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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #11, 98-01-22

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


Thursday, January 22, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1		UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance Visit to the
1		Statement on Apprehension on Bosnian War Criminal
1		Contributions by Sweden and The Netherlands to Holocaust

CUBA 1 Castro's Remarks re US Pursuing "Genocidal Policies Against Cuban People

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 1-2,10 Secretary's Meetings with Chairman Arafat 2-3 Chairman Arafat's Letter to President Clinton re Palestinian Charter 3-4 Prospects for a Three-Way Meeting 4,5 Next Steps in the Process/Forward Movement in the Peace Process 4 Movement To Permanent Status Issues 5 Status of Further Israeli Redeployments 5 Status of Chairman Arafat's Visit to Holocaust Museum 5-6 Middle East Peace Facilitation Act/PLO Office

FRANCE 6 Ira Einhorn Extradition Case/Meeting with Pennsylvania Officials 6-7 -- State Department's Role/Activities re Einhorn Case

GUATEMALA 7 Guatemalan Authorities Request for FBI Assistance in Investigation of Attack on U.S. Students

PERU 7 US Position/Assistance re Lori Berenson Case

IRAQ 8 Status of Diplomatic Efforts and Next Steps re UNSCOM Inspections 9 Consultations with UN Security Council Members re Next Steps 9 Update on KDP-PUK Kurdish Peace Talks

NORTH KOREA 9-10 New Food Appeal/Possibility of US Contribution 10 Schedule/Status of Four-Party Talks

JAPAN 10-11 Status of Civil Aviation Talks


DPB #11

THURSDAY, JANUARY 22, 1998, 1:00 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Greetings. We have several statements we'll be releasing after the briefing on the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance visit to the United States, and on the Holocaust Fund.

But let me start by saying that Secretary Albright was quite pleased with the fact that a Bosnian Serb suspect was apprehended and brought to The Hague. Let me say that this action has taken place in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions; stands as a warning to those indicted for war crimes who remain at large. They will be held individually accountable for their actions. It was an action to bring to justice, under the rule of law, those indicted for war crimes, and it makes clear that the international community believes that the surrender of persons indicted for war crimes is an essential part of building peace and reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

QUESTION: During the arrival ceremony yesterday in Havana for the Pope, Castro said the United States was pursuing "genocidal policies" against the Cuban people. Do you have any response to that?

MR. RUBIN: We obviously reject that charge. Let me say this - there's some great misunderstanding. There is billions of dollars of food that is donated from Americans to Cuba that goes there. Medicines are licensed - hundreds of millions of dollars of medicines are licensed. This is a red herring. Obviously we believe that our economic pressure is part of what has made the hemisphere move to a democratic hemisphere, with the exception of Cuba. President Clinton spoke to this last night and said that we have good reasons for our policies. We know that others have differences, and only time will tell who was right.

QUESTION: Jamie, do you have any late word on what's been going on with the talks between the President and the Secretary and Chairman Arafat?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me say this -- Secretary Albright is going to be meeting again with Chairman Arafat this afternoon. And then, as I understand it, he will be returning to the White House later this evening. So we're in mid-stream.

Obviously we are working very hard on the integrated ideas that President Clinton has put forward. Secretary Albright is working very closely with Chairman Arafat on each of the aspects of those ideas - how to get us to a point where additional territory can be handed over; how to get Chairman Arafat to do all he can to fight terrorism. That is the substance of the discussion. She will perhaps be in a position to report to the media later today on things as they go on.

But I think she feels like the meetings were quite constructive; that they got down to business; that we're at a critical point in the peace process; and that the goal here is to have both leaders go away from these meetings with the President with something to think about. Those are prerequisites for them making the tough decisions that are necessary for peace to be moved forward, for the process to be put back on track.

The meetings have gone well, what we've expected. As far as progress is concerned, we do not believe that there has been agreement on these various difficult issues. We're in mid-stream, and we're doing what we can to close the gaps, but we don't have - not yielded the goals of putting the peace process back on track yet, and that's why we're working so hard on them.

QUESTION: In his statements yesterday, the President seemed to have had a new sense of urgency. Is that just because of accumulated pressures, or is there something specific that requires more speed?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think you've heard Secretary Albright talk for recent weeks about a sense of urgency in the peace process, because a year has gone by since the Hebron accords, that 1997 was not a good year for the peace process, and so she has talked about the urgency. I think now you saw the President say that he felt a sense of urgency. So I don't think there's a new sense of urgency as much as there is a recognition that with each passing day it's harder and harder to put the peace process back on track, and that that is why the President and the Secretary feel a sense of urgency.

QUESTION: In the meetings so far, is there a sense that Arafat has been more realistic about his expectations for an Israeli redeployment, or is he asking for the moon, in the US view?

MR. RUBIN: Well, he said he's not asking for the moon.

QUESTION: I'm asking what the US thinks.

MR. RUBIN: We are not going to make assessments of each of the leaders' views. That's really up to them to say. What we do feel is we are laying the basis for decisions to be made.

Chairman Arafat did provide the President a letter today which laid out the issue of the Palestinian charter, and he provided a letter that refers back to the Palestinian National Council's decision in April 1996, canceling the articles inconsistent with its commitments to Israel. I would point out that the government of Israel, at the time, welcomed this step.

Some have questioned which exact clauses were amended by the Palestinian National Council's decision. Today, President Clinton received from Chairman Arafat a letter which, for the first time, identifies all the articles annulled by the PNC's April 1996 action. The letter also says that these changes will be reflected in any official publication, and it emphasizes the PLO's recognition of Israel's right to live in peace and security and the PLO's commitment to live in peace, side by side with Israel. So that is a step, an important step toward completing the process of revising the charter. That has been one of the issues that has been discussed.

QUESTION: Arafat said, coming out of the White House - or his interpreter said - that this letter had put the issue of the covenant to rest. Do you share that view, or is there more that the Palestinians need to show on the covenant? And would you still like them to convene a new meeting of the PNC?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me read from the letter so that you understand a little better what we're talking about here, and this is to the President from Chairman Arafat. And it says, "from time to time, questions have been raised about the effect of the Palestinian National Council's action, particularly concerning which of the 33 articles of the Palestinian covenant have been changed. We would like to put to rest these concerns. The Palestinian National Council's resolution, in accordance with Article 33 of the covenant, is a comprehensive amendment of the covenant. All of the provisions of the covenant which are inconsistent with the PLO commitment to recognize and live in peace side by side with Israel are no longer in effect. As a result, Articles 6 through 10, 15, 19 through 23 and 30 have been nullified. And the parts in Articles 1 through 5, 11 through 14, 16 through 18, 25 through 27 and 29 that are inconsistent with the above-mentioned commitments have also been nullified. These changes will be reflected in any official publication of the charter.

We believe that this is an important step towards completing the process of revising the charter. As far as what additional steps need to be made, at this point all we want to say is that these need to be discussed directly between the parties. But certainly, we think this is an important step.

QUESTION: What he states in his letter, is this a new action? Or is he simply referring to actions that had been taken --

MR. RUBIN: Again, as I think I answered the question, I pointed out that some people have asked the question, which exact clauses were amended by the PNC decision of last April. This letter spells out the effect of that decision on which articles of the covenant. Then the Israelis will obviously be provided this information, or probably already have it in the course of the last few hours, and then they will be able to take a look at its significance in their view. Then the two sides will obviously have more to say to each other about it.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary closer to a date for arranging a three-way meeting among herself, Mr. Arafat and the Prime Minister?

MR. RUBIN: Closer, yes. But I couldn't say we're there yet. It's perfectly clear that in order for us to have success here, in order for the two sides to make the tough decisions in the four areas that you've heard us talk about, a meeting such as the one you described will probably be necessary. But we don't know whether we're going to have that success, and so we can't say there will be a meeting.

We are hopeful that after having a chance to absorb these proposals and ideas that the President put down, as opposed to a plan - ideas - the two leaders will be in a position to make some decisions. Often at that point, as it has been in many times in the past, that would be appropriate to have such a meeting.

But there have been no dates set; there is no meeting set. The President and the Secretary are still going to be meeting with Chairman Arafat during the course of the day. So it would be premature to make a - my experience here tends to be that it is at the end of discussions at which the leaders are even in a position to talk about when the next communication will be and what the next meeting plan will be.

In this case, I would expect there to be some time passes before a final decision is made. But certainly, we're hopeful that if we're going to achieve the success we've been seeking, that a meeting like that will be part of the package.

QUESTION: Can you spell out for us the additional steps that you want to see Arafat and the Palestinians take on security -- extradition, for instance?

MR. RUBIN: Well, just as yesterday and the day before, I was reluctant to get into great detail about what we were discussing with the Israelis, the same holds with the Palestinians; other than to say that there have been problems, that there have been successes, but there's more work that needs to be done. The areas include the one you mentioned, about arrests. The areas include infrastructure. So what we are looking to do is to develop a parallel, step-by-step process whereby additional security measures are taken; and a parallel, step-by-step process whereby the further redeployment from additional territory takes place, which will meet the needs of both sides.

I can't be more specific as to what is entailed in each of the steps, because that's what we're discussing; and it would be inappropriate to talk about that publicly in mid-stream in a diplomatic negotiation.

QUESTION: At what point would the United States envision the talks moving into permanent status issues?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, that is one of the pieces of the puzzle that we are trying to put together. The sooner the better, but it is -- the timing of the different steps is one of the issues under discussion. But obviously we would like to move soon to a situation where the peace process is back on track, further redeployments pursuant to the Oslo Accords take place and the prerequisite of security cooperation occurs. At that point, we're hoping, this integration of those two with the timing for permanent status will put everything together in an integrated way. But as far as a date for such talks or their supposed length, that's premature to discuss publicly at this time.

QUESTION: Have the second and third redeployments now been replaced, in your thinking, by a series of smaller redeployments?

MR. RUBIN: It's a completely legitimate question, Mark. All I can say on the subject of how the further redeployments would occur is that it's a subject of discussion. We stand by Secretary Christopher's letter on the subject, and it's a subject of discussion.

QUESTION: Before we get off the Middle East, some of those close to Chairman Arafat are expressing some dismay at what they are calling his bad luck -- that he's come to Washington at a time when the President and some of his senior aides may be somewhat distracted. Is this a subject that's come up at all between the Palestinians and the Americans, and --

MR. RUBIN: I haven't heard it.

QUESTION: -- any reaction to that, those expressions.

MR. RUBIN: I haven't heard it, and there's been no effect that Secretary Albright has been aware of. She was at meetings with the President today, and there will be meetings this evening.

QUESTION: Can I ask two more on this subject, Jamie? In addition to hard decisions that have to be made by the parties, isn't there a hard decision that has to be made by the United States, which is whether this process in its current form can in fact move forward?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we always make hard decisions here in the United States at the State Department; all our decisions are hard. Is this harder than other decisions? All I can say is that Secretary Albright has been working at this for many months now. She is determined to see whether we can, through extensive diplomatic work, through meetings, through ideas, through exhortation, through explanation, through understanding and all the techniques of diplomacy, try to convince the leaders to make these tough decisions. If we get to a point where we think that's not the case, we'll cross that bridge. That is not where we are now.

QUESTION: What's the latest on Arafat's visit to the Holocaust Museum; do you know?

MR. RUBIN: You'd have to check with the museum on the visit. I don't know what the latest plans are, and I just don't know. I wouldn't be surprised if it happened, but I just don't know what the final schedule that he's planning is.

QUESTION: Has the Palestinian delegation asked for the US Government to do something to restore the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act, the one that closed the PLO office here?

MR. RUBIN: Well, this has been a matter for discussion for some time. I don't know that this - the meeting I was at, I didn't hear that come up. I am sure that they would like their office to be restored to its previous situation, because we've heard that in the past. But I didn't hear - I think with the issues that we're discussing here of redeployment, of entering a negotiation to lead to a permanent peace treaty, that that has been the focus of the discussions at the Secretary's level.

Have they talked about this? It's possible; I just don't know.

QUESTION: About two hours ago, State Department officials met with the Pennsylvania Attorney General and the Philadelphia District Attorney, concerning the extradition of a convicted killer, Ira Einhorn, back to the United States from France. I'm wondering what comment you have on that - if you can tell us any more about the State Department's plans?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. The Pennsylvania Attorney General and the Philadelphia District Attorney met with officials from State Department's Legal Adviser's Office to discuss the Ira Einhorn case this morning. The discussion centered on the best strategy to obtain Einhorn's extradition to the US to face justice. Representatives of the Department of Justice also participated in the meeting.

It is our view that the United States was disappointed with the decision of the French court to deny the extradition request. The French Ministry of Justice has been exceptionally cooperative on this matter since the ruling, and I understand they are continuing to pursue the matter through their system. Because it's an ongoing case, there aren't a lot of details we can provide; other than to say that the Department of State presented the original extradition request in June 1997, and the French Government took responsibility for representing the US. The US Embassy in Paris worked closely with French authorities on preparations and strategy. We are consulting on a daily basis with the Department of Justice on the next steps to take, and will present any further requests for extradition at the appropriate time.

We understand that the Pennsylvanian legislature has been very active in enacting a law dealing with trials in absentia to take the French concerns into account. And we have worked very closely with the French authorities and the Philadelphia prosecutors every step of the way and we will continue to do so. We intend to continue to pursue this vigorously in the most effective way possible, and we are committed to seeing that Ira Einhorn is returned to Pennsylvania to face justice.

QUESTION: Is there anything realistically that the State Department can do, however, more than just keeping an eye on the legal proceedings at this point?

MR. RUBIN: Well, again, we have some pretty smart lawyers here at the State Department. When the United States Government believes that extradition is appropriate, we can provide assistance in the process and also ensure that we know all the permutations in the French legal system that would be useful to the lawyers involved.

So, yes, we think we can be helpful. That doesn't mean we can be determinative, though.

QUESTION: So the State Department is more in a supportive role, or in a lead role in this case?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I think we're working closely. I don't know how to say who's number one or number two. As I understand it, when they left the meeting today, they were quite supportive of what we were doing. I think it's a team effort.

QUESTION: Contrary to what you said earlier in the week, is the FBI getting involved in the Guatemala incident?

MR. RUBIN: As I understand it, the request was made by the Guatemalan authorities for assistance, and some assistance is being provided. But as far as the details on that, I'd refer you to the FBI.

QUESTION: Earlier today, from what I understand, the parents and the lawyers for Lori Berenson were at the State Department in the lobby. They also have filed a petition with the OAS in reference to having her trial re- heard. And they've also said that the State Department hasn't put forth a hard enough stance to the Peruvian Government. Do you have any comments on this?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. Let me say this - the US Embassy in Lima is continuing to provide all appropriate services for Miss Berenson, as we do for any American citizen incarcerated overseas.

We have made very clear to the government our desire to see Miss Berenson receive a trial in a civilian court. I can say that she has been visited 27 times to date by US consular officials - most recently on January 9. She is seen in the prison where she was transferred on January 17, 1996. The Embassy is in constant contact with Peruvian authorities at the highest level regarding Miss Berenson.

Let me reiterate that the United States considers that Miss Berenson's trial by a military tribunal did not meet minimal international standards of due process. We continue to raise this issue with the Peruvian Government, and will continue to do so and hopefully will have some success in this area.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu left us a little confused with regard to the extradition arrangements between Israel and the United States. Could you take the question of whether there is an extradition agreement, though not a treaty, between Israel and the United States, and whether the Sheinbein case is still very active, from your standpoint, as well as the Green case, with regard to Alex Odeh?

MR. RUBIN: I will take that question --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RUBIN: -- and put together in one informative answer.

QUESTION: What's that?

MR. RUBIN: Whatever it is.


QUESTION: Yesterday, the President gave a couple interviews to NPR and PBS, and Iraq came up, among other things. And he said that he suggested - I'm not going to try to verbate his words, because I don't remember them verbatim - but he suggested that diplomacy is really wearing out, and he said words like the US is prepared to act alone, if necessary. We'd like to work with our allies and the other members of the Security Council, but we're not going to wait this thing out endlessly and forever.

And I know I've asked you this before, but just another attempt at this, is - would you - is the road to diplomacy crumbling? Is it losing its legs? And when - how long is it - it seems like the President says it's dead- ending.

MR. RUBIN: I'm amused that you each time find a new analogy to ask the question. The President made very clear his determination -- and Secretary Albright feels very determined, as well -- that this is a major problem, that we need to get the kind of access that Iraq has denied. Ambassador Richardson reported to us this morning that Council members were quite disturbed by the initial reports they had heard from Chairman Butler's visit. And the President made clear that, although he is not anxious to go it alone or anxious to rush to use military force, he is determined, and that option remains open. That is our position.

When we believe that diplomacy has reached the end of the road, whether the road has crumbled or not, then we will tell you. But at this point, the next step is to receive the report from Chairman Butler; to have the UN Security Council absorb the rejection by Iraq, the new excuses by Iraq; and then to determine our next steps. In short, the President is determined, the Secretary is determined, but we're not going to be rushed either.

QUESTION: Well, Butler said - I believe he said yesterday that he's prepared to send his inspection teams in and try to get into the palaces and the places that Saddam has cited as off-limits. Is this something that the US thinks is a good idea?

MR. RUBIN: Yes, we support the UNSCOM team's efforts to find out what happened in Iraq in the area of weapons of mass destruction. And all that keeps happening when Baghdad has new words to say is there are new excuses for why UNSCOM can't do its job. As I indicated, Ambassador Richardson told us that the Security Council members are increasingly frustrated by the excuses, and that they are disturbed by the initial reports from Chairman Butler.

But what next steps will be taken, I'm not in a position to report today; other than to say that we are determined to protect the security of the United States, to continue to contain Iraq's potential military threat to the region and its potential threat of weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: The other day you said something about how Iraq's continued defiance was beginning to cause impatience, even among those in the Security Council who had previously been arguing on Iraq's behalf. Which countries were you talking about? Were you talking about France?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to get into naming countries. I was trying to give you a general mood that is reported to us by diplomats in New York. I think there are many countries in the UN system who have, while not agreeing with Iraq, have been prepared at least to entertain Iraq's arguments. Those countries, my impression was, from the report I received from New York, were finding it increasingly frustrating to make Iraqi arguments that boil down to Iraqi excuses.

QUESTION: Given that Council members already know the gist of what Butler is going to be expanding on, and are disturbed by it, what contacts is the US making with other Council members regarding the next step?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware that the Secretary has made any calls in this area. I think we are obviously giving some thinking to what will the next steps be, but the first next step is the report from Chairman Butler tomorrow. After that, then I will be - it will be harder for me to avoid your questioning. I'll figure something out, though.

QUESTION: Do you foresee a period of time of going beyond tomorrow? In other words, will the Council need time to digest this information - perhaps into next week? Or might there be action tomorrow?

MR. RUBIN: Action tomorrow I would think would be extremely unlikely.

QUESTION: About your contact with the Iraqi Kurdish group, do you expect some kind of peace between the two northern Iraqi Kurdish groups soon?

MR. RUBIN: You asked me yesterday about a particular gentleman, who I gather is not the person you thought he was. There was a former NEA/NGA office director named Bob Deutsch, but I'm told that was a former office director.

But the answer to your question is that there have been two recent positive developments: one, a new peace proposal put forward by the KDP; and two, a meeting between the PUK, Mr. Talabani, and the Turkish Government in Ankara. We continue to remain in touch with the two leaderships, and are working closely with them on this matter.

QUESTION: Has there been any decision yet about amounts of money that would be pledged in the new food drive for North Korea?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of a decision. I certainly can repeat our standard formulation on this - that we've been responsive; we've been a leader; and I would expect us to continue to be so. But I don't have an announcement of a decision, or even am I aware that a decision has been finally reached.

QUESTION: Do you expect a decision soon, given that high-level State Department officials have been in Korea recently?

MR. RUBIN: Soon is probably a good word.

QUESTION: Whatever happened to the four-party talks?

MR. RUBIN: Let me get you the details on the next meeting and when that will happen. I think we all know, as well, that the election of a new president in Korea is a development that will have an effect on unification issues in Korea. He has some views of his own. But the four-party talks are still the basis for how we believe that some of the problems can be resolved there and a final armistice agreement can be achieved. But as far as the schedule for the talks, let me try to get you that in a taken question.

QUESTION: I was just going through my notes. Did you say where and when the subsequent meeting between Secretary Albright and Arafat is going to be?

MR. RUBIN: No, I think I very specifically did not, because I didn't say there was going to be one.

QUESTION: You think there's going to be one.

MR. RUBIN: No, I did not -- I said that we are hopeful - oh, between Chairman - not the trilateral, the one - the Arafat meeting. Sorry. There is going to be a meeting with Chairman Arafat this afternoon at his hotel. I believe it is about mid-afternoon, 3:30-ish, around then.

QUESTION: And do you know if the Secretary will make her remarks there or --

MR. RUBIN: I don't think there will be any remarks made here, but I think she may have something to say during the course of the day.

QUESTION: Which hotel is that?

MR. RUBIN: We'll have to get you the detail. I don't know which hotel it is.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the civil aviation negotiation between Japan and the United States?

MR. RUBIN: On the --

QUESTION: Civil aviation negotiation.

MR. RUBIN: Let me get you - we do have some guidance on that, and let me get that for you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:40 P.M.)

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