U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #46, 99-04-08
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Thursday, April 8, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
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
14 No plans for bilateral meetings
15 Security Council Resolutions
15 Visit of Foreign Minister Sharon
17 Israeli-Serbian relationship
15 Status of Primakov's health
16 Possible chemical attacks
16 Attacks of civilians in East Timor
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
MR. RUBIN: Yesterday.
QUESTION: Yesterday. Anything to say, other than you were in touch with
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to speculate on any hypothetical question like
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
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
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.