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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #8, 98-01-16

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


Friday, January 16, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1		Status of Announcement on Suspension of Helms-Burton

IRAQ 1-2 Withdrawal of UNSCOM 227 (Scott Ritter)/International Community's united front 2-3 Long-term Monitoring/US and Iraq Goals

IRAN 3-4 EU Position on keeping Iran from Obtaining Weapons of Mass Destruction

TURKEY 4-5 Closure of the Welfare Party (Refah) by a Turkish Constitutional Court 5 Assistant Secretary Shattuck's Trip/EU and Turkey

SERBIA-MONTENEGRO 5-6 Montenegro's New Government/Ambassador Gelbard's Visit

MEXICO 6 Reports Chiapas on Verge of Civil War

CAMBODIA 6 Reports of EU Giving $10 million for Election-Related Aid


DPB #8

FRIDAY, JANUARY 16, 1998, 1:00 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Good afternoon. It's Friday. I have no statements, no announcements. Let's start with George Gedda.

QUESTION: Who's going to make the announcement on Cuba, concerning Helms- Burton?

MR. RUBIN: I would expect there to be an announcement from the White House later today. They'll have more to say about that. There may be some actions we take later this afternoon. But I would steer you toward the White House for a decision the President has to make --

QUESTION: Well, can we talk about Scott Ritter? Do you have any thoughts on his departure from Iraq?

MR. RUBIN: Other than just to repeat what Mike McCurry said yesterday, which is emphasizing that last January the President said he expected to continue the suspension as long as our friends and allies continue their stepped-up efforts to promote peaceful, democratic change in Cuba. But let me leave any specific action on that to the White House.

With regard to the Ritter mission, let me say this - we support Ambassador Butler's decision to withdraw UNSCOM 227, that particular mission, in the face of Iraq's refusal to allow the team to do its work. The team had been there for some days, trying to do its work. Iraq was not permitting it to do its work, blocking inspections, acting in clear violation of the Security Council resolutions, which led to the statement that the Security Council made yesterday. The Security Council made very clear that this is unacceptable, and that Ambassador Butler was to go to Iraq and to try to convince the Iraqis that if they don't change their ways and don't allow Ambassador Butler and the UN to do its work, then there is no way for them to get out of the sanctions hole they've dug for themselves.

QUESTION: Why is the withdrawal of this group not a victory for Saddam?

MR. RUBIN: Well, very simply put, the international community was as united as it could be in rejecting the premise that Saddam Hussein can deny a particular group, because of a particular composition, the access that they need. So the international community was united in rejecting his attempt to try to dictate terms.

Saddam Hussein's goal, obviously, is to try to split the international community; and the international community was united in rejecting those terms. Therefore, Saddam Hussein did not achieve his objectives. The more we hear from Council members and erstwhile - well, Council members, that the frustration level with Saddam Hussein on the part of those who were in the past were at least willing to argue his case is simply growing.

So since his goal is to try to create wedges in the international community, and the international community united against his action, he lost.

QUESTION: Why don't you just leave the team in place as a symbol of your determination to proceed?

MR. RUBIN: I don't understand why that would prove anything. The team was scheduled to leave at the end of the week. UNSCOM made very clear it was pointless for it to be there. So what's clear is that Saddam Hussein's attempt to try to get other members of the international community to support his idea that specific teams shouldn't be allowed failed because the Security Council rejected that position and sent Butler to Baghdad with the full support that it's up to him to determine who's on these teams and where they go, and not Iraq.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up here? Butler made some comments in Paris seeming to put some focus or put some emphasis on Iraq's progress in certain areas, including the nuclear area. Is there any live discussion at this moment on closing the file on the nuclear program, which has been suggested before as a way to show Iraq that you're serious about not keeping this an open-ended process.

MR. RUBIN: On the contrary, the discussion is about Saddam Hussein's refusal to allow the inspectors to do their job, without which UNSCOM will never have the information by which to begin to make any declarations about any particular areas having been - a baseline having been established and the weapons being destroyed.

I can get you, for the record, a list of the different areas -- nuclear, chemical, biological and missiles -- to describe to you the state of play. But on the nuclear file, the IAEA still has significant questions that need to be answered. So discussion is focused on his blatant attempt to manipulate the system, not on attempts to try to signal anything of that kind.

It's always been our position that what we're after here is disarmament. We're after a situation in which Iraq would comply with the UN, and the UN would be in a position to declare that they have established a baseline, they know how much of a particular type of weapon of mass destruction had been produced, that they can confirm that all of that weaponry or equipment or precursors have been destroyed, and then can move to a long-term monitoring situation, in which we could be sure that never again would they produce such weapons. That's the goal of the United States; that's the goal of the international community. But that can't happen if Saddam Hussein continues to thwart UNSCOM.

QUESTION: Isn't it possible that the Iraqis may also have had some less lofty goals than merely driving a wedge in the coalition? They've succeeded in preventing this team from carrying out its specific mission, which apparently had to do with uncovering evidence of germ warfare testing. And in the same vein, since the last flare-up, there have not been any inspections of presidential sites, which seems to be another success that they've achieved --

MR. RUBIN: Well, you're declaring it a success based on no information, as far as I can figure. The Iraqi goal is two-fold. It's to try to get the international community to lift sanctions. They've been as clear as day about that, and I urge you, the next time you analyze the situation, to attribute to the Iraqi position what they've said their goal is. They want sanctions relieved; that's what their goal is. They want the international community to take their side in their disputes with UNSCOM. That's their stated goals.

As far as whether they're trying to hide what's going on, I'm not suggesting for a second that isn't one of the motivations for blocking these inspectors. But if we're going to say - but they've been blocking inspectors from doing their job for a long time. But if you all are going to analyze what the situation is, you should state honestly what the goals of Iraq are - which are to get sanctions lifted and to win friends in the international community. And by denying the inspectors the right to act, they've delayed sanctions being relieved, and they've prevented any of their possible supporters from speaking up for them; and frankly, seen increasing frustration from those countries. So by any reasonable definition, that would be defeat.

I guess we've covered Iraq.


QUESTION: Another subject - yesterday, the European Union officials said that they had given the United States a list of further steps that they've been doing to try to keep Iran from gaining weapons of mass destruction. Is this significant? Is this enough, by the EU, to form the basis of an agreement with the United States?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say the following. Secretary Albright was very encouraged by her discussions with the European Union yesterday. She indicated quite clearly that we both agree on the need to control weapons of mass destruction going to Iran, and to combat terrorism. She made very clear that the United States and the EU agree on the need for Iranian actions to follow - to lead to any change in our positions.

We are all cooperating in a variety of fora - multilaterally, bilaterally - on how to deny Iran the weaponry, the technology, the expertise, the equipment in the area of weapons of mass destruction. So to that extent, she was encouraged.

On the other hand, it's correct that the United States still believes that economic pressure is important to change Iran's behavior, and the EU does not support this approach. But because the discussions yielded the possibility of increasing our cooperation on weapons of mass destruction, she was encouraged. We'll have to see what that yields. And as you know, the goal of the legislation that the Europeans are concerned about is to get Iran to change those actions to which we and others object.

So we want to work together with the Europeans, and try to prevent them from being in a position to - the Iranians from being in a position to get the kind of technology, equipment or expertise that they would like. As far as what is enough, let me say this - we have a law; we intend to implement that law. Sanctions remain a real, live option if there is a finding of sanctionability. As long as Iran continues these kinds of objectionable actions, we will look for means to dissuade it from doing so. That's what we were doing with the European Union.

QUESTION: What more would you want - can you be specific about what they told you yesterday that they are doing? And what more would you look for them to do?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me try to get some of the experts to get into that level of detail for you for the record. But let me just say this - there are export control systems, there are end-user mechanisms to make sure that any technology or expertise that goes to another country is then not re- exported in a way that could contribute. So these are highly technical areas to make sure that unauthorized technology, expertise and information does not lead Iran to be in a better position to make weapons of mass destruction.

Those are the kinds of nuts and bolts issues that we and the European Union will be talking about.

QUESTION: One more question on this. Did the Secretary tell the EU that time is running out for --

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think they are quite aware of the fact that this is something we've been looking at very carefully, and that it is not going to go on indefinitely, in terms of our decision of sanctionability. And they are aware of - and she made clear to them that we're getting closer to the point when such a decision of sanctionability -- that means a finding that the particular contract meets the terms of the legislation -- and I think they're quite aware that that day is approaching.

QUESTION: Do you have anything, Mr. Rubin, on a closure of the Welfare Party by a Turkish constitutional court?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, I do. Let me say this -- the United States does not support or oppose any Turkish political party; nor does it interfere in Turkey's internal political or judicial processes. That said, no one should be surprised by our view that closure of Refah or other legitimate parties damages confidence in Turkey's democratic, multiparty system.

As we have often said, the answer to many of Turkey's problems is to enhance democracy, to adopt reforms that would allow greater freedom of expression and wider political participation. Despite this troubling development of disbanding of the party, we do have confidence in Turkey's future as a democracy. Our view is that the challenges that Turkey faces will be resolved by more democracy rather than less.

QUESTION: When will Secretary Shattuck be going over to Turkey? Do you have --

MR. RUBIN: My understanding is that he is scheduled to visit next month, and I think one of the things that he will obviously make clear is that Americans, as a democracy, will have difficulty understanding and reconciling this action with our concept of democracy.

QUESTION: Mr. Rubin, yesterday Secretary Albright, when she made a statement, she said that you handled Turkish integration for the European Union. Can you give us some information about the subject?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. This was a subject of discussion with Foreign Minister Cook and the EU delegation yesterday, and I can say the following. Both sides stressed the importance of a positive relation between the European Union and Turkey. The United States hopes a way can be found to include Turkey in the March European conference to begin the EU's enlargement process.

So we discussed that. We hope that ways are found to perhaps de-escalate some of the rhetoric and focus on the important fact that we believe Turkey's integration with Europe is good for Europe and good for Turkey.

QUESTION: Jamie, could you talk about Montenegro? I saw your statement yesterday. Is this an important event? How important is it that the new government in Montenegro succeed? And Ambassador Gelbard said a few things earlier in the week about US support. Can you flesh that out?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. This was an important event. We believe it is a step forward, a major step forward for the development of democratic institutions in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Ambassador Gelbard attended - I guess he did not attend - this is a little confusing to me. Nevertheless, those who did attend tell us that it went very well.

Preliminary reports indicate that the situation in the capital is considerably calmer than it was a couple of days ago. What we are urging the leadership of Montenegro to do is to put the divisions of the last few weeks behind them, and concentrate their efforts on the political and economic reforms that are necessary.

Ambassador Gelbard, who was in Montenegro on Monday, earlier in the week, for meetings with both the new and former presidents, indicated to me that he spoke to President Milosevic and made clear to him that the future of democracy in Montenegro is something we will be watching very carefully as an indicator of his willingness to begin to meet some of the standards the international community believes in.

There are ideas around as to how to specifically support Montenegro financially in areas that are consistent with the outer wall of sanctions. We are looking very carefully at that, but I don't have any specific numerical announcements for you.



QUESTION: Okay, I draw from an article in The Washington Times today, drawn from Reuters, a Mexico City dateline. The commission - Cocopa legislative commission charged with making peace in Chiapas has said - one of their spokesman has said - this is Mr. Gilberto Lopez -- he says, I quote, "Chiapas is reaching its limit and is on the verge of civil war." Second quote from another gentleman, "there's a technical coup-de-tat in the state. The military each day increases its presence in the political life of Chiapas, in the absence of civilian politicians."

Is the United States concerned that things, in fact, are spiraling out of control and going toward civil war in Chiapas?

MR. RUBIN: We have seen a report on such statements. Let me say this - while we do not wish to downplay the serious problems there, we do not share the views expressed. We encourage the resumption of peace and reconciliation talks between the government and Zapatista insurgents. Without a political settlement there, progress on security and social welfare will be very difficult.

Let me note that the new interior secretary and the new government special negotiator for Chiapas have indicated their desire to revive the talks. Another factor, obviously, is to aggressively investigate the massacre, and prosecution of those responsible is also necessary for reconciliation there. We're going to continue to follow it closely, but we think some of those descriptive terms are a little too strong.

QUESTION: The EU apparently gave Cambodia $10 million or a little more for election-related aid. I wondered whether you supported that decision, or did you think it was premature?

MR. RUBIN: I would have to get you an answer. That's a question that did not come up in the meetings, to my knowledge, but I'll get you an answer to that question.


MR. RUBIN: Okay. Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:20 P.M.)

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