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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #46, 99-04-08

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>


1024

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Thursday, April 8, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

KOSOVO
1,2,6,7,13	Graphics evidence / War Crimes Tribunal
1,2		Killings of Kosovar Albanians
1-5		Refugees / ICRC / No-man's land -- 43,000 are accounted for
3,8,9		Closure of border? / Human shields / NATO Bombings
4		Kyprianou in Belgrade / Unconditional release of servicemen
4,5		No access to servicemen / Airlifts of food
7,9		International Security presence
9-11		Unilateral cease-fire insufficient / KLA assessment
14		Ground troops

LIBYA 14 No plans for bilateral meetings 15 Security Council Resolutions

ISRAEL 15 Visit of Foreign Minister Sharon 17 Israeli-Serbian relationship

RUSSIA 15 Status of Primakov's health

IRAQ 16 Possible chemical attacks

INDONESIA 16 Attacks of civilians in East Timor


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #46

THURSDAY, APRIL 8, 1999

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Several of you have been asking us to try to make available what material we do have and we don't have with respect to what is going on inside Kosovo. We have been learning a lot about war crimes and crimes against humanity in Kosovo, and we have some graphics that illustrate and confirm what we have learned independently from our means - our own national technical means, as well as from refugee reports. These reports have been remarkably consistent, and we are continuing to gather as much information as we can.

These materials that I'm showing you are going to be provided to the War Crimes Tribunal. They are, in fact, on their way right now. This map here is designed to show, with the demonstration of fires, all the locations we have independently confirmed fires. The blue markings with the skeletons on them are what we have as refugee reports of killings. The graphic below is designed to show you that in the places where there are maximum Albanian population is where the fires and the reports of killings are concentrated. So if you look to the east, with the lighter color areas, or to the north, with the lighter color areas, those are majority and - if not completely - Serb populations. That's where we show no indications of burning houses or the reports of the mass killing. Again, to demonstrate that independently, we have been able to confirm that the Serb forces are conducting this type of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

Now, I would like to show you some imagery that we have obtained that indicates what happens to these towns. The first town is called Junik, near Djakovica. It shows damage to buildings after Serb forces have gone in. So the picture on the left is the picture of that village prior to the entry of Serb forces. The picture on the right shows the burning and damage and destruction in various locations of what happens to these villages after the Serb forces go in.

Let's go to the next one. The third graphic is another town called Strbulovo. Again, what we're seeing is the pictures of what the town looked like before Serb forces entered, and then after Serb forces entered, you'll see in a variety of locations the extreme damage to the buildings and to the locations there.

Let's go to the fourth graphic. This is the town of Belacrkva. Again, you'll see a town that is relatively intact. Then after the Serb forces go in, you'll see houses with roofs blown off and destruction of the villages. These are our independent means, our national technical means, that are showing what happens when Serbian forces target civilian homes in the neighborhoods in these towns.

Just to give you another example - this has been shown elsewhere, but again, what we're trying to do here - this is the town of Glodane, near Klina, this past weekend. This shows locations where civilians - internally displaced persons - were being herded, and there are a number of vehicles. We don't know what happened to the people. Subsequent reports that the civilians are no longer there and that the town was on fire concern us even further. We are also continuing to track reports of summary executions and the killing of refugees. There are many reports to verify. That is what our War Crimes Office and, obviously, the Tribunal in The Hague is trying to do.

Just to name a few of the incidents in which we have received information recently - that is that there have been killings of Kosovar Albanian civilians in the following towns: Orohovac, Orlate, Pastasel, Srbica, Izbica, Hjovic, Mitrovka, and Seva Reca. These are seven towns - eight towns - where we have received what we regard as credible reporting but not confirmed reporting of mass killings.

Again, the point here is that we are working very hard to try to track this information, to get as much information as we can available, both publicly, because we think it's very important to demonstrate what we have been saying about what's going on in Kosovo and these particular - this particular information, among other information, is now on its way to the Tribunal.

QUESTION: Is there anything more known about the thousands of people that the Macedonians wouldn't take in as having exceeded whatever facilities they have and were being pushed back to Kosovo? This sort of twins - I'm twinning this question with the notion that the refugees are being welcomed back. Of course, that, indeed, kicks off the speculation there may be some human shields prospect.

MR. RUBIN: On that subject let me say the following, we don't know where the whereabouts the of the Kosovar Albanians who have been turned back at the border. We're obviously very concerned about their well-being. Serb forces appear to be denying them the opportunity to cross the border and receive humanitarian assistance and trying to force them back into a wasteland with virtually no food, water, or shelter - again, a wasteland created by the Serbs themselves. This would be, yet, another violation of international law. We expect the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to allow its citizens to move freely across borders, subject only to normal controls. Refugees should be able to make their free choice on whether they are leaving, not on coercion by the Belgrade authorities.

As far as related reports about refugees on the other side of the border, let me say that - again, what we're trying to do here is tell you what we know and what we don't know. We do know that the ICRC is now in the process of working to try to track down the people who were separated from their families. There are tracing teams in the field, and they are beginning to organize tracing centers. We are going to assist them in that effort.

With respect to the no-man's land between the Kosovo and Albanian border - I'm sorry between Macedonia and Albania, this is the latest reporting that we have, that Macedonian authorities bussed 28,000 to two NATO camps in Macedonia. Ten thousand were taken to the border towns in Albania - two border towns - and 5,000 were sent to Greece. So we now believe that in rough terms we've accounted for - that is, the UNHCR and others who are doing the work on the ground - 43,000 people. Therefore, there doesn't appear to be a large number of missing people from that grouping.

QUESTION: Can you say with certainty that the Kosovars who are - who didn't come across the border, who went back, or went wherever, didn't go back on their own free will to their villages, acting on what they thought was a cease-fire by Belgrade?

MR. RUBIN: We have received a variety of reporting that indicates that there were people trying to get to the border and that the border was shut. I think it's very difficult at a time like this to say anything with certainty. So I wouldn't presuppose to say with certainty things that are impossible to say with certainty.

QUESTION: You didn't answer part of Barry's question about these people possibly being used a human shields?

MR. RUBIN: We've heard reports of that. Again, it's impossible to know certain things. All I'm telling you is we've heard reports of that from a variety of sources. I can tell you this, we do believe that after NATO bombings of certain sites, the Serbs very cravenly go in and destroy civilian buildings around those targets to try to create a misimpression that NATO bombings have destroyed civilian targets. Let me make the broader point, the Serb policy is to pursue collateral damage. That's the goal -- to force these people out and to direct their attacks on civilians. NATO's policy is to do all it can to avoid collateral damage.

QUESTION: Jamie, that last comment, was that specifically aimed at Pristina, where there are reports today that --

MR. RUBIN: Yes, in the case of Pristina, we've had reliable reporting that after a target was struck that was a military target, the Serbs have tried to present a phony description to the world by having their forces destroy houses or buildings in the vicinity and try to then blame that on NATO, including through these quickly organized tours where journalists are not given the freedom to go out and see what's really going on and be there on a regular basis to give us eyewitness accounts of what's been happening.

QUESTION: Do you think then that whatever action NATO took around or in Pristina, at least as far as you know, there wasn't any civilian damage?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I can't speak to every single target hit. I can't do a military briefing for you. What I can tell you is that we have reliable reporting that this a practice the Serbs have pursued.

QUESTION: Jamie, has the government of Cyprus been in touch with the U.S. Government about what happened or did not happen in Belgrade today regarding the three POWs?

MR. RUBIN: My understanding is that - from our ambassador in Greece - is that Mr. Kyprianou is now on the ground in Belgrade, that the plane that took him there has left, that he intends to stay overnight. We would obviously welcome the release of the servicemen. But let me be clear, we will accept nothing less than the unconditional release of these servicemen. We will not negotiate for their release. We understand that Mr. Kyprianou is proceeding on this basis, as well. There is no basis for the detention of these men, and they should be released immediately.

Any attempt to use the three as bargaining chips is both illegal and immoral. So far as we know, the ICRC, the Red Cross, has not yet been granted access to the prisoners. We don't intend to allow Milosevic, in this case or in any other, to use his tactic - as cynical as it would be and as familiar as it would be to us - of seeking concessions for resolving a crisis or a problem that he himself created.

QUESTION: Did you expect him to stay overnight? Are you concerned that he's decided to --

MR. RUBIN: No, I mean, the arrangements are being made on an hour-by-hour basis. We tried to make it possible for this plane to go in with relative security, within obvious limits. Based on the logistics of the situation, that is my understanding of where the situation is.

QUESTION: But does it imply a problem that he's staying overnight?

MR. RUBIN: No, I think it's - as far as I know, it's a logistical issue that he didn't leave until several hours ago which was already nighttime and all that that might bring with it.

QUESTION: Are you at all concerned about the relationship Mr. Milosevic has to the leadership in Cyprus? He sent his family there prior to the bombing. He owns a couple of villas. He also has - apparently has a lot of money deposited there. Do you see any conflict?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't know how to address the question. I would have to get better reporting from our sources here as to what has and hasn't happened.

QUESTION: For the duration of Mr. Kyprianou's sojourn in Belgrade, is there a bombing halt in effect for Belgrade?

MR. RUBIN: No. There is no - we did not agree - and we made very clear to the parties concerned - to any sort of cease-fire of any kind in order to - we're not going to make that kind of concession. What we did try to do was to try to provide necessary information to maximize the security for the mission.

QUESTION: Back on the refugees, could you talk about the arrangements being made to settle some refugees in Guantanamo?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. My understanding on the Guantanamo situation is that we expect the first groups to be arriving there in the next several days; the process of selecting individuals and arranging transportation for them has been made. We have advised the government of Cuba about our intention to use Guantanamo, and informed them that the decision had been made. Our Interests Section in Havana has also briefed Cuban officials. So we have indicated that we're pursuing this. They've said they have no problem with that. The actual planning is now going on. There are other places that the refugees have been going, including Turkey and Germany. But we are trying to make these arrangements in the coming days.

QUESTION: AID put out a press release about, I think, 674,000 meals - or thereabouts - are going to Albania and Macedonia, to airlifts. I don't expect that you would - unless you have it written out someplace - but could we possibly get some notion of whether or to what extent other countries are assisting. So far as the threat of disease and all, is the U.S. or anybody else doing anything?

MR. RUBIN: Let me try to get you some more material about that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. RUBIN: I know that when this process began that there were flights from many countries. It wasn't just the United States. I would expect that Brian Atwood, who is very capable in this area, is trying to address not only the food needs. I know the Pentagon was sending in sheeting and sleeping bags and cots and things of that nature. I hope and would have every reason to believe they haven't left medicine out of the equation.

QUESTION: Sure.

MR. RUBIN: I believe there will be some announcements about the intentions of the European Union today in the humanitarian field, that it would be very significant to address directly your question.

QUESTION: We've seen a little from the Europeans particularly - I mean, we've seen a little information --

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: Not that they've contributed a little - a little information, particularly from Germany, on what the Germans are doing. But I was wondering about other parts of the world. Frankly, all I'm aware of is Israel making contributions, and I wondered if Japan --

MR. RUBIN: I would --

QUESTION: -- which usually is very charitable, all those wealthy Arab nations, I wonder what they are doing?

MR. RUBIN: I will have to check - I'm not sure we're in a position to provide you details of what other countries are doing, but we can do the best we can in that area.

QUESTION: I'm wondering about the evidence that has been mentioned here and elsewhere in the United States Government that will be sent to the War Crimes Tribunal. Will that be all sent when sufficient information has been gathered. or will you do it as quickly as possible?

MR. RUBIN: Well, Ambassador Scheffer is in regular contact with the prosecutor's office in The Hague. What he's been trying to do is use the normal procedures that are already in place, where specific information might be requested, and try to cut through a little bit of the red tape so this can happen more quickly and more regularly.

But this is the kind of information that we have been providing and are now providing. That process is only going to accelerate and increase, obviously, because there's a lot of terrible things going on in Kosovo. We're trying to help the prosecutors to do their job as quickly as we can, given the difficulties of classified information and other such procedures.

QUESTION: So has such information already been sent there?

MR. RUBIN: This is on its way. It's on its way right now.

QUESTION: When was this taken, by the way?

MR. RUBIN: The imagery, as I understand it, is in the last several weeks, and it's before and after the Serb offensive which began several days before the bombing began. But I don't have an exact date for each of those towns.

QUESTION: Jamie, are you all able to make any kind of an assessment based on what you have seen of destruction of towns, as to what he - as to what Milosevic is trying to do? Do you think he's trying to drive all of the Kosovars out? Are there areas that - I mean, is he trying to clear out the north and keep the south?

MR. RUBIN: It's very difficult to try to ascertain what the evil design is of this terrible business. I'm not going to try to make any judgment. Clearly, by closing the border and trying to send people back, he is not sending all the Kosovar Albanians out of Kosovo. But exactly what his evil design is, I don't think we've come to any firm judgment.

QUESTION: Jamie, the graphic evidence that you've got up here and that you've sent to the War Crimes Tribunal, can you tell us whether that is as good as national technical means can make it?

MR. RUBIN: No.

QUESTION: It is not as good.

MR. RUBIN: No, I can't tell you.

QUESTION: Oh, you can't tell me. Are the copies of that, that you have sent to the War Crimes Tribunal, the same or better than what you've shown us?

MR. RUBIN: I don't think it's very helpful in this forum to get into the particular capabilities of our intelligence means. We're trying to show you what it is that we have available, and we try to provide the best information possible to the War Crimes Tribunal.

QUESTION: Jamie --

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Besty's question and you know, these descriptions, I have a problem in my head trying to imagine how your demand that the refugees be allowed to return to their homes - how realistic that demand can be? In other words, is the Administration entertaining the thought, for instance, of demanding that Belgrade pay compensation, that Belgrade rehabilitate? I mean, if he's made that kind of a mess out of that area, even if he took the refugees back - one thing, it discourages them from going back - which may be his design. But even if they went back, how could they possibly reconstruct their lives?

MR. RUBIN: Well, clearly Belgrade is responsible for what's going on here. There's no question about that. I think, given that we actually care about these people, and he obviously does not, the European Union and the United States have made clear, we're going to try to assist in any effort to try to reconstruct in this area.

But remember what we're saying, what we're saying is that he's got to accept an international security presence. That is a condition if we're going to discontinue the bombing that is ongoing. That international security presence will provide security for the people coming back. We are also requiring that the Serb forces that have conducted these terrible atrocities and this ethnic cleansing are removed. So that on a security side is what will make it possible for people to come back to their homes.

From Ambassador Scheffer's reporting - in talking to these refugees - it's clear to him that they want to go home, that they don't want to go anywhere else. They want to go home. We obviously believe that Belgrade is responsible for what's going on here. But we also care about them. So what we're insisting on is a security presence that will provide the secure environment for them to return and the Serb forces out that have conducted these atrocities, which might be a deterrent for any person to want to come home. Then we'll work on reconstruction to the extent we can, but there's no question we hold Belgrade responsible for it.

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the difference of opinion among the allies on this issue of moving refugees from the immediate - the contiguous countries to other countries? You cite Turkey and Germany having accepted some. But I'm not aware that a lot have gone to other countries.

MR. RUBIN: I don't know - again, I'm not in a position. The UNHCR is the refugee agency that details who has taken what. I can tell you that -- it's my understanding that all the places envisaged - the 100,000 for the European Union - were subscribed, that countries did agree to take this 100, 000. So there was an acceptance broadly in Western Europe and the United States that given the bottlenecks that had developed in Macedonia and Albania, that we needed to do something so that these countries could deal with this emerging crisis and this catastrophe.

Now, as it happens, the situation has stabilized because the borders are closed. There aren't additional refugees going in. We'll have to see what steps need to be taken to deal with the concerns the governments in the region, in Skopje and Tirana, have and how that will work with those countries that have made up the 100,000 refugees they have been prepared to accept. But I don't have specific numbers other than I just learned on the way in, that Turkey and Germany had begun already receiving refugees. The European Union may have more to say in the coming hours about this.

But the fact is that currently the situation has stabilized. I don't know what will be worked out between the UNHCR, the refugees and the countries - Macedonia and Albania - the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia - as to whether, people will want to voluntarily go to those places. So that is a problem we're working on. I think we've moved rather smartly in recent days to bring the food and the medicine and the sheeting, to get subscriptions, so to speak, of people who are willing to take refugees. We have now avoided a bottleneck. Now, again, the external factor is that the borders are now closed and additional refugees aren't coming out.

QUESTION: With regard to the refugees going back, does the U.S. have any - well, what's the U.S. idea or thoughts on a possible partition of Kosovo? Secondly, which will be much easier, I think, is how happy is the U.S. about the EU Foreign Ministers statement that came out earlier today, basically supporting in full --

MR. RUBIN: Let me go to the second question, first. We have been very heartened by the extent to which the NATO allies and our European partners have been unified and determined. Secretary Albright continues to be very pleased as a result of her calls each day to several foreign ministers of their determination. I think President Milosevic seriously miscalculated. He thought that - as may have been the case in the past - that he would be in a position to try to break - to create wedges in the alliance, to break-off members who had different views. He has greatly miscalculated that, and he's wrong.

So we have been quite pleased by, not only the policies on the humanitarian side, on the refugee side, but also on the determination to see this military campaign through, and to stay the course by the allied countries the Secretary has been meeting with.

With respect to the first question, I am not going to speculate about the future of Kosovo. What we clearly want to do is to create an environment in which the people can return to their homes, the Serb forces are out, the NATO-led forces are in and then a political settlement can be worked on. In a sense, we are beyond Rambouillet. We're not beyond the principles of Rambouillet because the principles were the deployment of an international security force; the removal of Serb forces; self-government for the people of Kosovo. But we are beyond Rambouillet in the sense that what we're going to work from this those principles, that framework, rather than this specific text.

QUESTION: Jamie, is there any - and it's purposefully vague - to leave a lot of room for even marginal stuff, is there any diplomacy going on?

MR. RUBIN: Well, diplomacy at this stage has been to back up the use of the force. I would say that Secretary Albright's biggest task each day is to ensure that the NATO allies remain as united as they've been remaining. That has been her diplomatic task, to support the use of force that's going.

Clearly, there are countries that are touch with President Milosevic's regime. That's fine with us. We're not going to say that people can't do that, so long as they understand - both the interlocutors and the Belgrade regime - that this bombing campaign will continue unless President Milosevic can answer some questions in the affirmative. Will he accept NATO - an international security presence? Will he withdraw his forces? Will he allow for the unconditional return of refugees? Finally, will he allow for the negotiations to put in place a political settlement to be - to move forward on the basis of the Rambouillet accords?

Until those four questions can be answered in the affirmative, the NATO bombing campaign is going to continue.

QUESTION: That's what these - hopefully - these (inaudible) who hope to be helpful, know? They know that.

MR. RUBIN: They know that, and we've made very clear. So to some extent, some of our diplomacy, and the Secretary's diplomacy is to make sure that any potential interlocutor with the Serbs understands that, so there's no misunderstanding of what's required. As we indicated, this unilateral cease- fire is clearly insufficient, woefully insufficient, and we are waiting for firm answers --

QUESTION: Well, Greece --

MR. RUBIN: -- to those questions.

QUESTION: Greece's prime minister thought, even though it was unacceptable, that it was an opportunity to get something going?

MR. RUBIN: Well, Ambassador Burns has been in touch with the Greek Government subsequent to some of the initial statements and we're quite pleased with not only their position and support of NATO, but also the cooperation they've been providing to us in regards to this flight and the efforts, thereto.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, all four of the principles that you mentioned, can be applied to all or even part of Kosovo. Can you clarify when the NATO allies are talking about what this will look like at the conclusion of the bombing? Are they talking - is there talk of partition, of applying those four principles to a workable piece of Kosovo?

MR. RUBIN: No, we're talking about Kosovo, and everybody knows what Kosovo is.

QUESTION: There hasn't been much, if anything, from the KLA in the last week. So I was wondering if - in the last couple days - if you could give some kind of an assessment of how you think they're doing?

MR. RUBIN: The Kosovar Liberation Army has clearly been seriously weakened by the Serbian offensive of the last few weeks. Several of its strongholds have been overrun. They are present apparently, in some parts of western Kosovo, and there are some indications that they are beginning to form units for counterattacks. We and others have told the Serbs repeatedly that a total military victory against an insurgency that has only grown in its sentiment is unattainable. Neither side can impose a solution by force. That is our general view right now on where the Kosovar Liberation Army is. Clearly, they suffered. Clearly, they were overwhelmed in their ability to hold territory.

But I think they clearly survived by getting out of the places where the attacks were, and melting into the hills, or other guerrilla insurgency tactics that they have been pursuing. So they're still there, and all President Milosevic has done is radicalized the population and give greater support for those who perhaps in the past had wanted to pursue a peaceful solution, which makes it all the harder for us to obtain a peaceful solution on the kinds of terms that the Serbs would have liked to see.

QUESTION: Is it possible for you to say if they've communicated any new goals, if they have changed their positions about what they are trying to attain?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I would prefer not to get into every contact we have. I think they have indicated they intend at the political leadership level to pursue a peaceful solution. I think it's clear from the comments I've been making that we believe that the population, and thus the KLA, as well, has been radicalized by what has gone on here. So we'll have to see what a political peaceful solution would look like. But there's no point in really speculating on that until the Serbs understand that this bombing campaign is going to continue unless they are in a position to allow the refugees to return, to permit the international security presence and to withdraw their forces.

QUESTION: You said that there are some indications that they are beginning to form units for a counterattack. Are you aware - have they been able to be re-supplied with arms or food, even?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I know that over the last year, they have managed to get arms and supplies through a variety of mechanisms. I am sure that the current environment made it harder for that to happen. But I don't have an ability to provide you an up-to-date account of what has been going on in the recent weeks in terms of re-supply.

QUESTION: Jamie, the first week of this fighting, and the bombing, you were in touch with Mr. Thaci and reported on your conversations to some extent to us on that. Have you been in touch with him in the last few days or with any of other KLA leaders?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Today?

MR. RUBIN: Yesterday.

QUESTION: Yesterday. Anything to say, other than you were in touch with him?

MR. RUBIN: I've been trying to incorporate, as best I can, his comments. I don't think he has much to say. He was giving very similar - in terms of a situation report - similar accounts about what has been going on in Pristina, that it's become very quiet there; and certain accounts about what the status of the KLA is and what they know about Serb forces. So it's very much been built into the kinds of judgments we've drawn from a wider variety of sources.

QUESTION: Jamie, I have a question which is a bit of a domestic question, but it reaches to Kosovo.

MR. RUBIN: Maybe you ought to send it over to the White House, which does domestic policy.

QUESTION: Well, this is - there are a lot of black radio stations in this country which are talking about this, as many chat shows are. But they are angry at the fact that the US did not respond this vigorously when events were going on in Rwanda. I am wondering if you could address this?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the President of the United States and Secretary Albright have spoken to Rwanda in their trips to Africa, and I would be happy to get you comments that they have made. But we don't think that our not acting more completely in Rwanda is a reason not to act in the case of Kosovo. Just because you can't do everything, doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to do certain things. We felt that it would be wrong to stand by and watch the Serb offensive that began before the bombing, that was intended to eradicate the KLA, using the tactics that I've just described to you, without acting.

As far as what we did and didn't do in Rwanda, the President of the United States and Secretary Albright have spoken to that. I wouldn't want to mangle their very eloquent words about it and, therefore, I don't want to repeat it. But we hope that all Americans understand that whatever might have happened in the past - right or wrong - that now we're engaged in a confrontation with a regime that has committed this kind of barbarism.

QUESTION: Do you think that this experience with NATO and reaction to the situation in Kosovo could serve as a model for dealing with other organizations around the world, to deal with those kinds of --

MR. RUBIN: As you know, Secretary Albright has resisted drawing grand conclusions from specific actions, and that we need to have principles, that we need to pursue our policies pragmatically, that many situations are different. Certainly, in the course of the NATO summit, I am sure the leaders of NATO will be addressing the question to what extent Kosovo and our action there should guide us, or in what way or another in the future. So I wouldn't want to pre-judge that.

QUESTION: During one of her appearances on television yesterday - I forget exactly which one - I think it might have been "Larry King", or somebody - the Secretary came tantalizingly close to calling for Milosevic to be removed from power, step down from power? Could you sort of clarify what the US --

MR. RUBIN: Well, I wouldn't want to step on her words, either.

QUESTION: What is the policy towards him?

MR. RUBIN: The policy is the same, and I'll get you a copy of that.

QUESTION: I'm sorry --

QUESTION: Now, you've been saying - not you only --

MR. RUBIN: I mean, I can't --

QUESTION: Let me finish the thought, please --

MR. RUBIN: -- policy to you - I'm not going to -- that's the issue.

QUESTION: That's not - but increase - there are a couple of things going on along those lines, it strikes me - at least rhetorically. As Milosevic continues this campaign, the U.S. has been saying - the White House, the State Department - have all been saying, he's risking losing his hold, he's risking losing his hold on Kosovo. You've come awfully close, it strikes - the next step, it would seem would be to say, he should be deprived of Kosovo or/and he should be deprived of power.

So this may or may not be the forum for this, what I'm trying to say is, as his activities - notorious activities multiply, is the U.S. reconsidering whether Kosovo - even under self-rule - is properly part of Yugoslavia; and whether this - you've even been asked before - can you deal with this guy at all? You know, should he - is he fit to remain in power? Is there a judgment here to be made?

MR. RUBIN: We want to see democratic policies pursued in Serbia. We've been supporting democracy there through assistance to independent media and other electoral sectors and to the tune of many millions of dollars. That's what we want to see, the democratization of Serbia. With respect to dealing with Mr. Milosevic, I have indicated that it's harder and harder to see how that could be done. One wouldn't want to say never, but it's harder and harder to see how that could be done.

With respect to what has happened in Kosovo, we are very clear that President Milosevic is responsible for this and all that we've seen on our television screens - the horror and the barbarity of what's gone on there. With respect to his regime, we've indicated that he is not part of the solution to Kosovo because of his policies. He's the problem, and that we wouldn't lose any sleep - as the Secretary indicated last night - if he resigned.

But the question is a question of policy, and there is no new policy. We have simply said that we are looking for the Belgrade regime to reverse course, the regime that controls the forces that are doing these dirty deeds in Kosovo. That's what we're looking to see happen: agreement for an international security force in, the withdrawal of Serb security forces, and a way for the refugees to be returned. That's our policy. I am not going to make new policy pronouncements on a subject like that as a response to your questioning.

QUESTION: All right, but there is a contradiction here. You're not dealing with him now, but you still want him to do things, and the question, is he capable -- whatever that means. Is the will there, or can he be pressured to do something, or will he just go down in flames?

MR. RUBIN: Analyzing what happens to Milosevic is your job, is the job of analysts and that is an important role. My job here is to tell you what our policy is and what our policy is, is that - again - it's harder and harder to see how we deal with him, but I wouldn't want to say never. We believe the War Crimes Tribunal should seek the evidence and follow it where it leads, that we want to see the Belgrade regime pursue the four conditions that I've described. Beyond saying that, we're into a situation where I am not going to be able to provide additional answers to your questions.

QUESTION: By the way, I don't know if you know this, but (inaudible), for instance, was on Fox TV last weekend saying that the pressure should be now. The most useful thing Russia and everybody else could do is to apply the most severe pressure on Milosevic to resign, to get him out of office.

MR. RUBIN: Well, as I indicated in the sole appearance the Secretary had TV yesterday, she made clear that we wouldn't have any problem with that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: I realize this question is asked every day and answered, but I'm going to raise it again because it remains an issue that a lot people are interested in. The question of ground troops - the Canadians have indicated that they would be interested in, at least considering it seriously, and that NATO is or should be considering it. Has there been any change?

MR. RUBIN: I have no change in ground troops to offer you from this podium. The President has indicated that he has no plan or no intention to introduce ground troops, combat forces into anything but a permissive environment.

QUESTION: But while there may be no plans or intentions, to what extent is this at least being considered?

MR. RUBIN: I don't intend to provide any new information on this subject. That is our policy, and that's really as far as I can say about it.

QUESTION: Libya -- reports out of the UN that the US is ready and is wanting to make its first diplomatic overtures to Libya at the ambassadorial level.

MR. RUBIN: I would disagree with the way that was characterized out of New York. There are no plans for bilateral meetings with the Libyans, especially while they have not complied with all their UN Security Council obligations.

The UN Secretary General is required to report to the Security Council within 90 days on Libyan compliance with those obligations. The Secretary General has said he is interested in our views and those of others, including the Libyans, as he prepares his report. He specifically indicated that he would like to meet with the US and the UK in the future. We would have no objections to the Libyans being present in that meeting, but that is not an indication that we are prepared to meet with them bilaterally unless and until they have moved down the road towards complying with the requirements in the Security Council resolutions.

QUESTION: Can you say something about how the United States feels now that this major issue between the international community and Libya has been, I suppose, resolved, you could say. I mean, should Libya be brought back into Middle East diplomacy?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have anything new to offer you on that.

QUESTION: How important does the United States think it is that it should resume some sort of relationship even kind of an arms-length relationship with Libya?

MR. RUBIN: Well again, as I indicated, until the Libyan Government addresses the requirements of the Security Council resolutions, there's no point in having bilateral meetings that would constitute a different kind of relationship.

QUESTION: Could I ask you about Sharon's visit? Is he seeing the Secretary tomorrow, do you know what the US -- it's apparently a brief part of - maybe less than a day. But what can you tell us about it?

MR. RUBIN: The Secretary will be meting with Foreign Minister Sharon late morning tomorrow. We will talk about a variety of issues, including the Arab-Israeli peace process. In this regard, we will discuss the effort that we are making to deal with the issue of the May 4th possible declaration and to avoid a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood. At the same time, we will also talk about the need to avoid Israeli actions, unilateral actions, such as expanding settlement activity, which we oppose, precisely because it predetermines and prejudges the outcome of issues reserved for permanent status negotiations. That will be the main points on the agenda.

QUESTION: Jamie, two questions about Primakov. First, there were reports that he was ill and canceled a trip to Ukraine and that, in fact, this might indicate some instability in his position in the government. Secondly, there was an editorial in the New York Times speaking about bringing the Russians into the negotiating process with Milosevic. Is there any connection between the rumors, the suggestion of his unstable position in the government of Russia and the suggestion by the Times that he or the Russians be brought into negotiations?

MR. RUBIN: On the first question of the status of Primakov's health, I have no information to provide you. I know that Vice President Gore spoke to him just a couple of days ago and had a very lengthy conversation. I'm not aware there was any indication of any problem there. So those are rumors as far as I can tell.

With respect to the second part of your question, let me say that during that conversation, and in Secretary Albright's regular consultations with Foreign Minister Ivanov, we have tried to make clear to the Russians what our position is; what the conditions are that need to be met if the bombing is to be discontinued. The Russians understand that, and we have indicated that we have valued their role in the peace effort with respect to Kosovo because they were part of the Contact Group. They helped construct the Contact Group plan that the Serbs rejected. They were part and parcel of that effort across the board. So they've played a very constructive role.

Yesterday, there was a meeting of the Contact Group that Deputy Secretary Talbott attended for us, and discussions continued on that front. To the extent the Serbs can be persuaded by Russia to accept the requirements of NATO, that would be fine with us. Don't believe that we have sought them to play a special, unique role. But it would be good if they succeeded in convincing the Serbs to turn around and reverse course.

QUESTION: Iraq - there's reports that in a Shiite town - that there are Iraqi troops - a lot of them in chemical suits now patrolling. The people of the town have expressed - scared out of their wits that there's going to be a possible chemical attack. This is the town where the Shiite cleric was killed a couple of weeks ago. The word from the people there is that if there's any more trouble that Saddam will resort to another chemical attack, which he feels he can do while the West is focused so strongly on Kosovo.

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think - first of all, I don't have any information on that specific report, but I can tell you that at 3:15 a.m. today, the US Navy FA-18 hornets flying in support of Operation Southern Watch struck an Iraqi missile site on the Al faw Peninsula. This missile site, which was recently repositioned to its current location, constituted a direct threat to friendly maritime vessels and coalition forces in the North Arabian Gulf.

I think that's clear demonstration that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can focus on the evil policies of President Milosevic in Kosovo and continue to contain Saddam Hussein and make clear what are - and implement with vigilance our policies towards Iraq.

QUESTION: Can you say, if you can, what the effect of another chemical attack by Saddam Hussein - what reaction that would bring the United States?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to speculate on any hypothetical question like that.

QUESTION: The situation in Indonesia has again deteriorated -- not just in Indonesia, but now there's been a delay in the meetings, the Timor talks at the UN. Do you have anything on that?

MR. RUBIN: We have received credible reports that civilians were attacked in East Timor, at least five are dead. Their killers appeared to have been an armed civilian militia. Although we cannot confirm reports of Indonesian military involvement, Indonesian security forces have the responsibility to maintain order and protect the people.

We are deeply troubled by their failure to safeguard civilians in East Timor, and we call for the immediate disarming of civilian militia groups and investigation into this weeks killings and punishment for those responsible for these crimes, as well as effective measures to prevent further clashes. We are deeply concerned about violence in East Timor, including the latest reported clashes. We reject violence as a means of resolving the situation in East Timor and call for all parties to work for a peaceful solution. We support an enhanced international presence in East Timor and the ongoing UN-sponsored talks on the status of East Timor. We call on Indonesia and Portugal to make progress in their upcoming round. We also call on East Timorese leaders to actively continue discussions, leading to a cease-fire and other confidence building measures. All sides should take steps to reduce tensions now, and as the process of East Timor's transition to a new status proceeds.

QUESTION: You use the word "enhanced" international presence. When the Secretary was in Jakarta, she said just simply international presence -

MR. RUBIN: I think there may be people there now. It's not designed to signal a change in the goal of an international presence.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to Foreign Minister Sharon's visit. Is there anything in the Israeli-Serbian relationship that might come up in that meeting? Is there anything I that relationship that you all have concerns about?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of any concerns about the relationship that would cause us concern. I think the government of Israel has spoken quite strongly about what's going on in Kosovo. The government of Israel and private Israeli groups have been assisting in dealing with the refugee problem. As far as what Foreign Minister Sharon's views are on the history of the Serb people and the Secretary's own knowledge of the Serb people, I wouldn't be surprised if that came up. But as far as policy concerns, I'm aware of none.

QUESTION: As I understand it, there's a fairly rich defense relationship, commercial relationship between the two countries.

MR. RUBIN: I'm aware of no concerns we have about the Israeli relationship with Serbia.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about the Secretary's talks with the Chinese Premier about Kosovo?

MR. RUBIN: I would prefer to defer questions on China to the press conference the President is going to have in an hour.

Thank you.


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