U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #134, 99-10-27
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, October 27, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1,3-4,14 Secretary's Meeting Tomorrow with the Foreign Ministers of
Israel and Mauritania
14 Ambassador Ross' Travel to Israel
1-3 Storming of Armenian Parliament/Wounding of Government Officials
1 United States Condemns Violence
1,2 No Information on Motive for Attack/Identity of Attackers
1 US Ambassador in Contact with Armenian Authorities
2-3 Deputy Secretary Talbott's Visit to Yerevan/ Meeting with
4-5 Secretary Albright to Accompany President on Visit to Greece and Turkey
5-6 Spokesman's Interview with Iranian Newspaper/US
6 Iranian President Khatami's Visit to France
6 Arrest of Falun Gong Members
7 US View on China Joining the WTO
7-8 Three Americans Kidnapped in Dhamar Area of Yemen
8-9 UN Oil For Food Program/UN Secretary General's Remarks
13,14 Background Briefing at the State Department Tomorrow on Iraqi
9-10 Demonstrations and Security
10-11 Governor Ryan's Visit to Cuba/Visa for Cuban Boy Seeking Medical
Treatment in US
11-12 US Policy Toward Cuba
12-14 US Attack on Al Shifa Plant/US Evidence for Bombing
15 Update on Situation in Chechnya
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
15 Demining Commissioners to Tour US Cities, November 1-11, l999
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 27, 1999, 12:40 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing today on
Let me say that, first of all, Secretary Albright will be meeting tomorrow
with the foreign ministers of Israel and Mauritania. This is the result of
a call by the United States for important steps to be taken by Arab
countries to reflect the progress in the peace process. She will inaugurate
and work with the two ministers on the establishment of full diplomatic
relations between Mauritania, an Arab League member, and Israel.
Before taking your questions, let me give you the latest --
QUESTION: What time will that be?
MR. RUBIN: That will be at 10:00 a.m.
With respect to the situation evolving in Yerevan, let me tell you what I
can about that. We are shocked at the news that a heavily armed group
stormed the Armenian parliament while it was in session earlier today and
opened fire with automatic weapons. We understand that a number of
government officials and parliamentarians have been wounded. There were
conflicting reports about the actual status of the Prime Minister and some
of the others. As we understand it, the perpetrators remain blockaded in
parliament at this time, and are holding those present, whom they have not
already killed, hostage.
We do not have information about the motive of this attack. As we
understand it, President Kocharian was not in parliament when this attack
occurred. He is safe, and is reportedly at the scene coordinating Armenian
efforts to deal with this crisis.
Let me say: On behalf of the United States we condemn this violence; we
condemn this terrorist action. We extend our condolences to the families of
the victims and we call on these perpetrators of this terrorist act to
surrender to the authorities.
Our ambassador in Yerevan, Michael Lemmon, has been in regular contact with
Armenian authorities in the hours since this incident began. We do not have
information to suggest that this incident was aimed at Americans.
Nevertheless, we have alerted the warden network and adopted a heightened
For your information as well, Deputy Secretary Talbott had just left
Yerevan an hour or so before this incident took place. He had met with the
President, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister, as part of his trip
to assess the state of play and the potential for peace between Armenia and
Azerbaijan, and a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. He had a
several-hour meeting in the President's office, with the Prime Minister and
the Foreign Minister present. His party regarded it as a very constructive
meeting and they were - had already been to Baku to meet with the
Azerbaijanis. They are now in Ankara. Deputy Secretary Talbott did report
to Secretary Albright both on the meeting and on what he knew of the events
in Yerevan as they developed this morning.
QUESTION: You say you don't know the motives of the invaders. Do you know
anything about their identity?
MR. RUBIN: We do not. We are gathering information as quickly as we can.
I think we've all watched the television. Our ambassador has obviously
posed a lot of questions to officials in the foreign ministry. There is a
lot of conflicting information. We don't have information about the
identity of the perpetrators.
QUESTION: I am just assuming -- but I want to make sure -- that Talbott
didn't notice anything unusual while he was there.
MR. RUBIN: We have no reason to think this is in any way related to
Deputy Secretary Talbott's visit, and he left the President's office - I
believe it was roughly 4 o'clock local time - left Yerevan at 4:30. The
incident, I gather, occurred an hour or so after that, and he had no
indication of anything amiss before he left, as far as I know.
QUESTION: Did he change his plans? Wasn't he supposed to go to Moscow
MR. RUBIN: He had already changed his plans. He was in Ankara. I don't
know whether he changed his plan because of this; I doubt it. I think they
are very close, Yerevan and Ankara, so I think he had made the decision to
delay by a day his trip to Moscow prior to this incident.
QUESTION: Is there any reason to believe that the shooting had anything
to do with the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute?
MR. RUBIN: We have no reason to believe that this is related to the
Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, or the discussions that Deputy Secretary Talbott
had, at this time.
QUESTION: Does the US have any sort of anti-terrorism assistance
relationship with the Armenian authorities as far as you are --
MR. RUBIN: That's a very good question. I think Ambassador Sheehan has
been trying to develop relationships with a number of countries. I suspect
that we will, in our discussions with them, be offering our assistance to
them, but I don't have information on what the status of the relationship
is right now.
QUESTION: Just one other bit. Was Talbott ever - as far as you all know,
was Talbott ever in danger?
MR. RUBIN: No. As far as we know, he left the President's office at
roughly 4o'clock local time, left Yerevan at 4:30 local time, was in the
air when the incident began roughly an hour later, after his departure.
QUESTION: I don't know the layout of Yerevan. Is the President's office
in the same complex as the parliament?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know the answer to that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- authorities in Azerbaijan urging them not to
jump to any conclusion?
MR. RUBIN: I suspect that Deputy Secretary Talbott's party will be
following up with Azerbaijan in the course of the normal course of events,
because of the effort they have been making to try to promote a resolution
of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Again, we have no reason to believe this is
in any way related to the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, and I'm sure we would
tell the Azerbaijani authorities that as well.
QUESTION: Back to Israel. Can you tell us why this is happening here,
this kind of cementing of formal - of full relations, why it's happening in
the State Department; why the US considers this to be such a big deal? And,
also, can you comment on the Arab League's rather nasty comments to the
Mauritanians as to why they're doing this?
MR. RUBIN: First of all, let me say there is the Arab League and then
there is the Arab League. There are the countries that make up the Arab
League, and then there is the Secretariat of the Arab League, and those are
often different things.
But with respect to why here: On September the 24th, Secretary Albright
convened what we call the Partners for Peace meeting in New York, at which
a number of foreign ministers from a number of countries were present.
Those ministers included the Egyptian foreign minister, the Jordanian
foreign minister, the key ministers from the Palestinian Authority, the
foreign minister of Bahrain, the foreign minister of the United Arab
Emirates. It included representatives from all the Gulf Cooperation Council
countries except for Kuwait. It included the Moroccan and Tunisian
At that meeting, the Secretary called on all of the participants, including
Mauritania --who was represented there -- to take steps to show support for
the peace process. Secretary Albright's call was heeded, in a bold step by
the Mauritanian Government, to establish diplomatic relations and,
therefore, it is perfectly appropriate - given the nature of that meeting
in New York on the 24th of September - for her to bring the two ministers
together here to inaugurate their relationship, and to begin the process of
having a bilateral dialogue, initially under our auspices. Again, because
the Secretary did make this call to the various countries, we think this
would be an appropriate event.
As far as other views, again let me say that at the Partners for Peace
meeting there were a number of ministers, a number of representatives, from
a number of Arab countries. In addition, in recent weeks, there have been
other developments that, maybe, some Secretariat officials of the Arab
League don't like very much, including the fact that the President of
Algeria, Mr. Bouteflika, had met with Prime Minister Barak at the funeral
of King Hassan of Morocco, and then President Bouteflika met with other
ministers from the Israeli Government.
There are other steps that are being taken by a number of countries to
intensify their engagement with Israel, and I am sure there are some
fossils who want to stay locked in the past.
QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe, or any indication from any
of these other countries, like, for example, the Gulf countries, Qatar,
Oman or Tunisia, that they might also be contemplating full diplomatic
relations with Israel?
MR. RUBIN: I certainly wouldn't want to speak for other countries. We are
going to take this one step at a time. The Israel-Mauritanian establishment
of diplomatic relations is going to occur tomorrow. I think it is a little
premature for me to tell you what's going to happen the day after tomorrow.
Let's let tomorrow happen first, and we certainly hope that a momentum will
be created for others to take steps to show their support for the peace
process, by intensifying their engagement with Israel.
QUESTION: Presumably, the Secretary has other things to discuss with
Foreign Minister Levy, right?
MR. RUBIN: Well, certainly, the principal issue is with respect to
Mauritania. I am sure they will discuss the upcoming meeting in Oslo
between President Clinton and Prime Minister Barak and, in that regard, let
me say that Ambassador Ross is also in Israel discussing that.
We were very pleased to see that the Israeli negotiator for permanent
status has been named. He is someone we know very well. We think he has got
the necessary skills to advance the process and to work through these
complex issues. And we certainly hope that after the meetings in Oslo that
the permanent status talks can begin formally and quickly in the days
QUESTION: As far as you know, if Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
will accompany President Clinton on trips to Greece and Turkey, November
15th to 19th, as it was announced today - yesterday in the White House?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, she intends to accompany the President on his trip. I
don't know that she will be in every stop, but I would expect her to be in
QUESTION: Does that mean she may have her own program?
MR. RUBIN: I don't expect a big, separate program. But I am just saying:
That doesn't mean that she will be in every single stop with the President.
When we have the Secretary's itinerary finalized for you, we would be happy
to provide it.
QUESTION: Your interview with the Iranian newspaper: What you said seemed
to be very much in line with what we've heard before. Do you think there is
any significance in the fact that an Iranian newspaper was willing to give
you so much space?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I have - and officials here in the Department have -
given interviews to Iranian journalists. One of the aspects of our policy
towards Iran is to promote people-to-people dialogue, to promote the
civilizational dialogue that President Khatami has called for. Pending the
willingness of the Iranian Government to have the direct dialogue that we
have called for, the media is one way of promoting civilizational dialogue,
and people-to-people exchanges, cultural exchanges, the kind of activities
we have promoted.
So we believe there is a healthy diversity of views in Iran amongst their
media, and a genuine expression of democratic pluralism through their media
and through their political system that is emerging, and we are obviously
pleased about that.
QUESTION: Even though what you said is not - it wasn't anything
particularly new, it seems to have set hearts aflutter in certain areas. I
don't know whether it was the presentation this newspaper gave to your
comments or what, but there is a lot of excitement out there, perhaps
wrongly placed. Can you assure us that your comments do not represent any
significant change in the way --
MR. RUBIN: Let me say I am thrilled that I'm making hearts flutter but,
unfortunately, I'm only focused on one heart fluttering and so --
QUESTION: Not the heart of an entire nation?
MR. RUBIN: Not the heart of an entire nation. Thank you for that.
I'm trying to formulate an answer to the heart-fluttering question I got.
There is obviously a lively public discussion in Iran of nearly every major
issue. There are others who may interpret things their own ways for their
own reasons. What we do is respond to these kinds of inquires in a way we
think is best. There should not be any interpretation that the timing is
If you look, Assistant Secretary Indyk had given a speech about two weeks
ago -- ten days ago -- which received some commentary in the Iranian press.
So this was a natural follow-up to that. Things that I had said had
received certain commentary in the Iranian press. So we have proceeded in a
normal pace of responding to inquiries, and trying to answer questions as a
way of promoting discussion between our two peoples. And there is no other
rationale from our standpoint.
As far as what it will mean: Again, the United States has signaled a
willingness - and I indicated this in the interview - to have an unconditional
dialogue with Iran, where we could raise the issues of concern to us and
they could raise issues of concern to them. We think that is the best way
to resolve the issues between our two nations.
QUESTION: Does the United States have any feelings about the visit to
Paris by President Khatami?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say: We welcome Iran's interest in rejoining the
community of nations and becoming a responsible member of the international
As you know, and as we have said before, Iran continues to pursue policies
that we find objectionable, including the support for terrorist groups
seeking to undermine the peace process, the development of weapons of mass
destruction and missile programs, as well as the fact that we remain deeply
concerned over the fate of 13 Jewish Iranians who, after seven months under
arrest on capital charges of espionage, have yet to be granted access to
defense counsel. We have made clear that these charges are without merit
and should be dropped.
We expect that the international community, including France, is equally
concerned about all of these issues, and committed to urging Iran to change
its policies in this regard. So we welcome Iran's desire to rejoin the
community of nations as a member in good standing, and we expect the
government of France, as a member in good standing of the international
community, to raise the issues in a serious way that I have mentioned.
QUESTION: How many of the aforementioned fluttering hearts do you think
we should attribute to your wife, who, I believe, is of Iranian descent?
MR. RUBIN: I have no way of answering that question.
QUESTION: About the Falun Gong people that were arrested in Tiananmen
Square yesterday, these people have been completely - reported to have been,
at least, completely peaceful, non-resistant and they are being charged
with high crimes of spying on China when they are actually acting like
MR. RUBIN: We have repeatedly communicated our concern about the
crackdown on the Falun Gong at high levels to the Chinese Government. We
believe that people should not be arrested, or prevented from pursuing
their freedoms of conscience, religion and assembly, and we've made that
view very clear. We will continue to raise with senior Chinese officials
our concerns in this regard.
QUESTION: It's not the thing you usually would comment on but, while
we're on it, it calls to mind some recent stories suggesting - I don't know
that you can actually tell they have reformers in China, but the less
repressive elements represented, for instance, by the Prime Minister, are
under pressure and seem to be losing ground. Is there any such analysis
here at the State Department that China is swinging more toward - I don't
know if you want to call it the right or more toward repression?
QUESTION: More toward the left.
QUESTION: Well, a lot of leftist countries act very much like rightist
countries. They meet in the middle.
MR. RUBIN: It's one of those things where I'm - what's it called, to be
dyslexic when it comes to that issue.
QUESTION: Well, but there is such a thing and it seems to relate to WTO
and other things.
MR. RUBIN: I am not going to speculate on the internal developments in
China. Clearly, we do not believe that the leadership is a monolith. We
have not concluded that China is heading in a negative direction, and that
it was heading in a positive direction.
We do believe that it would benefit both China and the United States for
China to join the World Trade Organization on commercially viable terms. We
think this would be particularly valuable for the United States, because
the bulk of the technical concessions and technical arrangements would be
ones that would open the Chinese market to US products. But we haven't
drawn any grand conclusions about which direction China is going. We do
analyze carefully the situation - that's our job - but we haven't drawn any
grand conclusions, news reporting to the contrary.
QUESTION: Change of subject. The Americans held hostage in Yemen: What is
your latest information on them, and can you now identify them?
MR. RUBIN: We do not have Privacy Act waivers that will allow us to
identify the individuals. We can confirm that three Americans were
kidnapped in the Dhamar area of Yemen on Tuesday, October 26th. This is
something we are working closely with the Yemeni Government on, in hopes of
securing their release as quickly as possible. We remain hopeful, because
in these tribal kidnappings, in the past, we have been able to secure the
release of Americans, and Yemen has been able to secure the release of
other foreign nationals.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - that they have been rather overzealous in their
attempts to secure the release of these hostages?
MR. RUBIN: That's a different case. That was not a tribal kidnapping, the
one that you're describing where - that was a different kind of case.
QUESTION: So you're confident that they will -- (inaudible) - negotiations?
MR. RUBIN: I don't want to raise hopes or lower hopes. What I want to say
is that we are hopeful that this kind of kidnapping - a tribal kidnapping
which usually involves demands for government perks from the Yemeni
government or jobs or others in exchange for the victims - with these kinds
of cases there have been successful conclusions.
The case that was widely publicized was not a tribal kidnapping of this
QUESTION: Can I ask you - just by chance I happen to know an American
group, an official State Department group, was going to Yemen about that
time. Even though you don't have privacy, does this by any chance involve
any State Department officials being kidnapped, any US Government
MR. RUBIN: No, I don't think that would - the Privacy Act wouldn't apply,
is my understanding.
QUESTION: You would say so?
MR. RUBIN: It's not the State Department.
QUESTION: I have a technical question about that. How do you expect to
get Privacy Act waivers if these people have been abducted?
MR. RUBIN: You're asking me a legal question. We're not in a position to
seek their Privacy Act waiver while they're under custody. That is a
statement of the obvious. The question is whether it is appropriate for the
US Government to talk about the personal circumstances of an American
citizen, and there are laws that apply, and that in the absence of a
Privacy Act waiver, we do not do so.
If we can get one, in the case of, say, a jailed American who is being held
in a foreign country, we seek their willingness to sign that waiver. But in
light of the fact that we are a nation of laws, and the laws prohibit us
from talking about certain information in the absence of a waiver and, as
you correctly point out, when somebody is held hostage it's hard to get
them to sign a waiver, that does hamstring us in terms of public information.
There are other considerations in the functioning of government besides
public information, including trying to work to get these people released.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - in recent weeks that Iraq is not using the money
in the UN Oil-for-Food Program to buy food. I am wondering now if you could
comment on remarks that the Secretary General made earlier this week about
the US standing in the way of additional requests.
MR. RUBIN: Yes. We don't agree with those remarks. We think that
Secretary General Annan has been badly advised as to the situation in the
sanctions committee. The Chairman of the sanctions committee has put
forward a very careful report about the holds that have been placed, for
legitimate reasons, on entities or contracts that we believe have
questionable potential to be misused.
But there is a tendency to miss the forest through the trees: Ninety-five
percent of the contracts go through. We're talking about less than 5
percent or so. And when we have had questions about companies or details,
we have thought it appropriate to ask those questions. I do not think the
Secretary General's views were the same as the Chairman of the sanctions
committee, and I think we think he was badly advised.
The problem here is that Iraq has not used the program as it existed, and
has had to be pressured into buying the food and medicine that it could
buy. The number of contracts we've put on hold is a tiny percentage of the
contracts submitted to the committee. So I think that those who are
advising the Secretary General would do better to focus their attention on
the cause of the problem, which is Iraq's unwillingness to buy the food and
medicine that would make a difference to their people, rather than
engaging in misplaced blame on the United States.
QUESTION: So you're blaming Annan's staff rather than him, right?
MR. RUBIN: Well decoded.
QUESTION: This is hardly headline stuff and you may not know - it's just
a coincidence. But just winding down now is a rather large demonstration in
front of the C Street entrance. I don't even know what they're demonstrating.
All I could hear was, "Stop the oppression."
MR. RUBIN: That could be anywhere.
QUESTION: I just have no idea. They may be --
MR. RUBIN: It could be for us, or it could be against us.
QUESTION: Sure. And it's probably very in-house, but you know what's
interesting about it is that for the longest time now demonstrators have
been required to stay on the other side of the street. And this rather
sizable group is in the street itself, and the D.C. police are there
stopping traffic. I'm not asking for convenience's sake; I'm asking, I
suppose, for First Amendment or counter-terrorism, whatever you want to
categorize this. Has there now been an easing of the rules, that protesters
can now get closer to the building? At the White House, for instance, they
used to be able to protest on the sidewalk in front of the White House, and
now they're confined to Lafayette Park.
Is there some change or is it just --
MR. RUBIN: I'll certainly check for you. I don't think we're more in
favor of protests than the last Administration; I don't think we're less. I
suspect that we have the same view of American citizens' right to
I do know there have been some changes outside the building with respect to
setbacks, and maybe this has an impact on that, and I'll check with our
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- are bad enough now. The street is clogged with
MR. RUBIN: I can assure you we're not more pro-protest than the previous
QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the visit to Cuba by the Governor
of Illinois, and his efforts to build bridges?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. Let me say that we certainly support the statements that
the Governor made, that brought attention to the human rights violations in
Cuba. We believe that it is important, when people do visit Cuba, that they
pay attention to and focus on the human rights violations that go on
We have made some arrangements for the seven-year-old Cuban boy and his
mother to be interviewed today. This is the one the Governor asked to be
released, and to allow them to - visas are being worked on, right now, that
would enable the boy and his mother to travel to the United States with
Governor Ryan. This case was brought to our attention by Senator Helms. We
have been working to ensure that this boy is able to come to the United
States to receive the needed treatment.
With respect to the Governor's views on the embargo, I don't think I can
say much, other than to say that we certainly hope Cuban officials have
noted that Governor Ryan was demonstrating the benefits of a democracy;
that we can have different views in our country about the wisdom of certain
policies, and those views can be clearly expressed; that there are
differences of opinion.
We at the Department of State will continue to comply with and enforce the
laws of the United States, which include the trade embargo. But, at the
same time, we intend to support the Cuban people, through humanitarian
assistance, increased people-to-people exchanges, and to maintain pressure
on others to promote -- in any of their visits -- greater and greater
attention on the human rights problems.
QUESTION: Is this tipping in some way where we don't - we'll never hear
the policy has changed, because policy is never declared to have changed.
But it seems, I'm now beginning to wonder if the cart or the horse -
MR. RUBIN: By the way, I just want to say before I leave this podium, I
intend to say that we have changed a policy. I don't know what it is. It
may be a small one. It might be on the demonstrations in the street, but we
will have changed a policy.
QUESTION: I hope it's on TV lights in this room, if you change a
But in any event, more and more traffic to Cuba. Yesterday, you will
remember, when the Dutch foreign minister visited, the Secretary said that
we don't really support trade but, if people go, they should make a case
for human rights. OK, so you're putting more and more emphasis on human
rights. It is beginning to sound like you are welcoming - I am not saying
anything is wrong with this - but you're welcoming traffic, more traffic
with Cuba, under the - what should I say - under the rubric of promoting
Is the Administration now coming to the view, which a lot of countries have
but this country has not accepted, that the best way to change things in
Cuba is to have more commerce and more dialogue with Cuba, and that's the
way to accomplish your ends rather than to keep saying Castro is a no-good
MR. RUBIN: I think there is no secret to the fact that the Secretary
Albright was intimately involved in making recommendations to the President,
that would make adjustments in things like humanitarian flights, things
like people-to-people exchanges, direct flights from several cities in the
United States to Cuba, increased remittances to Cubans from American
citizens. So, certainly on a number of steps, there has been a change in
policies in that regard.
If you are asking have we changed our policy towards Cuba, obviously the
answer is no. The embargo is the law of the land and, therefore, there is
no promotion of trade; there is no trade allowed. The question is with
respect to others going.
I think the Secretary indicated yesterday that we would prefer that there
not be a lot of high-level contact with Castro, so long as he refuses to
lift his embargo on the Cuban people. But if people are going to go, as a
practical matter, we think it is better to encourage them to focus on human
rights, than to stick our head in the sand and say, we wish you hadn't
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - encouraged to go because there was an orchestra
the day before, I think the Wisconsin or Milwaukee or something.
MR. RUBIN: You are differentiating between people-to-people issues,
cultural issues and government-to-government discussions. We do support
people-to-people exchanges, through various programs. We do support a
number of ways to separate the Cuban people from their government.
When it comes to meeting with Fidel Castro and the Cuban Government, we
believe that it is preferable to avoid such meetings, to not give the
impression that anyone supports the oppression that he has visited on his
people. But if others do go, we think it is wiser for us to urge them to
focus on human rights issues, the way the Pope did, and the way Governor
Ryan did, than to just wash our hands of the situation.
QUESTION: On that, is it safe to assume that the alleged looming crisis
between the Dutch and US Governments has not come to pass?
MR. RUBIN: Well, that will go down on my list as an interesting question
and I know you all would never do this but, OK, the questioner asked,
Madame Secretary, you've agreed on everything except this one little thing
so let's focus on that.
The subject hadn't come up. There isn't a crisis between the United States
and the Netherlands, on Cuba or any other subject. We retain different
views with many European governments as to what is the best way to promote
change in Cuba. There is no secret about that. We have been pleased that
European countries, in the aftermath of the Helms-Burton Law, have made
human rights and democracy a higher and more - given higher priority in
their dealings with the Cuban Government. So that has helped to highlight
human rights. That is something we are very supportive of.
QUESTION: Another subject. Do you have any observations about the story
in today's New York Times in which it is reported that the decision on
bombing the chemical plan in Khartoum was not nearly as clear-cut and well-
founded in evidence as was portrayed publicly at the time?
MR. RUBIN: No. As you know, I have always avoided disagreeing with any
elements in any of the major newspapers over the years, because of --
whatever major newspaper there would be -- it would be wrong for me to
disagree with anything like that.
But let me say this. I think that there is not a very good understanding of
the workings of INR in that story. There may be understandings that the
reporter had that didn't make it into the final article. INR is not an
independent intelligence assessment operation. It doesn't have independent
intelligence-gathering means. INR is a relatively small organization,
designed to serve the Secretary and the Seventh Floor, to promote analysis
of different events.
The fact that some analysts interpreted the same data differently than
others in the government is no secret. I think that has been known for some
time. The fact that, the decision having been made to strike at the Al
Shifa plant, that the Secretary didn't see why scarce INR resources ought
to be spent re-litigating an issue that had already been decided, is hardly
suppression of a government effort.
The INR works for the Secretary of State. Their job is to work on those
projects she's interested in, and not work on projects she's not interested
in. The Secretary had already made her recommendation to the President on
Al Shifa. There was no more debate in the Government on it for that reason,
in the sense that the decision had already been made. And so she didn't see
the point of re-litigating -- unless there was new data, new intelligence
information. There was no new information.
So she and Tom Pickering both said, well, there are other ways for you all -
in a sense said, given your scarce resources and given my needs, I don't
have a need for this right now; we've already made this decision. Clearly,
the Secretary believed that the case presented by the CIA was compelling on
Al Shifa. She has said that before, and she still believes that.
The other point in the story that I would quibble with, slightly, is that
there was some massive study that compared and contrasted various evidence,
and concluded that the evidence wasn't compelling. The sum total of one of
the documents described in the story was three paragraphs, and not all
three paragraphs were on Al Shifa, but more on the general subject of
Sudan's relationship with Usama bin Ladin.
So the first point I would make is: I think the impression was left that
there was a greater degree of analysis in INR that could or would challenge
the views of other agencies, and there wasn't a lot of data and there
wasn't a lot of analysis. We're talking about a couple of paragraphs.
Secondly, that afterwards, I think I would also quibble with the word
"kill." I don't know how you kill an inanimate object. The State Department
doesn't kill reports, because reports are inanimate objects. Reports are
only generated if the Secretary of State has an interest in the subject.
That's how it works; she meets with Assistant Secretary of INR and says I'm
interested in this, I'm interested in that, can you tell me more about
this. That's what its purpose is; it is not the DCI, the inter-agency
conclusions of what different analysis or facts are.
So I think, other than that, you know, I thought the story was OK.
QUESTION: One other point in the story, which I don't recall coming up at
the time, was that the United States had information that there was to be
yet another terrorist strike, and that was an element in the decision to go
ahead in a timely manner.
MR. RUBIN: I wasn't here last August, so I don't remember all these
details off the top of my head. But I do believe that we did make clear
that we were concerned that there was the possibility of additional attacks,
and that that was one of the factors that led us to act at that time.
QUESTION: Do you expect any readout later in the day on the meeting
between the Secretary and Mr. Prodi of the --
MR. RUBIN: I think the White House will read that out. She is having
lunch with him. I think we have to first get the White House readout, and I
will see what I can get for you after her lunch.
QUESTION: The Iraqi oppositions leader is coming to town. Do you have any
information who will meet with them?
MR. RUBIN: Let me just make one more point on your colleague's question.
There clearly were some who had different views, and read the same analysis
differently. To what extent that is after the fact, and to what extent it
was real-time, it's hard to get into. So, to that extent, the story was
QUESTION: The targeting in those strikes was very, very, very closely
held. Is it fair for us to assume that INR did not know that Al Shifa was
even a potential target before - in other words, they only knew after the
MR. RUBIN: I will have to find out what I can tell you about that. But
that's a good question.
QUESTION: Iraqi leaders, oppositions leader, is coming to town. Do you
have any information who will meet with them?
MR. RUBIN: We're having a briefing tomorrow on that, a full briefing, and
we will get as much information as possible, with a senior official who is
very knowledgeable and well versed in this issue.
By the way, I want to thank everyone for all the assistance they have been
giving me today on the timing of the briefing and the official --
QUESTION: What time is the briefing?
MR. RUBIN: What time's the briefing? 1:30.
QUESTION: We're always helping you, Jamie.
MR. RUBIN: Thank you. To my able deputy as well.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - retire to the deputy chief of staff is that he
was in the town and he said that the way of the Iraqi opposition's
train(ing) and aids doesn't affect Saddam Hussein's leadership.
MR. RUBIN: I think that sounds like a very good question for you to pose
to that senior official who's extremely well versed in this subject
QUESTION: Will there be a photo op on the Mauritanian arrangement?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. Probably Q&A as well.
QUESTION: And one other question on Oslo. Do you have any - what do we
write about Oslo at this point? What substance is there to Oslo?
MR. RUBIN: There will be a briefing at the White House tomorrow with
Ambassador Ross at 5 o'clock, is my understanding.
QUESTION: You'll put it on the record? It's a backgrounder?
MR. RUBIN: No, Ambassador Ross, by the way, is in Israel. Ambassador Ross
is in Israel. There will be a briefing with senior officials tomorrow, yes,
but I just wanted to let you know that Ambassador Ross was in Israel.
QUESTION: OK, let's go to Chechnya for a moment. Madeleine Albright
yesterday, I believe, called the situation in Chechnya "ominous," said that
Russia should not repeat mistakes of the past in Chechnya, and Russia is
still moving militarily, still taking more and more territory, and many
people are dying.
The question I have would be, has Ms. Albright or do you, Jamie, have any
idea as to what the military goals of the Russians are, where they might be
going? Are they going to take the airport, are they going to stop at the
city limits, or does anybody know?
MR. RUBIN: Clearly, the crisis there has worsened, especially with the
violence in Grozny. We are in an intense dialogue with the Russians on this
subject. Deputy Secretary Talbott will be there tomorrow, primarily to talk
about Nagorno-Karabakh, but will also talk about this.
Secretary Albright has had, I believe, three conversations now with Foreign
Minister Ivanov, to try to address this very point: in trying to understand
what they hope to achieve from the military side of the equation. Because
it is our view that there is no military solution to a conflict like this;
there has to be a political solution. And what military objectives will
achieve - how they will help achieve a political solution is an open
question in our minds. That's why we regard each escalation as a step in
the wrong direction.
QUESTION: Do you think you are close to a solution to the Nagorno-
MR. RUBIN: We think that it was important enough for Deputy Secretary
Talbott to take a trip, to report back to Secretary Albright on what that
potential might be. That trip builds on some meetings that she initiated in
New York between the President of Azerbaijan and the president of Armenia,
and Deputy Secretary Talbott is now making an assessment on that very
question of what the potential is for progress there.
The Department of State will sponsor a tour of Demining Commissioners from
Bosnia and Herzegovina, to educate the American public and raise awareness
of the success the Commission has achieved so far in humanitarian demining.
The three co-equal Commissioners represent each of the former warring
factions. The three, Enes Cengic, Milos Kristic, and Berislav Pusic - how
did I do? - are traveling throughout the United States from November 1
through November 11th, 1999.
As a result of years in conflict, many land mines have been laid, and since
1996 the United States has provided $40 million to remedy the problem.
There will be a full statement on this after the briefing.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 P.M.)