U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #47, 99-04-09
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
Friday, April 9, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 US in contact with Russia, been assured at variety of levels that Russia will not get involved militarily with Yugoslavia.
1 Secretary Albright will meet Foreign Minister Ivanov Tuesday in Oslo.
3 US has fundamental disagreement with Russia over using force in Kosovo.
2 Cypriot Acting President's meetings in Belgrade still on-going; no readout available.
4 Milosevic severely miscalculated ability to create wedge in NATO alliance.
4 Monday NATO meeting will review progress, reiterate unity shown to date.
5 US offer to take refugees temporarily designed to galvanize European response.
5,6 Offer remains; US prepared to fulfill its commitment, offering Guantanamo as site.
5,6 Up to UNHCR to decide whether and how many refugees to send.
6,7 An international security force would still need to be NATO-led.
7,8 US has been in contact with KLA spokesman Thaqi as recently as yesterday.
9-11 Sporadic fighting continues in Kosovo; US believes NATO attacks taking heavy toll.
10 Milosevic is radicalizing Kosovar Albanians.
10 NATO air strikes have isolated Serb forces in Kosovo, hampered their movements.
12,13 Humanitarian support for refugees is coming from many countries.
13 Still no resolution of issue of protecting power.
9 US aware of report that KLA launched attack from northern Albania.
12 Secretary Albright met with Foreign Minister Sharon this morning; Kosovo issue raised.
12 Government of Israel intends to extend humanitarian aid to Kosovo refugees.
13,14 Middle East peace process was discussed; US policy of no unilateral actions by either parties was made clear to Foreign Minister Sharon.
13 President assassinated this morning by his guard, Americans do not appear to be in danger. Embassy has activated warden system.
15 Allegations that France "cut out" of role in NATO are sheer nonsense.
15,16 Secretary Albright discussed US views on human rights, non-proliferation, Korean peninsula, India-Pakistan issue with Foreign Minister.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 47
FRIDAY, APRIL 9, 1999 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have
two announcements. We'll be posting a statement on the Secretary's
response to the Accountability Review Board recommendations after the
briefing. We'll also be having a briefing on that subject later this
afternoon. In addition, Ambassador Scheffer is going to be doing a
briefing here in the briefing room at about 4:00 p.m. With those
announcements, let me go to your questions.
QUESTION: The Russians - the statements about re-targeting the United
States. I know some of them have been qualified but still the whole
posture is rather negative. I just wondered what you folks on this side
think about it.
MR. RUBIN: Well, we've been in touch with the Russians at a variety of
levels, and the Russians have assured us that no such decision has been
made; we even understand that the chairman who allegedly made the statement
says he didn't make such a statement. So we've been assured at a variety
of levels that Russia - and this is the main point - will not get involved
militarily in Yugoslavia; and that President Yeltsin has given no
instructions to the Russian military regarding re-targeting of Russia's
strategic nuclear force.
Let me say, more generally: Secretary Albright has been in regular touch
with Foreign Minister Ivanov throughout this crisis. We recognize that we
and the Russians have a deep disagreement over the use of force in Kosovo.
On the other hand, Russia and the United States have been part of the
process by which we have been pursuing a diplomatic solution.
What I can tell you is that we continue to work with Russia in making clear
to Russia what NATO's requirements are, what conditions NATO has for
discontinuing the bombing campaign. Russia understands those conditions.
They obviously don't agree with them, in the sense that they don't think we
should be using air power in any event. But even while we disagree on this,
we continue to work on other subjects.
Secretary Albright spoke to Foreign Minister Ivanov this morning, and she
and he agreed that they will meet on Tuesday in Oslo, following the foreign
ministers meeting on Monday in Brussels. They will obviously have a chance
to review these subjects and other subjects that are part of the US-Russian
QUESTION: Can I just follow just one part of that, if I may? The
assurance that the Russians will not get involved militarily in Yugoslavia -
- do you take that as a flat assurance, or is it conditional on the current
situation because, after all, this is not a static situation. Who knows?
You've expressed concern about the war spilling over. Is it the impression
of the Administration that under no circumstances, the Russians will -
MR. RUBIN: The Russians will have to speak to what the potential
circumstances are. We're not in the business of predicting what the
Russians will do if the circumstance is changed. What I can say is that we
will be vigilant in talking to the Russians at a variety of levels in
consulting with them about what we're doing; and continuing to seek
assurances from them that they will draw the line between sympathy at a
political level for the Serb cause and entering the conflict militarily,
which President Yeltsin has said they have no intention of doing.
QUESTION: Last thing, I'm sure you don't want to leave the impression
that the meeting with Ivanov is a response to what's happening today. It's
been in the works, hasn't it?
MR. RUBIN: We have been in touch with the Russian Government over a
variety of channels. Deputy Secretary Talbott was in Brussels and met with
a counterpart. The idea of meeting with the Russians has been discussed
for many days. Some of you, obviously, have asked me whether it would be
at the G8, or at the Contact Group level, and the ultimate decision was,
the best course of action, was to have the Secretary meet with Foreign
Minister Ivanov following the NATO ministerial on Monday.
QUESTION: Jamie, it's reported that the meeting between Milosevic and
Kyprianou has ended. Is that your understanding, and do you have a readout
of the meeting?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we don't have a real-time ability to know about this
meeting. The last I heard the meeting was still going on; that was a half
an hour ago. If it ended in the last half-hour, that's possible. I just
don't have any hard information on that, other to repeat what we've said
yesterday, which is that we've made clear to all concerned that we are not
going to negotiate for the release of prisoners who shouldn't have been
taken in the first place. We're not going to give Milosevic some benefit
to resolve a problem that he created. We want them released; there is no
basis for them being held; they should have never been held.
But I don't have the latest readout. The hour is darkening in Belgrade, in
terms of time, and it's presumably 6:30 p.m. there now. So I just don't
know what will come, even if the meeting will end at this time. But I do
not have an update. That's obviously Kyprianou's initiative. We've told
them what our position is on it. As I indicated yesterday, we've made
arrangements to maximize the security of the flight that went in. As I
understand it, a plane has not returned to Belgrade to pick him up. But
we'll be following it closely.
QUESTION: In terms of the phone call the Secretary had this morning with
Ivanov, was that initiated by her because of these reports, or by him? Is
that where the reassurance from the Russians came from?
MR. RUBIN: Believe it or not, the Secretary and Foreign Minister do talk
to each other, even in the absence of news reports of such a kind. They
have been talking most days in the last several days. Beyond saying that
we've received assurances at a variety of levels, I would prefer, as has
been my practice, not to comment on what Foreign Minister Ivanov did or
didn't say. But we believe we received the assurances (that) would be
appropriate given the news report this morning.
QUESTION: I understand that there is some disagreement about exactly what
was said. I'm told that the television film soundtrack is not being
released and if so, there is some doubt about it. But does the tone and
the level of the statement by Yeltsin, does that give you any concern about
the sense of proportionality within the Russian Government about Kosovo?
MR. RUBIN: We have a fundamental disagreement with the Russians about
Kosovo, about whether it was appropriate for NATO to use military force to
try to stop the terrible atrocities and the ethnic cleansing that we've
seen, in the furtherance of the objectives that we've stated. So it
doesn't surprise us, that the Russians are rhetorically objecting in strong
language in a variety of ways and in many different channels to the NATO
What we can do in a situation like this is try to continue our dialogue, to
talk to them in many different ways. The Foreign Minister and the
Secretary have been speaking regularly. As you know, Prime Minister
Primakov and the Vice President have been talking. Strobe Talbott has been
talking - Sestanovich, our Ambassador Collins. In order to assure
ourselves that, as I said, when the sympathy that is being expressed in the
body politic in Russia for the Serb people does not translate into
something concrete, that would be a major problem for us.
Let me also point out it's my understanding that at least in the last few
days, there is more reporting coming out on independent Russian television
of what's really going on in Kosovo; that the people of Russia are
hopefully going to understand that it is the Serb actions in Kosovo that
have caused the ethnic cleansing, and turned the Western world into sitting
back in horror from what the Serb forces have been doing. So hopefully,
that will have an effect. Unfortunately, to date there's been some grave
misunderstandings on the part of the people of Russia about what's going on,
on the ground. So to the extent that can be improved and they can learn
more and more about what has been going on there, maybe the expressions of
sympathy in the body politic will change.
QUESTION: Robin Cook this morning said that he expected this weekend some
sort of empty gesture, as he called it, from Milosevic about some sort of
agreement. Are you getting indications that anything may happen?
MR. RUBIN: There is nothing really new there. I think if you go back to
last weekend, we expected various attempts by Milosevic to try to create
wedges in the alliance through gestures or statements that are woefully
insufficient. We prepared ourselves for that by the statement the foreign
ministers of the United States and other countries put out on Saturday, by
the rather quick and unified response of the foreign ministers on Tuesday
to the unilateral cease-fire offer.
It's clear that closing down the border and - and if the prisoners are
released, and that's a big "if," because we don't know whether that's going
to happen - and the cease-fire, are part of traditional tactics by
Milosevic to that end. But we don't think it's working. We think that
President Milosevic severely miscalculated in his ability to create those
wedges. In fact, what we have is unity and a determination and a patience
in the alliance to confront Milosevic with this military air campaign.
I am not aware of any new indication that there is some new step in the
works. But it would be consistent with what we've seen in the course of
the last week.
QUESTION: Jamie, back to Russia for just a second. You were talking a
minute ago about being in touch with the Russians to assure that the
sympathy expressed inside Russia does not translate into something concrete
that could be a problem to the U.S. Does the U.S. Government have any
indication that there is any equipment - military or civilian - any
humanitarian aid, or any military personnel being moved from Russia to the
MR. RUBIN: At this point, what I can say is we've received certain
assurances, and at this point, we have not seen the line crossing that I
described to you. We are aware of the shipment of humanitarian supplies
into Belgrade through Hungary and other routes. They, as I understand it,
are allowing those supplies to be inspected through the UN system to ensure
that they are humanitarian supplies.
It's not to say that you don't hear rumors of doing more than that, and I'm
sure many of you in this room through your organizations in Moscow hear
about such things. But for now, we haven't seen that. That's why we're
being so vigilant, because we want to be sure that that doesn't happen, and
we're going to continue seeking assurances on a regular basis.
QUESTION: In advance of the meeting on Monday, are you receiving any
notice or any suggestion from any of the parties that they might try to
present a peace plan, some kind of package?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know what you mean by parties. You mean the Yugoslavs
and the Kosovar Albanians or the other NATO countries?
QUESTION: The people participating in the meeting.
MR. RUBIN: The parties participating in the meeting. No, we haven't
heard. The meeting is quite clearly a desire to review the bidding, to
assess the current situation, to demonstrate the unit of the alliance in
the face of this barbarism we've seen in Kosovo and to reflect on where
we've gone. But I'm not aware there is going to be a discussion of future
principles of the peace process.
Let's remember that when all of us say the words that we're beyond
Rambouillet, that doesn't mean that the principles of Rambouillet, which
entail an international security presence, a withdrawal of Serb forces, and
in body - at least in principle - the idea that the people in Kosovo should
live in freedom and, thus, the refugees should go back. That's the
principles of Rambouillet. Obviously, we want to move forward on a
political settlement based on the principles there of self-government.
The 82-page document has been overtaken by events in many of its details.
But I don't think this meeting is going to be one in which NATO countries
try to organize a new political arrangement for Kosovo. On the contrary, I
think it's going to be a meeting where people will take stock of where
we've been and reiterate the unity that we have shown to date.
QUESTION: Do you on the other hand expect a serious discussion of whether
it might be necessary at this stage to move on to the question of ground
MR. RUBIN: I don't have any new information to provide to you on ground
troops. I'm sure you're quite familiar with our policy on ground troops
and, so, I won' repeat it. I don't have anything to add on that subject.
QUESTION: On the subject of ground troops, earlier - just an hour or so
ago on the Hill - Congressman Buyer, who, I think, was part of Secretary
Cohen's delegation, talked to the press and, in terms of the President and
the Administration not calling for ground troops, said that - he called the
foreign policy - he said, "This is a clever and cute foreign policy," and
that the President is lying because he's not asking the American people and
telling them the truth. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. RUBIN: I just don't think at a time like this it's proper for me to
react to specific statements of specific congressmen, especially statements
of that kind.
QUESTION: Jamie, where do things stand about US refugees going to
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba? Some reports that none of the refugees are
volunteering to go; another reports that, based on protests from relief
MR. RUBIN: In general, let me say that our offer of the 20,000 spots was
designed to help galvanize European countries and countries in the region
to make available locations for refugees, precisely because we had a major
problem in Macedonia several days ago, where the Macedonian Government was
unable to process and deal with those refugees. In the absence of knowing
that there were other places these could go, they were threatening not to
allow the people in desperate need to at least come out from the horrors
they were facing.
Now as it turns out, some of that need to remove the bottlenecks has been
eased. Nevertheless, our offer remains on the table, and we are prepared
to accept up to 20,000 refugees, and plans are in the works to allow that
to happen at Guantanamo. For example, as I understand it, the Department
of Defense is now prepared to accept 500 refugees in Guantanamo tomorrow,
and that number could be quickly ramped up. We are prepared to implement
our commitment, but the commitment will be determined by what is required
on the ground, and what the efforts of the UNHCR to deal with this crisis
require. So the commitment remains.
Guantanamo is ready, willing and able to receive refugees, but at this time
the UNHCR is going through its procedures to determine what it needs to be
done. We are, in the meantime, committed to doing everything we can to
assist the Government of Albania in dealing with the refugees in its
territory and are consulting with them on how best to do this. There is no
specific commitment to build a camp at Albania at this point in time, but
it's certainly one way in which we might help.
QUESTION: Is Guantanamo still the favored spot?
MR. RUBIN: For the US, yes.
QUESTION: So that's still the place if they do come?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, that's the place where we're making plans for them to
come. But again, as I said, to the extent that in working with the
refugees on the ground, the UNCHR concludes that they have other ways to
deal with it. It's always been our principle - and I think I stated that
when I first indicated that we were prepared to accept refugees - that we
want, to the maximum extent possible, the refugees to stay -- or the
deportees, in many cases, to stay - in the region, as close as possible,
because our goal has always been that this is a temporary situation, and
that they should be allowed to return to their homes. So that is where we
stand on that.
QUESTION: You casually talked about 500 going there tomorrow.
MR. RUBIN: No, available, ready - ready to receive them.
QUESTION: Have polls been taken to determine whether any would want to go
MR. RUBIN: What I'm trying to say is that we're ready to receive them as
early as tomorrow -- 500. That number can be ramped up very quickly to
meet the commitment we've outlined. It's up to the UNHCR to decide whether,
pursuant to international procedures -- that is, making sure that all the
rules for dealing with refugees that affect things like people being - that
they want to go voluntarily, and that their families are not split up and
all those measures.
So they haven't, to my knowledge, come back to us and said, we're sending
500 tomorrow. I'm just indicating what we're ready to receive tomorrow, to
show that the plans at Guantanamo continue. But whether they will need to
be implemented is a question that will be determined by a variety of
factors on the ground.
QUESTION: Just another question on the Rambouillet thing. You said that
the document had been overtaken in many of its details by events. One of
those details, obviously, is the shift from NATO-led force to international
force. What's the vision of the US about who would lead it if it were not
MR. RUBIN: We're not considering, to my knowledge, anything but a NATO-
QUESTION: So you've changed the language, but international force still
means NATO-led force?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I mean, everything will depend on the circumstances, and
military planning, obviously, will be adjusted to the circumstances. But
in terms of the principle of will it be led by NATO, that remains our
QUESTION: Okay, could I ask a couple of questions about information that
you talked about yesterday about events occurring inside Kosovo; you showed
some pictures and diagrams and charts and things. I recall you said
yesterday that those images were from national technical means. Did you
mean by that that those were US national technical means, or did you mean
that they were from the national technical means of several NATO countries?
Was it NATO information, or was it US information?
MR. RUBIN: I work very hard to try to make available as much information
as possible to you. As far as I have been authorized to state that the
technicalities of how that information is derived and the sources and the
methods by which it's derived, I've been told to not say more than it's
from national technical means. I think that going beyond that will only
lead you to draw conclusions that will help others conclude how this
information is derived, which I've been advised I shouldn't do.
QUESTION: Would it be a mistake for me to conclude that since you speak
for only one country at this podium, that you can, therefore, only speak
for one country when you made that kind of a statement yesterday?
MR. RUBIN: You'll have to draw your own conclusions.
QUESTION: Okay, and something else you mentioned in the past - I think a
couple of weeks ago or a week and a half ago, you mentioned that Secretary
Albright had been in touch by phone with Hashim Thaqi -- I think a couple
of days after the bombing began. I'm sure she was in touch with him before
the bombing began, at and after the Rambouillet period. Has she been in
touch with him since the conversation you reported on the first or second
day after the bombing began?
MR. RUBIN: I don't believe so.
QUESTION: Have you been in touch with him since then?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you be more descriptive about that? How often do you talk
MR. RUBIN: Well, I have been. In these briefings in the last 10 days I
tried to give you a flavor of those conversations. I spoke to him
yesterday. I think I spoke to him several times in the last week. He has
tended to try to give me a situation report as best as he can assess, of
what's going on. He indicated that in his opinion, the KLA remains
organized. We have - this is separately - we have indications of continued
counteroffensives by the KLA forces. He went through the organizational
structure that remains; the efforts the KLA have been making, both to fight
back against the Serbs and, as well, to deal with the humanitarian
situation. He's gone through some great detail on where people are located
in various times.
I think more recently, he's tended to point out what we have been reporting
to all of you, which is that the offensive has slowed. In that regard, let
me say that in our view, the Serb forces have not conducted major offensive
operations as of now, but sporadic fighting continues. Serbian armored
movements were noticed around Srbica and in the Malisevo triangle. But we
do believe NATO air strikes are taking a heavy toll on those Serb
operations in Kosovo that are remaining.
He indicated that he now - I'm going back to Mr. Thaqi, the KLA leader -
who said that they remain committed to a peaceful solution. But as one
might expect from the comments that we began making many days ago and
others have made, that the situation in Kosovo and the crimes against
humanity and war crimes -- that the Serbs have perpetrated against the
Kosovars -- has tended to radicalize the population on a political level,
and that he doesn't think it would be, therefore, easy to go back to the
same language that was agreed at Rambouillet. Let's bear in mind, the
Serbs refused again to accept the peace accord, and the Kosovar Albanians,
led by this KLA leader, Mr. Thaqi, did sign that agreement and committed to
implement it. So beyond saying that, it would be hard to go -- get more
QUESTION: But if I could just follow up and forgive me because - it just
strikes me as a little unusual - I wouldn't expect the Assistant Secretary
of State for Public Affairs to announce at the podium that, for example,
that he has been in touch periodically with some opposition leader inside
Iraq. Maybe that's the case, but the United States and its allies are
bombing a country, and this individual represents someone who Mr. Milosevic
and his associates have publicly stated is anathema to them. Is this
contact something that the United States thinks is a diplomatic contact, a
militarily useful contact, an intelligence contact? On what basis do you -
MR. RUBIN: An appropriate contact.
QUESTION: Do you consider it an appropriate contact?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you tell me whether in the course of your conversations or
conversations with others between him and the United States, any militarily
useful information is conveyed?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say this: I've tried to separate the discussions that
we have with leaders from this - in a situation like this, the diplomatic
exchanges, much the same way that I separate the diplomatic exchanges when
the Secretary talks to the foreign minister, and tried to assist - remember,
in the early days, many of the journalists were brutally removed from
Kosovo and not permitted to do their job.
Some of you and your news organizations, in particular, sought to get our
assistance in trying to determine what was going on in Kosovo, because they
were unable to do so. So in the furtherance of that project that was
suggested to me by some of the news organizations in this room -- their
executives at the very highest levels -- I tried to do what I could to
provide that information to you, without commenting on whether we could
confirm the information, leaving it up to you as journalists to decide
whether to use it.
So that has been something I did in the early days. As the informational
component of these conversations has lessened, it seemed less appropriate
for me to discuss them with you, because there wasn't much information for
you to glean. Of course, I'd be happy to respond to further questions on
these conversations. But to the extent that they remain an exchange that
we would like to keep confidential, I will not breach that line.
QUESTION: There have been reports in the last few hours that the KLA have
been fighting against the Serbs from within Albania. Is this something you
would like to stop, or are you prepared to turn a blind eye to this kind of
MR. RUBIN: Well, we certainly wouldn't turn a blind eye because I can
tell you that we have reports of fighting today on the Albanian border, as
several hundred KLA forces reportedly launched an attack from Northern
Albania on Yugoslav forces across the border. The KLA reportedly met heavy
resistance. I don't have a formal US Government comment on the situation,
other than to point out the obvious, which is that many of you have asked
me very much about what's going on right inside the border with Kosovo with
the people who were prevented from leaving. Many of you have asked us,
what is happening to those people; what are the Serbs doing to them; are
they forcibly sending them back; are they abusing them; are there
additional atrocities taking place within the border of Kosovo. So those
are the conditions that Kosovo is now under. I can certainly seek formal
comment from the Department on the question of how we regard such
QUESTION: Do you view the danger of Albania being dragged into this
conflict as greater than the advantage of having the Serbs being fought?
MR. RUBIN: Well again, you asked me to give a formal comment to this
report that is now still a report, and I said I would seek that comment.
That would obviously reflect the premises -
QUESTION: You might even be able to get something today?
MR. RUBIN: I will work my best to get comments for you as I always
QUESTION: What I think you've done is verify the report, but I don't
understand - unless the inference is that it would seem to be plausible
that the KLA would fire back, would do something, to retaliate for the way
people have been treated. Is that what you're suggesting by mentioning the
refugees in context with - in other words, the US' position is you've
warned the Yugoslavs, the Serbs, many, many times, that they shouldn't
extend the war beyond the borders and that if they did, they would run into
some awful consequences. It strikes me the ethnic Albanians are extending
the war beyond the borders of Kosovo, and the State Department doesn't know
whether that's improper.
MR. RUBIN: No, we have some reports, and I provided the reports to you.
But the reports have just come in and the rest of the paper here doesn't
reflect a formal comment of the Department, which I have offered in
response to your colleague's question to obtain for you.
QUESTION: Well, would you like all sides not to extend the fighting?
MR. RUBIN: I don't want to make an off the cuff comment, even at the
response to persistent questioning. I'd prefer to wait until we have a
formal comment to offer you.
QUESTION: Going back to your statement about the Kosovar population being
radicalized politically, I may be reading too much into this politically,
but it sounds as if you are laying the groundwork for the argument that,
perhaps, partition of Kosovo will be necessary?
MR. RUBIN: No, I am not laying the groundwork for any solution. I am
merely giving you our analysis of the situation. Many of you have asked
about where we go with Rambouillet. The President and Mr. Berger and the
Secretary of State at various times have said things to the effect that
Milosevic is losing Kosovo. We responded to those questions you had about
those statements by indicating that one of the reasons he's losing Kosovo
is because of the radicalization of the Kosovar Albanian population. So
I'm reiterating that analysis. When we're ready to provide you new
political thinking, we will be happy to do so.
QUESTION: Wouldn't the rise in ethnic hatred and sense of revenge be a
likely argument for partition?
MR. RUBIN: I welcome you making your analysis and your argumentation. I
will prefer to defer comment on our political objectives. Beyond saying
political arrangements for self-government based on Rambouillet, I don't
have any new policy pronouncements to offer you.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, a few moments ago you said the Serbs haven't
conducted any major offensives. You said in the same sentence that the
NATO air strikes are taking a heavy toll. Is it your position or your view
that the Serbs haven't been conducting a major offensive because of the
NATO airstrikes, or because they are just choosing not to?
MR. RUBIN: Well, let me tell you what I can on this subject. NATO
airstrikes on bridges, roads, and rail lines into Kosovo have isolated Serb
forces in Kosovo from Serbia proper, greatly diminishing the ability of
Belgrade to reinforce its troops in Kosovo. In addition, attacks on fuel
depots are making it increasingly difficult for Serb forces in Kosovo to
move around the province. We understand from NATO that in the last 24
hours, NATO again launched heavy strikes on armored units in Kosovo.
Several armored vehicles were destroyed yesterday. NATO also struck at
strategic and operational targets, including fuel depots and a headquarters
building. All of this is an indication that the air campaign is beginning
to have a more punishing impact on the Serb military machine that has
conducted this brutal and barbaric action against the Kosovar people.
As far as why the Serbs are not pursuing offensive operations and to what
extent that may be related to the air campaign, or whether it's also
related to the fact that they finished their dirty business in Kosovo of
trying to expel large portions of the population and trying to eradicate
the KLA as a fighting force, is a subject for military analysts to try to
assess. I recommend you pose that question to my colleagues at the
QUESTION: Jamie, let me ask a couple of - a couple of points not entirely
related. Number one, the Serbs have said that during their Easter
observances, which started yesterday, I believe, and it's Good Friday for
the Orthodox, that they would have a cease-fire. What is the real
condition on the ground with regard to Serb attacks against Albanians?
What about the Serbs resisting U.S. air power? That's point one.
MR. RUBIN: Do you want to throw the other one in and then we'll just deal
with them in one fell swoop?
QUESTION: Okay. Then the other was about communications - and it's about
- the Danube, especially, has been cut to barge traffic. I understand
that's an international waterway. Is that kosher? Is that legal to close
a river to barge traffic?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I will have to get our lawyers to assess the second
question for you. But I would have every reason to think that the work
that is being done by the NATO military forces, obviously, under the
authority of 19 democratic countries, would take into account those type of
factors. With respect to the first question - which I have now forgotten --
QUESTION: The Serbs have declared unilaterally a cease-fire --
MR. RUBIN: Yes, okay, I remember it now.
QUESTION: Are they observing it?
MR. RUBIN: I indicated that sporadic fighting continues. This is, again,
at the military level. Now, whether what is going on in terms of the
ethnic cleansing and the pursuit of citizens and civilians by the MUP and
the special police and the paramilitaries, I don't have hard information on
that. But clearly sporadic fighting continues. So any suggestion they are
engaged in a cease-fire would therefore be incorrect.
QUESTION: Then finally?
MR. RUBIN: Yeah, third - part three, yeah.
QUESTION: Part three is the KLA coming back strong in places where U.S.
air power has been brought to bear against Serbian ground forces?
MR. RUBIN: I know that you're a regular over at the Pentagon, and I would
suggest you ask that question over there.
QUESTION: I may have missed this. I've been away a couple days. Does
the United States take a position on the lack of Israeli solidarity towards
the NATO campaign? Did this come up in the meeting today with Mr. Sharon,
especially given that Mr. Sharon, I think, has made statements directly
disassociating Israel from this?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say, the subject did come up.
MR. RUBIN: -- Secretary Albright did express some concern about various
reports of things that he had said, and he indicated that the Israeli
Government intends to extend humanitarian assistance to refugees from
Kosovo and will continue to do so as long as necessary, that Israel fully
supports the efforts of the United States and NATO to bring about a
conclusion of this crisis as soon as possible, and that the government of
Israel is not taking a position with regard to the future status of the
The Secretary, the President, and the Administration, obviously, would want
the maximum support from all of our friends and allies and others as we
pursue what we believe is a just cause, a just fight, in trying to confront
the evil policies of the Serb regime in Belgrade.
QUESTION: What was the concern she expressed about?
MR. RUBIN: Well, beyond saying concern about reported statements, let me
just say that we would like to see the maximum support from our friends and
our allies for the just cause that we are fighting for in Kosovo, and that
includes all countries.
QUESTION: Does that - do you imply by that, that you don't feel that
Israel has given you the maximum support that you would like to see?
MR. RUBIN: I think I have said it as clearly as I intend to say
QUESTION: Are we on another topic now?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Jamie, as long as you're talking about friends and allies and
support, can you give us an update on any support - humanitarian or other -
from other countries? Yesterday, you were asked about Japan, about the
MR. RUBIN: Right, again, the United States is not the place by which all
of you should be getting your information for world international support.
I would urge you to have your colleagues in various countries pose these
questions to each of those governments. However, I can give you some
general information. We believe that it's been substantial and voluminous.
Contributors include countries from Argentina to Australia - the European
Union, including Italy's Operation Rainbow, and German-sponsored camps in
Albania. Regional partners such as Bulgaria and Romania and many other
European leaders - such as Denmark, Norway, the Czech Republic and others
have contributed. Each has contributed either financially and materially
or through logistical support.
As I understand it, Japan, Egypt, France, others - and I'm not going to be
able to provide you with a daily update of the international, country-by-
country, analysis of their humanitarian support. But that is merely a way
of saying that their support for the humanitarian effort is coming
throughout Europe and outside, including countries like Japan, Egypt and
Israel, which has done a lot on the humanitarian effort.
QUESTION: Has there been a resolution to the protective powers stand-
MR. RUBIN: There has not. We continue to work the problem.
QUESTION: Change the subject. Change the subject.
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the assassination of the
president in Niger?
MR. RUBIN: On the subject of Niger, I can tell you that President Bare
was assassinated by his presidential guard early this morning at the
airport in Niamey. It is unclear to us why this occurred. At the present
time the situation in Niamey is calm. American citizens do not appear to
be in any particular danger. We have activated our warden system and
advised American citizens to remain at home until the political situation
QUESTION: Back on Sharon.
MR. RUBIN: Sure, yes.
QUESTION: Did they discuss the Middle East peace process? Do you have
anything on that?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, the Secretary did discuss - not only the diplomatic
efforts that we want to continue to make on the peace process, but also
concerns on the question of unilateral actions. We have made clear for a
long time now, that we are opposed to all unilateral actions by either side,
including a unilateral decision - sorry, declaration -- of a Palestinian
state. We indicated to the foreign minister that we have made our views on
this issue unmistakably clear, both publicly and privately, to Chairman
Arafat and his colleagues. In our view, only serious negotiations can be -
to have serious negotiations, they must be based on a sense of partnership,
not unilateral actions that we do not believe will help resolve the Israeli-
In this respect, we also made clear that we're opposed to unilateral acts
by Israel, including and especially settlement activity. Specifically,
we're concerned about an accelerated pattern of Israeli actions on the
ground, since Wye, which have become clearer in recent months. These
actions involve both construction of new settlements, as well as an
expansion of settlements well beyond their existing parameters - I'm sorry,
perimeters -- in many cases involving expansion to distant hilltops. We
were told that such activities would not be promoted or allowed to take
place as a matter of Israeli policy. That is why we are particularly
concerned about not only a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood,
but also these Israeli activities that could predetermine and prejudge
issues reserved for permanent status negotiations. They make it very
difficult to pursue peace.
QUESTION: I'm sorry - you said we were told that such activities would
not take place. You mean, Minister Sharon told you that today? Or you
have been told in the past that, and you've been let down?
MR. RUBIN: We have been told in the past that these types of activities
would not take place as a matter of Israeli policy - both before, during
and after the Wye negotiations. That's why we've expressed our concerns so
clearly to the foreign minister.
QUESTION: Has the foreign minister denied that such things had taken
place? Or said he never made - no promise was made? Or whether he just -
MR. RUBIN: I think Foreign Minister Sharon has never been shy in meeting
with the press, and I'm sure he will be happy to provide you his views.
QUESTION: Just one little detail - another detail on Kosovo. There was a
drone that was downed yesterday, I believe - or the day before, I guess.
Has that impacted in any way substantially on the ability for the U.S. to
know what actions are occurring inside Kosovo?
MR. RUBIN: It's a perfectly good question, but I recommend that you or
your colleagues pose it to those at the Pentagon or elsewhere, who would be
able to comment on such a specific equipment issue?
QUESTION: No, but it's a question really about the flow of information.
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: I guess, that would mean that it hasn't --
MR. RUBIN: But I don't normally comment about military assets from here.
What their capabilities are or not.
QUESTION: Let me phrase the question differently. Since the downing of
the drone on Wednesday, has there been any substantial or noticeable change
of reduction shall we say in the flow of information? So the question is
about the flow of information.
MR. RUBIN: Again, here at the State Department, we try to provide you
with not only our policy views, but also information that we're able to get
from other agencies of the U.S. Government which are the proprietors of
both equipment and analysis of the information that is provided by such
equipment. Therefore, it's not our job to assess the overall impact of
particular equipment or what effect it might be having on our overall
ability to find out information. That's not - especially in the case that
you mentioned - that's not what we do at the State Department.
QUESTION: Can you say anything about this report in the London paper this
morning that the French have been cut out of the NATO loop because they are
suspected of giving information - secret information to Belgrade?
MR. RUBIN: We regard this information -- this suggestion -- as sheer
nonsense. There is unity in the NATO alliance. Let me point out that the
largest military role - if I understand my numbers correctly - after the
United States - is played by France, in terms of aircraft. They've played
a central role in not only the military effort, as I just indicated, but
also the diplomatic effort. So we regard these allegations as incorrect in
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Were you present or can you report the results of the meeting
of Ms. Albright with the foreign minister?
MR. RUBIN: What I can tell you about that meeting is that they discussed
a combination of bilateral and strategic issues. They discussed the human
rights issues. Secretary Albright reiterated strongly our views on human
rights, what our concerns are, the reasons why we're pursuing a resolution
in the Geneva forum; on nonproliferation, urging movement forward in our
effort to work with China to prevent the proliferation of weapons or
materials or technology that could assist other countries. They also
discussed the Korea question, the Korean peninsula, the work we're doing in
that area. They also discussed the India-Pakistan issue that has been part
of their strategic dialogue for some time.
QUESTION: Did the issue of religious repression in China - was that
brought up by Ms. Albright and what response?
MR. RUBIN: When she discusses the human rights issue, the human rights
concerns incorporate concerns about religious repression. I wouldn't be
able to comment on the foreign minister's response.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:25 p.m.)