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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #37, 00-04-25

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

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


U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1-2	Secretary Albright Pleased at Decisive UNHRC Vote on Chechnya
2-5	Department Agrees to Expedite Visas for Elian Gonzalez's Playmates
1,2	Russia Human Rights Policy in Chechnya
11	President Putin's Department Meetings
9,10	President Putin's Motivation for Pushing CTBT and START II through DUMA
5-6	Cuban Response to Altercation Outside Cuban Interest Section
6-7,10	Delay of Lockerbie Trial/US Position
10,11	US View of US-Libya Relations
8	North Korea's Support for Terrorism / Removal from US Terrorism List
8	High-Level Visit
8,9	NPT Conference / Editorial by Russian Foreign Minister Ivanov
8,9	CTBT / US Strategic Arms Control
10,11	US Consular Services
11,12	US Calls on Chinese Government to Cease Falun Gong Crackdown
12	Consequences for Normal Trade Relations


DPB #37

TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 2000,12:40 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the penultimate briefing of the current State Department Spokesman. Try to control yourselves.

I have two announcements. The first is that I've just received word that the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva has voted on the resolution on Chechnya. Secretary Albright is very pleased as the decisive nature of the vote: 25 in favor, 7 against, and 19 abstentions. This decisive vote demonstrates that the international community wants to ensure that there is an independent investigation of the human rights abuses that have been reported in Chechnya, that the Russians allow independent organizations like the OSCE and the Red Cross and the UN to operate within Chechnya to deal with this terrible crisis, and that the international community sees the value of having that independent investigation meet the standard of an international standard for fairness and accountability.

So Secretary Albright is pleased at the decisive vote. She regrets the fact that the Russians were not willing to work with the rest of the members of the Commission to allow for a Chairman's Consensus document to achieve our objectives, because our objective is to get the Russians to act, not just to make a point. And the action that we're looking for is, as I said, this independent investigation with international involvement and meeting international standards.

However, even though Russia chose not to work with the rest of the members of the Commission - and, by the way, there were 15 co-sponsors of this particular resolution - the Secretary and the Administration believe and call on Russia to implement the steps called for in this resolution, including the independent commission and working with the outside organizations.

QUESTION: A couple of quick ones on that.

MR. RUBIN: Sure.

QUESTION: Of course, Ivanov is here and will see the President in about a couple hours.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: She made this pitch in Moscow several weeks ago. Will there be an effort here, and what chance do you have of persuading the Russians to change policy?

And, secondly, how are people - the war is largely over. How are civilians being treated now? And if they're not being mistreated, isn't this a matter of the Russia's domestic concerns and not an international matter?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we do not believe the war is over. I think you saw reports that we believe are credible of a paratroop division ambushed on Sunday near Grozny which involved the killing of dozens - the injuring and killing of dozens of Russian soldiers. So the war isn't over. And as we said for some time, we did not think that the war would end just because the Russians had taken Grozny, so there are reports of continued fighting and this only reinforces our view that there can't be a military solution to this conflict.

So, in short, these kinds of problems that we are talking about are not going away. The intensity, perhaps, has been reduced by the fact that Grozny has been taken, et cetera; nevertheless, the investigation of human rights abuses, we believe, should be a domestic investigation - and I've been trying to use my words very carefully on this - with an international component to it and with an international standard met for fairness and accountability in that investigation.

I do expect this to come up. We think that this vote, like a number of other actions in Europe and elsewhere, indicate that the Russians are severely isolated on this issue. And this is an issue of fundamental disagreement between the United States and Russia, and is one that is expected to part of the Secretary's discussions.

There have been some positive steps in terms of access by international organizations and setting up their own ombudsman and their own operation, but we want to take it to the next level, which will involve international standards.

Next subject, Elian Gonzalez case. What I can tell you is that the father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, has requested through his attorneys that we expedite the review of visas for a small number of Elian's playmates, each of which would be accompanied by an adult family member, so that they may visit with Elian for a relatively brief period of time.

We have agreed to expedite consideration of these visas. The applications have not yet been submitted to our Interests Section in Havana but, once they are submitted - and we expect them to be submitted - we would expedite them very, very quickly.

So again, this is four playmates of Elian Gonzalez with one adult family member accompanying them for a brief visit to - a relatively brief visit to the United States to be with Elian Gonzalez and his father. And this request was made by Elian Gonzalez's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, through his attorney.

QUESTION: Is this four, f-o-u-r, playmates or for, f-o-r, playmates?

MR. RUBIN: Let me clarify what I can't believe I didn't clarify already. This is four.

QUESTION: Accompanied by one adult --

MR. RUBIN: Accompanied by one adult of each child.

QUESTION: So that's eight.

MR. RUBIN: So four playmates with four adults. Yes.

QUESTION: Some schoolmates had already requested visas, though. Are these new visas from the kids or does the adult member of the family still have to submit visas, which weren't done previously?

MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't assume that they are going to be the same people. Once we get the request, that question is answerable, but right now we haven't received a request as to the names of the four. But we have agreed to four, with four adults supervising - you know, family members of each one of those children. And those playmates' names have not yet been submitted to us so I don't know whether they will be the same as the original list of 29 visas which had young children on it.

QUESTION: You said they would be coming for a short time, relatively. Relative to what?

MR. RUBIN: Well, relatively to how long this case has been going on, for example.

QUESTION: It could be a month or --

MR. RUBIN: A couple of weeks, no more than a couple of weeks is what we are envisaging.

QUESTION: Would they come all at once or in sequence?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we haven't received the requests yet. When we get the requests, we will expedite the visas. Then it will be up to Juan Miguel Gonzalez and his attorney to make the arrangements for them to come here. And that's not what our role is here.

QUESTION: Jamie, is there a chance - is there embedded in this request also that other people be allowed to come, like a teacher -

MR. RUBIN: As you may know, we approved three additional visas which were not used, for a kindergarten - the former kindergarten teacher of Elian Gonzalez, a pediatrician and one of his cousins. Those three visas have not been used. So those three are still available to be used and these additional eight will be expedited once they are submitted.

And I am not aware of any additional visas that are being expedited. The additional visas from the original package are still under review.

QUESTION: Why did the State Department believe that this was a reasonable request?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we have taken the view that these are - look, I don't know whether - all the facts here. But let me give you my best guess. My best guess is that there is an understanding that he is going to be here for quite some time during the legal process and that it was reasonable for him to have people to play with, as a young six-year-old, I am increasingly learning, needs to have someone to play with.

QUESTION: When you say - is the presumption then with the expedited --

MR. RUBIN: Presumption?

QUESTION: Presumption of approval?

MR. RUBIN: Correct. Yes.

QUESTION: I have a couple things. One is, can you define "expedite"? How long will that take?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the last question was basically on that and I guess the last time I said "expedite," I think it was within 24 hours.

QUESTION: Can I also?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Has the Administration made provisions so these playmates can stay at Wye? Do we know where they will be staying?

MR. RUBIN: This is not the Administration's responsibility. The presence of Elian Gonzalez at Andrews Air Force Base was worked out with the Justice Department so I don't have any particular information on that. As I understand it, it is the responsibility of the father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, working with his attorney, to deal with the visit of these individuals. So the arrangements they have made to move from the Andrews Air Force Base to the Wye Plantation presumably would allow for these visitors to spend a short period of time with him.

QUESTION: Would the visas be specific to what city?

MR. RUBIN: No, they're never that specific like that, if they're not diplomats.

QUESTION: On that same theme, if they're not specific to that, you say you expect it to be for a couple of weeks. Will their visas have a certain length that is different from a normal tourist visa?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to publicly describe a visa that hasn't yet been issued. I'm telling you we're going to expedite the visa. I'm telling you that is our expectation that they're going to be here for about two weeks. I don't think that there will be a need for us to act with - you know, preventing it from being 14 days plus one through some action like the one you're suggesting. But I'm giving you a rough time frame that is about two weeks. So in order to do what you're suggesting, we would have to pick an exact time frame, and I'm not aware that that's our intent.

QUESTION: I wasn't trying to suggest anything except to clarify whether this visa - these visas which would be - which you're willing to grant would be for the normal time a visa is issued for.

MR. RUBIN: Right. I'm just not aware we're intending to put time limits on it, but the point is that we, based on our conversation with the lawyer and Juan Miguel Gonzalez through his lawyer, who has done what he said he was going to do in the past, that they are talking about a couple of weeks.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the presumption of approval for a second?


QUESTION: I don't want to overstate the obvious here, but this means that you are going to treat these visa applications the same way that you were treating the applications for the immediate family before?

MR. RUBIN: Well, look, everything is a little different in life but, generally speaking, I think the answer to that question is yes. We said at the time we would expedite visas. They submitted a package of 29; 6 of them we expedited. The other 29 are under review - the remainder of the 29 are under review, so that would be 6 - 29 minus 6 is 23. I believe it was 29. At least that's what I was told. So 29 minus 6 being 3, my expectation is that I've lost my train of thought - other than to say that we're going to move very expeditiously in expediting these visas.

QUESTION: Jamie, is it your understanding based on the conversations with Mr. Craig that all four kids are going to come at the same time, or will they come --

MR. RUBIN: I don't have an answer for that. Any other subjects?

QUESTION: Actually, I'm just curious if you've had any response yet from the Cuban Government to the letter.

MR. RUBIN: Well, we did meet with the Cuban Interests Section today to discuss a number of issues, including the investigation into the April 14th altercation outside the Cuban Interests Section and Senator Graham's request for information on Elian's treatment once he - once in Cuba were discussed. I have nothing new to report on those issues.

QUESTION: You don't have any response to the editorial written by the two people who were involved in the altercation, including this lawyer from Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering?

MR. RUBIN: I think our response is the same as it was before they wrote this editorial, which is that we want this issue to be investigated and we've demanded an explanation from the Cubans for what transpired on April 14th in front of the Interest Section.

QUESTION: Are you prepared to say whether the Cubans offered an explanation?

MR. RUBIN: I think that the information I have in front of me suggests that nothing has changed in that regard, meaning that they have not provided a satisfactory explanation.

QUESTION: Who requested the meeting, Jamie?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know. They meet a lot. And there are regular meetings between us and the Cuban Interests Section and who calls the meeting, I'm not always aware of.

QUESTION: Can you say who it was and who they met with here?

MR. RUBIN: No. Yes.


MR. RUBIN: No, I can't specify all the individuals involved in the meeting, because I just don't know their names.

QUESTION: Do you know if in the meeting there was any kind of time frame discussed where if we don't get an answer by next week or something like that? Was any time frame discussed in the meeting?

MR. RUBIN: When I have anything new to report on what our intentions are with regard to this incident, I will be happy to report them.

QUESTION: New subject?


QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the request by the prosecution in the - to delay the start of the Lockerbie case?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. On the Lockerbie case, it is our understanding that the prosecution has requested a delay in order to investigate additional witnesses and evidence identified by defense counsel as witnesses, as well as evidence they intend to rely on in presenting the defense.

The trial is being conducted by a Scottish court according to Scottish law and, therefore, I am in no position to comment on how this request will be handled by the court. The United States is fully confident the interests of justice will be served in this case.

QUESTION: That's not exactly what I asked. Are you supportive of --

MR. RUBIN: Is that new? (Laughter.) You didn't answer my precise question. Boy, I'm shocked.

QUESTION: Are you supportive of the prosecution in this?

MR. RUBIN: I think what you need to understand is that it would be inappropriate for the United States Government during the course of a trial to comment on every twist and turn in the case. This is not an appropriate thing for us to do. We are not going to get into the habit of commenting on the developments in a trial like this, but we do have confidence that the interests of justice will be served in this case.

QUESTION: But (a) the trial hasn't begun yet.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: Which is directly opposite to what you just said (b) --

MR. RUBIN: I don't think it's directly - look -

QUESTION: Well, you said, we're not going to comment during the trial. Well, there is no trial yet.

MR. RUBIN: We're not going to make it a practice to comment on every legal twist and turn in the days leading up to the trial, during the trial, until the trial has taken its course. That is standard operating practice when a court proceeding is under way, for a government not to interfere in that court proceeding.

And so all I am suggesting to you is that we remain confident. Nothing has occurred that shakes our confidence that the interests of justice will be served in this case. But we are not going to make it a practice of commenting on developments that will lead-up to and during the trial itself as it actually takes place and unfolds.

QUESTION: A different subject?


QUESTION: North Korea. Today North Korea says that it will continue to protect the Japanese Red Army fugitives. And this follows statements that the US shouldn't interfere in things like this and that they may hold up the high-level meeting as long as they are considered a terrorist state, which kind of leads around in a circle.

MR. RUBIN: Right. Well, there is nothing new about this in the sense that North Korea has been on our terrorist list. In bilateral talks with North Korea led by Ambassador Mike Sheehan, he indicated what North Korea must do to be removed from this list. Without getting into the details, it is nevertheless a fact that North Korea continues to harbor Japanese Red Army hijackers involved in the 1970 hijacking of a Japanese airliner. In the past, the United States and other countries have expressed their concern to North Korea about this issue and the need to take appropriate steps to resolve it.

Resolving this issue would be an important step in addressing our concerns about North Korean support for terrorism. We have described in the past to North Korea what they need to do. We have described to them recently what they need to do. We still believe that the basis for a high-level visit that was being discussed exists. Obviously, right now, a lot of attention is focused on the summit between the leader of North Korea and the South Korean leader. We continue to work on our elements through diplomatic channels and we are coordinating closely with South Koreans as they prepare for this important summit.

QUESTION: But somebody is going to have to budge then. If they are saying you have to remove the designation before they will hold a high-level meeting and you saying that -

MR. RUBIN: Right. But that's not anything new for them to say. And in the course of them saying that, we've still had a lot of discussions about the high-level visit.

QUESTION: On the NPT conference that's going on right now?


QUESTION: Yesterday, the Russian foreign minister wrote an editorial essentially saying, in so many words, that the ball was in the American court on arms control. There are some who believe that President Putin is trying to put the Americans on the defensive and make himself out and Russia out to be the good guys in this. What would your response be?

MR. RUBIN: Well, first of all, my response would be that we can take "yes" for an answer. We know how to respond to good news. We've asked the Russians to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban. We've asked the Russians to ratify START II. When they do so, that's good news and we can take "yes" for an answer.

With respect to the ball in our court, certainly with respect to the CTB, the ball is clearly in our court. The Senate refused to advise and consent to ratification at the end of last year. We think that was a dangerous mistake on the part of the Senate. As a result of that, the President and the Secretary have asked former Joint Chiefs Chairman General Shalikashvili to work with us to develop a plan for getting Senate approval of the treaty by working closely and carefully and away from the limelight with key senators who have legitimate concerns, so that the ball can be removed from our court some day and have the treaty ratified, which we think is greatly in our interest.

We've seen in the last 24 hours why ratification is so important, because I think all senators would agree with us that preventing other countries from developing nuclear weapons is in the United States' national interest. And for those of you who were in New York or those who hear about it, you can see how our failure to ratify makes our job harder in convincing other countries not to go down the nuclear road. It is not a panacea, it is not going to solve the problem, but it makes it harder with us not having ratified the treaty.

So we agree that we would be better off if the Senate had advised and consented to the treaty. In the meantime, we have nothing to be ashamed of. The United States has led the way in arms control in the last seven years. We've destroyed and dismantled 13,000 nuclear weapons. We've reduced our forces from the highs of the Cold War by roughly 60 to 80 percent. We have led the way in getting the Comprehensive Test Ban signed. We ratified the START II treaty and gave consent to ratification four years ago. The Russians have just caught up to this.

So while we certainly agree that it would be preferable for the CTBT to be ratified, we don't accept the idea that somehow the United States is a laggard. We've been leading the way in arms control for decades, and we continue to do so.

QUESTION: Why does the Administration think that Putin so quickly got both of these pieces of legislation through the Duma. What does the US think his motivation is?

MR. RUBIN: There is a new Duma. This is the first set of actions of a new Duma. The last Duma clearly tied START II and CTBT to a number if irrelevant and unrelated issues, whether it was the bombing of Kosovo or Iraq or NATO enlargement. The last Duma tended to use START II as a political football to express their opposition to some American policy, which the Russians eventually realized was not in their interest, because ratifying the treaty was better for them than not ratifying the treaty. So the new Duma is obviously a Duma that cares more about Russia's self- interest than making political points.

QUESTION: What do you think is the motivation? What do you think the president's motivation -

MR. RUBIN: I don't know what President Putin's motivation is. But, certainly, we're pleased, whatever his motivation is, that they have responded to our calls for ratification. And when you call on another country to ratify a treaty and they do so, we don't feel on the defensive; we feel pleased.

QUESTION: Does it surprise you at all or strike you as unusual at all that one of the reasons that Putin has the support in the Duma is because of his support for a policy which you vigorously object to? That would be Chechnya.

MR. RUBIN: I'm sure that there would be some people who would want to write, you know, elaborate analyses of this complicated interaction between Chechnya and arms control and the United States. And maybe when I leave government, I'll be interested in writing such an analysis. But, for now, suffice it to say that this Duma is more pragmatic on arms control, and that's something to be welcomed.

To the extent that President Putin pursues policies that we reject and oppose and condemn, as he has occasionally and has with respect to Chechnya, we will continue to make clear our views. The connection between that, I think, is the kind of thing that would require speculative comment which, even on my second-to-last day, I don't care to do.

QUESTION: Jamie, can we go back to Lockerbie for just a moment? Can you comment on how you view the - or how the State Department views the current state of relations between the United States and Libya?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. We've made clear that Libya has to meet the requirements of the Security Council resolution. There are several of those requirements, which I would be happy to provide for you. But the gist of it is that they must cooperate with the trial, they must stop supporting terrorism, they must provide compensation for the victims of this terrible tragedy.

QUESTION: Sticking on the whole terrorism list thing, can you confirm that the Embassy in Sudan is now providing consular service and, if it is -

MR. RUBIN: You missed the day we did this.

QUESTION: Oh, all right. Okay. Well, then, my second question was --

MR. RUBIN: But I would be happy to do it again.

QUESTION: Well, I assume the answer is, yes.

MR. RUBIN: But those of you who were here wouldn't want me to do it again, because it takes a really long time.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, then, I assume that the answer is, yes, though?

MR. RUBIN: No, the answer is, no. But I will be happy to explain it. Okay.

QUESTION: Look, don't go through the whole thing. I'm aware of the rotation and all that stuff. But if the -

MR. RUBIN: No, no -

QUESTION: But if the - are people -

MR. RUBIN: But you know. You don't want to know. (Laughter.)

Ask the question. What's the question?

QUESTION: Well, it requires a - can you get a visa if you go to the embassy in Khartoum?



MR. RUBIN: Interviews are conducted by some of these rotating officers who visit from Cairo. They interview.

QUESTION: Fine, fine, fine.

MR. RUBIN: But to get the visa, they have to go to Cairo. Okay?

QUESTION: Jamie, just a logistical question?


QUESTION: The Ivanov schedule as provided by the Embassy has him here tomorrow morning for about three hours before having lunch with the Secretary. It talks about him seeing negotiators.

What is -

MR. RUBIN: Let me get you the details of those meetings in the morning after the briefing. I'll be happy to do that.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the latest arrests in China of Falun Gong?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. With respect to the Chinese arrests, let me say that we continue to see the arrest and detention of persons peacefully expressing spiritual beliefs as a matter that profoundly disturbs us. Such detentions are in direct contravention of internationally recognized standards of human rights that are enshrined in international human rights instruments, to which China has acceded. The right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech and association and conscience are fundamental human rights. China has accepted that, and that's all these people want to be able to do.

We call on the Chinese Government to cease its crackdown on the Falun Gong, release all those in custody for the peaceful expression of their beliefs, and guarantee the rights of citizens to freedom of speech, conscience and association and peaceful assembly that China itself undertook by signing international human rights instruments.

QUESTION: Do you suppose they know that this hurts their chances of getting what some people call trade advantages - other people call normal trade preferences?

MR. RUBIN: I suppose that China has the ability to understand the consequences of its actions, and I don't know precisely what their calculus was. But -whatever their calculus was, we oppose it.

QUESTION: Whenever there's -- (inaudible) - calculus, we oppose it?

MR. RUBIN: On this issue.

QUESTION: You prefer trigonometry.

MR. RUBIN: We prefer trigonometry, right.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 P.M.)

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