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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #47, 99-04-09

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>


476

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Friday, April 9, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

RUSSIA
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.

FRY (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.

ISRAEL 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.

NIGER 13 President assassinated this morning by his guard, Americans do not appear to be in danger. Embassy has activated warden system.

NATO 15 Allegations that France "cut out" of role in NATO are sheer nonsense.

CHINA 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 relationship.

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 action.

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 combat areas?

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 troops?

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 groups -

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 there?

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 NATO.

MR. RUBIN: We're not considering, to my knowledge, anything but a NATO- led force.

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 position.

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 with him?

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 specific.

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 activity?

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 activity.

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 do.

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 Pentagon.

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 Kosovo region.

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 it.

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 Gulf States?

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- off?

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 is clarified.

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- Palestinian differences.

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 - or what?

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 the extreme.

QUESTION: China?

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.)


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