U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #121, 99-09-15
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
Wednesday, September 15, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Refugee returns to Bosnia.
1-2 Secretary Albright scheduled to address the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace on Russia, Thursday, September 16 followed by
Q's & A's.
INDONESIA (East Timor)
2 Congressional consultations regarding peacekeeping force /
2-3 Perry Report
4 US/Pakistani relations / Kashmir
5-7&9 US aid and assistance / President Pastrana's visit to US
8-9 Treatment of American prisoners in Israeli jails / Secretary
Albright's meeting with Foreign Minister Levy / Torture and Human
9 Diversion of food aid
9 Travel Warning / US grain sales
10 Proceeds of sale of government aircraft to build homes for poor
10 Secretary Grossman's visit
10-11 Minsk process / Peace Initiative
11 Visit of Foreign Minister to the US
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 1999, 12:43 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Welcome to those of
you who have traveled around the world and back again, and welcome to those
of you haven't. I have one statement, on refugee returns in Bosnia, that
notes some positive developments in this area about tens of thousands of
returns last year and projected returns for this year. That will be
available to you after the briefing.
Let me also tell you that Secretary Albright will be delivering a major
address on Russia, tomorrow at the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace. I believe it starts at 9 o'clock. There will be a Q & A session, and
I will endeavor to see that any of those of you who get up that early in
the morning might get an opportunity to pose a question or two.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - on each?
MR. RUBIN: Probably only one each, actually.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary ever delivered a minor address before?
MR. RUBIN: No. What the difference is: When we bother to tell you about
an address, we only tell you about those that are major addresses, because
if we told you from the podium, here, every time the Secretary of State
made an address, I think you would find that a little time-consuming.
QUESTION: Will you be regulating who asks the questions or can we expect
a lot of think-tankers to --
MR. RUBIN: I would expect that the invitees are from the Carnegie
Endowment, and not from members of the media. What I am suggesting to you,
as is often is the case, that I will do as good as I can to look out for
your interests, and encouraging the moderator, whosoever that might be, to
make sure that they have an opportunity to steer in your direction. I mean,
they may not be three-part questions with a lot of context.
QUESTION: Well, here's a simple one: In the last couple of days, what has
the administration been doing, that you know of, to consult with Congress
about the operation in East Timor, and what kind of a reception are you
MR. RUBIN: Yes, a number of administration officials, including the
President, have been consulting with Congress about this operation, and
essentially indicating that we do think it's important for us to participate;
that having a role in the logistics, in the communications and in the
intelligence area is an appropriate role for the United States, because
these are capabilities that we have unique expertise in; that an ally of
ours - a very close ally, Australia, who has been with us through thick and
thin - has asked for our assistance, and we think, therefore, it would
be appropriate to help.
We are talking about hundreds of American service men and women, not
thousands. I think, in general, there has been a recognition by members of
Congress that this kind of an assistance to the Australians, and others
from Asia -- including Thailand and the Philippines and Korea and perhaps
Malaysia and others who are intending to contribute -- is an appropriate
way for us to share the burden without bearing the full brunt of it.
QUESTION: The US administration being pressed as to what national
security interest - or is the humanitarian situation compelling enough that
there is a disposition to go along with this limited involvement?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we think there is a national security interest in our
participation, and the national security interest is a very simple one:
Indonesia is a country -- the fourth-largest country in the world, the
largest Muslim country -- that has been going through profound changes in
the last year moving from an authoritarian dictatorship to the beginnings
of a real democracy, and that development of Indonesia is of interest to
the United States, in and of itself, and because Indonesia stands
astride critical sea lanes and lines of communication for our forces
and our goods and services around the world.
If Indonesia is unable to deal with a situation like East Timor -- if it
were to continue to spin out of control -- it could affect the future of
Indonesia, and thus our national security. Secondly, there is a humanitarian
interest. We do believe that we should look at how to be helpful, where we
reasonably can be helpful, where our unique capabilities can make a
difference, and that is why we believe it would be appropriate to help
ensure that the hundreds of thousands of people who are suffering get
But again, what happens here is that people often try to develop a simple
formula for what the United States should and shouldn't do, and there is no
simple formula for American intervention, or American use of force. That is
what the President, and the Secretary of State, are paid to decide: not to
simply plug in a formula, but to make the judgment calls that are necessary
in cases like this.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: The Perry report has apparently gone to Congress. Can you tell
us anything about that?
MR. RUBIN: Well, Dr. Perry is briefing members of Congress. I understand
he briefed the majority leader of the Senate today. Dr. Perry has been
working on this report for some time, as you know, and it is a report that
addresses the myriad issues associated with the subject of North Korea. Let
me say that I am hopeful that Dr. Perry will be in a position to speak more
publicly about his findings and recommendations in the coming day or
QUESTION: Does that mean some kind of --
MR. RUBIN: Some sort of public way of those of you who might be
interested to obtain an opportunity --
QUESTION: Show up at two different places at a certain time and --
MR. RUBIN: That kind of thing. Now, we'll have to see how that develops,
but I would expect that to happen in the next day or so. It's normal
procedure for a situation like this, given the nature of the report and the
nature of the information involved, for that to begin with discussions with
Congress prior to the discussions with the press.
QUESTION: Which means that we'll probably read about it in tomorrow's New
MR. RUBIN: Well, some of you may read certain newspapers and some of you
QUESTION: Part of is in written form?
MR. RUBIN: There is a written report, yes.
QUESTION: And would we be able to obtain --
MR. RUBIN: Unlikely that there is - I'm not aware there is an unclassified
summary of the report. I'm not aware of that. That doesn't mean that some
form of that can't be created by the fact of such a briefing, but I don't
believe that there is a classified and unclassified version - and it's just
a question of when you get your hands on the unclassified version. I don't
believe that's the way it has been produced.
QUESTION: Still on North Korea: Can you comment at all on the release by -
some contents of the report by the South Korean Foreign Ministry apparently
has briefed some of its reporters on the main contents of Dr. Perry's
MR. RUBIN: Well, you have to be more specific than that. Certainly, Dr.
Perry ought to be the person briefing Dr. Perry's report, as a matter of
principle. But let me also say that one of the key premises of our policy --
that Dr. Perry, I believe, shares -- is the importance of close consultation
and coordination with South Korea and Japan.
Is that the one-two punch on that one? Did I get that right? Boy, does
everybody need a pep pill today?
QUESTION: Another subject? The former -- (inaudible) -- of Pakistan and
also now he also a politician in -- (inaudible) - he was speaking at the
CSIS the other day and he said that US and IMF should not support the
corrupt government of Nawaz Sharif, number one. Number two, Mr. Sharif has
canceled his visit to the UN. He was supposed to meet with the Secretary
and the President, and I understand, according to Mr. Khan, that because he
does not want to sign CTBT which he promised last year next year he
will sign at the UN.
MR. RUBIN: Well, maybe Mr. Khan has developed the role of spokesman for
Mr. Sharif and therefore, if you have any other questions about Mr.
Sharif's intentions or desires, you can direct further questions at Mr.
Kahn. But from our standpoint, we believe that the path we've taken in
working with Pakistan on a number of issues, but also imposing restrictions
as a result of their nuclear testing, is the right course. Our policy is
based on working with the Government of Pakistan, and we will continue to
work with the Sharif government.
QUESTION: In the same region, tomorrow a bunch of Congressmen and
Senators are going to be calling on the administration to appoint a special
envoy to deal with Kashmir, and I'm just wondering if the State Department
is wont to stray from its initial position which is that it doesn't want to
get involved unless both sides ask?
MR. RUBIN: Our basic view of this is that we would be prepared to be
helpful if India and Pakistan sought our assistance in mediation. They have
not done so. The UN has played a role through the force that is there, but
they key solution is for India and Pakistan to develop the kind of
bilateral relationship that permits problems to be solved through direct
dialogue, the Lahore process being a prime example of that. So that is the
way we see the best chance of solving this problem, and the appropriate
course, therefore, for us to take. But members of Congress have not pre-
briefed me about what they intend to announce tomorrow, so I'd prefer
to wait to see what exactly it is they're recommending, before I
react formally to something that hasn't even happened yet.
QUESTION: Can you talk about this package of aid that's being prepared to
Colombia. The Times reported $1 billion to $1.5 billion as the figure.
MR. RUBIN: Let me say that we have made no decisions on what and whether
to ask Congress for more assistance for Colombia. We have been undergoing a
comprehensive policy review, to ensure that we develop the most effective
strategy to deal with the myriad problems Colombia faces: not only the drug
problem, but the crime problem, the economic problems and the human rights
violations. That is an ongoing process. Colombian officials have begun
to consult with us on their strategy, and we are continuing to work
with them. As you know, Secretary Albright made a very strong point of this
publicly: that Colombia's problems are real; that they affect the region as
a whole; that we need to have a regional solution to them; that we need to
deal with all the problems in their interrelationship, and not focus
exclusively on one particular problem, such as the drug problem.
As a result of her interest in the subject and concern about the fate of
Colombia, Ambassador Pickering, Under Secretary Pickering, has visited
there, and has been leading in efforts in this building to develop and work
with the Colombians, as they develop their comprehensive strategy. There
has been no decision about what, if any, additional resources the US
government would provide, because that is premature at this point. First,
we have to develop the objectives and agree on the strategy, and then one
can make decisions about the financial or budgetary implications of
any new strategy.
Of primary focus of whatever assistance we developed would be to counter
the production and trafficking of illegal drugs. At the same time, we will
continue to advance other interests in Colombia. We've been discussing this
problem with the Colombian government for some time. We've assisted them in
developing a comprehensive, integrated strategy to deal with this
problem. That is a Colombian strategy. We would expect more about
that strategy to be discussed publicly in the coming weeks, and certainly
a big piece of this puzzle is not only the drugs, but the peace process,
the human rights violations, the crime problems, and the human rights
So that is where we stand. This reminds me of the situation that arises
when reports develop about some contingency plan for the use of force, and
you ask me about it, and I have to tell you that it's only prudent that our
Pentagon colleagues would be making contingency plans for any number of
military options, because that's their job, and that if we weren't having
contingency planning for a particular military option, then we wouldn't be
doing our job.
Similarly, it is appropriate for officials on the diplomacy side, and at
the State Department and elsewhere, to have contingency planning for
different options if any particular option is chosen. There's a big
difference, however, between contingency planning for particular options,
and them being a real option before the government. There are no options
before the President or the Secretary for a financial aid package for
Colombia. That is premature, and sometimes these things get ahead of
QUESTION: But, nevertheless, discussions about an aid package are
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, we give aid to Colombia every year.
QUESTION: Well, I know that, but -
MR. RUBIN: And every year, we discuss the plans for the upcoming budget
year, because that's how you develop a budget, is discussing an aid
MR. RUBIN: What I'm suggesting to you is that we and the Colombians have
QUESTION: Wait -- maybe I can -
MR. RUBIN: Let me just finish. We and the Colombians have not developed a
particular strategy that yields a particular budgetary result.
QUESTION: So -
MR. RUBIN: So any suggestion that we, the United States, now have a new
plan for a multi-billion-dollar aid package is premature.
QUESTION: But what I was trying to get out was: Is it wrong of that
report -- in the report -- that what is being considered is $1 billion to
MR. RUBIN: As I indicated to you, there is no option before the Secretary
or the President -
QUESTION: I'm not suggesting there is an option. I'm just asking if
that's a range of what's being considered, or you don't want to say.
MR. RUBIN: That is highly premature, because what is being considered is
what we, the United States, and the Colombians, themselves, should be doing
and what kinds of work should they be doing; and before we agree on that,
it would be strange, indeed, for us to begin to have a consideration of
numbers, especially numbers of that magnitude.
QUESTION: OK, I've got one more question and this is a subject of some
debate between - very short debate between myself and George, who is of the
opinion that there was actually some news in this story and I was of the
opinion that there was not. However, George was under the impression that
it said that he believed there was news in it because it indicated a shift
away from counter-narcotics, or at least a movement away from the counter-
narcotics aid toward a more counter-insurgency type thing.
QUESTION: You're misquoting me altogether.
MR. RUBIN: Oh. Well, I think I should turn the floor over to George. In
fairness, George, do you have any comment on your colleague's question?
QUESTION: I'll take the question.
MR. RUBIN: You'll take the question?
QUESTION: Anyway, regardless of who thought what or whatever it is, is it
in what's being discussed, any kind of shift in the -
MR. RUBIN: Let me say this. If you take a look at Secretary Albright's op-
ed on this subject, she pointed out the interconnectedness of the drug
problem, the peace process that is failing, and the crime and economic
problems in Colombia, and said that any rational approach to dealing with
the drug problem, or to Colombia as a whole, has to deal with all of these
issues, and not the drug problem alone
So, as we are undergoing a comprehensive review of the Colombia issue --
including, I expect the Secretary to have some consultations with outside
experts in the coming day or so -- she will be focused on all aspects of
the problem, and that any strategy that we want to participate in will be
one that focuses on all aspects of the problem and their interrelationship.
To that extent, I think it is fair to say that it is new, because during
the previous presidency, we did not do any business with the previous
President of Colombia, and thus limited our involvement to the work on
As we've focused on the recent weeks on the concern the Secretary has about
the future of Colombia, we are trying to put in place a strategy that deals
with all elements, and, therefore, that is, by your standard, new.
QUESTION: OK, so you're saying that there is some consideration, then, as
we move towards establishing a new aid package to not entirely focus on
counter-narcotics, but also to get involved somehow in the counter-
MR. RUBIN: Absolutely not. I said nothing about the counterinsurgency,
and let me repeat, that our assistance is focused on the counter-drug
efforts. We do not intend to provide counterinsurgency aid to the
Government of Colombia. Any support to the Colombian military will continue
to be focused on the common counter-drug objectives, and will be given only
to units that have been vetted for any indication of human rights
What I'm suggesting is that Colombia is a complicated place that's going
through a number of difficult problems. And as one seeks to deal with the
drug problem, as well as the peace process, as well as the rising crime, as
well as the falling economy, you have to put all of those into your
discussion, and not isolate out one problem, if you want to achieve success
in either that problem or the whole panoply of problems.
So the long and the short of it is that Colombian President Pastrana is
developing a strategy. We've been working very closely with him in his
efforts. We've been briefed on a number of aspects of his strategy, and as
we develop a consensus in our government around what new strategy towards
Colombia we want to pursue, then -- and only then -- will there be
budgetary implications for any aid package.
George, since your name has been taken in vain, I think we should turn to
QUESTION: As I understand it, President Pastrana is coming up here with
his team. This offers the opportunity for some heavy discussions on these
issues. Does Secretary Albright or other senior officials, including the
President, have any plans to meet with him?
MR. RUBIN: I believe the Colombian foreign minister and Secretary
Albright are scheduled to meet tomorrow, so that is an opportunity for this
to be discussed. I don't have any further meetings to offer you, but it's
something that we all are going to focus heavily on.
QUESTION: A couple of weeks ago, the Secretary raised with David Levy the
question of the treatment of American prisoners in Israeli jails. Since
that time, the Israeli Supreme Court has confirmed that, indeed, they have
been torturing for a couple of decades or more, and you welcomed that at
the podium, as I recall.
Is there any intention on the part of the administration to seek to gain
the release of the five or six Americans who have been tortured, and whose
continued detention is, therefore, you know, somewhat illegal? There are at
least five of them. Secondly, could you share with us any details, on the
record or off the record, of the raising of that question by the Secretary
with Mr. Levy, the foreign minister? I'd appreciate it very much.
MR. RUBIN: Let me tell you that Secretary Albright did not meet with
Foreign Minister David Levy. She did meet with Foreign Minister David Levy,
but she doesn't normally have meetings with the spokesman at the National
Security Council. With respect to what occurred in the meeting, let me say
that, as part of a bilateral discussion, we did discuss various legal
procedures in Israel. Foreign Minister Levy was sympathetic to our concerns
about mistreatment of American citizens, especially if that was based on
ethnicity, and that he, like she, regarded it as unacceptable, and he
indicated he was planning to look into these particular cases.
I have no new information to provide you. I will seek that information, and
in the future please don't mistake the NSC spokesman for the Foreign
Minister of Israel.
QUESTION: Sorry about that. Would you answer the second part of the
MR. RUBIN: I don't remember it.
QUESTION: Too focused on pronunciation. The question was, in view of the
fact that the Supreme Court has now said -
MR. RUBIN: OK. I know - the answer is the same, which is that we first
need to get more data about these cases and get a response from the Israeli
government to our concerns before we can make judgments on what we would be
seeking or not seeking. In addition, your question had about six or seven
legal judgments built into it that I would have to ask our lawyers our view
on before I responded.
QUESTION: Any intention on the part of the administration to weigh in
with the Government of Israel, which is now considering a new "bypass law"
to get around the Israeli Supreme Court and continue the torture.
MR. RUBIN: Our views on torture and on the human rights questions don't
change; they remain the same, and they are the same concerns that we've had,
that we've detailed in our human rights reports, and we will always raise
the issues associated with reports that we detail in our human rights
reports. But I'm not going to comment on any specific demarche with respect
to any specific law, because I don't know that they have developed
a specific plan in Israel in that regard.
QUESTION: On Colombia again, I'm a bit confused about why you were so
categorical about the US not supplying counter-insurgency support to the
Pastrana government. What if they ask for it, and what if that's deemed in
this policy review to be what's needed to fight all of the questions and
issues that you raised?
MR. RUBIN: Well, because that is our prerogative: to make a judgment as
to where we think it's appropriate for us to provide assistance and where
it is inappropriate, and we've made a judgment that we do not intend to
provide counterinsurgency aid to the Government of Colombia.
QUESTION: I don't see why you've judged that to be inappropriate.
MR. RUBIN: There are a number of factors that go into such a calculation,
and I will look for some formal answer to provide for you. But we think it
would be unwise.
QUESTION: A question on Iraq: A report issued the other day, on page 3,
there was a photograph that, of course, number one, Saddam Hussein, is
diverting food for his military supposedly to feed the babies, that Kuwaiti
authorities have seized a number of boxes with foods and all that to be
sold outside Iraq -- came from Iraq. Which countries are buying those boxes
of food coming from Iraq, supposed to feed the hungry in Iraq?
MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check that for you; it's a good question.
QUESTION: I was, kind of, struck by this travel warning that was put out
late last night, I guess, on Iran.
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: Simply because, I mean, these demonstrations that it was
talking about happened two months ago. And I'm just wondering if this was a
kind of an attempt to allay potential fears among some quarters -- I don't
know who -- that after the confirmation of these high-level messages going
back and forth, that the US was not getting too closely to -
MR. RUBIN: The answer to that is no. The consular affairs folks make
their decisions based on what is safe and not safe for American citizens.
If we began using those consular affairs sheets to send messages back and
forth, or deny messages back and forth, or effect perceptions about
messages back and forth, we wouldn't be doing our primary duty here in the
Department, which is to do what we can to protect the safety of Americans
abroad. That is what that travel warning is about, and it has no relation
whatsoever to perceptions and misperceptions about what may or may not have
been -- transpired between us and Iran.
QUESTION: One more on Iran. Has any decision been made about these grain
sales to -
MR. RUBIN: No, I will have to check that. I know that, pursuant to our
change in the sanctions laws, that the food and medicine provisions change,
which permitted one to seek sales of that kind. I think I may end up
referring you to the Treasury Department, where the license would have to
be provided, but I will check that for you.
QUESTION: Do you have any elaboration on that travel warning, because the
events mentioned in it happened several months go. I mean, was there a more
recent event, or circumstances in the country which caused you to issue
MR. RUBIN: Yes, there were circumstances in the country that caused us to
issue the travel warning. I believe these, as a rule, speak for themselves,
and going beyond it -- I just don't have any additional information from
the Consular Affairs Bureau justifying this, but I will seek it for
QUESTION: On Colombia, you said that President Pastrana is working on a
strategy. Do you know - and that it would be tied to any aid package - do
you know when that will be done or when --
MR. RUBIN: Well, he is coming here. He is going to be at the United
Nations. We expect him to be unveiling his strategy very shortly, and we
are going to be consulting with him closely on it, including the meeting
with Secretary Albright we'll be having with the foreign minister
QUESTION: There is a newspaper report that President Chavez of Venezuela
has embarked upon the sale of all the aircraft that the government owns so
he can build some 6,000 homes for the poor. And I would just ask you: There
is a number of Americans doing business in Venezuela that say this man is
seeking dictatorship in Venezuela. Could you respond to that particular --
MR. RUBIN: I don't think I could quite agree with that view, but let me
check on the specific report about the airplanes, because that is an issue
that I should check on before responding.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Grossman (is) in Turkey right now, and
before the Turkish prime minister in Washington is - what's the purpose of
this visit? And, secondly, is there one of the Turkish government coalition
partner leader Mr. Mesut Yilmaz, was in town in a couple of days ago. He
met with several State Department officials. What was the meeting?
MR. RUBIN: I have to check that for you.
QUESTION: Very quickly: Are you aware of a rejection of a US initiative
by Azerbaijan for peace in the - apparently William Taylor, who is the
envoy to this republic, former Soviet republics, extended some kind of an
invitation to the Azerbaijanis to meet with others, and he said - and, I'm
sorry, and Aliyev said no.
MR. RUBIN: You read the wire story first, then ask the question.
QUESTION: I was afraid I was going to mispronounce the guy's name. But
Aliyev said no, because he didn't see the use in such a thing because --
MR. RUBIN: Well, we've been certainly working for some time through the
Minsk process, the triple co-chairs - the United States, France and Russia -
to try to advance that issue and promote peace. I'm not aware of any
particular new initiative that was rejected, but we'll have to check that
for you. I'll be happy to do that.
QUESTION: There's some real sad news from Germany. Raisa Gorbachev is
near death, not expected to survive. Can we have any comment from the State
MR. RUBIN: On a humanitarian level, obviously we wish her the best in
pursuing her medical treatment that I understand is being pursued, but I
don't know the specifics of the case, and don't know that we do either.
QUESTION: Do you know, or can you tell us anything about, a possible
visit by the North Korean foreign minister to the United States: whether or
not he will be meeting with any US officials?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know the foreign minister of North Korea's schedule,
if he is planning to attend the General Assembly. I do know that, certainly,
one possibility in the pursuit of a more normal economic and political
relationship with North Korea, following the successful developments in
Berlin would be a high-level visit to the United States, analogous to
former Secretary Perry's visit to North Korea. But other than saying that
that would be a natural event if relations were to improve, I don't have
any specific plan or date to offer you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:17 P.M.)