U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #28, 00-04-03
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
Monday, April 3, 2000
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Spokesman thanks those who called or sent cards congratulating him
on the birth of his son last week.
1 Will travel to Boston on Thursday, April 6; will focus on
importance of granting China permanent normal trade relations.
1 Briefing at 4 p.m. today in State Department on results of
Stability Pact conference.
1-5 US has received 28 or 29 visa applications in conjunction with
Elian Gonzalez case. Application swill be adjudicated fairly
quickly. Review of applications is ongoing. Visa adjudication not
part of any deal.
5-6 Secretary Albright welcomes apprehension of Mr. Krajisnik, charged
with genocide, crimes against humanity. There is no statute of
limitations for war crimes. This sends message to Mr. Karadzic
that time is against him.
6 Secretary Albright was greatly saddened to learn of sudden illness
of PM Obuchi, sends her prayers, best wishes for his speedy
recovery. US will continue to work smoothly with Government of
Japan during this difficult situation.
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
6-10 US planning for meetings between Chairman Arafat and President
Clinton, Secretary Albright later this month. Talks at Bolling AFB
to resume later this week; talks are expected to be intensive,
substantive. Ball is squarely in Syria's court to respond to
serious Israeli proposals. Israel wants to withdraw from Lebanon
as a result of negotiations, but is prepared to withdraw
unilaterally. Secretary Albright has spoken with UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan concerning Lebanon. Syrian FM Shara made clear
Syria has no interest in moving forces to border.
7 US has expressed serious concerns over certain arms sales to China.
10 US supports right to self-defense against PKK, as long as
incursions into Iraq are limited in scope, duration, and rights of
civilians are fully respected.
10 US is deeply concerned over killing of radio station owner. US
believes credible elections can be held in time for seating of
parliament in June. Failure to constitute legitimate parliament in
timely fashion risks isolating Haiti.
11 US focused on Libya taking further steps in compliance with
relevant UNSC resolutions.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, APRIL 3, 2000, 12:40 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: On a personal note, let me thank all of you for your notes or
calls of congratulations. For those of you who have been around for a while,
you might be pleased to know that during our stay in the hospital, my wife
wore a t-shirt that you gave me before we got married, which was "Someone
at the State Department loves me." So I want to thank you all for
your notes of congratulations and, as you can see, I'm back from my one
week of paternity leave - for whatever that might mean to others. And I do
have a picture - when the cameras go off, I'll be happy to show you a
A couple of announcements, and right to your questions. First of all,
Secretary Albright will be traveling to Boston this Thursday. The
MR. RUBIN: It's a little early for that, Barry. The Secretary's visit
obviously is part of her normal process of meeting with American citizens
around the country but, in particular, she is going to be focusing her
comments and discussions on the benefits to the United States of permanent
normal trade relations with China to the people of Massachusetts and the
rest of the country. There will be a fairly extensive schedule for the
entire day; she will be going up and back that day.
QUESTION: And where is this?
MR. RUBIN: It's outside of Boston. We'll be giving you more details, but
it's in the Boston area.
In addition, we have a statement on the release of a certain volume of
foreign relations. We also have an on-the-record briefing this afternoon on
the Stability Pact with Dan Hamilton.
With those opening announcements, let me turn to your questions.
QUESTION: What do you have on the visa applications from Juan Gonzalez
and his entourage?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, we have received - I think the number is 28, it could be
29, I'm still checking on that - requests for visas from the Cuban
Government to our Interests Section in Cuba. That list is probably well-
known to many of you because, in an unusual situation, the names have been
published already in the Cuban media. It is not our practice to give out
the names of each one of those visa applicants. The immediate family is
obviously part of that list as well as classmates of Elian Gonzalez,
teachers, medical personnel and the President of the National Assembly,
That is the list that we have received. We received those earlier today. We
do expect to be making decisions on these visa applications fairly quickly.
It has been our policy for many, many days now that we have indicated that
we will stand ready to expedite the processing of visa applications for the
immediate family of Elian Gonzalez.
QUESTION: What about the applicants who are not members of the immediate
MR. RUBIN: Well, that is obviously what is being reviewed right now. That
review is ongoing. I can't predict the outcome of that review, other than
to say that obviously we stated our policy in the past for very good reason
in trying to make sure that whatever happens in this case is consistent
with the American national interest.
QUESTION: And are there any individuals on that list who would be
excluded by the regulations as they stand?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of that presumptive exclusions, other than to
say that the presumptive acceptances are the immediate family, and the rest
will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis based on what we regard to be the
national interest. That process will be ongoing during the course of the
QUESTION: Mr. Alarcon, is he not - there's no - is there anything that
would keep him from getting a visa?
MR. RUBIN: I think he's traveled to the United States before in
conjunction with his duties as part of discussions at the United Nations,
so he's not - not been to the United States. On the other hand, what we
have said is that we would expedite the processing of visas for immediate
family members, and we did that because of the nature of the case and what
we regard the nature of the case to be. To the best of my knowledge,
Ricardo Alarcon is not a member of Elian's immediate family.
QUESTION: Does that mean that, basically, for the immediate family it's
pretty much a done deal?
MR. RUBIN: I'm trying to be as candid and forward-leaning as I can prior
to decisions being made. There have been no visas yet proffered at this
time. They're going to be processed as quickly as possible, and the
presumption is that those visas for immediate family members is something
we will process favorably and quickly. Beyond that, we're going to have to
review each of the individual requests.
QUESTION: Could you put a time frame on that? Could we expect the family
visas to come out as early as today? And how about the time frame on the
others - today, tomorrow, next week?
MR. RUBIN: The US Government officials - and let me be very frank here.
The State Department's role is to meet with the Cubans, receive the visa
requests, consult with other agencies of the US Government, try to make a
government-wide decision that we're all comfortable with, and then get back
to the Cuban Government through out Interests Section to provide the
There are a number of agencies, obviously, that have an equity in a case as
complex and politically sensitive as this has become, and we're trying to
do this by the book, do it based on the national interest, so there may be
some time elapsing between the arrival of a request and the proffering of a
I think it's fair to say that those visas that fall in the category where
we've already indicated our presumption should be able to move quite
quickly. But whether we deal with each and every one in a matter of hours,
I doubt it, but we're going to be moving as quickly as we can.
QUESTION: That was my question.
QUESTION: Are there ever group visas given for Cuban citizens? Is it
possible that they would be considered as a group; for example, a head of a
group, people who may have been waiting in line for visas already?
MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously, when we say we're going to expedite the
processing of visas in this case - and we said last week we would expedite
the processing of visas for Elian Gonzalez' immediate family - that does
involve expediting it. Beyond saying that, there are separate passports
that have been offered to us to be stamped with visas, each separately, so
there are not any group requests.
Might we come back and say we'll do these today and those tomorrow? I just
don't want to prejudge the way this is going to unfold in the coming days.
Obviously, there has been intense discussion all morning; inter-agency
deliberations have already begun, and we're going to review the other
categories, the categories of classmates, teachers, medical personnel, as
well as the president of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon.
QUESTION: I have another question. Can you tell us what kinds of visas
these would be and how good - I'm sorry - how long they would be good
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think once the decision is made as to processing them
and making a decision - it's this kind of visa for this amount of time -
we'll be trying to communicate that information to you as quickly as we can
as the day unfolds, but I don't want to prejudge that before we've made any
QUESTION: Would you likely put limits on where they could go? Would that
be an aspect of it?
MR. RUBIN: Well, this is a complex issue. And, traditionally, a
government official, for example like Mr. Alarcon, has had limitations
placed on where he can go pursuant to our normal policies vis-a-vis Cuba in
New York and Washington, etc. So there is precedent for placing restrictions
on government officials. As you know, there were other individuals who came
to the United States, the grandmothers, and there were modalities and
arrangements worked out for their presence here in the United States. I
don't think they felt they were particularly restricted by anything other
than their own views, but I can't speak for them on that. So I think it
depends on the case.
QUESTION: Are these visas and the granting of them part, in any way, of
the discussions going on in Miami?
MR. RUBIN: Well, this is not part of any deal. That's not what we're
doing here. We have indicated all along since this case began that we would
be prepared to expedite processing of visas for family members, and so we
are specifically not assuming that the issuance of visas necessarily means
one way or the other on the discussions that the Attorney General is
obviously having with relevant lawyers in Miami. So I'm not going to dip my
little State Department toes into that issue at this time. I'm trying
to give you the straight story as quickly and fast as I can on the issuance
of the visas.
QUESTION: Mr. Rubin, has the State Department or the Clinton Administration
taken the spirit of Mr. Gore's idea of last week and pleaded to the Cuban
Government to give John Gonzalez a visa to come to be in the United States,
if he chooses, with his son, as that's the other alternative to this and I
haven't heard it play?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I think you're familiar with my practice here at the
State Department is to try to avoid involving myself in partisan political
issues as they emerge. I speak for the Secretary of State and the State
Department, and we all obviously speak for the President. To the extent the
Vice President has different views, that is for other podia to discuss, not
this one, and I welcome your intrepid journalism over at the White
QUESTION: You've mentioned national interest a couple of times, sir. In
this case, what are the standards of national interest that would allow
someone to come into this country, or standards that would keep them out?
Could you just explain?
MR. RUBIN: That's a very good question, and I think to answer it
completely or in any way might preview decisions that might be made. All
I'm indicating is that the Secretary's standard in issuing visas and
responding to these requests will include prominently the question of
what's in the US national interest. But until those decisions have been
made, I don't want to preview it one way or the other.
QUESTION: Have you determined whether these doctors might be intelligence
agents as well?
MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously security is always a factor as we examine visa
requests and, as Carl asked, restrictions on certain individuals. So that
will be weighed very carefully as we make a decision as to who to allow and
who not to allow.
QUESTION: Another subject? Today Krajisnik has been arrested on war
crimes suspicions. Does that mean the day is closer for the arrest of the
prominent suspects, Karadzic and Mladic and Milosevic?
MR. RUBIN: Well first of all, let me say that the Secretary heartily
welcomes the apprehension of Mr. Krajisnik. He was charged under a sealed
indictment for genocide, crimes against humanity, violations of the laws
and customs of war. He is specifically charged with the willful killing,
extermination, complicity and genocide, deportation and inhumane acts. This
is a pretty nasty case here. He is charged both on the basis of individual
responsibility and command responsibility.
From Secretary Albright's perspective, this arrest is good news for justice
for the people of Bosnia and good news for all of those who care about what
went on in Bosnia during that time. And it is a positive step towards peace
and reconciliation in Bosnia, because it is only by the assignation of
individual responsibility can collective responsibility be expunged.
This arrest also demonstrates clearly, for all to see, that there is no
statute of limitation on war crimes, and that indicted war criminals will
be brought to justice and that their day will come. With respect to who is
next, I don't want to make any predictions, other than to say that Mr.
Krajisnik was obviously at the top of the bloody regime that was run by Mr.
Karadzic, and this is a serious, serious arrest for a serious crime. And it
demonstrates, for those who have doubted, our determination to move
forward on the war crimes agenda our determination to do so. In that regard,
let me say that Secretary Albright is intending to call Foreign Minister
Vedrine of France to congratulate him and all of us in working together to
keep the war crimes agenda moving forward.
QUESTION: Are his whereabouts known? Why hasn't he been apprehended
MR. RUBIN: Well, we think that today's arrest sends a message to Mr.
Karadzic that time is against him and that the international community will
not let up in its efforts to bring him to justice. With respect to his
whereabouts, I would prefer not to speak publicly about issues that might
affect the potential to arrest him, but I think the arrest of Mr. Krajisnik
should be something that causes Mr. Karadzic to get even less sleep than
he's been getting up to now.
QUESTION: On what you were talking about just before Barry's question, is
this arrest all the more sweet because it was done by the French, who there
have been people who were criticizing them for not doing enough?
MR. RUBIN: This arrest is sweet to those who are seeking justice in
Bosnia. I'm not going to comment on some of those other reports other to
say that Secretary Albright will look forward to talking to Foreign
Minister Vedrine and discussing with him and congratulating all of us in
our determination to keep this agenda moving forward and to work closely
with the French Government to that end.
QUESTION: Can I go to a Japan question?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Obuchi is in coma so, at this stage now, what
can you say?
MR. RUBIN: Well, Secretary Albright was greatly saddened to learn of
Prime Minister Obuchi's sudden illness. She sends her best wishes and
prayers to Prime Minister Obuchi and his family during this difficult time.
She hopes for his speedy recovery and return to complete health. The
Secretary also reiterates to Acting Prime Minister Aoki and Foreign
Minister Kono American support for and confidence in Japan's interim
government and offers whatever help we can during this difficult time.
QUESTION: The Okinawa Summit is three months to go, and it is likely new
cabinet or new prime minister will take Obuchi's position. At this stage,
can you comment whether --
MR. RUBIN: Yes, we believe we will continue to work smoothly with the
Japanese Government while it deals with this difficult situation, including
in our efforts to work together with them in the run-up and the preparation
for the upcoming meeting in Okinawa.
QUESTION: One of the names being tossed around is former -- (inaudible) -
minister Yoshiro Mori. Do we have, up to now, any kind of contacts with him
or has he been in contact with the US Government on various issues,
financial or otherwise?
MR. RUBIN: I would prefer not to engage in that kind of discussion at a
time like this.
QUESTION: The President is traveling, just to get a name and a correct
attribution. Arafat is coming here, number one, and the US is displeased
that Israel is going ahead with providing radar or some advanced capabilities
to China. And the Israeli media thinks that you might strike out and cut
aid to Israel.
Could you tell us - normally we'd ask the White House but they're on the
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: Arafat coming here - is it just checking in? Does it portend
more than that? And what about aid to Israel?
MR. RUBIN: With respect to the visit, yes, we do expect and are planning
for a meeting between President Clinton and Chairman Arafat, and the
Secretary as well, later this month. The dates haven't been set.
The two leaders do meet regularly to consult on the peace process, and we
would expect consultations to focus on how to accelerate the permanent
status negotiations so that we can get a framework agreement pursuant to
the discussions that have been held at Bolling Air Force Base and the
discussions that are being resumed at Bolling Air Force Base this Thursday,
all of which is designed to get a framework agreement as soon as possible
so that the September 13th date for a permanent status agreement can be
The Bolling talks will continue this week. We expect them to be intensive,
substantive, carrying forward from what they discussed in the past. It's a
little early to speculate on exactly what will happen, but we do expect an
intense set of discussions.
QUESTION: What level is it?
MR. RUBIN: Same level as before.
With respect to the broader question of arms sales and arms package,
obviously the Syria track, we're in a position now where we have gotten a
better idea of what the Syrian views are. The ball of this negotiation is
squarely in Syria's court to respond to the serious proposals the Israelis
put forward. And pending that, we will continue to stay in touch with both
In that regard, let me also add that on the Lebanese issue, the Secretary
has been talking to Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United
Nations. And obviously Prime Minister Barak would prefer to withdraw from
Lebanon as a result of a negotiation, but he has made clear that, if
necessary, he will withdraw unilaterally. And we're going to be working
with them pursuant to Resolution 425 to implement Israel's decision.
With respect to your last question on the aid and the weapon sales, it's no
secret that the United States has had some serious concerns about certain
arms sales from Israel to China, and we have a serious, intense process by
which we discuss those kinds of issues with the Israeli Government - and we
have done so and expressed our concerns. I'm not aware of any plan to
respond by cutting aid as a result of this; on the other hand, it's fair to
say that if Israel were not to respond to our concerns that it would
have some effect. Precisely what, I'm not prepared to speculate.
QUESTION: Just a couple of loose ends. Could the Arafat visit - because
anything could happen - but could the Arafat visit in maybe three weeks
build up into a three-way meeting with Mr. Barak here, the President and
Mr. Barak? I mean, you say you know more about the Syrian position. It
isn't a very complex positions, is it? I mean, they haven't elaborated.
They've made it plain: they want everything back, period, and they refuse
to discuss beyond that.
I'm just asking you if --
MR. RUBIN: That's the second part of the question.
QUESTION: No, no, you've been away a week. Is there something new --
MR. RUBIN: And, oh, what a week it was. A lot has changed in my life, I
can assure you.
QUESTION: Has the US discerned some deeper layer of the position, or is
it where we knew it was last week?
MR. RUBIN: Okay, so you want to do the Palestinian track and the Syrian
QUESTION: A three-way, yes.
MR. RUBIN: On the first question, I'm not aware of any such plans. In
this business, you never rule anything out, but the plan is for a bilateral
consultation between the United States and the Palestinian Authority.
With respect to the Syria track, all I'm saying is that we have been trying
to clarify the positions of both sides on a number of technical issues.
It's not a simple matter as the way you described it. There are many issues
that comprise the Israel-Syrian negotiation, far beyond just the one you
mentioned. There are several key points that remain outstanding.
President Clinton was able to explain a very serious Israeli proposal to
deal with those outstanding issues, and the ball is now clearly and
squarely in Syria's court as a result of that meeting. I don't know what
else to add.
QUESTION: Well, let me try one more time. The President was rather clear
what Syria was saying to him, what Assad was saying to him. All I'm asking
is, have you had any further elaboration of Syria's position since
MR. RUBIN: Well, we stay in contact with Syria and Israel on a daily
basis. I don't think there has been any major movement on the part of Syria
since that meeting.
QUESTION: You said that Secretary Albright had been speaking to Kofi
Annan about Lebanon.
MR. RUBIN: Yes - has already done that -
QUESTION: Are they discussing what forces might take control on the
Lebanese side of the border after an Israeli withdrawal?
MR. RUBIN: I don't want to speculate on what will happen, other than to
say that Israel has made it clear that it's going to withdraw one way or
the other. It would obviously prefer to withdraw as a result of a
negotiation. If that doesn't happen, they have said they would withdraw
anyway. And we are working with them in furtherance of their objective of
withdrawing pursuant to Resolution 425 of the Security Council.
What steps might or might not be taken by the UN in that context, I don't
want to speculate other than to say that obviously she has been in touch
with Kofi Annan. She'll will stay in touch with him. The Israeli Foreign
Minister is going to be meeting with Kofi Annan. So there is discussion of
implementing and withdrawing of Israeli forces pursuant to Resolution
QUESTION: Your understanding, if I remember rightly -- perhaps you can
remind us -- of Resolution 425 is tied to the Mandate of UNIFIL, which does
in fact specify that UNIFIL would deploy right up to the border. Is that
correct? Is that something --
MR. RUBIN: I don't think it's entirely clear exactly to what extent that
resolution would or wouldn't pertain, and what additional steps might be
taken. That's the kind of thing that is being discussed.
QUESTION: Jamie, as to the resumption that talks of Bolling, today you've
called the upcoming round - you expect them to be intensive and substantive.
Should we read anything into that vis-a-vis your past characterization of
brainstorming? Is one a different level than another, or are you just
trying to use different words?
MR. RUBIN: Well, all of the above, I guess. Intense and substantive seem
like good words to describe the meetings that we're expecting to have. I
met, myself, with many of the negotiators at the house of Deputy Special
Middle East Coordinator Aaron Miller, who - and all of them describe their
discussions as substantive and intense. So we expect that to continue, but
these are difficult issues. I think the Brainstorming rubric hasn't gone
QUESTION: Would you comment on the head of the Lebanese Army suggesting
that the Syrian Army would - do you have anything on that?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, we understand that Syrian Foreign Minister Shara has made
it clear that Syria has no such interest in moving its forces up to the
border. It remains our view that a negotiated settlement is the best means
of addressing the needs of all sides. That's where our focus continues to
be. So that is our response to the suggestion by the Defense Minister of
QUESTION: Could I have a follow-up on that? Lahud, the President, has
already undercut his own general on this. But when he was general in charge
of the Lebanese Army, which has largely been trained by the Americans, his
assertion to us was that he was prepared to take the Lebanese Army down and
act quite independently of UNIFIL or anything else, in closing the border
and assuring that there was security on the border. What is the use of
the Lebanese Army in the 425 and UNIFIL? Do you have any -
MR. RUBIN: I'm going to have to defer that question. All the issues
associated with unilateral withdrawal or withdrawal in implementing
Resolution 425 are things that are under discussion. I'm not going to
comment on every time some Lebanese official makes a comment. There was a
suggestion that the Syrian forces would move up to the border. That's the
one I was referring to. That's obviously quite significant, and I'm
pointing out to you that we understand that Foreign Minister Shara has
indicated that Syria has no such interest in moving its forces up to the
border in that way. That strikes me as reaching the threshold worthy
of comment by the United States.
QUESTION: It seems the Turkish Army is fighting the rebel Turkish Kurds
inside Northern Iraq after a military incursion. Do you have something to
say on that?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I probably don't even need my briefing book for this
one. Let me say that, with respect to this question, our policy remains the
same. We support the right of Turkey to defend itself against PKK attacks,
so long as its incursions are limited in scope and duration and fully
respect the rights of the civilian inhabitants of the region.
QUESTION: Has Turkey been attacked -- (inaudible) -- ?
MR. RUBIN: We regard - we have no independent confirmation of the
specific details of this event, but as to our position on the subject,
that's our position.
QUESTION: Last week in New Orleans, the Secretary pulled aside the
Haitian Foreign Minister and told him of the importance the US places on
their elections being held in a kindly and peaceful manner. As she was
making those comments, there was violence going on down there this morning.
A prominent radio commentator has been killed. Do you have anything to say
MR. RUBIN: Yes, we are deeply concerned and troubled by the killing of
Haitian radio station owner Jean Leopold Dominique. We urge the government
of Haiti to ensure a thorough and prompt investigation. We are aware
through our embassy of scattered protests in Port-au-Prince over the
weekend after a week of demonstrations related to the delay of legislative
and local elections.
There have been a number of reported threats against opposition candidates.
There is a lack of clarity regarding some of the circumstances of recent
events there. From our standpoint, we believe that credible elections can
be held in April and May in time to convene the new Parliament by the
second Monday of June, consistent with the Haitians' constitutional law.
Significant further delays would undermine the credibility of the electoral
process and greatly put at risk the current momentum towards holding the
In our view, the government of Haiti must publish new dates for elections
soon and lend full financial, logistical and security support with the
provisional electoral council to ensure those dates are met. Failure to
constitute promptly a legitimate parliament will risk isolating Haiti from
the community of democracies and jeopardize future cooperation and
assistance. It would be a great tragedy after all the world has done to
help Haiti restore its democracy and to throw off the oppression of those
junta members who were responsible for mass killings and human rights
violations for them to risk isolating Haiti in this way by not moving
forward with the timetable as specified.
QUESTION: Has the team that went to Libya come back with its recommendation
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of a particular recommendation at this point. I
will take this opportunity to say that suggestions that we have changed our
policy on Libya are simply inaccurate. We are focusing on ensuring that
Libya takes further steps to meet the outstanding requirements of relevant
Security Council resolutions, which include full cooperation with the trial
of the PanAm 103 shootdown, an end to support for terrorism, acknowledgment
of responsibility for actions of Libyan officials and payment of appropriate
compensation. With respect to that report, I'm not aware of any final
recommendation that's gone to the Secretary.
QUESTION: And do you have any comments on Qadhafi meeting in Cairo
earlier today, or yesterday, with EU - Prodi and the Irish -- ?
MR. RUBIN: Well, there's nothing new about European governments meeting
with the leaders of Libya, but that doesn't change our view.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 P.M.)