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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #12, 98-01-26

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


Monday, January 26, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

1		International Space Station Signing Ceremony, Jan 29
1		Contact Group Statement on New Government in Republika

IRAQ 1-4 Weekend Mtg to Review Options / US Consultations With Key Allies and UNSC Members / Military Strike Option and Authority for Use of Force / Inability of UNSCOM to Carry Out Mission / Decision Made Under Chapter VII of Charter / Concern for Biological Weapons Capability / No Decision on Unilateral Actions 2-6 Russian Amb at State Dept / Visit to Baghdad by Russian Envoy / Shared Concerns About Compliance with UN Resolutions / Secretary's Contacts / "One More Attempt" to Persuade Iraq to Comply 6 Secretary's Travel re Iraq Issue 9 Perception of Distracted US President

TURKEY 6 Attacks Against Orthodox Churches

CYPRUS 6-7 Turkish Threats Against Airbase / UN Security Council Issue

FOREIGN POLICY 7-8 Impact as a Result of Problems at White House / Secretary's Concentration on Issues 10-11 Presidential Prestige and Political Clout

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 8-9 Secretary's Phone Call to PM Netanyahu Sunday / President's Conceptual Idea / Next Steps in Peace Process / Secretary's Travel Plans 10 President's Remarks re Palestinian People

ISRAEL 9-10 Reports of Arrest of Palestinian Car Bombers

TURKEY / GREECE 10 Termination of FMF Loans

CUBA 11-13 Assessment of Papal Visit / Recognition of Failed Economic System / Adjustments in Sales of Humanitarian Goods / Call for Release of Political Prisoners / State Dept Credit for "Illegal" Food and Medicine

KOREA 13-14 North's Request to Postpone Intercessional Four-Party Talks


DPB #12

MONDAY,JANUARY 26, 1998, 12:45 P.M.


MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing. We'll have two statements for you after the briefing - one on the international space station, and another on a Contact Group statement on the new government in the Republika Srpska. But let's go to your questions.

QUESTION: When we left the Iraq story, there had been two White House meetings, and reporters were free to report that the US was edging closer to action, and it looked like unilateral action. And then there was that old word about consulting. I don't suppose that consulting means taking the advice of others. Doesn't that consulting - and if it's going on, please tell us about it - might more necessarily be what the US has concluded.

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me make a few comments on Iraq, and then address directly your question. Over the weekend, the President and senior national security advisors reviewed the situation with respect to Iraq. The advisors agreed with the conclusion of Chairman Butler that under the present circumstances, UNSCOM, the UN mission, cannot carry out its mandate. This is a very serious matter.

The purpose of the meeting with the President was to review options, not to make a decision. The President and his advisors reaffirmed that all options remain on the table. The United States Government is now in the process of intensive consultations with key allies and members of the Security Council. For example, Secretary Albright spoke yesterday with Foreign Minister Cook of the United Kingdom. She intends to stay in very close contact with him in the coming days. She also reviewed with him issues of concern in his role as president of the European Union, particularly the Middle East peace process.

The Secretary will continue to be in close touch with leaders in Europe and the Gulf. It's my understanding the President will be in touch with leaders as well.

As far as what will be said to these people and whether consultations are consultations, at this point they are consultations. All I can say to you with respect to the unilateral question that you asked is that we have made clear that we believe that we already have the authority for a military strike, should such an option be chosen. As for the position of other members, you will have to ask them. But that is our view. Whether or not that option is chosen, again, is a decision that hasn't yet been made. But that is our view.

QUESTION: The we is the United States?

MR. RUBIN: Correct.

QUESTION: So far, you've had really only one steadfast supporter, and that was Britain. You're talking to Cook, and indeed, he has a double role. But are you talking to the British particularly in light of their steadfast support and their lack of nervousness about using force to enforce the Security Council resolutions? And I really would like to ask you if these other folks, when you get down the list to China and France and Russia and all, can they talk the United States out of its conclusion? I don't mean out of its action, out of its conclusion.

MR. RUBIN: Whatever - certainly we have reached the conclusion, as has Chairman Butler, that under current circumstances the UN cannot do its job in Iraq. This is a very serious matter.

Our objective for some time has been to do whatever is necessary, including not ruling out the use of force, to achieve our objective. Our objective is to be sure that Iraq's ability to make weapons of mass destruction and missiles is steadily diminished. This is an objective stated by the United Nations Security Council. It's one that the United Nations Security Council has signed up to in resolution after resolution.

So to other members of the Council that may have differences as to how to achieve that objective, our view - our firmly held view - is under current circumstances, if something doesn't give in Iraq, if excuses continue, there is no possibility that UNSCOM can do the job that the UN itself - including the permanent members, Britain, France, the United States, Russia, China, as well as the non-permanent members - have said is their objective, under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter.

All countries of the world should bear in mind that the international system looks to the United Nations to protect its international peace and security; and that if the United Nations Security Council makes a decision under Chapter 7 of the Charter, that is a binding decision and one where the use of force is implied if not explicitly stated. So it is our view that those countries that have a different view as to what is required for Iraq to meet those requirements, they should think long and hard about the fact that Iraq is flouting those very countries' positions.

QUESTION: Jamie, the Russian Ambassador Vorontsov, just left the building. I was wondering if he was here as part of those consultations about Iraq - whether specifically or tangentially -- and if so, if he gave you any information about what their deputy, I think it's foreign minister, is going to be doing on his mission to Baghdad.

MR. RUBIN: It would not surprise me if the ambassador from Russia talked to our senior officials here about this issue. In fact, it would greatly surprise me on a day like today if they didn't discuss that issue.

Let me say this about the Russian envoy's travel to Baghdad. We do not object to efforts by other countries to get Saddam Hussein to stop making excuses and start complying with the United Nations. The issue is not who the messenger is; the issue is the message. The message has to be clear: compliance, compliance, compliance; no more excuses.

If as a result of any such discussion, Iraq reverses course and will comply, that will be a good thing. I can't say we're particularly optimistic at this point, given the number of weeks that have gone by and the way in which Iraq has disrespected the United Nations special commissioner in making clear that they do not intend to meet his legitimate requirements. But again, it's not the messenger, it's the message. And the message that we support, and the message that every country that cares about the resolutions of the Security Council should support is compliance, compliance and compliance.

QUESTION: Jamie, could I go back to your statement that the United States has the necessary authority for the use of military force. You're referring to past Security Council resolutions?

MR. RUBIN: Correct.

QUESTION: And which one specifically --

MR. RUBIN: I'll get you a legal analysis of what we think the relevant authority is. I think I've done that on several occasions in this room, and will be happy to take that question for the record.

QUESTION: Jamie, you brought up Chapter 7 resolutions. Is that something the US will be going for now at the Security Council --

MR. RUBIN: No, no, what I'm merely pointing out is the facts; and the facts are that Resolution 687, the cease fire resolution that set up the UN special commission, and subsequent resolutions regarding Iraq are all operating under Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter. So all the operative resolutions are already under Chapter 7.

QUESTION: The US position has been for weeks that you've tried diplomacy and it's not getting anyplace. Without attacking or questioning the Russian Government's motives, if their mission, as last time we went round this, is to delay action; if their mission is to buy Saddam more time - and there's great suspicion that he is using the lack of inspection to hide biological weapons or weapons ingredients. How is this helpful to you in any way to have a Russian diplomat down there, chatting with Saddam Hussein with what's been gone over again and again and again? Do you owe this to Russia somehow? Because you don't owe Saddam Hussein anything, do you?

MR. RUBIN: Barry, I don't really understand the question, but let me try to respond to it.

QUESTION: Well, it's going to delay things. If the effect is to delay things, do you live with it?

MR. RUBIN: I don't understand why a meeting today or tomorrow in Baghdad delays anything.

QUESTION: Well, because --

MR. RUBIN: Let me try to address the points you've made. First of all, in the area of biological weapons, UNSCOM has said for several years that Iraq has not supplied a complete accounting of its biological weapons program, and has so informed the Security Council.

We share the UN's concern over Iraq's biological weapons program. There are more unanswered questions with regard to biological weapons than any other area that the UN is working on. It cannot be ruled out that Iraq has an operational biological weapons facility. This situation illustrates the need to maintain the strongest possible international pressure on Iraq to provide a complete verifiable accounting of its past activities, as it is obliged to do.

So, yes, we are concerned about this area - very concerned. The question is the speed with which we are going to move in ramping up the pressure. I can say two things to you. Number one, the diplomatic string, the string for diplomacy is rapidly running out. I can say secondly that the Administration intends to proceed with deliberate speed here. We're not going to be rushed, nor are we going to be slowed down. The fact that there's a meeting in Baghdad is an irrelevant consideration when it comes to the timing for our decision-making.

We have not made decisions. I've been very clear that we haven't made decisions. When we make those decisions, they will not be affected by someone having a meeting at that level in Iraq. What I've said to you is that we're now beginning consultations. This is a very serious matter. When decisions are made, we can be more clear with you; but they have not yet been made.

QUESTION: Would the Secretary of State have to be airborne to have the kind of consultations that you --

MR. RUBIN: I don't think it's an absolute prerequisite, no.

QUESTION: Jamie, did you all talk to the Russians about the visit by the deputy foreign minister before he left? And do you know what their message is?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know the answer to what diplomatic contacts went on. It is our understanding that the Russian position and ours is identical on the question of compliance. That is the discussions that Secretary Albright has had with Foreign Minister Primakov have made clear they do not have a different view; that it's up to Iraq to comply with Chairman Butler's requirements. It is not up to Iraq to come up with excuses for why it can't comply with Chairman Butler's requirements. We are therefore confident that that is the message.

At the same time, I'm not going to sugarcoat this. We've had differences with the Russians as to what tactics to pursue in order to achieve our joint objectives. All I can say to that is that the Russians, like other countries in the world, in the Security Council, have signed and voted for these very resolutions that it's clear Iraq is flouting. So they have the same interests as we do in seeing that this non-compliance comes to a halt.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken to Primakov; and has she also spoken to the French foreign minister?

MR. RUBIN: At this point, the only call that I can report is Foreign Minister Cook. I suspect that she has not spoken to Foreign Minister Primakov.

QUESTION: Do you know if she plans to?

MR. RUBIN: When we have more to tell you about consultations, we will.

QUESTION: Jamie, Iraqi ministers talking to reporters in Baghdad -- and in fact one or two columnists here in this country - have argued that the use of military force from the air against Iraq will not achieve very much. They've argued that the regime can survive such bombing; that a program of producing weapons of mass destruction, if it exists, would probably survive such bombing as well. Why is military force or aerial bombing an option? What would it achieve?

MR. RUBIN: First of all, it would be very difficult in this setting for me to get into any details about military options. But let me simply say this - under current circumstances, Iraq is failing to comply with the United Nations. Diplomatic missions have gone to Baghdad. Chairman Butler has had a series of meetings, and it's clear that under the present circumstances, there is no prospect that Iraq will comply with the UN requirements.

Therefore, those who argued that somehow other options to get them to comply will put us in a worse situation, it's hard for me to fathom. How can it be worse than Iraq failing to comply with the United Nations?

QUESTION: Well, it could be worse in the tense that you bomb Iraq, Iraq throws out UNSCOM, and you have no more UNSCOM.

MR. RUBIN: UNSCOM, under its current circumstances is not in a position to do its job.

QUESTION: Jamie, the reporting over the weekend said that there would be one more attempt diplomatically to persuade the Iraqis to do something. Is that correct? And is the Russian mission that attempt, or will there be some other way of doing this?

MR. RUBIN: All I can say on that is we're undertaking intensive consultations with allies. I wouldn't presume everything you read in the newspapers this weekend is accurate. I wouldn't -- nor would I be in a position to comment on any one thing or another.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about possible travel by the Secretary along these lines?

MR. RUBIN: Well, those of you who have made it a practice to try to sign up for the Secretary's travel list, I would say that in the coming days you might want to have your pens ready. But I don't have any specific information on that. There have been no decisions. I wouldn't rule it out, but exactly the form in which these consultations take is something that's still to be determined.

QUESTION: As long as you've gone that far --

MR. RUBIN: I just said to have them ready.

QUESTION: Yes, yes. How about heavy winter coats and --

MR. RUBIN: Well, again --

QUESTION: Or should it be more like short sleeves?


QUESTION: Well, I think, on Secretary Albright's trips, we've all come - gotten very used to the idea that we could be anywhere. So pack well wherever we go, because you never know.

QUESTION: Different subject?


QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the recent attacks against the Orthodox churches in Turkey?

MR. RUBIN: Other than to say that we condemn any attacks based on religion or ethnicity around the world, and that is our view. But as far as any specific incident you're talking about, I would like to get you an answer for the record.

QUESTION: Any comment on the new Turkish threats for air strikes on Cyprus against the - Paphos air base, with its use of Russian missiles S- 300?

MR. RUBIN: Well, let me reject an implied agreement to the premise of your question. We are aware of Turkish statements about putting before the UN Security Council concerns about the completion of this base. As a member of the UN, Turkey has a right to raise issues of concern before the United Nations. It's premature for us to comment, not having seen all the particulars.

I can say this -- that we remain concerned in general about the increasing militarization of Cyprus on both sides of the cease fire line, and we urge all parties to avoid taking actions or making statements that result in increased tensions in the region and that detract from efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace on the island.

QUESTION: Do you judge the Cyprus Government has the right to defend itself?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to take the question any further, other than to say that if a statement is put before the Council, we, as a member of the Security Council, would have to react to that statement or position.

QUESTION: Jamie, do you want to take on the question of what impact, if any, on foreign policy there has been as a result of the problems at the White House over the past few days?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't want to, but I will. The answer to the question is simple: no impact. Secretary Albright has been working assiduously in recent weeks on three subjects that are very important front burner issues for the security of the nation, including Iraq and how we should respond; including the Middle East peace process and how to get it back on track; including how to address the ongoing financial crisis in Asia. And during the course of that work she has worked directly with all of her counterparts, including the President on several occasions. There is no impact.

QUESTION: In contacts, for instance, the conversation yesterday with the British foreign secretary, has the issue come up? Has the US - the Administration been forced yet to reassure allies that the Administration is not distracted, things along that line?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know the specifics of their conversation; but if it came up, the answer would be the answer I just gave you. There is no impact.

QUESTION: On the three tours that she has taken on that you mentioned --

MR. RUBIN: I didn't say that there were not plenty of other issues. I was giving you examples of front-burner issues that have required interagency coordination and required involvement of the President and the White House.

QUESTION: Right. On the third one, that also involves cooperation with Congress, the financial crisis.

MR. RUBIN: Well, so far Congress has been out of town. I was giving you an example of what has occurred in the last couple of weeks.

QUESTION: Yes. Right. But the IMF contingency fund, for example.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: Are you saying that that is an issue which could not be affected by the current crisis in the White House?

MR. RUBIN: I can't imagine that any American, whether in government or outside of government, would let whatever may or may not be the current prevailing focus in Washington interfere with the nation's business. And when it comes to the Middle East peace process, when it comes to confronting Saddam Hussein, and when it comes to dealing with the economic effects and the security effects of what goes on in Asia, it is inconceivable to me that Americans wouldn't act for America first.

QUESTION: Also, on that second item, the Middle East peace process, did the Secretary call Netanyahu yesterday?

MR. RUBIN: The Secretary did speak to Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday. They talked about next steps in the peace process and how to get progress to be made. The President, as you know, for the first time presented his views on the best way to rebuild trust and move toward launching the final status negotiations. We believe the two parties are now grappling in a serious way with the ideas we put forth.

In order to put this in context, we do not believe that we have solved this problem. On the contrary, there are still major gaps on very important particular issues. But we do believe that the construct, the concept the President laid down and the Secretary has been working on, the parallel, step-by-step approach to security, combined with and simultaneous with a further redeployment of Israeli forces as the best way to re-launch the peace process, is one that both parties have accepted in principle.

Now the problem is to get closure on the gaps that still exist on how much territory would be transferred, on what parallel security steps must be taken, on which territory must be transferred, and on when that territory must be transferred. In short, there is a conceptual acceptance of this parallel approach as the way to launch final status negotiations, as a way to put the peace process back on track. But the specifics require some hard decisions by the parties that have not yet been made. And she is going to be talking with leaders in the region, and there will be diplomatic contacts, as appropriate, to try to see whether we we can close those gaps.

QUESTION: Jamie, when you say there's conceptual agreement, I'd just like to press you on that a little bit. You're saying that both Arafat and Netanyahu accept this formula that the President came up with, which calls for - (inaudible) - a little bit of withdrawal, grades on security, a little more withdrawal. You're saying that they both accept that concept completely - because that's not at all what the parties are saying.

MR. RUBIN: It's our understanding that the problems we're focused on now have less to do with this path that the President laid out - this parallel, step-by-step process is not the problem. They have accepted that as a way to work at the particulars. I do not want to overstate the significance of this. But as a way to focus on the particulars and as a way to get the peace process back on track, we don't see any real problem developing after the President laid out this conceptual idea.

But that doesn't mean we're any closer to getting the job done; because the hard decisions are the ones about how much, what type, when and what security steps are being made. But conceptually, this is the mechanism by which these decisions would be implemented. There hasn't been a problem on that score.

QUESTION: Also, when the Secretary spoke with the Prime Minister yesterday, did they discuss the topic of Iraq? Because that was quite a touchy point during the Gulf War - Israel's response to whatever might --

MR. RUBIN: Their conversation, as I understand it, was focused almost exclusively on the Middle East peace process. Believe me, I'm not going to rule out there will be contacts with a friend as close as Israel is if we get to another phase, or even before we get to that phase. But that particular phone call, it's my understanding, was focused on the Middle East peace process.

QUESTION: Can I ask about North Korea? Apparently this meeting --

QUESTION: Can we stay on the Middle East? Do you know anything about any travel plans by Dennis Ross to the region, or the reported trilateral meeting in London?

MR. RUBIN: There are no travel plans for the Secretary or Ambassador Ross at this time.

QUESTION: And the trilateral meeting?

MR. RUBIN: Or the Secretary at this time.

QUESTION: Springing off of George's question, just to finish that up, I've seen suggestions in the press - you may have, as well - implying that Saddam Hussein is emboldened somewhat by a possible perception of a distracted White House. How much credence would you give that suggestion?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I've seen Iraqi statements going the other way, too. Iraq is going to come up with stupid statements no matter what we do. We're not going to make our decisions based on those statements. What we're going to do is apply with deliberate speed the policy the President has laid out for months, which is his determination to get UNSCOM able to do its work and to compel Iraq to accept what the Security Council resolutions have demanded.

QUESTION: Also on the Middle East, on your parallel, step-by-step process, there was a report today that the Israelis arrested two sets of car bombers, based on information supplied by the Palestinian police. One, do you know that to be true; and two, is that what you're talking about in the way of cooperation?

MR. RUBIN: We have seen the reports. If they're true, this is encouraging. Any time potential terrorists are thwarted, that is good for peace, it's good for security and it's good for both parties. As far as the specifics of the incident and the extent to which it may or may not have been the result of cooperation, I have no information for you.

QUESTION: The President said that the aspirations of the Palestinian people to live as a free people, he seemed to cut new policy here last Thursday. It's being remarked on in the area. Is it a new policy? Is this a lead-in to recognition of the Palestinian sovereignty and statehood?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say this - the President and the Secretary's remarks about the President's remarks on Friday speak for themselves.

The peace process was designed, among other things, to address the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people through negotiations. Were the remarks made in a different way than we traditionally express those aspirations? Yes. And perhaps one could say one is more sensitive to these aspirations. But as far as our position, that addressing the question of the subject that you mentioned prior to it being decided in the permanent status talks, is not one we're going to get into.

QUESTION: There was a story over the weekend that the US government decided to terminate the FMF loans to both Greece and Turkey. Could you explain the reasoning behind it? Because as far as I know, these were loans at commercial rates and not grants.

MR. RUBIN: As I understand it, that is a decision that would be made in the context of the President's budget, so it is therefore premature for me to discuss it.

QUESTION: Can I stay with the question George asked? I realize you probably can't deal with this, but I'd like to see if you can. In matters like the Asian IMF bail-out votes that are going to have to come up and the Middle East peace process and even Iraq, would you concede that the President's prestige and political clout are a factor in how successful an Administration can be?


QUESTION: You would not?


QUESTION: You do not think it makes any difference whether he is considered to be on top of his game politically?

MR. RUBIN: I just don't know how to address it any more clearly than I have. The work of foreign policy is a matter of the highest concern of the President and Secretary Albright. That work goes on. It is not affected. There is no effect. I know you all have stories to file and need to fill it up, but there is no effect.

QUESTION: Does the United States see any possibility that the freedom that the Pope enjoyed in Cuba to criticize the Castro government and also the US policy as a way to have an effect in the life of Cubans? And also, what is the assessment of the United States of the visit?

MR. RUBIN: Pope John Paul's visit to Cuba was an inspiring and joyful event for the Cuban people. He spoke to and for the Catholic faithful who have suffered under a system that denied their right to worship freely. He also addressed his message of hope and freedom to millions of Cuban citizens who do not practice Catholicism but share in the desire for a better life and change in the policies that deny their fundamental freedoms.

The Pope specifically called for freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association. He stressed the right of the people of Cuba to participate fully in shaping their government. He focused on the plight of political prisoners; as he put it, "those who are isolated, persecuted, imprisoned for various offenses or for reasons of conscience." The Pope's message clearly called on the Cuban Government to respect the fundamental freedoms and human rights of the Cuban people. We hope that the Castro government will heed the Pope's call for freedom for the Cuban people and for Cuba to open up to the world.

And we should not underestimate the effectiveness of the Pope and his message. Remember the impact he has had in countries he has visited since becoming Pope. We believe that he spoke eloquently. He spoke to the desires of the Cuban people for freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and we hope that Fidel Castro gets the Pope's message.

QUESTION: But he also called for lifting the US embargo. Do you think the United States is going to get that message also?

MR. RUBIN: The Pope himself, in fact, focused on the economic plight of the people of Cuba; and he made clear that most of the deprivation of the Cuban people was the result of a failed system. So in any discussion of what the problems of the Cuban people are, the Communist failed economic system, the Pope himself recognized as the root cause.

We have seen proposals for adjustments in the food and medicine area. They are something that we will take a look at. And all I can say about these initiatives is that they merit consideration, and we look forward to an opportunity to talk to sponsors and review any proposed legislation.

QUESTION: Also on Cuba, the Pope asked for the Castro regime to free several political prisoners. Have you any hint whether this may happen?

MR. RUBIN: On January 22, the Vatican spokesman said that a list containing the names of an undisclosed number of prisoners was transmitted to the Cuban Government in the Pope's name. The Pope also called for the release of all political prisoners on Saturday in Santiago, and again in Havana yesterday. We have no information regarding the Cuban government's response, but we certainly hope they heed his call.

QUESTION: Jamie, do you --

MR. RUBIN: Are you on Cuba?

QUESTION: Well, the Pope, sort of the Catholic Church.


MR. RUBIN: Cuba.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. Just to make sure that I'm understanding what you're saying, what you're saying sounds like it's been altered slightly from the last time the question about humanitarian sales of food and medicine to Cuba was discussed here. It seems to me I recall the last time being somewhat more negative -- the response being that there are mechanisms already in place, but this is a new --

MR. RUBIN: It's also true that there are mechanisms already in place.

QUESTION: But is what you're saying now indicating that you all might consider going along with those measures on the Hill?

MR. RUBIN: Again, there are proposals out there, and we are prepared to take a look at them. At the same time, when talking about the problems of Cuba, as I indicated in response to the last question, the basic problems are the failed system; nor is it fair to blame the United States, when it is the United States -- from the United States come the most food and medicine for the Cuban people. Billions of dollars in food is donated, and hundreds of millions of dollars in medicines are licensed.

So there are two issues. One, to what extent the Cuban people's problems relate to the embargo; and the other issue of some new proposals that have been circulated about adjustments in the licensing procedures. And those are something that we think are worth taking a good, hard look at.

QUESTION: Is that a difference answer from last Wednesday? When the Pope criticized the embargo on the way to Cuba, the response was, we are applying the laws of the land, and the embargo enjoys strong bipartisan support.

MR. RUBIN: I will repeat that, if that will help you understand it better.

QUESTION: No. But you're using different language, and you're making news today.

MR. RUBIN: Well, you decide whether we made news. Our view on the embargo is the same. Our view on the embargo has not changed. And if you're going to make news out of anything I said, I hope you include the repetition that I just made -- that our view on the embargo retains bipartisan support, and that is still our view.

QUESTION: Have you invited - has the State Department, in the past, invited proposals to soften the embargo to help the plight of the Cuban people?

MR. RUBIN: Invited? I don't think I just did that. I said I would take a look --

QUESTION: Well, you said, if there are any out there, we'll take a hard look at them. It sounds like, come on, we've got an open mind.

MR. RUBIN: That is not - was not my intention.

QUESTION: Was open-mindedness your intention?

MR. RUBIN: My intention was to short-circuit what I believed to be all the follow-up questions, in the interest of speed.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the food and medicines?


QUESTION: In Congress, Congressman Torres is saying that the State Department takes credit about the more than $800 million in food and medicines that has been sent to Cuba. And he said all that food and medicine was in an illegal manner.

MR. RUBIN: I'm sorry. I don't understand the question.

QUESTION: The other day when we were talking about the food and medicines that went from the United States to Cuba, you said it's because the Treasury Department has been giving licenses to the people who send the food and medicine. But the groups that are calling for lifting the embargo on food and medicines, especially Congressman Torres, said that's not true. The State Department is taking credit from something that has been made in an illegal manner.

MR. RUBIN: I'll have to get you a fact sheet that lays out the ways in which food is donated to Cuba and the ways in which medicines are licensed, and perhaps it can clear it up.

Let me close out this subject by making clear to you that there are proposals out there that we have been asked about, and all I was doing was short-circuiting the questioning period, because we're some time into the briefing, on the question of our view on those proposals, while explaining to you our view as to what the Pope's visit may mean.

QUESTION: On North Korea.


QUESTION: What is the state of play with the four-party talks, with this Beijing meeting that's been canceled? And is Kim Dae Jung* getting a visa?

MR. RUBIN: I don't know about the visa question, but it is correct that the North Koreans have requested that the intersessional meeting scheduled for February 12 in Beijing be postponed to early March and moved to Geneva, preceding our next four-party plenary session there, scheduled for March 16. They made the request to the US, as chairman of the intersessional meeting, on January 20. We are consulting with the other parties.

The North Koreans asked for a postponement, not a cancellation of this intersessional meeting. We have no indication they will not attend the intersessional or the next plenary meeting. I would refer you to the North Koreans for an explanation of their views, although they did express the idea that a meeting following the change of government would be more useful.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. RUBIN: Thanks.

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

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