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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #130, 99-10-14

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


Thursday, October 14, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1	TANZANIA: Secretary Albright deeply saddened by death of former
	 President Julius Nyerere. 
1	KYRGYZSTAN-TAJIKISTAN: Ill-advised travel by Americans planned.
1	BURUNDI-KOSOVO: Deaths of humanitarian workers deeply concerns US.
1	CANADA: Border cooperation with US hailed.
1-2	IRAQ: Dhows smuggling Iraqi foodstuffs shows callous disregard of
	 regime for its own people. 
2	BUDGET CUTS: Peace Corps budget would shrink 13 percent, in spite
	 of congressional approval to expand its size. 
2-3,5	Situation remains calm; no army announcements yet; US Ambassador
	 Milam en route, to seek meeting with Gen. Musharaff; US will urge
	 safety of Nawaz Sharif. 
4,5-6	Senate failed to take action which would enhance US national
	 security & interests. US will continue to maintain testing
	 moratorium, to urge signing & ratification of CTBT. Vote a
	 grievous blow to US leadership in non-proliferation. Countries of
	 greatest concern are those who have recently tested, or might test
	 soon: India, Pakistan, North Korea, China. Also of concern are
	 countries which forswore nuclear weapons, based on understanding
	 that nuclear powers would sign, ratify CTBT.
5	US doesn't believe cargo was being smuggled without knowledge,
	 acquiescence of Iraqi regime. 


DPB #130

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 14, 1999, 12:35 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Today is Thursday. I have a number of statements that we'll be issuing after the briefing. Let me review with you what they are.

The first statement is a statement by Secretary Albright, herself, expressing her deep sadness at learning of the death of former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere in London. Secretary Albright regarded him as a giant on the world stage and an eloquent spokesman for the developing world.

Secondly, we have a statement on some ill-advised trips that are being planned for travel to southern Kyrgyzstan and the area of the ongoing civil war in Tajikistan. We have been providing a number of pieces of information on this to various organizations and American citizens who were concerned that some had not received this information, so we're going to post a statement on that.

Thirdly, we have a statement on the death of UN workers in Burundi and Kosovo.

Fourth, we have a statement on the border cooperation between the United States and Canada as a result of guidelines and principles set up by President Clinton when he was in Canada on October the 8th.

Lastly, let me say that on Monday of this week the Kuwaiti Coast Guard seized three dhows - that's large wooden cargo vessels - which were sailing from Iraq and had entered Kuwaiti territorial waters. The dhows were exporting food items from Iraq in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions. The smuggled items included 150 tons of dates, 22 tons of licorice, and 446 sacks of jute seeds, which are used to grow animal fodder. In addition, there were large amounts of edible grains including 100 tons of lentils, 70 tons of another grain used to flavor sweets, and 144 tons of clover, also used for animal feed.

This seizure demonstrates once again Iraq's total disregard for its own people. How many times have we heard the Iraqi leadership say that there are terrible consequences as a result of the sanctions and yet, despite their claim of scarce foodstuffs, they are earning hard currency by exporting foodstuffs? So we think this is a dramatic demonstration of the utter cynicism and disregard for the Iraqi people demonstrated by the regime.

This occurs at the very time when Iraq refuses to use the funds available to it in order to buy food under the Oil-for-Food program. We do have some photos showing the intercepted cargo, just a picture or two, that we can provide you after the briefing.

Finally, before going to your questions, in the second installment of examples of how Congressional budget cuts are harming our foreign policy, I want to speak very briefly to the question of the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps is probably one of the best and most appreciated programs of the United States around the world, and just four months ago Congress overwhelmingly approved a bill that endorses a 50 percent increase in the number of volunteers.

But the current appropriations bill, which we think is doing such damage or would do such damage to our national interest, would cut the Peace Corps allocation by 13 percent. Not only would this reverse current progress towards achieving the goal of expanding the Peace Corps, but it would force the Peace Corps to cut more than 1,000 volunteers.

This potential cut among the many cuts administered by Congress to our vital national security programs overseas is particularly difficult to comprehend. The Peace Corps volunteers do incredibly good work in some of the world's poorest countries. They build goodwill towards the United States all over the world. They develop skills in the spirit of public service and good citizenship that enable the volunteers to contribute to our country.

The particularly ironic thing is that this cut undermines Congress' own commitment to strengthen the Peace Corps. It seems to us that this is yet another example of how Congressional cuts and actions mandated by Congress have taken out of our national security account a critical program that is in our national interest.

With those brief comments, let me turn to your questions. I notice the absence of the relevant Associated Press reporter but we'll turn it over to you, Jim.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) - irrelevant.

MR. RUBIN: No, the role of an Associated Press reporter. I know you don't work for that organization.

QUESTION: Have you heard back from the Pakistani Government about whether they, in fact, intend to pursue something approaching a democratic path?

MR. RUBIN: Let me give you an update on the situation in Pakistan and answer your question. The situation in Pakistan remains calm. We understand that airports have been reopened. The army reportedly has sealed off the parliament building, which would prevent that body from meeting as scheduled tomorrow. Several government ministries in the Prime Minister's office have also been sealed. Martial law has not been declared. Our embassy reports that Pakistani public reaction has been muted and most daily activities have returned to normal.

The chief of the army general staff has not yet made the promised public announcement about the intentions of the military authorities, and these intentions therefore remain unclear. Our embassy has been in contact with foreign ministry officials but has not spoken with senior military officers since the overthrow.

Ambassador Milam is en route to Pakistan. He is scheduled to arrive there tomorrow morning, which would be late this evening our time, and our embassy would be seeking a meeting for him with General Musharaff as soon as possible. He will be delivering a message from the United States expressing our profound regret about the military takeover and our desire to see a civilian government, a democratic civilian government, restored expeditiously.

We are also urging the Pakistani authorities to assure the safety and well- being of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his advisors, and others who are being held incommunicado. We are now in the process of making the legal determination that direct assistance should not be allowed to Pakistan, a country where the military has removed a democratically elected government.

So the short answer to your question is that Ambassador Milam will be there tomorrow morning local time and, hopefully, will be in a position to meet directly with the military authorities who we have not yet met with directly.

QUESTION: Do you consider the absence of a declaration of martial law to be encouraging at all?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it's not discouraging. Certainly a martial law declaration would be worse. But, again, what we're waiting to see is that they are going to put forward a concrete plan and a clear plan for the earliest possible restoration of civilian government. We haven't seen that yet. This promised statement of policy hasn't occurred. But certainly it's better that martial law has not been declared than if it had been declared.

QUESTION: And on the review of direct assistance, isn't that moot? Is there any existing direct assistance?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. There is some minor programs that relate to certain assistance in relatively small amounts to NGOs in Pakistan and that this determination would affect.

QUESTION: On the seized shipment --


QUESTION: Exactly --

QUESTION: Are we still on Pakistan?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. I should have gone directly to questions about the seized shipment - that was my fault.

QUESTION: I just want to know how many dates are in a ton?


MR. RUBIN: Well, let's see --

QUESTION: I do have a serious question.

MR. RUBIN: Let's see, how many dates in a ton? Well, I've had a ton of dates in my life, but I've never had the opportunity to weigh each one.

QUESTION: On Pakistan - you said these are relatively small amounts of assistance. Can you be more specific?

MR. RUBIN: I think it's in the area of a couple of million dollars.

QUESTION: Actually, seriously, on the CTBT, what does the State Department say to those who say in light of last night's failure of the Clinton Administration to get the Senate to ratify the CTBT, US influence on the world stage will be diminished from here on out?

MR. RUBIN: The first thing I would say to those people is that it was the Senate that failed, not the Clinton Administration. The Senate failed to take an action that would advance our national security. The Senate is an independent body and has that right, but it was the Senate who failed to take action to defend our interests.

We will continue to lead on the world stage. Secretary Albright has sent out a cable to all posts to explain to host governments the views of the United States, making clear that we do intend to continue our moratorium; that we intend to continue to urge other countries to refrain from nuclear testing; and that we intend to continue to urge other countries to sign the CTBT and ratify it.

We also intend to continue to work with senators and others here in Washington so that the next time around a serious consideration can be given to this treaty; one that would be appropriate to a treaty of this importance, and that then with serious consideration we intend to work to see this treaty ratified.

Clearly, the decision and failure of the Senate to ratify the treaty harms our cause, our joint cause; our cause of trying to persuade other countries not to go down the nuclear road; to trying to persuade other countries to follow our lead and our influence in the nonproliferation field. The Senate has done a grievous blow to our leadership in the nonproliferation field, but this Administration and Secretary Albright intend to fight to overcome that blow and continue to pursue our nonproliferation policy.

QUESTION: I want to go back to the dhows.

MR. RUBIN: The dhow.

QUESTION: The seizure.

MR. RUBIN: Yes, let's do the dhow. We're really hopping all over the place today.

QUESTION: I might have missed it, but do you have proof that the goods aboard were government - you know, in the hands of the government or were they private goods that were being smuggled out, as often happens?

MR. RUBIN: Well, it may often happen in some countries, but in Iraq we have every reason to believe that nobody can get away with sending large vessels filled with so much goods as this without the government knowing about it. Let's remember this is a brutal, authoritarian dictatorship where people would not be acting without the acquiescence of the government. We do not believe there is such a thing as a real private sector that could have been acting outside the reigns of power of this brutal dictatorship.

QUESTION: What ship was this?

MR. RUBIN: What's the name of it? There were three dhows, privately owned dhows from other countries, and I will see whether we can get you some additional information, perhaps after the briefing, on details.

QUESTION: Where were these ships?

MR. RUBIN: The Kuwaitis picked them up.

QUESTION: But where were they en route to? Do we know?

MR. RUBIN: Do we know that information? We don't have that detail but I can try to get you that after the briefing. We know the Kuwaitis picked them up. They're probably investigating now what the crew says what its ultimate destination was.

QUESTION: Could you make the Secretary's letter to host governments available to us?

MR. RUBIN: It's not a letter. I said she sent a cable to posts explaining what she wanted our ambassadors in embassies to say to foreign governments, and I explained the basic points that are contained in that cable in the comments I made in response to Andrea's question. But we don't normally make formal cables available in a public forum.

But the basic points are much in line with what I just said. I'm sorry - and one other point. The Secretary was concerned that often in press reporting that the United States has voted down this treaty, that other governments might misunderstand our form of government. In our form of government, the President is the leader of our foreign policy. The Senate has a role in the advice and consent process of treaties, but they do not make our foreign policy. As the maker of our foreign policy, President Clinton intends to continue to moratorium; intends to continue to urge others to refrain from testing; and intends to pursue ratification at a later date when the Senate takes its constitutional responsibilities in a more serious way and gives the treaty the consideration that every other major arms control and international treaty has received.

QUESTION: You've done it before, but could you please repeat for us what areas and countries with which the US has the most concern that proliferation - (inaudible) -- ?

MR. RUBIN: Certainly, the countries of greatest concern are those that either have just begun a nuclear testing process or those that might do it soon. So, in the first category, you have countries like India and Pakistan who both conducted a series of tests, who might now have more difficulty persuading their domestic constituencies to ratify and sign this treaty in light of the Senate's failure to ratify it.

Secondly, you have countries like North Korea that we've taken enormous, enormous efforts to persuade not to go down the nuclear road by engaging in the Agreed Framework and the provision of oil and reactors to North Korea in exchange for them giving up a process that we believed could lead to their nuclear weapons development capability.

You have countries like China - and I find it particularly ironic that many of those who spoke the loudest about the dangers of China developing a more capable nuclear arsenal and the dangers that possible espionage might have assisted China in that matter seemed to be the most absent when it came to addressing the question of whether China would be able to make major, major strides in modernizing its nuclear arsenal if it were to test. Testing would have been - and would be - the key for China to develop a whole new generation of nuclear weapons that could be placed on mobile missiles that would be multiple warhead re-entry vehicles. The very types of fears that were expressed during the espionage issue somehow were absent from the opponents of this treaty.

So those are a few examples. Certainly, you have another problem in a fourth category, which are those countries who have forsworn nuclear weapons in Europe, in Africa, in the Middle East, in Latin America, who did so on the clear understanding that the United States and the other major powers were intending to move towards arms control and a cut-off of tests under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. They understood as we moved away from extreme reliance on modernized nuclear arsenals and moved towards reducing our strategic weapons and cutting off testing, that they would then continue to commit not to go down the nuclear road themselves.

So there's a whole other category of countries who will see the failure by the Senate to ratify this treaty as a major setback to the cause of nonproliferation. We are going to work to overcome that setback; it's something that clearly has troubled the Secretary and obviously the President, who will have more to say, I'm sure, in a short while. But we're going to work to overcome the blow that this has done to nonproliferation and I hope that those who spoke the loudest against the treaty understand that if developments go in a negative way in the world, that this will have been a contributing factor.

(The briefing concluded at 12:55 P.M.)

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