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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #134, 99-10-27

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


935

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Wednesday, October 27, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin

ISRAEL/MAURITANIA
1,3-4,14	Secretary's Meeting Tomorrow with the Foreign Ministers of
		 Israel and Mauritania 
14	Ambassador Ross' Travel to Israel
ARMENIA
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
	 Government Officials 

GREECE/TURKEY 4-5 Secretary Albright to Accompany President on Visit to Greece and Turkey IRAN 5-6 Spokesman's Interview with Iranian Newspaper/US Policy/People-People Dialogue 6 Iranian President Khatami's Visit to France CHINA 6 Arrest of Falun Gong Members 7 US View on China Joining the WTO YEMEN 7-8 Three Americans Kidnapped in Dhamar Area of Yemen IRAQ 8-9 UN Oil For Food Program/UN Secretary General's Remarks 13,14 Background Briefing at the State Department Tomorrow on Iraqi Opposition Meeting DEPARTMENT 9-10 Demonstrations and Security CUBA 10-11 Governor Ryan's Visit to Cuba/Visa for Cuban Boy Seeking Medical Treatment in US 11-12 US Policy Toward Cuba SUDAN 12-14 US Attack on Al Shifa Plant/US Evidence for Bombing RUSSIA 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

DPB #134

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 this Wednesday.

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 security posture.

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 today?

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 foreign ministers.

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 ahead.

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 those stops.

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 significant.

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 community.

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 pacifists.

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 kind.

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 officials?

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 protest.

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 security people.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- are bad enough now. The street is clogged with demonstrators.

MR. RUBIN: I can assure you we're not more pro-protest than the previous Secretary.

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 there.

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 policy.

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 human rights.

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 terrorist?

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 gone.

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 quite accurate.

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 fact?

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 tomorrow.

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- Karabakh problem?

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.)


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