U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #81, 99-06-25
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, June 25, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1-5 Embassy Heightened Status of Alert Because of Security
Concerns / Terrorists / Osama bin Laden / Security /
Taliban / Threats to Americans / Coordinator for
Counter-terrorism Mike Sheehan
9 No Hormel Gag Order
5-8 U.S. Citizen Arrested in DPRK / Possible Violations of
Geneva or Vienna Conventions / Lack of Privacy Act Waiver
/ Trilateral Meeting / Dr. Perry / Site Visit to
Kumchang-ni / No Violation of 1994 U.S. - DPR Agreement
9-12,15&16 Russian Participation / No Russian Sector / Unity of
Command in KFOR / Partnership for Peace / Russian
Deployment / No Orders of Assassination By Thaqi / KLA /
Anti-Democratic Practices in Belgrade / Refugees / UNHC
11&12 Independence of Montenegro Will Not Bring Stability To
Balkans / Funds for Montenegro / Difference Between
Montenegro and Serbia / Diplomatic Offices in Kosovo and
12-15 Hezbollah Firing Into Northern Israel / Israel Retaliation
/ Syrian-Israeli and Lebanese-Israeli Peace Tracks /
U.S. Wants Urging of Maximum Restraint By Syria on
Hezbollah / Dennis Ross
15 Apprehension of Terrorists Acting Against Americans
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 1999, 12:45 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Hello. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Let me say,
before turning to other subjects, some of this information has come out
over the last 12 to 16 hours, so let me provide for you our assessment on
the embassy situation.
American embassies in Africa and the rest of the world have been placed on
a heightened status of alert, due to increased security concerns. As some
of our embassies in Africa have been under surveillance by suspicious
individuals, we are taking the precaution of temporarily closing our
embassies in Gambia, Togo, Madagascar, Liberia, Namibia and Senegal from
June 24 through the 27th of June - that is Sunday. We will re-evaluate the
status in the coming days to decide whether to reopen and resume operations
at some or all of those embassies beginning on Monday. I don't have any new
information on that for you.
In the past, at various times, most but not all of our embassies in sub-
Saharan Africa were ordered to close for two days from December 17 to 18,
1998, in the heightened threat environment following our actions in Iraq.
In addition, our embassy in Uganda has closed due to security reasons on a
few occasions since the bombing of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Other embassies are on various statuses of closed or suspension, and I can
provide you those details if you're interested.
QUESTION: A little bit more on this if we can pursue it a little bit. The
account given for the six closings was that some suspicious folks had been
noticed taking a hard look at the installations. Could you address - these
are the six - this is it - a heightened state of alert not based, obviously,
on these same suspicious folks? What do you - is it bin Laden; is it
Ocalan; is it material you've received? Terrorists have always been
out there - what's brought all this on?
MR. RUBIN: Again, assessing security matters is a combination of
strategic information about the intentions of terrorists as well as
tactical information about what individuals may be doing on the ground in
As I indicated earlier, some of our embassies in Africa have been under
surveillance by suspicious individuals, so that's certainly part of the
equation. It's difficult to go into all the details, given the intelligence
information involved and also in hopes of ensuring that we don't give those
who might want to harm our embassies any additional information.
I can certainly say we have seen a pattern of activity indicating continued
planning for terrorist attacks by members of Usama bin Laden's network, and
we take reporting of such threats seriously. When we have reason to believe,
through a combination of strategic information and tactical information,
that it is prudent to take appropriate countermeasures and precautions, we
do so and that's what we've done in this case.
QUESTION: This would be a good question at the news conference, I think,
but since I won't be there, let me try you at the President's news
conference. Could you step back a minute and address whether, indeed,
embassy closings -- I could quickly cite that the President wrote Senator
Moynihan that he had two reasons for not moving the embassy to Jerusalem.
One was the familiar one: he didn't want to prejudge the outcome of
negotiations; but he also said he was concerned about the security of
Americans and American installations. Haven't terrorists, to an extent,
influenced US operations, if not American foreign policy? Haven't they
accomplished, at least, part of their goals of intimidation?
MR. RUBIN: No, we are not intending to let terrorists accomplish any of
their goals. If they had accomplished their goals, we wouldn't have
embassies in many countries around the world; we wouldn't have troops in
many countries where they would not like to see us have troops. We have
foiled their objective of stopping our determination to have an American
presence around the world and to interfere with our determination as a
global power to have American troop presences in various countries. So they
That doesn't mean we don't have to adjust our practices, that we don't have
to spend more money to protect our people; and we are determined to do
that. But we're not going to let these cowardly terrorists who kill
innocent people achieve their objectives.
QUESTION: You mentioned earlier, I think I heard you say, that there were
other embassies that were closed or on heightened state of alert?
MR. RUBIN: Our embassies in Somalia, Guinea-Bassau, Sierra Leone, and
Congo-Brazzaville have been closed for some time, due to domestic
instability. Our embassy in Sudan is open, but manned by local staff
QUESTION: Can you confirm that the surveillance was by members of the bin
Laden group, and can you tell us --
MR. RUBIN: I've gone as far as I can on the information justifying our
QUESTION: You can't talk about whether there were specific threats that
were directed against these embassies or against any Americans overseas?
MR. RUBIN: We try to be very careful. I've tried to give you some
tactical information about surveillance, some strategic information about
intentions of the Usama bin Laden organization, and I'm not prepared to go
QUESTION: What will the re-evaluation be re-evaluating - as to whether
these embassies re-open?
MR. RUBIN: Security is a complex decision-making process about where
people are that we may know about; about where they may be directing their
activities; about whether necessary precautions have been taken around
embassies to ensure that they're in better position to protect themselves.
What we try to do is take prudent and precautionary measures when we think
there's a heightened threat to make sure we're in a position to meet that
threat. If we're not, then they will remain suspended.
QUESTION: Jamie, can I try a two-part quick one? The US is in a process
of bolstering security all over the world at installations. Are the ones
that are closed -- not necessarily these six, but the others that have been
closed - are they closed temporarily or whatever because of specific
concerns there, or has it something to do with you haven't reached the
point where their security has been improved sufficiently to satisfy people
who make these decisions? And can you give us any price tag on what has
been spent so far and what is projected to bring embassies up to speed?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I can get you some information after the briefing on
embassy security, but to answer your question in short form, security is a
combination of a threat that an installation faces and the ability of that
installation to withstand such a threat. It's a combination.
If you have an American operation with no security around it, they are more
subject to any potential threat. If you think there's a particular place
being targeted and you have done a lot to protect it, then you have a
different calculation. So it's both the precautionary measures you take,
the defensive measures you take, on the one hand, weighed against what
you're able to judge is the potential for attack. But what we learned in
these bombings last summer is that every American installation is, at some
level, a target.
QUESTION: Can you give us an update on your contacts with the Taliban?
QUESTION: It's on Usama bin Laden. On Usama bin Laden, do you have reason
to believe that he's within territory controlled by the Taliban? What is
the Taliban telling you now about their attitude towards his presence.
MR. RUBIN: Well, we've been in regular touch with the Taliban to urge
them very strongly to make sure that Usama bin Laden is brought to justice.
I'm not going to speak for the Taliban. We think they need to provide the
necessary steps to bring him to justice. They have not done so, and that's
a major concern of ours.
QUESTION: I want to go back to what actual closure of these embassies
means. I don't know if you can get into this --
MR. RUBIN: Suspended operations.
QUESTION: Yeah, but does that mean the Marine guards are still there? Are
the embassies - are there local staff still there?
MR. RUBIN: Well, they haven't closed down in terms of withdrawing all
personnel back to the United States or other locations; they've suspended
operations. Each one will approach that differently. Whether there are
Marine guards, I don't have that level of information; we can try to get
that for you.
QUESTION: Jamie, could you volunteer information on embassy closings next
time this happens? This never would have come to light had not one of our
colleagues stumbled across it last evening.
MR. RUBIN: I will certainly endeavor to do that. Believe it or not, I had
it in my book yesterday and I was waiting to be asked. I didn't get asked
so I didn't answer.
QUESTION: Well, if I may actually follow up on that, is it your
information or your understanding that only embassies are under threat, or
are American interests in these countries or Americans who may be traveling
in these countries? In other words, does your information say specifically
you only think that the buildings are under threat?
MR. RUBIN: As at any time when traveling abroad, American citizens should
continue to exercise caution, but we have received no specific threats
targeted at American citizens overseas.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- embassies in that region issue any warnings to
Americans in those countries where you all -
MR. RUBIN: I think the warden system is operating in a situation like
QUESTION: There are currently about six embassies being closed; I only
have five on my list. Could you go through that list again?
MR. RUBIN: I named six; would you like me to repeat the six? I'd be happy
to repeat the six, yes: Gambia, Togo, Madagascar, Liberia, Namibia, and
QUESTION: Can you say what connection, if any, the decision to close was
connected to today being the three year anniversary in Dhahran, Saudi
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to make a practice of getting into every
calculation that goes into these situations. I've been provided, after some
careful research and work, with the maximum that our people feel comfortable
with me saying as to why we have suspended operations at these embassies.
QUESTION: Is it not true that every time a terrorist bombs or commits an
atrocious act that they expose themselves more to counter-terror, to
intelligence, et cetera? Has that not been the case with bin Laden?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we recently had named a very able coordinator for
counter-terrorism who is going to be subject to Senate confirmation. His
name is Mike Sheehan; he's extremely capable in this area. And at the
appropriate time, I would be certainly willing to urge him to have a
briefing to give all of you a generic discussion of counter-terrorism
goals. But I think I wouldn't want to comment beyond that as a non-counter-
terrorism expert, although your question suggests that you've been very
studied in this area.
QUESTION: Well not so much, Jamie, but is it not true that what the
terrorist accomplishes is opening himself up?
MR. RUBIN: As I said, our hoped-to-be Ambassador Sheehan, who will
hopefully be confirmed by the Senate, would be in a better position to talk
about counter-terrorism techniques with you.
QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit about this American citizen who's
been arrested by the North Koreans?
MR. RUBIN: On that issue, the government of the Democratic People's
Republic of Korea has confirmed to Swedish authorities, who are the US
protecting power in North Korea, that an American citizen was arrested on
June 17 in the Rajin Sonbong area. The American is being investigated for
alleged violations of law. The Swedish consulate in DPRK has requested
consular access under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the
Interim Consular Agreement between the US and the DPRK. We do not have a
Privacy Act release from the individual, and therefore are unable to
provide additional details.
QUESTION: Has this subject come up today in the trilateral talks?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of that, but I'll have to check for you.
QUESTION: Since the arrest - no consular access - what does the Geneva or
Vienna Convention require with respect to access?
MR. RUBIN: Certainly quick access and this doesn't.
QUESTION: Quicker than that?
MR. RUBIN: Correct.
QUESTION: Is this a case where a guy just - (inaudible) - straight across
MR. RUBIN: Again, I wouldn't be able to provide any more details because
of the Privacy Act.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - further violation of the Vienna Convention?
MR. RUBIN: I think I didn't say that; I very carefully didn't say that.
We want quick access, we want early access. I don't believe there's a
number of days written in the Vienna Convention, so I will have to check
with the lawyers on how to describe our concern that they haven't had quick
QUESTION: Can you say whether this is a Korean-American or an American?
MR. RUBIN: An American citizen.
QUESTION: Male or female?
MR. RUBIN: I'm told that because of the lack of a Privacy Act waiver, I'm
not legally able to provide you more information on that.
QUESTION: The law they allegedly violated - do you have anything on
MR. RUBIN: Something to do with their efforts to build a hospital in a
garment manufacturing business in North Korea, is my understanding.
QUESTION: Has the trilateral begun yet; and if they're not discussing
this, what will they be discussing?
MR. RUBIN: The State Department Counselor, Wendy Sherman, will lead the
US at today's trilateral meeting which will conclude tomorrow, June 26. The
ROK side will be led by Deputy Foreign Minister Jang and the government of
Japan by Director General Kato. The meeting will continue discussions on a
comprehensive approach to reducing tensions and instability on the Korean
As you know, Dr. Perry met with senior Japanese and Korean officials in
Honolulu from April 23 to 25, to continue consultations in conjunction with
his North Korea policy review. He earlier traveled to Seoul. The three
sides agreed to establish a trilateral coordination and oversight group --
got a new acronym, TCOG - to institutionalize coordination on North Korea
policy issues, and have met since in Tokyo and Seoul May 24 and 29
The talks are not intended to specifically address any current situation.
They are aimed at continuing the policy coordination among the parties.
That doesn't mean that issues don't arise, but that's not their principal
QUESTION: Did they have -- (inaudible) --
MR. RUBIN: I don't know what time the meeting started. I'll have to check
for you.* Related -- as I told some of you earlier, I'm able to provide the
report on the site visit to Kumchang-ni. On May 18 through 24, a US
Department of State team traveled to North Korea with the purpose of
visiting the underground facility. The visit took place on an exceptional
basis. Throughout the visit, North Korea provided the US delegation with
[* The Spokesman's office released this answer following the press
briefing: The Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group (TCOG), comprised
of representatives from the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea,
began their meeting today at 2:30 p.m. They will conclude tomorrow.]
The delegation was permitted to conduct all activities previously agreed
under the March 16 US-North Korea agreement. These activities included
measuring the dimensions of all underground areas at the main complex,
videotaping those areas and photographing agreed above-ground facilities
supporting the site at Kumchang-ni.
The DPRK allowed the delegation to conduct the visit in the manner the US
deemed necessary. The US delegation spent the next two days underground -
after a preliminary orientation -- in order to ensure that it covered all
the underground areas. They criss-crossed those areas a number of times at
a pace and according to a plan determined by the delegation in consultation
with North Korea. The delegation saw no evidence of North Korean efforts to
conceal any portion of the facility.
The delegation viewed a large underground tunnel complex, excavation of the
complex was almost complete but a great deal of additional finishing work
remained to be done, with almost all of the tunnels still bare rock. There
was no indication that equipment was ever installed at this location. In
addition, the delegation visited above-ground installations - dams under
construction, the electric substation, as well as various utility buildings
and construction support facilities.
Based on the evidence gathered by the US delegation and a subsequent review
of that evidence by technical experts, we have reached the following
conclusions about the underground site at Kumchang-ni. The site at Kumchang-
ni does not contain a plutonium production reactor or a reprocessing plant
either completed or under construction. Given the current size and
configuration of the underground area, the site is unsuitable for the
installation of a plutonium production reactor - especially a graphite
moderated reactor of the type North Korea has built at Yongbyon. The site
is also not well designed for a reprocessing plant. Nevertheless, since the
site is a large underground area, it could support such a facility in the
future with substantial modifications.
At this point in time, the US cannot rule out the possibility that the site
was intended for other nuclear related uses, although it does not appear to
be currently configured to support any large industrial nuclear function.
We have concluded at present that the site at Kumchang-ni does not violate
the 1994 US-DPR agreed framework. New construction of graphite moderator
reactors and related facilities in North Korea would be a violation of
There are some other details in the statement I will release after the
briefing. On this subject --
QUESTION: Do you have any conclusions as to what it was going to be used
MR. RUBIN: At this point, we are doing an analysis of what we saw, and we
have made, as I indicated, certain conclusions as to what it's not well-
suited for. As I also indicated, we cannot rule out the possibility of what
it was intended for. At this time, that is as far as our conclusions will
QUESTION: Follow-up -- you don't think this was kind of red herring
designed to lead people astray, that perhaps got a little --
MR. RUBIN: Well, we think that it's important when we have concerns --
significant concerns -- and suspicions, as we've had, that we need an
opportunity to conduct these type of visits. These visits yielded the
following information, and I don't think there's any harm in that at all.
That's a pretty good way to do business. That's why we've reserved the
right to return in May of next year.
QUESTION: Did they ask them what the site was intended for?
MR. RUBIN: I'm sure there were discussions to that effect. I think, as I
indicated the last time someone asked me that question, what we're more
concerned about is what we think it could be used for than what they say,
because there have been many cases in which we've had concerns about their
stated intentions on a number of issues. So we've tended to judge things
based on verification, and that's what we've done in this case.
QUESTION: But if you asked and they told you something, did what they
tell you --
MR. RUBIN: Well, if you're interested in their view, I welcome the
opportunity for you to talk to them about it and they'll give you their
view. What I'm in a position to do is tell you what our verification and
our visit yielded in terms of our conclusions, based on what they saw and
their technical assessments, not based on what the stated purpose was or
QUESTION: Did they find any evidence that work was continuing there, or
was it just basically an abandoned site?
MR. RUBIN: I think it was a site being excavated. It was not an abandoned
site, to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Work was continuing while they were there?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't know that there weren't - the impression that I
got was that this is a hole in the ground that is being excavated; that
they are engaged in excavating it. As currently configured, the excavation
was almost complete, but a great deal of additional finishing work remained
to be done with almost all of the tunnel still their rock. But it was
not abandoned, to my knowledge. Any more on this --
QUESTION: This is the report that you've been promising for several
MR. RUBIN: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. Just wanted to make sure this was it.
MR. RUBIN: This is it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. RUBIN: You're welcome.
QUESTION: Can I just ask this question? I understand James Hormel has
been told by the State Department not to talk to the press about the one-
and-a-half year ordeal he spent in - he went through in Congress leading up
to his confirmation. Is this a gag order? And, if so, will it be lifted any
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm usually the one who is accused of putting the gags
in and I know nothing about this. So I don't think it's normal for an
ambassador to begin talking to the media until he's arrived in post and to
talk about his functions. I'm not aware of any gag order; that's not the
way we do business around here, so I would reject the premise behind your
QUESTION: Well, from what I understand, he had been told specifically
that he can't talk about the year and a half that he faced in Congress, and
I wondered --
MR. RUBIN: Well, I still don't know anything about that; I don't know
anything about it.
QUESTION: The report that the Russians had envisaged a much larger
military surprise than the 200-man unit that showed up at Pristina
MR. RUBIN: Well, with respect to that report, let me say that there were
a number of different possibilities of what the Russians intended to do
once the first 200 troops arrived. When I get to the right place, I will -
four, red four.
We were in constant contact during that period with Russia in an attempt to
include Russia in the force that was to be deployed in Kosovo. They had
indicated they wanted to be part of the force and we welcomed their
participation. At the same time, we, as you know, were insistent on
ensuring unity of command and the effectiveness of KFOR. We made clear to
the Russians that we could not accept a Russian sector.
The result of these negotiations was the Helsinki agreement, which provides
for Russia to contribute some 3,600 of the 50,000 or more peacekeepers to
be deployed in Kosovo. Relationships between Russia and NATO forces in
Kosovo are proceeding smoothly now. NATO members in such a situation as
began when the original deployment started would certainly consult with the
Alliance. So there were consultations between Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria
on any movement of troops related to the Bosnia peacekeeping force or the
Kosovo force. They would have to be coordinated with NATO; and members
of the Partnership for Peace, such as Romania and Bulgaria, would also be
in a position to consult with NATO. They would have to speak about what
decisions they made.
I think it's fair to say that there was a great deal of uncertainty as to
what the Russians intended to do on the day that the deployment began.
There were some representations that were made to us that turned out to be
incorrect. That was something that was a factor as well. So it was not easy
to know what their intentions were and how large a force they intended to
deploy. There were some indications that they did want to quickly increase
the size of their deployment, and they've made that known publicly. What
we wanted to do was ensure that the deployment of any Russians in
Kosovo beyond the 200 at the airport were only done pursuant to arrangements
worked out, which we subsequently did.
QUESTION: Did they say anything more than you are quoted as saying this
morning in this report about Mr. Thaqi and his alleged ordering?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I mean, there really isn't much to say about that beyond
what I have said. Let me say that we simply don't have information to
substantiate these allegations that there were such activities of
assassination or execution ordered or sanctioned by the leadership. It's
hard to comment further on unsubstantiated and generally unprovable
I think more broadly, it's fair to say that this is a tough neighborhood.
The KLA was engaged in a situation where the people of Kosovo faced a real
oppression by the Serb forces in very large numbers. They were not in a
position to pursue an approach that we in the West would probably want to
see pursued; there was no Western parliamentary democracy; there were no
parliamentary rules of order. Those are things that we want to create. And
what we've been trying to do with the work that we've done with the KLA
and its leaders is to encourage them to pursue their objectives through
transforming their organization and pursue them, through the democratic
means they now have available to them through the presence of NATO forces
on the security side and the presence of the UN mission on the civilian
side. So that is the path that we want them to take.
As far as these anonymous sources and their allegations, from our
standpoint they're unsubstantiated and generally unprovable.
QUESTION: All right, but this is the second - well, it's not the second,
it's one of a multitude of reports along this nature. I mean, are there red
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, I'm regularly asked about is the KLA involved in
drug dealing, and I regularly tell you that we don't have any independent
confirmation of that. I'm now being asked is the KLA leadership responsible
for executions, and I'm telling you we don't have any information to
confirm that. We've gone to pretty significant lengths and we have very,
very good contacts in the region. So we haven't been able to substantiate,
after a pretty good faith effort, what are essentially anonymous allegations.
The only quoted person, really, was a political opponent who didn't even
specifically refer to a specific allegation but just said that this leader
was capable of that behavior.
QUESTION: Today's Washington Post is reporting the upcoming independence
of Montenegro, Yugoslavia, by the winter. Do you have anything on
MR. RUBIN: The further disintegration of Yugoslavia would not serve to
promote peace and stability in the Balkans. Moreover, independence would
not be a panacea for the challenges that Montenegro faces. President
Djukanovic and his government represent the most credible and powerful
democratic force in Yugoslavia. The US firmly supports their efforts to
implement political and economic reforms as President Clinton demonstrated
in his meeting on the 21st. As the leading democratic force in Yugoslavia,
Montenegro plays an important role as a bulwark against Belgrade's
autocratic policies. Moreover, Montenegro's active support is important for
implementing the Kosovo settlement and bringing democracy to all the
people of Yugoslavia.
Abuse of power by Belgrade's leaders has corrupted and de-legitimized
Yugoslavia's federal institutions. The current Yugoslavia cannot be viable
unless the federal government establishes the rule of law and demonstrates
respect for the Yugoslav constitution and the rights of its constituent
republics. Failure by Belgrade to recognize and accommodate Montenegro's
calls for democratization and need for greater autonomy will aggravate the
widening political gap between Montenegro and Serbia.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - Department of State has given $10 million as a
special loan to Montenegro for its police forces loyal to Milo Djukanovic.
Do you have anything on that?
MR. RUBIN: I know we've tried to be supportive of the government there
and the strong and courageous steps that the leadership there has taken in
the face of the regime that reigns in Belgrade. I know we've been giving
significant funds in the past and that we've committed to significant funds
in the future. With respect to the police question, I will have to check
that for you.
QUESTION: Could you close a couple of loopholes here? Are you going to be
able to shake that money loose from Congress? I think you've been having
MR. RUBIN: On Macedonia?
QUESTION: On Macedonia, is it, only?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I think so. I'll have to check the status of that.
QUESTION: Well, okay. And on Montenegro, as a recipient of aid, are they
just as apt to get American financial support remaining in Yugoslavia as
they would had they spun off? I mean, do you have any concern that Belgrade
will get its hands into it?
MR. RUBIN: We're trying to ensure that Kosovo and Montenegro are treated
differently than Serbia and the rest of that territory on the map. We are
going to do our best to ensure that Montenegro doesn't suffer as a result
of the unwillingness of the West - or key leaders in the West -- to provide
reconstruction assistance to Belgrade. That doesn't mean we may not need
more checks and controls to ensure that assistance that is provided to
Montenegro doesn't get spun off in some way. But it's certainly our
intention to distinguish and differentiate between Montenegro and
QUESTION: Can you discuss your planning - I guess that's the right word -
for opening diplomatic offices in Kosovo and in Montenegro?
MR. RUBIN: I think there certainly would be a presumption that we would
re-open what we had in the past, but the situation in Kosovo is obviously
different by the presence of the international civilian administration. I
would expect us to re-open what we had in the past when security conditions
were right. Whether they would be scaled up in any way is something that is
under consideration, but I couldn't go beyond that at this time.
QUESTION: You said that you're trying to ensure that Montenegro and
Kosovo are treated differently than Serbia, but doesn't that kind of go
against the initial point you made in answering the first question about
Montenegro, which is that the further disintegration of Yugoslavia is not
conducive to stability in the Balkans?
MR. RUBIN: No, there's a difference between trying to induce change in
Belgrade by demonstrating to the people and the institutions in Belgrade
that their failure to follow democratic practices has costs in the form of
denial of reconstruction assistance. The democratic practices that are
being pursued by Montenegro should serve as an example to the people of
Serbia of the advantages that they get as a result of their democratic
practices. So we are trying to induce, through the leverage of reconstruction
assistance, better and more democratic practices in Belgrade.
QUESTION: You don't see it at all as perhaps having the opposite effect,
as this leading to the further disintegration?
MR. RUBIN: Well, there are various goals, and one has to weigh various
goals. But remember that we are deeply concerned about the anti-democratic
practices in Belgrade. Their leader is an indicted war criminal, and we
think it would be wholly inappropriate for the West or anybody to provide
the kind of reconstruction or sanctions easing to that regime in these
QUESTION: I'm going to go to another subject. Are you keeping up with the
reports that Israeli planes bombed the outskirts of Beirut and the
Hezbollah has been shelling the northern settlements?
MR. RUBIN: We are deeply concerned about the situation in Lebanon. This
situation escalated dramatically yesterday as a result of Hezbollah's
firing barrages of Katyushas into Northern Israel. Israel retaliated with
strikes against civilian infrastructure in Lebanon. We deeply regret the
loss of life on both sides. We call on all parties - including those with
influence with Hezbollah - to exercise maximum restraint and to calm this
dangerous situation. It is difficult to see how the Syrian-Israeli and
Lebanese-Israeli peace tracks can move forward in circumstances such as
QUESTION: Have you seen a report that the Israeli retaliation raids were
not ordered by the Prime Minister-designate, but rather by the present one,
MR. RUBIN: Now, that would be something that would have to be stated by
the Israeli Government. I've seen the reports, obviously, I just wouldn't
have any comment on that. We have been in touch with, at the Secretary's
direction - there have been a number of contacts both with the Syrians and
the Israelis, including contacts between top State Department officials and
Defense Minister Arens, who we've been in touch with. But as far as their
decision-making process, that wouldn't be for me to say.
QUESTION: Your statement there - it's difficult to see how Syrian-
Lebanese- Israeli peace - that comes right on the heels of President
Assad's purported interview he had with Patrick Seale, in which he talked
so glowingly about the prospect for negotiations. He also talked about --
MR. RUBIN: Maybe he speaks glowingly when he talks to Patrick Seale, you
QUESTION: Right, I won't take that one on. But you call on those with
influence over Hezbollah to --
MR. RUBIN: Including Syria.
QUESTION: Including Patrick - I mean, Syria.
Can you put those two together?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, we believe that an escalating situation -- this is the
most serious type of fighting in many years in Lebanon - is not a good
climate for peace. I think that stands on its own.
With respect to what our view is, we said the situation escalated
dramatically as a result of Hezbollah's firing barrages of Katyushas into
Northern Israel. We've urged maximum restraint on Hezbollah by talking
directly to the Syrian Foreign Minister in Damascus, as well as through
contacts here in Washington with the Syrian Ambassador, because we want
Syria to urge the maximum restraint on Hezbollah so that this situation
doesn't spin out of control - both on its own terms, and doesn't make it
harder for the peace process to be pursued both in the Palestinian-Israeli
track as well as the Syrian-Israeli track.
QUESTION: Do you think it draws into question President Assad's interview
- the glowing interview? Does it question his commitment that he stated in
that interview to pursue peace?
MR. RUBIN: We will judge his commitment to pursuing seriously the Syria-
Israeli peace track by what he does in the Syria-Israeli peace track. There
are other issues that we believe that he should play a constructive role to
urge restraint, and that is something we certainly want him to do in this
QUESTION: I don't need interviews to know that Dennis Ross said the other
night that there are signals from Syria that Syria's interested in pursuing
the peace track -
MR. RUBIN: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: Yes he did; he said it at an AIPAC dinner. And, of course, then
he went off the record and I left the room. Number one, do you still stand
by Syria telling the US - forget Patrick Seale -- have the Syrians let the
US know in some way or other that it's interested in pursuing peace? And
secondly, do you think Hezbollah spontaneously opened fire, or do you think
maybe someone suggested to them they ought to?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to speculate on the causes of Hezbollah's
QUESTION: You don't have to speculate, you could know things.
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to speculate from the podium on the causes of
Hezbollah's decision to escalate the situation.
With respect to what Dennis did or didn't say, there must be some dispute
about it and we can talk about it after the briefing. He indicates he
didn't say what he's reported to have said.
QUESTION: I'll get the record.
MR. RUBIN: Okay. I don't know how to help you if that's what he - I'm
told he does -
MR. RUBIN: So let's try to deal with it after the briefing.
QUESTION: Do the people who make policy here ever entertain the notion
that attacks -
MR. RUBIN: I can say yes, if it's entertaining the notion.
QUESTION: -- that there's a two-track - you like the word "track" around
here - that there's a two-track approach? One track is to pursue diplomacy;
the other track is to pursue military means -- even attacking civilians --
as a way to accomplish the same end? That both are geared to the same end
and one isn't contradictory of the other?
MR. RUBIN: Let me suggest to you that neither Dennis Ross nor the
Secretary of State has any illusions about the regime in Damascus.
QUESTION: Can I ask a related question? It's slightly related. Something
that doesn't go away - way back in March a couple of Jewish groups urged or
asked or urged, whatever, Mr. Indyk - I'm sure they've asked other people -
to look into a long list of, they say, suspects that the Palestinian
Authority could get its hands on if it wished to that are, they say,
suspected in the killings in Americans in the Middle East? I don't know
that you've ever responded to them, but can you deal with that a little
MR. RUBIN: We have made it clear that we take this issue very seriously.
The US Government wants to see the perpetrators of terrorist acts against
Americans brought to justice and if found guilty, punished to the full
extent of the law.
On the subject of prosecuting these suspects, I would refer you to the
Department of Justice for information. We believe there are fugitives in
territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority and we have pressed at
the highest level for the arrest and prosecution of these individuals. We
have seen a responsiveness and a serious effort on the part of the
Palestinian Authority, and this will continue to be one of our highest
priorities in our engagement with the Palestinian Authority.
QUESTION: Can I go to another? Back to Kosovo refugees, especially.
Within the last 10 days it is reported that some 300,000 refugees have
returned out of the approximate 900,000 that were in the camps. My question
would be, one, are they going to have - are they receiving what they need
in the way of shelter and food? My second question is, where are the IDPs;
how many have come out of the mountains and what shape are they in? Third
question to you on this subject is, how about the Kosovar Albanians
who came to the United States -- are they beginning to reverse course
and head back to Kosovo?
MR. RUBIN: There are increased numbers of voluntary returns of refugees
to Kosovo, even as organized repatriation to three locations is scheduled
to begin next week. The overall count of returnees now stands at about 300,
000. In Albania, some 25,700 refugees crossed back into Kosovo yesterday,
which is a record, bringing to 175,800 the number who have gone back since
June 15. I think the returnees are renting mini-vans, trucks and even
taxis and are undeterred by reports of land mine incidents. In Macedonia,
around 19,000 refugees returned to Kosovo yesterday; nearly 116,000 people
have gone back from Macedonia.
I think for those of us who stood up here every day and were asked the
question of how would we judge our success, certainly one of the judges and
indicators of our success has been the fact that hundreds of thousands of
refugees are now returning. At the same time, we've also made clear that we
did not want to be in a position where refugees were returning to dangerous
conditions. So there are a number of steps being taken on the ground by
the UNHCR to try to explain to people what the conditions are, what
the dangers are, and to try to encourage them to wait until conditions can
With respect to the US component, the UNHCR decided to and made an
announcement that it was suspending its evacuations. To date, 8,723
refugees have been brought to the US; approximately 5,000 more have been
processed and approved for admission to the US. In recent days, however,
some 40 percent of those scheduled to depart for the US have failed to
appear for their flights. There is a residual of several hundred close
family reunification cases.
In other words, we're going to continue to allow those who had signed up
and will continue to pursue family reunification cases. But many of those
who signed up have not showed up for their processing to come to the United
States, leading us to assume that they're returning to Kosovo. Our
expectation is - or our anticipation is that it appears unlikely that all
the 20,000 places that we made available will be needed, but we'll have to
see how these numbers shake out in the coming days.
QUESTION: What about those that are going back in? You say they're going
to have what they need to eat. And how about the ones in the mountains -
MR. RUBIN: Well, there have been various reports about that. Really, it's
very hard - there now are real people on the ground from the UN, from NATO
and others. I don't have to tell you what we're gleaning from the outside
is going on in Kosovo, which is what I had to do for 60 days to three
months -- because there was nobody in Kosovo and we were trying to give you
our best assessment from refugee accounts, our own intelligence information
and other sources about what's going on in Kosovo. Now there are UN
officials by the score; there are tens of thousands of NATO troops. Your
journalistic colleagues are traveling the countryside freely without the
kind of restrictions the Serbs were placing on journalists before. They are
the best sources of information on the IDPs.
QUESTION: This may be premature, but I'm just wondering after your
generous offer yesterday, if the HEROES line has been ringing off the hook
with tips about --
MR. RUBIN: Not as of yet, to my knowledge, but I will check for
(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)