U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #9, 98-01-20
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
Tuesday, January 20, 1998
Briefer: James P. Rubin
Ecuador/Peru: Agreement to peace talks on border dispute
Tajikistan: Concern over delay in implementation of peace
Former Amb. Seitz' book and allegations that Amb. Smith is
an IRA apologist
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
1,2,3,10 President Clinton and Secretary Albright's meetings with PM
Netanyahu: discussions on the four-part agenda, other
administration officials' meetings and redeployment
1,2,3 Discussions of redeployment and the Oslo accord,
percentages, quality, security situations and timing
3 American ideas and the bridging of gaps
4,5 Comments made by an (unnamed) "Administration Official,"
concerning the importance of meetings and press events
with PM Netanyahu
5,6,7 Possible visit by Chairman Arafat to the Holocaust
Museum/Head of State versus a VIP
7,8,9 The question of politicizing the Holocaust Museum
9 Possible discussions between PM Netanyahu and President
9 Human rights organization's report on the treatment of
prisoners in Palestinian jails
10 The issue of "maps" with discussions on redeployment
10,11 Amb. Butler's comments on talks with Iraqi officials/
U.S. options and unilateral action/Possible position of
12 President Khatami's negative comments about the U.S.
12 Visas granted to Iranians seeking entry to the
U.S./Security of Iranian-Americans living in the U.S.
13,14 Comments made by President of St..Mary's college/
Investigation into robbery and rape of American citizens
/ Information on travel in Guatemala contained in the
State Department's Consular Information Sheet
14 Criminal Act vs. Political Act/No FBI Involvement/Review of
upgrading to Travel Advisory
15 Question concerning victims possibly having to return to
Guatemala for court proceedings
15 Reports that Fidel Castro invited President Clinton to
visit Cuba/Iraq and Cuba comparison
15,16 Ray Seitz's accusation that State Department leaked reports
to IRA in his published book/Conflict in Northern Ireland
and USG's role
16,17 Issue of clearance of manuscripts by State Department
17,18 Reports of underground construction of a nuclear bomb /
Status of KEDO agreement
18,19 Status of arms sales embargo/Sale of spare helicopter parts
not approved/Tiananmen Square
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JANUARY 20, 1998, 12:55 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. We're still having trouble getting to our 12:30
p.m. start time. Please forgive me. We have two statements we'll put out
after the briefing, one on Ecuador and Peru, and the other on Tajikistan.
But let's go right to your questions.
QUESTION: The Secretary met with Mr. Netanyahu and there were no
statements, which we didn't take as a personal snub, because they were
going off to the White House. I wondered, though, at this point, if you
could tell us if she reiterated any of her multifaceted proposal -- the
things she wants mostly from Israel, like a sizable withdrawal, a time-out?
Did he hear those words again today?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. Let me get into the question. I just spoke to the
Secretary. She said that the meetings this morning have gone extremely
well. She had a breakfast with --
QUESTION: You mean the White House -- (inaudible)?
MR. RUBIN: I'm going to get into that. She had a breakfast with Prime
Minister Netanyahu, lasted over an hour; it was a very good meeting. Then
she and the President had a meeting that lasted about 90 minutes. As I
understand it, the Vice President is now having lunch with the Prime
And what she told me was that the meetings were what she expected them to
be. The Secretary felt the meetings were business-like; that substantive
issues were fully explored and fully addressed; and that she is planning
another meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu this afternoon.
As far as the American view is concerned, I am confident that Secretary
Albright reiterated our view that in order for us to put all the pieces of
the Middle East peace process back together, one of the important pieces is
the further redeployment; in addition to the work that the President will
be doing with Chairman Arafat later in the week, focused on the important
task he has to combat terrorism on a full-time basis.
With respect to further redeployment, we do believe that it needs to take
place in a way that it is credible; that the size needs to be significant;
and that there are other issues related to the quality and the timing that
have to be run through. So that was discussed, and the fact that she said
we got down to substantive business, I think very clearly demonstrates that
the issue of the further redeployment did come up in a substantive way,
and our substantive position has not changed.
QUESTION: That's a substantive answer, so I won't feel bad about your not
answering the time-out question. But if you have it --
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, in order for us to put all the pieces of the
Middle East peace process back together, the view of the United States is
that the kind of unilateral actions that make it difficult to create an
environment for the negotiations and make it harder to create success in
those negotiations if we get to that, is a very important one of the four
agenda items. And I am sure that that is no surprise to the Prime
Whether they focused as much on that as they did on the further redeployment,
perhaps we can tell you a little more as the day continues.
QUESTION: One quick scheduling question.
MR. RUBIN: Sure.
QUESTION: We're hearing from the Middle East, not from here, sort of an
outline of Arafat's schedule. It includes the Secretary giving him a
dinner. Will the Secretary be giving Arafat a dinner while he's here?
MR. RUBIN: I haven't heard that.
QUESTION: The Prime Minister, in questions in Hebrew, said that he did
not bring any percentages with him for further redeployment. Can you
address that in any way?
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, in order to get to a point where we have a
package on further redeployment that meets the needs of the parties and
meets the outlines set forth in the previous agreements, it's not just a
question of percentages. It's also a question of the quality of the land
that will be turned over; the timing that the land might or might not be
turned over; and the security situation that would obtain when that would
So these four pieces - percentage/quantity, quality, security situation,
timing - are all part of what would be necessary to get a successful step
forward in this area. So we are not concerned at this point if an exact
percentage has not been agreed to. I think the Prime Minister has made it
quite clear that he still needs to talk to his Cabinet meeting.
But what is important, and what I think the Secretary's comments to me
indicate, is that we need to get down to the nitty-gritty in examining each
one of those issues to see whether the four of them - quantity, quality,
timing and security - can be put together in a way that yields progress in
the peace process.
QUESTION: What do you mean by quality?
MR. RUBIN: Well, what type of land. There are different types of land
specific in the Oslo accord - category A, category B, category C - which
have different implications for the civilian and military security
situation. So that would be an example of type of land.
QUESTION: Yes, I asked because those of us who actually heard Mr.
Netanyahu last night - there were a few reporters there - he talked about
being willing to give up land that wasn't crucial to Israel's security.
You're not responding to that in any negative way?
MR. RUBIN: No, Barry, I think there are two issues here and often they
get confused and lead to some confusion.
Issue one is what the further redeployment will look like - how much land;
what type of land, as categorized by the Oslo accord; when; and what the
security situation would be that pertains.
The second issue is the question that has come out of Israel of what the
long-term possibilities are if we get to permanent status, and what issues
the Israeli Government feels strongly about and what the possibilities are
for these final status issues.
As you know, we don't think it's useful for us to comment every time one of
the parties specifies what its advance negotiating position would be in a
negotiation that hasn't even started yet. So we think that would be very
But with respect to the further redeployment, this turning over of
additional territory now or in the near future, that is something that we
have said needs to be significant and credible.
QUESTION: Jamie, did the American side put forward any ideas?
MR. RUBIN: Absolutely. I think we have been quite clear that we have
ideas on how to bridge the gaps. Ambassador Ross has worked very hard in
the region, and Secretary Albright has worked very hard in her meetings,
three of them, with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat in recent
weeks to try to identify the areas where there are significant gaps and
propose US ideas to close them. That is very different than a US plan,
which some people talk about; but ideas to close the gaps, that's
something that is very much part of the American role.
QUESTION: Is this specifically on redeployment?
MR. RUBIN: Again, I'm not going to be in a position to get into very much
detail here. I mean, these are meetings that are ongoing. The President's
meeting just concluded. The Vice President is having lunch with the Prime
Minister right now. The Secretary will be meeting with him again this
afternoon. So it's not normal practice to give you a rolling report of
everything that's said. But in principle: Is the US Government prepared
to propose ideas in these four areas? The answer is yes.
QUESTION: Jamie, does the Administration identify itself with comments
from an unnamed US official that appeared in several publications and wire
services about jogging with the President of Bulgaria being more important
than having lunch with the Prime Minister of Israel?
MR. RUBIN: You know, having read the newspapers very carefully most of my
time here in Washington, my view is you can get an Administration official,
if you would define him that way, or her, to say just about anything. But
this view is not the view of the United States Government. This idea that
was presented in some of these comments is simply nonsense.
Secretary Albright and the Prime Minister talked about the importance of
this meeting. This is an official working visit. It entails a lot of hard
work. And there are no - I'm not even going to use the words insinuations
or suggestions -- from anything that I've seen that this is anything other
than the hard work of trying to pursue the peace process, and all the
examples used are not serious examples.
With respect to Blair House, it's not routine that Prime Minister Netanyahu
stays there. With respect to the luncheon, as I said, the Vice President is
meeting with - having lunch with the Prime Minister right now. With respect
to press events, again, we have a unique situation where it's not often
that you have back-to-back visits like this so closely linked. So it's
inappropriate to have reports in the middle of a negotiation, if that could
interfere with the prospect of getting to yes with Prime Minister
Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat.
So these comments are surely somebody's view. I'm not suggesting that they
were made up, but they don't represent the views of the President or the
Secretary of State.
QUESTION: Well, when you say you get - there's always somebody in the
government who will say something like that, are you suggesting --
MR. RUBIN: I'm saying on any subject you can get somebody in this large
Administration or government this big, if you push hard enough, to say just
about anything. But the question is, what is the policy of the United
States, what was the thinking going into the visit. And what I can tell you
from this podium is the policy of the President and the Secretary was to
accord the Prime Minister the necessary arrangements to conduct a serious,
substantive working visit.
QUESTION: Again, under our rules, officials come forward sometimes and
say things, and don't want to be quoted.
MR. RUBIN: And sometimes --
QUESTION: No, no, the background briefings.
MR. RUBIN: Right --
QUESTION: You don't believe this was offered by the US Government?
MR. RUBIN: I do not. In fact, it strikes me as one of those times when
reporters have ideas in their head, and they go, oh, come on, isn't that
really true? And someone doesn't deny it really loudly, and then they state
it as Administration policy. That's my view about it.
QUESTION: Do you have any - (inaudible) - from Bulgaria about this?
MR. RUBIN: No, I haven't heard from the Bulgarians.
QUESTION: Sort of a similar kind of question about Mr. Arafat and the
Holocaust Museum. Does the Administration regret what has happened?
Apparently, he was first invited and then dis-invited. And was the
Administration in any way involved in his now being re-invited?
MR. RUBIN: The return of Schweid!
QUESTION: I thought Mr. Schweid might return. (Laughter)
MR. RUBIN: Well, thank you for getting our esteemed AP correspondent to
The answer to your question is that Secretary Albright said on Sunday that
she thought it was too bad if this kind of a visit could not be arranged.
It is our view, and the Secretary's view, that one of the aspects -
certainly not the most important, but one of the aspects of the peace
process that is important is the psychological aspect. Breaking down
barriers is one of the ways that peace will hold if agreements are ever
reached. That has been true in many other parts of the world.
For Secretary Albright, she has routinely encouraged visitors to go to this
museum for its obvious historical value. But in this case, it's particularly
important for Chairman Arafat to understand one of the defining events in
Jewish history that clearly affects the views of the Israeli people and
Jews around the world.
The horrors of the Holocaust should be understood better by everyone, in
particular in pursuing the peace process. This, we believe, is a good
With respect to regret or not regret, all I can say is that we believe that
such a visit would be an important step. We'd like to see it happen. I
gather the museum has had some additional comments today. It's really up to
the museum to work out its arrangements, and we are hopeful that arrangements
can be worked out to permit this visit.
QUESTION: You're working on the visit of Mr. Arafat to town, and trying
to make sure that the arrangements are proper. Is it your understanding
that Mr. Arafat would be able to lay a wreath in the event that he goes to
the museum? And is it your understanding that Mr. Arafat would be willing
now to accept an invitation that was once taken away?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we'll have to see how this unfolds in the coming days.
I'm not going to get into commenting on every step that Chairman Arafat may
or may not take in a visit that may or may not happen. What I can say is
that we believe that he should be accorded the treatment due to a very
He has been on the White House lawn. He's met with the President of the
United States. So clearly he is a VIP in that sense. As far as what
arrangements the Holocaust Museum makes, that's up to them to make those
arrangements. I'd refer the question on that issue to you.
QUESTION: But a VIP visit in the first place, was that a State Department
MR. RUBIN: Again, I'm not going to comment on all the specifics of who
said what to whom. But I can say - and I think this really does go straight
to your question - that the idea of breaking down this kind of a barrier
where you have a situation that we think it would be good for the world,
good for the Palestinians, and particularly good for the Israelis for
Chairman Arafat to understand this defining event in Jewish history and all
that it entails is a good thing, and that we are supportive and Secretary
Albright is supportive of the visit.
As far as who made the first phone call to who, I'm sure this is the kind
of situation where everyone will either take credit or deny credit for it,
but what I can say is that we here in the State Department, and Secretary
Albright specifically, are supportive of this visit.
QUESTION: You want to just say so much and not go further. You want to
say it's their decision --
MR. RUBIN: Correct.
QUESTION: But you're not shy about telling them what you think they ought
to do. The Secretary said so on Sunday.
MR. RUBIN: Right, in general. In general.
QUESTION: In general, of course, in general. So I'm just trying to close
the - sort of catch up with one little fact, which is that someone in the
State Department -- I think he's on the peace team --
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: -- who has these kinds of ideas that go beyond the instant
situation but thinks big thoughts, and I thought it was his idea. And I'm
asking you if it was a State Department initiated idea - I don't know if it
was the first phone call; I don't care. Did the State Department tell the
Holocaust Museum, we think it would be a good idea if you'd have Yasser
Arafat come make a VIP visit?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm very sure that the person mentioned will be very
pleased that you think he has big ideas.
QUESTION: No, I just heard that. I'm asking you whether it's true or
MR. RUBIN: And I'll certainly report that to him.
As far as the initiation of this idea, it's not possible for one to get to
the bottom of it. But I can say that in communications between the State
Department and the Holocaust Museum, the idea of such a visit was supported
by the State Department, and Secretary Albright herself is supportive. As
far as who --
QUESTION: Proposed it.
MR. RUBIN: -- proposed the idea, again, this is the kind of idea that
either will have a - be an orphan or have a thousand fathers, if it does
happen and goes well.
QUESTION: Can I just make sure I understand what you said earlier,
MR. RUBIN: Yes, please.
QUESTION: You said that you thought he ought to be accorded the treatment
accorded to a very important person, a VIP, but that is a term of art at
museums. That means a specific set of things, VIP.
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: It does not mean - and I want to make sure that I understand
whether you're making this distinction or not - it does not mean the same
sort of treatment as a head of state.
MR. RUBIN: Again --
QUESTION: VIPs go to that museum, they don't lay wreaths at the --
MR. RUBIN: All right. We all know that Chairman Arafat is not accorded
the treatment of a head of state by the United States, because he is not
one. And I'm not going to fall into the trap of defining exactly for you to
use for all time the proper treatment of Chairman Arafat. What I am
prepared to say is that he is a very important person and clearly a partner
in the peace process. He has met with the President. He has affixed his
signature to extremely important agreements, and therefore we think he
should be accorded provisions and procedures consistent with a very
important person, who is the leader of the Palestinian Authority and
is our negotiating partner as we pursue peace in the Middle East.
QUESTION: Jamie, does the Administration really think it's appropriate to
politicize this visit, at the behest of the peace team, to a memorial that
commemorates the death of six million Jews in the Holocaust?
MR. RUBIN: Are we suggesting that we have? Is that the premise of your
question? It appeared to be.
QUESTION: That's what the question is.
MR. RUBIN: No, is that the premise of your question, that we have?
QUESTION: That you're politicizing the whole --
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Yes, that's the premise of my question.
MR. RUBIN: All right. Well, there's no evidence for that. Visiting a
museum is hardly politicizing. World leaders have gone there before, and I
reject the premise of your question.
QUESTION: But you think that's a stop, one of the stops along the station
of coming to Washington. You do certain things; right? You try to see the
President, if you can; you see the Secretary of State; and you go to a
memorial which is a memorial to people who were killed by people who didn't
like Jews and killed them, if they had a chance.
MR. RUBIN: Right. Yes.
QUESTION: And you think this is something that should be routinely part
of a VIP visit?
MR. RUBIN: I certainly can say the following. Secretary Albright has
encouraged world leaders to go to the Holocaust Museum because of its
important descriptions and analysis of this important event in Jewish
history. She, in the case of Chairman Arafat, thinks it's particularly
important that he make such a visit, and is therefore supportive of
I don't know what else you can expect me to say, other than we believe this
is appropriate. We believe that those who suggested it's politicizing the
museum should think long and hard about what the purpose of this museum
QUESTION: Well, you've drawn a notion of what you think the museum
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: And that's a personal notion, which the Secretary has. She
thinks it's instructive.
MR. RUBIN: Correct.
QUESTION: Tells people what can happen --
MR. RUBIN: And I fail to see how this --
QUESTION: There are other things to be drawn. The museum represents other
things. The museum is a museum, historically recording the murder of Jews.
Is that something you think appropriately Arafat should be invited to
MR. RUBIN: I think I've answered that about 18 times, Barry. The answer
QUESTION: Can I go back to this morning's discussion?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Do I understand you correctly that the bulk of the dialogue at
the White House and at the breakfast had to do with the terms of Israeli
MR. RUBIN: Certainly the focus of the issue that we are trying to deal
with here in order to restart the peace process are two things. Number one,
the importance and ways in which we can promote maximum cooperation by the
Palestinian Authority on security, and ways in which we can promote the
possibility of a further redeployment by the Israelis. Those two issues
together, because they are linked, are a focus of the discussions. But
beyond to say a focus, I'm not in a position to give you a recording
of the amount of time spent on any one issue.
QUESTION: But other aspects of the interim agreement came up as well,
such as the airport --
MR. RUBIN: I am sure that in the course of two and a half hours of
discussions, there were other issues discussed. Whether they got into the
interim issues, I do not know. But perhaps by the end of the day, we'll be
able to give you more information.
QUESTION: The timing may not be too convenient from some standpoints, but
a Palestinian human rights group has come out with a report saying
essentially that the mechanisms of a police state are in place in the realm
of the Palestinian Authority. I was wondering whether you have any comment
MR. RUBIN: Well, as far as the specific question of the trial of Hamas
members, we have seen reports of the trial but we do not want to get into
the specifics of the trial, based solely on these reports.
Those responsible for involvement in terrorism and terrorist incidents
should be brought to justice and held accountable for their actions. As far
as how the Palestinian Authority conducts its trials, we have in the past,
in our human rights report, commented on this in general. But until we have
more information about this particular trial, I wouldn't be in a position
QUESTION: The gist of this report, actually, concerned the deaths of
Palestinian prisoners in Palestinian custody. The numbers are up this year
over last year. Apparently, there are --
MR. RUBIN: Right, I haven't seen the report but, again, I would point you
towards our human rights report which indicates quite clearly that we have
concerns in this area.
QUESTION: New subject - Iraq?
MR. RUBIN: Please.
QUESTION: I have --
MR. RUBIN: You have more on the Middle East?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know how, but I'd be happy to try.
QUESTION: Oh, what the heck. You described the meetings as business-like.
Did you - can you give us a characterization of whether any progress was
made in the meetings? Was Secretary Albright happy with what she heard from
Prime Minister Netanyahu, in terms of a plan or a ceiling or whatever his
ideas are for a further redeployment? Do you think there's a chance for
progress soon, in the next couple of weeks?
MR. RUBIN: Well, it's 1:15 P.M. There have been two and a half hours of
meetings this morning. There will be continued meetings during the course
of the day. I'm not going to give you a minute-by-minute progress report,
because that is not the best way to promote progress.
What I can say is she was happy that the meetings were substantive; that
the serious nitty-gritty was gone into in detail, and that she feels that,
as expected, the substance ruled and that's what they focused on.
But in terms of progress made or no progress made, it's mid-stream, and it
would be inappropriate to try to make a judgment at this time.
QUESTION: One detail -- was this discussion about redeployment, the
quality, taking place around a map?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know. But there seems to be an obsession - I've been
in meetings where maps are used. Maps are often used. The issue that seems
to obsess some people is that - will it be the map that is the plan by
which the Israelis will establish their final position. And we don't expect
to see a final proposal for further redeployment at this time, because the
four elements that I went into need to be put together in such a way that
you can get to that point.
QUESTION: On Iraq, Mr. Butler has been telling reporters that he is
dispirited after his talks with Tariq Aziz; that he has been basically told
there will be no new information. And he said, I don't think this play has
got many acts left to it. Is the United States moving towards military
action against Iraq?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I haven't seen those specific comments you have made or
the specific report of what he did or didn't say. Certainly, we support
Ambassador Butler's efforts to convince Iraq to change course; to convince
Iraq to allow inspections; to convince Iraq to finally let the international
community know what it did and didn't do in the area of weapons of mass
destruction. And we support his efforts in that regard. If he's frustrated,
we're frustrated, but only to the extent that we know that this is a long-
term policy. Containment is a policy that requires determination on our
part, and we are going to continue to pursue this policy in a determined
With respect to military action, the Secretary of State and National
Security Advisor Berger talked about this on Sunday, and until we have the
full extent of Ambassador Butler's meetings - and I don't think they are
over - and he makes a report to the Security Council and the Council has a
chance to absorb that, I can't really go beyond saying that military action
has not been ruled out.
QUESTION: Is it ruled in, though, is I guess what I'm asking, in the
event that those talks are unsuccessful?
MR. RUBIN: Well, being how long you've been here in the briefing room, I
think when you say something is not ruled out, it has a certain meeting.
QUESTION: Does that include unilateral military action, not ruled
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: But are other allies going to be involved in the event that -
have any other allies expressed willingness to be involved, in the event
that it moves in that direction?
MR. RUBIN: Again, I don't think it's common practice to publicly speak
about the views of our allies on a subject that we haven't even addressed
for ourselves. In other words, we've said that military action is not ruled
out, and when and if the time comes, we are confident that those who - if
and when the time comes - that those whose assistance we need and whose
support we have seen in the past will be with us.
But I'm not going to get into naming names or naming countries or giving
you a daily temperature reading on everybody's views on this subject; other
than to say that I think that Secretary Albright made clear that the
frustration level on the part of Iraq's sometime advocates is growing, and
that they are getting tired of trying to explain what is the unexplainable,
which is Iraq's continuing attempt to deny inspectors the right to do
their work and to block what the Security Council resolutions demand.
QUESTION: Jamie, could we do Iran?
MR. RUBIN: Sure.
QUESTION: Did you see the comments of President Khatami, and do you have
MR. RUBIN: Well, there have been many statements in Iran in recent days
and weeks. I think we're going to probably have to get out of the habit of
commenting on every new statement, for fear of confusing people. But let me
say this -- generally, we have spoken a great deal about what is going on
in Iran, and we're not going to make a detailed response to every speech.
We've heard some encouraging words from Iran about America, as well
as some continued criticism. Obviously, we believe our concerns are
justified, and we would bring them to the table in a dialogue between our
two governments. Iran could raise the subjects it wants. But ultimately, US
policy towards Iran will be affected by change in Iranian actions of
concern to the international community, and we would respond appropriately
if there is such a change.
Secretary Albright has said many times that she found President Khatami's
statements encouraging, and that we would examine the possibility of people-
to-people exchanges, which could be a useful step. As you know, we don't
ban travel by Americans to Iran. We do have a travel warning in effect. But
there is dialogue going on in Iran on the question of the rule of law and
the more Iran pursues the rule of law domestically and internationally,
the better off everyone will be.
QUESTION: Can I follow on that? We get a lot of questions sent to us, and
I don't usually ask them to you. But this one is sort of interesting, and
it relates to the subject you've just gone on. An Iranian-American says
that a lot of Iranian-Americans who disagree with their government in
Tehran have found themselves murdered in European countries, but that this
country has been a safe place for those who disagree with the regime in
Tehran to live, up until now, for the most part. He wonders whether,
if more visas are going to be offered to Iranians to travel here under
cultural programs or if other efforts like that are going to be made as a
response to Mr. Khatami's previous remarks, whether security arrangements
are going to be increased to make sure that these people don't come in
planning to kill people.
MR. RUBIN: I can assure whoever this anonymous proposer of a question is
that when and if we were to make any adjustments in our visa policy, that
we would take into account that issue. I think there's no issue that
receives higher priority in this Administration than the issue of
terrorism. Certainly going overseas to assassinate people would constitute
terrorism. Our visa policies put at the highest priority the protection of
Americans. Americans of Iranian extraction or who have come here from Iran
should know that the protection of Americans is the highest priority of
the Secretary and obviously the President. Any adjustments, if any,
would take that into account.
I would also point out that there is a watch list and there is a system in
place to make sure that any proposals for visas from Iranians that are made
in other countries, like Paris or wherever, take that watch list very much
into account. But as far as exactly how the system works, and how many
people are on it and what steps we take now, all I can say is that it's the
highest possible priority, and would continue to be so.
QUESTION: Jamie, Guatemala - the American students attacked there. The
President of St. Mary's (College) has said that she received no warning -
the institute, in other words, in general about travel to Guatemala. She
felt as though it was safe to send the students there. She almost seemed to
imply or inject a little blame toward the State Department in her remarks.
How do you respond to that?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm not going to make a comment about what she almost
did. I can say this - we feel very strongly that it's our responsibility to
provide American citizens the best possible information about the risks and
dangers in other countries when they travel.
This is obviously a very tragic incident. After being informed of the
incident on the evening of January 16, embassy officials rushed to the
scene with transportation and an armed escort. They accompanied the group
back to Guatemala City that night and obtained medical attention early
Saturday. We facilitated the departure on Saturday of those who were
assaulted. The Guatemalan Government has arrested five people. A combined
police-military patrol arrested one assailant. That led to the arrest of a
second person. It is not clear whether the three additional people arrested
most recently directly participated in the attack, although they are
believed to be members of the gang that committed it.
The Guatemalan Government has responded expeditiously. They have set up a
task force there, and we are working very closely with them in this area.
Both our governments -- the US and Guatemalan Governments -- are concerned
about the crime problem. Fighting this crime wave is one of the priorities
of the government, as they have indicated, and we have provided assistance
to them in this regard.
I would urge you to take a look at the Consular Information Sheet, which I
think we can make available to all of you. Just to read to you a couple of
sections from it, which indicate quite clearly that we are concerned about
the situation there and that we made quite clear that violent crime has
been a growing and serious problem, and that in 1997, there's been a marked
increase in incidents involving Americans, that no area in Guatemala can be
definitively characterized as always safe.
In the past, travel during daylight hours and travel in groups generally
afforded some measure of personal security. However, the most recent
incidents reported to the US Embassy, which include shootings, kidnappings,
rapes and violent assaults have, for the most part, occurred during
daylight hours, and in many cases have affected entire groups of American
In short, there is a lot of information in this sheet. We put it out as
best we can. The Consular Bureau informs me they get 70,000 hits on their
Internet website for this kind of information. And we can always look at
ways to do more to try to make sure that those Americans who are traveling
get the information they need and understand the risks before they
QUESTION: So the State Department is confident enough that their
advisories before this incident happened - the language was clear and
strong enough that anybody traveling to Guatemala could see the dangers?
MR. RUBIN: Again, we're not going to engage in a sort of a who said, he
said, she said. This is a tragic incident, and we always want to do more to
protect Americans, and we will do all we can to protect Americans and alert
them to the problems.
I'm merely telling you what we have done and telling you what the sheet
says, so that we can demonstrate what the dangers are to perhaps additional
people who might consider going. This is a problem. We've laid it out. But
as far as trying to do Monday-morning quarterbacking here, I think we're
much more concerned about what happens the next time and whether we can do
all we can the next time to let Americans know what the dangers are and try
to avoid these kinds of horrible incidents.
QUESTION: Jamie, so the Administration or the State Department is
convinced this was a criminal act, not a political act?
MR. RUBIN: As far as we know at this point, we believe that the evidence
is pointing that way, yes.
QUESTION: Secondarily, if you can say, since an American was attacked
overseas - Americans were attacked overseas - will the FBI now be
dispatching a team down to Guatemala to investigate, as they are supposed
MR. RUBIN: First let me say that the Guatemalans have not asked for US
law enforcement assistance. As a rule, US law enforcement gets involved in
incidents broadly defined under the rubric of terrorism. So to the extent
that we end up confident that this is an incident of crime as opposed to
terrorism, that would not be the normal practice.
QUESTION: Are you going to upgrade the travel advisory?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we're looking at that. We always look at that any time
new information comes across or incidents that are as tragic as this occur.
We take a look at what we might do to adjust our information systems to
maximize the chance that as many Americans as possible can know what the
risks are before they travel or when they are there.
QUESTION: Jamie --
MR. RUBIN: Same subject?
QUESTION: On another subject.
QUESTION: Do you know if these --
MR. RUBIN: We're over there, on the same subject. Yes.
QUESTION: Do you know if these women will have to travel back to
Guatemala in order to appear in court?
MR. RUBIN: That's a few steps down the road right now. I think they are
still trying to track down the criminals, but I don't know the answer to
QUESTION: Has the Secretary of State (inaudible) to review the invitation
of Fidel Castro to the President of the United States to visit Cuba?
MR. RUBIN: You know, I was reading a little bit about that, and it
doesn't look like that's exactly what Castro said. I think he was more
interested in trying to show that he was open, than he was seriously
inviting the President.
Let me make clear that in comparing Iraq and Cuba, as was done at that
point - or Iran and Cuba, we have government offices in Cuba. We have an
Interests Section in there. We've had a series of extensive negotiations
with the Cuban Government on migration. As you know, other discussions have
occurred that have been talked about publicly. So there are no analogies
here between Cuba and these other countries.
We obviously have fundamental differences with the Cuban regime. We are
obviously hopeful that the Pope's visit will bring a message of hope and
promote the maximum religious freedom in Cuba that has been missing for so
long. The more the Pope's visit can do to bring religious freedom to the
people who are suffering from a lack of freedom in general in that country,
the better, as far as we're concerned.
But I can assure you the President has no plans to visit Cuba.
QUESTION: Jamie, on another subject, has the State Department seen the
excerpts from a book by Ray Seitz, the former ambassador to Britain, in
which he alleges some information was wrongly leaked to the IRA?
MR. RUBIN: I have not seen the book. The book was not cleared with the
State Department, as far as I know. Let me say this - I cannot comment on
intelligence matters. The charge that Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith is an
apologist for the IRA is ridiculous.
This Administration, led by the President, has worked tirelessly and even-
handedly to promote a just, lasting settlement of the Northern Ireland
conflict. I think our record speaks for itself. The President's involvement
in creating the conditions for a cease-fire and promoting the peace process
has led us to a point where everyone is sitting down and talking about
peace right now. They may not agree on what's necessary, but they are
clearly - we have moved far beyond the situation when Ambassador Seitz was
there. Sometimes people on the other side of a policy battle wish things
weren't true that were true.
But the reality is that this Administration's effort has advanced the
process. And as far as Ambassador Smith is concerned, the Secretary -- and
I believe Mike McCurry has spoken to this-- but certainly on behalf of the
Secretary, has the highest confidence in her and believes that she is
pursuing the policies of the President and the Secretary of State.
QUESTION: Well, without getting into the substance of intelligence, or
whether it was, in fact, secret intelligence, has the State Department in
the past or is the State Department now conducting any sort of inquiry into
MR. RUBIN: Well, I asked whether anyone was asking the question. I don't
even think we have the book yet. You know, sometimes these books, for
reasons of trying to promote sales, are given to the press in advance. So
we haven't seen the book; it wasn't cleared with the State Department; and
I guess all I can say is that we have the highest possible support for
Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith. Sometimes those on the other side of policy
issues wish things weren't true that are true, and the truth is that
President Clinton's efforts in the peace process have borne fruit. There
has been a cease-fire; there has been a peace process, which wasn't there
QUESTION: But hasn't the US taken - the ambassador taken a very strong
and unprecedented effort at a reconciliation and broadening the web of
people that are involved? I mean, she's done several important symbolic
things. She is reaching out to all Irish parties -isn't she? - people that
in the past were --
MR. RUBIN: Right, but I'm talking about these specific charges, which
have seen a lot of --
QUESTION: Well, apologist aside, but she's pursued a very active policy
MR. RUBIN: But that's the --
QUESTION: -- deals with all sorts of groups that used to be outlawed.
MR. RUBIN: Let me say this - Ambassador Smith has pursued the President's
policies. The President's involvement and Secretary Christopher's
involvement in the last Administration together prompted a situation where,
for the first time in a very long time, there was a cease-fire and there
were - now are genuine peace talks being conducted.
In the context of this conflict that has occurred for so long, that's a
major step forward. Those who wish things were done the other way or some
other way will always be entitled to their opinion. But it's not appropriate
to make - cast these kinds of aspersions on someone who is implementing the
QUESTION: But you're suggesting that's motivation for the book -
opposition to this policy.
MR. RUBIN: I didn't say that.
QUESTION: Well, you said it hadn't been cleared by the State Department.
You're saying the writer is trying to take advantage of a pre-distribution
for sales purposes. And you're sort of suggesting he's against the policy.
You're not happy with the book, even though you haven't seen it, right?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm certainly not happy with the reporting about a book
that I haven't seen, yes.
QUESTION: Do you know Mr. Seitz?
MR. RUBIN: I've met him, yes.
QUESTION: Did Ambassador Seitz violate any regulations in putting this
book together --
MR. RUBIN: I don't know. We haven't seen the book. All I know is we
checked, and he didn't submit it for pre-publication review.
QUESTION: Should he have?
MR. RUBIN: I'll check what the formal requirements are. But traditionally
in these cases, there is a review process.
QUESTION: Also in the book, in Parliament - the success of the peace
process aside - a member of Parliament said that the end result of some
information leaking to the IRA is that some people wound up dead.
MR. RUBIN: You know, even when I read the quote, that's not what it said.
It said if - so that's not the quote about a press report about a book that
we haven't seen. So I don't know how to help you on that question.
QUESTION: Last week, The New York Times has quoted Pentagon secret report
saying that North Korea is still actively engaged in developing a nuclear
bomb at their secret underground bases near Pyongyang. In view of the KEDO
nuclear power plant under construction in exchange of their earlier promise
not to develop the bomb, it is a clear breaking of the promise. Does the
United States have any intention to suspend the construction of the
plant until IAEA verifies the report?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know what report you're referring to. I can say this --
that we believe that the agreement that led to the freezing of North
Korea's nuclear program was a landmark achievement that avoided great
dangers; that we believe that that agreement is proceeding apace; that the
IAEA is able to verify and inspect what it needs to verify and inspect;
that we have a long way to go before that agreement is fully implemented.
But the sound of your question, suggesting that the agreement is breaking
down, is not consistent with the information that I've received.
QUESTION: On that subject --
QUESTION: If I may return to matters related to Secretary Cohen's visit
to Beijing --
MR. RUBIN: Let's stay on this subject, then we'll go over there.
QUESTION: I may have missed it, but isn't there still a waste site at
Yong Byon nuclear waste site that the IAEA has not been allowed to get
MR. RUBIN: Again, I can get you a briefing for what steps are still yet
to be taken, but the suggestion that the agreement has broken down with
some new, elaborate, dramatic finding of information is something I'm not
familiar with. But yes, there are additional steps to go. Precisely what
steps need to occur before we move to the light water reactors and the
provision of the key technology includes a series of inspections, one of
which may be what you suggested. But we'll get you a fact sheet that
lays out what the additional steps required are.
QUESTION: As Defense Secretary Cohen concludes his visit to Beijing, it's
been suggested that the US arms embargo to China may be lifted. Can you
confirm that, or can you say that's going to happen anytime soon?
MR. RUBIN: Well, let me distinguish between the arms embargo, which is a
so-called Tiananmen sanction, and the question of spare parts for a
particular set of helicopters. As I understand the situation, the - from
memory - is that the spare parts are on a munitions list, which therefore
make it requiring a waiver in order to permit those spare parts to be sold.
And the waiver requires a decision by the President either that there has
been movement towards democracy - I guess the standard is that there's a
program of political reform - or that the export is in the US national
The question of an arms ban -- meaning arms sales as opposed to spare parts
-- is a much broader question that, as far as I know, is not on the agenda.
I wouldn't want to rule out the spare parts, but the question of an arms
ban is not on the agenda. The Tiananmen Sanctions Act included a wide range
of trade-related programs and activities with regard to export licenses, et
cetera. But again, I would want to distinguish between the arms sales issue,
which is a much larger issue which is not on the agenda, as far as I know,
and the question of spare parts for helicopters that, as I understand it,
can be sold even under the arms ban.
So there's an anomaly in the system, and people may look at that, but it's
certainly not been approved, and I just wouldn't want to rule it out.
QUESTION: Jamie, wouldn't you like to see the Chinese Government admit
that something happened in Tiananmen Square during those days before you
lift the sanctions that you imposed on them for it?
MR. RUBIN: Well, certainly, our view on Tiananmen Square is well-known,
and that is that something did happen and that it was a great tragedy, and
we've condemned that over and over again. Obviously, we would like to see
that recognized. But the question of when we might, hypothetically, adjust
a policy that is not on the front burner, I just don't think is fruitful
to get into today.
QUESTION: We thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:50 P.M.)