUBIN: We have not had direct contact with the Iraqi Government much at all. I'm familiar with a couple of occasions where the US Ambassador to the United Nations would issue a formal demarche to the Iraqi Government on some subject or another. We haven't been in contact with Iraq on this subject for some weeks now, and I don't expect we would change that policy in the current circumstances.

QUESTION: The UN Secretary General is saying that perhaps one of the ways to proceed now might be with a comprehensive review. Does the US see any point in that, or are we beyond that?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the comprehensive review is premised on full cooperation. The comprehensive review was designed to review the status of Iraq's compliance with the various resolutions, provided it was cooperating. I can't imagine any member of the Security Council would endorse going to a comprehensive review when UNSCOM has declared as unequivocally as possible that across the board - whether it's documents, whether it's cleaning out facilities, whether it's creating new safe havens, blocking inspections or interfering directly with the work of UNSCOM - that they have failed every test.

So I can't imagine why any country would want to now review the progress, when what's clear is that the cooperation that was a prerequisite to the comprehensive review has, on its face, not happened.

QUESTION: So are you upset that the UN Secretary General is even considering this?

MR. RUBIN: No, I believe I read the letter and he pointed out these are options; he didn't advocate that option.

QUESTION: What happens next?

MR. RUBIN: What happens next? Stay tuned.

QUESTION: Something that hasn't happened, as far as I've heard, is the US going through the good offices of the Russians or going to the Chinese to use those two governments as leverage as we have in the past. Is this something that will be attempted, or is this pretty much - I mean, it seems pretty much from the questions that we might be just about at a dead end on options for Iraq besides force.

MR. RUBIN: Perhaps before you arrived, I made clear to the others that I was not going to get into the question of the President's options at this time. As I said, Secretary Albright met with the President this morning and other members of the National Security team. She also spent an enormous amount of time with him on the Middle East and this subject over the last three days on the trip.

So this is now in the hands of the President to make a decision, and I don't intend to preview one way or another the President's decision-making on this subject. Therefore, it's impossible to talk about options.

QUESTION: Well, specifically about going to the Russians and the Chinese.

MR. RUBIN: Again, that would be options.

QUESTION: Jamie, is it the US position that UNSCOM is not capable of ever capable of carrying out unhindered inspections in Iraq, or do you still foresee a day when UNSCOM might be able to go to Iraq and do its job?

MR. RUBIN: That's up to Iraq. We believe that UNSCOM inspections, UN inspections, the work that the UN inspectors have done in uncovering thousands and thousands of tons of material and missiles and weapons of mass destruction has provided an invaluable service to the world. We've said that considering the threat that Iraq poses of having weapons of mass destruction and reconstituting those weapons of mass destruction, the best way to confront that threat is to have an effective, capable UN inspection team operating in Iraq; that's still our view.

The problem is Iraq is not letting the UN inspectors be capable, be effective and be able to go where they need to go when they need to go; and in fact, is going through a clear pattern of obstruction, obfuscation and outright violation of Security Council resolutions.

QUESTION: If the US Government were to get another letter like the one it got last month from the Iraqi Government, saying that the inspectors can come back in, that they can have full, unhindered access, what would the US response be?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to preview a hypothetical like that. Let me make clear that obviously the letter we received last month turned out to be worthless.

QUESTION: Jamie, this decision that's being made on the comprehensive review or other options is coming on the eve of something political here in Washington. Can you assure us that there was no speeding up, let us say, of the process such that it came to a head two days ago?

MR. RUBIN: I answered this, I think, extensively in response to Betsy's question. The time table for the grave situation we're in today was generated first by Iraq refusing challenge inspections in August and then refusing any inspections in November. In mid-November, in the face of the prospect of overwhelming military force, Iraq decided to say it would comply. We wanted to make clear that UNSCOM had to test this promise, and test it fully and as completely as possible.

UNSCOM, on its own judgment, on its own professional basis, then set forth a work plan to test Iraqi cooperation. That work plan terminated in the last couple of days, based on Iraqi behavior - Iraq's failure to allow them into the Baath party headquarters; Iraq's declaration they can't inspect on Friday's Iraq's interference with the helicopter flight; Iraq's interference with cameras; Iraq's stripping relevant materials from rooms before UNSCOM got there. Those were Iraqi actions that took place in the last three weeks that led Chairman Butler to come to the conclusions he came to last night.

I don't think the timing could be any more clear than that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - whether they had advice to terminate the work plan at this time from the United States. I mean, can you assure us that there was no encouragement to speed up --

MR. RUBIN: What I can tell you, Roy, is that we have great confidence in the independence, professionalism and judgment of Chairman Butler. There has been wildly exaggerated reporting in recent months about the ability of the United States to affect their timing, affect their decisions.

Of course we consult with Chairman Butler. We consult before, during and after inspections. But the time table, the sites, the methodology are determined by professionals. That's why it's so important to have a professional organization.

QUESTION: What have they done differently in the last three weeks that they hadn't done before, which is another way of asking Roy's question but not asking if there's any political motive here.

MR. RUBIN: What has who done differently?

QUESTION: Iraq. You're making a case for why this situation is grave. Wasn't Iraq misbehaving exactly the same way before November 14, when Sandy Berger said the other night, that having had a promise from them, we would lose the high moral ground, he said, if we then followed through with an attack after they gave us a promise.

MR. RUBIN: You're asking to review the rationale for the decision last month -

QUESTION: No, no, I'm not -

MR. RUBIN: and I think we reviewed that at great length, but I'd be happy to do it again for you.

QUESTION: No, I'm not; I'm not asking that. The question on the table now that I'm trying to put is, what is Iraq doing currently or in the last three weeks that's any worse or any more provocative - bad as it was, of course - that forces the United States or provokes and prompts the United States to make the kinds of statements you've been making today? Isn't this same old cat and mouse game?

MR. RUBIN: I think if you go back and look at Iraq's behavior and its statements, you see that they change over time. In August, they said inspectors can't do challenge inspections. In October/November, they said no inspections can take place except the IAEA. Then, in November, in the face of military force, they changed their tune, reversed themselves, capitulated and said yes, you can do what you need to do; you can have full cooperation. That was Iraq's decision to make that announcement.

We've tested that announcement. We've now had UNSCOM go through a testing period, and it is clear that Iraq has failed that test. So the differences in events depend on the differences in circumstance.

What we've now seen is even after promising full cooperation, they have in myriad ways across the board stopped that cooperation, interfered with that cooperation. That is the current circumstance. If you want to go back to last month and talk about what they said they were going to do last month and what they did last month, we can do that. But each circumstance, they have different words and different actions on describing the current circumstance.

QUESTION: Yes, we're trying to ask why now? But you say because they've been bad, and you give us these examples. So the only way I can come at it is ask if any of these - did they not try to intimidate helicopters before November 14? Did they not strip rooms? If you read Scott Ritter's accounts, they've done everything - well, I don't know about the helicopters - but it was a whole indictment against them.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: You have the same indictment -

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: -- three or four weeks ago. But the Administration -

MR. RUBIN: I think we've explained this before, but if you'd like me to repeat it, I'll be happy to.

QUESTION: I just want to know if they've done anything in the last three weeks that's new and newly disruptive, newly non-cooperative?

MR. RUBIN: You're approaching this like a check list, and that if they did this or they didn't do that -

QUESTION: Well, I don't know how else to approach it.

MR. RUBIN: The way to think about this is to go back to last year when the Security Council was divided, when Russia and France abstained on a resolution applying targeted travel sanctions. That was unfortunate. We thought that was a major problem. Perhaps it gave Iraq the perception that it could drive a wedge through the unity of the Security Council. What we have been doing , step by step, day by day in our diplomacy is rebuilding that consensus over the last year.

We've responded to Iraq's provocations at different times in different ways based on our judgment on how to both protect UNSCOM's inspection regime, protect the sanctions regime and protect the support of the international community for those two policies. That is a judgment call; that's why diplomats and presidents have to make judgment calls. It's not simply a matter of taking out a check list and saying, I got this today, I didn't get that tomorrow.

What we see now - and I'm pointing out that's a little different -- is the speed with which Iraq has promised to cooperate and so quickly violated its promise. If you go back to the Kofi Annan agreement, you see a time when in February/March they made a commitment to Kofi Annan through the memorandum of understanding; and many months went by where it was deemed to be cooperation. Now we've seen it shrunk down to weeks before they broke their promise.

QUESTION: That answers that, but on technical question. There was always a distinction between nuclear inspections and the chemical/biological -- where they were slightly less uncooperative in nuclear. What's the case today?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the IAEA has made its judgment; I'd be happy to get you the report.

QUESTION: Is it as bad as UNSCOM's?

MR. RUBIN: No, they've said they have - I rather not misuse these very highly refined words, but I'd be happy to get you a report. But the focus of our concerns have been on UNSCOM because it's UNSCOM that has been the focus of Iraq's refusal to cooperate for some time now.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up - two questions ago - it's all the same thing, but -

MR. RUBIN: You don't think I've managed to answer every angle?

QUESTION: Well, we'll give you one more shot, please. Is it the opinion of the United States that the political situation here is driving them to do what they've been doing?

MR. RUBIN: I know that speculation is part of everybody's job, but it's not part of my work at the podium. Trying to divine the motivations of Saddam Hussein, going back to his invasion of Kuwait and every step he's taken since then, I think is a no-growth industry.

QUESTION: Jamie, I realize the Secretary has been busy with meetings today and phone calls overseas, but could you talk a little about the contact that she and other members of the Administration have had with Congress in the last month, say, about Iraq in their briefings?

MR. RUBIN: I know that at least on two occasions, Secretary Albright participated and led a briefing of members of the House and members of the Senate subsequent to the last Iraqi climb down. She and Secretary Cohen consulted with and about our policy, talked to them about the words the President used with respect to regime change and our efforts to create a more effective Iraqi opposition.

As far as actual talks with members of Congress in recent days, I don't have a breakdown for you, but I can try to get that.

QUESTION: Is there a feeling, though, on that issue that perhaps the leadership of both Houses -

MR. RUBIN: On which issue?

QUESTION: On the consultation with Congress -- that the leadership of both Houses have sort of made up its mind to be non-cooperative anyway; and therefore, it's not such a high priority as it might ordinarily be to have them in on the take off of this particular event?

MR. RUBIN: No, we believe it's extremely important on a matter like this to consult with Congress, and we've been doing so all along despite other events that have gone on.

QUESTION: As you know, Jamie, on Friday, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins. Has this factored in at all as a consideration in a US decision to react; and how concerned are you of a potential backlash in the Arab world?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not at all going to be able to address the question of Ramadan and its timing and its implications thereto. Let me say this, however -- I think since the Wye agreement was signed, it's evident to us that members of the Arab world and members of the Muslim world understand that we have worked very, very hard to help create peace in the Middle East. And we succeeded at Wye in bringing to an end 18 months of stalemate.

Since that time, obviously, the process has gone through a number of hurdles - or rather, bumps in the road that Secretary Albright is trying to prevent from becoming hurdles, and we recognize that. But I think members of the Arab world were probably quite pleased, and she spoke to many of them about the efforts we made to pursue the Wye agreement. I think that is further compounded by the speech and the action the President took in Gaza, where he spoke to the Palestinian people in Gaza, where he helped them to make the choice that they decided to make to revoke once and for all the offending provisions of their charter. I think everyone regards it as a historic day in the history of US-Palestinian relations, and that will also redound to the disadvantage of those who would always try to present America's actions in the Gulf as somehow anti-Arab or anti-Muslim when they are so clearly not.

QUESTION: Have you all had any signals from the Arab nations that in light of how the Wye Accord isn't going as smoothly as you predicted or as you hoped, that the Wye Accord is maybe a distraction to the Iraqi situation - that maybe you don't have their full support?

MR. RUBIN: On the contrary, I think what I was trying to communicate was that we believe that the efforts Secretary Albright made and the President made to pursue the Wye accord and to keep at it -- to keep working, to try to be creative, for the President to spend nine days at Wye on the Middle East peace process, for him to travel to Gaza, for the Secretary to organize trilateral meetings between the leaders, to send Dennis Ross out to the region - the enormous diplomatic and presidential energies we've placed on the Middle East peace process has improved the situation.

Anyone who looks at it a year ago and looks at it today knows that the concrete situation is better. The Palestinians are fighting terrorism; more land was provided to the Palestinians in both partial control and full control. We're hoping that in the coming days, the second phase of the further redeployment will take place.

So we're working the problem; we're putting our shoulder to the wheel. We hope and expect and believe that Arab governments and other governments concerned recognize that.

QUESTION: Exactly on that point, though, Israel has said today that it isn't going to go forward on Friday with the next phase of the withdrawal. So what do you make of that, and what do you do?

MR. RUBIN: We believe the Wye memorandum should be implemented and that both parties should fulfill the obligations they undertook at Wye.

There are a number of problems that we believe can be worked out with a greater communication between the parties. After the President's visit there is, we hope and expect, going to be greater communication through the various committees that were set up - through the economic committee, through the committee on safe passage, through the efforts to create or work through a channel to discuss prisoner issues and try to work through that contentious and sensitive issue. We hope that these issues can be resolved because we think it would be unfortunate if there were a delay in the time table, and we want the further redeployment to occur as soon as possible. That's what we're working on. I have no answer to you as to when it's going to happen.

QUESTION: Do you have any hope that it will go forward on Friday as scheduled?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we don't want the delay to be too long.

QUESTION: And if, in fact, Israel does delay, are you urging the Palestinians to maintain adherence with their part of the --

MR. RUBIN: We think both sides should continue applying with the Wye agreement. Both sides should abide by the agreement; both sides should fulfill their responsibilities. That's the best way to advance the peace process.

QUESTION: If the delay does go beyond Friday, it is possible that as early as Monday the Israeli Government may be voted down in the Knesset. Are you not concerned that this might lead to almost interminable delays?

MR. RUBIN: The Wye agreement was approved by both the Israeli Government and the Knesset. Consistent with that, we feel it should be carried out and implemented as agreed. That means the commitments made at Wye should be fulfilled by both parties. We will continue to work to try to see that that happens.

QUESTION: Another subject - today Italy released the terrorist Ocalan because of Germany withdrew its extradition request. Do you have any reaction on this subject?

MR. RUBIN: As a matter of fact I do. We are disturbed by the news that the Germans withdrew their international warrant for Ocalan's arrest, if it is true. The United States believes that Ocalan should be brought to justice for the terrorist crimes of which he is accused in a manner consistent with international standards. If he is allowed to go free without facing charges, it would be a blow to the international fight against terrorism.

We have been in touch with senior levels of the Italian Government to express our view that Ocalan must not go free; and we are currently consulting with the Germans, the Italians and the Turkish authorities regarding these reported developments.

QUESTION: Sir, you may know an American journalist is missing in Mexico. I refer to Philip True, the Mexico City bureau chief of The San Antonio Express News, who has been unaccounted for for five days. I just wanted to know if the State Department is satisfied that the government of Mexico is doing everything it can do to locate Mr. True.

MR. RUBIN: My understanding is the embassy is working on this, and I will look into it after the briefing and try to get back to you. Certainly we are concerned whenever, in any place in the world, a journalist is missing.

QUESTION: Back to Ocalan - has he been released, as my colleague asked?

MR. RUBIN: I think you must have missed the first - we've heard these reports and we're checking them out. But if it's true that the German Government has withdrawn its extradition request, leading the Italian judicial system to "free him," that would be very disturbing to us, and we are talking to both the German Government and the Italian Government about that.

QUESTION: But isn't it then too late to talk to them if they've let him go?

MR. RUBIN: Well, even reports don't imply that he has anywhere to go.

QUESTION: Before Mr. Holbrooke went to Belgrade the last time, there were some calls among people in the region and from some think tanks here in Washington that it would be a good idea for the State Department to draw a so-called "red line" around Montenegro and ask Mr. Milosevic not to interfere in Montenegrin affairs. My question is, do you know if that subject of Montenegro came up during Mr. Holbrooke's visit; and if it did, whether he discussed such a red line?

MR. RUBIN: Well, without getting into the specifics of that kind of discussion, let me say we've said many times that we do not want to see the kind of repression that occurred in Kosovo occur in Montenegro. But we do not support secession of Montenegro. On the contrary, we support democracy and Montenegro working successfully with Serbia in a parliamentary system. And so we do have concerns about Montenegro, we've been very supportive of its president, Djukanovic, and we take the opportunity, when appropriate, to raise those issues with the Serbs. But I wouldn't be able to specify what was said on that subject between Ambassador Holbrooke and President Milosevic.

QUESTION: Ambassador Holbrooke said last night on broadcast that there had been - the fire fight that had happened along the border appeared to be infiltration of the UCK with arms. But then there was an act against the ethnic Serbs in Kosovo of a slaughter in a pool hall that he was very much opposed to. Does the State Department stand behind his assessment of that?

MR. RUBIN: Absolutely. The general situation in Kosovo remains very tense after the shootings of six Serbian youths in Pec on Monday. Yesterday members of the KLA general staff disclaimed responsibility for the shootings. US monitors report that a large gathering in Pec for the funeral of the six youths was scheduled to begin at 2:00 p.m. local today. Some 20 to 30 buses arrived in Pec from Pristina. There are no reports of violence.

We do strongly condemn these kind of random killings, and we will monitor the behavior of both sides and encourage them to avoid provocative acts.

With respect to the Serbian military, let me say the Serbian military and police presence appears to be increasing on the roads and in the cities, although the police deny this. US monitors have also seen a pattern of combined military and police checkpoints and have raised this matter with police authorities. Our monitors opened a base in Malisevo yesterday. The presence of monitors from KDOM in this tense community is intended to build confidence.

We've had some trouble with Serbian high school students along the road being hostile to the KDOM; but KDOM patrols were increased and the situation, although tense, remains without new violence as far as we can tell.

Ambassador Holbrooke obviously had a chance to go through with President Milosevic the stalemate in the talks between the Kosovar Albanians and the Serbs. We have a text; we want them to work on that text. Obviously, it's a rolling text that can be made to reflect concerns of both sides. But we have a window of opportunity here during these next short periods of time, and we think it's up to both sides to use that window of opportunity to avoid a dangerous situation in the spring.

QUESTION: Is there any violation by the Serbs as of yet?

MR. RUBIN: Well, as I indicated, we do have concerns about increased police presence, and we're checking on that and raising those with the Serb authorities.

QUESTION: Is there any sign of additional forces coming in from Serbia into Kosovo?

MR. RUBIN: The information I have is as I provided you. I don't have additional information.

QUESTION: And this disclaimer by the KLA about the Pec incident, is that a credible disclaimer so far as you know?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know the answer to that. I'm merely pointing out the disclaimer.

QUESTION: Is there any sign that the incident might have been staged, even by the other side?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm sure that theoreticians will theorize. I don't know the answer to that question. I'm telling you what I know, not what I can theorize.

QUESTION: The government of Azerbaijan continues to crackdown on the country's independent opposition newspapers. Yesterday dozens of civil suits have been filed by officials against at least five newspapers. The government has also launched criminal investigations against newspaper editors. Is the United States concerned about this current actions against the independent press in Azerbaijan?

MR. RUBIN: Decisions of the Azerbaijani courts to levy fines high enough to disrupt the functioning of opposition newspapers are inconsistent with international human rights covenants, to which Azerbaijan is a party. We call on the government to uphold the freedom of the media.

On that last point from you Roy, let me point out that regardless of the circumstances about which one might theorize, we have condemned in the strongest terms that kind of wanton killing.

QUESTION: Following your statement, you could have a situation where somebody's trying to provoke a strong response with a terrible atrocity - it's been known to happen. And certainly the Serbs, during the whole Bosnian war, the Serbs always accused the Muslims of doing that very thing. It's not as if they're not capable of doing it themselves.

MR. RUBIN: Like you, I'm familiar with the history of the war in Bosnia; but I don't have the answer to your question of who conducted this act.

QUESTION: Another subject, India? What's your reaction to Prime Minister's Vajpayee's speech yesterday on the nuclear question?

MR. RUBIN: On that subject, let me say that we have read it with interest. We welcome his reaffirmation of a commitment to a September '99 entry into force of the CTBT. There have been multiple rounds of discussion between us and the Indians, and we have made some progress. We are looking forward to continuing this dialogue in another round of talks in late January.

There are significant differences. We will be working to try to limit the differences and expand the areas of common ground. We want both India and Pakistan to meet the benchmark set forth by the international community.

It clearly is necessary in a democracy to build a base of parliamentary and public support for important actions, and we welcome the fact that Prime Minister Vajpayee is in the process of building a national consensus on no further nuclear testing and on India's adherence to the CTBT.

On the missile side, we've urged India and Pakistan to exercise the utmost restraint in further missile development, including flight testing. We will continue to do so.

With respect to the fissile material, the Prime Minister left the door open for multilateral initiatives on a moratorium on fissile material production. He also expressed willingness to work for the early conclusion of this fissile material cut-off treaty in Geneva. We are looking forward to continuing discussions on this subject in talks with the Indians.

With respect to suggestions that his statement is an implied commitment to deploy nuclear weapons, this is one of several statements we will explore in our next round of discussions. The Prime Minister has acknowledged our interest in better understanding India's positions. We will need to learn more about India's intentions before making a full assessment. It is our understanding that India has not deployed nuclear weapons. There is nothing in the Prime Minister's speech to indicate that India has deployed nuclear weapons, and we will continue to engage with the Indians on this issue.

QUESTION: You say you think that they've left the door open on fissile material. I gather that the reason why you say that is because even though he says it's not possible to take such steps, he qualifies it by saying "at this stage." Is that where the hope is?

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to leave it to the tea leaf readers to give you a direct answer of which words generate our view, but that's our view.

QUESTION: Different subject - there are several dozen foreign nationals on death row across the country who claim they were not offered consular access after their arrest. Could you just share with us, is the US required to tell those arrested of their right to consular access?

MR. RUBIN: Criminal defense lawyers have identified some 70 persons on death row who are allegedly foreign nationals who were not told that they could contact, or have someone else contact, their consular officials. These are not cases of denial of consular access, but cases of failure of consular notification. We are not aware of any case in which foreign nationals have not been allowed to contact a consulate if they ask to do so.

There is a legal requirement to tell a detained foreign national that a consular official can be notified of the detention if he or she wishes; that is in the Vienna Convention we joined in 1969. The requirement is intended to ensure that governments have the opportunity to assist their nationals abroad if they wish to.

We take the consular notification requirement very seriously. We are required to provide notification to foreign nationals here, and we want Americans abroad similarly notified so that they will know that they can request our help if they get into trouble. The Secretary of State has repeatedly said we can't have a double standard on this issue.

If consular notification wasn't provided in a specific case of a detained foreign national, we certainly agree that it should have been. If we confirm that a violation occurred, we normally apologize to the government concerned and work with the law enforcement entities involved to ensure that they understand the requirement so that it doesn't happen again. We also go to extraordinary lengths in publishing brochures and putting information out on our websites to try to be sure that all around the United States all the different law enforcement authorities understand that it is a requirement to notify a criminal defendant, if they are a foreign national, that they are entitled to consular access.

We have brochures and cards that we've passed around. We've gone to extraordinary lengths, but that doesn't mean that we can get the message to everyone. But we certainly do our best to do so.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - that US citizens could have a problem overseas?

MR. RUBIN: Our concern is that if we don't do all we can to ensure that all of our law enforcement authorities make available this information, tell foreign nationals here that they can have consular access, then American citizens around the world who would be operating in legal environments far less advanced and fair as the United States could be missing out on important opportunities to defend themselves through such notification of our consulates and embassies.

QUESTION: One more - referring to yesterday's Wall Street Journal article, titled "Fission for Cash," the reports are that at least two Russian nuclear agencies are in the shadow of Bushehr on the side, are quietly negotiating to sell Iran a 40 mega-watt heavy water research reactor and a uranium conversion facility that would allow fissionable materials to be produced by the Iranians. I would just ask, does this violate the non- proliferation policy of this government?

MR. RUBIN: We've repeatedly raised this kind of problem with Russian officials. We have discussed our concerns at the highest levels. Russia has declined to halt all nuclear cooperation with Iran. It has given us commitments that such cooperation will be limited to the Bushehr reactor project during the period of its construction.

Despite these commitments, we are aware that a number of Russian entities are engaged in cooperation with Iran that goes beyond the Bushehr reactor project. We are convinced that Iran is using the Bushehr reactor project as a cover for acquiring sensitive Russian nuclear technology. Because of our concerns, we have already substantially curtailed USG programs with key Russian nuclear entities. We are ready to take further steps against any entities that we believe may be involved in this type of nuclear cooperation with Iran.

We used the Administration's executive order last summer against seven Russian entities involved in assisting Iran's ballistic missile program. We are ready to take similar action against similar Russian nuclear entities. We have been engaged with the Russian Government in intensive and extensive discussions on this. We continue to underscore to the Russians that the true test of Russia's commitments is whether it takes decisive action to stop the flow of such technology.

The Russian Government has told us that it, too, is committed to ensuring that Russian entities do not transfer sensitive technologies to Iran, as that would affect Russian security interests.

Let me also say the US Government will not be able to approve expansion of the highly lucrative space launch market with Russia until Russian entities cease cooperation with Iran's ballistic missile program. So we are looking to see immediate concrete action from Russia to take decisive steps to prevent this kind of thing.

QUESTION: So there are no signs that the Russians are listening to us yet?

MR. RUBIN: Let me leave things just where I stated them.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - before that you won't be able to see expansion of the space program?

MR. RUBIN: I doubt when they read the transcript that they will be shocked.

QUESTION: And while you're on Russia, there have been some more anti- Semitic statements apparently from leading politicians.

MR. RUBIN: I'm determined to locate the proper section here. We join with Russian leaders in condemning these outrageous anti-Semitic statements. Last month, President Yeltsin declared that any attempt to insult ethnic groups, to limit the rights of citizens on the basis of origin will be stopped in accordance with the constitution and the laws of the Russian Federation.

Deputy Secretary Talbot raised our concerns about these issues in all of his meetings with Russian leaders during his visit to Moscow last week. These issues were also raised by Vice President Gore in Kuala Lumpur and by the Secretary in her meetings with the Russian Foreign Minister.

We view anti-Semitic tendencies of Duma deputies with concern and are dismayed that the Duma's reaction is not to condemn these clearly inflammatory statements.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)


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